Local Government

The Origins of Local Government and the Federal System

Local government in New York has evolved over centuries. The governmental forms created by the people reflect functional concerns and a sustained dedication to basic ideas of representative government. Although we often speak of three “levels” of government, the United States Constitution mentions only two: the federal government and the state governments. The federal system, however, implicitly includes the idea that the states, in the exercise of powers reserved to them by the United States Constitution, would provide for local governments in ways that would take into account local diversities and needs. To the extent that the states have made such provisions in the form of state constitutional grants of home-rule power to the local units, such as in New York, local governments have become, in fact as well as theory, a third level of the federal system.