The Oakley City Council is a five member, non-partisan board. Every two years, in November, a sub set of the council will run, at large, for a four year term. At large simply means that council members are elected to represent the entire community and not a specific jurisdiction or district. California Government Code § 36501 requires general law cities be governed by a city council of five members, a city clerk, a city treasurer, a police chief, a fire chief and such subordinate officers or employees as are required by law.
There are no unique qualifications necessary to be a member of the City Council except: you must be at least 18 years old, a citizen of the United States and a resident of the City of Oakley.
The City Council is similar to the Board of Directors of a private or public corporation. They are policy makers who establish a vision for the city and set policies, approve budgets, pass ordinances and resolutions to govern the City. The Council hires a City Manager to run day to day operations. The council-manager government is used in majority of American cities with populations of 2,500 or more, according to the International City/County Management Association. The Council also hires the City Attorney.
Annually, the Mayor is selected by a majority of the City Council from among currently serving Council Members. At this time a Vice Mayor is also selected. This is the standard method among general law cities. Cal. Govt. Code § 36801: “The city council shall . . . choose one of its number as mayor, and one of its number as mayor pro tempore.” However, a general law city is permitted to have a mayor that is directly elected by the voters, if certain procedures are followed. In Contra Costa 14 of the 19 cities select a Mayor in the same manner as does Oakley. Only in Antioch , Brentwood, Martinez , Richmond and San Ramon is the Mayor directly elected.
Continuing the private/public corporation comparison the City Council hires a City Manager as the “CEO” to carry out the public policy. The City Manager serves as the City Council’s chief advisor, prepares the budget, oversees the staff, and acts to carry out the City Council’s goals and programs. The organizational chart of a council-manager run city closely resembles a corporation with a board and a hired CEO.
A Council members most prominent role is seen during City Council Meetings, held the 2nd and 4th Tuesday at 6:30. This is where the decision making process is accomplished, in public. Prior to each meeting a Council member is provided a “staff report”. A staff report is a collection of information about each item on the agenda and staff’s recommendations for approval, denial, or for other action to be taken. Recommendations in a staff report are not decisions, but are rendered to assist the Council in making a decision. Staff reports are delivered on the Thursday prior to a Council meeting and may have as many pages as a large novel.
The job of Council member is a part time position. Council members generally have full time jobs.
The Council does not work in a vacuum. Besides information provide from staff, the Council will rely on ideas from other sources, including citizens, advisory commissions (the Planning Commission), the Chamber of Commerce, and others. The decision making process includes information provided from the previous sources, an analysis of community needs, alternatives, available resources, legal advice, does the project conform to current ordinances and or land use policies, and much more.
Every issue has pros and cons, winners and losers. So, depending on the outcome the Council is either the most thoughtful, progressive, insightful people in Oakley or they are idiots who show up with their minds already made up and unwilling to listen to others.