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DeVoe Moore Center Critical Issues Symposium
Decentralized Governance: The Implications of Government Organization in Metropolitan Areas 

This symposium will provide a unique collection of work by the leading scholars of urban politics and government. The issue that is addressed, the organization of local government in metropolitan areas has been one of the most important and enduring in the field of local government. Nevertheless, this issue has taken on increased relevance and generated renewed interest in recent years with the rise of the "new regionalism."

Much of the literature on the organization of local governments falls into two categories. The first is normative in approach and presents arguments favoring centralized or decentralized governments. While this body of work emphasizes the implications of governing structures for efficiency, equity, democratic accountability and economic development, these arguments are rarely subjected to rigorous empirical test. The second body of work builds upon the work of Charles Tiebout and his critics to explore the efficiency of fragmented political systems. While this literature has a stronger empirical foundation it has directed its attention primarily to the explanation of local taxation and expenditure levels.

While the structure of governments has been included in studies of policy choices in areas like economic development and school choice, they have usually not been systematically linked to theories of the organization of local governments. Moreover, the recent study of regional government has focused less on tax and service expenditures than on civic values, jurisdictional cooperation, and citizen participation.

This symposium builds upon these literatures to make a unique contribution to the field. First it provides a stronger theoretical foundation for explaining and evaluating local government organization. Next, it empirically examines governmental cooperation and citizen participation, in a decentralized context. The papers also provide original empirical analyses that link the organization of local governance to issues and services often neglected in the examination of governance structures including: morality issues, economic development, school choice, and global engagement. The concluding papers link these findings back the framework developed in the first part and extracts the implications of this work for regional governance.

The advantages and disadvantages of each approach to the organization of local governments is examined by reviewing the empirical findings reported in Session II . The implications of decentralization for citizens to deal with both local and regional problems will then be critically examined and linked to the theoretical frameworks in Session I. The closing session will discuss directions for research on the organization of governments in metropolitan areas and develop a research agenda.



Askew School of PA


Institute for Energy, Economics & Sustainability


Integrated City Sustainability Database Project


EECBG Implementation Project


Solid Waste Management and Green Jobs Project


Water Governance Project


NSF-RCN Sustainable Cities


APSA Urban Section


Richard Feiock