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Some more words which the student should understand:
affect-act upon or influence.
planned to be spent during a certain period.
to some definite person or group. recommendation—act of asking for favorable consideration. supervises—has duty of overseeing. tax rate-amount of tax to be paid, as measured by the value of
the property taxed. veto refuse to approve.
The Objectives and Organization of Our Other Local
"No citizen can afford to be indifferent to his government. Every hour he is being affected by its services and regulations."
In our last two chapters we discussed city governments in the United States. You learned about their objectives and services and how they organize and operate to reach these objectives and give these services. Now we shall study other local governments—the township, town, or village, and the larger and more important unit known as the county. We shall study their objectives and see how they serve many of our needs; we shall also talk about their organizations and the various officials who do the work required for reaching their objectives.
WHY SO MANY LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS HAVE GROWN UP
In the early days, when our people lived farther apart and there were not so many of them in this country, the services which are now done by our government units were carried on by single persons and small groups. In the days of the 13 Colonies, for example, there were very few or no police in the cities. The citizens watched and guarded their own homes and properties. The city governments provided neither street lights nor street cleaners. The people provided for themselves whatever they felt they needed.
Today, even in our small towns, we call on our government units to do hundreds of services for us.
We prefer to pay taxes for these services rather than to do the services ourselves. We want our town government to provide street lights and good sidewalks. We want it to clean the streets and alleys. We want it to provide enough policemen so that we shall feel protected in our homes. We want a sheriff in our county to arrest criminals who violate the law. We want the government to do whatever else is needed by the citizens so that we may have an orderly place in which to live.
WHAT DO THE TOWNSHIP GOVERNMENTS DO? All our States are divided into districts called counties (or, in Louisiana, parishes), and in many States the counties are divided into districts called townships. In the New England States the town is an important unit of government. At least once a year, in some townships, the voters come together in their town meeting, where they make their own laws about their local roads, bridges, streets, schools, and other such matters. They fix the tax rate and decide how the money shall be spent. They elect officials to enforce the laws. In this form of local government, therefore, “the people" act directly in making their laws. This is an interesting example of direct democracy in which the final lawmaking authority of the people is not delegated to any representatives.
In other States the townships are generally used as election districts, although some of them have a few township officials, such as justices of the peace, constables, and road supervisors.
WHAT THE VILLAGE AND TOWN GOVERNMENTS DO The village or town is like a small city. When people begin to settle close together and to form communities, they find that they have certain needs in common. They find they must elect their own officials and have their own government to serve these needs. They therefore petition the State government for authority to set up either a village or a town government. If this authority is granted, the community becomes an “incorporated” village or town. The word “incorporated" as here used means that the community has been delegated authority by the State to have a local government.
The general purpose of a village or town government is to provide for the needs of its people. To carry out this purpose the local government must perform a number of services. Among other things it may
1. Pave and light the streets.
5. Provide for disposal of sewage, garbage, and other waste.
6. Work with the State, county or school district officials to have good schools.
7. Decide upon a special tax rate to meet the expenses of these services.
HOW THE VILLAGE AND TOWN ORGANIZE TO DO THEIR WORK
We have learned that our villages and towns have governments to serve the people. Village or town government is usually in the hands of a village or town board or council. Sometimes it is known as a “board of trustees.” Members are elected by the people. Some villages and towns elect a president or mayor and give him special powers. Usually there is also a village or town clerk, a health officer and police officers.
and police officers. These officers serve the people of the village or town in their local self-government.
WHAT ARE THE SERVICES PERFORMED BY A COUNTY GOVERNMENT?
County governments in the United States do many services for the people. Here are some of them.
1. The county has charge of local elections and helps to conduct State and National elections.
2. The county maintains courts in which many important law suits are argued and decided and in which criminals are brought to trial and either acquitted or convicted and sentenced to punishment; also in which the wills of persons who have died may be filed and all matters concerning estates may be settled.
3. The county decides on a tax rate which will bring in the money needed for its own expenses and then collects the taxes. It also collects taxes for the State, city, township, town, or village.
4. The county builds and maintains its own schools, although often with State aid.
5. The county keeps official records of the births, deaths, and marriages which take place within its borders.
6. The county keeps copies of important documents for the people. Such documents include deeds and title papers which show ownership of property, mortgages which prove debts and protect the rights of creditors, judgments of law courts, and wills left by persons who have died, to provide for the division of their estates.
7. The county usually cares for its own poor, its povertystricken old people, and its orphans.
8. The county helps to prevent diseases and the bad conditions which cause the spread of disease. Many counties maintain county hospitals.
9. The county grants some licenses or permits, such as licenses to marry and permits to conduct certain kinds of business.
10. The county does its share in building and repairing roads, underpasses and bridges within its boundaries.
11. The county usually maintains a courthouse, a poorhouse, and a jail and helps to maintain other public buildings.
HOW OUR COUNTIES ARE ORGANIZED AND OPERATED
In each of our counties there is one town known as the “county seat,” which is the headquarters of the county