Category Archives: Local Government

Dissolving Village Government in New York State

Source: Lisa K. Parshall, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, June 24, 2019

From a state-level perspective, the dissolution and consolidation of village and town governments makes fiscal sense. By examining local responses to the dissolution debate, we identify some of the noneconomic reasons that village residents are often reluctant to dissolve.

When Collaboration Is Risky Business: The Influence of Collaboration Risks on Formal and Informal Collaboration

Source: Jessica N. Terman, Richard C. Feiock, Jisun Youm, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, August 8, 2019
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From the abstract:
In the last two decades, local governments have increasingly engaged in energy conservation and sustainability programs and policy. However, the benefits of these policies (i.e., cleaner air, less congestion, etc.) are often perceived as dispersed and costly. As such, localities consider collaborating with one another. However, decisions to collaborate pose considerable risks that can be magnified or mitigated by the mechanisms through which collaboration occurs. We investigate decisions to engage in formal and informal collaboration in the area of energy efficiency and conservation as a response to collaboration risks.

The Returns to Lobbying: Evidence from Local Governments in the “Age of Earmarks”

Source: Steven Gordon, Public Finance Review, OnlineFirst, Published July 22, 2019
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From the abstract:
I measure the returns to lobbying for US local governments in terms of federal earmarks. Because a local government’s decision to lobby may be endogenous to receiving an earmark, I instrument for lobbying with local housing prices. Since the time period of my analysis covers the Housing Crisis, I argue that the variation in housing prices over this time was largely exogenous to federal earmark distributions. The strong correlation that I find between housing price growth rates and lobbying provides evidence that local governments lobbied to buffer against impending property tax losses. I find no evidence that lobbying is associated with increased earmark awards overall. However, conditional on selection into receiving an earmark, I do find evidence that lobbying served to increase the size of earmark awards.

Do Small Local Governments Fare Well? A Survey of Villages in New York

Source: Pengju Zhang, Marc Holzer, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, July 25, 2019
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From the abstract:
Public administration studies have not adequately discussed governance challenges for small local governments. Given that more than 10% of villages have, unprecedentedly, voted on dissolution in New York over the past 10 years, this article exclusively and comprehensively investigates how well villages are faring in New York. Using a representative survey of village governments, coupled with a rich secondary data set, it finds institutional and political tensions between villages and their underlying town(s). It also suggests intergovernmental fiscal factors have threatened the organizational and fiscal health of some village governments. In addition, villages have extensively established service-sharing mechanisms with town(s) to mitigate fiscal stress. The majority of village officials remain skeptical about dissolution as an effective approach to cost savings.

Autonomy matters: Insights from U.S. water utility managers on governance structure

Source: Jennifer C. Biddle, Karen J. Baehler, AWWA Water Science, Vol. 1 no. 3, May/June 2019
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From the abstract:
Organizational autonomy and insulation from political interference were cited as key attributes of governance influencing managers’ perceptions of utility performance according to 22 U.S. water utility managers. The further removed from direct management by local government, the more likely utilities were to experiment with true‐cost pricing and innovative management strategies that may lead to improved whole‐system performance. In addition, findings from this qualitative study support claims made by water sector professionals of the growing need for a shift in water utility governance systems to adapt to changing conditions and better respond to stressors and shocks. This research is part of a larger study that seeks to contribute to our understanding of which governance features are important for improving water utility sustainability. It also raises important questions for further research into the linkages between governance structure, larger sociopolitical factors, and water system performance.

Local Elections and Representation in the United States

Source: Christopher Warshaw, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 22, 2019
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From the abstract:
In recent years, there has been a surge in the study of representation and elections in local politics. Scholars have made progress on many of the empirical barriers that stymied earlier researchers. As a result, the study of representation and elections in local politics has moved squarely into the center of American politics. The findings of recent research show that local politics in the modern, polarized era is much more similar to other areas of American politics than previously believed. Scholars have shown that partisanship and ideology play important roles in local politics. Due to the growing ideological divergence between Democrats and Republicans, Democratic elected officials increasingly take more liberal positions, and enact more liberal policies, than Republican ones. As a result, despite the multitude of constraints on local governments, local policies in the modern era tend to largely reflect the partisan and ideological composition of their electorates.

