The City of Lincoln is a governmental subdivision of the State of Nebraska. State law gives cities certain power and authority and, by definition, Lincoln is a primary class city. Under the authority of the Nebraska State Constitution, the citizens of Lincoln adopted a Home Rule Charter in 1917.
The Home Rule Charter gives the City certain powers and is the constitution of the City. Amendments must be voted on by citizens. The City may include in its Charter any provisions that do not conflict with state laws or constitution. Lincoln benefits from being a Home Rule Charter city, because in matters of local concern, it can operate free and independent of state law.
The City of Lincoln has a strong mayor and city council form of government. City government is divided into departments, each headed by a director who is appointed by the mayor with approval from the City Council.
Many citizens are actively involved in City government. Most members of advisory boards are appointed by the mayor, subject to council approval.
The mayor is chief executive officer and administrative head of City government. The mayor is elected on a non-partisan, at-large basis and serves a four year term. There is no limit to the number of terms a mayor can serve.
As executive officer of the City, the mayor is involved in day-to-day affairs of the City. Department directors report to the mayor.
As administrative head of City government, the mayor works with the City Council in matters relating to legislation, including the City's annual budget. The mayor does not vote on issues before Council. Instead, the mayor signs or vetoes City Council legislation. Only emergency ordinances or enactments relating to emergency appropriations or borrowing cannot be vetoed. The City Council may pass an ordinance over the mayors veto by an override vote of five of its members.
Lincolns first City Council met in 1871 and consisted of six members. Today, the City Council has seven members. Four members are elected by district and three are elected at-large. Council members are paid a per annum salary. The length of term is four years.
The Council elects a chair and vice-chair annually. The chair serves as acting mayor when the mayor is out of town. Council procedure is governed by City Charter, Roberts Rules of Order and Council Rules.
The legislative powers of the City are exclusively vested in the Council. The Council has the power to conduct investigations concerning any subject on which it may legislate, or the operation of a department, board or commission engaged in administrative affairs of the City.
The Council also determines annual appropriations and tax levies, and levies special assessments for local improvements based upon benefits. The Council also approves appointments made by the mayor.
The City Council meets in the County-City Building each Monday at 1:30 p.m. with two exceptions when the meetings are held at 5:30 p.m.- the last Monday of each month; and when a holiday falls on Monday, in which case the meeting is cancelled. Council offices are located next to the Council Chambers on the first floor of the County-City Building.
Council meetings are open to the public. Anyone wishing to bring a matter before Council may do so by appearing at the meeting or by correspondence. Citizens may appear on items scheduled for hearings. Time is allotted at each meeting for citizens to bring other matters to the attention of Council.
An ordinance is a City law passed by City Council. Ordinances are introduced by Council members on their own initiative or at the request or recommendation of their constituents, City officials, or the mayor.
Before an ordinance is voted on, it is presented at three Council meetings, unless the Council, by a two-thirds vote, dispenses with this rule. The first reading is notification that a piece of legislation is under consideration. At the second reading, a public hearing is held and citizens are invited to comment. After the third reading, the Council votes on the ordinance. An ordinance needs four votes to pass and cannot be passed by a simple majority of those present. During the process, an ordinance can be amended.
The mayor may veto or sign an ordinance. If an ordinance is vetoed, the Council may override a veto by an affirmative vote of at least five members. Once an ordinance is signed by the mayor, it is certified by the City Clerk under the City Seal. It is then posted or published in a newspaper. Except in the case of emergecy ordinances, an ordinance takes effect 15 days after its passage and publication.
Resolutions are generally administrative action of the City Council. Resolutions passed do not result in a law but are used to express Council opinions, confer honors, establish guildelines for action, make appointments to boards or commissions, to take temporary actions and to adopt the annual budget. As in the case of an ordinance, the mayor may veto a resolution, and the veto may be overridden by an affirmative vote of at least five Council members. Resolutions are introduced by Council members on their own initiative or at the request of their constituents or City agencies.
Every action of City Council must be recorded permanently and indexed in such a manner that it can be found many years from now. A colorful history of Lincoln could be written from City records dating back to April 1871. These records are in a vault in the City Clerks office. The Clerk prepares minutes and an agenda for each Council session. Agendas can be obtained from the City Clerk or at each session.
The City Seal is also kept by the Clerks office. The Clerks office is part of the Finance Department and is on the first floor of the County-City Building.
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