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How to Change the Form of City Government

Due to persistent inquiries received on this topic, the following information is offered to help answer the public understand the process involved with changing their form of government.

Please note that any form of government must remain in effect for at least six years. In the case of Cedar Rapids, the current form of government must remain until January 2012.

The following chart shows the main events that took place during the last change of government for the City of Cedar Rapids and also offers a possible timeline for those seeking to again change the form of Cedar Rapids government. Note that the Possible Events are given “Earliest Dates” due to the requirement of a form of government to remain in effect for six years. Other dates are possible after these “Earliest Dates.”

Current Home Rule Charter Form of Government



Proposed Home Rule Charter Submitted to City Council


Special City Election Held (Charter adopted by voters)


First Regular City Election for Mayor & City Council


Charter Form of Government took Effect


Establishment of First Charter Review Commission




Possible Change in Government Process

Possible Events

Earliest Date

Submission of Petition * to Change of Government to Council

2011 **

City Council Calls for Special City Election


Special City Election


First City Primary Election after change (if voters approve)


First Regular City Election after change (if voters approve)


New Form of Government takes Effect (if voters approve)


* Signatures required if petition filed in 2011 = 5,882 (25% of 23,526)

** An election cannot be called prior to June 14, 2011 (6 years after the last election to change the form of government). Special election dates are now set by law. The first available date for a Special City Election is August 2, 2011. The County Commissioner of Elections must receive a notice requesting a special election at least 46 days prior to the date of the election. Therefore, the city council must receive a petition early enough for them to call for a special election by June 17, 2011.

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 372, Code of Iowa. It is strongly advised that anyone seeking to change the form of government read Chapter 372 in its entirety and obtain legal counsel as needed.



372.1 Forms of cities.

The forms of city government are:

1. Mayor-council, or mayor-council with appointed manager.

2. Commission.

3. Council-manager-at-large.

4. Council-manager-ward.

5. Home rule charter.

6. Special charter.

7. City-county consolidated form as provided in sections 331.247 through 331.252.

8. Community commonwealth as provided in sections 331.260 through 331.263.

A city when first incorporated has the mayor-council form. A city retains its form of government until it adopts a different form as provided in this division.

Within thirty days of the date that this section becomes effective, a city shall adopt by ordinance a charter embodying its existing form of government, which must be one of the forms provided in this division, and shall file a copy of its charter with the secretary of state, and maintain copies available for public inspection.


372.2 Six-year limitation.

Unless otherwise provided by law, a city may adopt a different form of government not more often than once in a six-year period. A different form, other than a home rule charter, special charter, city-county consolidated government, or community commonwealth, must be adopted as follows:

1. Eligible electors of the city may petition the council to submit to the electors the question of adopting a different form of city government. The minimum number of signatures required on the petition shall be equal in number to twenty-five percent of those who voted in the last regular city election. The petition shall specify which form of city government in section 372.1 the petitioners propose for adoption.


2. a. Within fifteen days after receiving a valid petition, the council shall publish notice of the date that a special city election will be held to determine whether the city shall change to a different form of government. The election date shall be as specified in section 39.2, subsection 4, paragraph “b”. If the next election date specified in that paragraph is more than sixty days after the publication, the council shall publish another notice fifteen days before the election. The notice shall include a statement that the filing of a petition for appointment of a home rule charter commission will delay the election until after the home rule charter commission has filed a proposed charter. Petition requirements and filing deadlines shall also be included in the notice.

b. The council shall notify the county commissioner of elections to publish notice of the election and conduct the election pursuant to chapters 39 to 53. The county commissioner of elections shall certify the results of the election to the council.

3. If a majority of the persons voting at the special election approves the proposed form, it is adopted.

4. If a majority of the persons voting at the special election does not approve the proposed form, that form may not be resubmitted to the voters within the next four years.

5. If the proposed form is adopted:

a. The elective officers provided for in the adopted form are to be elected at the next regular city election held more than eighty-four days after the special election at which the form was adopted. The adopted form becomes effective at the beginning of the new term following the regular city election.

b. The change of form does not alter any right or liability of the city in effect when the new form takes effect.

c. All departments and agencies shall continue to operate until replaced.

d. All measures in effect remain effective until amended or repealed, unless they are irreconcilable with the adopted form.

e. Upon the effective date of the adopted form, the city shall adopt by ordinance a new charter embodying the adopted form, and shall file a copy of its charter with the secretary of state, and maintain copies available for public inspection.