Name: Mayraj Fahim

Bio: Mayraj Fahim is currently a local government reorganization consultant. Since 2000, she has specialized in integrated local systems. In her early career she was a municipal finance specialist.

Posts by Mayraj:

    Regional governance in Canada

    October 7th, 2012
    .
    .
    Canada is the leading former British colony – that leads even its former British ruler – in the introduction and use of integrated regional systems. As such it has realized benefits that have eluded others. This article will discuss its system in the context of the United States which has lagged Canada since the 1950s. The reason is very simple. In the United States its vast municipal bond market has enabled local governments to maintain the status quo of a fragmented system with little, if any, integration.
    It has been realized in the United States that collaborating is not easy as it does not come naturally to municipalities and it is very hard to sustain over the long term in spite of its many benefits. Decades of experience in Canada demonstrate how systems can prosper and be maintained and how different governments have devised their own solutions. As a result, Canada is one of the leading countries where regional governance is practiced. However, it is in three provinces (Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec) that the most extensive examples of regional governance can be found.

    Lacking financial capability to build necessary infrastructure in a suburbanizing environment, Canadian provinces have guided their local government to embrace municipal reforms in their metropolitan regions. Consolidation or regionalization or a combination thereof have been the most potent instruments employed to recalibrate emerging metropolitan dynamics to curb the downsides of fast growth. As a result, regional governance has generally taken a deeper root in Canada since the 1950s. The result is that there is less suburbanization, less polarization and less inequity, while cities have been less hollowed out than those in the United States. In the US, this bodes ill for the country since its stands at the precipice of the minority majority era, in which the two dominant segments of the new majority have been disadvantaged both within cities and in the suburbs.

    In Canada, local restructuring has been facilitated by the absence of home rule, voter approval requirements and the fact that local governments obtain their powers and jurisdictions from their respective provincial governments. The difference may be traced back to roots in colonial history in Canada and post colonial history in the United States, which also started much earlier in its case.
    Emerging structural issues may be more noticeable to the provincial governments as the evolution of urban areas has been more concentrated in Canada. The majority of the population resides in a few metropolitan areas. Three provinces have led the establishment of regional solutions-and have implemented the most sophisticated applications.

    The first regional system in Canada was the two tier system of metropolitan government introduced by Ontario in 1953. This was the influential formation of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto established to recalibrate service delivery arrangements amongst the City of Toronto and its suburbs. It is well known that in 1998 this system was consolidated into the city of Toronto, as were a select number of other regional governments (Sudbury, Hamilton-Wentworth, Ottawa-Carleton and Haldimand-Norfork). It is less well known that similar two tier structures (in Durham, Halton, Niagara, Peel, Waterloo and York) remained untouched in southern Ontario. Since the province dumped unfunded mandates on the consolidated units shortly thereafter, it appears, the main intention for the large consolidation may have been to save money for the province, while mandating that local governments with less revenues bear the burden of what had previously been a provincial responsibility.

    The Toronto municipality delivered its primary goals of providing better services and improved infrastructure to the region before it was consolidated under a cloud of controversy. As noted in the Governing magazine article ”How Bureaucracy and Bickering Brought Down Niagara Falls” published in August 2009, regional collaboration on the Canadian side has been a key reason for the difference in the economies of the cities on either side of Niagara Falls. A noteworthy effort by this regional government left unmentioned has been its poverty reduction initiative. This is something of particular value for America where 2011 was-the first year white babies were a minority; while suburban poverty has grown more quickly and the working poor are increasingly present in economically segregated parts of metropolitan regions.

    The Waterloo Regional Municipality established in 1973 is renowned for supporting and nurturing its manufacturing sector. This region has the highest concentration of manufacturing workers in a metropolitan area in Canada containing 2/3 of all Canadian start ups and approximately 23 percent of the national labor force employed in the manufacturing sector. As a 2009 Conference Board of Canada Scholar in Residence pointed out in a lecture, this region has become “the poster child for the kind of “big tent” mixture of government and governance we must develop to create successful 21st century cities.” But, while regional municipalities have demonstrated their value, they have not compensated for the growing suburban development outside their jurisdictions. There is still need for more regional collaboration or a regional body to fill the void. Both avenues have been the subject of discussion in the province since the closure of the Greater Toronto Services Board in 2001.

    What has been called the most ambitious smart growth plan in North America was unveiled in 2006 for the fastest growing Greater Golden Horseshoe metropolitan region. Its aim is to manage growth and development in the framework of the Places to Grow plan. The goal is to enable this fastest growing area in the province (where already 84 percent of the population is situated) to enjoy the positive benefits of growth while curbing the “negative aspects associated with rapid growth”. This plan illustrates that even if the province hasn’t introduced more regional governance vehicles, it still retains a regional development awareness exceeding the ambitions of US regions and their respective states.

    The pioneering regional system in Ontario inspired other provinces to think about ways to address the same issues of rapid urban expansion. In 1965, British Columbia pioneered an original way for practical institutional arrangements enabling the sharing and delivery of local goods, services and benefits across jurisdictional boundaries throughout the province. Originally 29 (currently 27) designated areas were identified across the province, that could be incorporated into a regional district by the municipal governments residing within their identified territory.

    They have three primary roles. One is to provide regional governance and services for the entire region. Another is to serve as a vehicle for advancing the interests of the entire region and a third is to serve as a political forum for the representation of regional residents of unincorporated areas and communities. Functionally, they serve as a vehicle for the delivery of region-wide services and provide a political and administrative framework for inter-municipal or sub-regional service partnerships through the creation of “benefiting areas”. Any combination of electoral areas and municipalities can decide to jointly provide services and recover the costs from the beneficiaries.

    The closest U.S. system to this Canadian example is the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County functional consolidation system where either the county or Charlotte provides services to the constituent parts of the county. This framework allows for more intensification of service sharing and has been key to the avoidance of the explosion of special districts in the United States in the postwar era. One can even say that is its greatest achievement. In British Columbia, they are well aware they have avoided this complication. Provincial officials also believe their system has enabled them to avoid the need for consolidation that other provinces have succumbed to. Municipalities currently seeking to save costs and maintain service levels through service sharing will find this system a good resource for figuring out how to deepen their engagements.

    The most recent substantive regional innovations in Canada were implemented in Quebec. The province introduced a series of reforms first introduced in 2000 (but contemplated around the same time as Ontario changes were being announced). Two regional systems (one in the Montreal region and the other in the Quebec City region) and a number of decentralized city systems were established after the consolidation of neighboring municipalities. These consolidations also included the 3 urban communities (Outaouais, Quebec City, and Montreal) within the province which had a 2-tier system like the Ontario regional bodies (and the urban communities of France); but didn’t have the same powers. The Portland and Twin Cities Metros should take note that since 2000 they now have two younger peers in Quebec with a range of powers.

    Quebec’s small municipalities also use inter-municipal agreements to obtain services they cannot afford. These agreements can provide a service from one municipality to another, transfer powers to a municipality in exchange for a particular service, or establish inter-municipal commissions to set up a common service. Some form of an inter-municipal arrangement can be found in almost all Quebec municipalities. In the vast majority of cases, the central city is the service provider or there is a transfer of powers to the central city. Of the three trendsetting provinces Quebec has used the most varied applications of regional governance. It also has the most number of municipalities with the vast majority being small municipalities. This may be why it has appeared to seek inspiration from France, where an extremely high level of fragmentation has been addressed by the application of the most networked system of regional governance in the world and its most varied applications.

    While the three provinces have the most sophisticated systems; there is a growing trend since the 1980s of other provinces introducing regionalization. For instance, new regional bodies can be found in Alberta (Capital Region Board, Regional Services Commissions and Regional Economic Development Alliances), Saskatchewan (Inter-Community Cooperation Program), Nova Scotia (Joint Expenditure Boards) and New Brunswick (Greater Moncton Economic Commission which helped revitalize this area and new Regional Service Commissions). All of them, so far, are more modest and limited in scope than the least structured of the three provincial systems – the regional districts of British Columbia. Of course, their jurisdictions are not as highly urbanized and they are relatively new to regionalization of metropolitan governance.

    • Share/Bookmark

    3 Comments "

    Karachi , Pakistan: A case on the benefits of Federated Government Structure

    July 24th, 2011

    Adnan shaheed  Sathi Unit 64  Mutheda Quami Movement  karachi pakistan (39)
    Creative Commons License photo credit: Photogeraphar 0345-3333888

    Karachi, Pakistan, with its 14 million inhabitants, is the largest city by population with a federated city government structure. The federated city system was implemented in Karachi over a three-year period – from 2001 to 2003 – and has been followed by other cities in three different regions of the world, including Birmingham (UK), Los Angeles and Montreal and, more recently, Baghdad.

    Except for one country (Iraq), all the new systems introduced or announced were in countries familiar with integrated federated systems in some form or other. The most interesting thing about this city system is that it was implemented in a country that had an inactive period and then delivered systems for provincial/state capital cities in short order, along with implementing a system for rural regions nationwide. Consequently, federated systems are now a nationwide reality in Pakistan, comparable in implementation levels only to the pioneering country of the original system introduced in the late 18th Century – which today has the most diverse variations of this methodology in place.

