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#103157 - 05/12/03 11:16 AM Megalopolis? Not always.
dxb Offline

Registered: 03/06/02
Posts: 1692
Loc: UK
"A little one-eyed blinking sort o' place" ~ Thomas Hardy

Reading a report today brought a question to mind. Can anyone explain what makes a city in the United States? Quite small communities, Nevada City for example, seem able to call themselves cities. Is there any generally accepted definition, like in the UK, or is it a free for all?

#103158 - 05/12/03 11:37 AM Re: Megalopolis? Not always.
Faldage Offline
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Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
That it has the word city in its name does not necessarily make it a city.

Here's a couple of sites that seem to indicate that the legal definition of city in the US is a little hazy.



It's probably the case that different states and maybe even different counties have different definitions for city.

#103159 - 05/12/03 01:27 PM Re: Megalopolis? Not always.
of troy Offline
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Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
Loc: rego park
Most definately, States control the standard for cities.. Cities are incorporated entities, and in NYS, Cities have to have fire departments. (full fledge ones, not vollunteer ones) --which is why Long Island with a very high population density, has almost no cities... only towns, and villiages. (Glen Cove is only city on in Nassau county, and it was incorporated in the 1800's, when Glen Cove was a thriving city that manufactured starch (and sold it to the NYC market for the most part.)

there are other requirements, like population, and schools--City don't get to use (or pay a premium to use) county service (like what in NY is called BOCS) --county based school services for special education, GED programs, afterschool programs, etc. like city based fire and police, the cost of mantaining all the state and federaly based programs can be expensive. (federal law requires local schools to have a program suited to meet the needs of every student--one severly handicapped student can be very expensive)

my other obsession

#103160 - 05/12/03 02:27 PM Towns and Cities
Father Steve Offline
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Registered: 09/06/00
Posts: 2788
Loc: Seattle, Washington, USA
In Washington State (way out here on the Left Coast) state law defines First Class cities as having 10,000 or more residents, Second Class Cities as having 1500 or more residents, and Towns as having less than 1500 residents, at the time of their incorporation. Thus, it would be possible for a town to be organized as a town, grow to a million residents, and remain, under state law, a town. Likewise, it would be possible for a city to become a first-class city by showing that it had more than 10,000 residents at the time of its incorpation but, through some unfortunate means, lose most of its population, and yet remain a first-class city of 100 people.

There are certain words which pertain only to towns, in Washington law. For example, the chief law enforcement officer of a town is a "marshall" which cities have chiefs of police. Calling the top cop "town marshall" has the ring of the Old West to it and, indeed, these laws were written when Washington was part of the Old West.

#103161 - 05/12/03 10:24 PM Re: Megalopolis? Not always.
Bobyoungbalt Offline

Registered: 11/22/00
Posts: 1289
Helen is correct; the definition of a city is controlled by the states.

In Maryland, as in NY, a city is an incorporated area. If I mistake not, the only cities in Maryland are Baltimore and Cumberland.

This makes for some strange situations. One of the newest and largest urban areas is Columbia, a planned city which is not a city; in fact, it's not even a town. Columbia is located at the junction of 4 different counties and is, legally, merely a collection of housing tracts located in each of the 4 counties. In many parts of it, people on one side of the street pay different taxes, have different representatives in the state legislature and U.S. Congress, and have different police and fire depts. than their neighbors on the other side of the street.

Then there is Baltimore (the City of), which is not located in any county; it's a separate subdivision of the state all by itself. There is a Baltimore County, but the City of Baltimore is not part of it. It has its own governmental setup, taxes, etc. which counties have.

#103162 - 05/12/03 10:36 PM Re: Megalopolis? Not always.
Bingley Offline
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Registered: 04/09/00
Posts: 3065
Loc: Jakarta
So, if one fire dept. was fighting a fire which spread into another's territory (e.g. by leaping from one side of the street to the other), would they refuse to fight the portion of the fire outside their own territory?


#103163 - 05/12/03 11:05 PM Re: Megalopolis? Not always.
slithy toves Offline

Registered: 01/29/02
Posts: 320
Loc: Sarasota, Florida, US
It's a real mish-mash here in Florida. County governments have more structure than in most states. Some counties have combined city and county fire departments, but not consistently. City limits bear no relationship to growth patterns, so you can be on a street in an urban area and find yourself entering or leaving a city in the middle of a block. There are no city schools, only county. Law enforcement is separate. Each city has a police department, and in addition the counties each have a sheriff's department. Not to mention state troopers, who can be found just about anywhere on the major highways. I've always felt that this system was confusing and wasteful. And city residents must pay both city and county taxes, which seems less than fair. Two of the largest cities have incorporated their entire counties: The city of Jacksonville encompasses all of Duval County, and Miami is officially known as Miami-Dade, since it includes all of Dade County. Sometimes it's a challenge to figure out who's in charge.

#103164 - 05/12/03 11:34 PM Re: Megalopolis? Not always.
tsuwm Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
>Sometimes it's a challenge to figure out who's in charge.

ah, so the 2000 election was just an extension of this. <g>

#103165 - 05/13/03 08:59 AM the 2000 election
Jackie Offline

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Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11613
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Oooh--right to the heart! [ouch]

#103166 - 05/13/03 09:22 AM Re: Megalopolis? Not always.
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
Loc: rego park
Re:So, if one fire dept. was fighting a fire which spread into another's territory (e.g. by leaping from one side of the street to the other), would they refuse to fight the portion of the fire outside their own territory?

in theroy yes, but in actuality, no. NYC fire department has responded to disasters in Suffolk county ( eastern end of long island, more than 50 miles distant from east edge of NYC's eastern most border in queens.--plane crashes come to mind)
and when the World Trade center was bombed in '93, those same firedepartments "took over" responsibilty for parts of queens, while the queens firefighters headed into manhattan.

with the destruction of WTC, firemen were paid (on duty) from NYC, many towns in NJ, and Westchester. later, many firemen vollunteered, and NYC was filled with firemen from all over US (and world, we had English, french, and Canadians, and lots of other firefighters. )

likewise, when SF had that bad earthquake, NYC fire fighters were offered (and took) paid leave to go to california, and work.. (so they didn't use vaction time)
there might be formal reciprial agreements, in some places, but here, in NY the things seem to be worked out with fire chiefs, and handshakes.

my other obsession

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