The Municipal Bureaucracy
The primary role of the city's executive branch is to implement the laws and programs created by the legislative branch in conjunction with the chief executive or responsibilities granted in the city charter. Since New York City is a unit of local government, some of the laws and programs being implemented or administered by its executive branch are created by the state legislature and governor. Bureaucrats whose function it is to implement and administer the law, and particularly those at the street level who interact with the public in the process of delivering a service, exercise considerable discretion in their implementation activities. Due to the choices that bureaucrats can make in the process of implementing the laws and programs of the city's political system, they can greatly influence the direction and shape as well as the success or failure of public policy. The concept of bureaucratic discretion has received considerable attention among those who study public administration and public policy because of its relationship to the issues of bureaucratic accountability and control. In democratic political systems, there is an expectation that important policy decisions will be made by elected officials who are accountable to the people. There is an additional concern that governmental power be applied in a “nondiscretionary manner so that the coercive powers of government cannot be exercised arbitrarily” or in a discriminatory way (Bryner 1987, 2).
Bureaucrats have discretion because they are responsible for the implementation and administration of the laws and programs of the political system. The implementation function not only gives bureaucrats choices to make, it demands that they make choices. Classical theories of public administration were less concerned with the discretion that bureaucrats exercised as part of the implementation process because those theories suggested that the discretion was tied to how