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Civic Paternalism in Political Policymaking

Title: Civic Paternalism in Political Policymaking: The Justification for No-Vote Stadium Subsidies and the Public Response.
Name(s): Kellison, Timothy B., author
James, Jeffrey D., professor directing dissertation
Ferris, Gerald R., university representative
Chapin, Timothy S., committee member
Kim, Yu Kyoum, committee member
Department of Sport Management, degree granting department
Florida State University, degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2013
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: The contribution of the professional sports stadium to the American city has long been debated by team owners, elected officials, scholars, activists, fans, sportswriters, and ordinary citizens. This debate intensifies whenever the possibility of publicly funding a stadium's construction or renovation is raised. Traditionally, the question of public investment has been decided by voters via the tools of direct democracy, including the referendum and initiative. However, since 2005, 24 stadium projects have been allocated over $8.5 billion of public funds without any form of voter approval. The practice of allocating public funds toward a project without direct public consent is referred to as the no-vote subsidy. Left without the evidence of ballot results or poll numbers, policymakers can suppose the will of the people at large to match their own preferences. Civil servants and citizens alike must consider the consequences of policies that are--at least in perception and sometimes in reality--unreflective of the electorate's preferences. One of the most recent instances of the no-vote subsidy occurred in Columbus, Ohio, where county commissioners and city councilmembers approved the purchase of the city's downtown arena using tax revenues generated from a local casino. Though this subsidy was made without a public vote, Columbus residents had already set a precedent by opposing five stadium-financing issues over 35 years. In this study, I considered the impact of this financing plan from the perspectives of both policymakers and the citizenry. There were three broad purposes of this study: to understand the political rationale of public policymakers involved in this specific case of a no-vote subsidy; to identify the factors that contribute to citizens regarding a subsidy favorably or unfavorably; and to examine the public response to the no-vote subsidy. This study was carried out in two phases. In the first phase, standardized, open-ended interviews were conducted in-person with seven individuals having personal connections to the Columbus stadium-financing case. These policymakers acknowledged the possibility that their decision to purchase the arena contradicted the public will. This admission was reconciled by a belief in a form of democratic representation known as civic paternalism, in which policymakers rely on their own expertise and point to their beliefs that such policies serve the best interests of the entire community, including individual citizens, the local economy, and the city's overall image. Additionally, civically paternalistic policymakers who make such decisions are either (1) willing to accept the accompanying political fallout or (2) confident that their actions will not negatively impact their future political career. In the second phase of the study, a survey was developed to measure the attitudes of Columbus residents toward a number of individuals, groups, and institutions, including civil servants, policy benefactors, and the democratic process in general. A pilot survey of 158 central Ohio residents was used to examine the psychometric properties of the initial instrument. Upon item modification, insertion, and deletion, a 55-item survey was finalized for the principal analysis. From a pool of over 625,000 registered voters in Franklin County, 5,000 individuals were randomly selected and received a survey packet. A total of 401 usable surveys were returned and included in the principal study analysis. The results of structural model testing provided support for six of 11 hypotheses. Two additional hypotheses received partial support, two were left unsupported, and one was not examined. Both perceived arena impact and trust in civically paternalistic leadership were significant predictors of one's attitude toward the public-financing plan. In turn, this attitude toward the financing deal impacted attitudes toward the arena's primary tenant, policymakers associated with the plan, and the democratic process in general. The results of this study indicated that though ultimately immaterial in the public-financing decision, public perception of the deal was not inconsequential. Data analysis also showed that how voters felt about the stadium-financing agreement influenced their attitudes toward the arena's primary tenant, democratic decision-making, and local policymakers. In this particular case, it was also suggested a slight public majority of the public approved of the financing plan. The no-vote subsidy is an increasingly common means of public-stadium financing that has failed to capture the attention of scholars. The research questions proposed and subsequently answered were an initial attempt to consider the sociopolitical implications of the no-vote subsidy. Future efforts to study civic paternalism and the no-vote subsidy should come from many directions and rely on a variety of methodologies. Such diverse approaches are necessary if the controversies surrounding public-stadium finance and the American democracy are to be studied in earnest.
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-7445 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Sport Management in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester, 2013.
Date of Defense: March 18, 2013.
Keywords: democratic theory, public policymaking, sport management, stadium finance, urban planning, voter behavior
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Jeffrey D. James, Professor Directing Dissertation; Gerald R. Ferris, University Representative; Timothy S. Chapin, Committee Member; Yu Kyoum Kim, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Sports sciences
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

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Kellison, T. B. (2013). Civic Paternalism in Political Policymaking: The Justification for No-Vote Stadium Subsidies and the Public Response. Retrieved from