Metropolitan Governance in the Federalist Americas

Strategies for Equitable and Integrated Development

Edited by Peter K. Spink, Peter M. Ward, and Robert H. Wilson

From the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies

Despite rapid metropolitanization throughout the Americas and widespread interest in “megacities,” few studies have examined the new governance structures needed to address issues of citizen representation and participation and the public service challenges of population expansion and increasing urban inequalities. To fill that void, Peter K. Spink, Peter M. Ward, Robert H. Wilson, and the other contributors to this volume provide original research and analysis of the principal metropolitan areas in six federalist countries of the Americas—Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the United States, and Venezuela. They find that a common feature of metropolitan expansion is the lack of a unified governmental structure. Using a comparative research framework, they examine the forms, functions, legitimacy, and performance of emerging governmental structures.

Their cross-national study shows that existing institutional structures and political systems impede collaboration among governments in metropolitan areas. Given both the relatively few successful models at the local level and the disinterest on the part of federal governments, regional governments—states and provinces—seem to provide the most pragmatic bases for constructing metropolitan governments that are capable of efficiently delivering services. Because there is no direct path to achieve such new structures, the authors urge reform at the state and local levels to address the need to work out the politics and management structures that will function best within their own politics.

Peter K. Spink is professor of public administration and government in the São Paulo School of Business Administration, Getulio Vargas Foundation.

Peter M. Ward is the C. B. Smith Sr. Centennial Chair in U.S.-Mexico Relations in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin.

Robert H. Wilson is the Mike Hogg Professor of Urban Policy and associate dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Contributors: Roberta Clemente, David J. Myers, Pedro Pirez, Hector Robles, Andrew Sancton, Peter K. Spink, Marco Antonio Teixeira, Peter M. Ward, and Robert H. Wilson.

“Metropolitan Governance in the Federalist Americas makes an important contribution to the broader debate on subnational governance and to the specific debate on metropolitan governance. The authors provide an excellent, accessible description and explanation of the wide variation in forms, rules, and outcomes associated with metropolitan governance in the Americas. A significant and useful feature of the volume is the authors’ inclusion of case studies: they allow the reader to think productively about political history, economics, and the sociocultural context.” — Brian Wampler, Boise State University

“The past few decades have witnessed an explosion of metropolitan-scale expansion around the world. Metropolitan regions transcend long-standing political boundaries, challenging constitutional arrangements everywhere. As Spink, Ward and Wilson demonstrate, the Americas have witnessed a flowering over the past quarter-century of improvisational forms of Federalism. Favoring financial devolution and regional-based administrative arrangements, these alterations of past political arrangements create new forms of governance. Metropolitan Governance in the Federalist Americas opens the door for systematically integrating these new institutions and patterns into our thinking about development and governance throughout the hemisphere.” — Blair A. Ruble, Woodrow Wilson Center

“This collection is an interesting and unique contribution to the federalism/urban policy literature and promises to stimulate more work in these fields. The book bridges a number of audiences. It will be of interest to individuals whose work focuses on the Americas but it will also provide an example of analysis of other federal countries. It should be useful to students and scholars of political science, planning, and urban policy.” — Beryl A. Radin, Georgetown University


“Coeditors Spink (Getulio Vargas Foundation, Brazil) and Ward and Wilson (both, Univ. of Texas, Austin) have made a major contribution to the advancement of knowledge in their methodical comparative analysis of metropolitan governance to include civil and political actors in the federal systems of six countries located in the Americas . . . This is a high-quality, methodical, readable book.” — Choice

“Overall, this is an ambitious and impressive work. The authors cover a wide spectrum of government and governance issues in the countries examined, and they do so with considerable clarity, insight, and intelligence.” — Publius

“Throughout the Western Hemisphere, frustration with dysfunctional national governments is inspiring a search for alternatives at the supranational, regional, and very local levels. This scholarly volume highlights the potential for good governance at an intermediate tier between the federal and the municipal levels: large metropolitan regions, which are well suited, the book’s contributors assert, to address pressing collective-action problems, such as natural disasters, inefficient infrastructure, and the unequal provision of social services. But the six country studies (on Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the United States, and Venezuela) uncover few reasons for hope. Sustained experiments with metropolitan governance are surprisingly few in number, and they often fail to meet the contributors’ expectation.” — Foreign Affairs