A policy is a course of action adopted or proposed by a government, entity, or individual. The policy process depends on the ways in which authority is divided between Federal, State, Regional and Local government. Now that might sound a little complicated at first but it is all a matter of seeing that there are different levels of government based on the extent of power they can reach. While federal policy plays an important role in this country, state and local policy give communities the opportunity to develop plans that are sensitive to their unique geographic and economic needs. Here is a summarized version of the levels of government policy is based on:
Ex. the U.S.
decisions apply to everyone in the United States
decisions apply to people who are citizens, residents, or visitors of a specific state
Ex. Alameda County
decisions apply to people who are citizens, residents, or visitors of a particular county or city
Since local policy is more thoughtful about the community's unique needs, it is essential to grasp how it works and how it can bring change, if one desires to improve community health and well being. The concept of "collective decision bodies" is what the local government's decision making process is founded on. Collective decision bodies are groups of individuals that make decisions as a group rather than individually. For decisions to be made, a quorum (the number of members of a collective decision body required to be present for a decision to be made) is important because without it, a group can not discuss, make or carry out decisions. Typically local agencies adopt rules to carry out the decision making process and discuss things in public meetings. Such rules allow things to be discussed in the smoothest and fairest way possible. Other things that affect the decision making process are votes, since there are a certain amount of votes needed to approve an action. The votes tend to dictate whether or not a decision can be carried out.
Examples of Local Policy:
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By law, certain decisions require public hearings. In California, for example, the Ralph M. Brown-Act guarantees the public a right to attend and participate in local legislative meetings. Public hearings are opportunities for the public to present information to the decision making body. This means that the public has the right to know whether something is in the agenda ahead of time, and also the right to have the opportunity to be heard on the matter. Public hearings guarantee this to be a part of the decision making process at the local level. At times, decisions take the form of policies but at other times they take the form of ordinances. Ordinances are ways that the local government make laws. Ordinances tend to require or prohibit a certain action under certain circumstances. They are indexed and recorded into a code, which then becomes a part of the county or city's history. Ordinances are different from policies in that policies are specific to people or a site, while ordinances are widespread and tend to be long-term. To read more on ordinances click here: