GUIDE TO READING Main Idea
At the smallest level of local government, towns, townships, and villages address the everyday needs of American citizens.
Key Terms town, town meeting, township
Reading Strategy Identifying Information
As you read, name the different forms of government below the county level by completing a graphic organizer like the one below.
romis of Government Smaller Than Countv Level i
Read ta Learn
« How are towns, town-ships, and villages structured?
• How do towns, townships, and villages differ?
In 1654, six years after a large area of land was granted to the town of Sudbury, Massachusetts, a group of young men sat down together in a wood-and-thatch meetinghouse to discuss how to divide the land. They decided "to every man an equal portion to diwy up the land in quantity" The town has seen many changes since that day about 350 years ago. but some things haven't changed at all. Today men and women of Sudbury still sit down to discuss issues in town meetings.
Honoring Sudbury's soldiers
Just as most states are divided into counties, counties are often divided into smaller political units. In the New England states these units are called towns, like the town of Sudbury. In many other states, especially in the Midwest, they arc called townships. Still smaller areas within towns or townships may be incorporated into villages. Town, township, and village governments, like those of cities and counties, receive their authority from the state.
The relationship between town or township governments and their surrounding counties varies. In New England, town governments handle the needs of most small communities, while counties are mainly judicial districts. Tn all other states that have townships, county and township governments share authority. In the South and the West, county governments tend to be more important and there may be no townships.
In everyday speech, Americans use t<mm as a synonym for a small city—or even a large one. Popular songs have described New York City as a "wonderful town'1 or Chicago as Amy kind of town/" Tovm> however, also has another meaning as a particular type of local government. The town form of government occurs in the New England states. New England
Chapter 13 Local Government 315
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