City Government 101

The following is a broad overview of the structure of Oakland’s city government and the roles and responsibilities of its elected and appointed officials. For more detail, please refer to the City Charter contained in the City of Oakland’s Municipal Code.


Our Mission Statement

  • The City of Oakland is committed to the delivery of effective, courteous and responsive services.
  • Citizens and employees shall be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.
  • Civic and employee pride are accomplished through the pursuit of excellence by a work force that values and reflects the diversity of the Oakland community.


Form of Government

Since 1998, the City of Oakland has had a Mayor-Council form of government. The authority, duties and responsibilities of the City’s elected and appointed officials are established in the City Charter, which provides the legal framework for City government.


City Officers

Elected and appointed officers of the City include the Mayor, City Councilmembers, the City Administrator, the City Attorney, the City Auditor and the City Clerk.


Mayor

The Mayor is elected at-large for a four-year term and can be re-elected only once. The Mayor oversees the Executive Branch of government and appoints the City Administrator, subject to confirmation by the City Council. The Mayor is not a member of the City Council, but he/she may cast a tie-breaking vote in the event of a deadlock. It is the Mayor’s responsibility to:

  • Submit a biannual budget, prepared by the City Administrator, to the City Council.
  • Recommend measures and legislation for consideration by the City Council.
  • Encourage programs for the physical, economic, social and cultural development of the City.
  • Actively promote economic development to broaden and strengthen the commercial and employment base of the City.
  • Appoint members to boards and commissions.
  • Represent the City in inter-governmental relations.

 
City Council
The City Council is the legislative body of the City and is comprised of eight Councilmembers. One Councilmember is elected at-large, and the other seven Councilmembers represent specific geographic districts. All Councilmembers are elected to serve four-year terms. Each year the Councilmembers elect one member as President of the Council and one member to serve as Vice Mayor. The City Council has no administrative powers. It is the role of the City Council to:

  • Make City policy and give general policy direction to departments through the City Administrator or Mayor.
  • Vote on ordinances and resolutions.
  • Adopt a biannual budget.
  • Appoint Board and Commission members after a 90-day vacancy.
  • Serve as the Redevelopment Agency Board of Directors.

 
City Administrator

The City Administrator is appointed by the Mayor, subject to confirmation by the City Council. Responsible for the day-to-day administrative and fiscal operations of the City, the City Administrator directs City agencies and departments to ensure the goals and policy directives of the Mayor and City Council are implemented.

The Office of the City Administrator works hand in hand with the Mayor’s Office to deliver services and programs to the community. The City Administrator’s Office is directly accountable to the Mayor.

The City Administrator's Office has many responsibilities, including:

  • Enforcing all laws, ordinances and policies of the Council.
  • Attending all meetings of the Council, Council Committees, boards, and commissions.
  • Making recommendations to the Council concerning City affairs.
  • Controlling and administering the financial affairs of the City and keeping the Council apprised of these affairs.
  • Preparing a biannual budget under the direction of the Mayor and Council.
  • Preparing or directing preparation of the plans, specifications, and contracts for work the Mayor or Council may order.
  • Making recommendations to the Council about public contracts and seeing that the conditions of contracts are faithfully performed.
  • Coordinating all projects, policies, and directives assigned to the City Administrator by the Council.


City Attorney

The City Attorney is elected at-large for a four-year term and serves as legal counsel for the municipal corporation. The City Attorney’s duties are to:

  • Provide legal services, advice and representation to elected officials, City Administration, boards, commissions or other agencies of the City.
  • Draft ordinances, resolutions, contracts and other legal documents.
  • Defend the City against claims and lawsuits.
  • Initiate lawsuits on behalf of the City.

 
City Auditor
The City Auditor is elected at-large for a four-year term. He/she helps to ensure that City operations are effective and efficient, and acts as a deterrent to fraud, waste and mismanagement of City resources. The City Auditor:

  • Performs financial audits and reviews of records, procedures and activities of City departments.
  • Prepares impartial financial analyses of all ballot measures and proposed major expenditures.
  • Conducts performance audits of City departments.
  • Provides assistance to City departments to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency and economy of their operations.

 
City Clerk
The City Clerk is appointed by the City Administrator, subject to confirmation by the City Council. The City Clerk’s duties are to:

  • Keep an accurate public record of all ordinances, resolutions, motions and minutes adopted by the Oakland Redevelopment Agency, City Council and Council Committees.
  • Ensure that other City records are readily accessible to the public.
  • Prepare legislative agendas, verify the posting or publication of legal notices and schedule public hearings.
  • Maintain custody of the official seal and all official records.
  • Conduct elections and assist candidates in meeting their legal responsibilities before, during and after an election.
  • Serve as filing officer for local conflict of interest laws, ensuring that statements of economic interest (Form 700) and campaign disclosure are distributed to and filed by candidates for public office, elected officials, members of various boards and commissions and numerous City employees.
  • Administer oaths.


Elections

Municipal elections are held every two years to select City officers for four-year terms. Elections are grouped as follows:

  1. Mayor; City Auditor; City Councilmembers for Council districts 2, 4, and 6.
  2. City Councilmembers for Council districts 1, 3, 5 and 7; Councilmember-at-large and City Attorney.


Boards and Commissions

The Mayor and City Council are assisted by numerous boards, commissions and committees. With the exception of the Planning Commission, which is required by state law, Oakland’s advisory bodies are established by local law to provide citizen input and advice in specific areas.