    Ironically, this city system was implemented in a former British colonial region where the British first introduced a rural system for some parts, and not others, in the early 20th Century. The first urban example was London, which was adapted for rural areas in Pakistan. Why they never implemented a city system in the colony is another question.

    Karachi is now the largest such city by population, and London the second largest. There the similarity between the two frameworks basically ends. The reason is that London reflects a different application type. The more comparable systems are those implemented (and still being implemented) for Birmingham, England, and Montreal, Canada, which started the implementation process between 2000 and 2003.

    Karachi has a three-tier system consisting of a city district council; 18 town councils (counterpart to the London boroughs, and in rural India termed panchayat samithis – the intermediate level); and 178 union (neighbourhood) councils (counterpart to the English parish councils, or gram panchayats/sabha in Indian terminology). What makes it comparable to Birmingham and Montreal, is that it has a three-tier framework as does Birmingham, and a bottom-up representative structure found in Montreal – two-tier system. The three-tier framework is uniquely British.

    The parish as a unit of local administration has existed for more than 1,000 years in England and has been found to be of great benefit in encouraging community interest. Typical activities undertaken by a parish council include parks, garbage collection, maintenance of a village hall, and such things as public clocks. They also have a consultative role in planning as well as the power to raise funds through a range of mechanisms. In England, parish councils have existed in ebbs and flows, particularly in urban areas. The current phase is one of rising use, even in smaller urban systems.

    Karachi (and other city systems in Pakistan), Birmingham and Montreal also share the feature of having common representation between the tiers. This feature is one that earlier renderings of the methodology did not have, such as London and Paris. In addition to the features discussed above, the Karachi system also provides for integration of civic oriented groups.

    Apart from Karachi, large cities such as Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Sukkur, Quetta, Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur are planned to be declared City Districts in a phased manner. But initially, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta and Islamabad, the capital city, have seen the introduction of the new integrated federated city-wide frameworks.

    Details of the Karachi system
    The Local Government Plan 2000 and the Local Government Ordinance 2001 provided for the establishment of a City District Government to respond to the specific needs of Karachi and other mega cities and larger urban units.

    The governing framework of Karachi’s new system, orients the administrative system to allow public participation in decision-making. The bottom-up representative framework, where each neighbourhood (union) council is represented at each level, creates its high degree of integration. The core unit of the system is the union council, which has 21 elected members. The union Nazim (Mayor) and the Naib Nazim (Vice Mayor) are elected as joint candidates. The Naib Nazim represents the Union council as a town councilor, and the Union Nazim represents the Union Council as a city councillor. Further, to accommodate the developing country’s need to promote representation of certain segments of the society, reserved seats for them are made available at every level of the system

    Council-Manager framework
    Karachi’s system operates in a similar way to the US council-manager system. In that form of government, an elected council is responsible for making policy, passing ordinances, voting appropriations, and having overall supervisory authority in the city government. In the Karachi system supervisory functions are conducted by monitoring committees that monitor the functions of local governments at each level to evaluate performance of each office in relation to achievement of its targets, responsiveness to citizens’ difficulties, efficiency in delivery of services and its transparent functioning.

    An administrator is responsible for supervising government operations and implementing the policies adopted by the council. The Administrator serves the council

    Other countries with similar systems include Canada, Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Honduras, Chile and Brazil. India also has civil service personnel but their role relative to the elected representatives lacks the features of this approach – though it was announced earlier this month that India will see how Pakistan’s approach can relate to what is the norm there for the moment.

    In the US, when the system was introduced in the early 1900s, its primary promoter, Richard S. Childs (secretary of the National Short Ballot Organization and a leading political progressive reformer) had noted that it was similar to the burgomaster system used by cities in Germany, Austria, and The Netherlands.

    The Three-Tier System
    The Karachi City District is a three-tiered system comprising the City District Government (CDG), the Town Municipal Administration (TMA) and the Union Administration (UA). When setting up the City District Government and TMA, effort was made to enable the following,
    where technical factors allowed: the principle of subsidiarity to be followed in determining which planning and municipal services/functions are assigned to the City District Government and which ones to TMA.

    Town Municipal Administration
    In all 18 towns of the Karachi City District, there is a Town Municipal Administration (TMA) which is a body corporate consisting of a Town Nazim, Town Municipal Officer, Town Officers and other officers of the Local Council Service and officials of the offices entrusted to the TMA. The TMA is responsible for spatial planning (land use planning and zoning), development facilitation/control (site development and building control) and municipal services (water, sanitation, solid waste, roads and streets, street lights, graveyards, fire fighting, traffic engineering, abattoirs, parks and open spaces) in a town of the City District, except those functions which for technical or other reasons are retained within the City District Government. The TMA is responsible for planning, capital investments and the operation and maintenance of municipal services.

    Union Council Administration
    In each of Karachi’s 178 union councils there is a Union Administration. This is a body corporate and consists of Union Nazim, Naib Union Nazim and Secretaries and the members of ancillary staff .
    The Union Nazim is the head of the Union Administration. The Union Secretaries coordinate and facilitate in community development, functioning of the Union Committees and delivery of municipal services under the supervision of Union Nazim.

    Participatory Democracy Mechanisms: The Citizen Community Boards
    The integration of civic organizations is enabled by Citizen Community Boards (CCBs) in Karachi’s system. Similar mechanisms were implemented in Latin America, and according to an article published on this website, Belgium was the first European nation to implement them.

    Citizen Community Boards (CCBs) can be set up in every local area by a group of non-elected citizens for energizing the community for development and improvement in service delivery through voluntary, proactive and self help initiatives and to take up the welfare of the needy.

    A Citizen Community Board may raise funds through voluntary contributions, gifts, donations, grants and endowments for its declared purposes. It may also receive project-based cost sharing support from any local government. A Citizen Community Board is regarded as a non-profit organization and its income and assets must only be used for the attainment of its objectives and no portion of the income is to be paid by way of dividend, profit or bonus to any of its members or contributors. The accounts of the Board are subject to audit.

    The development budget takes priority in accordance with its bottom–up orientation. Hence, not less than 50 per cent of the development budget can be reserved for the schemes initiated and identified by the Citizen Community Board. Under the new system, Citizen Community Boards may receive from a local government matching grants up to 80 per cent of the budgeted amount of an approved development project by depositing its share of the cost of such project.

    Conclusion
    Karachi’s new system has led to a more responsive government and one that has worked on improving the many areas of this city. It has an integrated system for a region with a large population, reflecting a framework that is increasingly being sought by even those nations without a history in the application of this methodology. A recent example is The Netherlands “Deltametropolis” plan. This region, which contains the nation’s most populous region, is in effect seeking to develop the kind of framework that is another application of the sort of integrated system characterized by the new Karachi framework. In The Netherlands’s case, it will be a system developed by the linking up of autonomous units, another way such a system has been developed. The most common example of this application are the post-1950s regional council municipalities and their like that started becoming a Canadian hallmark. The new Montreal framework came into being from the consolidation of one such system. The Montreal framework is the one-unit federated example, as opposed to the multi-unit federated systemic framework of its predecessor system. In a sense The Netherlands’s initiative seeks to create the sort of framework that Montreal was once a part, before the 28-unit Montreal Urban community.

    Hence, Karachi, Pakistan’s system, even though it reflects the heritage of a framework that is rooted in the region’s pre-Independence past, has dimensions that make it a notable variation of a methodology that is increasingly being adapted because it is driven by the needs of changing ground conditions – more pronounced in Pakistan’s large urban cities than in The Netherlands.

    Furthermore, Karachi’s new system implementation has illustrated that an enormous undertaking of this order can be undertaken in an amazingly short time. It is still in the process of ironing out the kinks of implementing such an enormous undertaking – but this is to be expected. It is also heartening that the current government has set a standard that encourages transparency. In fact, the Mayor of Karachi invited Transparency International to see what they could do to help the City implement a transparent and accountable system from the bottom –up.

    They started with a pilot program intended to be spread across the city region once it is finessed. This is very important, since a federated system needs to avoid islands of neglect and isolation. For that it needs a Government that is comprehensively on top of what transpires in its various parts.

    • Share/Bookmark

    14 Comments "

    Governance : Cooperation & Collaboration between Local Bodies

    May 20th, 2011

    As noted in a 2007 paper by Sung-Wook Kwon of the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University: “general purpose governments do not correspond to the boundaries of metropolitan areas”. Yet: “metro areas are the units that best correspond to local economies and are also the unit best able to capture positive and negative externalities in the provision of public goods and services. Metropolitan areas have experienced higher increases in population in comparison with the nation: Between the 1950s and the mid-1990s, the population living in those areas increased from 56 per cent to 80 per cent; the population increase [per centage] in metropolitan areas (165 per cent) was more than twice that of the nation (73 per cent)… Accordingly, political science has turned increasing attention to the study of governments in metropolitan areas. Fragmentation of authority and the lack of regional governments have led this work to focus on issues of governance rather than governments. Issues of both intergovernmental competition and cooperation inform this inquiry. {See: “Regional Governance Institutions and Inter-local Cooperation for Service Delivery”]

    Fragmentation of service delivery has been illustrated in two surveys. One such has been on alternative service delivery by local governments, which has been conducted by the International City County Management Association (“ICMA”) every five years. The other is conducted by the US Census Bureau. As noted in an article entitled “Trends in Public and Contracted Government Services: 2002-2007” by Mildred E. Warner and Amir Hefetz, the ICMA 2007 survey revealed: “public delivery is still the most common form of service delivery at 52 per cent of all service delivery across all local governments on average. Intergovernmental contracting at 16 per cent and for-profit privatization at 17 per cent are the most common alternatives to public delivery. Non-profit delivery at 5 per cent is next, and franchises,subsidies and volunteers collectively account for less than 2 per cent of service delivery”.

