- Redwood City is a “charter city”
- Redwood City uses the “council-manager” form of government
- The City Council’s policy-making role
- The Council/city manager/staff relationship
- The Redwood City Charter
Redwood City is a “charter city”
In California, there are two kinds of cities: charter cities and general law cities. Of the 477 cities in the state, 105, including Redwood City, are chartered meaning that the legal authority for the city's acts originates with a city charter, rather than from the laws of the State of California.
But what is a charter city? The authority provided in the state constitution to organize as a charter city is extended only to an existing city. Charters are adopted by cities where special conditions create needs that can’t be adequately met by the general laws. Since the powers of a charter city are not restricted to only those outlined in the general state municipal law, a city can adopt a charter and custom-tailor its organization and elective offices to provide for unique local conditions and needs. A charter can only be adopted and /or changed by a majority vote of city residents -- not by a vote of the city council. Citizens can establish the terms and number of council members and impose other limitations upon their city council through a charter provision.
(some of this information is from the League of California Cities website)
Redwood City uses the “council-manager” form of government
Redwood City operates under the ‘council-manager’ form of government, meaning that the Council appoints the city manager, who is then responsible for the administrative and staff-appointment duties. The Council also appoints the city attorney and the city clerk, and makes appointments to City boards and commissions. But, contrary to the ‘strong mayor’ form of government (such as that in Oakland, San Francisco, and other larger cities), the day-to-day operations of the City are under the authority of the city manager.
The City Council’s policy-making role
The City Council consists of seven members, elected by the voters of the City to staggered terms of four years each. Members receive $750 per month compensation. The City Council meets regularly on three Mondays of each month, and may call additional special sessions.
Section 10 of the City Charter provides that "all powers granted to and vested in Redwood City by law or provisions of this Charter shall, except as herein otherwise provided be exercised by the Council, to be designated the `Council of Redwood City.' The Council shall be the governing body of the City and, subject to the express limitations of this Charter, shall be vested with all the powers necessary or convenient for a complete and adequate system of municipal government, consistent with the constitution of the State, including all powers now or hereafter granted by general law to councils or boards of trustees of municipalities."
The City Council is the only body elected directly by the residents of Redwood City. As the legislative branch of the government, it makes final decisions on all major city matters. The Council adopts ordinances and resolutions necessary for efficient governmental operations, approves the budget, and acts as a board of appeals. It appoints the City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk and also the members of the City's boards, committees and commissions.
The Council/city manager/staff relationship
The City Council develops broad, two-year policy priorities which are updated annually. Each priority contains a range of specific programs, projects, policies, or processes which the City Manager, Department Directors, and staff use in developing the actual detailed work programs for the various City departments. In short, the Council develops policy, and the City Manager and staff implement those policies on a day-to-day basis.
In addition to the three or four public Council meetings every month, the City Manager meets weekly with the Mayor and Vice Mayor, and also has meetings with other members of the Council individually or as part of ad hoc or standing committees, on an as-needed basis. Through these meetings and other contact with Council members, the City Manager is able to distill their policy direction into action for the City.
The City Manager manages the department directors, who in turn supervise the managers within that department. Redwood City enjoys a flexible and de-centralized work environment which allows people to make decisions at every level of the organization. This provides the ability to react quickly to changing circumstances, to revise our priorities as needed, and to best address our constituents’ needs.
The City Manager meets weekly with the entire group of department directors, and individually on an as-needed basis. The purpose of these meetings is to provide direction and guidance to the directors in carrying out the policies of the Council.