Decentralizing the city: a study of Boston's little city halls

Decentralizing the city: a study of Boston's little city halls

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Boston's fourteen Little City Halls and the Office of Public Service, which administers them, is an experiment that Joseph S. Slavet, Director of the Boston Urban Observatory, calls qone of the more innovative and controversial models of urban decentralization operating throughout the nation.q Mayor Kevin White's Little City Hall program has aimed to increase governmental responsiveness, reduce citizen alienation, and improve city services. This study places the program in a historical-conceptual context beginning with Jefferson's and Madison's opposing views on decentralization and then examines in detail its problems and achievements, relationships with municipal agencies, department commissioners, the Mayor's Office, community groups, and neighborhood residents. It also offers a theoretical analysis of the behavior and performance characteristics of the Boston bureaucracy, which is applicable to other cities. The Little City Hall model emerges as an especially attractive prospect when compared to three other decentralization models (Bureaucratic, Governmental, and Representational). In fulfilling its major functions, this study rates the Boston program qhighq on complaint-referral services, qmoderateq on the management and improvement of city services, and qlowq on facilitation of community participation. Obviously, there are problems that remain to be worked out. The program's qbread-and-butterq function (complaint-referral services) has encouraged and made it easier for 80, 000 citizens to register and receive action on their complaints each year, whether their city hall is one of five large stationary trailers or an old municipal building or rented office, indicating that large municipal governments canrespond to the needs of city residents. And because Boston's Little City Hall program is city-wide, covering black as well as white working-class ethnic groups, and because it has been in effect for several years in a major city with more than its share of urban ills and bureaucratic snags, the study's observations, data, and conclusions deserve the serious attention of other cities as they start or expand their own Little City Halls.The aquot;in townaquot; officials who have the final word on street repair plans are well aware of those managers who have ... street and sidewalk complaints that these are already scheduled and that they will be completed by a certain date. ... A housing inspector would investigate a problem and then contact the landlord, without informing the tenant of the ... This manual is sent to the tenant by the Little City Hall, along with a letter from the manager informing him what the inspection dis- closed.

Title:Decentralizing the city: a study of Boston's little city halls
Author: Eric A. Nordlinger
Publisher:The MIT Press - 1972

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