A city is an urban area with a high population density and a particular administrative, legal or historical status. The definition of cities (and town, village, township, municipality, etc.) is a matter of state law and the definitions vary widely by states.
The mayor serves as the elected executive officer of the city. In Los Angeles, the responsibilities of the mayor include certain interactions with the city council. The mayor submits recommendations to the council, approves or vetoes ordinances passed by the council, and is involved in enforcing these ordinances. The mayor also prepares and presents an annual budget. He or she can appoint certain city officials, receives complaints and removes officials when necessary.
Besides procedural and administrative duties, the mayor secures cooperation among the departments of the city. The mayor in different cities may also have additional duties. In Los Angeles, the mayor is also the Director of the Emergency Operations Organization.
The city council is the governing body of the city and enacts ordinances subject to the approval or veto of the mayor. It orders elections, levies taxes, authorizes public improvements, approves contracts and adopts traffic regulations. Responsibilities within the council's scope include traffic control, sewage and garbage disposal, recycling, environmental quality, fire and police protection, flood control, public utility regulation and many other functions.
The council adopts or modifies the budget proposed by the mayor and provides the necessary funds, equipment and supplies for the budgetary departments. The council confirms or rejects appointments proposed by the mayor and prescribes duties of boards and officers not defined by city charters.
City councils are often organized into committees.
All cities share similar characteristics. With the rise of urban areas in the early to mid-20th Century, academics began naming those characteristics. Louis Wirth, a sociologist, found four common characteristics among all cities. They are:
- Large population size;
- High population density; and
- Social heterogeneity.
This is the "demographic definition" used to determine whether an area is a city.