Metropolitan municipality

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The term "Metropolitan Municipality" is used officially and generically to mean a number of different types of local governments.

In the United States, Canada, and like jurisdictions, "metropolitan municipality" can mean one or more of the following:

  • 1. A consolidated city-county, which is a local government that is simultaneously a municipal corporation of a particular state, territory or province (i.e., city) and an administrative division of that state or province (which is what a county is, in the Anglophone tradition of government).
  • 2. A single-tier municipality, which is a kind of cross between a consolidated city-county and an independent city. Like an independent city, a single-tier municipality is not part of any county but interacts directly with its superior state government without going through a county. Like consolidated city-counties, single-tiers retain certain county functions that independent cities do not; and whereas independent cities often function as seats of government for surrounding counties (especially in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a single-tier municipality never operates as the seat of government for any jurisdiction except itself.
  • 3. A collective of two or more counties that are consolidated with the government of one city, the classic example being The City of Greater New York, which is coextensive with five counties, each of which is also a distinct 'borough' of city government.
  • 4. A county that contains no municipal corporations and is not subdivided into townships, so that the county government provides all services normally provided by municipal governments is also a metropolitan municipality. Arlington County, Virginia is an example of a county that contains no cities, towns, villages, or townships (and under Virginia law, none can be established because of the population density of the county), but all services that would normally be provided by city, town, village, or township government are instead provided by the county government.

A city that is not part of any county is not a metropolitan municipality but an independent city. By definition, a metropolitan municipality must be a non-sovereign entity which is simultaneously a municipal corporation and and an administrative division of the larger sovereign entity in which it is located.

Washington, D.C. is a metropolitan municipality, but it is a special type of metropolitan municipality. From the retrocession of Arlington and Alexandria to Virginia in 1846, the County of Washington was coextensive with the District of Columbia; and from the amalgamation of Georgetown to Washington in 1871, the City of Washington has been coterminous with the County of Washington and the District of Columbia. So, there has been one consolidated city-county-district government since 1871, but under the terms of the U.S. Constitution, that government is directly subject to the authority of the U.S. Congress. Thus, Washington, D.C. is a metropolitan municipality, but it is ultimately governed by the nationwide federal government of the United States, which controls its own locally-elected (since 1972) consolidated government.

In generic terms, and in practical application within the United States and Canada, a metropolitan municipality is an urban local government; or at least a suburban government flanked by urban and/or other suburban counties. Conversely, a rural area (or a suburban area flanked mostly by rural areas) in which county and municipal functions are consolidated in one government is not a metropolitan municipality but a regional municipality.

The most typical distinction, in historical terms, is that a metropolitan municipality is usually a consolidation of one urban city and the county in which it is located. A regional municipality, by contrast, is usually a consolidation of two or more suburban and/or rural cities, towns or villages - each of which remains a geographically distinct area, usually because of greenspace between them - and the county in which they are located.

In South Africa, the term "Metropolitan Municipality" is used to indicate one expression of the third tier of South Africa's system of government. Like most countries, the Republic of South Africa is a unitary state, not a federal state; and like most unitary states, it decentralises government function to three tiers - a national tier, a regional tier, and a local tier.

In the United States, which is a federal union in which the basic unit is the individual sovereign state, this three-tiered model is used by most of the 50 constituent states, each of which is a unitary state. Government in the State of Michigan, for example, operates at the statewide (national) level; at the regional level, but subdivision of the state into counties; and at the local level by subdivision of the counties into townships. Municipal corporations (in Michigan, cities and villages) are autonomous and semi-autonomous entities within the state, and are distinct from this three-tiered decentralisation of state government.

In South Africa, the nation is not divided into counties and townships but into provinces and metropolitan municipalities. Unlike Canada, whose provinces are sovereign jurisdictions equal in rank to the Canadian federal government, South Africa's nine provinces are subordinate to the national government in all respects. The municipal jurisdictions, in turn, are subordinate to both the provinces and the national government.

The municipal jurisdictions of South Africa are classified as Metropolitan Municipalities (or "Category A"), of which there are six (Cape Town, Ekurhuleni/East Rand, eThekwini/Durban, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Metropole/Port Elizabeth, Tshwane/Pretoria); or District Municipalities ("Category C"), which are usually collectives of several Local Municipalities("Category B"). But while all Local Municipalities are located within District Municipalities, an indivdual district municipality does not necessarily contain smaller, local municipalities. Some of them contain District Management Areas (such as Kruger National Park, which contain no municipalities at all. Where there are Category B (local) municipalities, they are invariably located within District Municipalities and constitute a limited jurisdiction fourth level of government, which shares responsibilities with the district municipal government.

Thus, in purely generic terms, South Africa's "district municipalities" (being principally rural and suburban) are "regional municipalities" whereas the six metropolitan municipalities are generically "metropolitan municipalities." The correlation of the generic term to South African use is not entirely correct, however, since many of the metropolitan municipalities (such as Cape Town) include rural and wild areas as well as urban and suburban communities; and one metropoltan municipality, Johannesburg, is subdivided into administrative regions.

So, in a generic sense, most or all metropolitan municipalities in South Africa, like the district municipalities, are actually regional municipalities, because they contain rural and wild areas as well as urban and suburban communities. But because they do contain an urban centre, they are classified as metropolitan municipalities (and, in any case, that is the term South Africa uses). The district municipalities, which contain no large urban centres, are without doubt regional municipalities in generic terms; but the actual term used by South Africa is "district municipality."

es:Municipalidades metropolitanas

Metropolitan municipality

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