Make your own free website on
SFA Class PSC 142.004

Please note:  This page is not intended to take the place of the lecture and reading assignments but as a study aid.  I would appreciate hearing from you on updating any missing information or misinformation so I can update it.  I have not attempted to include every detail but a general idea to help with remembering the information.  E-mail me at  Tee with any comments.

IV.  Local Government

We all live under 3 governments -- National, State, and Local.
The US has appx 87,000 governments.  Most are at the local level and include special districts.

Special Districts -- most numerous form of local govt.  They are 1 function govts. that usually are created by the state legislature and governed by a board of directors.  May be called authorities, boards, corporations or simply districts.  Must be classified as a special district because they have the following characteristics:

     Ex. from class:  ISD (Independent School District)
                             Sanitation Depts.
                             River Authorities
                             Fire Depts.

A.  Counties-- are to the state what the states are to the nation.  An administrative arm of the state, created to serve its needs and purposes.  Issue state automobile licenses, enforce state laws, registers voters, conducts elections, collects some state taxes, and helps administer justice.  Also the county conducts health and welfare programs, maintains records of vital statistics (such as births and deaths), issues various licenses, collects fees, and provides a host of other public services.

Counties have no power that the state can't abolish (get rid of).  Louisiana has parishes instead of counties.  Rhode Island and Connecticut have counties without a government.

Organization Chart of Local Government

Plural Executive form of govt.

Commissioner's Court -- members include the County Judge as the chair and 4 elected commissioners.  functions are administrative rather than judicial.  Adopt county budgets, set tax rates, conduct elections, operate county courthouse and building maintenance as well as county jail building maintenance. Also included are build and maintain county roads and bridges, and administer county health and welfare programs.

Problems with plural executive --

  1. 1.  no chief executive at the top for final decisions
  2. 2.  organizational structure specified in the state constitution
  3. 3.  counties don't have ordinance making power
Ex. of ordinance making power -- fireworks stands are placed outside the city limits because of city ordinances.  In order to prohibit the placement in the county it would have to be a state law.

Solutions to problems -- some states have proposed the creation of county commissioner's court with a county administrator.

B.  Municipal Government (City) -- appx. 80% of population in Texas is from metropolitan areas.  Provide services such as police, city laws, road maintenance, public services including race relations and public transportation.  When you provide services you have a bureaucracy.  Revenue is generated through taxes, fees, and bonds.

2 classifications of municipalities  --

1.  General Law City -- A city operating under general state laws that apply to all local governmental units of a similar type.  Usually have a population of less than 5,000.
2.  Home Rule City -- A city with a charter allowing local voters to frame, adopt, and amend their own charter.  Usually have a population of more than 5,000.  This allows them greater flexibility in the structure of local govt.

In 1997 there were 802 General Law Cities in Tx, and 385 Home Rule Cities.

4 types of City government --

Strong Mayor Council -- Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and El Paso
Weak Mayor Council -- Conroe
Commission -- founded in 1901 in Galveston after hurricane
Council Manager -- founded 1908 in Pennsylvania; Amarillo and Terrell were the 1st cities in Tx with this form of govt. in 1913.

Current Events -- Colorado school killing date was Hitler's birthday, trench coat mafia
Milosevic's house struck by NATO bombs

Strong Mayor Council -- the mayor has hire/fire power, preparation of budget and administration control, has veto power over the council. 8 of 10 large cities have this form except for San Antonio and Dallas.

Weak Mayor Council -- the mayor shares power with the council and officials.  None of the larger cities in Tx. use this because there is a lot of confusion due to no chief executive.

Commission -- least popular, each commissioner has 1 or more functional areas.  No home rule city has this form.  PROBLEMS:  no single executive, overpay in policy making and other matters.

Council (Commission) Manager -- most popular structure, appx. 90% (if population is over 10,000) cities in the U.S. have this form.  Has the following characteristics:  City council or commission members, a city manager who can be appointed and removed by the council, elected mayor.

City Council -- policy making body of the city, pass ordinances (city laws), conduct public hearings, approve or reject zoning changes, investigative powers, hire and fire power limited to the city manager, have appointment powers like the city attorney and municipal judge.  Council members may be called commissioner due to gender references.
Ex. of hearings:  city drainage problems (if they have the power to correct)
                         zoning changes from residential to commercial and vice versa

Pay:  varies from city to city, some get nothing (volunteer basis) while others get paid by the meeting or yearly.

City Manager -- chief public administrator of the city, in charge of all city departments and has hire/fire power over the depts.
Responsible for the budget, oversee public utilities like the water, elec., phone, cable and etc... Also chief advisor to the city council on city affairs.
Ex.:   police chief fired by city mgr., the chief drove city car out of town and had an accident.  The police chief received a DWI.

