Editorials

Eureka! Useless layers of government truly exist

Government’s machinery is not easily dismantled, as is evidenced by the three township tax collectors in Madison County. They’ve existed since 1982 despite having no dutites. Illinois leads the nation with 6,968 units of local government.
Government’s machinery is not easily dismantled, as is evidenced by the three township tax collectors in Madison County. They’ve existed since 1982 despite having no dutites. Illinois leads the nation with 6,968 units of local government.

Newton’s first law of government: A body that moves very little and comes to rest tends to remain at rest and on the taxpayer’s dime.

This law was recently observed in Madison County, where the archaic practice of having a township tax collector has survived long after the job itself vanished. Since 1982 banks and the county treasurer have been collecting property taxes, yet the collector positions have survived in three townships even though they have no duties.

Chouteau Township has Violet Taylor and Jarvis Township has Mary Andrea May, both elected tax collector in 2013 with neither receiving pay for the post.

May said the collector job was a way to learn township government before being appointed as a paid trustee when there was a vacancy. “For me, it was a way to get an insight into how the township worked.”

Sort of sounds like training wheels for the arduous duty of being in township government.

Madison County Chairman and Jarvis Township Supervisor Alan Dunstan explained the “need” for a tax collector. He said because the township folks run as a slate, they need to fill all positions.

Sort of sounds like crony politics can always use an extra crony. But it gets better.

In Venice Township tax collector John C. Williams not only gets paid, but the no-responsibility position received a raise from $1,560 in 2011 to $1,838.

Defending the pay was Venice Township Supervisor Andy Economy — you remember, who quit before he was to be booted from the Metro East Sanitary District board for steering more than $44,000 in work to his Andy’s No-Bid Auto Body. He said the tax collector used to be paid much more, and Williams gets odd jobs, such as helping pick up commodities and other tasks for the seniors, in exchange for his $1,838 a year.

No, folks, it isn’t much money, but it sure demonstrates the tenacity of useless township governments. It shouldn’t be this hard to get rid of government units with no valid purpose, other than maybe stimulating the Greater East St. Louis Township retail economy by injecting $84,970 in AmEx charges.

Belleville Township, East St. Louis Township, Granite City Township and township tax collectors all provide empirical proof that Newton was a savvy political scientist. Still, our nation-leading state of 6,968 individual government units would be better off if we changed his law.

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