How Cities Work: Module 3
How does the City operate?
Services & Departments
In the last module we learned about two distinct groups of people who work at a city (elected officials and staff). They each carry out important work that makes the City run. While elected officials make a lot of key decisions, municipal staff are the ones who carry out those decisions, and are who you might interact with in your daily life!
Because the City of Vancouver has its own special powers (thanks to the Vancouver Charter), and because there are so many people who live and work here, there are lots of different departments that take care of the City’s responsibilities. To better understand how the City operates, let’s look at the City’s organizational chart:
The City Manager leads Municipal Staff and is in charge of making sure Council decisions and directives are carried out by the city’s various departments. The City Manager is hired by Council and is the main conduit for communication between elected officials and municipal staff.
Each of the blue boxes represents a division (or group of staff) that plays an important role in our everyday lives:
• Board of Parks and Recreation: This elected Board runs the parks and community centres where we run, play, learn, swim, and exercise.
• Arts, Culture, and Community Services: This department works on a variety of different projects, including the Vancouver Civic Theatres, Affordable Housing, and giving grants (money!) to artists and community organizations.
• Planning, Urban Design, and Sustainability: This department helps to shape the development and zoning of property in the City, considers how the city might change in the future (with projects like Vancouver Plan) and leads sustainability initiatives in Vancouver.
• Development, Buildings, and Licensing: This department manages property and noise bylaws, conducts building inspections, grants business licences, and even runs the animal shelter!
• Engineering Services: This department manages water, sewage, garbage pickup, and street maintenance. And if that’s not enough, they also manage transportation, including bike paths, parking, and special event permits! Check out this Youtube playlist of videos about different jobs and roles in the City of Vancouver’s Engineering department.
• Finance, Risk and Business Planning: They’re in charge of the money! This department ensures tax dollars are spent wisely. They also develop and manage the City budget and send you bills for property tax and utilities.
• Fire and Rescue Services and Emergency Management: Responds to fires and emergencies, and teaches the public about how to be prepared. Emergency services helped the City mobilize resources for the most vulnerable members of our communities when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and remain a key part of the City’s ongoing recovery effort.
• Human Resources Services: Lots of people work for the City of Vancouver! This department supports them, and ensures that job postings are filled, staff are taken care of, and that hiring is fair and inclusive.
• Legal Services: Provides the other departments with legal advice and goes to court if there is a dispute with the City.
• Civic Engagement and Communications: This department works with the media to connect them to the appropriate staff members, keeps the public informed about what the City is working on and works to make sure the public has the chance to have their voices heard about various projects.
• Real Estate and Facilities Management: This department manages the City’s own facilities and properties, as well as buys, sells, and leases out City buildings and properties.