One of the most important and enduring theoretical constructs in public administration is the politics-administration dichotomy model. It has been useful for marking off the boundaries of public administration as an intellectual field and for asserting the normative relationship between elected officials and administrators in a democratic society. It has been a convenient straw man for public administrationists; to attack and has been criticized as being irrelevant to current conditions. Montjoy and Watson (1995) have recently observed that the main shortcoming of the model comes from using it as a guide to describing actual behavior in the policy-making process. They argue that the model, as they have interpreted it, "remains important as a normative standard in the profession of local government management." They express the view also held by many practitioners that the dichotomy model is useful because it provides a rationale for insulating the practice of public administration from political interference.
The debate about the utility of the original or a reinterpreted version of the model misses a fundamental point: the dichotomy model is not what it seems. It is not an idea that can be traced back to the origins of the field of public administration or the municipal reform movement. Rather than trying to explain or rehabilitate the model, it is more appropriate to view it as an idea that emerged relatively late and that deviated from the ideas of the founders of public administration and the framers of the council-manager form of government. It is important for academics to get their intellectual history right and stop presenting simplistic and historically inaccurate explanations of how the field began and evolved. In addition, practitioners and promoters of the council-manager form should recognize that they have been disadvantaged by the pervasive attitude that the form is based originally on the dichotomy model and realize that they weaken the legitimacy of city managers as comprehensive leaders by perpetuating this notion.
Let us be dear about the definition of the concept. As it applies to local government, the dichotomy model holds that:
* The city council does not get involved in administration.
* The city manager has no involvement in shaping policies,
* The manager occupies the role of a neutral expert who efficiently and effectively carries out the policies of the council. (Presumably, administrators do not exercise discretion, for to do so opens the door to interpreting policy and choosing how and to what went it will be applied.)
Montjoy and Watson characterize a similar definition as a "strict version" of the doctrine, and they propose a "reinterpreted dichotomy" that reinforces legislative supremacy while permitting a policy-making role for the manager, but still helps managers resist the forces of particularism (1995, 231). While these ideas would be acceptable to die early thinkers in public administration and municipal reform, they are different from the dichotomy model rather than a reinterpretation of it. The "strict" definition is the dichotomy model. It is not conceptually possible as Montjoy and Watson suggest and as many practitioners would prefer, to have a one-way dichotomy that keeps elected officials out of administration but allows administrators to be active in policy making. The dichotomy model, standing alone, is an aberration. It is associated with the dominant concepts of orthodox public administration during the twenties and thirties and is essentially different from concepts of democracy and administration that preceded and followed it.
The historical record shows that die dichotomy model came along after the founding period of public administration and the creation of the council-manager form. The early statements by Wilson and Goodnow were an attempt to define the field and to defend public administrators from interference by elected officials and party organizations, but their view of government does not match the features of the dichotomy model. The writings of political reformers before and for several years after the endorsement of die council-manager form by the National Municipal League in 1916 stressed the importance of council government with broad authority for elected officials including administrative oversight and dearly accepted the policy role of the manager. The dichotomy model, which proscribes any manager involvement in policy while erecting a high wall to prevent council involvement in "administration," appeared in the twenties, took hold during the thirties, and hung on into the sixties. Although the model has increasingly Fallen out of favor, it survives in pan because of the common presumption that it is linked to the ideas of the founders of the field and the council-manager form. Although appropriately criticized for being irrelevant, the model is a being given a historical legitimacy it does not deserve.
This view has important consequences. A faulty conceptual basis distorts the meaning of public administration since the field appears to have evolved from norms that were not originally intended. By viewing the dichotomy as the original prescription for relationships among officials, city manager involvement in policy appears to be illegitimate. It weakens the form and limits its transferability to other countries.(1) If the dichotomy model is recognized to be an intellectual detour, our efforts can be directed to developing a model that dearly formulates the boundaries of administrative action and the interdependent relationship between administrators and elected officials.
