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Keep township government, and save taxpayers money

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. | AP file photo

As the executive director of the Township Officials of Illinois, I would like to respond to the Feb. 11 opinion piece that called for giving Illinois voters the ability to eliminate township units of government.

Townships are an easy target for criticism because many people fail to understand what we do and how we operate. Township government plays a critical role in improving the lives of local residents across Illinois. What we do is not only important, but required by the state constitution.

By law, townships serve three main functions in Illinois: general assistance for those in need, including providing food, shelter and emergency relief; assessment of property for local taxation; and maintenance of 71,000 miles of roads and bridges outside federal, state and local jurisdiction.

The argument that eliminating townships will decrease taxes for citizens is simply not true.

Wendell Cox, a respected public policy researcher, discovered that smaller local governments have lower costs per capita than larger local governments. He also found that in Illinois, the smallest local governments generally spent half as much per capita as those with local governments of populations between 10,000 to 250,000 residents. That means Illinois taxpayers will likely be required to pay more if their communities are required to assume the duties of township government because of consolidation or elimination.

Townships are committed to improving their communities and making sure residents are provided access to the services they need. Targeting townships for elimination is simply irresponsible and does not seek to better peoples’ lives. We need to look at the facts and remember the critical services townships are able to provide, efficiently and cost-effectively.

Bryan Smith, executive director, Township Officials of Illinois

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Close loopholes in gun law enforcement

With deep frustration after yet another mass shooting, this time in Aurora, people are lashing out and attacking the National Rifle Association and calling for more gun laws and gun control.

However, if we look at America’s mass shootings, we would find that gun laws already on the books would stem most of those tragedies. The Aurora shooter was a convicted felon. By law he was prohibited from owning a firearm. Anybody with common sense thinks that is a great law, even the much-blamed NRA. In this case, the shooter refused to obey the law, and when it was finally discovered that he was prohibited from having a gun, his Firearm Owners Identification Card was revoked.

The state now says it has no mechanism or funding to go out and seize guns from people with revoked FOID cards, who do not pay the slightest attention to laws. In my opinion, wouldn’t a simple phone call to police, in the jurisdiction that the offender listed on his application, solve this problem? If that had happened, a warrant could have been issued based on that information. Then, the gun gets confiscated and Martin goes back to prison for the offense.

Criminals do not pay attention to laws, and the Aurora shooter was the poster boy for that. It’s up to use to close these so-called loopholes, not continually cry out for more laws.

Bob Angone, Miramar Beach, Florida