Form of Government

What Form of Government Does Palo Alto Have?

Palo Alto is a Charter City and has a council-manager form of government in which the nine-member, popularly-elected City Council appoints the City Manager, who in turn oversees a dynamic Executive Leadership Team in the operation of thirteen (13) departments employing 1,000 staff. This vibrant organization enjoys a strong, collaborative, and open environment. The City has an operating budget of $139 million in the General Fund and $307 million in Enterprise funds.

Council-Manager Government FAQs
The following information was provided courtesy of the International City/Council Management Association (ICMA).  

What is the council-manager plan, which is used in so many local governments?
The council-manager plan is the system of local government that combines the strong political leadership of elected officials in the form of a council or other governing body, with the strong managerial experience of an appointed local government manager. The plan establishes a representative system where all power is concentrated in the elected council as a whole and where the council hires a professionally trained manager to oversee the delivery of public services.

Is it a responsive form of government?
In council-manager government, council members are the leaders and policy makers in the community elected to represent various segments of the community and to concentrate on policy issues that are responsive to citizens' needs and wishes. The manager is appointed by council to carry out policy and ensure that the entire community is being served. If the manager is not responsive to the council's wishes, the council has authority to terminate the manager at any time. In that sense, a manager's responsiveness is tested daily.

What is the function of the council?
The council is the legislative body; its members are the community's decision makers. Power is centralized in the elected council, which approves the budget and determines the tax rate, for example.  The council also focuses on the community's goals, major projects, and such long-term considerations as community growth, land use development, capital improvement plans, capital financing and strategic planning, rather than the administrative details. It hires a professional manager to carry out the administrative responsibilities and supervises the manager's performance.

What is the manager's function?
The manager is hired to serve the council and the community and to bring to the local government the benefits of training and experience in administering local government projects and programs on behalf of the governing body. The manager prepares a recommended budget for the council's consideration; recruits, hires, and supervises the government's staff; serves as the council's chief adviser; and carries out the council's policies. Council members and citizens count on the manager to provide complete and objective information, pros and cons of alternatives, and long-term consequences. Managers formed a professional association, ICMA, in 1914 to help share expertise and experiences in local government management to best serve their communities.

Last Updated: Mar 18, 2015