Manifolds, Manolos, and Manure
Every year I’m given the chance to coordinate an opportunity for diverse leaders to learn more and explore their local government. Through discussions with the County Administrator, County Chairman, agency directors, and special districts leaders, we have discovered how county government functions and how special districts operate separately and in conjunction with county government. Leaders focused the conversations on partnerships, innovation, and opportunities for community development.
Through conversations with mayors, leaders discussed how municipal government interacts and partners with county government. Through an interactive activity with a local mayor, attorney, and city staff, leaders explored the intricacies of a complicated zoning issue complete with a vocal and active neighbor’s group. Leaders explored not only the zoning board process but also the full city council experience.
During my year in the leadership program, I was a member of city council. I had spent my entire tenure after undergraduate in state government. At the time, I didn’t quite realize that eventually I’d be sitting in a big chair with a fancy nameplate, or reviewing city expenses, departmental reports, applications for variances and parade permits. In hindsight, the big chair and fancy nameplate is the most glamorous part of city government, but city government is vitally important.
I’m continually reminded that community members and leaders don’t always understand how local government effects their day-to-day lives. But as I repeatedly remind Governmental Affairs Committee and Board members, local government is your first government and it touches your life every single day.
Every day individuals travel the roadways with little thought of the work that goes into the roads. Community planners create plans for communities and roadways. Engineers design the roads, interchanges, and access. The department of transportation implements the engineering plans and secures funding, usually from other governmental sources. It’s winter so we can’t forget the departments that plow snow.
Each of us take showers, wash dishes and wash clothes, but how often have you considered how the water gets to your house? Or how the dirty water leaves your home? Water is supplied by City government. For many Cook County residents water leaves their homes through a combined sewer, which is supplied by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. But how often have you sat and thought about what goes into water supply and wastewater treatment?
Even though local government touches our daily lives, we rarely stop to consider it. Many individuals are more excited about voting for president than they are about voting for their mayor or alderman, but those individuals impact your daily lives more than the president so they deserve more of your attention.