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Municipal government

From Academic Kids

As a general term, Municipal government refers to local government operating at the level of a city, town, or village.

"Municipalities" consist of a group of people living in a defined area. Usually this will be an urban area, but surrounding rural areas may also be included. In most countries, municipalities of various sorts are special corporations defined under state law, and have specific rights and responsibilities.

A "government" (see also politics) consists of a set of people that have legal power over an area of land and the people that inhabit that land.

In the United States, "Municipal government" is the technical term used to describe local government at the level of the city, town, or village. The remainder of this article gives details of these arrangements.

Municipal government was the basis for SimCity.

Municipal Government in the United States

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In the United States, municipalities such as cities, towns, or villages are the level of local government below that of the county (although many states also have civil townships which are a separate type of government below the county level but distinct from municipalities). Most U.S. municipalities are governed in one of two ways, Council-Manager government and Mayor-Council government. A third form, the City Commission government, was once common but has fallen out of favor.

A partial list of some of the more common rights and responsibilities of a municipality include:

  1. the ability to require payment of taxes by entities (people and corporations) who own, use, occupy, or legally interact with other entities that own, use, or are legally located within the municipality's geographic boundaries;
  2. the ability to create debt on behalf of the citizens, who are responsible for repayment of those debts;
  3. the responsibility to enforce various federal, state, and municipal laws with a police force;
  4. the responsibility to provide for civil defence and other special needs.

Municipal governments are usually divided into several administrative departments, depending on the size of the municipality. Though municipalities differ in the division of responsibility, the typical arrangement is to have the following departments handle the following roles:

  1. Urban planning and zoning:
  2. Public works: construction and maintenance of all municipality-owned or operated assets, including the water supply system, sewer, streets, snow removal, street signs, vehicles, buildings, land, etc.
  3. Parks and recreation department: (construction and maintenance of) public parks, common areas, parkways, publicly owned lands and so on. Also, operation of various recreation programs and facilities. This department often operates as a regional entity with its own tax authority and governmental structure.
  4. Police
  5. Fire department
  6. Accounting / Finance: collects taxes owed by the municipality, incorporates human resources department for municipal workers,
  7. Legal: handles all legal matters including writing municipal bonds, verifying the municipality is in compliance with state and federal laws and mandates, and responding to citizen lawsuits where the municipality is a named party. Being named in a lawsuit may mean the municipality is a defendant, plaintiff, jointly with another entity or just by itself. Typical legal actions include: someone falling on publicly-owned sidewalks suing the municipality for negligence in failing to make the sidewalk safe to walk on; a municipality annexing land; etc.
  8. Transport (varies widely): If the municipality has a public bus or light rail service, this function may be handled by its own department or it may be folded into another of the above departments or a special-purpose authority may be established to administer services applicable to multiple municipalities.

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