Pay:  pay scale depends on city charter but usually well paid for the position.

Consolidation of Government

Consolidation -- The union of two or more governmental units to form a single unit.  This is easily said but difficult to do.
Ex.  County and city jails. Most significant consolidation is in Miami -- the county is a union of 26 municipalities and operated under the home rule charter and council manager system.

Largely the state constitution disallows consolidation on a major scale.  Minor consolidation can be done.

Current Events -- Sec. Gen. of NATO - Jabier Solana, 19 countries in NATO, continuing air strikes, hit Milosevic's headquarters again (a 23 story bldg.), deputy premier of Yugoslavia said the pres. (of Yugo.) should stop lying to people about the country being able to handle sustained air strikes.  They would agree to an international presence but not NATO.  U.S. proceeding with calling of the reserves.
Reverend Jesse Jackson taking a group of ministers to Yugoslavia to aid the American POW's.
North Korea -- running out of food, had been getting food from the World Food Bank
Another gun control bill in the works since the Colorado incident at the school
"The football" -- the guy who carries it was left at a meeting and had to walk to the Whitehorse.

Consolidation of Government

Another form is the COG's who do not posses taxing nor lawmaking authority therefore they are not a true government.

Council of Governments -- A voluntary organization of counties and municipalities concerned with area wide problems.  They perform regional planning activities and provide services requested by member governments or as directed by federal and state programs.  Advisory role only.  Review and comment on grant proposals and the effects on the people they are serving.
EX.  garbage automation

Where do they get their funds?  From the members who join and pay their membership fees such as the cities, towns, and etc...

Policy Making by American Governments
Public Finance -- encompasses Economics (social science) and is based on human behavior and embedded with politics.
EX.  Rumors can cause the stock market to increase and/or decrease

GDP -- Gross Domestic Product;  all goods and services produced in the U.S. including those owned by other countries.
GNP -- Gross National Product;  all goods and services produced in the world by American companies.

Fiscal and Monetary Policy -- affect the national economy

Monetary Policy -- The use of changes in the amount of money in circulation to alter credit markets, employment, and the rate of inflation.

The Federal Reserve Board with Alan Greenspan (chairman) established in 1913, is an independent executive agency which meets and makes decisions about monetary policy 8 times per year. If there is an opening in the board, then the president can appoint with the approval of Congress and serve for 14 years.

Fiscal Policy --  The use of changes in government spending or taxes to alter national economic variables, such as the rate of unemployment.  Involved the federal budget and the tax policy
The budget  involves how much to spend, what to spend it on, and how long to spend.
Tax policy concerns federal revenue and relates to taxes, and will they go up or down.
     EX.  Dick Army (House Majority Leader) proposed a flat tax rate of appx. 17%, while other have proposed a consumption
             tax, or a tax on everything to replace the present income tax system.

Economic Theories
1.  Classical Theory -- non-interference from the govt. or laissez faire approach.
EX.  pres. Hoover and the depression
2.  Gold Standard -- 1914 - 1933; dollars were backed by gold however, in times of crisis such as a war or depression the gold couldn't back it up.  The gold standard, guaranteed the gold value of the dollar abroad.  Freed from this, the FRB could expand the supply of currency in circulation, thus enabling monetary policy to become a weapon for economic recovery (Roosevelt)
3.  Keynes Theory -- typically associated with the use of fiscal policy to alter national economic variables -- for ex, increased govt. spending during times of economic downturns.
If relief can't come from thrift of individuals or business then it must come through the from of govt. spending in the form of public works and/or cutting taxes.  At the beginning of this time period there was appx 25% unemployment whereas today there is about 4%.  Demand - side crisis , "prime the pump"
4.  Supply Side Theory -- pres. Reagan's "trickle down theory", who believed that the key to restoring corporate profits was to cut taxes and to eliminate govt. regulation of business.

Laffer curve -- A curved graph that illustrates a relationship between tax rates and government revenues. As tax rates increase from zero, revenues increase until an optimum is reached. But if tax rates are further increased, they are supposed to discourage government spending and business investment, thereby reducing revenues.

In the prohibitive zone there is a disincentive to work.

Current Events -- reiterated the current events from last class day;  the gun control measure would require a background check on people buying explosives and parents of children who commit crimes with guns are going to be held responsibel, while the age requirements for all guns would be raised to 21
Clinton going to Germany
Newt Gingrich appointed a select committee to look into the loss of intellegence concerning nuclear wapons (security leaks) and discovered that the leaks began earliier than they believed at first.  Discovered it has been happening during the last few presidents.

