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The Local Political Economy of Inner City Neighborhoods: Theory and Application

Author: SUSAN BAER and DOUGLAS IHRKE
Published in PAQ, Vol. 28 No. 1

One of the issues in the local political economy literature
revolves around the advantages of a centralized system of government
versus a decentralized system of metropolitan governance with
overlapping jurisdictions. Supporters of the creation of suburban
communities within metropolitan areas suggest that a decentralized
system creates a quasi-marketplace amongst suburban communities where
residents and businesses as a whole benefit from a more attractive bundle
of public services. The success of this type of system has traditionally
been evaluated based on criteria such as efficiency, equity, and political
feasibility. We turn the logic of metropolitan fragmentation/overlapping
jurisdictions inward to explore theoretically whether the creation of
Community Benefits Districts (CBDs) can similarly achieve efficient
service delivery benefits for residents and businesses in inner cities, while
also including equity and political feasibility in service provision as
additional evaluative criteria. CBDs are new city sub-districts whose
residents and businesses both agree to pay an additional property tax in
order to receive supplemental public services such as safety, garbage
collection, and economic development. We then attempt to apply the
concepts of efficiency, equity, and political feasibility to a case study of a
Baltimore sub-district.

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