Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois: Land of Lincoln, Home of Officeholders State Has Greatest Number of Elected Officials

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois: Land of Lincoln, Home of Officeholders State Has Greatest Number of Elected Officials

Article excerpt

Are you getting too many insect bites? Toss out the mosquito abatement board.

Is the hook-and-ladder truck painted green when you prefer red? Nail the fire district trustees at the next election.

Did the street light burn out? Fix it with your vote.

If democracy sets you free, there's no state in America freer than Illinois, home by a wide margin to the most units of government - and the most elected officials - in the nation.

Besides a full roster of counties and cities, there are street light districts, soil conservation districts, levee districts and more - all with taxing authority and elected people to oversee them.

Some agencies are vitally active and others are nearly dead. A few are even for the dead: cemetery districts.

Insiders have long known about this glut of elective accountability. The U.S. Census Bureau underscores it again in a new report out today on a 1992 survey of "Popularly Elected Officials."

There are 42,338 elected officials in Illinois. In other words, one of every 270 men, women and children in the state holds some kind of elective post.

In second place is Pennsylvania, with 30,481. California, far more populous than both those states put together, gets by with a mere 18,918.

That is only a shade more than Missouri, which elects 17,291 - in the ballpark for a state its size. Missouri is notable in the report for having the second-most elected officials in state government. At 994, it is second only to Pennsylvania's 1,200.

The Census Bureau just reports - it doesn't try to explain or judge. Judgments would not come easily anyway, according to several close observers of the Illinois number who admit that it seems too high.

"It's nuts," said Robert Creamer, director of the grass-roots Illinois Public Action Council. But he said that it's also difficult to decide which posts are superfluous, and he added that Illinois voters still don't have adequate say in some matters. …

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