Institutional Manifestations of Accessiblity and Urban Economic Development Polity

DOI10.1177/106591299104400108
Published date01 March 1991
Date01 March 1991
Subject MatterArticles
INSTITUTIONAL
MANIFESTATIONS
OF
ACCESSIBLITY
AND
URBAN
ECONOMIC
DEVELOPMENT
POLITY
ELAINE
B.
SHARP
The
University
of
Kansas
hile
there
has
been
an
avalanche
of
research
on
the
general
~/B/
topic
of
local
economic
development,
surprisingly
little
w
V
research
has
been
done
to
account
for
variation
in
cities’
economic
development
policy
activities.
That
which
has
been
done
on
this
subject
suggests
that
economic
need
is
a
powerful
force
driving
officials
to
adopt
economic
development
policies
ranging
from
loans,
tax
abatements,
and
other
financial
incentives
to
infrastructure
improve-
ments,
zoning
reform,
and
promotional
activity.
In
the
most
notable
research
of
this
type,
Rubin
and
Rubin
(1987)
find,
for
a
sample
of
Illinois
cities,
that
both
indicators
of
a
troubled
local
economy
(such
as
unemployment
rate
and
percentage
in
poverty)
and
indicators
of
fiscal
need
(such
as
property
tax
rate
and
per
capita
assessed
valuation)
are
significant
predictors
of
economic
development
policy
activity.
In
a
related
vein,
Bowman
(1988:
523)
finds,
for
a
sample
of
cities
in
the
southeast,
some
evidence
that
a
city’s
history
of
economic
distress
helps
account
for
its
contemporary
aggressiveness
in
promoting
economic
development.
Results
like
these
suggest
that,
while
developmental
activ-
ities
may
be
in
the
&dquo;unitary
interest&dquo;
(Peterson
1981)
of
all
cities,
some
cities
must
scramble
to
do
more
than
others.
Contrary
to
Peterson’s
(1981:
48-49)
arguments
that
developmental
policy
should
be
insensi-
tive
to
both
economic
need
and
low
fiscal
capacity,
there
is
an
emerg-
ing
body
of
evidence
showing
that
the
magnitude
of
developmental
policy
effort
is
related
to
both
forms
of
economic
distress.
As
interesting
and
important
as
that
line
of
research
is,
it
has
two
important
limits.
First,
it
is
typically
based
either
on
a
single
state
sample
or
a
unique,
regional
sample,
leaving
questions
about
generaliz-
RECEIVED :
November
20,
1989
FIRST
REVISION
RECEIVED:
March
13,
1990
SECOND
REVISION
RECEIVED:
May
10,
1990
ACCEPTED
FOR
PUBLICATION:
May
14,
1990
NOTE:
I
would
like
to
acknowledge
the
invaluable
assistance
that
David
Elkins
provided
in
the
preparation
of
the
ICMA
and
Census
of
Governments
data
for
this
project.
130
ability.
Second,
while
predictor
variables
in
addition
to
those
in
the
economic
distress
category
are
sometimes
introduced,
they
are
rarely
introduced
as
part
of
a
multivariate
analysis.
For
example,
Bowman
(1988:
523-24)
investigates
the
bivariate
relationship
between
reform-
ism
and
city
aggressiveness
in
economic
development,
but
the
possible
interconnections
between
reformism,
economic
distress,
and
economic
development
activity
are
not
explored.
Similarly,
Rubin
and
Rubin
(1987)
find
that
various
measures
of
&dquo;urban
capacity,&dquo;
such
as
home
rule
status
and
the
city’s
functional
scope,
are
significant
predictors
of
cities’
use
of
various
economic
development
incentives.
But
the
role
of
these
predictors
relative
to
the
economic
indicators
that
are
the
focal
point
of
their
analysis
is
never
investigated.
The
analysis
in
this
paper
takes
the
direct
relationship
between
economic
distress
and
economic
development
policy
as
its
point
of
departure,
but
moves
to
a
specific
form
of
multivariate
analysis
in
which
a
family
of
measures
of
accessiblity
of
decision-making
serve
as
control
variables.
Stated
most
simply,
this
paper
explores
the
possibil-
ity
that
the
extent
to
which
economic
distress
drives
city
decisionmak-
ers
to
adopt
various
development
policy
tools
may
be
conditioned
by
the
accessibility
of
development
policy-making
to
the
public.
The
basic
hypothesis
(H 1 )
is
that
the
linkage
between
economic
distress
and
development
policy
will
be
strongest
in
those
contexts
where
city
offi-
cials
are
least
insulated
from
the
public.
As
Rubin
and
Rubin
(1987:
38)
note,
there
is
a
substantial
litera-
ture
questioning
the
effectiveness
of
many
of
the
policy
tools
and
tech-
niques
that
public
officials
use
to
encourage
economic
development,
particularly
those
involving
financial
inducements.
However,
those
pol-
icy
tools
are
widely
used,
because
city
officials
facing
problems
of
disinvestment,
economic
decline,
and
resulting
fiscal
stress
are
com-
pelled
to
do
something,
even
if
the
policy
tools
at
their
disposal
are
relatively
weak
instruments.
Consistent
with
arguments
about
politicians’
use
of
economic
development
policy
as
a
means
of
credit-claiming
(Feiock
and
Clingermayer
1986;
see
also
Swanstrom
1985:
103-105),
this
approach
suggests
that
the
pressure
to
&dquo;do
something&dquo;
in
the
face
of
economic
distress
is
exacerbated
when
there
are
institutional
arrange-
ments
that
expose
public
officials
to
citizen
concerns
about
economic
development.
This
paper
explores
three
institutional
arrangements
that
have
a
bearing
on
the
accessibility
of
economic
development
decision-making,
and
which
may
therefore
be
expected
to
condition
the
linkage
between

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