Panel Paper: Fragmentation Versus Consolidation: Evaluating Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Equity In Trash Collection for Cities

Friday, November 9, 2012 : 8:00 AM
Mencken (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Mark W. Davis, University of Colorado, Denver

Federalist systems of government are commonly characterized by multiple and overlapping governmental jurisdictions. Planning literature often argues that this arrangement is inefficient and favors a consolidated government model. By contrast, local public economy literature favors the polycentric arrangements noting that multiple overlapping governmental jurisdictions instill competition, leading to more effective and efficient programs. Consolidation advocates often retort that this arrangement leads to inequities in service delivery. This paper explores the fragmentation versus consolidation debate from a public service industry perspective exploring the production of city-level solid waste management services. These trash and recycling services generally fall into one of three categories: a polycentric system (fragmentation and overlap), franchise zones (fragmentation but no overlap), or a monocentric citywide exclusive franchise (no fragmentation and no overlap). This papers questions if one form of these solid waste collection methods is inherently more effective, fiscally efficient, environmentally efficient, and/or equitable than the others at the city-region scale. The paper pairs quantitative and qualitative analyses. The large N quantitative analysis utilizes coded survey and budget data from a stratified random sample of cities across the United States. This is paired with three qualitative case studies that each represent one of the service delivery systems: Denver, CO (monocentric); Colorado Springs, CO (polycentric); and Indianapolis, IN (franchise zones). The study fills a gap in local public economy research relating to fragmentation versus consolidation for public service production/delivery by adding solid waste collection services to previously completed studies.