Tag Archives: Jefferson

About Local Government: Thoughts On Local Politics 5

[The following is a point-form note series on Local Government Politics aggregated from an academic course on that subject.]

Jefferson’s Ward Republic System: – Found in “The structure of American local Government” Brian P. Janiskee

  • Jefferson considered the creation of a ward republic system of local government one of the two most important elements upon which the future of the republic depended, the other being the creation of a public education system. Jefferson devised a four-tiered system that would comprise national, state, county, and ward levels. Each county would be divided into checker-box wards of about 25 square miles, large enough to ensure an appropriate level of support for vital local functions, yet small enough to allow for regular direct participation. Jefferson’s goal was to encourage citizens to be active members of their government. In this way, the revolutionary spirit of the regime would survive the potentially ossifying characteristics of an established constitutional government.
  • Hannah Arendt claims that the ward system, although never implemented, was Jefferson’s most cherished political idea.
  • The ward system would institutionalize the revolution.  It simultaneously would check the tyrannical tendencies of the central government and the enervating tendencies of private local life.   Such dangers include a private debasement of virtues into the selfishly commercial, devoid of politics and filled with corruption
  • Reveals Jefferson’ politics of continual revolution
  • The ward system would mitigate against the violence associated with revolution
  • System not developed because of a penchant for geographical neatness
  • Jefferson thought that a system of local government containing geographical concise units was central to the survival of the republic
  • Focus on grass roots government
  • Related to structured polycentrism
  • Beyond polycentric and mono-centric, many units of government with autonomy, so citizens can gain meaningful attachment to government
  • Polycentiricism: local fragmentation is beneficial, instead of forcing hierarchical structures form above, rely on local autonomy
  • Monocentrisits: single community requires single government, regional government would provide better economies of scale therefore more efficient

The City of Vancouver’s Recent Corporate Initiatives:  – Referenced in Urban Governance in Canada by K. Graham, S. Phillips with A. Maslow

  • The city of Vancouver is like most government organization; Process rather than results control too much City work.  Many of the systems are slow, complex and over controlled.  Plus over expenditures, need for change (1994 statement)
  • The city’s prescription for dealing with these has involved both structural and attitudinal change.  Some highlights of Vancouver’s recent corporate initiatives are as follows:
  • Reduction in the number of city departments from 18 – 10.  Internal administrative functions have been clustered into a new corporate services dept.
  • Elimination of some senior management positions, including the deputy city manager, the director of Economic Development.
  • Creation of a new civic management team, which consists of the city manager, key department heads, and the administrative heads of the city’s major agencies, boards and commissions (police chief, head of parks)
  • A corporate commitment to re-orienting the operating style of the city.   The Key phrases in this context are delegation; decentralization; customer consultation; teams; interdepartmental consultation; service standards and monitoring, flexibility; and empowerment of managers to coach, mentor, and support staff rather than control
  • New openness to alternative service models including technology based services; enhanced use of volunteers; regulated privatization of traditional municipal functions, such as handling of building permits, new emphasis on partnerships and joint delivery and contract servicesThe formal proposal for the city’s new corporate direction distances itself from the general trend among governments to downsize: “Our objectives is not to downsize but to make us more effective
  • -Corporate downsizing through the reduction of departments
  • Achievement of financial efficiencies though re-engineering some of the city’s work process has also been part of the plan.