Power Failure: New York City Politics and Policy since 1960

By Charles Brecher; Raymond D. Horton et al. | Go to book overview
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11
EXPENDITURES AND SERVICES

The relationship between what local government spends in money and produces in services has important effects on the local economy and resident welfare. Municipal officials who are able to produce "acceptable services at acceptable costs" contribute to the economic fortunes of their communities and the living standards of their citizens. In return, they can expect to receive support from campaign contributors and voters. Municipal officials who are unsuccessful at managing the spending-service relationship are likely to elicit challenges to their policies, perhaps even to their positions; more important from a community perspective, their behavior reduces local living standards and employment opportunities and encourages outmigration of those for whom "exit" appears a more appropriate response than "voice." 1

The spending-service relationship is particularly important in big-city governments. They devote a large share of their financial resources to direct service delivery, and they are surrounded by governments whose propinquity offers footloose consumers the opportunity to savor the city's attractions while avoiding some of its taxes and services. One respected student of urban development, an economist mindful of the fact that municipalities are not monopolies, went so far as to identify public management as the scarce resource of cities like New York. 2

Its importance helps explain why the relationship between spending and service is a recurring theme in New York City politics and policy. Pursuing this line of inquiry offers two important opportunities: first, it provides a basis

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