A city council is a form of government that is used in many towns and cities around the world. The members of the council are elected by the citizens, and they work together to pass laws, make general policies, supervise city government, and appropriate funds for various needs. The work of a council is usually supported by a number of specialized commissions that focus on specific issues like police, urban planning, and public works. Typically, council meetings are open to the public, and public input is welcomed.
The exact organization of a city council varies, depending on where in the world it is. As a general rule, the members are elected by various districts in the city. Each is responsible for representing the needs and desires of his or her district. These members may be able to appoint members of other commissions, and they often vote amongst themselves to determine who will act as chair or speaker for the council.
In some cases, the mayor sits on the council, adding input and running meetings. In other instances, he or she works separately. One member of the council is also usually the mayor pro tem, the next in line in authority. When the mayor is unavailable for any reason, the mayor pro tem takes over the position temporarily.
Many cities have a council-manager government, in which most of the decisions about local government are made by the council. This type of government limits the power of the mayor, although he or she certainly contributes. In other cases, a mayor-council government is used, giving the mayor more authority and sometimes a veto power as well. Typically, the mayor will prepare the budget for a mayor-council government, although the council may veto it.
Requirements for serving on city council vary. In most cases, candidates must be legal citizens of voting age, although age requirements are sometimes more restrictive. Candidates may engage in debates during their campaigns, and like politicians at the larger level, they usually propose changes that they will enact if elected. In small towns, city elections can get quite tense at times, as the politics of smaller towns can get very tricky.