Independent city

From Academic Kids

An independent city is a city in the United States of America that does not belong to any county, but rather interacts directly with the state government. Because counties have historically been a strong institution in local government in most of the United States, independent cities are relatively rare outside of Virginia, whose state constitutions make them special cases (see below for more information). The United States Census Bureau uses counties as the base unit for presentation of statistical information in the United States, and treats independent cities as county equivalents for those purposes.

In New England, cities and towns traditionally have very strong governments, and counties are correspondingly weak; today, most New England counties have almost no governmental institutions or roles associated with them (aside from serving as a basis for court districts), and cities and towns interact directly with state governments for the most part. However, like the ceremonial counties of England, counties in New England still have a notional existence, and no city or town in New England is truly separate from a historic county. Importantly, the U.S. Census Bureau still uses counties, and not cities or towns, as its base unit of statistical measurement in New England.

An independent city should not be confused with a consolidated city-county, in which both city and county government are merged under the laws of the State, but which may (or may not) contain other municipalities. The City of New York is likewise not an independent city, but rather a sui generis jurisdiction: the city territory covers all the territory of five boroughs, each of which comprises the entirety of a county.

More than 80% of the independent cities in the U.S. are located in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


Independent cities outside of Virginia

Some of the independent cities in the United States outside of Virginia include:

Virginia: All cities are independent

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, all municipalities incorporated as cities are by law (since 1871) independent cities. Other Virginia municipalities, even though they may be more populous than some existing independent cities, are incorporated as towns, which are always located within a county. Of the approximately 43 independent cities in the United States, 39 are in Virginia. An independent city in Virginia may serve as the county seat of an adjacent county, even though the city by definition is not part of that county.

Listing of Virginia's independent cities

Independent cities in Virginia as of December, 2004 include:

Oddities in cities and Virginia

  • Arlington, Virginia is not an independent city. Although it is actually Arlington County, it is often thought of one as a city because it is closer in size to Virginia independent cities than to other counties, is fully urbanized, and includes no municipalities within its borders. Formerly named Alexandria County, Arlington County, along with part of the independent city of Alexandria, Virginia, was the portion of Virginia ceded to the US government to form the District of Columbia, in 1790 and was later reattached to Virginia by the federal government when the District was reduced in size to exclude most the area south of the Potomac River in 1846.
  • Several Virginia counties, whose origins go back to the original eight shires of the colony formed in 1634, have the word city in their names. However, politically they are counties. Examples are:

Extinct Virginia cities

Extinct independent cities that were long extant in Virginia include:

Two other independent cities existed for a short time:

See Also article Lost Counties, Cities and Towns of Virginia

Washington, D.C.

Like the capitals of many other countries, Washington, D.C. has a special status. It is not part of any state; instead, it comprises the entirety of the District of Columbia, which, in accordance with Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress. District residents have no voting representation in the Congress, electing a sole, non-voting delegate to the House of Representitives. Congress has established a home rule government for the city, although city laws can be overridden by Congress. This is fairly rare, however, and so in practice the city operates much like other independent cities in the United States.

Similar institutions outside of the U.S.

Essentially the same concept exists in the United Kingdom, where it is referred to as a unitary authority—the term "city" in the U.K. being reserved for towns of historic importance or significant size and requiring a formal grant of city status from the monarch. In the Canadian province of Ontario, the same type of city is referred to as a single-tier municipality. In Austria, a similar concept is the Statutarstadt. In Germany, the concept is either called Stadtkreis or Kreisfreie Stadt depending on the Bundesland - in English an urban district.

An independent city should also not be confused with a city-state, a city that is fully independent and part of no other nation-state (such as Singapore).

There are several national capitals, such as Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, and Brasília, Brazil, which, like Washington, D.C., are separate from all other jurisdictions within the Stadt ja:独立市 nl:Stadsdistrict


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