13th October, 2008
In what ways did the Wichita case study illustrate some of the characteristics and dilemmas of modern intergovernmental relations?
In many cases intergovernmental intervention is only needed in niche or what Conklin, J. (2001) calls “wicked problems”. The problem of pollution is this case study, can be classed as a “wicked problem’ as it touched upon several arenas and considerations simultaneously required governmental responses that involve multiple jurisdictions and departments for effective resolution. However several aspects of the landscape of public sector over the twenty first century has changed or evolved that has contributed to the context of intergovernmental relations. According to Radin (2000) there has been a shift from the initial single level of government or a single jurisdiction to multiple levels/ jurisdictions of government involved simultaneously in programs and policies. These multiple levels of involvement are based on collaborative synergies as described by Bardach, (1996) and are limited by technical, legal, bureaucratic and political barriers. However this collaborative synergies or better described as “relations” is based on certain characteristics. This memo puts forward four of these broad based characteristics; Interdependence, networking, complexity and bargaining & negotiation, as illustrated in the case study. It also exemplifies the dilemmas associated to the intergovernmental relations as a result of limitations due to barriers illustrated in the case study.
Characteristics and Dilemmas of modern intergovernmental relations 1.0 Interdependence
One of the key characteristics of intergovernmental relations is interdependence. Interdependence as Laurence (2006) describes is whereby the power is shared among the branches and layers of government, even within policy sector, instead of one level consistently controlling decisions about policy , nearly any changes requires mutual accommodation several levels of government” . As illustrated in the case study, high interdependency prevailed between the City council, County Commission, State Legislature, Governor and EPA. Any changes required consensus/ agreement of other levels or branches. 1.1 Dilemmas in Interdependency
Interdependency however at times creates a dilemma amongst the multiple actors and the question that is at times asked is “so who is in control”. Laurence (2006) whilst describing interdependence says “No one is in control of the system itself, and the unanticipated consequences are a fact of life”. As illustrated in the case study, though Mr. Chris Cherches the city manager seemed to be running the “show” in fact he was not , as his actions depended on actions of others. This also triggers possibility of ‘free riding’ whereby certain departments may not put in effort but share the benefit of a conceded effort of others. EPA which was represented by KDHE could have easily been a ‘free rider’. This also arises moral Hazard- the prospect that a party insulated from risk may behave differently from the way it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk eg. by undertaking responsibility for the contamination, Cherches needed to ensure that he is not setting a precedent that the city will assume the liabilities arising of its citizens that will reduce accountability and civic responsibility
Secondly interdependency itself draws on another characteristic that is the notion of networking. Intergovernmental relations are viewed as a ‘web’ of “largely autonomous participants with variable degree of mutual commitment or dependence on each other (Helco 1979 cited by Radin, 2007). There are various parties and actors in a process that cut both horizontally (across multiple issue), as well as vertically (down the intergovernmental chain). This horizontal process (networking) is better illustrated by the actions of Wichita...
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