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Sociology studies of local government workings

gtpeach

Cyburbian
Messages
1,900
Points
14
Any good ones that anyone is aware of? I'm finding a lot about rural local government, but specifically I'm looking for studies about what the dynamics are for working inside of them. I'm trying to figure out how unique my experiences have been comparatively.

I realize that there is a LOT of variation, but my hypothesis is that there are likely at least a few recurring challenges that have been identified and I'd really love to see if there are consistently effective ways that communities have addressed those challenges.

And if they don't exist, maybe I need to give up my local government career and go back to school since I'll finally have an interesting idea for a dissertation...
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
13,133
Points
31
I saw a lot of problems with elected officials. Uneducated on topics, unable/unwilling to comprehend topics, idealistic, etc. There is also a very limited pool of volunteers for things like planning boards.
I saw a desire for change in some groups struggling against a huge fear of change by others. This led to a "it's good enough" or "it's better than it was" attitude toward projects.
There was always someone trying to champion some trend without understanding why it wasn't taking off. Mine was farm to market food. Great idea, but farmers in Kansas don't grow vegetables. They grow wheat. Unprocessed wheat is not a hot commodity at the farmer's market. So we just needed mills. Which goes to a lack of understanding of the export market of wheat. Basically someone was always looking for the magic bullet that would save the town.
At the same time, small town life had a great advantage. The people will solve a problem quickly and put all their resources into it if it's an actual problem. Tornado wiped out a neighbor's home, the debris was cleared in a day or two because neighbors had heavy equipment to bring over and help. That small spot on the road that keeps getting too flooded to drive on isn't overlooked by the street department. You just stop and talk to the road grader and he'll fix it. No engineering, just grade it so it works.
 

gtpeach

Cyburbian
Messages
1,900
Points
14
Blow the dust off your Max Weber on public administration.
I didn't actually go to fancy planning school, so I don't have that. (I did take a public administration class in grad school, but it was more general.) But I can look for it used if it provides some of these insights!
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
13,133
Points
31
ICMAs website might have some information on the subject, but I expect it to come down to a lack of resources and an abundance of problems. I would say that's like anywhere, but rural places face questions like, do you have a hospital nearby or at least a clinic.

I would say find your successful programs and capitalize on that. Then bring other programs up using similar techniques or whatever it takes.
My last counties be success stories:
  • Best emergency management department in the state. I would often piggyback planning/floodplain stuff on her platform because it would get people to support it.
  • The EM department worked a lot with rural fire and made a lot of things happen for them. New stations, equipment, and I teamed up with them to send fireworks permit funds to a fire department communication fund. Made us all look good.
  • We had one of the best road & bridge/public works departments. Their downfall was that we had more miles of road and more bridges than any other county. We started making up for it by closing roads and demolishing bridges (think over sized culverts). It didn't make everyone happy, but they understood tax more or maintain fewer roads.
  • We had one of the best health departments until the city and county couldn't agree to repair a building and it went from independent agency to county department. Half the people quit right there. At the same time they were doing a lot of things that didn't fall under county rules relating to HR stuff. Some mistakes were made in hiring, but I think they're repairing that problem now.
  • Jail problems are huge. Just not enough beds. When I left they were going after court reform to help.
We also had a regional planning commission that would take care of things like writing grants or trying to get multiple cities/counties to cooperate on bigger projects. Before I was there they worked on an unincorporated town sewer system through USDA and CDBG. They did individual home weatherization grants, small business start up help and grants, all kinds of little things that make a difference.
 

gtpeach

Cyburbian
Messages
1,900
Points
14
I'm looking for information less on the role of county administration leadership on the external impacts for the county, and more on the internal employee relations dynamics (which then do impact the county as a whole). I know there have been studies done on state and federal agencies - I'm just not aware of any that have been completed on the local side, but I'm assuming that hasn't been completely glossed over.
 

terraplnr

Cyburbian
Messages
2,074
Points
22
I don't know of any but it sounds really interesting! I'm sure a lot of us face the same types of issues working for local public agencies, due to the nature of the beast.
 
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