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Mar 03

Modesto Civics 101: The Charter and Our Community

Posted on March 3, 2021 at 11:11 AM by Alyssa Adams

For many of us, the last time we took a civics course was in the 1900’s, and much of that course probably focused on the three branches of the federal government—not the checks and balances within local city government. The final post in this four-part series focuses on the “why” behind the organization of Modesto’s government and how it affects our communities.

In every step, the whole of Modesto’s community has been of the utmost priority to City staff and council. With every Council Meeting, election, and special event permit (pre-coronavirus, of course), the City’s goal remains to provide residents with the highest quality of civic service. 
Here’s what we have covered about Modesto’s local government so far:
  • Modesto is governed by the Charter, a legal document written by residents that serves as the City’s constitution. This allows greater flexibility in handling municipal affairs, as local representatives know their community better than the State does.
  • The Mayor and City Council make up the governing body of the City, and they set policy in the best interest of the City and its residents.
  • The four Charter Officers are appointed by the City Council to maintain effective and efficient administration. These Officers are the City Manager, the City Attorney, the City Clerk, and the City Auditor.
These aspects combine to form a City government that is specifically made by and for residents. Claims to fame include a total of 76 neighborhood and community parks for our children to play in, technological advances for everyday tasks, and an economy that supports big and small businesses alike.

By having our own Charter, we have ensured that those who live and work in the area have a greater say in what happens within our City borders than those who watch from afar at the Capitol. Furthermore, residents continue to play an imperative role in revising the Charter every decade to follow the City’s direction over the years.

Residents elect Council Members from their own district to represent them on the City Council. Council Members are in a unique position to work together to benefit the entire City while knowing intricately the advantages and challenges specific to their own communities. Each Council Member is open to ideas and comments from constituents that can help make a better Modesto.

The Charter Officers are appointed by the City Council to manage finances, promote fiscal responsibility, ensure adequate reporting, and maintain high ethical standards within City Hall. They engage with the community through committees, panels, and meetings and also keep City employees working effectively and efficiently.

One of Modesto’s goals has been to promote transparent government. That is only possible when we involve residents as best as we can in the decision-making process. With this introduction to the Charter, our elected officials, and the Charter Officers, we hope residents have gained a new perspective on how their local government works for them.