The Right Idea: Dissolve Evanston Township

-By Warner Todd Huston

This is one of the best ideas I've heard in quite a while. The Chicago Tribune reports that the fate of Evanston Township might be put to the voters soon. By "fate" I mean whether or not there will even be an Evanston Township at all.

Voters might be given the chance to dissolve the government entity knows as "Evanston Township" passing all the duties of said government body to the County.

Seem like a strange idea? Well, consider that townships are merely an additional layer of unnecessary government -- a government that bleeds you o tax money -- and you'll start to realize how unnecessary a "township" is.

Townships, especially those in an around the densely populated Chicago area, really are a waste of tax money. Back in 2009 I 2wrote a piece about the waste that is the Illinois township idea.

Then I noted:

Townships were originally created for two main purposes: raising taxes to take care of roads in unincorporated areas and to provide temporary aid to the poor.

...this extra layer of government is collecting large amounts of taxes, spending only a fraction on the two purposes for which they were created, and banking all the rest amassing huge surpluses all the while hiring friends and family members for false, make-work jobs that create no wealth for the community.

Unfortunately, as the Trib notes, the last time a township was eliminated was in 1932! Since that time the waste and graft has rolled inexorably onward.

So, I fully support eliminating townships whenever possible. They all should be done away with.
"The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it."
--Samuel Johnson

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart's,, and, as well as,,,,, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany's Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.

For a full bio, please CLICK HERE.


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  • That's heading in the right direction. However, the situation is somewhat unique in that Evanston Twp. doesn't have any unincorporated territory and the city council is also the township board. Nevertheless, the article says that money is wasted because there is a township.

    The more interesting issue is unincorporated areas, and Preckwinkle seemed to at strike a chord by suggesting that they be forced to annex to municipalities, thereby eliminating the need for the county to provide services to them. I can think of situations like Niles, which only annexed enough area to encompass the sales tax generators, while ignoring large swaths of unincorporated Maine Township. In the meantime, there are squabbles that Glenview, which owns the Maine Twp. water system, won't pay Niles for the water that it gets from Chicago. Most of those government units should be abolished, but I don't see how Preckwinkle can get Niles to do it.

    Some Democrats were canvassing Northfield Township, which has some, but not much unincorporated territory, but apparently only for the reason that they wanted to kick out the highway superintendent. Again, it would have made more sense just to contract with the municipalities to maintain those few roads, just as the unincorporated areas contract with the municipal fire departments, instead of maintaining a township highway department.

    I certainly see no reason for a township assessor when everything goes through the county assessor.

    At least in upstate New York, the town, equivalent to a township, was the basic unit of local government, and there were very few villages in them. They also had school consolidation, something fought tooth and nail in Cook County.

    At least the Evanston politicians are starting to realize that with the tax pie shrinking, something has to be done to make government more efficient. I doubt that the political payrollers in the other 800+ units of local government in Illinois can figure that out.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, that is a perfect summation in microcosm of why, though a good idea, it is very, very difficult to get rid of the townships, I think.

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