History of the
Cities have a long history of independence and
self-government. The power of Greece, as early as 700 B.C.,
was concentrated in city-states such as Athens and Sparta.
These cities were centers of culture and military might. In
the Middle Ages, European cities received crown charters from their
kings that established them as separate and independent
entities. One of their major functions was to protect their
citizens from external danger; for this reason, the cities of the
period were surrounded by high walls, and the citizens paid taxes
for this protection. In America, this tradition
continued. Early American cities sought charters from the
British crown and later from their state legislatures. In
Texas, San Fernando de Bexar (now called San Antonio) was the first
city. Its settlement was ordered by the king of Spain and
began with fifteen families in 1731.
State legislatures traditionally have been less then
sympathetic to the problems of the cities, partly because of rural
bias and partly because they wished to avoid being caught in the
quagmires of city politics. Therefore, in the nineteenth
century, the states (including Texas) established general
laws --- statutes that pertained to all municipalities---for the
organization of city governments, to which municipalities were
required to conform. But these general laws were too
inflexible to meet the growing problems of the cities, and around
the turn of the century there was a movement toward municipal home
rule. The home-rule laws permitted the cities, within limits,
to organize as they saw fit.
In Texas, the municipal home-rule amendment was
adopted and added to the
Texas Constitution 1912. It provides that a city
whose population is more than 5,000 is allowed---within certain
procedural and financial limitations---to write its own constitution
in the form of a city charter, which would be effective when
approved by a majority vote of the citizens. A city charter is
the local equivalent of a constitution, setting out city government
structure and powers and its political structure. Home-rule cities may
choose any organizational form or policies as long as they do not
conflict with the state constitution or the state laws.
Today, Texas has nearly 1,200 cities.
About 300 cities in Texas are home-rule cities, including
Sweeny. The other 900 are called general-law cities, because
they are governed by the general state laws regarding
municipalities, rather than by a locally adopted charters.
The idea behind home rule is that city leaders need
tools to address their local problems and that one-size-fits-all
state provisions deny cities the flexibility they need. For
cities that qualify for home-rule, the Texas Local Government Code
stipulates that the city "may adopt and operate under any form
of government" and that "the municipality has full power
of local self government."
For home-rule cities, there are four types of
Weak Mayor-Council -- a form of city
government in which the mayor has no more power than any other
member of the council.
Strong Mayor-Council -- a form of city
government in which the mayor has strong powers to run the city
by hiring, managing, and firing staff and controlling executive
departments; the mayor also serves on the council.
Council-Manager -- a form of city
government in which the city council and mayor hire a
professional manager to run the city.
City Commission -- a form of city
government in which elected members serve on the legislative
body and also serve as head administrators of city
The City of Sweeny is a Council-Manager form of
government. Of the 300 home-rule cities in Texas, about 290
have chosen the council-manager form of government.
In the council-manager form of government, a
professional city manager, hired by the city council, runs the city
(hire, manage, and fire staff), while the city council and mayor set
policy, adopt budgets and tax rates, and oversee the city
Functions of City Government
Cities have wide authority to provide services
directly to citizens. Cities provide police, fire, public
works, recreation, health, and other services. Some services
are franchised to private companies to provide services in the city,
such as waste management.
Cities have broad regulatory authority in the area
of zoning, buildings, signs, nuisances, and subdivision development.
Often, public needs and private concerns collide.
Finances of City
Cities raise revenues from several sources,
including municipal sales tax, property taxes, occupation taxes,
fines collected by the municipal court, fees imposed for utilities
such as water, solid waste pickup, waste water, etc., state and federal revenues, and borrowing (bond
Annexation is the enlargement of a city's corporate
limits by incorporating surrounding territory into the city.
Home-rule cities have unilateral power to annex. Absent any
state restrictions, cities can decide on their own whether and how
to grow. However, the 1963 Municipal Annexation Act restricted
home-rule cities' leeway in annexing. Still, significant areas
of controversy in annexation include how the annexation occurs,
services that cities must provide in newly annexed areas, and the
status of areas beyond the city limits known as extraterritorial
jurisdiction (ETJ). ETJ is the area outside of a city's
boundaries over which the city may exercise limited control.
Under the Municipal Annexation Act, a city may
expand its municipal boundaries by an area up to 10 percent of own
geographic area in any one year. The city is not required to
obtain the consent of anyone for annexation, though it must hold
public hearings. A city also controls an ETJ of up to five
miles from its city limits (one-half mile for those cities with
fewer than 5,000 citizens and up to five miles for cities with more
than 100,000 citizens). When cities annex territory, they must
provide services to those areas within timelines specified in the
A Council of Government (COG) is an arrangement that
allows the many kinds of local governments --- counties, cities, school
districts, and other special districts --- to work together to solve
their common problems. There are 24 COGs in Texas. The Houston-Galveston
Area Council (H-GAC) serves Southeast Texas and includes 106 cities (including Sweeny), 13
counties (including Brazoria County), and 14 school districts
(including Sweeny ISD).
Kraemer, Newell, and Prindle. (2002).
Texas Politics (8th Edition). Stamford, CT: Wadsworth Group.
O'Connor, Sabato, Haag, and Keith.
(2002). American Government: Constitution and Change (2002
Texas Edition). New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
Houston-Galveston Area Council
Home Page, 10 Oct. 2004. <http://www.h-gac.com/HGAC/home/Default.htm>