Local Government: The Centripetal Forces
Alongside the compulsion of Kentucky citizens to decentralize and fragment their government, there are tendencies--both in Kentucky's political culture and its institutions--toward combination and centralization. Centripetal forces exist as well as the centrifugal forces discussed in the last chapter, and may be more important in the future.
The most persistent centripetal force comes from the power of the state government in Frankfort over each local authority. That power is pervasive and inescapable. The most dramatic impact that the state could have on a local government would be to abolish it. The present Kentucky Constitution expressly states that the General Assembly has that power over counties (Section 63), though the provision has never been invoked.1 The state government also can take control of counties' (but not municipalities') day-to-day operations--and it has. We noted in the last chapter that all local governments in Kentucky report to the Department of Local Government, filing budget and audit reports. When the report suggests that the county is in dire fiscal trouble, as in Magoffin and Estill counties (all of whose local services broke down in 1988), the state has taken over the operation of the county. Once fundamental management deficiencies are corrected (usually after a brief period), governance is returned to the local citizenry.2
The same process applies to Kentucky's most troubled local authorities, school districts. In 1989, Kentucky became the second state (the first was