Early Attempts to Clarify the Relationship Between Politics and Administration
The dichotomy model is associated with the writings of Woodrow Wilson and Frank Goodnow. Wilson's views, however, expressed in Congressional Government and "The Study of Administration," originally published in 1885 and 1887, respectively, are more complex--and more farsighted--than he is normally given credit for (Wilson, 1966). Wilson was concerned with both the corrupting and politicizing interference of party organizations in administrative affairs and also with the excessive attention by Congress to administrative matters (Stillman, 1973). Congress, he wrote, "set itself...to administer government" (1966, 49). It has gotten "into the habit of investigating and managing everything" and has a tendency to "subject even the details of administration to the constant supervision...of the Standing Committees" (50). On the other hand, Wilson was critical of the way Congress handled core legislative functions: its policy making was haphazard and its oversight was weak. When Wilson suggested die dearer differentiation of politics and administration, he was seeking to strengthen and redirect the former while protecting the latter.
In "The Study of Administration," Wilson explained the division of functions as follows: "Public administration is detailed and systematic execution of public law...but the general laws...are obviously outside of and above administration. The broad plans of governmental action are not administrative; the detailed execution of such plans is administrative" (1966, 372). He wanted to shield administration from interference: "Although politics sets the tasks for administration, it should not be suffered to manipulate its offices" (371). His view of the administrative function was broad and not consistent with the dichotomy model as it came to be articulated later. He argued that "large powers and unhampered discretion seem to me the indispensable conditions of responsibility" for administrators (373).
In addition, administrators would directly interpret and respond to public opinion. To avoid an elite "corps of civil servants" who would be an "offensive official class," administrators "must be at all points sensitive to public opinion" (375). He concluded that "the ideal for us is a civil service cultured and self-sufficient enough to act with sense and vigor, and yet so intimately connected with the popular thought, by means of elections and constant public counsel, as to find arbitrariness of class spirit quite out of the question" (376).
This broad view of administrators, Miewald contends, was even dearer in Wilson's later lectures (1984, 25-26). Wilson stated that "the real function of Administration is not merely ministerial, but adaptive, guiding, discretionary. It must accommodate and realize the law in practice." In Miewald's View, such "administrators were politicians; they must have the freedom to make ethical decisions." Van Riper asserts that Wilson can not be given the blame (or credit) for originating the dichotomy (1984, 209). He observes that Wilson, like some of his contemporaries, simply wanted to advance the "partisan (not political neutrality" of the civil service. Goodnow gave the issue far more attention in his book Politics and Administration (1900). He classified government actions in terms of two functions--the expression of popular will through legislation and the execution of that will through administration. Certain aspects of administration were harmed by politics and should have been shielded from it. "For reasons of both convenience and of propriety, it is believed that the interpretation of the will of die state shall be made by some authority more or less independent of the legislature" (73). He argued that "political control over administrative functions is liable...to produce inefficient administration in that it makes administrative officers feel that what is demanded of them is not so much work that will improve their own department, as compliance with the behests; of the political party"(83).
There is, however, an important aspect of administration that serves to link the political and professional spheres--the executive function or the general executing of the law that "must of necessity be subordinated to the function of politics" (79). When one moves beyond general execution to specialized administration, "much must be left to official discretion, since what is demanded of the officers is not the doing of a concrete thin& but the exercise of judgment" (81). In describing municipal government, Goodnow used language similar to Wilson's in arguing that "the semi-scientific, quasi-judicial, and quasi-business" activity of local government should be conducted by officials "absolutely from from the influence of politics" (85). Their function, however, is one that requires that they act in ways we would now consider to be political, that is, "the exercise of foresight and discretion" and "the pursuit of truth" as well as impartiality and efficiency In Goodnow's writing, therefore, there is a continuity between the political and administrative spheres, not a separation of the two, except as it applies to insulating administrative staff from partisan political inference.
