Friday, April 17, 2015

National County Government Month #NCGM

"April is the cruellest month," wrote T. S. Eliot. If you're a fan of Eliot, you might be celebrating April as National Poetry Month.

National County Government Month logo
But April is also National County Government Month (declared by the National Association of Counties (NACo)), and as lawyers you're more likely to deal with county government or even be a part of it than you are to be a professional poet, so let's take a minute to think about county government.

This year's theme is "Counties Moving America Forward: The Keys are Transportation and Infrastructure."

Washington County Profiles (from the Municipal Research and Services Center) offers quick access to county websites, codes, and comprehensive plans.

Washington's 39 counties vary in population, from Garfield County (2,250 people) to King County (1,981,100 people). The amount of Garfield County's budget isn't listed, but I bet it's somewhat smaller than King County's $8.9 billion 2015/2016 proposed budget.

You can find county officials in this directory from the Washington Association of Counties. King County leaders who are UW Law grads include County Executive Dow Constantine ('88), County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg ('85), Councilmember Rod Dembowski ('01), and Councilmember Reagan Dunn ('98).

For state the laws on county government, see the state constitution and RCW title 36.

NACo explains Why Counties Matter in a paper series and in this short video:

And you can watch a lot more from NACo on its YouTube channel.

For you data fans, NACo has a nifty interactive tool—the NACo County Explorer—for creating maps of different indicators, such as population, budgets, jails, or parks. Since it's National Library Week as well as National County Government Month, I made a map showing the number of library branches (as of 2011). Here's the West Coast:

Library branches per county, 2011.
Yellow and orange indicate 0-2 branches. Light blue and medium blue indicate 2-6 branches. And dark blue indicates 7-208 branches. Of course, that doesn't offer much granularity: King County is dark blue, but does it have 7 branch libraries or a lot more? (I happen to know it's a lot more.) Still, it's fun to play with visual depictions of data.  And for a fee, subscribers can gain access to more data.

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