What is the Charter Anyway?

All government in the United States ultimately comes from the Constitution. It grants certain powers to the Federal government. All of the rest of the powers go to the States.

All other forms of government come from the powers granted to the states, such as the power to grant charters to create corporations.

The Charter is permission from the state to form a special type of corporation, known as a municipality.

This differs from a regular corporation that a business-owner gets when they want to start a company, because:

  • a municipality has a lot of privileges that a regular corporation does not have (like the ability to levy taxes and create ordinances)
  • a municipality gets immunities that a corporation does not have (from certain types of lawsuits)
  • every resident within its boundaries gets a say in who the “Board of Directors” and the “CEO” are (by voting for a Mayor and Common Council, for example), and sometimes
  • if enough residents within its boundaries want a direct say in any of the decisions made by the municipality, including what is in the Charter itself, they can do so with a referendum

Without the City Charter, the State would have to administer all government for the entire state, which is very, very difficult to do. Items that make sense to do at a local level are delegated to the municipalities through the General Statutes that define what municipalities can do.

The municipalities decide what they will do, and how they will do it by writing ordinances consistent with the Statutes and the Charter.