About City Government

The front door of La Grande city hall. The building is brick.
LaGrande City Hall, Oregon Scenic Images collection.
There are 241 incorporated cities in Oregon. Cities are centers of population, commerce, education and services. 71% of Oregonians live in cities and nearly 68% of Oregon’s property value  resides in cities. Economic activity within Oregon’s largest cities and urban areas generates 83% of the state’s income tax receipts as more than 82% of jobs are located in cities. All of the public institutions of higher education are located in cities, as well as all but two private colleges. All but one of Oregon’s 60 hospitals are located within a city. Cities form the heart of Oregon’s cultural, educational, service and economic activity.

Among the services city governments typically provide are fire and police protection, streets and street maintenance, sewer and water treatment and collection systems, building permit activities, libraries, parks and recreation activities and other numerous social services determined locally. Cities also have considerable responsibilities for land use planning within their city limits and urban growth boundaries.

City councils serve as the highest authority within city governments in deciding issues of public policy. In open public forums, city councils pass laws (ordinances), adopt resolutions and generally conduct discussions involving the governance of their communities and the welfare of their citizens.

Four forms of city government determine the administrative role of any city council. Most Oregon cities with populations over 2,500 have the council/manager or council/administrator form, in which the council hires a chief executive officer to be responsible for the daily supervision of city affairs. Portland has a commission form of government, where the elected commissioners function collectively as the city council and serve as administrators of city departments. Smaller Oregon cities typically have the mayor/council form, in which the legislative and policy-making body is a popularly-elected council.

City administrators and other city employees often participate in the policy development process but are primarily responsible for effective delivery of municipal services and programs. Under home rule, cities have latitude in managing their affairs, except where the subject matter has been preempted by state government.

Regardless of the form of government, cities find their strength in a cooperative relationship between the citizens, city officials, the private sector and other government entities. Cities recognize the positive impact of working together, both regionally and on a statewide basis, to enhance community livability.

City name origins are available from Oregon Geographic Names by Lewis A. McArthur.​​


Patty Mulvihill, Interim Executive Director, League of Oregon Cities
Address: 1201 Court St. NE, Suite 200, Salem 97301, PO Box 928, Salem 97308
Phone: 503-588-6550
Fax: 503-399-4863

Email: loc@orcities.org
Web: ​orcities.org​​