Local Government: City Government

Local Government: City Government

Supports a city government structure that is representative, accountable, and accessible
Position In Brief: 

The League of Women Voters of Lawrence–Douglas County believes that the structure and operation of Lawrence city government must be representative, accountable, accessible, provide good municipal services, provide adequate balanced information, and cooperate with other governments.

Position History: 

(Approved 1991)

Representativeness

The governing body should consider the welfare of the community as a whole in its decision making, without discounting the needs of the geographical regions within the city. Particular care must be taken with the needs of north and east Lawrence.

The commission, as a representative governing body, should include individuals from the diverse socioeconomic and ethnic strata of the community. To better accomplish this: (1) As the city grows, the number of members of the governing body should be increased from 5 to 7; (2) Lawrence should consider a plan in which members of the governing body are elected from districts. In the primary election, two candidates would be nominated from each district by voters in that district. In the general election, one representative from each district would then be elected by all the voters, not just voters from that district.

Accountability

The city governing body and appointed staff should have clear lines of responsibility. Accountability includes objective criteria for measuring performance such as: organizational audits; performance evaluations; clear job descriptions; objective standards, set in advance, for evaluation of the city manager; and performance-based budgeting. Decisions should be based on organizational goals and objectives.

Accessibility and Responsiveness

A responsive and accessible government maintains open communications with its citizens. Citizens must know to whom they can go for information and should be encouraged to participate in the governmental process. Openings for advisory boards and commissions should be well publicized, with citizens given the opportunity to nominate members for those boards and commissions. There should be timely notice for public hearings and adequate time for public response. Furthermore, deadlines for document delivery and public responses to proposed city action should be well publicized.

Good Municipal Services

Municipal services should be equitable, efficient, and economical.

Adequate Balanced Information

Information for decision making by the governing body should be adequate, timely, and balanced. There should be a training program for new members of the city's governing body, particularly on technical matters. The city might consider an outside consultant or an organization such as the League of Kansas Municipalities for this training. To facilitate the learning process, the city might wish to consider an interval between the election and seating of newly elected members of the governing body. City staff should facilitate decision making by providing concise and balanced information to all members of the governing body. The city may wish to consider a department similar to the state's Legislative Research Department.

Cooperation with Other Governments

Lawrence should incorporate procedures that would ensure effective communication and cooperation with the school district and with county government, particularly in planning city services.

Form of Government

The League believes that the city governing body, which is responsible for policy making, should be assisted by a professional manager who is responsible for the daily administrative affairs of the city. League supports an enlarged commission, particular as the city continues to grow. If district elections are instituted, League supports a plan where members of the governing body are nominated from districts, but elected by all voters of the city. In addition to increasing representation, an enlarged commission could consider instituting a committee system for the governing body. There was no clear consensus on the method of selection of the mayor, although there was agreement that any mayor selected from the commission should have been on the commission for at least a year. Furthermore, the procedure for selecting the mayor should be formally established in writing by the governing body.

Issues: 
League to which this content belongs: 
Lawrence-Douglas County