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Sustainability and Interest Group Participation in City Politics

DOI: 10.3390/su5052077

Keywords: sustainable cities, urban sustainability, interest groups, citizen groups, business groups

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Abstract:

Many cities across the United States have embraced programs aimed at achieving greater sustainability. This may seem surprising, particularly since adopting aggressive environmental protection programs is regarded by some as inimical to economic development. An alternative perspective is that in the modern city sustainability can be part of an economic development strategy. What is largely missing from the literature on sustainable cities’ policies and programs is systematic analysis of the political dynamics that seem to affect support for, and adoption and implementation of, local sustainability policies. To explore the actual behavior of cities with respect to sustainability and economic development policies, two original databases on 50 large U.S. cities are used. One source of data is composed of survey responses from city councilors, agency administrators, and leaders of local advocacy groups in each of these cities. The second database contains information as to what these 50 cities actually do in terms of sustainable programs and policies. In testing a series of hypotheses, findings suggest that: a high number of programs aimed at achieving sustainability is linked to the inclusion of environmental advocacy groups; that this relationship is not compromised by business advocacy; and that inclusion of environmental groups in policymaking seems to be supported, rather than impeded, by high rates of economic growth by the cities.

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[58]  Another way of analyzing these relationships is through some sort of interaction effect. There are really two possibilities here: one is to compute an interaction variable as a function of the business inclusion and environmental group inclusion variables above, and, to then conduct a regression analysis with all three variables included in the equation. The second is to go back to the original survey data and define a new variable as the percent of administrators who report both inclusion of businesses and environmental groups, and to include this in the regression analysis. There are two problems with the former. First, it is difficult to interpret the results. Second, this interaction variable is highly correlated with the inclusion of the environmental groups variable, so multicollinearity precludes including them both in the same regression analysis. Following the second alternative, the percent of administrators who reported inclusion of both types of groups was computed, and this variable was added to the aggregate city database analysis. This doesn’t solve the multicollinearity problem because the correlation between this new variable and the inclusion of environmental groups is almost .9, which precludes analyzing it in a single regression. Both the interaction variable and the new “both” variable are correlated with the sustainability score at about the .40 to .45 level.
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