    What is not indicated by the ICMA survey is the part played by special districts in the public delivery of services. However, the Census Bureau surveys have found that special districts are the fastest growing types of local government. It is in the use of special districts where a massive divergent trend exists between Canada and the United States. As stated in 2002 Census material: “The number of special district governments has seen a nearly three-fold rise, from 12,340 in 1952 to 35,356 in 2002.” [See: “Government Units in 2002,” Issued July 2002]. While special districts have multiplied, the number of other local governments has decreased. A recent article calling for a review of the role of special districts in local governance has also pointed out with reference to Census survey data that “[b]etween 1952 and 2002, three types of local government (counties, towns or townships, and school districts) decreased in number”. The same article further noted that during the same period only municipalities and special districts grew in number. Yet where municipalities grew by almost 16 per cent, special districts increased in number by 184 per cent. [See: “Three Reasons to REVISIT Special Districts”].

    Unlike the British Columbia regional districts where general-purpose local governments are active participants (see this author’s article on the regional district system of British Columbia, where this article can also be found in the long version of the same article), special districts in the United States provide an alternative mechanism. The great majority of special districts are single purpose special districts, exemplified by those in California where 80 per cent are of that type. [See:” WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT SPECIAL DISTRICTS?] Some special districts charge user fees for services; others rely more on property taxes. Some are independent (since they are not governed by general purpose governments) while others are dependent. This has produced increased balkanization rather than systemic integration and has accordingly become an impediment in the process of greater integration. Integration, however, is in the economic interests of regions, as pointed out in an article by Jordan Rappaport, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, in which he asserted: “[While cities and suburbs do sometimes grow at each other’s expense, more often they grow or decline together. Thus, while it may make sense for cities and their suburbs to compete along some dimensions, there are also strong incentives for the two to cooperate to make their metro areas attractive and productive places to live and work. [See: “The Shared Fortunes of Cities and Suburbs”].A paper by Professor David Schleicher of George Mason University School of Law supports this view in his discussion of “agglomeration economics”. It is asserted in the abstract of his paper that there is an “inverse relationship between the gains from agglomeration and sorting”. His argument continues: “Having many small local governments, and enabling individuals to choose their local public policies by sorting among them, affects the organization and density of people in metropolitan areas, creating movement away from economically-optimal location decisions. Sorting thus reduces agglomerative efficiency. Similarly, the existence of agglomerative gains means that individuals are making location decisions for reasons other than matching their preferences for public policies. Agglomeration therefore causes a reduction in the efficiency of sorting.”

    He further contends: “States face a trade-off between maximizing agglomerative and sorting efficiency in deciding how much power, and which responsibilities, to allocate to local government. The need to balance these two conflicting sources of efficiency and changes in the nature of agglomerative gains over the last hundred years explains a great deal about the history of American local government law, current allocations of power between local governments and state legislatures, judicial decisions about local governmental power and the proper role for the federal government in policy areas, like housing and transportation, that are primarily regulated at the local level.” [See: “The City as a Law and Economic Subject”] In conclusion, Professor Schleicher’s hope is that his paper “will point the way forward on how to understand the interaction between competition between localities and broader questions of regional economic development. Local government law has ignored developments in economics for far too long, to the detriment of legal and economic scholarship and national public policy”.. The author would add that other countries have already made clear that they understand agglomeration economics and have sought to balance the “trade-off between maximizing agglomerative and sorting efficiency” – to employ the terms used in his paper.

    As indicated by recent New York state policy changes, some states are looking at special district reduction as they seek local governance unit consolidation, even if others are not – as yet. [See: “Town Special Districts in New York: Background, Trends and Issues”. Office of the New York State Comptroller]. Kathryn Foster, the author of some substantive work on special districts, was in 2007 a Governor appointee to the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness. [See: “The Political Economy of Special-Purpose Government”]. In a recent article she expressed herself thus: “The challenge is not to focus on how many local governments are in existence, but on how to best deliver government services.” [See: “State makes it easier to bring issue to a vote”]. Interestingly, she also raises belatedly the issue of the need to apply thoughtfulness in devising a local governance formula, something that British Columbia did in the 1960s to craft its policy – and which New York and other states have generally avoided until now. Accordingly, she insisted: “[w]hat kind of government system would you get if you started from scratch should be the challenge for reformers”.

    Special districts – the default option
    While interlocal cooperation took off in the mid-20th century – and privatization first emerged in the 19th century (when it became the preferred form for service delivery by cities - [See: “The Origins of Governmental Production: Cleaning the Streets of New York by Contract During the 19th Century”] ,special districts have roots going back to the 17th century, when the special assessment tool was first adopted by New York based on the statute promulgated in England to rebuild London after the Great Fire. [See: Rosewater, Victor: “Special Assessments: A Study in Municipal Finance” p.24] The mechanism of making use of an identifiable revenue source for a special purpose then expanded to other uses such as those exemplified by special purpose governments that can be classified as ‘authorities’, ‘corporations’ and ‘special districts’. Though the 1800s was also the period when special district use arrived in Canada, it nevertheless developed a different approach to local finance than that of the United States, which might have played a part in the different levels of use of the special district vehicle. In the United States, since the 1800s, they were used as a municipal debt financing vehicle – especially with voter-imposed limits on the use of ad valorem tax based on general obligation debt, and then in the wake of California’s Proposition 13 cap on property tax rates imposed by general purpose governments. Nevertheless, as exemplified by the state of North Carolina (see discussion below) special district numerical growth can be prevented from rising exponentially by taking certain precautionary measures. [This state is also rare in that general obligation debt is the primary municipal debt type issued. For further discussion, see the author’s article on North Carolina Local Government Finance].

    The role of metropolitan expansion in special district growth
    A 1962 report by the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations to the Committee on Governmental Operations, US House of Representatives, entitled “Alternative approaches to governmental reorganization in metropolitan areas”, pointed out the major structural impediments in metropolitan areas that population shifts were revealing. These were important, since the main economic engine of the economy was by then located in these areas. Three of the major identified structural characteristics were:
    1.Fragmentation and overlapping of governmental units.
    By then in the 212 SMSAs (population clusters classified by the Census as Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas) some 18,442 local government units served a population of 112.9 million persons (nearly two-thirds of the national population). Twenty per cent of all local governments were located in these SMSAs .

    2. Disparity between tax and service boundaries.
    “Generally speaking, the larger the number of independent governmental jurisdictions within a metropolitan area the more inequitable and difficult becomes the process of financing those governmental services which by their nature are area-wide in character.”

    3. Metropolitan area problems frequently cross state lines.
    “The twenty-six metropolitan areas that include territory in two or more states contain more than one-fifth of the Nation’s people and almost one-third of its manufacturing activity.”

    Instead of a reduction in the above identified problematic features, the explosive growth of special districts compounded the situation. As the Census survey has disclosed, states in the North East and Middle West were losing population to the Sun Belt region – that is, to the western and southern parts of the country where migration has been generally heading since the end of the second world war and rival it in the number of special districts. For instance, those states with more than 1,000 special districts in the most recent count (year 2007) by the Census include:

    1. Illinois (3,249; 2008 est. population:12,901,563);
    2. California (2,765; 2008 est. population: 36,756,666);
    3. Texas (2,291; 2008 est. population:24,326,974);
    4. Colorado (1,904; 2008 est. population: 4,939,456);
    5. Missouri (1,809; 2008 est. population: 5,911,605);
    6.Pennsylvania (1,728: 2008 est. population: 12, 448, 279);
    7. Kansas (1,531: 2008 est. population: 2, 802, 134);
    8. Nebraska (1,294: 2008 est. population: 1,783, 432);
    9. Indiana (1,272; 2008 est. population: 6, 376, 792);
    10.Washington (1,229; 2008 est. population: 6,549, 224);
    11. New York (1,119; 2008 est. population: 19, 490, 297);
    12. Florida (1,051; 2008 est. population:18,328,340);
    13.Oregon (1,034; 2008 est. population: 3,790,060).

    [See: “Local Governments and Public School Systems by Type and State: 2007”]
    As disclosed by the states themselves, the Census survey provides a conservative accounting. Hence, whereas the 2007 Census survey identifies 1,119 special districts for New York, the state report on town special districts alone identities more than 6,900. [See: “Town Special Districts in New York: Background, Trends and Issues, Office of the New York State Comptroller”].

