Municipal elections

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Elections: Know the job descriptions and what they mean

The first of many candidates have qualified to run in August’s municipal elections in Selma. People in Valley Grande have begun qualifying, too.

The so-called Street Committee will begin wagging their tongues. Some of the information might have a little truth attached to it, but the majority of information on the street belongs in the gossip column of information.

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Voters should seek facts out about the candidates for themselves.

Before deciding on a candidate, voters need to know the requirements and duties of the job.

State law says this about the qualifications for the jobs and residence requirements: “Every mayor, councilman and officer elected by the whole electorate of the city or town shall be a resident and qualified elector of the city or town in which he shall have been elected and shall reside within the limits of the city or town during his term of office. The councilmen shall be qualified electors of said city or town, residing within the limits of the ward from which they shall have been elected and shall reside within the limits of said ward during the term of their office.”

Here’s a council’s general duties, according to state law: “All legislative powers and other powers granted to cities and towns shall be exercised by the council, except those powers conferred on some officers by law or ordinance. The council shall perform the duties required by this title and other applicable provisions of law.”

The Alabama League of Municipalities breaks down the differences in the powers between the mayor and the council.

The League says the mayor serves as head of the executive branch of government, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city. This means overseeing municipal employees, ensuring bills are paid on time, executing municipal contracts.

In municipalities of less than 12,000 residents, the mayor presides over council meetings and serves as a member of the council. This means the mayor could vote on any issue before the council and participate in debates or put items up for debate as does any other council member.

The League says in cities with more than 12,000 residents, the mayor has veto powers, but may not act as a member of the council. The council may override any mayoral veto with a two-thirds vote.

The League points out the council acts as a legislative branch of government. It is important to note the League says, “Candidates must understand that individual council members, acting alone, have no greater power or authority than any other citizen of the municipality. The council can only act as a body at a legally convened meeting.”

Further the League outlines the authority of the council over finances and city property. The council sets policy, passes ordinances, sets the tax levies, decides the services offered by the city and has authority over all other legislative aspects of municipal government.