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Bureaucratic Response to Citizen-Initiated Contacts: Environmental Enforcement in Detroit*

  • Bryan D. Jones (a1), Saadia R. Greenberg (a2), Clifford Kaufman (a3) and Joseph Drew (a3)

Abstract

When citizens contact local government agencies, they generally attempt to influence service delivery decisions made by these bureaucracies. This paper examines the nature of citizen contacts, and the results of such contacts, with respect to the enforcement of environmental ordinances in Detroit, Michigan. We first examine the mechanisms responsible for the generation of citizen contacts. Assuming relations among citizen awareness, service need, and social well-being, we derive a downward-opening parabola as appropriate for describing the relationship between social well-being and propensity to contact a service agency. Using data on citizen contacts from City of Detroit agencies merged with census data, we find the expected relationship in evidence. We find that the Environmental Enforcement Division generally responds to citizen contacts, but the quality of the response varies with social characteristics of neighborhoods.

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*

We wish to express our appreciation to Professor Charles Parrish, formerly Chairman of the Department of Political Science, Wayne State University, for his continued assistance during the course of this project. The data analysis was conducted through grants provided by the Wayne State Computing and Data Processing Center and the Department of Political Science. Finally, we wish to thank the Office of the City Clerk and the Environmental Enforcement Division of the (then) Department of Public Works for their cooperation.

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1 Verba, Sidney and Nie, Norman H., Participation in America: Political Democracy and Social Equality (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), p. 2.

2 Ibid., chapter 3.

3 Eisinger, Peter K., “The Pattern of Citizen Contacts with Urban Officials,” in People and Politics in Urban Society, ed. Hahn, Harlan (Beverly Hills, California: Sage Publications, 1972), p. 64.

4 Verba and Nie, p. 113.

5 Ibid., p. 112.

6 See Eisinger, ; Verba, and Nie, ; and Jacob, Herbert, “Contact with Government Agencies: A Preliminary Analysis of the Distribution of Government Services,” Midwest Journal of Political Science, 16 (Feb., 1972), 123146.

7 Verba and Nie, chapter 8.

6 Ibid., pp. 135–36.

9 Cornelius, Wayne A., “Urbanization and Political Demand-Making: Political Participation Among the Migrant Poor in Latin American Cities,” American Political Science Review, 68 (September, 1974), 1125.

10 Several such studies are summarized in Smith, David M., The Geography of Social Well-Being in the United States (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973), chapter 4; see also chapter 9.

11 Milbrath, Lester W., Political Participation: How and Why Do People Get Involved in Politics? (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1965), p. 68.

13 This apportioning was accomplished using the city block to ascertain the proportion of the service area data assigned to each census tract. For a complete description, see Joseph Drew, Saadia Greenberg, and Bryan Jones, “The Development of a Data Systems Technology for Assessing the Geographic Distribution of Urban Government Services (paper presented at the annual conference of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association, Atlanta, Georgia, August 29–Septemberl, 1976).

14 Wonnacott, Thomas H. and Wonnacott, Ronald J.. Introductory Statistics, second edition (New York: John Wiley, 1972), pp. 268–69.

15 We are aware that our strategy may compound the usual problems of spatial serial correlation one can encounter in using data which is geographically based. On these problems, see Lebanon, Alexander and Rosenthal, Howard, “Least Squares Estimation for Models of Cross-Sectional Correlation,” Political Methodology, 2 (May, 1975), 221244. The present state of theory does not allow us to specify an adequate model of the disturbances, which is necessary to employ the techniques discussed by Lebanon and Rosenthal.

16 This is not entirely true of the distance measure. Over time there may be a shift in the meaning of the variable. The core city may be rebuilt for middle-class residents, the poor may be forced outward. But these changes are likely to be glacial compared to the change wrought by neighborhood succession.

17 Sinclair, Robert, The Face of Detroit: A Spatial Synthesis (Detroit: Department of Geography, Wayne State University, 1972), pp. 4653.

18 Herbert, David, Urban Geography: A Social Perspective (New York: Praeger, 1972), pp. 7071.

19 Acton, Forman S., Analysis of Straight-Line Data (New York: John Wiley, 1959), p. 223.

20 For a further analysis, see Jones, Bryan D., Greenberg, Saadia, Kaufman, Clifford, and Drew, Joseph, “Service Delivery Rules and the Distribution of Local Government Services: Three Detroit Bureaucracies” (paper presented at the American Political Science Association Meeting, San Francisco, California, September 2-6, 1975).

21 Mladenka, Kenneth, “The Distribution of Municipal Services: Justice and Bureaucratic Responsiveness” (manuscript, Rice University, Houston, Texas, 1975), p. 32. Record-keeping differences make responses difficult to compare with the results from Detroit.

22 See Jones, Bryan D. and Kaufman, Clifford, “The Distribution of Urban Public Services: A Preliminary Model,” Administration and Society, 6 (November, 1974), 337360, for a further discussion of service distribution.

23 There were so few no action responses for rodent control that a plot could not be constructed for that category, while there were too few container complaints to give stability to the series.

24 Wonnacott and Wonnacott, pp. 411–413.

* We wish to express our appreciation to Professor Charles Parrish, formerly Chairman of the Department of Political Science, Wayne State University, for his continued assistance during the course of this project. The data analysis was conducted through grants provided by the Wayne State Computing and Data Processing Center and the Department of Political Science. Finally, we wish to thank the Office of the City Clerk and the Environmental Enforcement Division of the (then) Department of Public Works for their cooperation.

Bureaucratic Response to Citizen-Initiated Contacts: Environmental Enforcement in Detroit*

  • Bryan D. Jones (a1), Saadia R. Greenberg (a2), Clifford Kaufman (a3) and Joseph Drew (a3)

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