Hugh Spitzer, A Local Government by Any Other Name, in Proceedings of the Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys, Fall Conference 7-1 (2009).
government classifications, local government
This paper reviews the categories that Washington legislators and the Washington State Supreme Court have used to classify and describe local government units. It then describes how the large array of classifications—and the lack of consistent interpretation and use of those labels—leads to confusion and unnecessary litigation. After presenting several case studies of the effects of confusing definitions, the paper suggests that legislation reducing the number of terms classifying local governments would benefit lawyers, judges, local government and the general public. It specifically recommends that "municipal corporation" become the standard category for almost all local governments, and that "governmental body" be designated as the standard term for a broader category that includes both the state and its agencies, and local governments.