Local Government Harrison Career Center Mr. Leasure
Created by the State • Local governments are created by, and dependent upon, the state. • The state may take control or even do away with them.
Created by the State (Cont.) • Most states define a municipality as an incorporated place—a locality with an officially organized government that provides services to the residents. • A city is a municipal government.
Created by the State (Cont.) • Urban communities can create a city by incorporating. • To do this, they apply to the state legislature for a city charter that grants power to a local government.
Created by the State (Cont.) • To obtain a charter, the community must include a population of a certain minimum size and submit petitions signed by residents supporting a charter. • The charter describes the type of government, its structure, and its powers.
Created by the State (Cont.) • Recently state legislatures have begun to grant home rule, allowing cities to write their own charters, choose their own type of government, and manage their own affairs, within state laws.
Created by the State (Cont.) • An urban community may be called a city, town, or village, depending on local preference or charter specifications. • Regardless of size, most city governments provide the same basic services.
The Mayor-Council Form • In a mayor-council form of government, power is divided between legislative and executive branches. • Voters elect a mayor and the members of the city council.
The Mayor-Council Form (Cont.) • In a mayor-council form of government, power is divided between legislative and executive branches. • Voters elect a mayor and the members of the city council.
The Mayor-Council Form (Cont.) • The mayor is the chief executive and often appoints the heads of departments.
The Mayor-Council Form (Cont.) • The council acts as the city’s legislature. It approves the budget and passes city laws called ordinances. • Councils usually consist of fewer than 10 members who serve four-year terms.
The Mayor-Council Form (Cont.) • Some cities are divided into voting districts called wards. • Each ward elects a council member. Other councils consist of members-at-large elected by the entire city.
The Mayor-Council Form (Cont.) • Large cities usually have a strong-mayor system, in which the mayor has strong powers such as the power to veto ordinances, appoint and remove officials, and prepare the budget. • Even in large cities, council membership is usually a part-time job. A strong mayor usually works full time.
The Mayor-Council Form (Cont.) • Smaller towns and a few big cities have a weak-mayor system in which the mayor’s power is limited. • The council appoints department heads and makes most decisions. The mayor presides over council meetings but votes only in case of a tie.
The Council-Manager Form • The council-manager form is common in medium-sized cities and suburbs. • The chief executive is a professionally trained city manager who is not connected to any political party or interest group.
The Council-Manager Form (Cont.) • The council appoints and can remove the manager. The manager reports to the council as a whole. • Council members are usually elected in citywide at-large elections.
The Council-Manager Form (Cont.) • City managers are not elected and are therefore free from political pressures that could interfere with getting the job done. • They often have more expert knowledge than the part-timers in council and thus may play a major role in policymaking.
The Council-Manager Form (Cont.) • Critics point out that because citizens do not elect the manager, the manager may not provide the strong unifying leadership needed in a large, diverse city.
The Commission Form • A few cities use a commission form of government. • They elect usually five commissioners in citywide elections. Each commissioner heads a department.
The Commission Form (Cont.) • Commissioners perform executive duties for their departments and meet as a commission to pass ordinances and make policy decisions. • There is no separation of powers—commissioners are both legislators and executives.
The Commission Form (Cont.) • The commissioners pick one member to act as mayor, whose role is largely ceremonial.
The Commission Form (Cont.) • The commission system has drawbacks. No one person is in charge, making responsibility hard to pinpoint. • New commissioners may know little about their departments. When commissioners disagree, it may be difficult to make decisions.
Special Districts (Cont.) • A special district is a unit of government that deals with a specific function, such as education, water supply, or transportation. Special districts may overlap cities. • A board or commission runs the special district. It has the power to collect taxes or charge user fees for the services.
Metropolitan Areas • A metropolitan area is a central city and its surrounding suburbs. If it includes 50,000 or more people, it is a Metropolitan Statistical Area. • One that includes more than one central city is a Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Metropolitan Areas (Cont.) • Growth of population and expansion of industry in metropolitan areas have created many problems in transportation, pollution control, and law enforcement. • Uncontrolled urban sprawl has created problems in land-use management.
Metropolitan Areas (Cont.) • Some large metropolitan areas have a council of governments, in which the central city joins with its suburbs to make area wide decisions about growth.
Counties • The county is normally the largest territorial and political subdivision of a state. • Counties vary greatly in population and land area.
Counties (Cont.) • In the 1800s, the county courthouse was the center of government. • The towns where the county courthouse is located are called county seats.
Counties (Cont.) • A board of three to five elected commissioners governs most counties. Most serve four-year terms. • Boards serve as the legislature, but some also have executive powers.
Counties (Cont.) • The sheriff is the county’s chief law enforcement officer. • The sheriff’s department, including deputies and jailers, enforces court orders and manages the county jail.
Counties (Cont.) • The district attorney, the county’s prosecutor, investigates crimes, brings charges, and prosecutes cases in court. • The coroner tries to establish the cause of unusual deaths.
Counties (Cont.) • The county clerk keeps government records and supervises elections. • The assessor estimates the worth of taxable property. • The treasurer supervises county funds, makes payments, and may serve as tax collector.
Counties (Cont.) • The auditor supervises the treasurer’s work to make sure that no county money is spent without the board’s approval.
Counties (Cont.) • In some areas, cities handle most services. In others, county governments have grown more important. • Many counties provide water, sewer, and sanitation services. Many operate hospitals, police departments, and mass transit systems.
Counties (Cont.) • Some counties have adopted a new form of government in which the board acts only as a legislature. • An elected chief administrative official, or county executive, handles all executive duties. Sometimes the board appoints a county manager.
Town Government • Smaller political units within counties are called towns in New England and townships in the Midwest and elsewhere. • Areas within towns or townships may be incorporated into villages.
Town Government (Cont.) • In New England, town governments handle most community needs while counties are mainly judicial districts. • In other states, townships and counties share authority, or there may be no townships at all.
Town Government (Cont.) • In the New England Colonies, colonists met regularly to discuss issues. • These town meetings, a form of direct rather than representative democracy, became the local Government.
Town Government (Cont.) • New England states still have a town form of government. • Residents meet once a year to discuss what the town should be doing.