What Does the City Council Do?

By Pax Rasmussen

Resources for learning more about your candidate.
by Pax Rasmussen
With the mayoral race such a hotly followed and flashy issue, many people may not even be aware that another election, just as important, hangs in the balance as well. The city council is an important aspect of city politics, underappreciated by most.

Like the federal government, city government is designed with checks and balances, too, and the council forms half of our city's power structure. Here's a quick overview of the council's function. (Also see side bar, left.)

While the mayor's office can be viewed as the executive branch, the city council exercises the legislative functions in city government. The members of the council set the overall policy direction for the city. They draft and adopt the budget, deciding what money gets spent on which projects. Also, they review and decide upon ordinances, drafting them into law. The executive branch (often the mayor's office) writes many of these ordinances, but the council members write and propose many themselves.

The council is made up of seven members, each elected from seven districts within the city. The elections are staggered; roughly half the members are up for election every two years. This year, districts two, four and six are on the ballot: that's Van Blair Turner, Nancy Saxton and David Buhler (who is running for mayor instead), respectively.

Søren Simonsen, council member for Sugar House and surrounding area, agrees that the city council is a vital part of city government.

"Our most important job is to safeguard the interests of the community," he says. He feels that by paying close attention to the city budget, we can create a "safer, healthier, more beautiful and more sustainable city."

Carlton Christensen (Rose Park/Poplar Grove) believes the actions of the city council directly affect the lives of the people he represents, and seeing those positive changes develop is the most rewarding aspect of the job.

City Council resources

November election candidates      

   for City Council:

District Two:

J. Michael Clara vs. Van  Blair Turner

District Four:

Luke Garrott vs. Nancy Saxton

District Six:

J. T. Martin vs. Roger J. McConkie

Contact information for

candidates: www.slcgov.com/recorder/pdfs/2007_Open%20Committee_Address.pdf

Find out which district

you're in:   www.slcgov.com/council/districts.htm

Read up on your current

council member:


See where the city's money is   

being spent (and where it

comes from): www.slcgov.com/finance/2007budget/

See what the City Council is     

planning to talk about: www.slcgov.com/council/agendas/

This article was originally published on September 29, 2007.