Q: What is the council-manager form of government?
A: The council-manager form of government is a system of local government that combines the strong political leadership of elected officials in the form of a council or other governing body, with the strong managerial experience of an appointed local government manager. The form establishes a representative system where all power is concentrated in the elected council and where the council hires a manager to oversee the delivery of public services.
Q: Is it a responsive form of government?
A: In a council-manager form of government, council members are the leaders and policy makers elected to represent various segments of the community and to concentrate on policy issues that are responsive to citizens' needs and wishes. The manager is appointed by council to carry out policy and ensure that the entire community is being served. If the manager is not responsive to the council's wishes, the council has authority to terminate the manager at any time. In that sense, a manager's responsiveness is tested daily.
Q: What is the manager's function?
A: The manager prepares a budget for the council's consideration; recruits, hires, and supervises the government's staff; serves as the council's chief adviser; and carries out the council's policies. Council members and citizens count on the manager to provide complete and objective information, pros and cons of alternatives, and long-term consequences.
Q: What is the cost to the local government of appointing a professional manager?
A: Local governments have found that overall costs actually have been reduced with competent management. Savings come in the form of reduced operating costs, increased efficiency and productivity, improved revenue collection, or effective use of technology.
Q: How much citizen participation is possible under a council-manager form of government?
A: Successful examples of citizen participation in the local government service delivery decision-making process are widespread among professionally managed U.S. communities. Because professional local government management offers government of the people, by the people, and for the people, it sets the stage for citizen activism by encouraging open communication between citizens and their government. Examples range from visioning, in which citizens play a major role in determining the future of their community, to neighborhood service delivery, which involves residents through the development of citizen/government partnerships, to community-oriented local government services.
Q: What is the history of the council-manager form?
A: Born out of the turn-of-the-century progressive reform movement, the council-manager system of local government is one of the few original American contributions to political theory. In 1908, Staunton, Virginia, instituted the first position legally defining, by ordinance, the broad authority and responsibility associated with today's professional local government manager. Sumter, South Carolina, was the first city to adopt a charter incorporating the basic principles of council-manager government in 1912. Westmount, Quebec, introduced the form to Canada in 1913. The first large city to adopt the plan was Dayton, Ohio, in 1914. The first counties to adopt it in the l930s were Arlington County, Virginia, and Durham County and Robeson County, North Carolina. Since its establishment, the council-manager form has become the most popular form of government in the United States in communities with populations of 5,000 or greater. The form also is popular in Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Honduras, Chile, and Brazil. For more than 85 years, council-manager government has responded to the changing needs of citizens and their communities.
Q: Do managers participate in local politics?
A: All managers who belong to ICMA are bound by its Code of Ethics, which states that every member of the Association shall "refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body, and from all partisan political activities which would impair performance as a professional administrator."
Q: What else does ICMA's Code of Ethics cover?
A: The Code specifies 12 ethical principles of personal and professional conduct, including dedication to the cause of good government. ICMA members believe in the effectiveness of representative democracy and the value of government services provided equitably to citizens within a community. ICMA members also are committed to standards of honesty and integrity more vigorous than those required by the law.