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Illinois Municipal Policy Journal

IMPJ Vol 1, Issue 1 cover
The Illinois Municipal Policy Journal (IMPJ) is a collaboration of the Illinois Municipal League, the School of Public Service, and the Chaddick Institute at DePaul University. The goal of the journal is to provide municipal and state leaders in particular with research, best practices, and recommendations related to key issues such as capital budgeting, shared services, home rule, and retail construction trends, among others. The inaugural issue was released December 2016 and the second issue on pace for distribution in late 2017.  IMPJ will continue to provide research-based analysis to help guide policy decisions at the local and state level.

The call for proposals for articles in Volume II (2017) of IMPJ is now closed. Please email​ if you are interested in contributing to a future issue. Also, consider reviewing this draft article, Tax Incremental Financing: Learning from Research and Municipal "Best Practice" for possible publication in the 2017 Winter Illinois Municipal Policy League Journal. Your feedback is welcome.

Click to read Volume 1, Issue 1 (2016)

*The digital version of the Illinois Municipal Policy Journal is housed on the Illinois Municipal League website.


Shared Services as a Response to Governmental Fragmentation | N. Walzer & C. Plasch

Norman Walzer & Cory Poris Plasch
Center for Governmental Studies, Northern Illinois University ​

Substantial support exists for the notion that institutional fragmentation and duplication is adding to the cost of government in Illinois. Several other states are actively encouraging local government to adopt innovative practices to cut costs through shared-service arrangements. This article reviews deliberations of the Governmental Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force chaired by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti in 2015 and discusses efforts underway by local government groups to streamline service delivery. The results include practical examples of how Illinois organizations can work together to boost efficiency and reduce overlap.​​​​

FULL TEXT​ (pdf, 192K)

Use of Special Assessments by Municipal Governments in the Chicago Metropolitan Region: The Taming of Leviathan? | R. Hendrick

Rebecca Hendrick
University of Illinois at Chicago


Special assessments are often described as being prone to abuse, misuse, and overuse by local governments. Their “hidden nature” can foster a perception that governments use them in exploitative ways to finance unnecessary and even undesired capital improvements. As in others areas of taxation, governments using special assessment are sometimes likened to the biblical Leviathan creature that devours everything to feed itself. This study, using data on assessments in metropolitan Chicago and approximately 40 interviews with local officials, shows that municipal governments that use this financial tool do not, in fact, exemplify Leviathan behavior.

FULL TEXT​ (pdf, 499K)

Fiscal Recovery after the Great Recession: Reviewing the Performance of Metropolitan Chicago Communities | C. Brewer, J. Vitone & J. Schwieterman

Chris Brewer, Joe Vitone & Joseph Schwieterman
AECOM & DePaul University

This study evaluates the comprehensive fi nancial statements of 109 municipalities in the Chicago region to explore trends in revenues, employment, and other metrics. The results show that both employment and the total equalized assessed value of property remain significantly below the levels before the Great Recession. Municipal fund balances, property-tax revenues, and retail sales, however, have recovered and in many cases are far higher than they were a few years ago. While local government revenues are gradually bouncing back, emerging constraints will require municipalities to expand their “financial toolbox” to capture sufficient revenues to sustain infrastructure reinvestment.

FULL TEXT ​(pdf, 561K)

Capital Budgeting Strategies in Good Times...and Bad | B. Bunch

Beverly S. Bunch

University of Illinois - Springfield​

This study, drawing upon interviews with officials from 33 communities across the state, explores the opportunity for improving capital budgeting among municipal governments. The results illustrate the dramatic changes underway in capital budgeting in the wake of the Great Recession and the State of Illinois’ deepening fiscal crisis while highlighting practices and strategies now being used. By reviewing exemplary examples from throughout the state, the study offers practical guidance for municipalities seeking to improve this form of budgeting in good times and bad.

FULL TEXT​ (pdf, 126K)

Taxes and Trust: Lessons for Leaders as Illinois' Constitutional Home Rule Authority Approaches its Fiftieth Year | J. Kearney

Joseph A. Kearney
Corral, Kearney and Cho, LLP & The John Marshall Law School

This briefing offers a summary of major political, policy and legal landmarks related to Home Rule in Illinois. It shows that the state’s 1970 constitution automatically conferred what are regarded as some of the broadest and strongest powers in the nation upon municipalities of more than 25,000 residents. As the 50th anniversary of Home Rule approaches, there has been appreciable scholarship on the topic. Most notably, though, are efforts – both successful and not – by communities lacking the population necessary for the automatic conferral of power to seek implementation of home rule through referenda. A few communities have even held successful referenda to opt out of home rule. ​​

FULL TEXT​ (pdf, 169K)

Measuring the Strength of Illinois' Municipal Reserves: Do Communities Have the Flexibility to Wrestle with Unforeseen Events? | S. Sohl, A. Blanke & N. Walzer

Shannon Sohl, Andy Blanke & Norman Walzer
Center for Governmental Studies, Northern Illinois University

This study explores the fiscal condition of Illinois communities by evaluating levels of unrestricted net assets for municipalities with 10,000 to 50,000 residents that issue financial reports using generally-accepted accounting principles. Recognizing that reserves available for discretionary use are critical to dealing with unforeseen events and responding to unmet needs, it uses multivariate analysis to identify relationships between poverty rates, Home Rule status, the structure of government, and other variables on reserve levels. The report also outlines important steps communities can take to bring reserves to more financially healthy levels. ​​

FULL TEXT​ (pdf, 298K)​

Frameworks for Growth: How Local Institutions and State Governance Influence Economic Development Policy | D. Bliss

Daniel E. Bliss
Illinois Institute of Technology

This study explores how economic development policy is affected by the choice of “venue” in which decisions are made. Using case studies of four communities, it suggests that when the delegation of economic development responsibility increases within a municipality, such as from the elected council to an appointed commission, or when the state government does little to equalize resources, spending tends to be more heavily oriented toward providing targeted technical and financial assistance to businesses rather than general infrastructure and services. The study provides insights for officials to consider when developing policies for local economic development.

FULL TEXT  (pdf, 341K)


Is it Time to Reexamine Your Bike Code? A Review of Cycling Policies in Illinois Municipalities | J. Caldwell & D. Yanocha

Jenna Caldwell & Dana Yanocha
DePaul University

This issue brief offers guidance for municipal governments seeking to update their municipal codes with contemporary “best practices”. Drawing upon the opinions of experts and evaluating the content of municipal codes in 29 Illinois municipalities, including a review of the policies governing riding on sidewalks, helmet laws, fines and enforcement, and development incentives, the study showcases notable innovations being used by Illinois communities to make bicycle travel safer and more convenient.

FULL TEXT​ (pdf, 165K)

Retail Construction in Illinois: Why the Slump? | C. Brewer, J. Vitone & J. Schwieterman

Chris Brewer, Joe Vitone & Joseph Schwieterman
AECOM & DePaul University

This policy brief evaluates the pace of new retail construction in urbanized regions of the state since 1982 and offers practical guidance to municipal officials concerned about the sluggish pace of retail construction over the past several years. After reviewing the trends for both metropolitan Chicago and downstate regions, it considers how the Internet and other factors are encouraging major retail brands to reassess their growth strategies.​

FULL TEXT​ (pdf, 184K)