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Iowa and the Nation

By George Chandler, Author of Practical Civics and Civics for the State of Washington


John L. Cherny, State Inspector of Schools, Department of Public Instruction Des Moines




Chapter IV


Cities and Incorporated Towns


Municipalities. We have seen that the civil township has but few powers, and that its activities are simple. This is because the needs of a rural community are few. However, when a large number of people have settle on a small area, as in Des Moines and Davenport, or in New York, Chicago and Boston, they need many things that a rural community never requires. Chief among these need are an abundant supply of pure water, a sewage system, a system of street lighting, fire protection, regulation of traffic on the main-traveled streets, health regulations not necessary in the country, public parks, playgrounds and police protection.


Moreover, the problem of caring for a large number of people residing in cities is much more difficult than that of caring for a rural community; it is therefore necessary that cities and large towns have a government possessing greater power than that of the township. In order to supply this need the General Assembly of Iowa had enacted laws under which these large communities may organize and adopt a government suited to their needs. Such organized communities are generally known as municipalities.


Incorporation of Municipalities. Whenever a community not already within the limits of a municipality desires to adopt a city form of government it must become incorporated, which is done in the following manner:


The community desiring to be incorporated must present a petition to the district court signed by not less than 25 voters residing within the limits of the community. The judge of this court then appoints five commissioners who arrange for and give notice of an election which they conduct within the limits of the proposed city or town. If a majority of the qualified voters favor incorporation the court directs the same commissioners to hold another election for choosing a council, a mayor, a clerk and a treasurer.


Classification of Cities. In Iowa there are three classes of municipalities.


Cities of the first class contain at least 15,000 inhabitants, and those of the second class, from 2,000 to 15,000 inhabitants. Municipal governments of less than 2,000 inhabitants are called incorporated towns.


Each city or town contains as much territory as the inhabitants think necessary, and additions are frequently made to the original plats. This territory is separated into blocks which are divided into lots for convenience of ownership. For governmental purposes, cities are divided into wards, and each ward chooses its own members of the city council…


Marshal. The duties of the marshal correspond to those of constable. He attends the courts of the mayor and police judge, and is, in fact, next to the mayor, the chief executive officer of the city. Many important duties devolve upon this officer in preserving the peace and maintaining order. He may appoint deputies to aid him in the discharge of his duties, but he is responsible for their acts…


Police Court. The police judge has jurisdiction of all offenses against any ordinance of the city in which he serves. In criminal matters, his powers are coordinate with those of justice of the peace, and he is entitled to the same fees as that officer. He may also take acknowledgments of signatures to deeds, mortgages and other papers. His court, which is open at all times for the transaction of business, is a court of record. The clerk of this court is chosen by the qualified electors of the city or appointed by the police judge, as the council may direct. In case of vacancy in the office of police judge, the duties of that officer devolve upon the mayor. For the prosecution of any person for violating an ordinance of the city, the police judge, or mayor, is entitled to such compensation as the city council may allow.


Superintendent of the Market. The superintendent of the market acts as overseer of all places provided by the city for the sale of fresh meats, vegetables, and other articles of a perishable nature usually offered for sale in a public market…       


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