Editorial: Follow DuPage's lead to streamline government
Illinois is the land of plenty.
We have plenty of debt, plenty of high taxes and plenty of businesses fleeing for other states, to go with a fat history of political corruption.
What also have an abundance of units of government, and that's a factor in the other problems. According to IllinoisWatchdog.org, Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of government, making us the runaway leader in that dubious category -- Pennsylvania is a distant second with 4,905.
Ours is a dizzying roster that includes fire, sanitary, mosquito-abatement, special taxing, school, park and library districts to go with municipalities and townships. They come with enough costs, issues and elections to leave voters and taxpayers with a bad case of indigestion.
The answer, of course, is to reduce the bloat. However, that's proven to be as difficult as trying to lose weight by dining at all-you-can-eat buffets.
What may be needed is an evangelist to push the cause, and a blueprint to show how it can be done. Both may be found in DuPage County.
There, county board Chairman Dan Cronin said last week that steps taken by his county to streamline and consolidate local governments could easily be replicated across the state. He invited leaders in other counties to examine what DuPage has done to eliminate some government entities and reform others. He also has created a coalition dedicated to promoting local government efficiency efforts.
Taking up Cronin on his offer should be on the to-do list for every county leader in the state.
"We want to raise the level of awareness," Cronin told those gathered for his State of the County address. "We want to start using our experiences in DuPage to apply statewide. We want to change the culture."
Cronin has pushed consolidation to save money and improve services since taking office in 2010.
So far, DuPage has dissolved a fire protection district and a sanitary district. This year, Cronin successfully pushed for the state to eliminate the DuPage Fair and Exposition Authority, a group that existed only to collect state money for the annual DuPage County Fair.
In cases where DuPage stopped short of consolidation, Cronin said, there's been a savings of millions of dollars for taxpayers through simplification, collaboration, shared services, reducing unnecessary layers of government and using technology to make service more convenient.
There are a smattering of examples of similar efforts across the region that we have applauded in the past. However, they are the exception and far from the sweeping change needed to reform local government to make it work better and cost less.
Our advice to county leaders -- give Cronin a call.