Restructuring the New York City Government: The Reemergence of Municipal Reform

By Frank J. Mauro; Gerald Benjamin | Go to book overview

Strategic Planning and Large-City
Governance

ROBERT W. BAILEY

Most academic analysts who speculated over the governability of large American cities in the late 1960s and early 1970s concluded that the more heterogeneous a city became the more ungovernable it would be. 1 Indeed, there was a sense that large American cities, particularly New York City, were becoming dominated by an unruly alliance of interest groups, professional service providers, and mobilized clients, all operating in an environment where veto points within the policy process were proliferating uncontrollably. In this environment the "gatekeepers" were failing in their political responsibility to assess the integrity of policy demands, and small but earnest groups seeking large and expensive entitlements were not met with countervailing, "aggregative" political forces. In short, the local policy process was itself a significant source of America's urban crisis.

Today, the central concern is not "governability" but representation. The key question is how and to what degree essentially administrative enterprises can meet the constitutional, statutory, and court-applied test of fair and effective representation. In New York City the challenge is a direct legal one, since the Board of Estimate's apportionment was held unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court on 22 March 1989. In other cities—such as Boston and San Francisco — concern over issues of representation are reflected in an ongoing debate over whether their city councils should be chosen by citywide elections, on a ward or community basis, or by some other form of apportionment. In Cleveland, Ohio, groups successfully reduced the size of the council, thereby increasing the representational basis of each councilmanic district. And yet this new crisis, one of "representation" and institutional structure, is also a crisis in governability— a sense among the governed that community and legitimacy exist in their city.

This essay deals with the issues of governance and representation as they pertain to public-sector strategic planning on the local level, particularly in New York City. It proceeds with an understanding of two critical issues. First, strategic planning is essentially a management approach — or style — derived from private-sector

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