Local Government: The Centrifugal Forces
The number and diversity of Kentucky's local governments are quite impressive, even though there are more than 84,000 units of local government nationwide.1 The state's 120 counties make it the national leader in the number of counties per square mile, and third in sheer numbers (behind Texas and Georgia).2 Kentucky has 435 cities and towns, 15 Area Development Districts (ADDS), 1,300 special districts, and 176 school districts. The governance of each category differs from place to place and function to function.3 Kentuckians in general are very territorial, holding intense local loyalties, and county governments--"little kingdoms"--are the state's strongest local actors.4 It seems to be a dominant characteristic of Kentucky's political personality that citizens want their government close to home and personalized. In the next chapter, we look at the forces that tend toward consolidation within counties, among counties, and as a state. This chapter is more general. The sheer volume and complexity of local goverance emphasize Kentucky's inclinations to fragmentation in polities, the centrifugal forces of its government processes. Much of the change and conflict observed every day in Kentucky reflects the tension between these opposite tendencies.
"Having been part of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Kentucky developed its system of local government on the southern model, which features counties and incorporated cities as the basic units."5 Cities in Kentucky are divided into six "classes"--from first-class cities (population of 100,000 or