Active citizen Steve Wilson offers the following lament:
Voter Oversight and Span of Control
There is a concept in business management called “span of control”. It refers to how many people a paid, fulltime manager can reasonably be expected to oversee.
Historically, the proper “span of control” was considered to be four employees. In our modern era, with flatter organizational structures and better information technology, a manager is now often expected to oversee as many as ten employees.
Yet, as a voter, I’m supposed to monitor fifty-six local elected officials.
Let me be clear: I’m not talking about the federal government. I’m not even talking about the STATE government.
I’m talking ONLY about local government.
I’m supposed to keep track of
- 7 elementary school board members
- 7 high school board members
- 7 community college trustees
- 7 village trustees
- 7 park district board members
- 4 township trustees
- a township clerk
- a township supervisor
- a township highway commissioner
- a township assessor
- 4 county board members
- the states attorney
- the recorder of deeds
- the regional superintendent of education
- the county clerk
- the county circuit clerk
- the county treasurer
- the county executive
- the county coroner and
- the sheriff!
How am I, as a good citizen and voter, supposed to keep track of 56 people who are IN office, and at election time, often an equal number of candidates?
It’s not possible.
In fact, the system is designed to create voter disenchantment and voter apathy. It is designed specifically so that elected officials KNOW very few voters are keeping an eye on them.
The problem is NOT too many governments.
That is a red herring.
Let’s look at the recent attempt to consolidate townships.
Right now, I have eight elected officials in my township.
Question: If several townships were consolidated, how many elected township officials would I have to monitor?
Answer: Same as now – eight!
Would consolidating townships have saved money?
I don’t now.
But I DO know it wouldn’t have reduced the number of people I, as a voter, am supposed to oversee.
So how can we reduce the number of elected officials that I’m supposed to watch?
It takes two simple steps.
Number one, get rid of at-large positions. This is the biggest problem.
If all the board members were elected from single-member district, that by itself would eliminate 36 people from my “span of control”.
From 56 to 20 in one fell swoop!
Number two, get rid of ministerial positions. If it ever made sense to have an elected coroner or an elected circuit court clerk, those days are long over.
In the twenty-first century, those people should be hired employees.
As elected officials, there is simply no way for me to know if the recorder is doing a good job or a bad job unless I read about some egregious failure in the newspaper, like someone trying to hire their spouse.
Sadly, the County Board can’t monitor these people, either!
Because the recorder and coroner and the clerk and all these other ministerial positions DO NOT REPORT TO THE COUNTY BOARD!
They are elected officials in their own right!
Think about it.
Do we elect the Curriculum Supervisor for the school district?
Do we elect principals or even superintendents?
We expect our elected boards to do that.
So why, in 2015, are we still electing clerks and coroners?
If we made all of these ministerial positions paid employees reporting to their respective boards, we would eliminate thirteen more elected officials I, as a voter, am supposed to monitor.
And we would eliminate the worst offenders for patronage and nepotism.
Take these two steps and, I, as a voter, would have seven elected officials left to monitor, seven people whom I’m supposed to keep an eye on.
I can do that.