As many cities consider amendments to their charters in this month’s elections, the League will be publishing the Ninth Edition of the Model City Charter. This release follows a year of work by dozens of civic leaders to develop revisions to the Model, during which a new emphasis on public engagement and equity emerged.
The Model City Charter is used by hundreds of cities to guide their charter language and governance structure. The Ninth Edition continues the National Civic League’s tradition of recommending the council-manager form of government. The new edition will also include a new emphasis on civic engagement and equity, along with other changes listed below.
The National Civic League began a revision process for its Model City Charter in November 2020. First published in 1900, this effort is the first full revision of the document since 2000. The process was led by a Steering Committee of 22 national representatives and experts, with four co-chairs that represent the League and three partner organizations, the National League of Cities, International City/County Management Association and American Society for Public Administration.
Key Changes to the Model City Charter
- Equity: The Model will incorporate the need for social equity throughout the document, providing a guide for cities to use in their own revisions. There will also be a companion document on equity that will include provisions outside city charters, like equity audits and equity officers, along with suggestions for ways in which cities might adopt executive orders or ordinances to improve equity.
- Public Engagement: The new edition will stress the importance of community engagement in local affairs. The article would lay out principles for meaningful participation/engagement emphasizing the agency of community members in local governance and how these principles can be reflected both in a city’s charter and in other operational structures.
- Mayors: The document will emphasize the important facilitative roles of the mayor in helping the city council and manager to work together to set goals and work toward implementation and in communicating with the public and other stakeholders.
- City Councils: The importance of the City Council’s relationship to the city manager is emphasized, to include hiring and regular evaluation.
- Elections: The new edition encourages the direct election of mayors and discusses options for council elections for cities of different sizes and demographics. The Model also recommends local elections be in November of odd years, with discussion to allow for alternatives.
The current Model City Charter is available here, soon to be replaced by the new edition. Watch our website for this new edition, currently scheduled for release online on November 8th!
Many thanks to the civic leaders and thinkers who contributed to the new edition.
Model City Charter Review Steering Committee
- Clarence Anthony, CEO, National League of Cities
- Ronald Loveridge, Director, Center for Sustainable Suburban Development; former Mayor, City of Riverside, California
- Marc Ott, Executive Director, International City/County Management Association
- Kendra Stewart, Past President, American Society for Public Administration
- Chris Balch, City Attorney, Brookhaven, Georgia
- Heather Balas, Good Government Reform Policy Officer, Thornburg Foundation
- Patti Garrett, Mayor, City of Decatur, Georgia
- Teresa Gerton, President, National Academy of Public Administration
- Lindsey Horvath, Mayor, City of West Hollywood, California
- David Luna, Councilmember, Mesa, Arizona
- Erica Manuel, CEO, Institute for Local Government
- Peggy Merriss, Interim City Manager, Pine Lake, GA; CEO, Merriss Management and Leadership Consulting
- Sylvester Murray, Visiting Professor, Jackson State University
- Tina Nabatchi, Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs, Syracuse University
- John Nalbandian, Professor Emeritus, University of Kansas
- Kimberly Nelson, Professor of Public Administration and Government, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Jerry Newfarmer, CEO, Management Partners
- Robert O’Neill, former Executive Director, International City/County Management Association
- Martha Perego, Director, Membership Services and Ethics, International City/County Management Association
- James Svara, Senior Fellow, School of Government, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Mark Washington, City Manager, Grand Rapids, Michigan
- Chuck Thompson, Executive Director & General Counsel, International Municipal Lawyers Association