Guidebook to Modernizing Local Service Delivery Systems

With rural governments in mind, CGS Senior Research Scholar Norman Walzer and Research Associate Andy Blanke have developed Guidebook to Modernizing Local Service Delivery Systems, where they discuss the Local Efficiency Assessment Program (LEAP), and the Local Government Efficiency Assessment Dashboard.

Guidebook and Resources for Starting a Community Supported Enterprise

By Norman Walzer, Northern Illinois University, in collaboration with Jacob Smith, NIU, and David Ivan, Michigan State University.
(2019) In 2014, the North Central Regional Council for Regional Development published a report that examined 20 Community Supported Enterprises (CSEs) operating across the U.S., plus listed many others in operation at that time (Walzer and Sandoval, 2014). The CSEs mainly involved grocery-related stores and eating establishments typically in small towns. The enterprises fit the CSE model because they had local investment and were motivated by a social purpose, often to build social capital and improve quality of life. In several instances, these CSEs have closed due mainly to adverse financial conditions but with important lessons learned in the process. Others are profitable and flourishing. Growing interest in a CSE approach among public officials and community leaders generated interest in preparing a guidebook to help other groups chart a course to evaluate, and possibly start, a local CSE. Providing that assistance is the main purpose of this guidebook. It is not a manual providing a set course of action because each situation differs in market conditions, financial interests, and willingness of residents to invest or otherwise participate in financing the project. Nevertheless, common features among successful CSEs are highlighted in this Guidebook. It builds on the previous report by examining additional CSEs that vary in organizational structure, goods or services delivered, or financing approaches. In addition, more attention is paid to who was involved in the organizational effort and how the venture was marketed to potential investors. The intent is to provide sufficient information that readers interested in launching a local effort will gain insights into how to proceed even under different scenarios. Read the full Guidebook in PDF form.


Reports | Whitepapers & Journals

Recent Reports (2016-present)

2019 Illinois Economic Development Plan

In 2019, CGS assisted the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in development of a statewide, five-year economic development plan.  The plan emphasizes revitalizing downstate and underserved communities across Illinois, encouraging entrepreneurship, retaining young adults, and reintegrating those displaced from the workforce. 
Executive summary PDF
Full report PDF

Local Government Shared Services Journal

As a result of the 2015 Task Force on Unfunded Mandates and Government Consolidation,  CGS assisted the Lieutenant Governor’s office in conducting a survey of best practices in shared services among Illinois local governments.  Two surveys were conducted in 2016 and 2017, documenting examples of local collaboration and resource sharing underway in school districts, municipalities, townships, and special districts. 
Volume 1, 2016 - PDF
Volume 2, 2017 - PDF

Center for Governmental Studies Researches Options for Starved Rock State Park

SEPT. 2019 - Illinois’ Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby attracts as many visitors as major national parks. As the state’s most popular park, it has struggled with overcrowding certain days, necessitating closing the gates when parking lots fill, as occurred over Labor Day weekend. To address overcrowding and other issues, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and Starved Rock Lodge turned to Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies (CGS). They asked CGS to research ways to improve the visitor experience, protect natural resources and work with nearby communities that provide services to park and lodge visitors. The research findings are contained in Starved Rock State Park & Lodge: Options for the Future, a report recently released to IDNR and Lodge management. The report includes recommendations regarding parking shortages, managing large crowds, adding new facilities and lodging options, social media usage, and ways for the Park, Lodge and surrounding communities to work together. COMPLETE PRESS RELEASE

Illinois Critical Access Hospitals: Exploring the Financial Impacts of the Swing Bed Program

The Swing Bed Program is a Medicare program available to Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) and rural Prospective Payment System (PPS) hospitals with fewer than 100 beds. The term “swing bed” may be simply thought of as a bed that moves from an inpatient bed to a skilled nursing bed, as needed. In rural communities, hospital-based swing beds are vital in keeping services close to home, as well as helping ensure coordinated care for rural Medicare beneficiaries. The Swing Bed Program is also an important contributor to the CAHs’ overall inpatient revenues.  To better understand the significance of the Swing Bed Program in rural Illinois, the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network (ICAHN) partnered with Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies to survey Illinois CAHs regarding the importance of their Swing Bed Programs in terms of financial indicators, quality outcomes, and community benefits. The report highlights the survey results and additional data related to the Swing Bed Program in Illinois. Three PDFs are available: 

ICAHN Swing Bed Report (print-PDF)
ICAHN Swing Bed Report (interactive PDF)
Executive Summary of ICAHN Swing Bed Report (print-PDF)