    The post-second world war period distinguished by metropolitan expansion in America was also characterized by the growth of special districts. Three primary motivations behind this growth have been the desire to provide services to select areas in suburban communities not provided generally (see: “Town Special Districts in New York”); as a response to tax and spending limits imposed by voters voters (See: “The Problem of Being Special: Special Assessment Districts and the Financing of Infrastructure in California”, “Casting Light on Shadow Government: An Exploratory Analysis of Public Authorities in the Southern States”, “Special Districts, Authorities, Corporations, and the Bond Market) and as a mechanism for financing and providing services in new subdivisions (See: “New Bill Seeks Sunshine For State’s Special Districts”). Unlike British Columbia, American states generally did not grasp the opportunity of considering other options as willingly as they permitted the growth of special districts. On interlocal cooperation as an alternative route, although American states have laws supporting it (unlike British Columbia) they have not supported them substantively.

    Role of tax and expenditure limits
    California’s ballot initiative Proposition 13 passed in 1978, which placed a limit on property tax rates, had a nationwide influence on property tax rates. The result was local governments’ even greater reliance on special districts. Yet, as revealed by a comprehensive study, services generally cost more per capita when delivered by special districts rather than by general-purpose governments. [See: “The Political Economy of Special-Purpose Government” by K. Foster, Georgetown University Press, Washington DC, 2007]. Since the 1800s California has been using special districts extensively. As noted in a 1994 study: “The total number of special districts has changed very little over the years. From FY 1974/75 through FY 1991/92 it hovered around 4,900 according to the Office of the State Controller. Since the passage of Proposition 13 the number has increased less than 3 per cent. In the period between 1986 and 1992 the number rose slightly.” The study attributed this to an increase in county service areas and joint powers agreements. The study further noted: “[t]here are 66 fewer water districts, 47 fewer sanitary districts and 44 fewer fire districts than there were when Proposition 13 was passed. In the same period, the number of CSAs has increased by 167 and JPAs have grown by 327”. But the number of 4,900 special districts (again more than that identified by the Census survey), places California near the very top of those states using special districts. [See: “Special District Consolidations”]. If California had had a policy like that of North Carolina there would have been a far greater reduction in the number of special districts found there, even by 1994.

    Intergovernmental cooperation
    Until the present time cooperation was most likely in a suburban jurisdiction (16 per cent) as compared with rural areas (15 per cent) and core metro areas (12 per cent). [See: “Intergovernmental Cooperation: Oakland County, Michigan”] As made plain in the presentation by R. Scott Fosler (see below) on regionalism, by the late 1940s 11 states had enabled interlocal cooperation. But since then there has been little dynamic growth in this option. Today, under financial pressure, in self-defense local governments are increasingly considering this option – or being encouraged to consider it by states. [See: “Cash strapped towns look to share services”].

    As eloquently stated in a paper surveying the existing literature on interlocal governmental cooperation, Kelly M. LeRoux and Jered B. Carr, said: “Whereas jurisdictional boundaries are clearly defined, the nature and scope of contemporary public problems frequently transcend political and spatial bounds. The complexity of public problems increasingly requires multi-sector and multi- jurisdictional solutions.” [See: “The Social Structure of Interlocal Cooperation in Metropolitan Areas This paper was prepared for presentation at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 7-10, 2005]. Of course, these contemporary public problems have been in existence for decades and the sentiments expressed are not new. What is missed by those who merely see an imbalance when metropolitan growth is involved is that the need for interlocal cooperation can occur whenever there is a noticeable imbalance within a fragmented local system, as French history has exhibited. There the imbalance was evident owing to the extreme fragmentation that was uniquely French, which led to the implementation of a policy of encouraging interlocal cooperation. With the advent of suburban growth in the 1970s, French policy was encouraged by a further deepening of the use of interlocal cooperation as the means of solution. So by 1 January 2008 “more than 33,500 of the 36,700 French communes, covering around 90 per cent of the French population, were members of a municipal cooperation structure with its own taxation”. [See: “How to restrain urban sprawl? The French way”]. However, in the US (unlike France) where state support is generally invisible, the level of interlocal cooperation and its evolution over time is in a different place. Moreover, as two articles in the current issue of Governing magazine report, the absence of interlocal cooperation can be costly. [See: “In Memphis, a Plea for Regionalism” and “How Bureacracy and Bickering Brought Down Niagara Falls”].

    Nevertheless, the fiscal stress of the current environment is inspiring greater efforts towards increased collaboration; and federal stimulus programs are playing a part in encouraging collaboration for metropolitan improvements, as discussed in a recent Brookings Institution paper. [See: “Implementing ARRA: Innovations in Design in Metro America”] Whether or not this amounts to something that is to be sustained over the years is another matter.

    As indicated in Oakland County, Michigan, documents there is commitment to an increase in interlocal cooperation but “implementing such arrangements are difficult and take a good deal of time”. [See: “The County’s Role in Inter-Governmental Cooperation”] As pointed out in the presentations of British Columbia officials at the Maine Conference in November 2007: “It’ll happen faster with the means to minimize costs of negotiation, a defined state role for impetus and support, and intergovernmental policy dialogue.” A strategy is required to help officials cope with complexity. [See: “Fostering the Growth of Regional Partnerships”] These generally are missing elements in the American experience. Hence, local governments have found it easier to allocate service delivery responsibilities to special districts and to even contract out their responsibilities.

    In 1994 an article in Governing magazine by a former city manager of Austin, Texas, mentioned some efforts of the period that illustrated collaboration. The hope expressed by the author was that ‘[t] hese experiments hold the seeds of new structures. What is needed is to learn from these experiments and create a new model for regional governance”. The author continued: “The regions that are first in developing them will be more desirable, sustainable and economically competitive. Regions live or die together. A metropolitan area is one economic, social and physical unit. Communities must find ways to work together. If they don’t, their vitality, force and freshness will wither.” [See: “WE NEED NEW WAYS TO GOVERN NEW KINDS OF CITIES”].

    As that vitality is more at stake under the onslaught of the current period of financial uncertainty, there are more examples of the type cited in the Brookings paper on how some (unfortunately a minority) were using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) by abandoning “business as usual” in the interests of metropolitan improvement. The scarceness of such innovative efforts was attributed to the need for the pre-existence of a regional vision or plan, as well as strong local leadership – in other words, a productive platform on which to build. Studies have revealed (as mentioned in Kelly M. LeRoux and Jered B. Carr’s paper cited above) that public service officials are more open to interlocal cooperation: “that interlocal cooperation, initiated and facilitated by local public servants, is pervasive across functions and thus may be sufficient for overcoming the problems inherent in what… has [been] described as the ‘fragmented and disarticulated’ state. Whereas electoral motives may preclude cooperative impulses among mayors and others elected within political boundaries, professional public servants have a longer time-horizon, creating incentives for administrators to work together…Therefore, public managers may be better positioned to drive metropolitan governance than any other set of local actors, including elected officials”.

    With public jobs at risk there should be sufficient incentive for interlocal cooperative action. However, in the absence of a strong foundation or leadership by a local actor (or actors), even the incentives provided might prove insufficient to change the status quo. As recent news from New Jersey disclosed, as a defensive default option some local units are considering interlocal cooperation. [See: “Cash strapped towns look to share services”] In New Jersey, the state is looking to restructure governments through consolidation and greater interlocal cooperation. [See: the Department of Community Affairs website for description of LUARCC].

    This is the time for state governments to step up to the mark – but they might need some guidance on how to provide the necessary support. Within this void, county governments can provide a platform, and there are models to indicate how this might happen.

    In the author’s opinion, collaborative service delivery shouldn’t just be viewed as a defensive tool by American local governments. As examples outside the country illustrate, it is a more productive tool in the hands of the ambitious

    This Article was first published in City Mayors

    Admiralty 金鐘
    Creative Commons License photo credit: Joybot

    As noted in a 2007 paper by Sung-Wook Kwon of the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University: “general purpose governments do not correspond to the boundaries of metropolitan areas”. Yet: “metro areas are the units that best correspond to local economies and are also the unit best able to capture positive and negative externalities in the provision of public goods and services. Metropolitan areas have experienced higher increases in population in comparison with the nation: Between the 1950s and the mid-1990s, the population living in those areas increased from 56 per cent to 80 per cent; the population increase [per centage] in metropolitan areas (165 per cent) was more than twice that of the nation (73 per cent)… Accordingly, political science has turned increasing attention to the study of governments in metropolitan areas. Fragmentation of authority and the lack of regional governments have led this work to focus on issues of governance rather than governments. Issues of both intergovernmental competition and cooperation inform this inquiry. {See: “Regional Governance Institutions and Inter-local Cooperation for Service Delivery”]

    Fragmentation of service delivery has been illustrated in two surveys. One such has been on alternative service delivery by local governments, which has been conducted by the International City County Management Association (“ICMA”) every five years. The other is conducted by the US Census Bureau. As noted in an article entitled “Trends in Public and Contracted Government Services: 2002-2007” by Mildred E. Warner and Amir Hefetz, the ICMA 2007 survey revealed: “public delivery is still the most common form of service delivery at 52 per cent of all service delivery across all local governments on average. Intergovernmental contracting at 16 per cent and for-profit privatization at 17 per cent are the most common alternatives to public delivery. Non-profit delivery at 5 per cent is next, and franchises,subsidies and volunteers collectively account for less than 2 per cent of service delivery”.

