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Gub•mint

Gub•mint

It’s safe to say that Agincourt is, at best, a purple town in a remarkably red congressional district. [Steve King is the Congressman, I’m embarrassed to say.] So, other than the story of a failed mayoralty—the half term of Ed Flynn in the mid-1890s—I’ve avoided the topic of local politics. Until now.

Municipal government, like any other corporation, is a creature of the state. State constitutions, at their start or some time shortly thereafter, provide the mechanism by which municipalities incorporate. I was born in Illinois where the village is one of the approved forms; mine was Bedford Park, with about 600 residents most of whom I knew by name. Yu might be surprised to know that Oak Park, the land of Frank Lloyd Wright, is also a village with more than 50,000 residents. Living in a major metropolitan area does not connote anonymity, however; I was not a single fish in a school of millions. No, Bedford Park was an entirely remarkable place to live the first eighteen years of life, and I would not change a moment—not even Marge. And that’s saying something.

The residential part of Bedford Park is in the neck of the “dog”. The remainder is heavily industrialized—or at least it was. It’s been a while. The empty square in the upper right is Midway Airport.

Bedford (as we usually abbreviated it) consisted in the 1950s of three streets, three blocks long. As an incorporated village, it was governed by a Board of Trustees, one of whom is its President. [I knew the President then quite well; or at least I knew his car and the location of its gas cap.] I relate these footnotes from my personal history because Iowa’s municipal enabling legislation is unknown to me, so many of my assumptions about Agincourt’s governance may prove to be grossly incorrect.

AGINCOURT

My current location is governed by a mayor and four city commissioners. All those offices are elected at large, unlike a city council, where each commissioner represents a district or ward. In our system, it is entirely possible that all five members of the city’s governing body could live on the same floor of the same condo. Our sister city across the river in another state uses that (city council) form, which gives the impression of a more direct representation. Illusion perhaps, but I’d like to try it. So, whatever Iowa law may allow and until shown otherwise, I’m currently enamored of Agincourt having a Common Council, which to my ear has the sound of New England about it. And that the Common Council would elect a leader (mayor, president, chair, poobah…) from among its members.

Initially, Agincourt’s Ward system divided the city into four quadrants numbered one through four, clockwise from the northeast quarter. As the city grew—probably northward and to the east, due to water courses on the other sides—the pattern would continue. That might mean there would be six wards, and why shouldn’t they continue to be numbered clockwise, spiraling outward, just as the arrondissements of Paris. I suppose this will require me to map the city’s current size and determine the pattern of street extensions from the original townsite and all the infrastructure that implies—probably not a high priority item just now, so cut me some slack.

Oh, by the way, the current head of the Common Council is F. Bedford Park. The “F” stands for Forrest, which he avoids because, he says, “Forrest Park makes me sound like a defunct World’s Fair.”


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