Drivers of Policy Instrument Selection for Environmental Management by Local Governments

Date01 July 2019
Published date01 July 2019
Drivers of Policy Instrument Selection for Environmental Management by Local Governments 477
Richard C. Feiock is Augustus B.
Turnbull Professor of Public Administration
and holds the Jerry Collins Endowed Chair
at Florida State University. He served as
editor of
Public Administration Review
from 2013 to 2017. He researches local
government, sustainability, and local
democratic institutions. He is a National
Academy of Public Administration fellow
and served on the Board of Scientific
Counselors for the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency.
Angela Y. S. Park is a doctoral
candidate at the University of Kansas. Her
research focuses on understanding the
key challenges facing local governments
in delivering sustainability services
and programs and what enables them
to overcome these challenges. She is
particularly interested in the effects
of institutional arrangements and
mechanisms in dealing with the issues of
interagency coordination and performance
Christopher V. Hawkins is
associate professor in the School of Public
Administration at the University of Central
Florida. His research focuses on urban
politics, metropolitan governance, and
urban sustainability policy.
Abstract: Local governments commonly pursue environmental objectives that exceed state and federal minimum
requirements. Although research informs our understanding of factors that lead cities to adopt such policy goals, the
underlying mechanisms employed to achieve them are not well understood. This article examines factors that drive the
choice of policy instruments that cities use to pursue local environmental objectives. The literature links the structure
of the local governing body, characteristics of the community and target populations, and the nature of the policy
problem to instrument selection. Building on this, the authors model the dynamics shaping cities’ use of regulations,
financial incentives, or combination thereof, to pursue a variety of different environmental objectives. Results indicate
that community racial composition and political leaning influence instrument choice when policy targets the public at
large. Alternatively, when policy targets particular stakeholder groups, such as developers, the characteristics of the local
governing body are of greater importance.
Evidence for Practice
• Local governments regularly enact environmental policies that exceed the minimum standards set by higher
levels of government.
• Cities use regulations much more frequently than incentives to implement policies related to water
conservation, greenspace preservation, and the promotion of mixed-use development.
• City government characteristics—such as the form of government and prioritization of the environment—are
key determinants of instrument choice for land-use policies, for which business and development groups are
the primary target population.
• Characteristics of the community—such as race, political leaning, income, and population—are dominant
factors shaping the selection of instruments used in residential water conservation policies, which generally
target the public at large.
Rachel M. Krause
University of Kansas
Christopher V. Hawkins
University of Central Florida
Angela Y. S. Park
University of Kansas
Richard C. Feiock
Florida State University
Rachel M. Krause is associate
professor in the School of Public Affairs and
Administration at the University of Kansas.
Her research focuses on local governance,
urban sustainability, and municipal climate
protection initiatives. She was awarded the
2018 Emerging Scholars Award from the
Science, Technology, and Environmental
Politics Section of the American Political
Science Association.
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 79, Iss. 4, pp. 477–487. © 2019 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.13025.
Drivers of Policy Instrument Selection for Environmental
Management by Local Governments
Research Article
As political conflict has stymied national
and state policy action, cities have become
recognized as the level of government “where
things get done” (Castro 2014). This is notably
the case for issues of environmental sustainability,
where—both in traditional local governance arenas,
such as land-use management, and in less traditional
ones, such as climate protection—cities are frequently
described as policy leaders and innovators (Joss
2015; Krause 2011a; Portney 2013). Many U.S.
cities embrace environmental sustainability as an
objective and have undertaken ambitious planning
processes and policies in pursuit of this aim.
Although some of these efforts have been criticized as
symbolic (Betsill and Bulkeley 2007; Krause 2011b),
a substantial number of cities have adopted and
implemented meaningful policy actions. Reflecting
this, considerable scholarly effort has focused on
understanding what factors lead cities to voluntarily
adopt environmental objectives that exceed state
and federal requirements. However, we still know
little about the dynamics that shape the design of
instruments used to implement these objectives.
Policy instruments are the means by which
government policies are carried out; they are the
mechanisms used to achieve political goals (Smith
and Ingram 2002; Weimer and Vining 2017). As
such, they play an essential role in determining a
policy’s overall success. The process of instrument
selection, however, is not straightforward since
it can be driven by a logic of effectiveness and a
logic of appropriateness. The former is based on
rational links between means and goals; the latter
is based on shared values and ideas of legitimacy
(Capano and Lippi 2017; March and Olsen 1989).
The process of reconciling these logics occurs in
a complex and inherently political environment
since different instruments structure and allocate
opportunities, requirements, benefits, and costs in a

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