    What is not indicated by the ICMA survey is the part played by special districts in the public delivery of services. However, the Census Bureau surveys have found that special districts are the fastest growing types of local government. It is in the use of special districts where a massive divergent trend exists between Canada and the United States. As stated in 2002 Census material: “The number of special district governments has seen a nearly three-fold rise, from 12,340 in 1952 to 35,356 in 2002.” [See: “Government Units in 2002,” Issued July 2002]. While special districts have multiplied, the number of other local governments has decreased. A recent article calling for a review of the role of special districts in local governance has also pointed out with reference to Census survey data that “[b]etween 1952 and 2002, three types of local government (counties, towns or townships, and school districts) decreased in number”. The same article further noted that during the same period only municipalities and special districts grew in number. Yet where municipalities grew by almost 16 per cent, special districts increased in number by 184 per cent. [See: “Three Reasons to REVISIT Special Districts”].

    Unlike the British Columbia regional districts where general-purpose local governments are active participants (see this author’s article on the regional district system of British Columbia, where this article can also be found in the long version of the same article), special districts in the United States provide an alternative mechanism. The great majority of special districts are single purpose special districts, exemplified by those in California where 80 per cent are of that type. [See:” WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT SPECIAL DISTRICTS?] Some special districts charge user fees for services; others rely more on property taxes. Some are independent (since they are not governed by general purpose governments) while others are dependent. This has produced increased balkanization rather than systemic integration and has accordingly become an impediment in the process of greater integration. Integration, however, is in the economic interests of regions, as pointed out in an article by Jordan Rappaport, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, in which he asserted: “[While cities and suburbs do sometimes grow at each other’s expense, more often they grow or decline together. Thus, while it may make sense for cities and their suburbs to compete along some dimensions, there are also strong incentives for the two to cooperate to make their metro areas attractive and productive places to live and work. [See: “The Shared Fortunes of Cities and Suburbs”].A paper by Professor David Schleicher of George Mason University School of Law supports this view in his discussion of “agglomeration economics”. It is asserted in the abstract of his paper that there is an “inverse relationship between the gains from agglomeration and sorting”. His argument continues: “Having many small local governments, and enabling individuals to choose their local public policies by sorting among them, affects the organization and density of people in metropolitan areas, creating movement away from economically-optimal location decisions. Sorting thus reduces agglomerative efficiency. Similarly, the existence of agglomerative gains means that individuals are making location decisions for reasons other than matching their preferences for public policies. Agglomeration therefore causes a reduction in the efficiency of sorting.”

    He further contends: “States face a trade-off between maximizing agglomerative and sorting efficiency in deciding how much power, and which responsibilities, to allocate to local government. The need to balance these two conflicting sources of efficiency and changes in the nature of agglomerative gains over the last hundred years explains a great deal about the history of American local government law, current allocations of power between local governments and state legislatures, judicial decisions about local governmental power and the proper role for the federal government in policy areas, like housing and transportation, that are primarily regulated at the local level.” [See: “The City as a Law and Economic Subject”] In conclusion, Professor Schleicher’s hope is that his paper “will point the way forward on how to understand the interaction between competition between localities and broader questions of regional economic development. Local government law has ignored developments in economics for far too long, to the detriment of legal and economic scholarship and national public policy”.. The author would add that other countries have already made clear that they understand agglomeration economics and have sought to balance the “trade-off between maximizing agglomerative and sorting efficiency” – to employ the terms used in his paper.

    As indicated by recent New York state policy changes, some states are looking at special district reduction as they seek local governance unit consolidation, even if others are not – as yet. [See: “Town Special Districts in New York: Background, Trends and Issues”. Office of the New York State Comptroller]. Kathryn Foster, the author of some substantive work on special districts, was in 2007 a Governor appointee to the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness. [See: “The Political Economy of Special-Purpose Government”]. In a recent article she expressed herself thus: “The challenge is not to focus on how many local governments are in existence, but on how to best deliver government services.” [See: “State makes it easier to bring issue to a vote”]. Interestingly, she also raises belatedly the issue of the need to apply thoughtfulness in devising a local governance formula, something that British Columbia did in the 1960s to craft its policy – and which New York and other states have generally avoided until now. Accordingly, she insisted: “[w]hat kind of government system would you get if you started from scratch should be the challenge for reformers”.

    Special districts – the default option
    While interlocal cooperation took off in the mid-20th century – and privatization first emerged in the 19th century (when it became the preferred form for service delivery by cities - [See: “The Origins of Governmental Production: Cleaning the Streets of New York by Contract During the 19th Century”] ,special districts have roots going back to the 17th century, when the special assessment tool was first adopted by New York based on the statute promulgated in England to rebuild London after the Great Fire. [See: Rosewater, Victor: “Special Assessments: A Study in Municipal Finance” p.24] The mechanism of making use of an identifiable revenue source for a special purpose then expanded to other uses such as those exemplified by special purpose governments that can be classified as ‘authorities’, ‘corporations’ and ‘special districts’. Though the 1800s was also the period when special district use arrived in Canada, it nevertheless developed a different approach to local finance than that of the United States, which might have played a part in the different levels of use of the special district vehicle. In the United States, since the 1800s, they were used as a municipal debt financing vehicle – especially with voter-imposed limits on the use of ad valorem tax based on general obligation debt, and then in the wake of California’s Proposition 13 cap on property tax rates imposed by general purpose governments. Nevertheless, as exemplified by the state of North Carolina (see discussion below) special district numerical growth can be prevented from rising exponentially by taking certain precautionary measures. [This state is also rare in that general obligation debt is the primary municipal debt type issued. For further discussion, see the author’s article on North Carolina Local Government Finance].

    The role of metropolitan expansion in special district growth
    A 1962 report by the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations to the Committee on Governmental Operations, US House of Representatives, entitled “Alternative approaches to governmental reorganization in metropolitan areas”, pointed out the major structural impediments in metropolitan areas that population shifts were revealing. These were important, since the main economic engine of the economy was by then located in these areas. Three of the major identified structural characteristics were:
    1.Fragmentation and overlapping of governmental units.
    By then in the 212 SMSAs (population clusters classified by the Census as Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas) some 18,442 local government units served a population of 112.9 million persons (nearly two-thirds of the national population). Twenty per cent of all local governments were located in these SMSAs .

    2. Disparity between tax and service boundaries.
    “Generally speaking, the larger the number of independent governmental jurisdictions within a metropolitan area the more inequitable and difficult becomes the process of financing those governmental services which by their nature are area-wide in character.”

    3. Metropolitan area problems frequently cross state lines.
    “The twenty-six metropolitan areas that include territory in two or more states contain more than one-fifth of the Nation’s people and almost one-third of its manufacturing activity.”

    Instead of a reduction in the above identified problematic features, the explosive growth of special districts compounded the situation. As the Census survey has disclosed, states in the North East and Middle West were losing population to the Sun Belt region – that is, to the western and southern parts of the country where migration has been generally heading since the end of the second world war and rival it in the number of special districts. For instance, those states with more than 1,000 special districts in the most recent count (year 2007) by the Census include:

    1. Illinois (3,249; 2008 est. population:12,901,563);
    2. California (2,765; 2008 est. population: 36,756,666);
    3. Texas (2,291; 2008 est. population:24,326,974);
    4. Colorado (1,904; 2008 est. population: 4,939,456);
    5. Missouri (1,809; 2008 est. population: 5,911,605);
    6.Pennsylvania (1,728: 2008 est. population: 12, 448, 279);
    7. Kansas (1,531: 2008 est. population: 2, 802, 134);
    8. Nebraska (1,294: 2008 est. population: 1,783, 432);
    9. Indiana (1,272; 2008 est. population: 6, 376, 792);
    10.Washington (1,229; 2008 est. population: 6,549, 224);
    11. New York (1,119; 2008 est. population: 19, 490, 297);
    12. Florida (1,051; 2008 est. population:18,328,340);
    13.Oregon (1,034; 2008 est. population: 3,790,060).

    [See: “Local Governments and Public School Systems by Type and State: 2007”]
    As disclosed by the states themselves, the Census survey provides a conservative accounting. Hence, whereas the 2007 Census survey identifies 1,119 special districts for New York, the state report on town special districts alone identities more than 6,900. [See: “Town Special Districts in New York: Background, Trends and Issues, Office of the New York State Comptroller”].

    The post-second world war period distinguished by metropolitan expansion in America was also characterized by the growth of special districts. Three primary motivations behind this growth have been the desire to provide services to select areas in suburban communities not provided generally (see: “Town Special Districts in New York”); as a response to tax and spending limits imposed by voters voters (See: “The Problem of Being Special: Special Assessment Districts and the Financing of Infrastructure in California”, “Casting Light on Shadow Government: An Exploratory Analysis of Public Authorities in the Southern States”, “Special Districts, Authorities, Corporations, and the Bond Market) and as a mechanism for financing and providing services in new subdivisions (See: “New Bill Seeks Sunshine For State’s Special Districts”). Unlike British Columbia, American states generally did not grasp the opportunity of considering other options as willingly as they permitted the growth of special districts. On interlocal cooperation as an alternative route, although American states have laws supporting it (unlike British Columbia) they have not supported them substantively.

