While many people get excited about presidential elections, the sector of government that affects them most directly is at the local level. If you work for a municipal entity, you understand the delicate nature of the responsibilities you have. Municipal governments directly use the taxpayers' money and regulate the lives and livelihoods of their citizens in a significant way.
Some of the most obvious ways a municipal government influences citizens include:
- Collecting and using taxes in a fiscally responsible manner
- Enforcing local laws fairly and equitably
- Zoning communities to make them attractive and orderly
- Inspecting existing buildings and new construction for safety
These are only a few examples, and within the programs responsible for these functions may be dozens of agencies providing services for the health and safety, education, and social needs of the community.
Under the watchful eye of the public
Besides those agencies and amenities that are supplied through philanthropic grants, most public works are funded through sales taxes, property taxes and other taxes and fees. In California, constituents often carefully scrutinize their local governments, and it is not uncommon for a municipal agency to be called upon to defend its spending.
Additionally, local police are frequently under the public's microscope. Even if you don't work for a police agency, you are aware of the recent increase in criminal and civil suits involving police officers. Many municipal agencies are comforted by having an attorney at the ready when these problems arise.
Keeping your community safe
The safety and comfort of the places where people live, work and gather are often taken for granted by the general public. What they may not realize is how many agencies and people work to ensure that their buildings are safe and their communities are comfortable.
Some areas of the community are carefully regulated, perhaps to protect farm land or to preserve the serenity of neighborhoods. Because of this, citizens may be surprised when a regulation or zoning law prevents them from constructing or establishing a business anywhere they choose.
Municipal agencies - in cooperation with state and federal regulators - set and enforce safety codes for approved construction projects. Codes are also in place to protect communities from existing buildings that fall into disrepair. Those cited for code or zoning violations may decide to challenge those statutes. If this happens to your agency, it would be beneficial to have an attorney who has a focused practice and is grounded in your community.
The potential number of programs and agencies within each department of local government increases the number of legal issues that may arise. Your agency will benefit from an attorney who believes in the work of public agencies and understands the limits of a public agency budget.