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June 1964

July-August 1964

Calendar of Events
June Units -- A Triple Treat!
Notes to You... From the President! (Nancy Dykes)
Summer Schedule
Voters Service Plans Outlined
Barbara Ward Speech Available on Tape
Forms of City Government (Hazel Greer)

Forms of City Government

Background information on forms of city government for June Unit Meetings
Prepared by Hazel Greer, Local Agenda Committee


Good government, at any level, is not an accident: it is the result of an interested and informed public taking an active part in that government.

The public of any city should at all times be aware of what is going on in that city: what the city charter permits and what it does not permit; how the local laws are formed and adopted and how they are administered.

In 1733 Alexander Pope wrote this couplet:

For forms of government let fools contest;

Whate'er is best administer'd, is best."

The public needs to maintain a constant vigilance to see that the laws are properly administered, to see that its rights are preserved and not abused. It should bring pressure to bear upon the nomination and election of the city council and to other matters pertinent to the welfare of the citizens.

The citizens of Cincinnati, Ohio are interested to the extent that they have formed a committee known as the City Charter Committee of Cincinnati to see that the provisions of the city charter are faithfully carried out.

Today, there are four forms of city or local government in use in the United States. The oldest form is the weak mayor-council system. It was joined In 1880 by the-strong-mayor-council. In 1901 Galveston, Texas suffered a severe tidal wave in which hundreds of people died. The mayor system was not effective in results following the disaster and the State Legislature of Texas granted the city a charter enabling it to form the first commission form of government. The fourth system is the Council-Manager Plan which was established in Staunton, Virginia in 1908 and received impetus when adopted by Dayton, Ohio in 1913.

These forms are further explained by the following texts and charts.


The uncomplicated pattern of the Commission form of city government is easy for the citizens in the municipality to understand.

The voters elect a number of commissioners, usually three, five or seven, or more, depending on the size of the city to be governed. These commissioners then individually become the heads of various departments, together they form the city council, and execute both legislative and administrative powers.

The mayor is elected from and by the council group and is usually named head of the Department of Public Safety. He represents the city on ceremonial occasions and presides over council meetings. He votes in the council but very rarely has the power of veto and does not exercise more authority than the other commissioners.

The 1901 Galveston charter lacked a system of checks and balances but in 1907 in Des Moines, Iowa, in adopting the commission form some of these weaknesses were corrected. Des Moines added to the charter the initiative, referendum and recall. They also adopted the non-partisan election and the merit system. These reforms aided the spread of the commission form but in 1960 Galveston, and in 1949 Des Moines, switched to the Council-Manager plan.

There are four strengths in the commission plan:

  1. The number of commissioners to elect is small.

  2. Each has full power in his department and cannot shirk responsibility,

  3. Quick action is possible.

  4. Such a small number is easy to watch.

The one outstanding weakness of the system is the possibility for each commissioner to make his department the dominant one; both in use of public funds and in authority. Another weakness is the fusion of legislative and administrative powers.


The council-manager form of city government is an outgrowth and improvement over the commission form. Students of government give it unqualified backing. Very few cities have abandoned the council-manager plan after once trying it and today more and more cities are switching to it.

This system has a weak mayor, a strong elected council and the council hires a manager who carries the responsibility of administering the city government. His term of office is indefinite and he is at all time accountable to the city council for carrying out its laws but is unhampered in the management thereof.

This form is good because it separates legislation and administration; it places administration responsibility in the hands of a non-partisan expert. In case of error, it is easy to place responsibility.

Due to the city council having no administrative duties and having to spend less time on the job this system attracts better qualified citizens to enter the race for council, as it permits them time for their own business affairs. This form also promotes efficiency.


The difference between the strong mayor-council system and the weak mayor-council system is in the powers delegated to the mayor and to the council respectively, and in the separation of legislative and administrative powers.

The mayor and council are elected by the voters for a specified term, generally for two or four years, the longer term increasing in popularity.

The mayor's power is contained in two principal categories:

1. Administration:

1a. He is the head of the city administration

 b. He centralized administrative responsibility

 c. Stresses division of policy forming and administering council laws.

2a. Power of appointment and removal of principal administrative subordinates.

 b. Power to appoint many minor officers and employees - though civil service regulations may apply in part to the last mentioned.

 c. Power to prepare annual budget for submission to the council.

2. Legislative Power

a. He can make recommendations to the council

b. He has the power of veto.

c. He can vote in case of a tie when presiding over the council.


Under this form of government, the oldest in use in the United States, the mayor must depend upon his ability to establish and maintain close relations with the city council to have effective government. In event of disputes between the mayor and council he is handicapped by his lack of power, and good and effective city government could be badly disrupted.

The council, on the other hand, is in a strong position for it not only has legislative but also administrative powers. The council also prepares the city budget either with a committee from the council or with a board named for that purpose. The mayor may preside over or be a member of the committee or board but he has only equal authority with other members and does not exercise control. The council also approves Or disapproves appointments and removals of any officials made by the mayor.

Several weaknesses are evident in this form:

  1. It is often difficult for the average voter to understand its complicated system.

  2. Responsibility for the government is hard to fix as there is no strong leadership.

  3. It combines legislative and administrative powers.

  4. Good government suffers in event of disputes between the mayor and council.

  5. Under a dominant council the mayor can become a !'figure-head" to preside at ceremonies, cut ribbons, etc., and be a chief executive in name only.

This type of government is most widely used in smaller cities and it is the opinion of political students that it will be in use for many years to come, though it is losing ground to other forms. Two large cities still retain this form of city government, Los Angeles and Chicago. Both are successful.

Members of the Planning Commission

Thomas N. Yamabe Hawaii Farm Bureau June 30, 1968

Frank T. Hustace Attorney June 30, 1967 retiring chairman

Cyril Lemmon Architect June 30, 1964

Kinji Kamazawa Attorney June 30, 1965

George Centeio Real Estate June 30, 1966 chairman

Alfred Yee Construction Engineer June 30, 1966

Stanley T. Himeno Airport Motors (VW) June 30, 1965 vice-chairman

Members of the City Council

Masato Doi Attorney chairman

Ernest N. Heen Real Estate vice-chairman

Matsuo Takabuki Attorney

Herman G. P. Lemke C.P.A. finance chairman

Richard M. Kageyama Real Estate

Clesson Y. Chikasuye Attorney

William K... Among Attorney District 8 (A)

Yoshiro Nakamura Attorney District 9 (B)

Ben. F. Kaito Attorney District 10 (C)

Hazel Greer

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