Types of City/Local Government

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Government
Unit #7
State & Local Government
MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT IN TEXAS
There are four general forms of city government that home-rule cities may adopt:
weak mayor-council, strong mayor-council, council-manager, and city
commission. Most have chosen the council-manager form of government.
The weak mayor-council form of government provides for the mayor to be elected
at large by the voters of the city or be chosen by the city council from among its
members. Council members are either elected at large or by wards (districts), or
sometimes a combination of the two. The mayor’s job is largely symbolic: to preside
over city council meetings, and perform ceremonial functions (ribbon-cutting
ceremonies, greeting dignitaries, etc.). The mayor is equal in power to other city
council members. The council as a whole hires and fires city staff and manages the
city. There are also large numbers of elected officials and boards. This form of
government is used in fewer than 40 Texas home-rule cities.
The strong mayor-council form of government has a mayor elected citywide. The
mayor is given executive authority over city government. He or she presides at city
council meetings, may hire and fire department heads and other city officials, and
only a few officials are elected. He also prepares the budget for the council’s
consideration and may veto council actions. He is assisted by a chief administrator,
who is appointed by and may be removed by the mayor, and an elected controller,
who assists with the budget. Council members may be elected at large or
by wards. Only the cities of Houston and Pasadena use this form of government in
Texas.
The most popular form of city government in use by Texas home-rule cities is the
council-manager form. Over 250 home-rule cities have adopted this method of
government. Council members are either elected at large, at large by place, or by
wards. The selection of mayor varies: in some cities the mayor is chosen from
among the council members; in others, the mayor is selected in a city-wide vote,
thus giving him a bit more power and influence in council meetings. The council sets
policy, but hires a professional manager to run the day-to-day city operations.
Managers are paid well for performing their job, in excess of $150,000. The job is
high stress and managers serve at the pleasure of the council, often bearing the
brunt of criticism for failed policies set by the council.
A form of city government pioneered in Texas but no longer in use in the state is the
city commission form. This form originated in Galveston following a hurricane that
killed 8,000 to 10,000 people and destroyed the city. The legislature allowed the city
to give authority to specific commissioners, each in charge of a particular policy
area, such as public health, public safety, public improvements, social services,
public utilities, and economic development. The commissioners meet as a group to
adopt budgets, set tax rates, and perform other community functions, but each
individual member has authority over a specific function. This type of city
government has fallen out of favor in Texas because of lack of coordination among
officials and potential for corruption.
CREATING ORGANIZATIONAL CHARTS FOR FORMS OF CITY
GOVERNMENT
Create an organizational chart for each of the three forms of city government
currently in use by Texas home-rule cities, carefully following directions for what to
include in each chart. Refer to the organizational chart for a general-law city for an
example of such a chart.
WEAK MAYOR-COUNCIL GOVERNMENT: Your chart should begin with the voters
at the top and then indicate the offices of mayor and council. For this chart, assume
that the mayor is chosen from among the members of the city council rather than
being chosen by the voters. Then, indicate the relationship between the council and
these appointed officials: city secretary, police chief, city attorney, fire chief,
municipal judge, utility director, water/wastewater director, and economic director
development director.
STRONG MAYOR-COUNCIL GOVERNMENT: Your chart should begin with the
voters and then indicate the offices of mayor, council, and city controller. Then,
indicate the relationship of the mayor to appointed officials in charge of these areas:
engineering services, transportation, economic development, fire, police, health and
human services, parks and recreation, and public works and utilities.
COUNCIL-MANAGER GOVERNMENT: Your chart should begin with the voters and
then indicate the offices of mayor and city council, assuming that the mayor and the
council are elected at large. Then, indicate the relationship between the council and
the city manager, and the manager and officials in charge of these areas: public
works and utilities, economic development, fire, police, health and human services,
transportation, engineering services, and parks and recreation.
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