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Fragmented local governmental units will cooperate to address needs that span across regional boundaries while retaining local autonomy. These efforts, referred to as institutional collective action (ICA), come forth when local governments voluntarily form institutional arrangements to address common goals. Multiple jurisdictions are seen as working together to enhance their own interests, while still contributing to the needs of the broader region. Such efforts allow local governments to augment the provision of their services and address citizens' demands where doing so on an individual basis may be more difficult, specifically when limitations exist that hinder governments from taxing and borrowing for service production. As with individual collective action, ICA is easier when the number of actors is small and homogenous, and when they share common goals. The costs of acting collectively must also be lower than the costs of individual actions. When these conditions are not met, barriers to ICA will exist leading to fewer incentives to cooperate. This problem creates a need for less voluntary mechanisms to address regional goals, while maintaining some measure of self governance. This research argues that regional special districts provide this mechanism. To explore this proposition, this dissertation investigates when and how local governments create regional special purpose governments. The specific focus is on county governments, and their choices to use multi-jurisdictional special districts when faced with barriers to institutional collective action. This question is addressed using descriptive and empirical analyses. To conduct the descriptive analysis, surveys were conducted among 18 special districts that explored the implications of barriers to voluntary cooperation on regional special district formation. The empirical portion of this study was conducted using data for 790 counties collected from the U.S. Census of Governments for the periods of 1992 and 2002. Logistic and Poisson regression analyses were used to analyze these data. The major lesson which was brought forth tells us that it is important to consider the implications of the service sector when examining special district usage. The consideration of barriers to institutional collective action revealed that conditions did not have uniform effects among the various service sectors. In order for various types to be used, regional needs had to exist; however, the extent of those regional needs were based upon specific contextual factors.
Regional Governments, Urban Politics Government Institutions, Institutional Collective Action, Special Districts, Local Government Studies, Regionalism, County Governments
Date of Defense
February 5, 2008.
A Dissertation submitted to the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Richard C. Feiock, Professor Directing Dissertation; Patrice Iatarola, Outside Committee Member; Lance deHaven-Smith, Committee Member; Gabriella S. Wolfson, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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