Everything but the Kitchen Sink? Factors Associated With Local Economic Development Strategy Use

Source: Jonathan Q. Morgan, Michele M. Hoyman, Jamie R. McCall, Economic Development Quarterly, OnlineFirst, Published June 28, 2019
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From the abstract:
Rubin (1988) argued communities “shoot anything that flies and claim anything that falls” in their efforts to attract businesses. Such a perspective implies local governments will use large numbers of strategies as they try “everything but the kitchen sink” to promote job creation and private investment. Conversely, Stokan (2003) claims localities are more selective in how they approach economic development, which implies there should be wide variation in the number of development strategies used across jurisdictions. Based on original survey data from North Carolina cities and counties of all sizes, the findings provide support for both explanations. The data show localities vary considerably with respect to the number of strategies they employ. Notably, variation in strategy use is associated with certain community characteristics including government capacity and development network strength. However, the data also reveal that communities are, on average, utilizing a relatively high number of strategies, lending some credence to Rubin’s theory.

The Non-Randomness of Municipal Government Reorganization: Evidence From Village Dissolution in New York

Source: Pengju Zhang, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, Published June 25, 2019
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From the abstract:
Municipal government dissolution used to be a rare occurrence in American history and has thus far received little attention in the literature. More than 300 of municipal governments, however, have dissolved since the mid-1990s. To understand this emerging momentum in practice and to fill the gap in literature, this article focuses on the increasing trend of village dissolution in New York, builds an analytical framework, and investigates the driving forces behind the possibility of dissolution, which is measured either by the presence of any dissolution-related activity or by the passage of a dissolution referendum. Based on a representative survey sample and a rich set of secondary data, this article consistently finds that dissolution does not randomly occur. Rather, dissolution is more likely to be considered and approved in a village where the economy struggles, the population declines, political trust undermines, and fiscal health deteriorates. In other words, the research suggests dissolution may not be as appealing or take place in economically strong and politically dynamic areas.

Right Cause, Wrong Method? Examining the Politics of State Takeover in Georgia

Source: Richard O. Welsh, Sheneka Williams, Shafiqua Little, Jerome Graham, Urban Affairs Review, Volume: 55 issue: 3, May 2019
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From the abstract:
A growing number of states are using state-run school districts to take over and improve persistently underperforming schools. This article uses Georgia to examine the politics of state takeover. We analyze the supporting and opposing coalitions as well as the alignment between state takeover and charter schools in the campaign for the constitutional amendment to create a statewide turnaround district. Our findings show that corporate interests, the governor, and nonprofit organizations supported state takeover, whereas educators, parents, and community organizations opposed state takeover. There was bipartisan support across coalitions and a crisscrossing of interests regarding local control and the path to school improvement. There are divergent views on charter schools, with supporters of state takeover favoring charter schools.

Organizational Dissolutions in the Public Sector: An Empirical Analysis of Municipal Utility Water Districts

Source: Tima T Moldogaziev, Tyler A Scott, Robert A Greer, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Articles, February 17, 2019
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From the abstract:
The proliferation of special-purpose districts and the increasing complexity of local governance systems has been well documented. However, even as new special districts are created, others are being dissolved. This article investigates the extent to which both internal and external factors are at play in municipal utility district dissolutions. Decades of existing empirical studies on private, nonprofit, and interest organizations show that factors internal to organizations, such as institutional structure and resources are significant covariates of organizational mortality. Equally important are external factors, where density dependence and resource partitioning pressures influence organizational survival. Public sector organizations, such as special-purpose water districts, operate in relatively well monitored and statutorily constrained environments, however. Drawing upon the organizational mortality literature, we examine when and why municipal utility water districts that operate in fragmented service delivery systems dissolve. The results show that the relationship between internal and external organizational variables and special-purpose organizational dissolutions is more nuanced than existing research suggests.