Basic Forms of City Governments in Texas

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Municipal governments in Texas are divided into two major categories, home-rule cities and general law cities. Within these major categories are three basic forms of governments namely; Strong mayor-council, weak mayor-council, and city manager form of government (Benson, Clinkscale & Giardino, 2013).

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The biggest advantage of the strong mayor-council system of governance is that the voters decide who manages the citys day-to-day activities. There is also a centralized leadership which means more effective policy implementation. However, the fact that the mayor has most administrative and appointive powers means that it easy for them to abuse office. When this happens, there is very little that can be done to challenge him.

In the weak mayor-council system, the mayor is selected by the city council and has no formal authority over the council and, therefore, cannot appoint or remove officials from office. He also lacks veto powers over the council. The representative council can, therefore, represent the needs of their constituents more effectively since power is shared more equally. This system may, however, suffer from lack of accountability because power and responsibility are divided. Additionally, there is no clear leadership.

In the city manager system of governance, a professional city manager is usually hired by the council to manage the city. The biggest advantages of this system are that day-to-day management of the city is least affected by politics. The manager utilized professional experience to manage daily activities of the city. This system is however also least democratic because the people do not get to choose who runs the city. Additionally, there is no strong political leadership is such a system.

Difference between General Law City and Home Rule City

The major difference between these two categories of local government is that a General Law City can only do what the law allows them to do whereas in a Home Rule City, laws and regulations that are deemed necessary and are not prohibited by the law can be passed (City of Center - Texas, n.d.). Additionally, Home Rule Cities have more than 5000 inhabitants while General Law Cities have less than 5000 inhabitants.

The strengths of a Home Rule City are that it greatly reduces possible interference of city affairs by the legislature while permitting citizens to determine an administrative organization to be used by the local government. Its biggest weaknesses however are; possible instabilities in the local government due to frequent charter changes, reduced state supervision and interference for local political machines.

In a General Law City, power is equally distributed among all commissions. This means that no one commissioner acting alone has any administrative power. The biggest weakness of this category is that it has less autonomy over its laws.


Benson, P., Clinkscale, D., & Giardino, A. (2013). Lone star politics (2nd ed.). Pearson.

City of Center - Texas,. Home Rule. Retrieved 10 February 2016, from

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