Local Issues

A Brief Etymology of Local Regulations

Newcastle City Hall

In America’s early days, until the progressive era of the early 1900’s, city councils were a place where liberty was modeled by elected officials. We aren’t talking libertarian utopia, but locals knew their place and respected their limitations. Cities understood their role was to meet the needs of their citizens as creatures of the state. Their role was to provide services that would be inefficient for the state government to administer. Cities had limited powers as defined by the state. This was solidified in the court ruling known as Dillon’s rule in the late 1800’s. Today there are only two states that adhere to Dillon’s rule, those being Virginia and Alabama.

The early 1900’s gave rise to the professional local government administrators and staff. This movement was birthed in Staunton Virginia. Cities across the country started negotiating with state legislatures for more taxing and regulatory power which gave birth to what is known as Home Rule. Later these cities would hire lobbyists at taxpayer expense to sway state legislators for “local control” over their constituents.

Today many large and medium cities believe they are equal to states in power or have some imaginary autonomy. They regulate land use and zoning in a way that drives up housing prices, they send SWAT teams in to Airbnb’s to stop short-term housing rentals, they regulate everything down to the color of your house and so on.

The battle for power used to reside between the states and federal government. Today we must also include American cities in that power battle.


In Depth: Local Issues

While all eyes look to Washington and the state capitals for answers, often times the government closest to home can come up with the best solutions. Local government is a key thread in the fabric of American government, fostering an approach to problem solving that puts communities first. In states …

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