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Understanding How Local Government Works: Legislative vs. Administrative Items Proposed at the City Hall building. 

Dear City Residents,

As a candidate running for City Council, I believe it's essential that our community understands how our local government functions. One key aspect of this is grasping the difference between legislative and administrative responsibilities, especially when it comes to city council and the planning commission.

Legislative Responsibilities (City Council):

Imagine the City Council as the decision-makers who create the rules. Here's what they do:

  1. Creating Laws: City Council members are like lawmakers. They draft, discuss, and pass laws, also known as ordinances, that set the rules for our city.

  2. Policy Setting: They make big-picture decisions about issues that affect everyone, such as zoning codes, budgets, and major development plans.

  3. Representing You: Council members are your voice in shaping the city's future. They listen to your concerns and translate them into policies that benefit our community.

  4. What We Can't Do: We don't handle day-to-day operations or individual cases. We can't change specific zoning rules for one property or resolve individual complaints. Our role is to set the overall direction and framework.

Administrative Responsibilities (Planning Commission):

Now, think of the Planning Commission as the doers who implement the rules:

  1. Review and Recommendations: The Planning Commission evaluates specific projects, land use applications, and development proposals based on the laws created by the City Council. They then provide recommendations.

  2. Enforcement: They ensure that developments and projects comply with existing zoning laws and regulations.

  3. Technical Expertise: The commission often consists of experts in urban planning, architecture, or related fields. They bring their knowledge to ensure that developments are well-designed and suitable for our city.

  4. What They Can't Do: They can't change city laws or create new ones. Their decisions are based on existing regulations, not on setting the overall direction for the city.
  1. Administrative Agenda Items deal with specific projects and if they are within the land use and city code.  Legislative item topics are about broader policies and should be brought to the city council or city planners. Planning Commission gets a vote however the ultimate decision is dependent on the City Council forum.
  2. Fun Fact!  Planning Commission and City Council don’t always agree!  Planning Commission could approve an item on their agenda and City Council could vote denial.  
  3. City Council has far more knowledge on the topics both planning commission the the city council vote and action on. They have experienced professionals, internal resources and budgets that set the pace of land use, access to outside experts, engineers, local resident feedback, upcoming Legislative laws and future knowledge of projects not yet public. More information than Planning Commission receives to make their formed opinion. This is why Legislative Action is taken place by City Council and Planning Commission is given a vote based on the topic to move to approve, not approve.

What Each Role Can and Cannot Do:

  • City Council CAN create new laws, change existing ones, and set overall city policy.
  • Planning Commission CANNOT create laws. They review and recommend based on existing laws.
  • City Council CAN listen to your concerns, gather community input, and make decisions that impact our city's future.
  • Planning Commission CANNOT directly address broader policy concerns. Their role is to apply existing rules.

Engaging with the Process:

But what if you show up at a Planning Commission meeting and would like to voice concerns on an Administrative Action?

it's crucial to explain this distinction:

  • Planning Commission follows established rules. Residents can bring their issues to the City Council, where policy changes can be made but administrative action is rooted by set pre-determined codes.  The planning  commission reviews those codes to ensure the agenda item being discussed at those meetings aligns with those requirements. The agenda item is voted on and approved as long it it meets all city codes. Once we vote (whether yes or no auto approve the item, it is then sent to city council to vote on,  

  • Planning Commission and City Council work together to create a better city. I love when residents get engaged in the process by attending meetings, participating in public hearings, and communicating with their elected representatives.

During City Council Meetings: Host Policy Session Every other Tuesday at 7pm with few variances

  • When to Speak: Residents can usually address the city council during public comment periods at regular city council meetings and at the open public session. These meetings are posted with agendas to website
  •   Find the packet and agenda looking for 3 lines link on the top left. This will bring down the dropdown menu. Scold down to Government Header and then you  will find Agendas and Minutes posted. This is all public record.

Planning Commission Meetings: Hosted Every Other First and Third Wednesday of the month with Few Exceptions.

  • When to Speak: Residents can speak during public hearings that are part of planning commission meetings. These hearings are held when specific development projects or zoning changes are under review.  The are listed as Legislative items. 
  • Your input is crucial during public hearings at planning commission meetings. This is where we gather feedback on specific projects to ensure they align with our city's regulations.

Let's work together to ensure that every resident's voice is heard and that our city continues to thrive. Your concerns matter, and I'm here to represent your interests on the City Council if elected.

Sincerely, Meg Ratchford


Committee to Elect Megan Ratchford
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