Detroit Reveals the Possibilities and Pitfalls of a New Era of Governance

America's fundamental levels of governance are changing, writes Anna Clark in Next American City, who uses examples from Detroit and Cleveland to ascertain what the stakes are when cities cede public sector work to third parties.
July 15, 2012, 7am PDT | Andrew Gorden
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As cities around the U.S. have cut back on services, community development corporations, non-profits, and other neighborhood-level groups have been tasked with providing some of the very basic services that cities can no longer effectively nor efficiently provide. Mainstays of municipal governance like street resurfacing, graffiti removal, zoning and trash removal are being outsourced to these groups. Some, like University Circle, Inc. (UCI), in Cleveland's University Circle neighborhood, have been "providing parking, transportation, public safety programs and neighborhood landscaping in order to buoy the area's cultural and medical centers" since the 1950s.

But, some fear the lessening reliance on city services, and the lesser legal accountability that may accompany outsourcing to third-party groups. As Clark explains, "if CDCs and other non-profits are going to take on more and more public services, then they have a proportional amount of responsibility to be democratically structured. That means that both transparency and meaningful community accountability are crucial."

In this long read, Clark delves into the complex dance between cities and their partners in an emerging and evolving model of municipal governance.

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Published on Monday, July 9, 2012 in Next American City
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