Goodnow and other local government scholars at this time were interested in strengthening the relationship between elected officials and professional administrators rather than separating them. They identified certain shortcomings in the first model city charter published in 1897, which organized the governmental form around the principle of the strong elected executive. Durand (1900a, 330) would have preferred to see greater council control over die executive and asked whether it would be possible to create a form akin to the cabinet system "in which dose harmony, rather than separation, of executive and legislature should be sought."(2) Deming looked with favor on English local government, which had a strong council--including a mayor without executive authority--that directed the city administration (1909, 15-20). There was continuing concern about the problems produced by separation of powers as well as a desire to strengthen the city council. To Goodnow, the creation of the council system of city government "has the great advantage that it avoids all possibility of conflict between municipal authorities. The council being absolutely supreme in the city, there is really no authority with which conflicts may arise" (1904, 1974, 108). Deming observed that division of power between the mayor and council was an obstacle to effective governmental performance, an obstacle not found in English cities, "in which neither the check and balance system nor numerous elective offices hindered the steady evolution and intelligent application of the representative principle to municipal government" (1909, 56-57).
When the second model charter was adopted in 1916--published with commentary in A New Municipal Program (Woodruff, 1919)--the reformers incorporated these concepts into the design of the council-manager form of government. The council was the "pivot of the municipal system." (Woodruff, 1919, 153). The council was given investigatory powers and authority to appoint the city manager. This latter provision, reflecting the concept of the "controlled executive," strengthened the council and the executive without either jeopardizing the role of die council or perpetuating separation of powers (Childs, 1913). The model charter distinguished "legislation" from "administration," following the differentiation made by Goodnow, naturally assigning the former to the council and the latter to the manager, but the theoreticians and practitioners of die council-manager plan did not adhere to a fundamental dichotomy between policy and administration. The Charter stressed the insulation of administrators from interference by elected officials but not isolation. The council would exercise "constant and comprehensive" supervision and consider citizen appeals of administrative "rulings" (Woodruff, 1919, 41 and 1819). According to the commentary, "administration is given a place apart, but it is not an independent place. It is subject to control but not to factious interference" (155).
In a complementary way, the manager was called upon to offer policy advice and recommendations to the council in its enactment of legislation. The commentary on die New Municipal Program contains numerous references to the manager's policy role (e.g., 31 and 38). Overall, the manager must "show himself to be a leader, formulating policies and urging their adoption by the council" (130). The reformers did not intend to simply add an administrative technician who would take charge of the implementation of policies only (Svara, 1989a). An observer at the time remarked that the manager is "an active and influential factor in legislation" whose "judgment will rarely be considered lightly" (Story, 1918, 220). Adrian concludes that "by the 1920s, the city manager had become a firmly established community leader" (1987, 452).
The scholars and activists who provided the rationale for the second model charter did not call for the separation of politics and administration or of lay and expert elements.
Politics and administration arc not two antagonistic
elements, each seeking to enlarge its sphere of action at the
expenses of the other. They are not even independent powers
in the government, each working in a distinct field,
performing its appropriate acts, and having for these purposes
an authority of its own. On the contrary, they are two
parts of the same mechanism, related in much the same
way as to two elements in one chemical compound whose
combined qualities give the character to die substance. In a
sense, politics and administration take part jointly in every
act performed (Woodruff, 1919, 37).
The second model charter envisions a government with complementary and cooperative relationships between officials who reflect democratic accountability and professionalism.
Richard Childs himself--godfather of the council-manager plan--had an expansive view of the manager's role. Ideally, he felt that the manager should submit "only broad matters of policy" to the city council (quoted in Price, 1941, 565). He saw the manager as a leader and had high aspirations for the profession. At manager meetings in 1917 and again in 1918, he stated his position eloquently. On the latter occasion, he said: "Some day we shall have managers here who have achieved national reputation, not by saving taxes or by running their cities for a freakishly low expense per capita, but managers who have successfully led their commissions into great new enterprises of service" (quoted in White, 1927, 143). This view is not consistent with the dichotomy model as it would come to be defined.
The governmental model that the reformers were espousing was based on distinct but overlapping and complementary responsibilities with all governmental authority residing in the city council. The executive was insulated from the political interference of the all-powerful council, but the manager was not placed into a separate sphere. Neither was the manager to wait silently until instructions about policy were delivered from the council. The manager was viewed as a participant in the deliberations about policy decisions who would offer a distinct perspective, although he would not supplant the council's policy-making prerogatives. The relationship might be visualized as presented in Figure 1.
