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Governing Local Public Economies: Creating the Civic Metropolis

Governing Local Public Economies: Creating the Civic Metropolis is a book written by Ronald J. Oakerson in 1999. The book is 162 pages long.

Publisher Robert B. Hawkins, Jr. of the Institute for Contemporary Studies states, "This book challenges the tradition of recommending consolidation of government. We must take a new look at how we govern our local communities. Consolidation weakens citizen participation. Both sides of the political fence lack the conviction and interest to pursue a system with strong local government. Communities must have viable alternatives from which to choose. This book provides at least one such alternative"

Table of contents

The Study of Local Public Economies Oakerson writes, "The scholary community remains sharply divided over how to respond to deep and persistent problems. The challenge is to find a way that can be used to build a more common understanding of problems and possibilities, a way of thinking that unites and explains."

Oakerson notes, "A one-sided focus on production ignores the basic function of government."

Oakerson adds, "Private producers and governments are potential monopolists. Monopolies undermine the power of citizens to direct activity to the satisfaction of their interests."

Oakerson explains, "Citizen engagement will lead to better roads, schools, and law enforcement."

Oakerson continues, "All is not well in America today. From crime to sprawl, problems abound. There is clearly a need for reform."

Oakerson states, "Individuals must be able to act collectively. Power ought to be distributed among diverse communities of interest. The basic task of governance ought to be that of distributing the powers of collective choice amongst the overlapping communities of interest."

Oakerson notes, "Officials in large jurisdictions can be held accountable, by the citizens, only with great difficulty."

Oakerson argues, "Communities must consider a potential redistribution factor."

Oakerson adds, "There is no reason to presume that citizens are unable to take into account costs and benefits."

Oakerson concludes, "The basic task of government is to assist citizens in creating mutually beneficial provision and production arrangements."

Separating Provision and Production

Oakerson notes, "Private producers are often thought to be less appropriate for certain services, e.g., police. The reluctance to use private vendors had diminished significantly by the early 1980s."

Oakerson adds, "Private for-profit vendors dominate service contracts for services, transportation, and public works[?]."

Oakerson argues, "Contracting-out is not consistently superior to in-house production. It is not difficult to imagine situations in which contracting harms the citizens. The possibilities range from "sweetheart" contracts, in which the vendor is not the most efficient, to outright corruption."

Oakerson asks, "Who benefits from contracting? Do citizen-consumers derive a benefit from tax savings and increased levels of service? Or do local politicians, managers, and bureaucrats grab the benefits?"

Organizing the Provision Side Oakerson states, "The Indiana University Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis[?] studies under Elinor Ostrom[?] have consistently demonstrated that smaller units of government tend to be more responsive. "

Oakerson continues, "A study of 97 New York State school districts found that pupil performance on standardized tests declined as the size of a district increased. A California study found that school district size (beyond a mininum threshold) had a consistent negative effect on various measures of student achievement. Researches have found that students in larger school districts tend to have lower scores on standardized achievement tests."

Oakerson argues, "Smaller school districts place a higher priority on teacher-pupil interactions."

Oakerson concludes, "Citizens need organizational options. Perhaps the key issue is who gets to choose among alternative organizational arrangements. One approach is to give citizens a wide range of organizational options and let them choose."

Metropolitan Governance -- Without Metropolitan Government

Oakerson states, "Efforts to create governments have not met with success. Governmental relationships are dominated by conflict."

Oakerson argues, "Governing authority should be assigned to local citizens, allowing the citizens to make the decisions that shape the local economy."

Oakerson continues, "One of the basic governance issues is the question of who is best suited to make determinations. To make these determinations requires knowledge of individuals in the communities involved. Local citizens can best make these decisions. Citizens are the experts. Citizens are the preferred decision-makers. Most government is the result of a much different decision-making process in which rules are put into place without citizen consent."

Oakerson notes, "The general problem is one of getting what you pay for and paying for what you get."

Oakerson adds, "All municipalities should provide service at some mininum level."

Oakerson says, "State constitutional prohibitions can preclude efforts to address local problems. State constitutional provisions can stand in the way. This is arguably the primary mechanism of governance in America."

Oakerson quotes Daniel J. Elazar[?], "The civil community has no formal status in law."

Oakerson continues, "Citizen choice should refer not merely to "exit" opportuities, but to the right to participate in issues of governance. Usually, there is little or no profit motive to offer such incentives."

Oakerson adds, "There is a problem of inequality. There ought to be limits to the permissible range of inequality. Inequalities reflect a systematic bias against the poor."

Oakerson notes, "Market equity[?] is fundamentally in conflict with redistributive equity. Market equity permits inequalities to develop."

Oakerson adds, "Citizens who are nonwhite and in their senior years tend to bear greater tax burdens. Central-city jurisdictions tend to spend more on police and less on streets and libraries. More resources are allocated to schools for the rich and less for the poor. The quality of urban public education is considerably lower in poor neighborhoods."

Oakerson explains, "Economically disadvantage communities are politically disadvantaged communities. Poor communities watch their scarce resources be consumed by the bureaucracies, with little return."

Oakerson warns, "There are self-interested reasons for the wealthy to help the poor. Suburbanites are not in the long run well served by a deteriorating central city. All communities have a long-term interest in addressing the problem effectively."

The Civic Metropolis

Oakerson says, "Two major points of view have dominated. One view sees the metropolis as a community; the other sees the metropolis as a marketplace."

Oakerson notes, "Reform is hard to find in America. Specialized academic knowledge can only be useful when it speaks to citizens. Needed is a new mode of inquiry and style of discourse."

Oakerson insinuates, "Commercial and industrial property owners have taxable property that is considerably mobile. A local firm that threatens to move out of a community has leverage supplied by its mobile capital. Imagine the reaction at city hall when a homeowner threatens to move out of town! Commercial and industrial property is a major source of financial support for lcoal governments."

Oakerson argues, "There must be greater access to elected officials. In St. Louis County, Missouri, some 873 officials represent a million people."

Oakerson notes, "Central governments are loath to give up power. Collective action is essential. Government must become an instrument of community, rather than one of authority."

Oakerson adds, "Citizens should have the right to determine taxes."

Oakerson concludes with a quote from the US Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations[?]'s The Organization of Local Public Economies[?], "Citizens are not simply consumers. Equity ought to be vigorously addressed. Greater equity depends upon a willingness to share."

See also: political science, urban secession, Jane Jacobs

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