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Article Summary

Liebschutz, Sarah F. 1990. "The New York Experience with Cooperation, Coordinating Structures, and Consolidation: Selected Case Studies."

In 1963, the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) reached the conclusion that "political realities preclude shattering the [system] in order that it might be remodeled in conformity with an updated model" (ACIR as quoted in Liebschutz, p. 1). Taking this 30-year old statement as a jumping-off point, Liebschutz presents six case studies of intergovernmental cooperation in New York State including studies of regional waste management and regional policing. Her objective is to determine if it is possible to gain the advantages claimed by advocates of restructuring ("improved and more cost-efficient public service, coordination, equality in financial burdens, and responsibility for area-wide policy" p. 2) while preserving the identity and autonomy of cooperating local governments.

Though Liebschutz does not herself draw any conclusions from the case studies, I believe that the six examples she has chosen confirm that it is indeed possible for governments to cooperate and gain the associated benefits without losing autonomy. Furthermore, the cases, particularly the examples of failure, illustrate that efforts at cooperation which do not maintain local government and citizen autonomy will fail. This could be the result of a bias in case study selection. The examples of successful intergovernmental cooperation have the common element of emphasizing a participatory process and cooperative problem solving rather than immediately solving a concrete problem.