[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
Thus the model that prevailed as the Progressive Era ended was one that sought to accommodate a role for dedicated and trained administrators in a governmental system that had been dominated previously by elected officials; and politicians. The executive who would be chosen by and accountable to the legislative body would have a role in influencing the decisions of the legislature, interpreting the intentions of the legislature, and exercising independent judgment in executing policy. The specialized administrative staff chosen on the basis of qualifications and protected by tenure would also exercise discretion based on judgment, knowledge, and experience. Their performance would be supervised by the executive and subject to the oversight of the legislative body. This view provided for a dearer differentiation of roles, but the intermixture of responsibilities was complex. The relationship was not called a dichotomy at the time and the prescribed roles do not correspond to the definition of the politics-administration dichotomy.
Atypicality of Dichotomy Model in Public Administration Literature
Interpretations of the intellectual development of public administration by a number of scholars have concluded that (a) the idea of strict separation departed from the ideas of Wilson and Goodnow, (b) the dichotomy model was part of a larger constellation of ideas that included scientific management and the principles of administration, and (c) these ideas were abandoned starting around 1940 and replaced by concepts that stressed the blending of politics, policy, and administration across all types of officials.
There is widespread agreement that the idea of strict separation diverged more or less from the earlier approaches by Wilson and Goodnow. We have noted Van Riper's opinion that Wilson's ideas do not correspond to a dichotomy, and he felt the same way about Goodnow. Waldo (1948, 108), Appleby (1949, 16), Golembiewski (1977, 9), and Caiden (1984, 60) have all pointed out--obviously with little impact on other scholars--that observers have oversimplified Goodnow's position on separation.(3) Wilson, Waldo would later write, was closer than the writers of the twenties and thirties "to what the spirit and substance of public administration should be" (1984, 231). Rabin and Bowman observe that the "distinction" between politics and administration identified by Wilson and Goodnow had been converted into a "dichotomy" by later observers (1994, 4). They conclude (5) that "orthodox students had but one interpretation" of Wilson and Goodnow's work: "politics should be separate from administration." Ex post facto reinterpretations are not uncommon, but what is important in this case is that the erroneous view that the dichotomy model was originated by the earliest thinkers about public administration became widely accepted and is still difficult to dispel.
A second common theme in commentaries is that the dichotomy model was part of a larger constellation of ideas that included scientific management and the principles of administration (Waldo 1948, 206). Martin characterizes the thinking of the thirties as follows: "In the atmosphere provided by scientific management, a mechanistic concept of public administration came to prevail widely and in important circles. Administration was separated severely from the legislative body.... `Politics' was anathema--not die politics practiced by administrators, but the politics of the `politicians'" (1952, 667). According to Caiden (1984, 61), there was a "switch to a narrower conception of administration as being the management of organizations without regard to purpose, persons, or objectives, [that is a] generic science of management." Since the purpose and methods of die two spheres were so different, "not only could administration be taken out of politics, [but] politics could be taken out of administration" (60). Thus, the dichotomy model and the scientific practice of administration became "the dominant modes of inquiry" in die thirties (Rabin and Bowman, 1984, 4).
Van Riper (1984, 209-10) argues that "between say, 1910 and 1950, there did in fact develop in the literature and practice of public administration a kind of distance (variable to be sure) between politics and administration, worthy of the term dichotomy." The need for a sharp division, namely, the dichotomy, was justified to permit scientific methods to be established, and these methods both dosed off administration to the untrained amateur politician and at the same time made the administrator an expert who was above politics. The concept of a dichotomy is inherently linked with the broader conceptual framework of this period.
This model came under attack around 1940 (e.g., Price, 1941) and was largely rejected by the end of the decade.(4) The comments of two luminaries in die field will suffice to demonstrate the temper of the times. Waldo reviewed the extensive literature of die subject and concluded that "any simple division of government into politics-and-administration is inadequate" (1948, 128). Paul Appleby identified administration as the "eighth political process" (1946, 26) and concluded that public administration is "not autonomous, exclusive or isolated" but is policy making nonetheless (170).
