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Exploring Capacity as a Determinant of Metropolitan Governance for Sustainable Outcomes
53rd Annual Conference of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, [Cincinnati, OH] (2012)
  • Susan Mason, Boise State University
Cities, counties, and special districts comprise many of the multiple governing jurisdictions in metropolitan regions. No single issue such as economic development, water, transportation, or climate protection has galvanized the way municipalities work together. Since 2002 and for the first time in history more people live metropolitan regions in the U.S. than rural areas (USDA, 2007). This may give impetus to a new level of governance –metropolitan- that could hold the promise to overcome the barriers to metropolitan cooperation that have existed for decades. The metro regional approach to governance on issues that benefit from collective action could be seen as a potential threat to local jurisdictional endeavors without the proper provisions or tools in place or said another way, without the capacity to engage collectively at the metropolitan level. Until now, no one has systematically explored which metropolitan regions have the capacity for regional governance and the way that capacity could shape metropolitan governance.

When trying to explain metropolitan commitment to climate protection Zahran et al. (2008) found that metropolitan regions contributing the most to CO2 emissions and regions most at risk to the adverse effects of climate change are least likely to participate in Climate Change Protection (CCP) agreements. However, metropolitan regions with high levels of environmental and civic capacity are the most likely to engage in CCP. Capacity in Zahran et al.’s study is occurring at the jurisdictional level and does not require joint effort to participate in the Climate Change Protection agreement. Similarly Mason (2009) and Mason et al. (2011) found that a city’s capacity to engage in green building can make a difference in the outcomes even if federal and state policies are not driving the outcomes. Capacity, in these two studies, was examined in terms of the having tools in place such as policies as well as administrative resources. The primary question that will be addressed in this research is what influences capacity to lead to metropolitan level action given the different levels of stress, risk and capacity for climate change outcomes both real and perceived? This research will also take a first step in identifying the types of capacity needed to bridge the often competing interests of jurisdictions or the reluctance of jurisdiction to engage in collective action around commonly shared resources.

Specifically this research explores survey data collected between October 2010 and March 2011 from seven metropolitan statistical areas (Boise, ID; Louisville, KY-IN; Miami, FL; Pensacola, FL; Salt Lake City, UT; San Antonio, TX; and Santa Rosa, CA) that rated differently on Zaharan’s capacity ratio. Simultaneously, additional factors identified by other researchers that may contribute to capacity will also be explored.

  1. Mason, Susan G., Anthony Marker and Rebecca Mirsky. 2011. “Primary Factors Influencing Green Building in Cities in the Pacific Northwest“ Public Works Management & Policy. 16(2):157-185.
  2. Mason, Susan G. (2009). “Prominent Factors that affect Decisions to Build Green in Idaho.“Idaho Planning Association’s 2nd Annual Planning Conference Getting Real about Sustainability” October 2009, Boise, ID.
  3. USDA (2007) Economic Research Services “Measuring Rurality: What is Rural?” Retrieved from on May 2, 2010.
  4. Zahran, Sammy, Grover Himanshu, Samuel D. Brody and Arnold Vedlitz (2008). Risk, Stress, and Capacity: Explaining Metropolitan Commitment to Climate Protection. Urban Affairs Review 43(4), 447-474.
Publication Date
November 3, 2012
Citation Information
Susan Mason. "Exploring Capacity as a Determinant of Metropolitan Governance for Sustainable Outcomes" 53rd Annual Conference of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, [Cincinnati, OH] (2012)
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