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Local

Governments

Chapter
3
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Learning Objectives
3.1 Explain the relationships that exist between a local
government and all other governments, including local, state,
and national governments.
3.2 Describe the forms of municipal government organization.
3.3 Identify the rules and social issues that shape local
government outcomes.
3.4 Analyze the structure and responsibilities of counties.
3.5 Examine the functions of special districts and their
importance to the greater community.
3.6 Discuss the ways that local governments deal with
metropolitan-wide and regional issues.

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Local Politics in Context
Local Governments and Federalism
Dillons Rule
Cooley Doctrine
Almost 5,000 local governments
Territories often overlap

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Local Politics in Context
Grassroots Challenges
Providing equal access to public services
for all communities
SpeakupAustin! social media portal
Widespread voter apathy
Typical to have fewer than 10% voter
participation

Learning Check
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Municipal Governments
Legal Status of Municipalities
Two legal classifications
General-law cities (charter by legislature)
Home-rule cities (locally drafted charter)
Greater flexibility in structure and operation
Three powers not held by general-law cities
Recall
Initiative
Referendum

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Municipal Governments
Forms of Municipal Government
Strong mayor-council
Mayor elected at large
Mayor has power to veto council actions
Weak mayor-council
Mayor has limited administrative powers
City council can override mayors veto

Critical Thinking Question:


What is the difference between the Strong Mayor-Council and
Weak Mayor-Council form of government?
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Strong Mayor-Council Form of
Municipal Government (Houston)

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Cities: Issues (Zoning)

Zoning and planning policies


Houston does not use zoning laws (only major
city in the U.S. like this).

Instead we use deed restrictions to accomplish the


same thing. This takes power away from city
governments and gives it to private developers and
individuals
Cities: Issues (Annexation)
Annexation
Houston can annex land as long as it is within 5
miles of the Houston city limits. This is a special
state law written just for the city of Houston.
Smaller cities within 5 miles of Houston cannot annex any
land without Houstons permission
Tomball cannot expand unless the city of Houston allows it to
Houston will usually annex land that has already been
developed (usually along freeways).
Commercial land is preferred over residential
Infrastructure (roads, utilities, MUD districts) is usually built
BEFORE Houston annexes the area
Municipal Governments
Forms of Municipal Government
Council Manager
Most home-rule cities use
Mayor and City Council elected
City Manager appointed
Major weakness: lack of a leader
Respond to elite and middle-class rather than working
class concerns

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Council-Manager Form of Government (San
Antonio, 2014)

Critical Thinking Question: What advantages does the city manager


have in this form of government over the mayor? What concerns would
citizens have about this form of government and why?
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Municipal Governments
Forms of Municipal Government
Commission
Each government department is responsibility
of a single commissioner

Learning Check

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Municipal Politics
Rules make a difference
Nonpartisan elections (no party labels)
Low voter turnout
More personal/less issue oriented
Redistrict after every 10-year census
Ways to organize municipal elections
At-large elections
Single-member district elections
Cumulative voting

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Municipal Politics
Socioeconomic and Demographic
Changes
Increasing levels of urbanization,
education, and economic development
has made state more diverse
Houston most diverse political system
Dallas serious black-white racial tensions
South Texas has Latino leaders at all
levels

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Municipal Politics
Municipal Services
Governments major job is to provide
services . . .
Police and fire protection
Water and streets
Sewer and sanitation
Parks and recreation
Zoning has received more opposition in
Texas than most other states
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Municipal Politics
Municipal Government Revenue
Low levels of state assistance; local
governments hurt by Great Recession
Taxes (property tax, sales tax)
Fees
Bonds and Certificate of Obligation
Property Taxes and Tax Exemptions

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One Home but Property Taxes from Four
Governments

(An Example from Walker County on a Home with an Appraised


Value of $120,220; Taxes Paid in January 2014)

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Municipal Politics
Generating Revenue for
Economic Development
State and federal appropriations
shrinking
Attract businesses with tax incentives
Tax reinvestment zones (TRZs)
Controversial

Learning Check
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Counties
Structure and Operation
254 counties
Commissioners Court
Administrative and legislative (not judicial)

Critical Thinking Question:


Do most citizens know the role of their County Commissioners Court?

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The County Commissioners
Court
Precincts in Harris County
Counties
Structure and Operation
County Judge
Most prominent job in county government
County Attorney and District Attorney
County Sheriff
Law Enforcement and Judges
Statutory county courts
District court
Justices of the peace
Constables

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Counties
Structure and Operation
County Clerk
County Tax Assessor-Collector
Role is decreasing
Treasurer and Auditor

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Counties
County Finance
Taxation
Revenues from Nontax Sources
Tax Incentives and Subsidies
The Bottom Line
Pressure to increase taxes and balance
budgets
Expenditures

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Counties
County Government Reform
Merit systems in large populations
County home rule
Texas strongly against

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Counties
Border Counties
Unprecedented growth near Rio Grande
NAFTA
Many live in colonias
Extremely poor
Government does little to help
Undocumented immigrants

Learning Check
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Colonias lack
infrastructure
or utilities

Critical Thinking Question: Should county government, along


the border, work on improving the conditions of colonias? Why?

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Special Districts
Critical Thinking
Public School Districts
More than 1,000 ISDs
Increase in state/federal requirements
Increasing ethnic/economic diversity
School finance
Equity
How much should be spent?
Property tax only local revenue source

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Special Districts
Junior or Community College
Districts
50 districts with two or more colleges
Noneducation Special Districts
Nearly 2,300 found in Texas
Many local needs cut across city boundaries
Restrictions make it difficult
Individuals create districts to make money (T.
Boone Pickens)
Learning Check
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Texas
Community,
Technical,
and State
Colleges

Critical Thinking Question: How will tuition increases affect


student access to and success in higher education?
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Metropolitan Areas
Metro government
Possible solution to address variances in
urban/suburban governments
Councils of Government
24 created in 1960s
Perform regional planning
Implement state/federal programs

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Metropolitan Areas
Municipal Annexation
Law enacted in 1963
Cities have extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ)
Designed to improve order and planning
Makes Texas central cities larger than other
states
City can annex contiguous unincorporated
areas without a vote by citizens living in area
Those with few services (fire, police) want annexation

Learning Check
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Texas
Councils of
Government

Critical Thinking Question: Why does Texas have so many


levels of government? Are COGS really necessary?

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Houston Taps Emergency Water

Click picture to view video

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Video Discussion Questions
1. Which government entity is
responsible for providing water to
Houston residents?
2. What everyday resources are local
governments responsible for?
3. Should the state oversee water
allocation? Should the federal
government?

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