The United States relies on a system called “federalism,” in which state powers are distributed among local, state, and national authorities. This is an important point, as citizens face different levels of government every day but for different reasons.
Local government is the cornerstone of American life because citizens interact most closely with it. Local governments offer citizens a wide range of basic services, including water supply and sewage, garbage collection, snow removal, housing and transportation services, approval of school curriculum standards and public safety.
For example, when Americans call emergency services, a local police officer, a fireman or a medical assistant comes to them. These employees are accountable to the local government and their work is most often paid from the local budget, which is replenished from local taxes.
“This is the basis of governance, and it is partly explained by their federalism, where any powers that the national government does not fulfill are transferred to state and municipal authorities.
The table shows which branch of government certain authorities belongs to:
|federal level||USA Congress||President||US Supreme Court and Federal Courts|
|state level||United States Legislature||Governor||state courts|
|local level||Municipal council||Mayor||local courts|
How many local governments exist in the USA?
According to the census of government in 2012, which is held every five years, there are about 90 thousand units of local government in the United States.
Illinois leads the census with seven thousand units of local government. Hawaii has the least of them – 21 units.
Basically, local government is divided into two levels: larger territories are called counties (parishes in Louisiana and towns in Alaska), municipalities, or cities. In some cases, districts are divided into settlements.
Depending on the state constitution, municipalities may take different forms. They can be called villages, towns, cities, settlements or major cities.
Local government is built on a system of mutual concessions. For example, a member of the Fairfax County School Board, Evans, wanted to ensure that upper secondary schools begin classes at 8:30 in the morning. “Everyone had to make a contribution to embody this idea. You have to learn to listen to other people and compromise, ”says Evans.