Land use and development pose fundamental urban governance challenges around the world.
As a reporter, I covered subsequent waves of growth management reforms from 2004-2011 in Florida, policy shifts which alternatively tightened and repealed planning requirements for local governments while lessening public-infrastructure finance obligations of developers. Florida’s growth management experience reflects seemingly incompatible impulses to maintain its image as a low-tax destination for retirees and businesses, power its economic engine via population gains and low-density development, while periodically acknowledging the central role that environmental resources play in its desirability to new residents and employers.
Exploring this seemingly bipolar policy dilemma, I wrote a chapter for The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability to trace the recent history of reforms in Florida’s growth management regime. The story of Florida's growth management experience often overlooks the role of local government policymakers who have experimented with a range of urban containment strategies. Utilizing surveys of local government planners from three time periods (2002, 2007, 2015), the chapter examines land use choices before and after the Great Recession and a state-level deregulatory reform of Florida’s once-heralded growth-management system in 2011 to examine variation in land-use regulations at the local level. The patterns have implications for future research and practice and suggest that the durability of land-management tools intended to stave off development and preserve open space may need to be carefully examined apart from smart growth approaches which assume development is inevitable.
Local Nonprofit Economic Development Corporations and their Implications for Sustainable Development
Local governments have been turning to Local Development Corporations for years to help streamline their job recruitment and development efforts. A criticism of these efforts is that turning over economic development to a third-party organization decreases transparency and runs the risk of institutionalizing private development interests over the well-being of the overall community. In this study published in Public Performance & Management Review, myself and co-authors Alicia Schatteman and Eric Stokan use surveys of U.S. cities at multiple time periods to examine the comparative use of nonprofit economic development corporations and their performance on smart-growth and social equity policy activities. We look at the two most common types of local nonprofit organizations — nonprofit Local Development Corporations (LDCs) and Community-Based Development Organizations (CBDOs) — and how they impact local government use of performance information and accountability mechanisms. In turning to policy outcomes, the use of LDCs is negatively associated with land use policies intended to advance social inclusion.
NIU is taking over the ASPA Chicago chapter meeting next week. I'll be discussing mixed-methods research on entrepreneurial local government managers at the ASPA Chicago Chapter's Brown Bag research panel on Feb. 16 at DePaul University. This is some work I have done with William Swann at University of Colorado, Denver using SEM and qualitative interview data to examine the environmental conditions, internal organizational characteristics, and strategies which foster improved sustainability performance.
Urban sustainability is a burgeoning focus for urban scholarship but rarely examined within the larger context of local government economic activities. But why should cities focusing on cutback management and competition for tax revenues be expected to devote all but the fleetest of attention to carbon footprints or metropolitan-wide environmental or social problems? In an Urban Affairs Review article, my colleague Eric Stokan and I use a resource dependence (RD) theoretical framework to conceptualize sustainable development as a pattern of contractual arrangements between governments and firms shaped by resource constraints. Utilizing survey data of U.S. cities and a Bayesian methodological approach, we present evidence that municipal job-recruitment efforts reduce the probability of observing an overall sustainability policy commitment. Cities which placed greater emphasis on retaining and developing existing businesses are also more committed to sustainability.
Urban sustainability has become a booming subject of local government and business interest, particularly with the United States moving away from playing a leadership role in major issues like climate change.
Cities have been quick to pounce on the decision by President Trump's administration to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Dozens of cities and states have announced their intent to sign onto the Paris accord in order to help the U.S. meet its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26% below 2005 levels by 2025.
So, can cities pick up the slack? One problem with this post-Paris notion is that cities are just as able and willing (if not more so) to make symbolic policy commitments as a state or national government. In a new study I published with William Swann, we examined managerial activities in the ‘nexus’ of policy and management to help explain the tactics local governments use to pursue policy commitments to sustainability.
Sustainable development is an ideal context to study the linkages between policy and management. With the accelerating expansion of urban boundaries in recent decades, the societal response to urban sprawl, deforestation, natural resource depletion, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a pressing concern for public administration and local governance.
Cities are detailing ‘smart growth’ and ‘new urbanism’ comprehensive planning goals to combat urban sprawl. But beyond the buzz, how do these land use policy actions set by elected officials influence managerial strategies?
Drawing data from a 2015 survey of Florida local governments’ sustainable land use and smart growth experiences, we employ a novel Bayesian item response theory (IRT) approach to test how internal and external organizational capacities, municipal leadership turnover, and regulatory and environmental complexity affect cities’ strategic activities for pursuing smart growth.
We find evidence that political capacity and the organizational task environment influence strategies, but not in the monolithic fashion often depicted in the literature; land use policy comprehensiveness influences some smart growth strategies; and leadership turnover presents both challenges and opportunities for the strategic management of smart growth.
