International Challenges and Perspectives
Edited by Jeffrey A. Raffel, Peter Leisink and Anthony E. Middlebrooks
Chapter 6: Are Elected Executives Needed to Achieve Accountability to Citizens? Performance Issues and Form of Government in Large US Cities
James H. Svara For most of its history, the council-manager form of government has been noted for the high level of accountability that it achieves in comparison to the mayor-council form of government. It is surprising to observe that in a number of large council-manager cities, the rallying cry for change in the city charter to the mayor-council form has been a lack of accountability in the form of government. It is therefore important to re-examine the nature of accountability and how it is related to and differs between forms of government in large American cities. In the discussion that follows we will review the structure of local government and examine the various meanings of accountability. The accountability claims of each form of government will be presented followed by a comparison of evidence on accountability practices in American cities. In the final section a general framework for assessing accountability will be provided, which examines the counter claims. ONE COUNTRY, TWO FORMS The United States is unusual compared to other countries because of the widespread use of two different forms of local government (Mouritzen and Svara 2002). In US cities over 10,000 in population, 36 percent use the mayor-council form (and almost half of these have a chief administrator position), 57 percent use the council-manager form, and 7 percent use some other form of government. The council-manager form is used in half or more of cities with populations of between 10,000 and 250,000, and in about a third...
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