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Categorized | City Hall Corner, News

The City Council

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

The last two weeks I’ve discussed the Planning Commission and the Downtown Development Authority. Today we’ll talk about the City Council, my boss(es).  There are two primary different types of local governments in the United States—the “Strong Mayor” form and the “Council-Manager” form. These two forms combine to account for 90 percent of all local governments. The Strong Mayor form is what people primarily think of when they think of local government, even though it is the less common version compared to Council-Manager. The Strong Mayor form seems to be more prevalent in huge cities like Chicago and Detroit, while Council-Manager is more common in smaller communities like Rockford, Sparta, Greenville and Cedar Springs.  

There are advantages to both forms of government but since Cedar Springs operates as a Council-Manager government we will be talking about how the Cedar Springs City Council (CC) works. The City Council is composed of seven City residents who all must be a “qualified elector” (See Mich Const Article II § 1 of 1963).  After each election, the CC members choose between themselves who shall serve as Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem. Legally speaking, the Mayor is imbued with the power to run meetings; they are the ceremonial head of the government; they are the City’s conservator of the peace; and they shall authenticate all ordinances, motions and resolutions of the Council by their signature. The Mayor does not have any veto power over the Council but does have an equal voice and vote to every other member of the Council.  

The Mayor Pro Tem undertakes those same powers in the absence of the Mayor but in reality, they both share in representing the government in both a legal and ceremonial capacity. 

The other five councilpersons combine with the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem to undertake all “legislative or policy forming powers” in the City. While the City Council is the ultimate authority on virtually everything in the City, on a day-to-day basis, the CC employs a City Manager to run the administrative operations of the government. The CC hires a City Manager on the “basis of training and ability alone” and entrusts the City Manager to legally, ethically and effectively run the City on their behalf.  

The City Manager daily “steps into the shoes” of the Mayor and City Council and runs the City while following the laws, rules and policies that the CC has enacted throughout the years. In Cedar Springs, the City Manager communicates with the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem on a frequent basis to discuss various major issues facing in the City. The City Manager works with the City Council to address citizen concerns. They work together to develop good laws and policies for the whole City but the City Manager has no vote on such matters and can only advise the Council. One important distinction to understand is that the City Manager does not work for the Mayor or the Mayor Pro Tem or any other individual councilperson but instead works for the Council as a group, requiring a consensus of four of seven of those persons to enact laws or policies.

Once a month, the City Manager and city hall staff brings various issues to the City Council for their review, discussion and approval. The Council reviews all the spending and finances of the City and gives the City Manager direction on how to proceed on various issues into the future. The City Council members will also bring issues and concerns that they have identified to the whole Council for the discussion and potential action (though, its generally quicker and easier for a citizen to approach City Hall to get any issues resolved). 

If you have any thoughts, questions or concerns about how the City Council operate please e-mail the City Manager at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org or you can find more information about the City Council at https://cityofcedarsprings.org/city-council/. 

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