A preamble typically consists of three elements: an identification of the source of authority for the charter, a statement of the action that is to be taken, and a declaration of the intent of the charter. The source of authority for a city charter is the state constitution or statutory law. The action that is to be taken is the adoption of the charter. The declaration of the intent of the charter comprises subjective statements (not enforceable by law) that underscore or illuminate the characteristics of a municipality, such as the values of the city, lofty goals, or even the ―personality of the drafting commission. Charters within the same state often use the same language in their preambles; the type of language used and the manner in which issues are addressed often provide a glimpse of regional characteristics.
We the people of the [city/town] of ________, under the constitution and laws of the state of ________, in order to secure the benefits of local self-government and to provide for an honest and accountable council-manager government do hereby adopt this charter and confer upon the city the following powers, subject to the following restrictions, and prescribed by the following procedures and governmental structure. By this action, we secure the benefits of home rule and affirm the values of representative democracy, professional management, strong political leadership, public engagement, diversity and inclusiveness and regional cooperation.
Source of Authority
Identification of the source of authority tends to be standard: “We the people of Your City, under the constitution and laws of the state…”
Occasionally, however, the source of authority is embellished with descriptive elements that reflect valued characteristics of the community. Two examples follow:
“We the people of Your City, with our geographical and cultural diversity…”
“Treasuring the many wonders of our unique environment and realizing that the power and duty to govern and protect this region is inherent in its people, we the people of Your City…”
The standard phrasing for the action statement is “do hereby adopt or some variation. Following are two examples of action taken by the source of authority:
. . . do hereby adopt this charter
. . . do hereby adopt this home rule charter.
This can be the most creative section of the preamble (and of the charter itself). The standard beginning of the intent section is: “By this action, we . . .” An expression of objectives, goals, purposes, and/or values typically follows. The intent section can contain merely a reference to home rule or self-determination, or it can contain a combination of purposes, goals, values, and even civic aspirations. Preambles typically reflect values such as self-determination, diversity and inclusiveness, justice, equality, equity, efficiency, responsiveness, participation of community members, and environmental stewardship.
Diversity and inclusiveness references should address the right of every individual to equal opportunities and establish nondiscrimination rules. Examples follow.
“By this action, we:
provide for local government responsive to the will and values of the people and to the continuing needs of the surrounding communities. . . .
secure the benefits of home rule, increase resident participation reflecting rights or equal opportunity of the broad diversity of the city, promote social equity, improve efficiency and effectiveness, and provide for a responsible and cooperative government. . .
“each individual shall have an equal opportunity to participate fully in the economic, cultural and intellectual life of the city and to have an equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of life…”
“discrimination is prohibited based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender expression, marital status, military status or physical or mental disability…”
establish a government which advances justice, equity, inspires confidence, and fosters responsibility…”
Preambles should contain all three elements. The intent section at the least should contain a reference to home rule or self-determination (very few do) and could suggest elements of contemporary governing values such as regional cooperation, economic vitality, diversity and inclusiveness, comprehensive representation, strong community leadership, and public participation.