At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the governance of American cities is influenced by a variety of forces. These forces include the fiscal needs of the cities' political systems and the constraints that affect the systems' ability to raise revenue; the cities' position in the American federal system; and the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the cities' populations. No city illustrates the influence of these forces better than New York City.
Over the past several decades, the study of urban politics has produced a number of approaches to explain the behavior of urban political systems. Many of these approaches have succeeded in addressing some, but not all, of the abovementioned forces. Moreover, few studies have attempted to address how the divergent yet at times overlapping nature of these forces affects a single urban political system. This work will examine how those critical forces—economic/ fiscal, intergovernmental, and social—affect the governance of New York City.
Governance of the city's political system involves a complex set of functions around three broad themes: democratic accountability, the delivery of public goods and services, and the maintenance of civil harmony. These three themes incorporate the political system's goal of processing inputs and producing outputs while promoting system stability and survival (Easton 1965). First, the theme of democratic accountability concerns the extent to which the leaders of the political system respond to the demands of the people and are held accountable to the people. Democratic accountability depends on elections but also on the representative nature of the entire political system, including interest groups, political parties, and the executive branch of government. The second theme, the delivery of goods and services, concerns the ability of the political system to