Texas Finance -- economy stable in early '80's due to booming oil industry and related businesses.  Mid '80's oil prices fell and unveiled many underlying problems.
Problems:  Education, retraining state work force, building and operating prison system, funding and managing entitlement (welfare) programs.  Other problems included the breakdown of Tx banking system and real estate industries, cratering in real estate values, loss and defaults on debts.  Nat'l funding was cut and Texas depended on the state more

increase in demand for services due to changes in environment, change of attitude toward govt.  Ex. public transportation, interstate and highway system, Ex of attitude:  gun control and general welfare of citizens.  Expanding concept of Democracy including economic changes -- wage demands to increase the minimum wage.

1.  Education -- most costly state service;  Involves nat'l govt., state regulations and local ISD's.  Tx schools funding comes from a school fund and the ISD's have control over the spending based on attendance.  Junior College's funds are received in part thru local property taxes as well as the state grants and gifts.
    Permanent University Fund -- money comes from land sales, rentals, and royalties off public lands.  A.K.A. the PUF fund.  UT and A&M system which were the only 2 universities at the time of funding creation.

2.  Human Services -- 2nd largest $ funding TANF (AFDC) and includes medical services

3.  Public Highways and Roads -- over 70,000 miles of highways, includes FM and park roads.  Money comes from fed. govt. for interstates.  $ comes from fuel and vehicle taxes.

4.  Public Health Services -- provided by Dept. of MHMR (Mental Health Mental Retardation), this dept oversees water, liscensure of hospitals and nursing homes.

5.  Public Safety -- DPS, TYC (Texas Youth Commission) and _______ (I didn't catch this one so if you know please let me know.)

State Revenue --
Federal grants and aid, leases of public lands, misc. fees such as permits, and investments, taxes.

Most from Sales Tax -- chief revenue and the most significant tax

Ideal tax -- has the following characteristics
1.  produces a lot of money
2.  one that wouldn't have high admistration costs
3.  one that people would not object to paying

Severance Tax -- an excise tax levied on a natural resource when that resource is severed (mined, pumped, or gathered) from the earth

Revenue Shortfall -- not enough money and you have 4 choices
1.  develop new taxes
2.  increase the rate on existing taxes
3.  state income tax
4.  downsize or curtailment of services
Lottery money goes into the General Revenue Fund

Foreign & Defense Policy
relatesto goals the govt. wants to achieve and the strategies to achieve these goals
military intervention, and isolation.
Foreign and Defense Policy

Foreign Policy -- A nation's external goals and the techniques and strategies used to achieve them.

Diplomacy -- The total process by which states carry on political relations with each other; settling conflicts among nations by peaceful means.

Economic Aid -- Assistance to other nations in the form of grants, loans, or credits to buy the assisting nation's products.  Technical Aid -- The sending of experts with technical skills in agriculture, engineering, or business to aid other nations.
Last resort under diplomacy is military intervention.

Isolationism-- Abstaining from an active role in international affairs or alliances, which characterized US foreign policy toward Europe during most of the 19th century.  This policy was temporarily overthrown during W.W.I and permanently shattered by the bombing at Pearl Harbor and W.W.II.

JFK--  Said that domestic policy can hurt you but foreign policy can kill you.

Showed History Channel film on Anzio

Marshall Plan -- the plan to help rebuild the economies of Europe.

Cold War -- The ideological, political, and economic impasse that existed between the US and the Soviet Union following W.W.II

Korean War -- civil war between the communist N and democratic S, US entered as a police action authorized by the UN, an armistice was signed with the N but as of today a treaty has not been signed.  There are still flare ups in the area and the US still has appx. 30,000 troops in place.

Sputnik -- 1957 satellite launched by Soviets and was the first to circle the globe.  At this time the US had intercontinental missle capabilities but when satellite launched it showed us that they also possesed intercontinenetal capabilities.

Cuban Missle Crisis -- the Soviets had decided to place offensive missiles in Cuba, the US set up a naval blockade around the island, the Soviet ships returned to Russia and we agreed not to invade Cuba and to remove some of our missiles that were near the Soviet border.

Vietnam -- began shortly after Korean conflict, the French army in Indochina wasdefeated by the communist forces of Ho Chi Minh and the country became divided, the US supported the S and "advisors" were sent to increase support, conflict escalated into a full undeclared war and over 58,000 Americans were killed

Detente -- relaxation of tensions between nations, stresses direct cooperative dealings with Cold War rivals but avoids ideological accommodation.  Relaxation of tensions with the Soviets and the US and also included China

Balance of Terror
MAD -- Mutually Assured Destruction
There were a number of treaties to reduce the threat of MAD.  Strategic arms reductions, demise of communism and Soviet Union, and others

The dissolution of the Soviet Union began channeling their funds away from the military and began  Glasnost which means openness and a restructuring of Russia.
Berlin wall came down