Managing infrastructure systems: who's heard in the decision making process?
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Citizen participation includes those activities by citizens who are not public officials that are more or less intended to influence the actions taken by government (Verba & Nie, 1972). Citizen initiated contacts are one such form of participation. In 1999, the volume of complaint and service related calls received by the Department of Public Works and Engineering equaled almost 20 percent of the city's population. Via Houston's Customer Response Center, these contacts are logged in, directed to the appropriate department and incorporated into the department's infrastructure management system (IMS). The goal of the IMS is to provide a systems approach to making cost-effective decisions about the design, rehabilitation, construction, retrofitting, maintenance or abandonment of the city's infrastructure (Grigg, 1988). To date, the effectiveness of this program is perceived as less than ideal and the public is critical of the results (Graves, 2002). Residents express concerns that infrastructure projects are targeted towards business and industrial areas while neighborhood needs are being ignored. Politicians are concerned that projects are not equally distributed among the districts. Meanwhile, public works' staff are concerned because there isn't enough money to address citizen calls, business and industrial needs and political concerns in addition to the problems they have identified. The purpose of this research is twofold: to determine if citizen initiated contacts have been a significant factor in the selection of water and sewer projects and, to identify other factors that may play a role in the decision making process. This study is longitudinal in nature, covering the time period between 1992 and 1999. Univariate, bivariate and multivariate analysis were applied to the various data sets provided by the City of Houston. The results of the analysis supports the following: - Citizen contacts have been significant in determining the allocation of water and sewer CIP projects; however, that has not been consistent through the years. - Factors such as race, class, line type, material, size, age and location also factor into the decision making process.
Subjectcapital improvement program
urban service delivery
citizen initiated contacts
Smith, Sheri LaShel (2005). Managing infrastructure systems: who's heard in the decision making process?. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from