What Do These People Do?

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The City Council – Budgets and Laws
CENTRAL FIRST BLUEb largerPolitical Truth #2 – City Council Members make laws and approve budgets… and that’s about it. There are a few other administrative functions, including confirming the appointment of municipal officers, approving salaries, and authorizing contracts, but these are minor compared to laws and budgets.
What does “make laws” mean? Central’s City Council can pass any law that is not prohibited by state or federal law. Local laws are called ordinances, and the vast majority of those ordinances concern zoning, building and business regulation, and local health and safety matters. The City Council makes all local laws and only the Council can change those laws.
Included in the laws that the Council makes are any ordinances to re-zone property. The Council has the final say when anyone wants to change the zoning of property, as in the recent number of instances where property has been rezoned from Rural/Agricultural to commercial uses. The Council also has the well-demonstrated ability to over-rule the recommendation of the Zoning Commission.
“Approve budgets” means that each June the City Council decides whether to approve the Mayor’s spending request for the year, then during the year the Council can authorize (appropriate) more money for more stuff the Mayor or Police Chief ask for. If the Council Members believe that certain expenditures are unwise or wasteful, the Council can block that spending simply by refusing to approve the budget request.
Council Members each are paid $9,600 per year, and the current Council has decided to increase the size of the Council from five members to seven in 2018.  Council Members are expected to attend two monthly Council Meetings, which last about 90 minutes each. Council Members should also spend time researching and understanding the ordinances and zoning cases they will vote on.
As important as what a Council Member’s job IS, is what it IS NOT. It was explained at one Council training event that Council Members have rights and duties from the beginning of the Council meeting until the end of the meeting, twice each month. Outside of those official meetings, they are simply citizens of Central just like you. 
Council Members don’t handle the day-to-day operations of the city. They are not responsible for city services, and it is not their job to clear out clogged ditches or repair potholes. Certainly, it is good voter relations for a Council Member to come look at your ditch or your pothole, but their only involvement in such matters is to approve and fund the contract for IBTS, the company that does the work under the Mayor’s supervision.
Council Members make laws and approve budgets, and that’s what they are hired to do. Almost everything else that should be done to run the city is the job of the Mayor. We will examine that in December’s Political Truth #3 – “The Mayor – The Buck Stops Here.”

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