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CityWise: City Government 101

Post Date:01/22/2019 11:34 am

For the past three years, the City has offered an intensive, interactive eight-week course on how the City operates. Known as CityWise, the course provides fifteen people with an in-depth look at how decisions are made and encourages them to become more engaged in their community. In the coming months, we will provide a glimpse at the topics CityWise participants learn about.

The first week of the course looks at the basics of how Shoreline City government operates. In Washington State, there are essentially two forms of government for cities: Mayor-Council and Council-Manager.

The mayor-council form consists of an elected mayor, who serves as the city's chief administrative officer, and a council, which serves as the municipality's legislative body. The council has the authority to formulate and adopt city policies and the mayor is responsible for carrying them out. Many mayor-council cities, such as Lake Forest Park, have hired professional city administrators to serve under the mayor and assist with administrative and policy-related duties.

The council-manager form of government consists of an elected city council, which is responsible for policymaking, and a professional city manager, appointed by the council, who is responsible for administration. Shoreline uses the council-manager form of government. The city manager provides policy advice, directs the daily operations of city government, handles personnel functions, and is responsible for preparing the city budget.

Under the council-manager statutes, the city council is prohibited from interfering with the manager's administration. However, the city manager is directly accountable to and can be removed by a majority vote of the council at any time.

In council-manager cities, the mayor is generally selected by the city council and this person must also be a councilmember. The mayor presides at council meetings and is recognized as the head of the city for ceremonial purposes but has no regular administrative duties.

The Shoreline City Council is responsible for directing policy decisions for the City; adopting the budget; determining the service levels to be provided by the City; appointing members of the public to various boards and commissions; and providing general direction to the city manager, among other duties.

Shoreline has seven councilmembers elected at-large who serve four-year terms. Council elections are held in odd numbered years. Three council positions are up for election in 2019 and four are up for election in 2021.


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