Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Regarding Ordinances and Resolutions

At last week's City Council meeting, two different officials confused a resolution with an ordinance.

So what, you may ask.

Well, at a time when the city is trying to foster civic engagement among young people as well as the increasing Latino population, the administration and council almost have a duty to be very clear on what is going on at council meetings. It is part of educating the public to use proper terms and procedures. Who knows? A young person or a Latino may want to seek office someday soon and will need a basic understanding of how municipal government operates.

Meetings are televised, another reason to use accurate terms. Like those individuals who yell out answers to quiz shows on the radio or television, some know-it-all citizens are no doubt yelling at the council videos when a member of the administrative or legislative branch mixes up key terms.

So what is the difference between a resolution and an ordinance, anyway?

A resolution reflects an action taken by the governing body, such as confirming appointments, authorizing payments or contracts, issuing approvals for use of municipal property, honoring or recognizing outstanding citizens for their accomplishments. A majority of the council must approve a resolution for it to take effect. Several resolutions may be passed in a single "consent" vote .

Ordinances are more weighty and, if passed, become part of the Municipal Code. They have to be introduced on first reading and there must be a public hearing before final passage on second reading. They take effect 20 days later unless vetoed by the mayor. A two-thirds vote of the council may override a veto.

Resolutions and ordinances are separate on the printed agenda. Resolutions are designated with a "R" and a number and the year. For example, the contract with Comcast for ads was R 047-16. Ordinances are designated with "MC" for Municipal Code, along with the year and a number.. The Municipal ID ordinance that is up for second reading and final passage on Feb. 8 is MC 2016-01.

The first public comment session is for resolutions and ordinances only (the second public comment portion is for any topic). Residents usually identify the item by its designation on the printed agenda when coming to the microphone..

If anyone has more to add to clarify the two, let's hear it. Council President Cory Storch is encouraging greater civility and collegiality at council meetings; I am advocating for better understanding of the governmental process in 2016 and beyond.



  1. Thank you, Bernice. We need to educate our populous so they may feel that they can become part of the government process. Confidence in our city officials is needed and if citizens don't feel confident in those representatives then the voters need to replace them.

  2. Hi Bernice,

    Thank you for clarifying resolutions and ordinances. Why are some resolutions passed as a group and some are taken individually? As an infrequent attendee to Council meetings, it is not always easy to understand what is going on and why things are done the way they are. Similarly, I have never fully understood the roles and responsibilities of the Council President and Chairman of the Committee of the Whole and how they differ. Lastly, are there some Council actions, either resolutions or ordinances, that require a super-majority of at least 5 assenting votes vs. just a simple majority of 4 assenting votes, for passage?

    Thanks again.

    Tom Kaercher