Tacoma, Washington operates on a council-management system. That means that there is an elected mayor, eight elected council members, and an appointed manager who oversees the city’s day to day operations. The council is responsible for establishing a two year budget, adopting and changing laws, and appointing boards and commissions for special projects. Council members serve a term of four years and elections are held on odd years. In this governmental system, the city manager functions much like the Chief Operating Officer of a private corporation. Tacoma’s efficient government is one of its main advantages over other cities of similar size.
With a population of over 198,000 people, efficiency is understandably Tacoma’s number one priority. That doesn’t mean they neglect education, arts, and public utilities. Quite the contrary, Tacoma’s public utilities commission is one of the most advanced in the country. Tacoma actually owns and operates the electric company, the water company, the garbage removal company, and the local cable company. In addition to providing over 1200 jobs and generating a good deal of income for the city, this emphasis on providing city level utilities allows Tacoma to pursue a green environment without having to put pressure on non-governmental parties.
A good question we should ask ourselves is whether not this is a system that can be implemented in similar size cities around the country. Many of the cities that have gone bankrupt in California found themselves in that situation because they could not generate a steady income and because they were paying too much to subsidize local utilities. Rather than passing laws to cap the amount of money private electric companies can charge for their service, why not just start your own? By operating its own electric company, a city can use its resources to produce cleaner, more cost effective energy.