Metropolitan fragmentation and inequality are two intertwined, complex urban conditions. While segregation and the Industrial Revolution began the process of population sorting in cities, a range of transportation, housing and 'urban renewal' policies from the 1930s and 1940s have also played a part in fueling the phenomenon.
This sets up an interesting dilemma for urban scholars. Has fragmentation -- the proliferation of special-districts and general-purpose governments -- exacerbated population sorting? Or has population sorting along race/ethnicity, income and ideological lines created more fragmentation?
This question holds normative importance because policymakers often view some fragmentation as a necessary condition to spur more efficient provision of public services. When cities have to compete for mobile citizens, they theoretically have incentives to keep taxes low and provide service-levels preferred by citizens. But this is probably more a utopian vision of polycentric governance. Fragmentation also creates environmental and fiscal "spill-overs" for urban governance, and has led to a landscape of gated-off enclaves of wealth, alongside overbuilt box-store dystopias and suburban slums.
Local fragmentation and inequality can seem hopelessly endogenous when institutional rules permit the easy creation of new towns or community development districts, such as in Florida. But in places like Illinois, fragmentation was driven by distrust of the machine politics of Chicago and Springfield long before post-World War II federal policies fueled white flight to the suburbs.
Understanding the causal mechanisms behind many urban policy innovations -- sustainable development or social inclusionary policies -- requires stronger theory on fragmentation, inequality, and how they condition or influence policy diffusion.
In a recent article with co-authors Rick Feiock and Kate Wassel published in Review of Policy Research, we explore how these often conflated regional factors influence the commitment of local governments to sustainability.
Sustainable service delivery is a burgeoning area of local government practice and research activity, yet the barriers posed by these capacity and complexity conditions remain poorly understood. Investigating how environmental conditions both within and across cities might inhibit adoption of sustainable development innovations brings new evidence to bear on this important question and presents practical implications for local sustainability efforts.
Using a Bayesian item response theory (IRT) approach, we explore how the organizational task environment—both within municipal borders and beyond them—influences the willingness of local governments to innovate through sustainable development policies. We find evidence that complex service-delivery needs, income inequality, and governmental fragmentation distinctively influence commitment to green building and social inclusion policies.
Do local policymakers strategically use delay in permitting development to forestall the growth machine?
Land use and development approval processes vary tremendously among local governments in the United States and globally. State-imposed growth-management rules, economic conditions and the scale of environmental problems can explain some of this variation. But there is little empirical evidence as to whether politicians and public administrators also utilize land use and development approval time frames as a method of strategic choice, expediting the development application and approval process or subjecting development requests to lengthy scrutiny.
In a paper António Tavares, Richard Feiock and I published in Policy Studies Journal, we employ a political market framework to explain differences in local government land use decisions. Project approval delay imposes costs on development, and onerous or ineffective regulatory frameworks for urban planning are often faulted for a host of undesirable urban outcomes. Using Bayesian multilevel modelling of Florida surveys of land-use planners, we find evidence city managers, mayors and city councils strategically use delay in development approval processes to affect land-use patterns.
Three Sides of the Same Coin? A Bayesian Analysis of Strategic Management, Comprehensive Planning, and Inclusionary Values in Land Use
Public administration, policy, and planning research has long suggested land use planning entails intractable value conflicts.
Strategic adjustments to changing external conditions are prevalent, and comprehensive approaches are frequently touted as a way to seek stability, commitment to long-term sustainable development objectives, and the inclusive and equitable distribution of development benefits for both present and future inhabitants. Despite these objectives, the reality of sprawl and infrastructure decline in the modern metropolis appears far bleaker.
Research has been mixed on how specific institutional configurations shape urban political markets for development under changing exogenous circumstances. In an article my colleagues and I just published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, we examine whether city managers are more strategic, comprehensive and inclusive in the use of land-use policy tools at three distinct time periods pre- and post-housing bubble. We employ a Bayesian inferential method underutilized in public administration research to test whether city managers are more strategic, comprehensive, and inclusive than mayors in land use decision-making.
Our analysis finds evidence that, relative to mayor-council and commission forms of government, council-manager governments are (a) more strategic in land use decisions following an economic boom and bust by routinizing sustainable development practices such mixed use and impact fees; (b) more comprehensive in land use tool utilization after an economic shock; and (c) more inclusive of social equity concerns in land use choices such as greater use of incentive zoning that promotes community-wide benefits.
Longevity in the position also appears to mitigate how effective managers are at advancing goals of comprehensiveness.
However, managerial influence is not evident at the housing bubble’s peak, which is an important caveat to the empirical evidence on form of government. These results suggest managerial influence on the comprehensiveness of land use policy may be only detectable in periods when public focus—and the political benefits of appearing responsive—are relatively low.
I work as an Assistant Professor at the O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington. There, I direct the MGMT Lab.