A Briefing: Promise & Programs in Rural Illinois

Population projections show that rural Illinois will face serious issues in the next decade and beyond, with population declines, shrinking young population cohorts, and increasing proportions of elderly that may retire and/or move out of Illinois, closing many small businesses that have provided essential services for many years. This may result in loss of tax revenues needed to support infrastructure, education and other services important to maintaining local quality of life in some areas. Anticipating these changes and designing programs to take advantage of resources and opportunities now will help avert more serious issues in the future. This policy brief suggests approaches to expand opportunities for successful strategies to promote prosperity in rural counties. FULL REPORT

Municipal Fiscal Responses in the Post-Recession Era

Norman Walzer and Andy Blanke (December 2018). Illinois Municipal Policy Journal, Vol. 3. This article examines the fiscal challenges Illinois municipalities faced following the 2009 recession and ways in which they responded. In order to shed light on the strategies and actions employed during this post-recession period, Census of Governments' data were used to identify the impacts on municipal revenues and expenditures from 2007 to 2017. More than 90 mayors and manager of Illinois' municipalities also were surveyed. The results suggest that state aid to municipalities did not keep pace with inflation between 2007 and 2015, and the most common strategies used to maintain balanced budgets were increasing water and sewage charges and delaying infrastructure projects. FULL REPORT

Insights into Rising Pension Costs in Illinois Municipalities

Andy Blanke and Norman Walzer (December 2018). Illinois Municipal Polity Journal, Vol. 3. This article examines the funding status of downstate (which includes suburban) Illinois police and fire pension funds in relation to professional recommendations, the numbers of participants, benefits, actuarial assets and liabilities. In addition, relationships between municipal characteristics and changes in funding rations are analyzed to provide insight into the factors associated with changes in funding ratios. This article concludes with a discussion of potential approaches for addresses rising pension costs with possible implications for Illinois. FULL REPORT

Illinois Task Force on Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates

Options to streamline the system for delivering local government services in Illinois were significantly increased with passage of recommendations by the Task Force on Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates report issued in 2016. While no mandates were included, subsequent legislation enables residents and local public officials to redesign collaboration among local government units and agencies to deliver services in different ways, possibly at lower costs and property taxes. The report contains responses by 500 local public officials, plus the testimony and deliberations of the Task Force leading to subsequent legislation. FULL REPORT (note: PDF is 35MB)

DeKalb Revitalization Plan

The City of DeKalb advanced to the semi-finals of the America’s Best Communities Competition.  This report was the key piece in the City’s competitive entry.  The report presents a number of projects designed to work together to create a sustainable basis for economic growth.  A number of the proposed projects are in various stages of planning and development. FULL REPORT

City of DeKalb EDC Plan

CGS assisted the City of DeKalb in developing a citywide strategic plan encompassing a variety of topic areas.  This document focuses on the implementation of the economic development components of the overall plan. FULL REPORT

Downtown Development Strategies in Illinois:
Assessing the Priorities of Municipal Leaders in Illinois

(2017) Retail and downtown issues are changing with Internet buying growing in importance. Consequently, local public officials are exploring alternative strategies and approaches to update the roles played by downtown areas to make them match the interests and preferences of residents. The changes include adding entertainment options, local arts and crafts, residential options, co-working opportunities, and linking with unique nearby attractions such as recreational areas. This article by Norman Walzer, Mim Evans and Michael Aquino, of CGS, reports the results of a statewide survey of Illinois mayors on innovative strategies used in enhancing downtowns. Read the full text in PDF form.

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Community Supported Enterprises as a Local Investment Strategy

(2017) Aging business owners, declining markets because of population declines, and slow local economies have threatened essential businesses in many small rural communities. In response, local groups have organized efforts in which residents pool their funds to purchase or reinvigorate a threatened business that adds significantly to quality of life. These Community Supported Enterprises have grown in popularity with the advent of Crowd-funding techniques. Norman Walzer, of CGS, describes the results of a national sugy of how CSEs are organized, managed, and operated, along with their sucesses. Read the full text in PDF form.

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Illinois Municipal Policy Journal

(2016) Two publications by CGS research associates are included in the inaugural issue of the Illinois Municipal Policy Journal (Winter 2016). This issue includes an article by Cory Poris Plasch and Norman Walzer on shared services. Shannon Sohl, Andy Blanke and Norman Walzer also have an article on determinants of unrestricted net reserves in Illinois municipalities. The IML is distributing copies to the General Assembly and mayors. The full inaugural issue of the Illinois Municipal Policy Journal is available at; this is now live on IML’s website.

