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One of the most interesting things about local government charters is each one is a distinct reflection of its community. Because a charter is the document that allows citizens to determine their own structure of government within state-prescribed legal limits, a charter is, in many ways, a manifestation of a community’s values, and one important way that a local government controls its own destiny.
According to the National Civic League, as a general rule, charter amendments should be utilized to address issues that cannot be successfully addressed by: 1) The passage of ordinances, 2) By the reorganization of municipal departments, 3) By changes to municipal funding, 4) By new officials in office and 5) By state, regional or federal initiatives.
There are two predominant forms of governments operating today - the council-manager form, in which policy making power is vested equally in the elected body composed of the mayor and council members, and the mayor-council form of government where policy making powers are vested in an elected council and administrative powers in an elected executive.
Council-ManagerBorn out of the local government reform movement of the 1900s, council-manager government is today the predominant form of government of cities over 10,000 in population in the United States. The council-manager form of government is the corporate model of local government patterned after the private sector. In the council-manager form of government, powers are vested in an appointed executive chosen for his executive skill, education and experience.
Mayor-CouncilOn the other hand, the mayor-council form of government reflects the federal model of local government patterned after the division of powers in the federal government. In this form of government, policy making powers are vested in an elected council and administrative powers are vested in an elected executive.
Daytona BeachAs in many other middle and larger size cities, Daytona Beach has adopted a hybrid form of government blending characteristics of the council-manager and mayor-council forms of government. Daytona Beach's charter provides for a separately elected mayor to be the political and policy leader of the city while retaining all administrative functions and powers in a city manager. The Charter also allows, but does not demand, that the mayor can serve full time, and be compensated for his full-time commitment as approved by the City Commission. Although a large departure from the pure council-manager form of government which mandates a part-time mayor with largely ceremonial duties, this arrangement incorporates qualities of both forms of government organizing an effective sharing of responsibilities that have proved to work successfully.
Although charters have been changed for many reasons, reviews of local government literature on the subject suggest that changes in forms of government are commonly caused by one or more of five factors: a loss of trust in the integrity of the local government due to a pattern of unlawful and or scandalous behaviors on the part of local officials; unmanageable conflict between local officials that hinders the performance of government; inability of local government to successfully address unanticipated crisis; failure of the local government to provide consistency in the delivery of services that the citizens deem to be essential; interest groups seeking to increase their influence in city decision making.