The dichotomy model was not a direct descendent of the ideas of the founders of public administration but rather a transformation of those ideas to make them part of the mechanistic paradigm that held sway in the twenties and thirties. The dichotomy model also diverged from die local government reform tradition, but it became more deeply rooted and harder to dislodge in the local government arena.
Emergence of the Dichotomy Model in Local Government
In the 1920s, the council-manager plan was popularized, and its adoption extended beyond the pioneer cities that adopted the form in the early years. It was a common practice of the proponents to market the plan and simplify its features. In addition, with the end of the Progressive Era, attitudes about the plan became more narrowly focused on administrative advantages without reference to social and democratic benefits. Richard Childs lamented that the form was being adopted for die "wrong reasons." Arguments about the efficiency and economy of the form reflected, in his view, "shallow and meretricious reasoning" (1932, 350 and 353).
Confusion over the manager's policy role--in contrast to the straightforward recognition of the manager's influence in the legislative sphere--because evident during the twenties and was compounded by the conditions of die depression.(5) Narrow definitions of the manager's role in community affairs were emerging. A. R. Hatton, professor and field representative of the National Municipal League in the early twenties, advised managers to refrain from any involvement in "Politics," including promoting public acceptance of policies adopted by the city council.(6) Some observers warned that die manager was assuming too much power. Reformers were chagrined by the explicit advocacy of programs and public disagreement with the council by William R. Hopkins, the first city manager in Cleveland (Citizens League of Cleveland, 1929).(7) Even a highly respected manager like Henry Waite, who was the first city manager in Dayton, was criticized after leaving office for being too visible--"the outstanding figure in the government"--and his successor was praised for having greater appreciation of the "proper" role of the city manager. Any activity in policy was viewed by some as a violation of die plan (See Routh, 1923; Gibbon, 1925; Upson, 1926). A supporter of an extensive policy role would concede that the "theory" of die manager plan did not allow it but argued that the "theory must be reformulated" (Ellis, 1926, 204). Within a decade of its endorsement by the National Municipal League, reformers were losing touch with the basic rationale of the form.
Perhaps to allay suspicions that the council-manager form would lead to administrative dominance, popularizers of the plan stressed the idea that the manager should be simply an administrative technician (Price, 1941). The manager may offer advice, Fassett suggested, "but if he is wise he will seldom advise except when so requested, and will leave to them [the council members] their specific functions as completely as they must leave administrative work to him" (1922, 42). The leadership role explicitly justified by the authors of the New Municipal Program was being defined out of existence (even though it never disappeared in practice). A new orthodoxy emerged that diminished the policy role of the manager and hardened the line of separation between the council and the manager in a way not intended by the drafters of the second model charter. Leonard White observed that "the office of the city manager has become the great center of initiating and proposing (but not deciding) public policies as well as the sole responsible center of administration" (1927, 225). He made a distinction, however, between these activities and the "adventuresome spirit of many managers, especially those new to the game," which he considered to be one of the "hazards" to the manager movement along with interference of councils in administrative matters (300). It was a short step from White's complex views to the advocacy of a simple separation of spheres.
These shifts were reinforced by the impact of the depression of the thirties. This was a time not only of desperate shortage in local government resources but also of widespread taxpayer revolts (Beito, 1989, xii). The city management profession suffered set-backs after the crash. The proportion of managers appointed who were from outside the city dropped from 46 percent in 1926 and 57 percent in 1929 to 19 percent in 1933 (Otis, 1927). Salaries dropped almost one-quarter between 1929 and 1933 after steady increases in the twenties ("Salary Trend," 1928). A trend that continued from the twenties was the high proportion of separations as a result of dismissals and forced resignations--over 40 percent in 1926 and every year from 1929 to 1933 (Ridley and Nolting, 1934). It would not be surprising that managers would have preferred to maintain a very low profile and in no way be held responsible for the policy decisions of local government or their attendant costs. In addition, the belief that taxes could be contained by the presence of a manager caused the form of government to be even more strongly associated with efficiency (Adrian, 1987, 327). Contemporary observers pointed out that the council-manager form would not be able to secure a popular base of support if it continued to stress the money it saved rather than the improved services it provided (Vieg, 1937, 89-91; Price, 1941).
