States Revoking City/County Governance
June 7, 2006 6:20 PM   Subscribe

Can you think of examples of a U.S. state government revoking a charter or other governance document for a local government body, such as a city or county?

Interested in actions taken due to financial crisis, due to corruption, even out of political spite. Mostly interested in "hostile" actions. Slightly less interested in local governments that are dissolved due to population loss, but throw those in if it seems germane.
posted by gimonca to Law & Government (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Most of the county governments in Massachusetts have been or are in the process of being dissolved, with their responsibilities assumed by the commonwealth. I was living in Middlesex County in 1997, when it happened there. One of the chief reasons is financial difficulties, as county governments there tend to have a great deal of trouble staying within their budgets.

The counties still exist as a means of defining areas of the commonwealth, which is used for management of the court system, among other things.
posted by cerebus19 at 6:56 PM on June 7, 2006

I'm not sure if this is a true government, but states have taken over and attempted to take over school districts that are under city control. (Philadelphia in 2001, though supposedly the city and state negotiated a deal and in the end it was not hostile.) The state of Maryland has been trying to take over the Baltimore City schools. And that has certainly been hostile.

The National Association of State Boards of Education gives an overview.
posted by Airhen at 7:22 PM on June 7, 2006

Remember the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh? Maybe not; that was a long time ago.

There was strange cult which moved into a big ranch near Antelope, OR. Weird bunch, they were. The followers bought 93 Rolls Royces for their guru, for instance, and he'd ride through the commune once a day in one of them so all the followers could see him. The Rajneeshies violated all kinds of laws (like the building code) and ran into ongoing trouble with the local police (because of drug use) and building inspectors. Eventually they decided to take over.

They ended up having a majority of registered voters in the area, and elected their own mayor and city council. Then things got really weird; they changed the name of Antelope to "Rajneesh", and changed the park in the center of town into a clothing-optional zone.

In Salem, the state capital, there was movement afoot about this point to revoke Antelope's city charter -- but before it could happen, the Rajneeshees collapsed. Rajneesh himself and his top aides fled the country and went back to India, and the majority of his followers bailed out of that farm. The remainder no longer represented a majority, and sanity returned to the town.

So Antelope's city charter didn't end up getting revoked, but it would have if events hadn't obviated the need.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:31 PM on June 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Orange County, CA went bankrupt in 1994. Washington D.C. has had its finances micromanaged by the Federal government for some time, on and off. Small towns routinely dissolve for lack of population. However, "corruption" doesn't usually entail any penalties at all, unless it involves gross fiscal mismanagement, in which case usually the next larger entity manages the smaller entity's finances for a while.

In Ontario about 10 years ago, the provincial government forcibly amalgamated many small towns into single cities - Toronto being the main example, but there were many other towns affected as well. This was done supposedly as a cost-saving measure to eliminate duplicate municipal features, although no money was actually saved. (It was actually part political, part spite, and part pork.) It was definitely forcible, though - none of the towns involved were happy about it.
posted by jellicle at 7:32 PM on June 7, 2006

I came across this .pdf report re state takeovers of local school districts while searching for a link about California's 1993 takeover of the Compton school district. California's takeover of Compton's schools didn't meet with much success.
posted by buggzzee23 at 7:56 PM on June 7, 2006

New Rome, Ohio was forcibly dissolved in 2004, because New Rome sucked.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:30 PM on June 7, 2006

Various agencies are threatening action against the city of Vernon, a small city near downtown L.A., because of eye-popping claims of corruption in the city government.
posted by frogan at 8:56 PM on June 7, 2006

I heard that Kansas City, Missouri had its police department taken over by the state, due to corruption. Not the same as you asked, but similar. The story was told to me by a native, and no reason to suppose it wasn't true.
posted by Goofyy at 2:09 AM on June 8, 2006

Goofyy is right, Kansas City was taken over by the state.
posted by Atreides at 5:40 AM on June 8, 2006

New Jersey has taken over governance of several municipal schools.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:40 AM on June 8, 2006

Connecticut abolished its counties quite some time ago. They persist as lines on a map that are useful for a variety of functions of state government and local government, but have no government or employees or powers.

The reason why Connecticut was able to do this, and why New Jersey and some other states could do this with large swaths of their territory, if, is that there wasn't / isn't the idea of unincorporated land. All of Connecticut is contained in a municipality, which is also true of New Jersey and true of the three big surburban counties of New York. In most of the United States, municipalities are islands in a sea of unincorporated territory directly run by the county.
posted by MattD at 9:41 AM on June 8, 2006

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