“Live Locally Alabama” is specifically designed to educate our citizens about what takes place at the local government level and to encourage civic mindfulness and engagement. While we strive to think globally, we live locally – and municipal government is responsible for the quality of life services, such as police, fire, parks, infrastructure, and economic development, that we not only expect but demand.
Here are a few frequently asked questions about municipal government and how it impacts local life.
What is a municipality?
Municipalities are defined as either cities or towns depending on their population. If the municipality has less than 2,000 citizens, it is a town. Once the population reaches 2,000, the municipality is defined as a city.
Cities and towns in Alabama generally fall under one of two distinct forms of government – either mayor-council or council-manager, with the mayor-council form being the most common. In addition, there are several Alabama municipalities that operate special forms of government authorized by specific legislative acts. These only apply to the municipality for which the law was passed.
Mayor-Council Form of Government
There are two variations of the mayor-council form of government depending on population. In municipalities with less than 12,000 people, the legislative functions of the municipality are performed by the council, which is composed of the mayor and, typically, five council members, although some have more councilmembers as authorized by law. The mayor is a voting member of the council and presides over all deliberations. As a member of the council, the mayor is free to vote on any matter before the council. For municipalities with a population of 12,000 or more, the legislative functions are exercised by the council; however, the mayor is not a voting member of the council and does not preside over meetings. Instead, the council president is the presiding officer for a mayor-council form of government with a population of 12,000 or more. Regardless of population, the mayor is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day administrative functions of the municipality.
Council-Manager Form of Government
Under the council-manager form of government, a city manager is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the municipality instead of the mayor. To operate under this form of government, the city’s citizens must petition for and vote to authorize the council, as the governing body, to appoint a city manager.
For more information on the forms of municipal government in Alabama, please contact the Alabama League of Municipalities or visit www.alalm.org
Municipalities are delegated a portion of the sovereign powers of the state for the welfare and protection of their inhabitants as well as the general public within their jurisdictional areas. All powers, property and offices of a municipal corporation constitute a public trust to be administered as such within the intent and purposes of the statutes which created them and within the limitations imposed by the state and federal Constitutions.
It is important to remember that while we endeavor to think globally, we live locally. Municipal government is responsible for the quality of life services every citizen in Alabama relies on and demands; therefore, participation in your community – especially by attending Council meetings and making a concerted effort to know who your councilmember is and how to contact that person – will enable you to help improve and retain those critical services, such as police, fire, parks and infrastructure.
In addition, it is important to know understand the legislative process at the state level – how a bill becomes a law and the process for engaging with your senators and representatives in the Alabama Legislature. Actions taken at the state level can adversely affect the ability of your mayor and council to provide quality of life services. For tips on how to call, write or meet with your state lawmaker, click here!
While we strive to think globally, we live locally. Understanding the purpose of local government – and how decisions made at the state level affect our local leaders and their ability to provide resources – enables Alabamians to have a voice in their communities and to ensure their future is protected.