Edited February 2004 to be less ugly and generally clunky. Ye gods.

The borough is the county-level government structure in Alaska. However, unlike Louisiana's parishes (which are counties in all but name), the Alaska borough is a somewhat different animal. A borough is governed by an assembly, which is identical to a city council, only with a slightly cooler name. There are two main types of boroughs (and it should go without saying that outside of lawyers, nobody actually uses these terms):

Home rule boroughs are those that have adopted a home rule charter and have "all legislative powers not prohibited by law or charter". In English, this means they can do anything the state hasn't poached for itself.

A subset of these are unified municipalities, which are weird hybrids of city and county. (Indianapolis's Unigov is, from what little I know about it, the same idea as this) They occur when a borough and everything inside it merges into a single unit. Essentially it's the city annexing the entire borough, though tbe borough assembly structure is kept.

General law boroughs have only the powers given them under the Alaska Statutes. These are given according to the borough's class, of which there are three, imaginatively called first, second, and third class:

  • Third-class boroughs run schools, collect taxes, and regulate zoning. (At least they can. Rural areas don't tend to concern themselves with zoning codes.)

  • Second-class boroughs are the most common. In addition to the above, they can maintain transportation systems, regulate animals, license day care facilities, and control pollution. (I'm not sure what this would entail at a borough level, but that's all state law says.)

  • First-class boroughs can do all of the above; the difference is that while second-class boroughs need to hold an election to acquire additional powers, first-class boroughs don't, in some cases. This is a relatively pointless distinction, and probably accounts for the fact that there are no first-class boroughs.

What determines what class a borough is? I have no idea, really; I can't find anything on it. It seems to just be a matter of how much responsibility the borough wants to assume.

Unlike counties, general law boroughs don't operate police forces. (Home rule boroughs do, however, and municipalities just have the city police.) Sheriffs are unheard of.

Any place not within a borough is, in theory, part of a single unorganized borough. In practical terms, there just is nothing there, and whatever duties a borough would do, the state legislature gets to do. (they don't like to do this, so the creation of boroughs tends to be encouraged.) If a division below state level is needed, the "census area" is used for these parts of the state. This is a statistical beast only, however.

Full list of boroughs (list complete as of October 24, 2002)

(Yes, all the names are geographic; we don't name boroughs after people. For those who wonder why, if there's an Aleutians East, there's no Aleutians West: it's a census area.)

Title 29, Alaska Statutes http://touchngo.com/lglcntr/akstats/Statutes/Title29.htm (Title 29 deals with municipal government)
Alaska Community Information Database http://www.dced.state.ak.us/cbd/commdb/CF_COMDB.htm (for information on individual boroughs)

This is to correct the outdated and somewhat misleading impression of the British political system that Webster 1913 gives. Firstly, the British parliament, the house of commons is a directly elected national government, comprising representatives of 659 constituencies of equal population size.

For local government, there is a different structure for the cities, and for the rural areas. In rural parts, there is a County council, a district council, and for sizeable towns, a town council (headed by a mayor).

The urban system is different. The major cities are divided into a number of borough councils, each headed by a mayor. In some cases, there is an overall metropolitan authority above the boroughs.

In all cases of local government, the councils are divided by head of population into a number of wards, each providing a number of elected councillors.

Recent history

Up until 1973, there was some accuracy in the Webster definition, in that the English counties were administrated by borough councils. These were the same as the geographic regions used by the post office addressing scheme.

In 1973 the Edward Heath (Conservative) government introduced sweeping changes to the way that local government was run, replacting the county borough councils with county administrative authorities. This was also the time when the major cities were given their own administrative authority: Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Midlands, Avon, etc.

The situation in London was different, as borough councils had existed from 1889.1 The Greater London Council was formed in 1965, fusing the councils of London and Middlesex under the Harold Wilson (labour) government. Many of the smaller London and Middlesex town boroughs were combined into the 33 larger boroughs that we see today.

The Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher abolished most of the metropolitan authorities in the 1980s. The most famous of these was the Greater London Council (GLC), whose leader was Ken Livingstone (Labour).

The consequence of this abolition was that responsibility for all the municipal services fell to the boroughs. This caused a very inconsistent picture to emerge across London as a whole, owing to the differences in politics and financing between boroughs. This is still the case. On a borough boundary, there is often a marked difference between the appearance of respectability of one side of a street and the other.

The Tony Blair New Labour government has reintroduced an authority for London in the form of the Greater London Authority (GLA), headed by a mayor. Elections for this body were held in 1999, and, much to the chagrin of the Labour party, Ken Livingstone was elected mayor, standing as an independent candidate. The GLA does not have responsibility for municipal services, this rests with the boroughs. Instead, it is a body for London wide initiatives, infrastructure, and planning.

Borough councils have responsibility for:

See also:    http://www.capital-residence.co.uk/information/london-map.html


1Many thanks go to Gritchka for help with the research for this writeup.

Borough is also a place in London, just south of the river Thames in the borough of Southwark. It has a Borough tube station, and is quite close to London Bridge main line station.

Borough has an excellent produce market, specialising in organic food and unusual meats. They also have stalls with barbecues - I sit and node this having been to Borough market and had a Venison steak for lunch. Yum :)

See also:    http://london.openguides.org/?Borough_Market

Bor"ough (?), n. [OE. burgh, burw, boru, port, town, burrow, AS. burh, burg; akin to Icel., Sw., & Dan. borg, OS. & D. burg, OHG. puruc, purc, MHG. burc, G. burg, Goth. ba�xa3;rgs; and from the root of AS. beorgan to hide, save, defend, G. bergen; or perh. from that of AS. beorg hill, mountain. 95. See Bury, v. t., and cf. Burrow, Burg, Bury, n., Burgess, Iceberg, Borrow, Harbor, Hauberk.]


In England, an incorporated town that is not a city; also, a town that sends members to parliament; in Scotland, a body corporate, consisting of the inhabitants of a certain district, erected by the sovereign, with a certain jurisdiction; in America, an incorporated town or village, as in Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Burrill. Erskine.


The collective body of citizens or inhabitants of a borough; as, the borough voted to lay a tax.

Close borough, or Pocket borough, a borough having the right of sending a member to Parliament, whose nomination is in the hands of a single person. -- Rotten borough, a name given to any borough which, at the time of the passage of the Reform Bill of 1832, contained but few voters, yet retained the privilege of sending a member to Parliament.


© Webster 1913.

Bor"ough, n. [See Borrow.] O. Eng.Law (a)

An association of men who gave pledges or sureties to the king for the good behavior of each other.


The pledge or surety thus given.

Blackstone. Tomlins.


© Webster 1913.

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