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Cityscape Spotlights Sustainability and City Hall

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April 03, 2013  

Cityscape Spotlights Sustainability and City Hall

The latest issue of Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research features a symposium about governing sustainable cities. Guest editors Richard C. Feiock and Christopher Coutts examine local government sustainability activities, looking specifically at “issues of scale, policy instruments, and governance.” The symposium provides readers with a basis for understanding sustainability across locales, as well as implementation challenges that occur.

James H. Svara, Tanya C. Watt, and Hee Soun Jang use an International City/County Management Association survey to evaluate city governments’ efforts to promote sustainability. These researchers highlight the policy instruments used by cities and investigate the role of government institutions, community demographics, and local policy priorities in shaping city sustainability initiatives.


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Kent E. Portney challenges the traditional notion that sustainability has a negative effect on economic development. The author analyzes the relationship between income growth and sustainability in 55 large cities across the country. Cities with significant creative classes that also aggressively pursue sustainability experienced the most rapid economic growth, which refutes the traditional assumption that sustainability affects economic development negatively and indicates a need for further research.

Christopher V. Hawkins and XiaoHu Wang find that cities try to adopt policies that reduce development costs for businesses while also incorporating environmental protection and energy conservation measures. The authors also explore the influence of business and the mediating role of governance structures in policy adoption.

Gregory S. Burge and Keith R. Ihlanfeldt examine the role of impact fees in the relationship between sustainability and development. The authors assert that rapid growth negatively affects surrounding residents, and development externalities (nonconforming land uses, open-space amenities, congestion, compromised public infrastructure, and degraded local environmental quality) are not incorporated into the price of the rapid development. The authors find that impact fees can successfully counteract this and help encourage development that takes into account the true costs of growth.

Elisabeth R. Gerber investigates the influence of party affiliation on sustainability by testing the role of political partisanship on local climate policies. This study demonstrates the influence of the partisanship of citizens and decisionmakers in shaping these policies and suggests that policy support depends on the constituencies that will benefit from sustainable development.

Rachel M. Krause explores what inspires sustainability policies implemented in cities by analyzing survey data from cities engaged in climate change initiatives. Cost savings is a consistent rationale for implementing sustainable policies, as is an altruistic concern about global climate change.

Dorothy M. Daley, Elaine B. Sharp, and Jungah Bae explore reasons that cities implement communitywide sustainability policies, including interest group pressure, problem severity/need, and interest group strength. These researchers find that, regardless of the governance structure of a city, participation in local government networks, such as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, is instrumental in expanding sustainability efforts to citywide initiatives.

Christopher M. Weible and Dallas Elgin evaluate the organizational capacities of policymaking groups to collaborate and implement environmental activities at the local, national, and international level.

Philip Berke and Ward Lyles propose a new planning framework for sustainability that melds collaborative and anticipatory governance. This model has potential for providing the flexibility needed at a time of unknown consequences of global climate change.

Anu Ramaswami quantitatively examines the roles played by social actors and policy instruments in linking policy outputs in city climate action plans with environmental outcomes.

Edgar E. Ramírez de la Cruz discusses the importance of local government sustainable development actions in both developed and developing countries. The author highlights local governments’ heightened role due to the limited progress achieved at the national level and addresses the importance of building a research agenda based on the role that local governments could play in adopting sustainable strategies and policies.

In Cityscape’s “Point of Contention” section, Richard K. Green, James Alm, Andrew Reschovsky, and Keith R. Ihlanfeldt offer expert viewpoints on the efficiency of property taxes as a revenue source for local governments.

The issue also features short analytical works, including “The Market for Real Estate Brokerage Services in Low- and High-Income Neighborhoods: A Six-City Study” by Aaron Yelowitz, Frank Scott, and Jason Beck; “Data Shop: Psychometrics of Housing Quality Measurement in the American Housing Survey” by Sandra J. Newman and Philip M.E. Garbodeny; “Graphic Detail: Race and Refinancing During the Bubble in the Baltimore and Washington Metropolitan Region” by Ron Wilson; “Industrial Revolution: Reducing Appliance Backdrafting Risks with HVAC-Integrated Make-Up Air Systems” by Mike Turns; “Policy Brief: The HEARTH Act” by Steve Berg; “Policy Brief: The Small Area FMR Demonstration” by Peter B. Kahn and Geoffrey B. Newton; and “SpAM: Modeling Population Settlement Patterns Using a Density Function Approach: New Orleans Before and After Hurricane Katrina” by Fahui Wang and Weijie Wang.

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