What are the main strengths and weaknesses of the three basic types of city governments?
There are three main forms of city government. They are the mayor-council format, the commission format, and the council-manager format.
The commission form developed as a result of concern about corruption in city government. In this plan, the voters elect a board of commissioners. Each commissioner is responsible for a specific area of city government. It is expected that the commissioner be knowledgeable about a specific area of city government for which he or she is then responsible for running. This plan reduced the likelihood of people getting a job in city government because of whom they knew, as opposed to being based on their qualifications. There is, however, no one person who is fully in charge of the city government.
In the mayor-council form, the voters elect the mayor and the city council. The citizens are directly responsible for electing the head of city government and those who make the laws for the city. The mayor appoints people to run various departments of city government. These appointments could be based on whom a person knows, instead of his or her qualifications. This opens the door to repaying somebody for political help with a government job, even if that person is not qualified for that job.
In the council-manager form, the voters elect the city council. The city council is responsible for electing the mayor. The city council also hires a city manager. The city manager will appoint people to run departments within city government. By hiring a city manager, the expectation is that this person will have knowledge regarding how to run city government. This person should appoint people who have expertise in running various departments of city government. In this plan, the people do not elect the mayor or city manager. Thus, people have less of a say about who is running their government.
Each form of city government has its strengths and weaknesses. However, each serves a purpose that different cities believed worked best in a given situation.
The three main types of city governments are council-mayor (which can come with a strong mayor or with a weak mayor), council-manager, and commission (though very few cities actually have commission forms of government). Each of these has strengths and weaknesses.
The strength of the commission form of government is that it is very democratic and it allows very close attention to be paid to each aspect of city government. In this form, one commission member is elected to oversee each major aspect of government. That person can give his or her undivided attention to that aspect of government. Its weakness, though, is that there is no central authority.
In the council-mayor system, the strength is that you have an elected central authority. This allows one person to be responsible to the people for the whole city government. The main problem with this system is that you can have a mayor who is elected for his or her political acumen but who is a terrible manager. Such a person can significantly harm the way the city is run.
In the council-manager system, you take care of this problem. The manager is a professional who knows how to run a city. This makes this system efficient. The problem is that it is less democratic because the manager is not elected by the people.