Southern California’s Crown Jewels: Historical Governance and Finance Lessons

Southern California includes seven counties, hundreds of municipal governments and thousands of special districts possessing independent taxation, land use and regulatory authority. This study presents an historical overview and assessment of how major public infrastructure projects were accomplished in Southern California in the absence of a formal regional general-purpose government. The study focuses on the governance and financing of water, port, and airport megaprojects crucial to the region’s extraordinary growth in the 20th century. The authors review scholarly debates regarding regional governance arrangements and their effectiveness and assess the role of public infrastructure projects in the region’s historical development and looming 21st-century challenges. The paper also analyzes the performance, governance, and finance challenges of a regional agency (the Metropolitan Water District) versus municipal agencies (the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, and Los Angeles International Airport). A failed regional initiative, the Southern California Regional Airport Authority, is also discussed. The implications drawn from this study suggest the need for investing institutions with the incentive and ability to manage dense policy networks in order to improve their effectiveness.


  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01155670
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 21 2010 1:10AM