Maybe the reason Illinois has so many corrupt politicians is that we have so many politicians, period. It's not a matter of morality, but of numbers, and opportunity. The U.S. Census Bureau is out with its 2012 Census of Governments, and once again, Illinois is the leader, by a wide margin. Here in the Prairie State, we have 6,968 units of government. Here’s the breakdown.
Special districts: 3,232
Independent school districts: 905
Illinois does not have the most counties. (Texas leads with 254). But we do have the most municipalities, and the third-most townships, after Minnesota and Pennsylvania. (Thirty states manage to govern themselves without townships.) We’re also third in independent school districts, after Texas and California, which are far larger and more populous.
Pennsylvania is second to us in overall governments, with 4,905. Hawaii is last with 21, but it’s only been a state since 1959. Maybe after 196 years, it, too, will be overwhelmed with municipalities, school districts, street lighting districts and mosquito abatement districts.
Still, thing could be worse – and have been. In the first Census of Governments, conducted in 1942, Illinois had 15,853 units of government.
This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $2.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.