Galt’s 4th of July parade and later activities epitomize the “small town America” feel – one of our greatest strengths as a community.
We are fortunate to live in Galt with its smaller population, compared to the cities around us, and its location as the southernmost city in Sacramento County. Actually, our location means Galt has an “island effect” from the rest of the county – giving us a sense of community apart from the larger entities, according to City Manager Tom Haglund.
As we look at our uniqueness, we’ll start with Galt city government structure, then move to school districts and finally our special district.
Galt has a council/city manager form of government. Under this type, the City Council, who are laypeople, are the policymakers with the city manager, the professional, overseeing the execution of these policies and also the city staff.
The city manager is hired by the council to guide them through the legalities of each decision, as well as explaining the many levels of government – county, state and federal – which either affect their decisions or require certain actions.
The city manager is responsible for the efficient administration of all the affairs of the city under his control and to ensure all laws and ordinances are enforced. He also recommends measures and ordinances he determines are in the best interest of the city. He prepares the annual budget and Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for the council’s adoption and is responsible for the departments of Human Resources (personnel) and Economic Development.
When a city council member runs for office, he/she usually envisions one or more objectives to reach. Members then share their particular objective with other members, realizing that to achieve it they will have to work together.
Sometimes this also means compromise.
Throughout this process, the city manager’s role is to help the council achieve their community objectives. This is easier in a non-partisan group like Galt city council because they have no political intent about what they are trying to accomplish.
The council must always keep in mind the importance of reading every part of any recommendation the city manager gives them. It’s very easy to miss an item, and then realize that if they had done a better reading there may not have been a resultant problem.
Another element of city governance is the mandates coming from the State Legislature or Governor, as well as Congress or the President.
These mandates must be followed – even if the council feels them detrimental, which has become a growing concern.
The beauty of city government is any resident or businessperson can come to the council with a problem or suggestion and be heard. After all, the people sitting before you might have been next to you at the store earlier.
Stipends for council members depend on whether a city is a general law city or a Charter city.
Galt, as a general law city, has to follow the government code of California.
This means council stipends are based on the number of people in the city and cannot be raised until there are more people.
Elk Grove, to our north (a general law city), started small and then ballooned to over 100,000 – and still is growing at a rapid rate. Obviously Elk Grove council member stipends also ballooned.
Thank goodness our city is examining a slower growth!
Another form of city government is the strong mayor/city manager type, usually in large cities. The mayor is elected by the people and is the city’s head with the city manager following his orders.
A Charter City is the other government type. Charter Cities adopt a charter to operate their city, which affords them more autonomy in deciding some areas, including pay. The council decides how much to pay their members plus commission members, if they are paid. There are 140 charter cities in California.
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One fact of life for the City Council is that the California Legislature passes laws and mandates, which have a direct bearing on city government (as well as school districts). We’ll be looking at these more closely in the future. These laws and mandates caught my attention years ago, probably first when I was a teacher and administrator.
Obviously, this is a large and varied state – almost 40 million people concentrated mainly on the coast or 100 miles inland.
What serves a large city or metropolitan area doesn’t necessarily serve agricultural, foothill, mountain, desert or other rural areas.
In other words, one law can’t fit every locale in California.
Perhaps that’s why rural, agricultural, mountain and desert regions become upset with trying to implement laws that either do not pertain to them (low income housing) or are not realistic for their situation (septic system requirements).
I saw this in action when living in the foothills and also having a cabin higher in the Sierras.
I never disagreed with the intentions of fire prevention and clearing because we understood the futility of saving homes in densely wooded locations. But the imposition of a “fire tax” on those properties without any of it going to firefighting was not welcome. The tax was supposed to be used for fire prevention and education, but only one “educator” came to my cabin and none to my foothill residence.
The septic law was written by a lawmaker from the coastal area where spills might occur into coastal waters. But septic systems in the mountains are totally different.
One “good” law while living in Valley Springs was that we didn’t have to have a smog check. However, the irony of this is that most people living there drove each day to the city for work! (And the smog check was required there.)
So there’s quite a problem that faces city councils, counties and school boards in California – having to follow a law or mandate with which they don’t necessarily agree or one that might not even be logical for their area.
You elected the present council so must rely on them (with your input) to make the best decisions. It’s not an easy job, but I’m sure these members see Galt has a great deal of potential as well as some major problems.
Galt is small town America where you can voice your opinion. Don’t allow the opportunity to slip away.
Durlynn Anema is a retired educator who spent many years in community service, as well as serving on various boards and councils. To contact Anema, send your comments to email@example.com.