Challenges of Local Government

Challenges of Local Government

( – Local government provides the basic services for the many communities that make up America. It provides hospitals and schools, firefighters, and police officers. It builds the roadways and sidewalks and employs health inspectors and sanitation workers.

Local government falls into two general categories starting with counties and municipalities (or cities and towns). A charter lays out the form of government municipalities assume which historically fall into five categories:

  1. Council-manager: a council governs with a manager carrying out daily administrative functions;
  2. Mayor-council: an elected mayor oversees administrative and budgetary matters and legislative matters fall on a council;
  3. Commissioners: voters elect commissioners to oversee specific matters such as public works, schools, and fire services;
  4. Town meetings: all members of the community meet to determine policy and to elect officials to oversee those policies;
  5. Representative town meetings: voters select citizens from the community to vote on their behalf during town meetings.

Historic Challenges

Local governments face a variety of extraordinary challenges in the 21st Century. For example, the collapse of the mortgage industry and the contraction of the housing market from 2006 to 2009 took a horrible toll on available funds for local government services.

Property taxes form the bulk of revenue generation for most municipalities, and when the mortgage bubble burst, property values fell along with it. Nationwide, cities and towns laid-off workers, shut down non-essential services and limited other necessary functions of government. Many municipalities never bounced back.

Things began stabilizing throughout the 2010s. However, in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic hit, creating the most significant economic collapse since the Great Depression.

Other challenges routinely faced by local governments include evolving legislation and court decisions at the state and federal level regarding women’s reproductive services and gun rights. Additionally, racial and political unrest have plagued cities since 2012.

Local governments form the bedrock of American society, and the modern conservative movement has promoted increased state and local power, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s creation of New Federalism in 1981. Challenges will always confront local governments, but the American Dream is alive and well, and tomorrow is a new day with battles to be fought and won — as always.

Copyright 2020,