For the next few weeks we’ll be covering the City Beat and its most important institution, city government, which is responsible for:
Protecting the public – It enacts ordinances to control public behavior; funds, hires and manages police and fire departments; monitors local air and water quality; provides sanitary sewer service; identifies and fights health threats, oversees the building of roads, streets, sidewalks and street lighting; monitors and inspects building construction.
Planning for growth – It reviews and approves new subdivisions and the extension of city services; establishes what type of buildings can go where (zoning).
Enhancing the quality of life – Establishes and maintains parks; funds and directs recreation programs; sponsors and oversees public events (farmers’ markets, festivals and concerts).
Raising money to pay for all that – Plans for spending (builds a yearly budget), raises money through general property taxes (those everyone pays), special property taxes (those paid by a few for a special purpose like sidewalks), fees (building permits, business licenses, development fees), and grants or loans from state or federal governments.
HOW CITY GOVERNMENT WORKS IN MISSOULA
The city hires professionals and lumps them into departments to oversee all of these activities.
Voters also elect a mayor to ensure that the departments are doing their jobs. In Missoula the mayor also presides over City Council meetings.
Voters two people from each of six districts, or wards, to sit on the City Council. The 12-member council makes the big decisions on services, growth and taxes. The council consists of several committees that study different needs and make recommendations to the full council.
The council meets every Monday (except for holidays and fifth Mondays of each month) to conduct public hearings and make decisions on items brought to it by its committees, the mayor and residents. An agenda is posted at least two days before each meeting so residents and city officials alike can prepare to participate.
THE REPORTER’S JOB
Give residents information they need to understand and participate in decisions that could affect their well-being. Be watching for impacts on services and taxes