Introduction to Local Government
Throughout this century, the American federal system of government has played an increasingly expanded role in providing and regulating a vast array of domestic programs and policies. From health care and housing to education and the environment, expanded government responsibilities have led to a dramatic growth in the size and capacity of federal and state bureaucracies. Disparate strategies utilized in addressing domestic issues, from Johnson's "Great Society" to Reagan's "New Federalism," have also meant a substantial redefinition of the local government function. Especially in the last decade or so, local government's obligations to meet some of the most fundamental needs and expectations of the citizenry have grown exponentially.
As in the case of federal and state bureaucracies, the ramifications of the increasingly complex and seemingly ever-changing role played by local government require corresponding increments in collective organizational capacity as well as individual employee skills, motivation, and abilities. In essence, current and projected challenges facing local government point toward the need for greater levels of training and education for municipal employees.
Prior to a discussion about training needs, however, it is useful to have a clearer picture of the nature of local government. Acquiring this understanding is the purpose of this chapter.