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Choices in Regional Governance Structures: Special Districts as Collaboration Mechanisms

Jayce L. Farmer, Northern Kentucky University

DOCUMENT TYPE: Conference Proceeding


This paper uses contextual explanations of regional governance to explore how the limitations to voluntary regionalism can lead to the more centralized, more regulated method of using regional special districts. An ICA perspective is used to discuss the range of choices in institutional arrangements available to jurisdictions. Motivations that jurisdictions may have to use more versus less autonomous methods of ICA are outlined to frame how regional districts fall within this spectrum. A rational choice perspective is also employed to identify the collective and selective benefits that motivate local actors to cooperate, as well as identify the potential transaction cost barriers to doing so. The analysis of this piece focuses on three specific types of special districts (fire, hospital and library districts) that are compared within the context of motivations to regional collective action. The assumptions from this analysis suggest that regional districts will act as a substitute for voluntary cooperation when the individual and collective benefits are threatened by high transaction costs. These assumptions are worked into sets of contextual propositions about how regional districts can present themselves as mechanisms of addressing collective action problems where substantial transaction cost barriers to voluntary cooperative efforts exist.