Reese, Rosenfeld / QUESTIONING CONVENTIONAL WISDOM
Hence, if a strong mayor system on paper, Coshocton really operated more like a weak mayor/man- ager system. Such situations are not static, however. Follow-up telephone interviews since the time of the case study visit indicated that the weak mayor was unseated in the last election, and all signs suggest that the new mayor may revert back to the traditional strong mayor form. The moral here, again, is that the formal structure may not represent the actual structure and that real structures may change over time. So, formal structure matters but . . . is highly fluid. Form does not necessarily match substance, and cities are idiosyncratic in their histories and hence their operation. Conclu- sions about the relationship between structure and policy should be made with caution.
Governing regimes. The composition of local governing regimes largely determines policies, and cities with similar governing regimes will have similar approaches to economic development. Yes, but . . . each community has a unique, historically shaped system for public action and pro- cesses for the distribution of goods. The particular mix of policies and programs pursued in a com- munity is a product of the interaction between the environment of the community and its history. It is thus possible (and even likely) that two communities could have the same interests within the rul- ing coalition, yet because of different customs or processes, use very different economic develop- ment policies.
. . . the formal structure may not represent the actual structure and . . . real structures may change over time. So, formal structure matters, but . . . is highly fluid.
That more than regime matters in local development policy making is brought home in analysis of both survey and case study data. For example, regression analysis using economic development policies as the dependent variables indicates that all policies are related to a complex mixture of environmental, regime, and local cultural forces. Environmental variables, such as country and fis- cal health, are related to economic development policies. Regime issues, such as who has input into the decision-making process (citizens vs. business) and who has primary responsibility for devel- opment decisions, are also important. However, broader local characteristics, including goals for the community, how decisions are made, and how entrepreneurial or reactive is the approach to economic development, are also included in all the policy regression models.
Case study analysis clearly indicates that cities with governing regimes composed of the same actors can have very different approaches to economic development and ultimately pursue differ- ent development policies. For example, Kettering and Allen Park have similar governing regimes for economic development. In both cities, economic development is conducted in-house. The city manager/administrator and the bureaucrat responsible for economic development constitute the locus of power for development decisions. Local planning commissions and engineering depart- ments also play a significant role. Although the city councils have a role in the selection of the city manager, they tend not to get involved in the details of development policy making. There is little community or business input in either city. Hence, both cities have a development regime led by public administrators, and broader input tends to occur only through formal planning commission or city council hearings. It is also useful to note that both cities have similar economic conditions: They are reasonably healthy, with low unemployment and poverty and relatively high average incomes.
Beyond this, however, other local conditions and hence approaches to economic development are very different. Local politics in Kettering is quite calm. Although term limits existed for the mayor in the past (no longer the case), within that framework there was little turnover in elected officials. Despite ward-based council elections, there is little geographic division on council; most votes are unanimous. Kettering takes an active, entrepreneurial stance toward development, and the resultant policies are quite innovative. The use of traditional financial incentives, such as tax abatements, is limited and tied to the number of jobs likely to result. The city has taken a major role in the development of a business park on the site of a now closed air force base, which has become a national model. The city also emphasizes the development of parks and the arts as magnets for eco- nomic development. In short, economic development is active, innovative, and somewhat risky.
The situation in Allen Park is quite different. Historically, politics has been quite confronta- tional. A one-term mayor was defeated after an administration that included a recall effort and a slander suit. City council is not necessarily supportive of recommendations by city administrators and the contracted planning firm. Various bond efforts have met with failure at the polls, and the local government is now wary of community opinion, even to the extent of trying to circumvent it. The overall approach to economic development is very passive in Allen Park. Traditional policies,