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The multiple and conflicting roles of local government in negotiating parkland acquisition : can the negotiations satisfy the criteria of ethics and the dimensions of interests? Schlesinger, Gerald


The practice of providing urban parks as an integral part of community development no longer creates public debate about the function or legal authority of local governments to make such purchases. However, the debate continues on the ethics of local government's parkland acquisition practices. These practices have the capability and motivation to influence the land value of sites they wish to acquire. Local governments are responsible for determining land use, which in turn affects land value. The limited financial means of local government to acquire parks makes influencing land value one way of stretching the scarce resources of the community. The ethics practiced in the negotiations to acquire urban parkland where the land has development potential are unique because: 1. Parkland is a public good and not a market commodity; 2. The potential for other higher land uses exists; and 3. Local government plays a dual role: one of a regulator and approving authority for determining land use and providing community stewardship, and the other as the corporate cost controlling agency seeking to acquire land. These qualities create the strong possibility for ethical conflict to occur in the negotiating process. Building upon the Interest-Based approach to negotiations, this paper uses a set of Prescriptive, Intuitive and Evaluative (P.I.E.) criteria that define ethical conduct, and the dimensions of Fact, Social Consensus and Experience that defines the dimensions of interests, to develop a General Model for Ethical Negotiations (GMEN). Conceptually, the GMEN model is a three-sided pyramid within a sphere of negotiations. Negotiations that adhere to the principles defining the parameters of the pyramid would be considered ethical. Negotiations outside the pyramid are considered unethical. Six parkland acquisition cases are discussed using the GMEN model. In this study, the parameters establishing the criteria for passing ethical judgment are the functions of the political economy, the policy statements of the local government, and the legislation that delegates power and authority to local government. The study finds that ethical conflict is inherent in parkland negotiations where the land has development potential because of the multiple roles and dual character of local government. This conflict is not necessarily illegal since prescriptive criteria are only one means of judging ethics. Nor is the outcome necessarily negative to the vendor, since the public may end up with a less attractive park agreement. However, the parameters that would require parkland acquisition negotiations to be ethical sometimes conflict with some of the multiple roles held by local government. Several recommendations are made that would help to reduce ethical conflict and the imbalance in parkland negotiations.

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