The dichotomy model appeared in local government along with the orthodox thinking of the thirties and early forties (Stillman, 1974, 43-53). As an issue of philosophy within the profession of the city manager, the matter was stated dearly by Clarence Ridley and Orin Nolting--director and assistant director of the International City Management Association--in The City Management Profession (1934, 30). The manager should not "let himself be driven or led into taking the leadership or responsibility in matters of policy." In general, the manager should stay "out of the limelight as much as possible." The first International City Management Association code of ethics in 1924 had indicated that it is the council members "who primarily determine public policy;" and it called upon the manager to "exercise his own judgment as an executive in accomplishing the policies formulated by the council." The 1938 Code of Ethics of the International City Management Association stated unequivocally that "the city manager is in no sense a political leader." The preamble asserted that in the council-manager form "policy shall be determined exclusively by the council." The manager offers advice and information, but policy decisions are to be made and defended by the city council. "The 1924 code," Stillman concludes, "had left the door open to managers for policy involvement, but the 1938 revised code established the political-administrative dichotomy dearly" (1974, 52). What is now viewed as the traditional relationship between the council and the manager took hold in the thirties.
Although the manager's policy role was eliminated by the dichotomy model, the accompanying emphasis on the manager I s autonomy in the administrative realm served to expand die manager's importance in the form of government. The 1938 version asserted that "the city manager, m order to preserve his integrity as a professional administrator, resists any encroachment on his control of personnel" and "insists on the exercise of his own judgment in accomplishing; council policies." Vieg observed that die form was commonly referred to as the "city manager plan," a term which implied that the mayor and council were of little consequence and which was "tantamount to exalting administration in a way that neither Wilson nor Childs had ever dreamed of." He advised paying "far more attention to the council (including the mayor) side of the council-manager plan" in the future (1937, 76-77).
After World War II, the dichotomy model came under attack, but its questionable heritage was not challenged.(8) City managers emerged from the shadows of the depression years. C. A. Harrell, a president of International City Management Association, identified the city manager as a "community leader." The "ideal manager" is a "positive, vital force in the community" who "visualizes broad objectives, distant goals, far-sighted projects" (1948, 290-294). The 1952 International City Management Association Code of Ethics included this tenet: "The city manager as a community leader submits policy proposals to the council and provides the council with facts and advice on matters of policy to give die council a basis for making decisions on community goals." A commentator in the associations Municipal Year Book concluded that "the debate over whether a city manager should be a leader in policy formation seam to have died down, with the weight of evidence indicating that a successful manager inevitably performs such a function in one way or another" ("Municipal Highlights of 1952," 1953, 3). The commentator indicated that this role definition "modified appreciably the original theory behind the council-manager plan." Accepting the prevailing notion that a policy role that was not originally intended had the effect of denying the city manager historical legitimacy as a leader who served die council and the public in shaping as well as implementing policy.
On the other hand, the dichotomy model became a convenient defense for the prerogatives of city managers. The wall of protection around die manager's sphere that was erected during the period of orthodoxy when government activity was severely restricted remained in place when die manager was working on an agenda of growth and development in the booming fifties and sixties. City managers had become insulated and claimed dominance within their sphere. Newland observes that by the 1950s, "structures of executive power became inviolate in `The Plan'" (1989, 259). Council-manager government had been converted into a more manager-centered form. Ironically, this view was justified in terms of the dichotomy model.
From the late sixties through the eighties, managers grappled with a more realistic definition of their role that acknowledged the important political dimensions but only partially recognized councils as full partners (Svara, 1994). New criteria for recognizing council-manager cities established by die International City Management Association in 1969 indicated that professional managers "should have direct responsibility for policy formulation on overall policy problem." International City Management Association committees, created in 1973, 1975, and 1983, to increase support for die council-manager plan, stressed die needs of elected officials but continued the manager-centered attitudes. The association's Committee on Future Horizons report, New Worlds of Service, recognized that both the council and manager have "a shared stake in both policy and administration." The manager in the community leadership role and in dealings with elected officials was expected to increasingly fill the role of "broker/negotiator" (International City Management Association, 1979).