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Unemployment, Labor Force Participation, and the Illinois Work Force

(2016) The relatively slow economic recovery in Illinois following the 2009 recession has been a frequent topic of debate among policymakers, business leaders, and the news media, with each group judging the state’s performance using a different measure. Business starts and employment, or unemployment, rates are commonly cited, but others argue that changing labor force participation rates may have caused unemployment rates to lose some of their traditional meaning. Full Report

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Emergence and Growth of Community Supported Enterprises

(2016) Local development agencies organize groups of residents to invest in business ventures commonly known as Community Supported Enterprises or Businesses. These ventures are often motivated by the potential loss of a grocery store, restaurant, or other establishment considered vital to quality of life in the community. Motivated by a need to maintain or build social capital, a group of residents pool their investments to purchase a building or on-going establishment and then hire an operator to manage the business with returns paid to the organizing agency. These agencies may be a nonprofit, LLC, Cooperative or other type of organization. Emergence and Support of Community Supported Enterprises is a North Central Regional Center for Rural Development funded project that examines how CSEs are organized and operate in several states. It involves a collaborative effort between the Center for Governmental Studies, University of Wisconsin Extensive, and Michigan State Extension.
Executive Summary| Full Report

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Archived Reports (2015 and prior)

Journals, White Papers, and Other Publications

Rural Health Care White Paper Series

By: Melissa Henriksen, Norman Walzer, and Andy Blanke
CGS, in partnership with the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, has developed a series on issues facing critical access hospitals in Illinois. Learn more about research on healthcare policy and practices.

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Issue 1, April 2012:
Enhancing Quality of Care in Rural Illinois
Interactive ReportReport for Print

Issue 2, January 2013:
Collaborating for Effective Rural Health Care
Interactive Report | Report for Print

Issue 3, October 2013:
Managing Healthy Communities in Rural Illinois
Interactive Report | Report for Print

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Management's Perceptions of Annual Financial Reporting White Paper

Dr. Craig S. Maher and Dr. Shannon N. Sohl, CPA, (December 2013). International City/County Management Association.
CGS Research Associate Dr. Shannon Sohl and NIU Public Administration faculty member Dr. Craig Maher prepared a white paper for the International City/County Management Association on the current state of local government financial reporting. The paper includes findings on how GASB financial statements affect management, provide benefits to stakeholders, and offer professional support and outreach.

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Measuring Community Development: What Have We Learned?

Andrew S. Blanke and Norman Walzer (December 2013). Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society. Vol 44., No. 5.
This paper, published in Community Development (December 2013), reviews the history of outcome measurement in community development organizations and describes innovative and emerging measurement practices. The paper describes several development organizations that have been successful in improving service delivery by adopting outcome measurement practices with technical assistance from national and regional grantors, a focus on social, environmental, and economic goals, and reduction of evaluation cost through secondary data or inexpensive case study methodology.

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Breaking into local government: A guide book for career changers

International City/County Management Association Breaking into Local Government Task Force, Dawn S. Peters, Chair (2013).
With a record number of professional local government managers retiring, there is a gap in the talent pool the fill these chief administrative officer positions. In order to help fill this gap, ICMA has created this Guide to provide resources for those looking to "break into local government' as a mid-career move. This Guide features case studies that highlight the non-traditional career paths of various ICMA members including the transition from the private sector, federal or state government, and military as well as a number of resources that are available to help ease the transition into professional local government management.

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Community Responses to Disaster

Edited by Brent Hales, Norman Walzer, and James Calvin. (December 2012). Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society. Vol. 43, No.5.
This special issue on “Community Responses to Disaster” includes papers dealing with innovative ways in which cities and/or countries have responded to natural disasters with special focus on using best practices of community development. Articles show that use of the community capitals can be important in rebuilding areas hit by natural disasters.

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Innovative Community Change

Edited by Norman Walzer and Sam Cordes. (February 2012). Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society. Vol. 43, No. 1.
Many communities are taking a systematic approach to community change strategies and this special issue examines some of the best practices that have been identified across the U.S. Many of the articles involve engaging and training local leaders to engage better in finding workable solutions to reach their community objectives.

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Business Starts in the Midwest: Potential Entrepreneurial Groups

Norman Walzer and Andrew S. Blanke. (July 2013).   Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society. Vol. 44, No.3. 
This paper, accepted for publication in Community Development, (September 2013) examines the percentage change in business starts in 850 counties in nine Midwestern states to identify population groups that are correlated with business starts in their counties. The article indicates that five groups are especially important including: percent females between 25 and 34 years of age, percent of population between 54 and 65 years, Hispanic populations as a proxy for immigrants, percent unemployed, and farmers with less than 260 acres. The results of this paper can help development practitioners identify groups to target programs.

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Northern Illinois University
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148 N. Third St., DeKalb, IL 60115

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