    Role of tax and expenditure limits
    California’s ballot initiative Proposition 13 passed in 1978, which placed a limit on property tax rates, had a nationwide influence on property tax rates. The result was local governments’ even greater reliance on special districts. Yet, as revealed by a comprehensive study, services generally cost more per capita when delivered by special districts rather than by general-purpose governments. [See: “The Political Economy of Special-Purpose Government” by K. Foster, Georgetown University Press, Washington DC, 2007]. Since the 1800s California has been using special districts extensively. As noted in a 1994 study: “The total number of special districts has changed very little over the years. From FY 1974/75 through FY 1991/92 it hovered around 4,900 according to the Office of the State Controller. Since the passage of Proposition 13 the number has increased less than 3 per cent. In the period between 1986 and 1992 the number rose slightly.” The study attributed this to an increase in county service areas and joint powers agreements. The study further noted: “[t]here are 66 fewer water districts, 47 fewer sanitary districts and 44 fewer fire districts than there were when Proposition 13 was passed. In the same period, the number of CSAs has increased by 167 and JPAs have grown by 327”. But the number of 4,900 special districts (again more than that identified by the Census survey), places California near the very top of those states using special districts. [See: “Special District Consolidations”]. If California had had a policy like that of North Carolina there would have been a far greater reduction in the number of special districts found there, even by 1994.

    Intergovernmental cooperation
    Until the present time cooperation was most likely in a suburban jurisdiction (16 per cent) as compared with rural areas (15 per cent) and core metro areas (12 per cent). [See: “Intergovernmental Cooperation: Oakland County, Michigan”] As made plain in the presentation by R. Scott Fosler (see below) on regionalism, by the late 1940s 11 states had enabled interlocal cooperation. But since then there has been little dynamic growth in this option. Today, under financial pressure, in self-defense local governments are increasingly considering this option – or being encouraged to consider it by states. [See: “Cash strapped towns look to share services”].

    As eloquently stated in a paper surveying the existing literature on interlocal governmental cooperation, Kelly M. LeRoux and Jered B. Carr, said: “Whereas jurisdictional boundaries are clearly defined, the nature and scope of contemporary public problems frequently transcend political and spatial bounds. The complexity of public problems increasingly requires multi-sector and multi- jurisdictional solutions.” [See: “The Social Structure of Interlocal Cooperation in Metropolitan Areas This paper was prepared for presentation at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 7-10, 2005]. Of course, these contemporary public problems have been in existence for decades and the sentiments expressed are not new. What is missed by those who merely see an imbalance when metropolitan growth is involved is that the need for interlocal cooperation can occur whenever there is a noticeable imbalance within a fragmented local system, as French history has exhibited. There the imbalance was evident owing to the extreme fragmentation that was uniquely French, which led to the implementation of a policy of encouraging interlocal cooperation. With the advent of suburban growth in the 1970s, French policy was encouraged by a further deepening of the use of interlocal cooperation as the means of solution. So by 1 January 2008 “more than 33,500 of the 36,700 French communes, covering around 90 per cent of the French population, were members of a municipal cooperation structure with its own taxation”. [See: “How to restrain urban sprawl? The French way”]. However, in the US (unlike France) where state support is generally invisible, the level of interlocal cooperation and its evolution over time is in a different place. Moreover, as two articles in the current issue of Governing magazine report, the absence of interlocal cooperation can be costly. [See: “In Memphis, a Plea for Regionalism” and “How Bureacracy and Bickering Brought Down Niagara Falls”].

    Nevertheless, the fiscal stress of the current environment is inspiring greater efforts towards increased collaboration; and federal stimulus programs are playing a part in encouraging collaboration for metropolitan improvements, as discussed in a recent Brookings Institution paper. [See: “Implementing ARRA: Innovations in Design in Metro America”] Whether or not this amounts to something that is to be sustained over the years is another matter.

    As indicated in Oakland County, Michigan, documents there is commitment to an increase in interlocal cooperation but “implementing such arrangements are difficult and take a good deal of time”. [See: “The County’s Role in Inter-Governmental Cooperation”] As pointed out in the presentations of British Columbia officials at the Maine Conference in November 2007: “It’ll happen faster with the means to minimize costs of negotiation, a defined state role for impetus and support, and intergovernmental policy dialogue.” A strategy is required to help officials cope with complexity. [See: “Fostering the Growth of Regional Partnerships”] These generally are missing elements in the American experience. Hence, local governments have found it easier to allocate service delivery responsibilities to special districts and to even contract out their responsibilities.

    In 1994 an article in Governing magazine by a former city manager of Austin, Texas, mentioned some efforts of the period that illustrated collaboration. The hope expressed by the author was that ‘[t] hese experiments hold the seeds of new structures. What is needed is to learn from these experiments and create a new model for regional governance”. The author continued: “The regions that are first in developing them will be more desirable, sustainable and economically competitive. Regions live or die together. A metropolitan area is one economic, social and physical unit. Communities must find ways to work together. If they don’t, their vitality, force and freshness will wither.” [See: “WE NEED NEW WAYS TO GOVERN NEW KINDS OF CITIES”].

    As that vitality is more at stake under the onslaught of the current period of financial uncertainty, there are more examples of the type cited in the Brookings paper on how some (unfortunately a minority) were using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) by abandoning “business as usual” in the interests of metropolitan improvement. The scarceness of such innovative efforts was attributed to the need for the pre-existence of a regional vision or plan, as well as strong local leadership – in other words, a productive platform on which to build. Studies have revealed (as mentioned in Kelly M. LeRoux and Jered B. Carr’s paper cited above) that public service officials are more open to interlocal cooperation: “that interlocal cooperation, initiated and facilitated by local public servants, is pervasive across functions and thus may be sufficient for overcoming the problems inherent in what… has [been] described as the ‘fragmented and disarticulated’ state. Whereas electoral motives may preclude cooperative impulses among mayors and others elected within political boundaries, professional public servants have a longer time-horizon, creating incentives for administrators to work together…Therefore, public managers may be better positioned to drive metropolitan governance than any other set of local actors, including elected officials”.

    With public jobs at risk there should be sufficient incentive for interlocal cooperative action. However, in the absence of a strong foundation or leadership by a local actor (or actors), even the incentives provided might prove insufficient to change the status quo. As recent news from New Jersey disclosed, as a defensive default option some local units are considering interlocal cooperation. [See: “Cash strapped towns look to share services”] In New Jersey, the state is looking to restructure governments through consolidation and greater interlocal cooperation. [See: the Department of Community Affairs website for description of LUARCC].

    This is the time for state governments to step up to the mark – but they might need some guidance on how to provide the necessary support. Within this void, county governments can provide a platform, and there are models to indicate how this might happen.

    In the author’s opinion, collaborative service delivery shouldn’t just be viewed as a defensive tool by American local governments. As examples outside the country illustrate, it is a more productive tool in the hands of the ambitious.




    • Share/Bookmark

    5 Comments "

    Urban Local bodies in India still reflect their colonial legacy

    March 19th, 2011

    In the context of the Indian Constitution, local government bodies are the subject of the State List and are thereby governed by State Statutes, or in the case of Union Territories, by the Union Parliament. Federal recognition of local government was substantively expressed in the 74th and 73rd Constitution Amendment Acts of 1992. The former pertains to urban local government and the latter to rural local governance.

    A primary reason for the delay was that local governments were perceived to be rivals, rather than complements, by state governments. Hence, local government was generally not a level that was maintained with commitment and sufficiently empowered in the post-Independence era. For that reason, it could be said that even by 2004, the state of West Bengal distinguished itself by its commitment to having regular local elections once the current ruling party of West Bengal came to power in the 1970s.

    In other states, these bodies were frequently superseded for long periods by state governments. West Bengal’s commitment to local government in fact had an important role to play in the national recognition accorded local government. Its commitment inspired the 1992 Amendment Acts that formally gave constitutional recognition to local government.

    However, it can also be said that there is today a growing awareness of the need and importance of local self-government as that of a provider of services to local communities and as a mechanism for democratic self-government. There are currently two distinct types of local government system: the urban local system and the rural local system. The structure of the latter is covered by the 73rd Amendment Act, which provides for a multi-tiered system of self-governing units and will not form the subject of this article, which focuses on urban local government.

    As illustrated in a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Megacities Threaten to Choke India” published on 14 May 2009, which also refers to City Mayors data about growing Indian cities, Lord Ripon’s ghost is evidently failing urban India’s growing needs.

    As pointed out in this article “[a]cross India, poor migrants keep streaming into cities like Lucknow, many of which are woefully mismanaged and ill-equipped to handle the influx. India has at least 41 cities with more than one million people, up from 23 two decades ago. A half-dozen others will soon join the megacity list. Urban experts say the risk is now rising that some of these cities could face the same fate as Mumbai and Calcutta, which became synonymous with poverty and decay in the 1970s and 1980s”.

    The article further noted: “[t]he country already has 25 of the world’s 100-fastest growing urban areas, according to City Mayors, an international urban-affairs think tank, that compares with eight in China. Pune, near Mumbai, has more than four million people, about the same as the Houston area. Kanpur, in north central India, has more than three million, as does Surat, in western India. India is expected to add 10 million people a year between 2000 and 2030 to its 5,161 cities, according to the United Nations. If India fails to get a handle on its new urban areas, it could be saddled with more bottlenecks and inefficiencies that could doom the country to years of subpar growth, says Dharmakirti Joshi, an economist at Mumbai ratings agency Crisil”.