In 1989, the International City Management Association introduced new recognition criteria din incorporated greater flexibility into the standards and supported greater interaction with the council. The key change in the criteria was to recognize as a council-manager government a jurisdiction in which the council confirms or ratifies personnel actions by the manager. In addition, guidelines were added to accept input from the council in administrative matters. The local government management profession was recognizing the contributions--formal and informal--of elected officials to functions once viewed as reserved exclusively for die manager.
From 1992 to 1994, another task force, the Task Force on the Council-Manager Plan appointed by die International City Management Association reaffirmed the importance of viewing the council-manager form as an approach to governance and management that combines the efforts of elected officials and professional administrators.(9) The manager's role is described in terms of die responsibilities of this official to the council: die manager is expected to provide policy advice, promote tram budding, and support council oversight of organizational performance and appraisal of die manager. The manager's responsibility to direct the organization, appoint staff, and prepare the budget are considered to be important for assuring the accountability of die manager and the effectiveness of organizational performance but am not viewed as grants of authority to be exercised in isolation by the manager.
Thus, views on the nature of die form and respective roles of the council and manager have come full circle to reconnect with ideas of die founding Ethers of the council-manager form of government. It has taken 30 years to remove the dichotomy model from its central place in thinking about council-manager relations after its reign from the late twenties into the sixties. The myth din this dichotomy was the original theory for die form was widespread and long lived.
Implications of the Reliance on the Dichotomy Model and an Alternative
There are several implications of the continuing prominence of the dichotomy model for local government and for public administration as a field. First, the dichotomy model kept the council at a distance from the work of government and obscured the manager's real influence in policy decisions. Although the policy role was intended, denying it reduced scrutiny of the manager's contribution to policy. There is still no quality standard in the International City Management Association's Code of Ethics for die city manager's policy recommendations. The manager is supposed to "present the facts," but are the facts to be complete and unbiased and are recommendations to include a fair consideration of all alternatives? Should the manager clarify how his or her own preferences might influence the selection of the recommended alternative?
Another implication has been the underdevelopment of the city council's roles. With the rote repetition that "the council makes policy," there seem little reason to examine either the extent to which this is true or the methods used to make policy decisions. Obviously, the city manager plays a Lug role in defining issues and presenting policy recommendations--as the manager is supposed to do. The question is how well the council creates a framework of purposes and goals, to what extent it initiates policy, and how it handles staff recommendations. Even less attention is given to the legitimate role of the council in the oversight of administration. The city council, in contrast to legislative bodies in other forms and at other levels of government, could be an exemplar of legislative oversight of administrative performance--as the reformers intended it to be. The dichotomy model has deflected attention from this role, except as the council exercises its authority over the selection and retention of the city manager.
A final implication involves public administrationists. We should have paid more careful attention to the literature in the field that argues that the dichotomy model was not integral to the work of the early scholars of the field. Repeatedly over the past 40 years scholars have treated the evidence of policy activity by managers as if it is a newly emerging phenomenon (Svara, 1989b). Instead of examining the harder questions like "what kind of policy leader is the city manager," "how is policy leadership exercised," or "what level of managerial leadership in policy is compatible with democratic governance," it has been easier to "discover" once again that the manager is a policy leader. This finding has no import except in contrast to the presumed prescriptions of the dichotomy model. The field of public administration deserves and requires a better model as a guide to research, instruction, and training.
To be a field is to be bounded and public administration must formulate the boundaries of administrative action and the relationship between administrators, elected officials, and the public. Recognizing that the dichotomy was an aberration will contribute to better understanding of the true intellectual origins of the field and how it has developed. The council-manager form of government is, however, still searching for a better conceptualization of relationships, and some practitioners cling to old ideas (Golembiewski and Gabris, 1994, 1995). There is probably concern among practitioners that abandoning the dichotomy model will remove a protective shield and invite more interference by elected officials.
