Praxis Post

City manager role stresses importance of local government

City Hall in Eau Claire is where the city manager’s office is located. Photo credit to Wisconsin Historical Society.

Photo by Submitted

City Hall in Eau Claire is where the city manager’s office is located. Photo credit to Wisconsin Historical Society.

We’ve just come out of a very polarized election which split the country on the basis of party identity. Millions of people came out to vote, and the voting record looks like it’s going to surpass the number of people who voted in 2016.

With the national election also came the state and local elections. I went to the polls and, rather irresponsibly, voted Democrat down the ballot. It seemed to be the mutual plan across party lines. It doesn’t matter who the person was, it just matters what party they’re in.

This is an awful way to vote. I feel it partly comes from people thinking the federal government is THE most important part of government.

In fact, I just recently learned about something called the ‘upper court myth’ in my political science class.

According to my professor, Margaret Gilkison, people think the Supreme Court is the most important entity and they set the precedent for all other courts to follow. 

The reality is, lower courts decide around 90-95% of all cases, making them responsible for a lot of the decisions that affect our lives. This sets the precedent for the Supreme Court to follow.

So then I began to think on whether this logic follows for other branches of government. Everyone was so focused on the presidential election, but we have our own executive branch right here in Eau Claire, with the top executive branch being Dale Peters, the city manager.

According to the City of Eau Claire’s website, “The City Manager directs the operations of the City to accomplish the goals and objectives set by the Council. The Manager is responsible for carrying out the directives of the City Council and for the hiring and managing of the City staff.”

The city manager is responsible for, as stated above, executing the directives set forth by the City Council. 

In order to do this, they need to have money. Money, as it currently stands, is a limited resource distributed to different places in different ways from different levels of government.

If the road you live on is in a horrible state of disrepair, it may be due to something other than streets division, the service that manages our roads. If your water is undrinkable, a department other than the water treatment center might be to blame.

It may not be due to a shortcoming of the executive branch, either, because they’re working with limited money they receive from the state and federal government.

These are the problems which will affect us day-to-day. Roads, water, traffic, schools, law enforcement and sewage are just a few problems that can impact us. 

They are all dealt with on the local level. The money for all of these things are taken out of the city budget, which has to be executed by the city manager.

This will be the first part of a multi-part series where I’m going to delve more into the Eau Claire municipality to make it more clear to people that local elections are as important — if not more important — than national elections.

In a few weeks, I’ll be talking about the executive branch of Eau Claire in further detail. In the meantime, here’s a short reading on the typical role of a city manager.

Strong can be reached at [email protected]