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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The process of urban government decision-making : the Winnipeg experiment Kent, R.H. (Robert Howard)


This research reports a study of urban government decision-making in the newly structured (1972) City of Winnipeg, using the multiple model methodology introduced by Graham Allison in his Essence of Decision. The three decision-making models with which Allison studied foreign policy were expanded and tailored to suit an analysis of decision-making in a city government. Supplemented by detailed reviews of decision-making literature from various disciplines, two models or conceptual lenses were developed for this study; Model A, the Political Process Paradigm and Model B, the Organizational Process Paradigm. Drawing upon the wealth of "Power" literature generated by the urban political scientists, and also the bargaining and coalition theories of the behavioral scientists, Model A portrays decision-making at City Hall as the result of a bargaining or compromise process between councillors of diverse interests and unequal influence in order that desired ends may be achieved. Both the issues which the councillor debates and his bargaining behavior are strongly influenced by the many different pressure groups or individuals external to the Council, as well as the City's administration and the other city councillors themselves. Model B was developed from the research of many authors including Richard Cyert, James March, John Crecine, and Aaron Wildavsky. Recognizing the pervasive influence that the organization has upon the behavior of individuals, and the intellectual limitations of man, this Model considers urban government decision-making as more of an internally determined event than accepted in Model A, with the systems and procedures of the bureaucratic machinery being significantly influential in the decision-making process. In addition, two sets of propositions were developed from the two models to guide the subsequent analyses. Since the policy classification or decision issue could predetermine the decision-making process, this present study investigates two different decision issues in the City of Winnipeg and avoids becoming issue bound as was Allison's analysis of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Issue I, "Unicity Mall", was a land development (shopping centre) problem, with medium-term implications and little to moderate financial commitment by the decision-makers; and the decision process lasted for little more than a year. Issue II, the "Winnipeg Railway Relocation Study", was an intergovernmental planning problem, with long-term implications and extensive financial commitments for the decision-makers; and the decision process continued for a number of years. As a result, this decision-making analysis not only compares and contrasts the differing interpretations of the decision process which the two models offer, but also analyzes the influence of the issue-scope (type of issue, importance, time-span, etc.) upon the decision process. The specific method of inquiry involved examining the City of Winnipeg's administrative and political structure, interviewing the relevant officials and politicians, scrutinizing statutes and government practices, studying manuals, hearings and reports — all focusing around the two specific issues. The interviews, although of an informal nature, were framed around a questionnaire developed from the two decision-making models and their propositions. The resulting interpretations which the models gave to the two issues were, found to be complementary rather than contradictory or unrelated. Generally, Model A explained the decision behavior of the actors most directly involved in an issue, while Model B more satisfactorily interpreted the behavior of those at the periphery of the issue and provided insight into the profound influence of the administration upon government's decision-making processes. More specifically, it was discovered that both the councillor's role behavior and his uncertainty avoidance reduced the Council's ability to develop policy and to establish the necessary coordinating inner circle. Depending whether one favours the Model A or Model B perspective, Council appeared to be either unwilling or incapable of satisfactorily processing major decisions with long-term or city-wide implications. In addition, the results of the Model B analyses underlined the danger of drawing generalizations, especially about the administration, from superficial or cursory studies of city government. When the two issues were compared it was found that certain decision-making phenomena would have been excluded had only one issue been studied. These include intergovernmental interdependencies, bargaining and trade-offs among councillors and abrupt changes in councillors' goals. However, common conclusions from studying both issues included pressure groups being issue related, lack of political leadership and a lack of responsibility for city-wide interests,, Finally, the study compared different sets of leverage points which were suggested by the two models. As an illustration, these leverages were subsequently used to identify different strategies for influencing the City's decision-making process; strategies which could improve the provincial government's effort to achieve the policy objectives originally set for the City of Winnipeg's new structure.

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