Urban Advocacy Groups, City Governance, and the Pursuit of Sustainability in American Cities
41 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2010
Date Written: August 21, 2009
We ask this question: Why do some cities decide to adopt policies and programs aimed at trying to become more sustainable, while other cities do not? We pursue our inquiry by closely examining surveys we conducted of city councilors and administrators in 50 large American cities. The specific focus is on the interaction between advocacy groups and policymakers. The data utilized draws on questions concerning contact between groups and officials, the attitude of officials toward the reliability of information given to them by groups, and the likelihood of different advocacy group sectors being included in collaborative policy-making. Strong patterns emerged from the data analysis. First, we find low barriers to entry for urban advocacy groups. In stark contrast to Washington politics, it is relatively easy for urban groups to gain access to important policymakers and to meet with them frequently. Second, we find that neighborhood associations demonstrate surprising levels of interaction with policymakers. Despite scant resources, neighborhood associations are clearly part of the policy-making process in urban systems. Third, contact with different group sectors and degree of inclusiveness of those sectors in policy-making is linked to policymakers’ support for environmental protection and for sustainability. When environmental groups and labor unions are included in deliberations on issues of economic development and the environment, there seems to be much greater commitment to local sustainability policies and programs than when these groups are excluded.
Keywords: urban sustainability, sustainable cities, governance
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