Bedrosian Faculty Research Awards 2006-2007

Analyzing the Performance of the LA County’s Transportation Agencies

Richard Callahan

Between 1978 and 2002, three newly created public agencies built regional rail projects in Los Angeles County. These new agencies, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority, were experiments in regional governance. Dr. Callahan’s research explored how fiscal and institutional mechanisms of cooperation can solve collective action problems, such as public transit, at the regional level. His four major findings were: (1) conflict is inevitable; (2) public agencies can succeed despite the problems of politics; (3) successful regional solutions are intensely local; and (4) cooperation emerges from supply-side mechanisms that create new resources rather than from allocation of existing resources.

Dr. Callahan’s research was published in an article entitled “Governance: The Collision of Politics and Cooperation” in the Public Administration Review. To read the full article, click here.

Callahan 2006-2007 award

The Determinants of Effective Public-Private Service Delivery Collaboration

Elizabeth Graddy

Dr. Graddy argues that although the potential benefits of public-private collaboration have received considerable attention, the determinants of effective collaboration are often poorly understood. Her research project examined the determinants of effective partnerships in public-private collaborations that deliver publicly-funded services. Using data on 138 partnerships that provide children and family services in Los Angeles County, Dr. Graddy found that service delivery is positively impacted when roles and responsibilities are contractually defined, when partners are viewed as trustworthy, and by the extent to which decision making, information, and resources are shared. She also found that more sector diversity within the network is often associated with less effective service delivery, but the actual effect of sector diversity is mixed.

This research was published in the International Review of Public Administration in the article “Cross-Sectoral Governance and Performance in Service Delivery.” Access the full article here.

Graddy 2006-2007 award

From Virtual Spaces to Real Places: Information Footpaths and Neighborhood Councils

Eric Heikkila

The project examined whether virtual networks, such as online community groups, might foster more robust community networks that physical neighborhood groups. Specifically, Dr. Heikkila’s research focused on the development of Information Footpaths, online forums of the Neighborhood Councils (NCs) in Los Angeles. Dr. Heikkila compared NCs with online Information Footpaths to those without to see if these virtual spaces enhanced the social capital of those communities and generated greater civic participation. Dr. Heikkila’s preliminary research was presented to the Bedrosian Center in 2007.

Heikkila 2006-2007 award


The Emperor’s New Clothes: Governance, Planning, and Participation in the L.A. River Revitalization Process

Clara Irazabal, Siri Eggebraten Champion

A critical examination of governance and planning in the LA River Revitalization Master Plan (LARRMP) process revealed it to be deceptively non-participatory. In fact, Irazabal and Champion’s research revealed the governance structure to be top-down, expert-based rational planning that failed to address existing problems of environmental injustice, displaced marginalized populations, and failed to meet ecosystem restoration goals, even when there appeared to be public input. Irazabal and Champion’s research looked further into this process to see what factors influenced why this policy-making effort failed to take an inclusive and citizen-participation approach. This study identified the broader need for governance and planning to be more participatory and suggested ideas for new reforms, particularly increasing transparency and regulating planning processes through “meta-participation,” a system of benchmarks, supervision, evaluation, and accountability to ensure citizen participation.

Irazabal 2006-2007 award

Local Governance and National Institutions: A 14-Country Comparison

Jefferey Sellers

This research addressed the question, “are there vertical state-society ‘synergies’ that link the influence of higher-level governments to influences from local civil society on policy issues, or are these two mutually exclusive?” To answer this, Dr. Sellers examined the extent to which the nature of civil society is taken into account in national models of local governance. He analyzed a survey of 4,000 local officials in fourteen OECD countries to explore which combinations of national and local models foster stronger roles for higher-level governments and civil society in local governance. Findings showed that higher-level government influence corresponds to civil society influence in the area of economic development and when the government model allowed for local actors to be more involved in national processes.

This project built on previous analyses of how government relations vary internationally.  Dr. Seller’s research was published in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research in an article entitled “State and Society in Local Governance: Lessons from a Multilevel Comparison.” Access the article here.

Sellers 2006-2007 award

Collaborative Governance in Education: Lessons from K-12 Schools

Priscilla Wohlstetter, Chuan Ally Kuzin

This study looked at research on collaborative governance in K-12 public and charter schools in order to form a deeper understanding of how partnerships are developed and sustained between schools and community actors. Dr. Wohlstetter found that many school and partners formed partnerships for the purpose of solving a problem of mutual concern, often student performance. These partnerships developed on the basis of resource exchange; in other words, on the idea that each party would gain from the collaboration, whether it be a financial, physical, or brand awareness gain. The study also found that collaborative partnerships tended to last due to two factors: reciprocity, where both organizations were gaining from the partnership, and leadership, where leaders existed to make key decisions that led to the accomplishment of both partners’ goals. This research was presented at a Bedrosian Center event in 2007.

Wohlstetter 2006-2007 ward

A Political Consequence of Contracting: Organized Interests and State Agency Decision Making

Susan Webb Yackee

Dr. Yackee’s research started with the hypothesis that government contracting for public services presents a new way for organized interest groups to lobby public managers. In recent years, the administration of public programs and services in the United States has changed rapidly as many public services are now being delivered by third party companies through government contracts. As public managers begin spending more time overseeing government contracts, they spend more time interacting with private and nonprofit companies, giving these companies greater opportunity to bring attention to their own agendas, whether they are shifts in programming, budgets, or policy priorities. Using data for all 50 states, Dr. Yackee found that the influence of organized interests over agency decision making is driven, in part, by whether the agency contracts out for public service delivery.

Dr. Yackee’s research was published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory in 2008. Read the article here.



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