Charter of the City of Charlottesville

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The Charter of the City of Charlottesville is a unique document that, in many ways, acts like a constitution for the city. It is the basic document that defines and codifies the organization, powers, functions and essential procedures of the city government. As with each city in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Charlottesville has its own charter enacted by the Virginia General Assembly (in Richmond) which gives distinct governmental attributes.

Since Virginia is a "Dillon Rule" state, and not a "Home Rule" state, the Code of Virginia, §15.2-1100 specifies the powers held by municipal corporations, whether or not included in their charter. If there is any doubt about whether Virginia localities have specific authority, they didn’t. Required procedure for obtaining new charter or amendment can be found in Chapter 2, Title 15.2 of the Code of Virginia.

The current charter was provided for the City of Charlottesville in 1946. Each of the 50 chapters defines a specific government institution and outlines its basic powers, functions, and its structure. Amendments to the current Charter of the City of Charlottesville are numerous, as is common of most municipal corporations. In Charlottesville's history, no fewer than three different charter documents have been used before and there have also been unsuccessful efforts to propose the adoption of alternate charters.

20180518 1946 Charter Council Manager.JPG

Structure

Though the local government is always subject to or defers to both federal and state laws; the charter allows residents the flexibility to choose the kind of government structure allowed by law for their community. The two principal forms of government used by Virginia towns and cities are Council-Manager and the Mayor-Council, also referred to as “city manager” or “strong mayor” forms of government.

Charlottesville’s current Council-Manager form of government is modeled after the organization of the business corporation, with its shareholders (voters) election of the board of directors (city council) which, in turn, appoints the chairman of the board (mayor) and hires the chief administrative officer (city manager). The council is the policy determining agency of the city. It passes ordinances, votes appropriations, and determines whether bonds shall be issued. After the policies have been made by the council, they are executed by the city manager. The duties of the council are legislative; those of the manager are administrative.

History of the Acts of Assembly

The General Assembly creates counties, towns, and cities by issuing specific charters to municipal corporations, or defining procedures for communities to incorporate. The official charter of a locality is the Acts of Assembly chapters that create and amend the charter. The following are various selected Acts passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia related to Charlottesville.

1801

Charlottesville incorporated as a town in 1801.

1815

Chapter 100. - An ACT to appoint additional Trustees for the Town of Charlottesville. (Passed January 15, 1816) The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia appointed additional Trustees for the Town of Charlottesville “Whereas the Trustees of the Town of Charlottesville, in the county of Albemarle, are so reduced, by death, resignations and removals, that there is not a sufficient number to proceed to business; by which the improvements and regulations of the said Town are much obstructed; for remedy whereof,…in John Kelly, John H. Craven, John Winn, Twyman Waytt, James Leitch, Nicholas Lewis, William Watson, Joseph Bishop, John R. Jones, John C. Ragland, Frank Carr and Alexander Garrett…appointed additional Trustees.”

1830

Chapter 211 of the Acts of Assembly of 1830 was to appoint commissioners to raise money by lottery for paving the streets of the town of Charlottesville in the county of Albemarle. (Passed March 31, 1831.) Opie Norris, John R. Jones, William A. Bibb, William D.Fitz and Andrew M'Kee were appointed commissioners to raise by lottery or lotteries any sum of money not exceeding twenty thousand dollars, for the purpose of paving the street of the town of Charlottesville in the county of Albemarle.

1851

1870/1871

Chapter 153 of the Acts of Assembly of 1870-1871 provided a new charter for the Town of Charlottesville (approved March 28, 1871) https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101073363358;view=1up;seq=313

1888

Charlottesville incorporated as a city in 1888. The first city charter provided for a biennially elected mayor and twelve member board of aldermen (three alderman were elected from each of the four wards); and seven other elected officers.

1891/1892

Chapter 658 of the Acts of Assembly of 1891/1892 provided an ACT to amend the charter of the city of Charlottesville. (approved March 3, 1892.)

1902

Charlottesville became a city of the second-class in 1902.

1899/1900

Chapter 1012 of the Acts of Assembly of 1899-1900 provided a new charter which organized the City of Charlottesville under a mayor-council government. The 1899-1900 charter and mayor-council form of government remained in place until it was superseded by the 1922 Charter.

1916

Charlottesville became a city of the first- class as of August 1, 1916. Legislative government consisted of a two chamber city council composed of 4 Alderman and 8 Councilmen.

1922

Chapter 109 of the Acts of Assembly of 1922 provided a new charter for the City of Charlottesville.

Chapter 411 of the Acts of Assembly of 1922 amended and re-enacted acts of the charter of the city of Charlottesville, and to provided a charter with special form of government known as “Modified Commission Form.” This special form of government, as provided by the Code of Virginia of 1919, and known as the Modified Commission Form, was adopted by the qualified voters on December 17, 1920. This 1922 Charter was repealed and replaced by the 1946 Charter.

1946

Chapter 384 of the Acts of Assembly of 1946 repealed all previous charters and provided a new charter organizing the City of Charlottesville under a council-manager government, a change from the Modified Commission form of government that had been in place since the 1922 Charter. This is the current charter for the City of Charlottesville as granted by the General Assembly.

Basic features of current council-manager government under the 1946 charter: The city-manager, city council, and mayor work together to enact budgets, to draft and enforce legislation, to provide city services, and to oversee city departments and appoint departmental heads.

City council

  • All five members elected by citywide popular vote; staggered 4-year terms.
  • Responsible for appointing a city-manager.
  • Responsible for drafting and passing legislation and city ordinances.
  • Responsible for approving the city budget proposed by the city-manager.

Mayor

  • Member of the city council; council elects the mayor for one year at a time term.
  • Sets the agenda; council can add items as it chooses.
  • Votes at city-council meetings.
  • Does not possess veto powers.
  • Ceremonially represents the city on the state, national, and international levels.

City-manager

  • Appointed and dismissed by city council.
  • Responsible for drafting and proposing a city budget.
  • Responsible for amending the city budget as dictated by city council.
  • Responsible for appointing departmental heads and directors (with the approval of city council).
  • Responsible for implementing and enforcing council policies and legislative initiatives.

Hiring process: The city-manager is not an elected position. Rather, the holder of this office serves at the pleasure of the council, which retains the legal right to dismiss and replace the city-manager. The hiring process for a city-manager is comparable to that of a corporate CEO. It begins with general discussions amongst city council members, often in consultation with voters and professional consultants. After a hiring notice is drafted and distributed to professional organizations, the process then moves to a multistage interview process that includes a review of applications and onsite interviews with qualified candidates. The process ends with a vote taken by city council.

Proposed alternatives

No fewer than three different charter documents have been used before, and there have been unsuccessful efforts at several points in Charlottesville's history to propose the adoption of alternate charters.

1908 referendum

Chapter xx of the Acts of the Assembly of 1908 was to provide a new charter to the city of Charlottesville, approved by Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia March 14, 1908, it was subsequently defeated by the voters of Charlottesville.

1916 referendum

The proposed 1916 charter, changing the form of government to Commission-Manager, was defeated by voters of Charlottesville on May 19, 1916, due in part to the complications arising from annexation of the new territory of the city.

Main article: City of Charlottesville charter referendum, 1916

1970

Chapter 84 of the Acts of Assembly of 1970 was the charter for the merger of the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, provided the consolidation agreement was ratified and approved. The consolidation agreement did not pass; therefore, the charter is not in effect.