Understanding the Basics of Local Agency Decision-Making

Do you sometimes wish there were an easy way to explain how decisions are made at the local level? This topic is the subject of a new Institute for Local Government (ILG) publication, Understanding the Basics of Local Agency Decision-Making.

Produced with support from the Liebert Cassidy Whitmore law firm, Understanding the Basics of Local Agency Decision-Making is the latest resource in ILG’s Local Government 101 program (online at www.ca-ilg.org/localgovt101). Through this effort, ILG provides information about the key aspects of local agency structures and processes for newly elected officials, new municipal staff, the media, citizens’ academies, community groups and others.

The new publication joins the popular Basics of County and City Revenues publication (online at www.ca-ilg.org/revenueguide) in ILG’s offerings to local officials and other community leaders. “Basics” guides for land use planning and public service ethics are also in production.

Answering Key Questions

The goal of Understanding the Basics of Local Agency Decision-Making is to provide a “plain English” overview of how local government decision-making works. It addresses the key questions about local agency decision-making processes, including:

  • The unique aspects of public agency decision-making — what makes it different from private sector decision-making and how decision-makers and the public determine which course of action best serves the com-munity’s interests.
  • Who does what — the similarities and differences in the roles that cities, counties and special districts play in enacting policies and providing public services; the division of authority among federal, state, regional and local agencies; the key decision-makers in local government and the role of staff.
  • How decisions are made — the unique rules that govern public agency decision-making, when public officials must step aside from the decision-making process, and the distinction between legislative and quasi-judicial acts.
  • Special issues — the benefits of collaboration among local agencies, local agency advocacy efforts and professional public agency management. The guide also explains what charter entities are.

This publication provides a starting place for those who want to understand more about local government and its decision-making processes. For that reason, it also includes a long list of resources for further information.

To Obtain a Copy

Understanding the Basics of Local Agency Decision-Making has been distributed to city managers and county administrative officers throughout the state, again with help from the Liebert Cassidy Whitmore law firm.

Additional hard copy versions may be purchased for $25 through ILG’s publications unit at www.ca-ilg.org/ilgpubs.  Proceeds from hard copy sales help support ILG’s Local Government 101 program and the development of additional resources to assist local officials in their service to their communities.

Understanding the Basics of Local Agency Decision-Making is also available free online in electronic form at www.ca-ilg.org/decisionmaking.

Your Input Is Valuable

This guide benefited from the suggestions, corrections and feedback of many local officials and others who provided peer review on various drafts. In addition, ILG welcomes your feedback. E-mail info@ca-ilg.org with your reactions, corrections, thoughts and suggestions. ILG also invites you to visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com.

This article appears in the May 2009 issue of Western City
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