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Article Summary

Perlman, Ellen. 1993. "Secretive Governing: Authorities proliferate; So Does Possible Misconduct." City and State. March 1, pp. 9-11.

This article notes the sudden 12% increase between 1987 and 1992 in special quasi-governmental or intergovernmental districts (often called authorities, as in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority). Perlman cites several reasons why legislative bodies choose to create special districts:

  1. they are a way of skirting state constitutional limits on taxation, spending, and borrowing
  2. they enable state and local governments to appear to be cutting their budgets while continuing to ensure service provision;
  3. they are a tool of intergovernmental collaboration cutting across political boundaries to meet regional needs.

Though special districts are sometimes necessary to accomplish a particular task or achieve economies of scale in providing a specific service, they are vulnerable to abuses difficult to curb due to the lack of direct public accountability and even accountability to the governments which created them. Abuses include nepotism, overpriced service rates, and mismanagement.