Jefferson Township

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Jefferson Township, located in Cook County, Illinois, was a separate municipal entity from 1850 until 1889 when it became part of the city of Chicago. Its boundaries stretched from Devon Avenue in the north to North Avenue in the south, with Harlem Avenue to the west and Western Avenue to the east. This area now encompasses much of Chicago's Northwest Side, including Jefferson Park, North Park, Albany Park, Irving Park, Avondale, Hermosa, Belmont-Cragin, Montclare, Portage Park, as well as parts of Forest Glen, West Ridge, Lincoln Square, North Center, Logan Square, West Town, Humboldt Park, Austin, Dunning, Norridge, Harwood Heights, and Norwood Park.

Initially established in 1850, Jefferson Township transformed from wilderness to a predominantly rural community with several suburban villages. However, faced with infrastructure limitations and enticed by the promise of improved municipal services, it, along with neighboring townships, opted for annexation into Chicago, contributing to the city's expansion and solidifying its status as the largest in the United States at the time.

After its annexation, Jefferson Township ceased to function as a separate governmental entity. Today, its only significance lies in tax valuation and record keeping by the Cook County Assessor's office.

Illinois Township System

Out of Illinois's 102 counties, 84 are structured into civil townships, commonly referred to as "townships" in state law. In total, there are 1,428 such townships, making them the predominant type of local government unit in the state.

Each township is legally named in the format "___ Township" or "Town of ____". State law mandates that no two townships in Illinois can share the same name. If the Illinois Secretary of State identifies a duplicate township name during comparisons of township abstracts, the county that most recently adopted the name must select a different one at the subsequent county board meeting. However, despite this regulation, numerous township names remain duplicated in Illinois.

History of Townships

Historically, local government affairs in the Illinois Territory and after the state's 1818 admission were primarily overseen by counties, though towns and villages also existed. Chicago became the state's inaugural city upon its charter in 1837. The 1848 Illinois Constitution granted county voters the authority to divide their counties into townships.

Variations of Townships

Cook County is divided into townships except for Chicago, where voters opted to eliminate the eight townships within the city in 1902. Additionally, 17 counties lack township government altogether, instead being divided into precincts. Precincts, unlike townships, do not possess independent functions; all administrative responsibilities are managed by the county.

Organization and Designation

Township operations in Illinois are primarily governed by the Township Code (60 ILCS 1). Counties have the option to adopt or discontinue the township form of government. Township names are chosen in accordance with the desires of the inhabitants. If unanimity regarding the name is lacking, commissioners dividing the county into townships may choose the name. Moreover, if the county board receives a petition from a majority of the township's voters, it may change the township's name.

Each township is governed by an elected board comprising a supervisor and four trustees. Special provisions exist for the automatic creation of townships in cities or villages where township organization is chosen for the county but some territory remains unorganized. Furthermore, townships may be consolidated to cover the entirety of a city's territory across multiple townships or may be designated as "coterminous," aligning with a city's borders and allowing the city council to act as the township board in most circumstances.

Powers of The Township

The Township Code (60 ILCS 1/85-13) outlines various general services on which townships are permitted to expend funds, including public safety, environmental protection, public transportation, health, recreation, libraries, social services for the impoverished and elderly, and business and tourism development within the township. Other sections of the code authorize townships to provide additional services such as cemeteries, comfort stations, community buildings, hospitals, monuments, open spaces, parks, facilities for the developmentally disabled, and the disposal of brush and leaves. With approval via referendum, townships may also offer water and sewer services as well as general waste collection.

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