Vail is a small community in Colorado with a permanent population of around 5,000 souls and a large seasonal visitor population. For a British equivalent, think Walton-on-the-Naze or somewhere like it.
Vail has a town manager and a town council of seven members of no discernible political affiliation. It runs its own police force of 31 constables and 32 support personnel, its own fire service which operates out of two fire stations and has five pump appliances and a ladder appliance. The town provides affordable housing for Vail residents, a library, maintains all streets and public works, waste, parks, tourism, licensing of premises for alcohol and the panoply of local municipal services. It manages planning and building control functions and environmental health. Oh yes, and it runs a free year-round bus service within the town and a subsidised service to surrounding hamlets and communities.
Most of the town's income comes from a local sales tax. Tourist hotel rates attract 9.8%, all other sales 8.4%. Of this, Vail gets 4% with the balance going to the County (Eagle County) and the State (Colorado). There's also commercial income from parking and permits, and a local construction tax that helps fund affordable housing. The town's finances are in good shape with healthy balances and a good proportion devoted to capital expenditure.
The town produces a comprehensive annual report - the 2008 report is HERE - that puts the annual report of my London borough, with fifty times the population, to shame.
The US has tens of thousands of Vails. And when I talk of true Localism, this is what I mean; a strong sense of place and community, real power and financial control, direct democratic accountability and shared aspirations for social and economic growth and betterment. And if I look between Vail and Walton-on-the-Naze I want to weep.