It is, however, a mistake to base the form even on a scaled-back or reinterpreted version of the dichotomy concept. It should be discarded as a free-standing view except when we use the term to summarize the thinking during one period of time--the orthodox period of the twenties and thirties rather than the founding period of public administration.(10) Important issues in the changing relationship between elected officials and administrators are obscured by interpreting them as deviations from the dichotomy model. Based on current field research, there are shifting boundaries in both the policy and administrative arenas and changes in the behavior of both sets of officials. Council members are more active in initiating specific policy proposals in response to pressing problems and more wary of accepting the manager's recommendations; they are less interested in defining the mission of the dry and setting long-term goals. Council members are devoting less attention to broad over-sight of administration and are more concerned about intervening in response to specific complaints. Managers are not more active in policy but rather more exposed as policy initiators-particularly concerning goals and long-term approaches. City managers are increasingly responding to pressure from elected officials for changes in service delivery, such as being more responsive to citizens, and in management practices, such as contracting out. The city council is influencing the city manager's actions in administration as well as intervening directly in administrative matters.
A final defect of the dichotomy model is that it is essentially negative: it established a barrier that neither side was supposed to cross. A positive alternative is to emphasize, as did the New Municipal Program in 1919 and the Task Force on the Council-Manager Plan in 1994, that the form is based on combining representative democracy and professionalism in a unique approach to governance. There is nothing about those concepts that is exclusionary. City managers can and should contribute to strengthening democratic leadership by a representative council, and elected officials can and should support professionalism in government. A model of complementarity is a stronger foundation for public administration and for the council-manager form of government. A complementary relationship also implies separate parts and distinctness but the emphasis is on how each contributes to the whole. Such a model is better grounded historically and offers a positive approach to examining the distinct contributions of elected officials and administrators to the democratic process.
I would like to thank Richard Stillman for comments on this paper and Chris Aycock, MPA student at North Carolina State University, for his diligent and enthusiastic literature searches.
(1.) For example, Canadians Richard and Susan Tindal assert that the council-manager form "is predicated on a complete separation of ... policy and administrative activities." The "greatest weakness of the form" and a reason for its limited acceptance in Canada is the "premise on which it is based, that it is possible to separate policy and administration in municipal government" (1995, 171).
(2.) Durand (1900, b, c) advocated the move to council-centered government in the United States.
(3.) At other places, however, Waldo includes Goodnow as one of those who insisted upon "a sharp separation" between politics and administration (1948-121).
(4.) There had been dissenters all along, including Luther Gulick's extensive critique of separating politics and administration. He distinguished between "politics' in the vulgar sense as a put of the spoils system" and politics in its "scientific sense," which stresses the study of how decisions am made (1933, 59).
(5.) For a review of the historical debate am the manager's policy role and the variance between practice and rhetoric, see Svara (1989b, 70-77).
(6.) A number of managers disagreed with his position and argued that managers should help to sell ideas to the council and, once adopted, support them before the public (Hatton 1921, 207-208).
(7.) The editors of National Municipal Review commented that Hopkins saw himself as a "glorified mayor" (1930). Hopkins was a lightning rod for opposition to the form of government that was abandoned in 1931--one year after be had been removed from office.
(8.) Price had clone so when he argued that the idea that managers should not promote policies had "never taken root in America" (1941, 572).
(9.) The author was a member of this task force.
(10.) In my earlier work, I proposed a dichotomy-duality pattern which combined separation of responsibility for mission and management with shared responsibility for policy and administration (Svara, 1985). As a normative guide, I believe that this division is still useful although the manager is not excluded from formulating mission nor is the council completely removed from management--at a minimum it is involved in the choice and appraisal of the city manager. Conceptually, it is unclear whether "dichotomy" is an appropriate term given this mature.
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James H. Svara is professor in and director of the Public Administration Program at North Carolina State University. He has been engaged in a study of the large council-manager cities in the United States and in a 15-country survey of the chief appointed administrators in city government.…