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Article Summary

Parks, Roger, and Ronald Oakerson. 1993. "Comparative Metropolitan Organization: Service Production and Governance Structures in St. Louis, MO, and Allegheny County, PA." Publius 23: 19-39.

In this article, the authors identify and measure key structural characteristics of "fragmented" metro areas, employing a comparative study of two metropolitan city - counties: St. Louis City and County, MO, and Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), PA. The authors argue that these areas "work" by means of an integrating structure built by local governments together with county and state governments. This study was limited to structures created around four local services: Police, fire, streets, and education. The study of governance structures focused principally on those relevant to the provision units responsible for these services.

Many people consider a large number of local governments to be fragmented, which, in turn, is thought to produce ineffective organization and poor performance. For others, a large number of local governments means competition and consequent pressures for efficiency.

Metro areas are best viewed as "local public economies," in which local governments function primarily as "provision units." Metropolitan production structures can be understood by means of an industrial organization framework. The production structure of an industry is measured along horizontal and vertical dimensions form integration to differentiation. Integration combines production in fewer firms while differentiation distributes production across more firms. Horizontal differentiation/integration refers to the number of firms that produce a specific good or service for a market. While vertical differentiation/integration refers to the number of firms that produce intermediate products used in producing the final goods or services delivered to consumers.

Although highly fragmented by conventional measures, St. Louis and Allegheny County areas have developed sophisticated structures that integrate the production of numerous service components an facilitate metropolitan governance while accommodating the strong preferences of local communities for a large measure of self-governing autonomy. Both areas have developed similar service - industry structures for the production of basic service - structures that are both vertically differentiated among a variety of service components and highly integrated in the production of key support services. In the midst of this diversity, the two central cities, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, operate vertically integrated service structures that impose the same scale of organization on nearly all service components. There are some differences however.

Allegheny County fosters more productive relationships between county and municipal governments due to its full incorporation. Therefore Pittsburgh benefits from strong county government support for its economic development efforts. St. Louis County, on the other hand, uses its ability to obtain special state legislation and is therefore better situated than Allegheny County to reach binding settlements across all local governments that address problems unique to the county.

The idea is a sense of regionalism. Both areas have created governance structures that promote collective consideration and action across local government boundaries. This is evidence that overlapping jurisdictions can assist inter-local problem solving when joined into governance structures that include voluntary associations of local government and/or public private fellowship.