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Outline and describe the three major ways of organizing a city government?

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A city with a council manager style government is the most popular among Michigan cities. This type of government allows for the citizens to elect the council, who then appoints a city manager. The manager is an expert in law, public administration, and/or finance and civil engineering. He/she serves an indefinite term, and can be fired if the council saw fit to appoint someone else. City council handles legislations and policy making while the manager handles the daily operations of the city.

Advantages with the council-manager government make it simple for voters to understand. Daily operations are compacted into a single entity known as the manager. The council enforces upon the manager, responsibilities and duties that may be enforced upon them by the voters. This cuts down on delays of things getting accomplished in the city. The disadvantages of this style of government presents the problem of not having strong leadership within the city and that too much power is given to a manager. The manager is not elected into office so the manager holds no direct responsibility to the voters and would not have direct power to remove the person from their position.

The mayor-council form of government is the most common form of city government behind the council-manager. There are two types of mayor-council government, one being the strong-mayor type. This type gives the mayor more power over the city. For example the mayor can appoint or remove major department heads, has the power to veto acts of council as well as vote on decisions if the city council has a tie. The mayor however cannot make legislation, but can recommend them for the council to vote upon. This form of government allows for the Mayor to be recalled at any time by voters.

There are several advantages to this type of city government. This style gives the mayor the ability to give central direction to city management, direct city government, and strengthens the city council as a whole. When voting time arrives, the ballot for elected officials is clearer and each voter has a better understanding of the responsibilities one holds when they are elected. With that being said, there are disadvantages as well. The mayor may have little administrative experience and would be unlikely to effectively run the city. Another problem that arises from this type of government is the conflict between the council and mayor that can result in long delays before accomplishing anything that voters may want or need.

The opposite side of strong-mayor council is the weak-mayor council. The weak mayor-council is another form of government that some cities have adopted. The mayor has a very limited amount of power, while council has the greatest. In this style the mayor has to have everything approved by the council, and the council can override any veto decision that the mayor makes. Department heads and commissions are appointed by council, or elected by voters. The weak mayor-council provides no central division for administration

The advantage to this system is that it calls for much public involvement and no single person can dominate government or its affairs. This is also a disadvantage because the average voter has to vote for offices they may have little knowledge of and the ballot sheet becomes long and difficult to understand. The government lacks central direction and can leave the city moving forward very slowly.


Hanley/Rozycki _Politics & Government in Michigan._ :McGraw-Hill, 2007

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