Category Archives: Local Government

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.

Shrinking local autonomy: corporate coalitions and the subnational state

Source: Yunji Kim, Mildred E Warner, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Volume 11, Issue 3, October 2018
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From the abstract:
Using focus groups and government finance data, we explore three areas of US state rescaling at the subnational level: revenue tools, expenditure responsibilities and policy authority. Expenditure responsibilities, especially social welfare, have been devolved to the subnational level, while local revenue tools and policy authority are preempted. This decoupling of responsibility and power is cracking the foundations of fiscal federalism. At the behest of corporate-legislative coalitions, subnational state governments are shrinking local capacity and authority to govern. This is not state shrinkage; it is a fundamental reshaping of the subnational state to the detriment of democracy and the social contract.

Local Governments and Economic Freedom: A Test of the Leviathan Hypothesis

Source: Adam A. Millsap, Bradley K. Hobbs, Dean Stansel, OnlineFirst, February 6, 2019
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From the abstract:
Brennan and Buchanan’s Leviathan hypothesis states that “potential for fiscal exploitation varies inversely with the number of competing governmental units” (p. 211) and that “total government intrusion into the economy should be smaller, ceteris paribus, the greater the extent to which taxes and expenditures are decentralized [and]…the smaller the jurisdictions” (p. 185). Using data for US metropolitan statistical areas, we provide the first local-level test of that hypothesis (that we are aware of) that uses “economic freedom” as the dependent variable, which provides a better measure of “total government intrusion into the economy” than the less comprehensive measures (taxes or spending) used in the previous literature. We find mixed support for the Leviathan hypothesis. The number of competing jurisdictions is positively associated with economic freedom, driven largely by the labor market freedom component as opposed to the government spending and tax components (the very measures used in the previous literature).

DC region, usually buttressed by federal presence, bears brunt of shutdown

Source: Nicholas Samuels,Timothy Blake, Matthew Butler, Pisei Chea, Marcia Van Wagner, Maria Matesanz, Moody’s, Sector Comment, January 24, 2019
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The federal government usually benefits the national capital region’s economy, driving high education and wealth levels, knowledge-based employment and providing a buffer during an economic downturn. But the partial federal shutdown, already the longest ever at five weeks, illustrates the drawbacks of the concentrated federal presence in the District of Columbia (DC) metro area, a significant contributor to the larger US economy. The DC area is absorbing the worst of the federal shutdown with missed pay for employees and private sector contractors reducing personal spending and tempering tax revenue for area governments. Federal workers will miss another payday January 25. In addition, public transit ridership has slowed, and operations at other government enterprises are experiencing disruption

Understanding Local Service Delivery Arrangements: Are the ICMA ASD Data Reliable?

Source: Meeyoung Lamothe, Scott Lamothe, Elizabeth Bell, Public Administration Review, Volume 78, Issue 4 July/August 2018
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From the abstract:
The authors utilize the two latest ICMA Profile of Local Government Service Delivery Choices surveys to investigate whether the service provision and delivery arrangement information reported in the surveys accurately represents reality and, if not, what factors contribute to generating incorrect or unreliable survey responses. Interviews with practitioners are used to better understand both the accuracy of the survey responses and improvements that could be made to the survey instrument. Results suggest that the ICMA ASD survey data are highly erratic, with more than 70 percent of the cases (N = 70) investigated containing some inaccuracies. A qualitative analysis shows that the majority of the errors appear to be caused by the lack of a clear definition of service provision or by the service titles being too vague or too broad, both of which likely lead to discretion in interpreting survey questions and thus inconsistent answers by individual respondents over time.