Never mistake activity for
— John Wooden, legendary
Governments that govern best are those closest to the people. While the governing bodies of cities and states are elected by the people, various differences often emerge between the two.
My bias toward municipal government is expressed in knowing that they are the most responsive and efficient in their operations as well as the most attuned to the needs and desires of residents.
The people expect that these different levels of leadership should work cooperatively to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public.
Officials at the state and federal levels should seek to understand municipal issues and search for ways to facilitate, not inhibit, local governments’ ability to serve the community.
While cities are political bodies of the state, they are independently governed by local elected officials and should be given broad discretion to address the needs of the community. The allocation of local resources must be the decision of the local governing body, not state or federal officials.
Relevancy to municipal economic issues in particular needs this diplomacy.
State and federal officials need greater understanding and sensitivity regarding the issues and challenges facing municipal government.
City management needs the flexibility to adjust to changing conditions in their communities.
Local elected officials are the most intertwined in the lives of those they serve. They are representatives of their co-workers, their neighbors and friends, those they worship with and who frequent the same restaurants. They are immediately and personally accessible.
Municipal governing bodies have the same legitimacy as elected representatives of the state and federal governments. They are selected through the electoral process yet, because state and federal laws supersede those of a city, bad legislation will negatively affect the management of a city. The frustration for local leadership is openly expressed in the feeling that it would be nice to mandate that all elected officials once serve on a local level so the purpose and process of municipal government is understood.
State and municipal governments should work together to more closely identify areas of mutual cooperation that could produce more transparency and efficiency in operations, thus maximizing the benefit of scarce public financial resources.
Some examples include the Utah Department of Transportation giving the jurisdictional authority to improve and widen Antelope Drive to Layton City; the co-existence of city police / district court operations in a facility on the municipal campus in a community; sharing of advanced telecommunications fiber infrastructure; and the building of new freeway interchanges in a community.
Steve Curtis has worked as a business consultant and communication specialist. He is currently mayor of Layton. He can be reached at email@example.com.