In my last post, we looked at city council size of the core cities of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan regions.
In this post, we will focus on those cities’ county legislative bodies. Perhaps more so than in the case of the cities, the function and complexion of county legislative bodies vary widely from state to state and from city to city. In many states, a county legislative body, in fact the county government itself, is very weak and merely supervises the few county services that may be provided. In other states, there is no county government at all; for instance, in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, all vestiges of the county – including the sheriff – have been removed and replaced with municipal offices. Of course, these states are so geographically small that many regional functions that are routinely found at the county level can be efficiently achieved at the state level.
Other county governments are non-existent due to consolidation. Philadelphia and New York are trailblazers in this regard, as both consolidated with their counties in the nineteenth century. In fact, New York could be seen not only as a pioneer in city-county consolidation, but also its most extreme manifestation, for not only was the County of New York merged into the new municipal government, but so were the Counties of Kings, Queens, Richmond and the southern tip of Westchester (the Bronx). In addition, all cities and villages within those counties were wiped away in favor of what promoters originally dubbed “Greater New York” (including the third largest municipality in the country at that time, the City of Brooklyn).
The third classification of non-existent counties in our list below are situations where the cities are themselves independent; that is, instead of the central city merging with its county, these cities actually seceded from it. This odd situation is present in St. Louis, Baltimore and Richmond, where Virginia law requires all municipalities classified as “cities” to be independent of their counties.
For the purpose of this post, we will call all county legislative bodies “county commissions,” the predominant name in most states. The county commissioner-to-resident ratio ranges from a high of one per two million in Los Angles County to a low of one per 50,000 in Milwaukee County. Of these counties listed, the mean size is 8 members, and the mean ratio is one member per 325,000 residents. In some counties, the county commission holds both administrative as well as legislative power; in others, there is a chief executive in charge of the administrative branch who can go by many names. Shelby County is one of four counties in this list that has a mayor. In my next post, I will combine both the county commission numbers to the city council numbers of the cities listed below so a better comparison may be made with the consolidated and independent cities’ legislative bodies.
|1||New York||5 counties||8,363,710||*||100%|
|2||Los Angeles||Los Angeles Co.||9,848,011||5||1,969,602||no||39%|
|4||Dallas||Dallas Co.||2,451,730||4||612,933||Co. Judge||52%|
|6||Houston||Harris Co.||4,070,989||4||1,017,747||Co. Judge||55%|
|11||Detroit||Wayne Co.||1,925,848||15||128,390||Co. Exec.||47%|
|13||San Francisco||San Francisco Co.||815,358||*||100%|
|15||Seattle||Kings Co.||2,567,098||9||285,233||Co. Exec.||23%|
|17||San Diego||San Diego Co.||3,053,793||5||610,759||no||42%|
|22||Pittsburgh||Allegheny Co.||1,218,494||15||81,233||Co. Exec.||26%|
|28||San Antonio||Bexar Co.||1,651,448||4||412,862||Co. Judge||82%|
|29||Kansas City||Jackson Co.||705,708||9||78,412||Co. Exec.||64%|
|30||Las Vegas||Clark Co.||1,902,834||7||271,833||no||29%|
|31||San Jose||Santa Clara Co.||1,784,642||5||356,928||no||53%|
|35||Austin||Travis Co.||1,026,158||4||256,540||Co. Judge||74%|
|39||Milwaukee||Milwaukee Co.||959,521||19||50,501||Co. Exec.||63%|
|44||Oklahoma City||Oklahoma Co.||716,704||3||238,901||no||77%|
|46||New Orleans||New Orleans Par.||223,388||*||100%|
|48||Salt Lake City||Salt Lake Co.||1,034,989||9||114,999||Mayor||17%|
|50||Buffalo||Erie Co.||909,247||15||60,616||Co. Exec.||30%|
* Consolidated city-county.
** No county government.
*** Independent city.