    What this article also illustrated was that structural governance shortcomings, not just crumbling overburdened infrastructure, were part of the problem. Hence, while using the example of Lucknow, it further stated: “[p]art of the problem: Lucknow, like many Indian cities, is managed by a bewildering array of government bodies that don’t always coordinate activities. In theory, Lucknow is led by an elected mayor and 110-member Municipal Corporation, similar to a U.S. city council. Together, they share oversight of basic services such as water, housing and roads. But in practice, the elected officials’ authority is sharply limited by the half-dozen or more other government bodies that wield power in town”.

    Indian civic NGOs have also realised this problem. Ramesh Ramanathan, founder of Bangalore’s Janaagraha civic NGO, in an article published in December 2004 discussed this subject of uncoordinated services. The article’s title was apposite: ”Too many cooks in each other’s way for the urban services kitchen.”

    He opened the article with the following statement: “[i]magine a puppet whose strings are being pulled by different puppeteers: the hands by one, the legs by another, the head and shoulders by a third. Sitting in the audience, the show would not look pretty. City governance in India is similar, being pulled and pushed in different directions — sometimes even torn apart — by a chaotic urban administrative set-up”.

    India’s civic NGOs also realise that large cities need decentralised systems affording a more efficient systemic response to the pressures of urbanisation. Their ‘vote Mumbai’ plan, which they hope can be extended across India’s growing cities, illustrates their understanding. And what is the current status of that plan approved by the State cabinet after strong central government support? Approved, yet not implemented in any form – illustrating again that the state-implemented bottlenecks reflected in the rural context are also alive in the urban one.

    Whereas, the Mumbai plan could be more expansive than it is in current form, as examples of decentralised systems outside India illustrate, the desire is constrained by the limits of the 74th Amendment, which needs to be amended to permit further amplification.

    The need for further amendment of the 74th Amendment Act was also appreciated by the 2nd Administrative Reform Commission’s report on local government. A thoughtful 400 page-plus report, it pointed out some of the shortcomings of the current local government constitutional amendments as understood by Commission members and staffers. While this author appreciates the deep thought reflected in the Commission’s report, what was most striking was that, as with previous attempts at review, there was no reflection of the understanding that local government structures can be an economic tool. Whereas articles, papers and reports in western countries discussing the potential for integrated local systems all highlight what an economic tool they can be – witness the article in the November 2008 issue of Governing magazine on the Stuttgart Region, also published on City Mayors – this has not been a focus of Indian discussions.

    This is especially noteworthy, because since the late 1800s India has been the beneficiary of one of the most pioneering integrated local systems in the world that was introduced in colonial times – the rural panchayat system, which the states chose to ignore post-Independence. The same unwillingness to see this potential is also reflected in the poor capacity building mechanisms implemented to support the rural systems resurrected post-73rd Amendment Act. This factor is illustrated by the report of the NGO ASA (Action for Social Advancement) on this shortcoming in Madhya Pradesh, a system that is viewed as being actually one of the better performing panchayat systems in India. The NGO’s report’s title was: “Continued Capacity Building of Panchayat Raj Representatives and Gramsabha Members in Madhya Pradesh.”

    Whereas, few countries have rural integrated local systems, there is an ever growing array of urban integrated local systems coinciding with the rise of urbanisation. This fact was not mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article, since there is little general awareness in America of this explosion going on outside the country – although, like India, there have been pioneering systems of this type dating back to the 1800s, such as the New York City system and the New England Town systems (though unlike the rural type in India, are urban examples). Both have unfortunately regressed in the face of advancement and evolution elsewhere, as exemplified in North America by the recent changes in Quebec’s largest cities.

    However, Indians do not need to look at Western examples to see what an economic tool integrated local systems can be. They can look to China, where such systems in the post-Reform period were established as the foundation for the urban industrial economies that have powered Chinese economic growth. Readers interested in learning more can examine this author’s article on this Chinese example. See: “China is at the forefront of the greatest urban-industrial revolution of all time.”

    There, interested readers will also learn how former HudCo chairman Habitiat Jam discussed what he saw in China, which as systems outside China reveal are also hallmarks of productive integrated local systems.
    Below follows a discussion of the current Indian urban systems and the history of local government operations in India that influence them.

    Municipal governments
    Historical evolution from the British era
    The first municipal mechanism created during British rule was the Municipal Corporation introduced in Madras (Chennai today) in 1688, which was followed by municipal corporations in Bombay (Mumbai today) and Calcutta (Kolkata today) by 1762. Subsequently, Lord Mayo’s Resolution of 1870 called for the introduction of an elected President in the municipalities. The current form and structure of municipal bodies is based on Lord Ripon’s Resolution on local self-government adopted in 1882. Since then the structure of municipal bodies has essentially remained the same, even though the urban areas multiplied along with their increasingly complex problems.

    Statutory provision for creating a municipal unit is available in two forms. First, by statute that provides for the establishment of a municipal authority, as for instance in the form taken in the case of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act in1888, the City of Nagpur Corporation Act of1948 and the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act of 1957. The other route is through statutory provision empowering State Government creation. The Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporations Act of 1949 and the Gujarat Municipalities Act of 1964 are both examples of the latter. Generally, these statutes confer significant control and supervisory powers on the state government. In this context, it can be said they are creatures of state government.

    Municipal election provisions in different states are not uniform. In some, arrangements for election are made by the state government, while in others Municipal Commissioners (executive officers) make the arrangements. Prior to the passage of the 1992 Act, urban local government was defined generally by the Municipal Corporations, Municipal Councils, Town Area Committees and Notified Area Committees. In this context, the structure and composition of municipalities varied considerably, with wide differences in definition and structure between states. Hence, the 1992 Act attempted to instil some uniformity in the constitution of the municipal bodies by classifying them as Municipal Corporations for large urban areas, Municipal Councils for smaller urban areas and what are termed Nagar Panchayats, suburban government bodies.

    The 74th Constitutional Amendment Act
    The 1992 Act provided for the Twelfth Schedule which listed the functions of urban local units, along with their planning, regulation and development powers. It made provision for ward committees in areas exceeding 300,000 and the specification of the powers and responsibilities of municipal units and the ward committees. There is a requirement made therein for the holding of timely periodical elections and for the reconstitution of a municipal government within six months, should it be dissolved for any reason.

    Sources of municipal finance and their periodic review by a statutorily constituted State Finance Commission were also provided for by the Act, which also made it obligatory for the Central Finance Commission to recommend steps to support state resources for the assistance of municipal governments. The Act also provided for reservation of one-third of the seats for women and scheduled castes in municipal bodies. State Governments were to adopt the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act with reference to their respective municipal bodies to effect its purpose within their jurisdictions.

    Unlike rural bodies, urban government was not provided with a federated systemic framework (which is ironic, because since the 1950s outside India it has been urban regions that have seen the rising use of integrated federated systems). However, they do have direct access to state governments, something that is not open to rural governments which have indirect access through their relevant state bureaucratic representative – the District Collector and Divisional Commissioner.

    Divisions of Powers
    Elected, Nominated and Administrative
    The 1992 Act provides for elected and nominated councillors. According to the size of the population of a particular unit, the number of elected councillors varies. Nominated councillors are to be chosen by the elected councillors for their special knowledge or experience in municipal administration.

    The Municipal corporation
    Mayor and councillors
    This model is also known as the Commissioner system, taking its name from the role of the city administrator who is generally a state-appointed officer. In such a system the Mayor in the Municipal Corporation is usually chosen through indirect election by the councillors from among themselves for a term of one year, which is renewable.

    The Mayor generally lacks executive authority. This is due to the British roots of the system that remain from the time when the administrator was the representative of the colonial power, not to the fact that it operates under a council-manager system (the subject of another article by this author on this website) whereby the executive would be accountable to the elected representatives. In this context, the indirect election of the Mayor combined with his short one-year tenure renders the role little more than that of a figurehead.

    Councillors act by committee, the most powerful being the Standing Committee with its role of the steering committee exercising executive, supervisory, financial and personnel powers. It is composed of elected members varying in number between seven and sixteen through a system of proportional representation of councillors.

    The executive arm of the corporation
    The Municipal Commissioner is the chief Executive Officer and head of the executive arm of the Municipal Corporation. All executive powers are vested in the Municipal Commissioner. Although the Municipal Corporation is the legislative body that lays down policies for the governance of the city, it is the Commissioner who is responsible for the execution of the policies. The Commissioner is appointed for a fixed term as defined by state statute. The Commissioner’s term in office can be extended or reduced. The powers of the Commissioner are those provided by statute and those delegated by the Corporation or the Standing Committee. This is the closest that India has come to the council-manager system, with the critical difference of accountability of the manager to the elected arm of government; and the fact that the power of the unelected executive arm of government is thus weighted in its favour.

