Urban Nonprofits, City Governance, and Sustainability in American Cities
41 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 25 Aug 2009
Date Written: 2009
American cities vary greatly in the degree to which they demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. Determining why some cities develop an array of programs designed to promote sustainability while others cities do little is a complex undertaking. We focus here on the interaction between various interest group sectors and city councilors. Our measurements draw on a combination of two databases, one a survey of 50 large American cities and the other a comprehensive index of city-level programming in the area of environmental protection and sustainability. Particular attention is paid to the role of urban nonprofits, including neighborhood associations, environmental groups, and non-environmental civic associations. Although the relationships are not consistent through all tests, there is an overall pattern that links nonprofit advocacy to increased levels of sustainability programs and policies. In a multivariate analysis labor union advocacy proves to be most powerful predicator of serious city-level sustainability efforts. This belies the image of labor as being anti-environmental. Our modern, post-industrial economy generates jobs with the development of green businesses. Overall, we find that city governments appear relatively open with a diverse array of advocacy groups participating in the policymaking process.
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