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TOWN vs. City

Town vs. City

Often the designation "city" or "town" refers to the size of the municipality. In Indiana, however, the difference has to do with the structure of government. A town may not become a city if its population is less than 2,000. However, many towns in Indiana exceed this limit by a great deal and still remain towns. Clarksville, with its nearly 21,000 people, is the fourth largest town in Indiana.

The difference is that towns do not have separate executive (mayor) and legislative (council) branches. The town council is elected by the voters and, in turn, selects a member to be council president. The president officiates at meetings and performs some of the executive functions, but still maintains the legislative functions of a council member.

Questions are often raised whether it is more advantageous to be a city than a town. Sometimes day to day decisions that are often made by a may or, may be hampered with the town council form of government. The Town Manager Law passed in 1971 provides a solution to this problem. Revenues and grants are based on population and other factors, not the form of government. There are no strong advantages or disadvantages to city vs. town in Indiana. Both of the forms have produced efficient, well-run governments, as well as the opposite kind.

In 1980, legislation was completed to make Indiana a "Home Rule" state. Home Rule grants municipalities all powers granted by statute, as well as any powers not specifically denied by the Constitution of the State of Indiana or other statutes. This applies to towns as well as cities, and allows local governments to make decisions and carry out programs they feel are in the best interest of their communities.

The council serves as the legislative and executive body of the town. One of their members is voted by the council to serve as council president, who has the power to sign contracts, ordinances, etc., that have been approved by the board. The president also represents the council at government and community functions. Also, the council appoints administrative department heads, with one council member serving as a liaison to that department, rather than the council members acting as department heads.

So, it is difficult to determine what structure town government falls under. However, in discussing structure of government informally with others at meetings and other opportunities, my impression is that forms of government vary widely across this country.