By Steve Mick;
The answer to this question may depend on where you live and what form of local government, if any, has been created by either a vote of the community or appointed by cognizant authority. Depending on a number of factors, a community may decide to have a strong local government with powers that can impact everyone. Other communities may choose to have a weaker governmental structure or even none at all. Let’s take a brief look at the hierarchy of options for local control and governance.
The most common and most powerful form of local government is incorporation. A community can decide through an election to incorporate and elect a city council. Incorporation will give the community the greatest local control over services, standards and local ordinances. These include zoning and land use decisions, police protection and road maintenance. Incorporation also provides protection from unwanted annexations
Community Services District
For various reasons, some communities may choose not to incorporate. However, the residents may still have a desire for a level of local control of specific services. If this is the case, the unincorporated community can vote to form a Community Services District (CSD). There are about 400 CSDs in California and they provide an alternate choice to a county’s efforts to provide essential and desired services in a given geographic area. In most cases, the county cannot provide dedicated local services tailored to community needs due to the county’s wide-ranging responsibilities. On the other hand, a CSD is a local entity that has a locally elected board who are answerable to the residents. This independent form of local government has proven to be responsive to specific community needs.
The California Legislature notes the following in its enactment of the Community Services District Law:
“The differences among California’s communities reflect the broad diversity of the state’s population, geography, natural resources, history, and economy. The residents and property owners in California’s diverse communities desire public facilities and services that promote the public peace, health, safety, and welfare. Between 1955 and 2005, the voters in more than 300 communities have formed community services districts to achieve local governance, provide needed public facilities, and supply public services.”
When formed, a CSD’s boundaries must be specified and the particular services it will provide are defined. Some CSDs provide a single municipal service such as parks and recreation while others provide multi-function municipal services that are defined in Section 61000 of the California Government Code that describes CSDs.
Municipal Advisory Council
Members of a Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) are appointed by the local district supervisor and serve at the will and pleasure of the county board of supervisors. There are currently 11 MACs in Contra Costa County. The MACs provide an opportunity for a focused voice and input from the residents of an unincorporated area to the board of supervisors.
Typically, MAC responsibilities include parks and recreation, lighting and landscaping, land-use issues, code enforcement, public safety, roads and transportation and other county services. A MAC deals with local issues and provides a forum for the community to be heard on those issues.
Alamo has a Municipal Advisory Council that meets the first Tuesday of each month at 6:00 PM Alamo Women’s Club, 1401 Danville Blvd. Agendas are available on the county website or at www.alamore.org.
So who’s in Charge?
The answer to this question may be found in the opening lines of the Brown Act, California’s opening meeting law. It states in part, “The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”
So who’s in charge of all the above entities? The bottom line is that you are.