The Politics of Local Administration
Politics have had an Invasive presence in local administration since local governments formed. Local administrations can differ greatly In size and scope, yet they are all affected by regional political attitudes and state policies. Politics played a much greater role in previous eras, with the pinnacle being the era of “machine politics” that dominated local administration throughout the 1 9th century. A series of reform movements that began In the 1 sass would curb this trend and set a path towards the modern state of local administration, which focuses less on politics and ore on providing public services.
This paper will focus on the ideals of the reform movement, the modern influence of politics in local administration, and the structures of various forms of local administrations and the role of political Influence within each. The reform movement began as a means to De-politicized the highly political machine model of administration in the 19th century. The rise of political machines was made possible through the widespread use of material and financial incentives to capture the vote and gain Influence within the city.
Major political schemes involved personal favors rather than plans and ideologies in order to capture interest. Politicians capitalized on private industry to gain and share profits from public works. While this model did contribute to the individual fortunes of local administrators of the time, there were a growing number of opponents who fought against the greed and corruption within local administrations. The progressive reformers exposed many political machines for their unsanitary approaches to public management and helped changed the way local administrations function in the future (England, 64-65).
The mindset of the Progressive Era reformers set the tone for much of modern local administration in regards to the influence of politics and ideological norms. The primary goal of the reformers was to eliminate corruption from local administration, which was best accomplished by reducing the Impact of partisan politics from public affairs. A secondary goal of the reformers was to make government more efficient, which meant providing the best services at the best possible value.
Local administrators were meant to serve the public, and in doing so should utilize the most economical and rational strategies. The third goal of the reformers was to Involve the public and foster greater public control of local administration. The movement towards a more democratic form of governance would favor the general public rather than private interests (England, 66-67). Local administration today has developed to encompass each of the three primary goals of the Progressive Era movement in some degree.
The Influence of corruption continues to be present at all levels of government, but is seemingly less potent at the local level. The reform movement produced an ideological shift within public administration in such a way that the institutions became less profitable for public officials. Private corporations are no longer dominant entitles In local policymaking, although they are being relied upon more and more at present due to decreasing budgets in the public sector.
The return to prevarication and other forms of 1 OFF reform movement, which is the promotion of efficiency (England, 67, 133) The dominant theme of efficiency has become an ideological staple of public administration, and is more important in the current state of public affairs than ever. Organizations are forced to do more with less, which forces new means of efficiency to be developed. This is a far cry from the highly political background of local administration in which contracts were given with little restraint at the expense of taxpayers.
Politics still comes into play in the form of local-state relationships, in which policies that are highly political in nature can be crafted by a state and are used to force local action through mandates and regulations. Growing numbers of mandates and regulations in regards to education and the environment have forced coal administrators to be more efficient in order to deal with the extra burdens (England, 51, 66-68). The role of civic participation has also changed since the reform movement.
Depicturing local administration in the early 20th century turned many voters away from the polls, as personal ties with local parties diminished over time. Still, participation has always remained at the forefront of local administration and continues to be a central focus. One area of administration in which community input is strongest is in planning committees. Civic participation has been cited a key aspect of sustainability in planning. Still, planning committees are sometimes forced to enter the political process as a means to broker competitive interests or mobile support for a plan (England 134).
At present, there are two major types of city government styles. The council-manager style is a product of the reform era and exemplifies the effort to reduce political influence in local administration. The mayor- council form of government continues to exist as a more politicized form of government that relies on the mayor to take the lead in policy making. Both types of coal administration have benefits and drawbacks and exist in environments which favor one or the other.
The council- manager style of government has become increasingly popular, with approximately 55% of cities with populations above 2,500 utilizing this form (England, 74) This style is characterized by non-partisan ballots, at large elections, separation of municipal elections from state and federal elections, merit systems, and recall petition processes (England, 67). This style of administration separates the local functions of government from the political process both through an isolated election recess and merit system, as opposed to the spoils system of more political administrations.
The councils in this style of administration are generally smaller, which is thought to promote efficiency and avoid political stalemates. The city manager is responsible for day to day city operations and formulating a budget. Overall, this style is designed to reduce the influence of politics in local administration. The mayor- council form of local administration exemplifies a more political model of local administration. This form seeks to maximize representation for community interests.
Some characteristics include partisan elections, ward representation, coterminous council elections, and large councils. The mayor is responsible for making policy and controlling the functions of the administration. The large council serves to represent interests of different districts and interest groups within the city. Overall, politics has had a historical impact on local administration despite the recent trend of depicturing municipal functions. Local administration, once a largely political process, now only employs politics in certain aspects of governance.
The main impact of politics in present local administrations stem from the influence of state and federal policies, which create strain on local economies. Politics can be necessary in order to secure resources from certain interest group actors, and can act as a catalyst to inspire policy making within certain forms of local governments. As a general ideology, local administration attempts to remove politics from municipal functions in order to promote efficiency and the general welfare of the public. Politics seems to invade all forms of government, but local administration is altogether not a political process.