We've decided to revisit the topic of the Columbus City Council as part of our series to help keep the public informed about how things in local government work and general interest in the topic.
NOTE TO READERS: “City Government 101” is an ongoing series that debuted in April 2023 that highlights different aspects of municipal government as it pertains to Columbus, Nebraska, in hopes to provide information on how the City of Columbus operates. Please send questions and suggestions to ColumbusGovMedia@columbus.ne.us.
So, what exactly is the Columbus City Council?
In essence, the City Council serves as the legislative branch of our local city government. They set policies and make all final decisions when it comes to the City of Columbus’ goals, infrastructure upgrades, financial planning, other major projects and more.
In Columbus, the City Council is made of eight representatives who are elected by citizens to represent four wards (two council members are elected for each of the four wards).
The City Council holds regular meetings on the first and third Mondays of each month, except when those days are recognized holidays. Then, an alternate day is used, generally the next day. From time to time there will also be a need to have specially called meetings. These meetings may be called by the mayor or two council members.
Although being elected to represent constituents on the City Council is an honor, City Clerk Janelle Kline insists it isn’t easy.
“City Council members have to keep in mind that they must listen to the public but not make any promises. There is a process for everything. They also have to accept the fact that they aren’t going to please everyone and they must base their decisions on what’s best for the community as a whole,” Kline said. “They also need to realize they may not have all the answers to the public’s questions right away and that’s OK – they can direct the public to an appropriate department of the city or the council member can also talk to city staff to get information/answers.”
If a citizen wishes to put an item or an issue on the agenda, a form is to be completed and returned to Clerk’s Office. Contact the Clerk’s Office at 402-562-4224 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the form.
- The Council may not discuss any item or issue that is not on the agenda.
- A quorum is required for the Council to meet (a quorum is five members).
- Mayor and Council are not allowed to discuss City items or issues outside Council chambers if a quorum is present.
Anyone wishing to run for a council seat during an election year may do so if they are a registered voter. They must pay a filing fee in the City Clerk’s office and submit the receipt to the election commissioner at the Platte County Courthouse by the deadline established by the election commissioner.
“Serving as a city council member is a definite commitment. It requires attending two council meetings every month in addition to other committee meetings as necessary. A council member has to be a people person and be able to handle a lot of complaints (without taking them personally) and at all hours of the day,” Kline said.
“It takes a commitment to be empathetic without trying to solve every issue immediately. It takes the willingness to learn how city government operates – it can’t be compared to a private business. There are state statutes that have to be followed.”