If you live in Urbana (which is also Cunningham Township), you may have seen or read recent stories about the Cunningham Township Assessor and his actions in hiring and firing certain staff.
To be clear – this is a personnel issue and the public is, rightfully, not privy to a lot of information regarding that issue.
However, what has emerged out of the public attention is a move by Urbana City Council members to consider getting rid of the Township altogether.
CCHCC is asking you to take action TODAY to contact Urbana City Council members to urge them to slow down and hold off on making any rash decisions regarding the dissolution of the Township.
Any consideration of dismantling the Township should require a robust discussion in our community. A personnel issue – unrelated to the relevance of the Township and what it does – should not be the driver of a decision to dismantle a local unit of government.
Please see below for more information about the Township and why CCHCC opposes a move to dissolve it, and how you can take action.
Social Services provided by Cunningham Township
Cunningham Township is the township that corresponds to the City of Urbana – its geographic boundaries are the same as the City of Urbana. Because of this, Urbana City Council members also serve as the Cunningham Township Board.
The Township has two sections: the Township Supervisor’s office, and the Assessor’s office.
The Cunningham Township Supervisor’s office provides very important social services that form a safety net of last-resort for Urbana residents who do not qualify for other forms of assistance, such as welfare (TANF) or SSI. Most of the clients served by the Cunningham Township are single individuals, with no minor children, who have become disabled and unable to work, but who have not yet qualified for Social Security Disability (a grueling process that can take years). Cunningham Township provides monthly cash assistance for those who qualify. Cunningham Township also has emergency housing programs to help prevent the homeless from sleeping outside or residents from being evicted from housing. Many CCHCC clients benefit from these life-sustaining services, and Cunningham Township is an important resource for our clients.
Assistance from Cunningham Township can literally mean saving someone’s life – saving their life from the ravages and dangers of homelessness, despair, from disintegration and poor health.
Your local property tax dollars help fund these services (even if you don’t own your home, but rent, your landlord’s property tax costs are passed on to you through your rent). In addition, Cunningham Township also provides funding for social service organizations. CCHCC is a grateful beneficiary of this funding, and it helps support our work in serving Urbana residents.
Can the City of Urbana absorb ALL the functions of Cunningham Township?
This is an issue that warrants robust public discussion. From my perspective, it is difficult for me to see how the City of Urbana could absorb and then carry out the functions of the Township, especially with regard to Social Services provided to needy individuals.
Township Supervisors have great latitude in how to carry out their duties and how to provide services with the funding they receive. Under the leadership of the current Township Supervisor, Danielle Chynoweth, the Township is now providing more services to more residents, including services to help prevent homelessness. The Township office is nimble and capable of responding to clients’ and the community’s needs in a way that city governments are not equipped to do. They always answer the phone, welcome walk-in appointments, and can provide support right away in emergency situations. Furthermore, if the Township is abolished, funding for these services may go away. The City is unlikely to increase funding for social services. In fact, when their budget got tight, funding for social services was one of the first categories of funding that got cut.
What the City Council could do to dismantle the Township:
Last year, at Governor Bruce Rauner’s urging, the Illinois General Assembly passed new legislation that makes it easier for local elected officials to abolish or consolidate township government in Illinois. The process for doing so would involve putting a referendum on the November ballot. The referendum would simply say something like: “Shall the Township of (name of township) cease?” And it would be a binding referendum.
The referendum language makes no provision, nor does it bind upon the City of Urbana, the requirement to assume all of the functions of the Township, such as the social services provided to individuals.
One argument against Townships is that these local offices are antiquated and they are a historical artifact that create inefficiencies without serving any real purpose. An alternative perspective – CCHCC’s perspective – is that Cunningham Township serves a vital and very local purpose, and it is certainly not duplicative or redundant. Abolishing Cunningham Township would take away important resources in our community, and this decision should not be made in the heat of the moment – heat created by an unrelated personnel issue.
Urbana residents: Please help by taking action TODAY!
(Not an Urbana resident? You can still weigh in, since homelessness and social service funding is a community-wide issue.)
The Cunningham Township Board (whose members are also all Urbana City Council members) is meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at the Urbana City Building. You can help in two ways:
- Send a message to all Cunningham Township Board (and therefore Urbana City Council) members over e-mail, opposing the move to dissolve the Township by referendum; or
- Attend the Cunningham Township Board Meeting and speak during public participation.
Here are the resources to help you take these actions.
Agenda and meeting information for tonight’s meeting:
How to contact all Township Board/City Council Members through one e-mail address:
You can just send a message to one e-mail address, and it will reach all members: CityCouncil@UrbanaIllinois.us
For individual members’ contact information, you can see here:
And for the Mayor’s contact information, please see here:
“I am a resident of the City of Urbana and Cunningham Township. I am contacting you to urge you to move slowly and cautiously on any decision that would cause the Township to cease to exist. Our community deserves the right to learn more about the Township office and the important services provided to our community before a decision is made to place this question on the ballot for a binding referendum. Personnel issues with the Assessor’s office should not be a cause or a pretext to dismantle social services in our community. Thank you.”
Feel free to personalize your message.
Recent articles and editorials in The News-Gazette: