Chartered local government

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Charter Oak in Hartford CT.jpg

A charter county or municipality is one that has its own set of laws that forms the foundational governance structure for the local government. Charter counties and municipalities have charters, which stand in the same relationship to a county, city, village or town that a state constitution does to a state, or a federal constitution does to a nation.

Not all states allow the formation of local governments with charters. In the states that do allow local government charters, the significance of the charter related to local autonomy on matters of form of government and substantive policies differs among the states. This depends on the degree of home rule granted to local governments by the state constitution and state statutes.

In some states, state law allows local governments to adopt a charter on their own initiative, often requiring approval at the ballot. The non-chartered counties and municipalities are considered general law or statutory counties and municipalities. General law local governments are governed under the state constitutional provisions and state statutes of the particular state that lay out the fundamental governance doctrine for such local governments. The key feature of adopting a charter is the ability of the local government to differ from state statutes and determine certain aspects of the form of government and substantive policies specific to the particular county or municipality, subject to the degree of home rule permitted.

In other states, a charter is granted to a municipality by the state legislature. This may be because a municipality gains its legal status through incorporation with a state-granted charter, or because the particular municipality has lobbied the state legislature to grant it a charter allowing variation from state statutes. These types of charters generally permit less local autonomy, and charter amendments often must be approved by the state legislature.[1]

Many of the states that allow chartered local governments place restrictions on what types of local governments can adopt charters. These restrictions are often based on population, but sometimes on government structure.

Charter ordinances

A charter ordinance is a related concept used by Kansas, Wisconsin and Wyoming to grant home rule powers to municipalities. Instead of having a broad municipal charter document, the municipality may adopt specific charter ordinances that differ from certain state statutes or local acts of the state legislature.[2][3][4]

Consolidated charters

A consolidated local government is a city (or other type of municipality) and county that were established or subsequently merged as one unified jurisdiction. As such, the consolidated government exercises the powers and responsibilities of both the municipal and county forms of government. These governments often operate under a consolidated charter, which, like a city or county charter, forms the foundational governance structure for the local government. Consolidated governments may also be referred to as unified governments or, in Tennessee, metropolitan governments.

Some of the most populated cities in each state fall under the structure of a consolidated government, such as New York, Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, Anchorage, Jacksonville and New Orleans. However, consolidation occurs with less populated areas as well, such as Statenville/Echols County, GA and Tribune/Greeley County, KS.[5][6]

Advantages and disadvantages of home rule charters

The modern trend of home rule charters provides a county or municipality with more autonomy over local affairs. While this can be advantageous from the perspective of the county or municipality, the manner in which this local power has been used has caused some to desire a return to or to remain as a general law county or municipality.

Advantages

  • Four main advantages of home rule charters commonly cited are:
-the reduction of legislative interference in city affairs
-it permits citizens to determine the form and administrative organization of their local government
-the state legislature is relieved of the time-consuming burden of special legislation, and can devote its exclusive attention to state problems
-it permits citizens to have a greater voice in the determination of local government policies and thus encourages many more citizens to become interested in and participate in local affairs.[7]
  • "The Home Rule process can serve as an important vehicle for communities that are seeking to challenge the fundamental structure of law which puts the rights of corporations over those of communities; prevents communities from saying “no” to projects that are harmful for workers, the local economy, livability, property values, or the environment; and ultimately prevents municipalities from creating the economically and environmentally sustainable communities they seek. We are working with communities on Home Rule efforts, as communities are finding that the writing of a local charter of governance allows citizens and municipalities a much broader foundation to work from than the framework of a single ordinance. Adopting a rights-based home rule charter is an obvious step toward community assertion of the inalienable right to local self-government, and a fulfillment of the long-postponed ideals of the American Revolution." - Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
  • "A charter needs to give a city full control of its municipal affairs, so it can implement lower taxes, reasonable regulation, fiscal responsibility, limited government, local control and more freedom from corrupt urban legislators." -Kevin Dayton, CEO of Dayton Public Policy Institute[8]
  • "Escondido's voters have a tremendous opportunity to help solidify their city's future opportunities. Proposition P would establish Escondido as a charter city ---- freeing it of much of the bureaucratic overreach from Sacramento. By returning significant control of local issues facing the city to local officials and voters, we believe Prop. P offers the sort of flexibility needed to address the numerous fiscal challenges facing public agencies of all types." -editorial board of the North County Times endorsing Proposition P, which was defeated in the November 2012 elections.[9]

Disadvantages

  • Four main disdvantages of home rule charters commonly cited are:
-frequent changes in the charter may cause instability in local government
-home rule allows local political and interest groups increased freedom from state supervision and interference
-the system makes the solution of areawide problems more difficult as a local government could refuse to participate
-due to proposal to amend the charter, ballots may become excessive in length and discourage citizens from casting a vote on each referred issue.[7]
  • "Becoming a Charter City is a dangerous and uncertain change for Escondido. Charter cities like Bell, Maywood, and Vernon, California have found themselves embroiled in embarrassing corruption, scandals, and costly litigation. Four charter cities of Escondido’s size (San Bernardino, Stockton, Compton and Vallejo) have recently filed for bankruptcy because of the lack of checks and balances required of general law cities. Becoming a Charter City will shift the power from the people of Escondido into the hands of a powerful few for now and far into the future."- Escondido Citizens Charter Watch[10]


  • 31 states allow charter counties.
  • 44 states allow charter municipalities.


[edit]

Charter counties by state
State Total Counties Total Charter Counties % of Charter Counties
Alabama 67 0 0.00%
Alaska 18 10 55.56%
Arizona 15 0 0.00%
Arkansas 75 0 0.00%
California 57 14 24.56%
Colorado 62 2 3.23%
Connecticut 0 0 0.00%
Delaware 3 0 0.00%
Florida 66 20 30.30%
Georgia 159 7 4.40%1
Hawaii 4 4 100.00%
Idaho 44 0 0.00%
Illinois 102 0 0.00%
Indiana 91 0 0.00%
Iowa 99 0 0.00%
Kansas 103 103 100%2
Kentucky 120 1 0.83%
Louisiana 64 23 35.94%
Maine 16 3 18.75%
Maryland 23 9 39.13%3
Massachusetts 5 1 20.00%
Michigan 83 2 2.41%
Minnesota 87 1 1.15%
Mississippi 82 0 0.00%
Missouri 114 4 3.51%
Montana 54 3 5.56%
Nebraska 93 0 0.00%
Nevada 16 0 0.00%
New Hampshire 10 0 0.00%
New Jersey 21 0 0.00%
New Mexico 33 1 3.03%4
New York 57 19 33.33%
North Carolina 100 0 0.00%
North Dakota 53 8 15.09%
Ohio 88 2 2.27%
Oklahoma 77 0 0.00%
Oregon 36 9 25.00%
Pennsylvania 67 7 10.45%
Rhode Island 0 0 0.00%
South Carolina 46 0 0.00%
South Dakota 66 2 3.03%
Tennessee 92 2 2.17%
Texas 254 0 0.00%
Utah 29 0 0.00%
Vermont 14 0 0.00%
Virginia 95 3 3.16%
Washington 39 6 15.38%
West Virginia 55 0 0.00%
Wisconsin 72 0 0.00%
Wyoming 23 0 0.00%
1Georgia: permits a county charter only as a consolidated government (county-city or county-unincorporated community).
2Kansas: all counties are able to enact charter resolutions making every county, in effect, a charter county.
3Maryland: 9 counties have charters, another 6 are organized under state law so as to have home rule.
4New Mexico: permits a county charter only as a consolidated government, like the county-city of Los Alamos.

  • Alaska for first class cities
  • Arizona for municipalities with a population of 3500 or greater
  • Arkansas for municipalities with a population of 500 or greater
  • California for all municipalities
  • Colorado for municipalities with a population of 2000 or greater
  • Connecticut for all municipalities
  • Delaware for municipalities with a population of 1000 or greater
  • Florida for municipalities with a population of 1500 or greater in counties of less than 75,000; and 5000 or greater in counties with greater than 75,000
  • Georgia all municipalities are governed under a charter
  • Iowa for all municipalities
  • Kansas all cities are able to enact charter ordinances making every city, in effect, a charter city.
  • Louisiana for all municipalities
  • Maine for all municipalities
  • Maryland all municipalities are governed under a charter
  • Massachusetts for all municipalities
  • Michigan for all municipalities
  • Minnesota for all municipalities
  • Mississippi for all municipalities
  • Missouri for municipalities with a population of 5,000 or greater
  • Montana for all municipalities
  • Nebraska for municipalities with a population of 5,000 or greater
  • Nevada for all municipalities
  • New Hampshire for all municipalities
  • New Jersey for all municipalities
  • New Mexico for municipalities with a population of 300 or greater
  • New York only for municipalities that have the structure of a city (no population requirement)
  • North Carolina all municipalities are governed under a charter
  • North Dakota for municipalities with a population of 100 or greater
  • Ohio for all municipalities
  • Oklahoma for municipalities with a population of 2,000 or greater
  • Oregon for all municipalities
  • Pennsylvania for all municipalities
  • Rhode Island all municipalities are governed under a charter
  • South Carolina for all municipalities
  • South Dakota for all municipalities
  • Tennessee for all municipalities
  • Texas for municipalities with a population of 5,000 or greater
  • Utah for all municipalities
  • Vermont for all municipalities
  • Virginia all municipalities are governed under a charter
  • Washington for all municipalities
  • West Virginia for municipalities with a population of 2,000 or greater
  • Wisconsin all cities and villages are able to enact charter ordinances making each, in effect, a charter city or village.
  • Wyoming all cities and towns are able to enact charter ordinances making each, in effect, a charter city or town.

Charter cities by state
State Total Cities Total Charter Cities % of Charter Cities
Alabama 460 0 0.00%
Alaska 145 11 7.59%
Arizona 91 19 20.88%
Arkansas 501 0 0.00%
California 482 121 25.10%
Colorado 271 99 36.53%
Connecticut 179 104 58.10%
Delaware 57 55 96.49%
Florida 410 410 100.00%
Georgia 535 535 100.00%
Hawaii 0 0 0.00%
Idaho 200 1 0.50%1
Illinois 1298 34 2.62%2
Indiana 569 0 0.00%
Iowa 947 5 0.53%
Kansas 626 626 100.00%3
Kentucky 418 0 0.00%
Louisiana 303 31 10.23%
Maine 488 75 15.37%
Maryland 157 157 100.00%
Massachusetts 351 150 42.74%4
Michigan 533 323 60.60%
Minnesota 854 107 12.53%
Mississippi 297 20 6.73%
Missouri 955 44 4.61%5
Montana 129 32 24.81%
Nebraska 530 2 0.38%
Nevada 19 12 63.16%
New Hampshire 234 13 5.56%
New Jersey 566 11 1.94%
New Mexico 103 12 11.65%
New York 1550 62 4.00%
North Carolina 553 553 100.00%
North Dakota 357 130 36.41%
Ohio 936 234 25.00%
Oklahoma 594 86 14.48%
Oregon 241 111 46.06%
Pennsylvania 2561 65 2.54%
Rhode Island 39 39 100.00%
South Carolina 270 0 0.00%
South Dakota 310 10 3.23%
Tennessee 345 229 66.38%
Texas 1214 352 29.00%
Utah 245 1 0.41%
Vermont 282 68 24.11%
Virginia 229 229 100.00%
Washington 281 11 3.91%
West Virginia 232 108 46.55%
Wisconsin 595 1 0.17%6
Wyoming 99 7 7.07%7
1Idaho: does not permit charter adoption, Bellevue continues to be governed under a territorial charter.
2Illinois: does not permit charter adoption, 34 small villages and towns still hold charters from the 1800's. Although they lack a charter, 209 cities have home rule powers.
3Kansas: all cities are able to enact charter ordinances making every city, in effect, a charter city.
4Massachusetts: this includes 90 cities and towns with home rule charters and 60 with special act charters.
5Missouri: this includes 38 home rule charters and 6 special legislative charters
6Wisconsin: Milwaukee is the only city with a private act charter, but all cities and villages are able to enact charter ordinances making each, in effect, a charter city or village.
7Wyoming: all cities and towns are able to enact charter ordinances making each, in effect, a charter city or town. 7 cities have exercised this power to adopt a charter ordinance

States that only allow general law counties

1Alabama: no county has a charter, but Shelby and Baldwin county have been granted home rule status by special act of the state legislature.
2Georgia: except for consolidated governments (county-city or county-unincorporated community).
3New Mexico: except for consolidated governments, like the county-city of Los Alamos.
4South Carolina: except for consolidated governments, none currently exist.


States that only allow general law municipalities

1Idaho: does not permit charter adoption, Bellevue continues to be governed under a territorial charter.
2Illinois: does not permit charter adoption, 34 small villages and towns still hold charters from the 1800's. Although they lack a charter, 209 cities have home rule powers.



See also

External links

References