Levels Of The United States Government
The United States Government has three different levels, each with their own set of responsibilities: the federal government, state governments, and local governments. All three levels work together to help implement federal programs and mandates. The powers not granted to the federal government are reserved for states and the people, which are divided between state and local governments.
The majority of Americans have more daily contact with their state and local governments than with the federal government. Local governments generally include two tiers: counties and municipalities, or cities/towns. Various kinds of districts also provide functions in local government outside county or municipal boundaries, such as school districts or fire protection districts. Municipalities generally take responsibility for parks and recreation services, police and fire departments, housing services, emergency medical services, municipal courts, transportation services (including public transportation), and public works (streets, sewers, snow removal, signage, and so forth).1
Municipalities are organized under either the general laws of the state of under a Charter adopted by the local voters. What does this mean? Cities that are organized under the general laws of the State (Section 34102) have less autonomy than those that adopt their own charter (Section 34101). While adopting a charter gives a city control over its municipal affairs, charter cities are subject to the same state laws as general law cities on matters considered to be of “statewide concern.” General law cities follow the laws set forth in the Government Code commencing with Section 34000.2
The City of Chula Vista
The City of Chula Vista became a Charter City on November 8, 1949 and moved to District Elections in November of 2016. The citizens of Chula Vista elect the Mayor At-Large, which means residents from all four districts can vote. Each of the four districts have one Councilmember to represent them and those running for Council must reside in the district they wish to represent. Residents will vote only for candidates in their respective district. For example, the Councilmember serving District 1 will reside in District 1 and be elected only by voters who reside in District 1.
The Mayor serves full time and the Councilmembers serve part time. The Mayor is a member of the City Council and has the same power as a Councilmember. She is also the official head of the City for political and ceremonial purposes and can take command in a public emergency. The Councilmembers make decisions on behalf of the residents of the City and have the same voting power as the Mayor.
The City of Chula Vista is a Council-Manager form of government, which means the Council establishes policy, passes ordinances, and develops the overall vision for the City. The Council appoints a City Manager, who oversees the administrative operations of the City, implements the Council’s policies, and advises the Council. The City Manager is like the CEO of a company.