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City government

Municipal governments oversee the operation and functions of cities and towns. Census estimates for 2012 show just over 19,500 municipal governments and nearly 16,500 township governments in the United States.

Lavin, “Census Bureau Reports There are 89,004 Local Governments in the United States (CB12-161).”
The vast majority of municipal government s operate on one of two governing models: a mayor-council system or a council-manager system.

Under the mayor-council system    voters elect both a mayor and members of the city council. The city council performs legislative functions and the mayor the executive functions. Under this system, the mayor may be given a great deal of authority or only limited powers.

“Forms of Municipal Government,” http://www.nlc.org/build-skills-and-networks/resources/cities-101/city-structures/forms-of-municipal-government (March 14, 2016).
Under a strong mayor system, the mayor will be able to veto the actions of the council, appoint and fire the heads of city departments, and produce a budget. Under a weak mayor system, the mayor has little authority compared to the council and acts in a ceremonial capacity as a spokesperson for the city.
“Mayoral Powers,” http://www.nlc.org/build-skills-and-networks/resources/cities-101/city-officials/mayoral-powers (March 14, 2016).

In a council-manager system    of government, either the members of the city council are elected by voters along with a mayor who presides over the council, or the voters elect members of the city council and the mayor is chosen from among them. In either case, the city council will then appoint a city manager to carry out the administrative functions of the municipal government. This frees the city council to address political functions such as setting policy and formulating the budget.

“Forms of Municipal Government.”

Municipal governments are responsible for providing clean water as well as sewage and garbage disposal. They must maintain city facilities, such as parks, streetlights, and stadiums ( [link] ). In addition, they address zoning and building regulations, promote the city’s economic development, and provide law enforcement, public transportation, and fire protection. Municipal governments typically rely on property tax revenue, user fees from trash collection and the provision of water and sewer services, a portion of sales tax receipts, and taxes on business.

An image of the inside of a stadium. The stands are filled with people.
The Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, is home to various sporting events. The stadium first opened for business in 2011, and taxpayers financed $146 million of the total cost to build the stadium, an office park, and a youth soccer complex.
Mark Alesia, “Kansas City has Stadium Success Story—in Major League Soccer,” Indy Star , 18 March 2015. http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2015/03/17/kansas-city-stadium-success-story-major-league-soccer/24928853/.
(credit: Wesley Fryer)


County governments can adopt the commission system, the council-administrator system, and the council-elected executive system of government to carry out their functions, which usually include the work of the sheriff, the county clerk, the assessor, the treasurer, the coroner, and the engineer. Municipal governments can use the mayor-council system or the council-manager system and manage services such as the provision of clean water, park maintenance, and local law enforcement. Cities and counties both rely on tax revenues, especially property taxes, to fund their provision of services.

Council of State Governments. 2014. The Book of the States . Lexington, KY: The Council of State Governments.

Elazar, Daniel. 1972. American Federalism: A View from the States , 2nd ed. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company.

Governing: The State and Localities (http://www.governing.com/).

National Association of Counties (http://www.naco.org/).

National Conference of State Legislatures (http://www.ncsl.org/).

National Governors Association (http://www.nga.org/cms/home.html).

National League of Cities (http://www.nlc.org/).

Rosenthal, Alan. 2013. The Best Job in Politics; Exploring How Governors Succeed as Policy Leaders . Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press.

———. 2004. Heavy Lifting: The Job of State Legislatures . Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press.

Wright, Ralph. 2005. Inside the Statehouse: Lessons from the Speaker . Washington, DC: CQ Press.

United States Census Bureau, “Quick Facts: United States” (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/index.html).

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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