Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation
Urban and Public Affairs
Urban and Public Affairs, PhD
Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)
Dallas; urban political economy; reputational analysis; urban governance
As central cities redefine themselves after decades of commercial abandonment, “urban renaissance” movements, white flight, and the gentrification of their central urban neighborhoods, are cities still governed by the political-business coalitions conceptualized by urban regime theorists, or have new players emerged? Further, as cities continue to evolve within the post-Fordist landscape, do extant theories of urban governance, themselves built upon decades-old observations, continue to provide adequate models for urban governance as it actually exists in cities today? This dissertation is a quantitative and qualitative examination of contemporary urban governance in the United States, and the roles of CDCs and anchor institutions in urban decision-making structures. Chapter One begins with a description of Dallas, Texas, and two of its central urban neighborhoods – Downtown Dallas, the city’s CBD that is currently undergoing a conversion to mixed-use development; and North Oak Cliff, a former streetcar suburb that has suffered from a half-century of political and economic neglect, but has recently seen its fortunes dramatically improve. Chapter Two retells the interconnected histories of theories of urban governance, the socioeconomic impacts of Fordism, its crisis, and post-Fordism, and the evolution of Dallas from a regional industrial hub to a major commercial center, while highlighting a number of reasons why current conceptualizations of urban governance may no longer fit with actual urban governance. Chapter Three details this study’s methods – first, the use of census data from 1980 to 2010, and second, a reputational analysis of 79 participants who showed themselves to be highly knowledgeable about Dallas’ contemporary decision-making structure. Chapters Four, Five, and Six detail this study’s key findings – first, that modern urban decision-making occurs within multiple interconnected levels (neighborhood and city); second, that the structure of urban decision-making is still critical in understanding the nature of which decisions get made (and which do not), as well as the range of responses for a given situation; third, that Dallas’ third-sector organizations (e.g. CDCs and anchor institutions) have been largely unable to meaningfully involve themselves in the politics of decision-making; and finally, that under the right blend of economic- and political pressures, structures of urban governance can change from one type to another. In the Dallas case, the decline of its business coalition, and the court-ordered breakup of its at-large city council resulted in a new structure of governance, or better put, a non-structure, wherein multiple competing agendas and resource pools have taken over the larger political discourse, and have largely prevented a unified vision for Dallas from emerging.
Leamon, Benjamin Colby, "Urban governance reconsidered : assessing the roles of public-, private-, and third sector leaders in governing the modern city." (2017). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 2724.