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Prospects for Centralizing Services in an Urban County: Evidence from Self-Organized Networks of Eight Local Public Services

Networks of interlocal agreements provide a way for municipal governments in a fragmented region to cooperate on services, and these networks may be especially likely to form when local government officials are linked through interpersonal networks

Abstract

Networks of interlocal agreements (ILAs) provide a way for municipal governments in a fragmented region to cooperate on services, and these networks may be especially likely to form when local government officials are linked through interpersonal networks. Drawing on insights from Williams’ Lifestyle Model of Metropolitan Politics and Frederickson’s theory of administrative conjunctions, this paper uses network analytic methods to examine the structure of ILA networks, and to assess the impact of governing officials’ interpersonal networks on the probability of ILAs forming between cities. Four-four local governments in the Detroit metropolitan area provide the context for this study. Our findings show that these municipalities cooperate more extensively for system maintenance functions, such as for transportation infrastructure and public works. More importantly, we find that any given cluster of municipalities has an increased probability of cooperating through ILAs when their senior administrators participate in the same local professional associations. The same effects hold true for elected executives’ networking with counterparts, and for some functions, these electoral conjunctions serve as even stronger predictors of ILA usage than administration conjunctions.