    The Kolkata model
    An alternative model to the prevailing Commissioner model is the one implemented in Kolkata, West Bengal. This model was introduced in 1984 and is known as the Mayor-in-Council form of city governance that can be described as a cabinet government replicating the formula operating at the state and national levels. This system is composed of a Mayor and a ten-member cabinet with individual portfolios chosen from among the elected councillors (in the context of Kolkata there are 141 wards in a single member ward system, rather than a multiple member ward system). It is in essence a hybrid between a mayor-council CAO system and the integrated federated framework. The Municipal Commissioner serves as the Principal Executive Officer subject to the control and supervision of the Mayor as the Chief Executive Officer in this model.

    The municipal Corporation groups wards into boroughs with each one having a committee consisting of the councillors elected from the respective wards of the borough. The councillors elect one among themselves as the chairperson of the borough. The borough committees are subject to general supervision of the Mayor-in-Council, and look after sublocal functions such as water supply, drainage, collection and removal of solid waste, disinfection and health services, housing services, lighting, repairs of certain categories of roads, maintenance of parks, and drains.

    It is perhaps best described as a transitional form of an integrated federated system, which seems to indicate that less of a study of urban federated systems was made outside India. Instead, what was attempted was a system that tried to create an urban variation of the federated rural system. It is commendable that this effort was made, since an urban variation is due for India which was one of the very first regions of the world where the integrated federated framework was implemented.

    One can contrast the Kolkata system to the Birmingham (UK) formula or the geographically closer new Karachi formula, which are both systems with a three-tier federated framework to place it in the context of these more defined models. (A description of the Karachi system can be found on this website in an article drafted by this author).

    The weaknesses of this model in practice have been that the borough and ward committees have been too dependent on the mayor-in-council arm of the system. There has been inadequate operational autonomy in the selection and execution of schemes and a lack of involvement with revenue-raising and tax collection. Another variant of this approach is known as the chairman-in-council system, where the Mayor is the Chairman of the Council.

    Municipal councils
    Municipal Councils are units designated for smaller areas than the Municipal Corporations. State statutes govern Municipal Councils. The Municipal Council, the President elected by the councillors from among themselves, the Committees and the Executive/Chief Officer constitute the structure of this type of municipal government. The size of each Municipal Council varies from state to state, with the municipal acts prescribing both the maximum and the minimum number of councillors with terms in office varying from three to five years. In some states the council Presidents are elected directly by the citizens. In a number of states the term of the President varies from one to three years and is not coterminus with that of the council.

    The President has a substantive position in the municipal administration and enjoys significant authority and power both in the deliberative and executive arms of the municipality. The powers and functions of the Municipal Council Committees are the same as those of the Municipal Corporation. In most states the state government appoints the Executive Officer. In some states the council makes the appointment, but his or her independence has been confirmed by making removal from office difficult – generally by a three-quarter majority vote.

    Local government functions
    All municipal acts in India provide for functions, powers and responsibilities to be carried out by the municipal government. These are divided into two categories, obligatory or discretionary.

    Obligatory functions include: supply of pure and wholesome water; construction and maintenance of public streets; lighting and watering of public streets; cleaning of public streets, places and sewers; regulation of offensive, dangerous or obnoxious trades and callings or practices; maintenance or support of public hospitals; establishment and maintenance of primary schools; registration of births and deaths; removing obstructions and projections in public streets, bridges and other places; and naming streets and numbering houses.

    Discretionary functions include: laying out of areas; securing or removal of dangerous buildings or places; construction and maintenance of public parks, gardens, libraries, museums, rest houses, leper homes, orphanages and rescue homes for women; and public buildings; planting and maintenance of roadside and other trees; housing for low income groups; conducting surveys; organising public receptions, public exhibitions, public entertainment; provision of transport facilities with the municipality; promotion of welfare of municipal employees.

    Some of the functions of the urban bodies overlap with the work of state agencies. The functions of the municipality, including those listed in the Twelfth Schedule are left to the discretion of the state government. Local bodies have to be bestowed with adequate powers, authority and responsibility to perform the functions entrusted to them by the Act. However, the Act has not provided them with any powers directly and has instead left it to state government discretion.

    The Act does address devolution of powers and responsibilities. However, the devolution of powers commensurate with the relevant responsibilities is left to the discretion of the state government concerned. This leaves it open to the states to devolve powers, together with the challenge of determining whether what is devolved can be managed in terms of sufficient capability and money. In sum, the 1992 Act was a step towards modernising local government; although still doing so on the basis of the foundation of the earlier era.

    Currently, there remains the void that can be filled by establishing city regions that would embrace both core cities and the Nagar Panchayats, or intergovernmental cooperative bodies that could be a preliminary mechanism from which more substantive bodies could emerge. Both alternatives can be found in countries outside India.

    Coordination Challenges
    In urban areas in the post-1992 Act era there remains a need for coordination between the various agencies that operate in the same environment. Ramesh Ramanathan encapsulated the confusion and patent lack of coordination that can result thereby in his article in the Financial Express entitled: “Too many cooks in the urban services kitchen”. Such agencies are rooted in India’s pre-Independence era, and there remains the requirement that there be developed some coherence with clear demarcation of responsibilities and accountability; or alternatively, for the consolidation of some of these agencies within urban government

    It could also be suggested that civil service personnel develop a local specialty, and the formation of capacity building mechanisms instituted to improve their performance in this context.

    One might also suggest that the civil service develops a vehicle for improving management skills. The failure to improve the coordination/collaboration problem between various urban agencies in a system that India has possessed since colonial times might also indicate a management skills problem. The fact that Delhi’s BRT attempt failed – which is a successful innovation from Curitiba, Brazil – and yet has been adopted with success by other cities, such as Bogota, Colombia, seems to underscore management weakness as being a systemic factor as well. There are examples in developing countries that Indians might want to look at, as there is now a history of civil service reforms that have been studied. The author also thinks of a source of guidance that one American example might provide – the city of Phoenix, Arizona. This is a council-manager city where, like India, bureaucracy has substantive powers in policy execution and service delivery. Unlike Phoenix, other cities in Arizona have not been able to replicate its success, perhaps because outside North Carolina US states do not have substantive capacity building systemic vehicles.

    The National Urban Renewal Mission
    In December, 2005, a National Urban Renewal Mission (NURM) was announced, which calls for the creation of other arrangements for improving service delivery, which may also affect the environment by adding even more confusion to the situation preceding it.

    The goal of NURM, however, is to upgrade urban infrastructure and to further reform the urban situation. The centrally devised program has identified over 60 Indian cities for the improvement program. Funding provision for the improvement is to be divided according to a defined ratio for mega cities and those with more than a million plus population. This is to be 35 per cent from the national government, 15 per cent from the states and the remaining 50 per cent from financial institutions. For other cities, the formula is to be 80:10:10.

    However, release of funding is tied to the states and their urban local units becoming signatories to a tripartite memorandum of understanding with the national government of accepting to undertake the reforms required. The reform agenda includes core reforms, mandatory reforms and five optional reforms.

    The core reforms include implementation of decentralisation measures as envisaged in the 74th Constitutional Amendment, the drawing up of public-private-partnership (PPP) models for development, management and financing of urban infrastructure the adoption of an accrual-based double entry system of accounting, passage of public disclosure law to facilitate quarterly performance information to all stakeholders and a community participation law to institutionalise citizen participation.

    The infrastructure upgrade plans have been confronted currently by the current credit crunch limitations.

    There is also the requirement for the states to transfer, over a period of five years, all special agencies that deliver civic services in urban areas and the creation of an accountability framework for all urban civic service providers during the transitional period. This, it seems, is an effort to reduce the “too many cooks in the urban kitchen” scenario that has so far prevailed. Its degree of success will be learned over the course of time – although, as the Wall Street Journal article indicates, this state of affairs remains the norm.

    Other core reforms include introduction of e-governance for property tax collections, with the goal of at least 85 per cent collection efficiency within five years and the introduction of similar practices in the case of financial accounting systems, work management, water tax billing and collection systems, the trade licensing system and the approval of building plans. Compulsory reforms to be undertaken by the states include repeal of the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act, reforms to the rent control law to stimulate private investment, reduction of Stamp Duty to bring it down to no more than five per cent within the next five years and the introduction of independent regulators for urban services.

    It should be noted here that neighbouring Pakistan’s new urban systems saw the implementation of some of these steps taken when they were implemented in 2001. This author’s Karachi article can be perused by readers interested in learning more. In Pakistan, however, the current government shows the South Asian flaw in not appreciating the potential economic benefits that are delivered by operating such systems. Hence, there is a desire to go back to the familiar formulas which, like the description of the urban crisis in India, were proved unable to address the challenges of growing urban environments.

    Conclusion
    Over the past couple of decades, India has seen the implementation and framing of efforts to modernise local government and has also revealed in the course of these efforts a commitment to local government that was hitherto a weak link in the Indian system. Nevertheless, it remains a system in transition that has room for further evolution to match its prevalent ground conditions. In addition to the areas to which attention has been drawn, the system also needs adequate quality control monitoring and capacity building mechanisms as well as additional reforms.

    This Article was first published in City Mayors

    7-Ambassadors-vehicles-outside-Ministry-of-Finance-Building
    Creative Commons License photo credit: bernardoh

    Related Posts with Thumbnails
    • Share/Bookmark

    41 Comments "

  • Expert Diary : Commentators