The United States of America has three key levels of government. This paper discusses the land use planning process as a good illustration of Intergovernmental Relations and how they work. IGR defines or frames the relations between different departments or functional units in a government.
Intergovernmental relation is one of the major aspects of American federalism. America like any other country has strong and autonomous arms of government. Each arm of government or section of government has its own jurisdiction. The jurisdictions are well defined so that pertinent public issues are not misaddressed due to crossing of jurisdictional lines.
The relations between the local governments and the state illustrate precisely the extension of intergovernmental relations. To foster cohesive and mutually benefiting relationship between the federal and the local government, each of them has its own clearly delineated sphere of influence. However, although the spheres of influence are well outlined, they are paradoxically intertwined and connected in many ways.
Intergovernmental relations between the federal and the local government in the United States of America, focus on building mutual working relations. Mutual working relations are critical for the purpose of service delivery and fostering understanding between different levels of government structures. Fostering of mutual relations is done through negotiations, forums of information exchange that enable building of consensus around issues.
Not all levels of intergovernmental structures have been anchored in the constitution. However, the IGR mechanisms tend to evolve in response to the ever dynamic changes in the political atmosphere. Intergovernmental Relations have facilitated an array of services. The facilitation is enabled by communication channels between state and local governments.
Intergovernmental relations support proper functioning of state and local government by providing framework for comprehensive policy formulation in relation to say land usage or records modernization. Although issues to do with say land usage are dealt with at local government level, this is done in close liaison with the federal government. The federal government’s involvement concerns with general policy framework while the local governments remit a substantial share of taxes to the federal government to facilitate its operations.
One of the services that have been improved on at the local level because of intergovernmental relations is comprehensive planning. Comprehensive planning involves bringing together myriad aspects of the public sphere concerns and designing appropriate government responses.
It’s a method which helps communities to have information and policies that will help propel them to the desired future. A compressive local government plan contains a vision for the local community. The vision encapsulates the kind of society that is to be developed. To effectively carry out comprehensive planning at the local government level, a number of elements which are necessary have to be considered.
The Issue of equal opportunities for all is a major element in both local, state and central government’s comprehensive planning. For the federal government to plan properly, enough background information about the states and local counties has to be unearthed or analyzed.
The analysis establishes the position or major characteristics of each county and state in relation to others. The information about the local governments is retrieved from reports held by both the local and federal governments. Further, the local government’s comprehensive plan seeks to establish comparative facts i.e. position of local government unit in comparison with others. Such information is only attainable due to proper relations or interactions between federal government and local government.
Local governments (state and counties) derive their comprehensive plans from the federal or central government’s comprehensive plan. There are elements of the local government comprehensive plan that can only be developed in tandem with the federal compressive plans. This is because if the state, county and federal plans are not in synchrony, the operations of the two levels of government are paralyzed in a way.
Some of these elements include land use, population planning, housing related planning, and employment related planning. The comprehensive plan must state clearly the overall objectives, goals and programs to be undertaken by county governments and the role of the federal or state government in the same. It outlines the administrative structure as far as given public issues are concerned and serves as a guide to future development of the county (Crotty, 1991, p.69).
Land use is a major element that’s covered under comprehensive planning. IGR plays a critical role when it comes to land use because each level of government has a role to play towards proper land use. Land use planning involves formulation of policies by the federal government, in close consultation with the state and county governments, with the aim of ensuring proper use of land (Crotty, 1991, p.79).
The counties have a big role to play in land use management. Land is directly controlled by county governments. County governments execute land management with clear references to both general and specific guidelines by the respective state and federal government.
Land problems or issues differ from county to county. Due to difference in kind of issues or land problems at the local county levels, only county leadership is better placed at solving enforcing land related regulations. Therefore, county governments have the responsibilities of ensuring comprehensive plans that address local issues are in place. This is why state and federal plans are often general in nature.
The county plan should be specific and addressed to particular local characteristics or issues. The planners at the county level of governance, with proper reference to national policy and due consultation with relevant state authorities, arrive at derivations that address local needs (Crotty, 1991, p.80). The derivations that the counties come up with have to facilitate equitable use of land and making sure property is developed in an orderly way.
Conflicts are likely to occur if counties are not left to make the major decisions about land use. However, unless there are general guidelines from the state and federal government, other conflicts are likely to occur. For example, left alone or given total control, local county politics may jeopardize nationwide land use or resource use need and plans. Therefore, an inter-county approach that facilitates sharing of information between counties and involvement of both state and federal governments is very important.
The guidelines in place mandate states to prepare general land policies. A zoning approach is used to provide sort of county specific plans. However, the state plan only offers general guidelines that are referred to by the county governments in determining land use and resource management practice.
For the state and federal planning process to be meaningful, county representation in state and state representation in federal government planning process is crucial. State involvement in land issues is restricted to those lands that are of statewide interest. It involves directly in county land issues only but to safeguard statewide land interests. It also participates in land management by providing counties with enough funds that are used in safeguarding the state’s interest in the given county.
Just as the state gets involved in county affairs only to safeguard statewide interest so also does the federal government get involved in state and by extension county affairs to safeguard federal interests (Scott, 1971, p.87). Land use in a county has to be in line with general federal government policies.
The state policies should be derivations of the federal government policy but addressing local state issues. County comprehensive plans have to address local problems but take note or safeguard state interests. The federal government provides funding to support land and good resource management plans in states and by extension in the counties.
In conclusion, state and local governments have to work in synchrony for proper development and progress to be registered. When it comes to land use, the county governments understand the local characteristics better than the state and federal governments. The state involves itself in county land planning process to safeguard state interest in the county.
The federal government involves in county and state affairs to safeguard federal interests. Federal planning and state planning involves county stakeholders and the general public because acceptability of any plan depends on participation of all stakeholders.
Intergovernmental relations often necessitate the adoption of written protocols or procedures that augment mutual relations and full participation, in governance, by all relevant stakeholders (Wright, 1982, p.89).
Written procedures and protocols ensure proper consultations and report sharing processes for timely action by respective elements in nation’s governance system (Wright, 1982, p.94). As such, intergovernmental relations are an important element in governance that has to be well streamlined if governments are to be effective.
Crotty W. J., (1991). Political Science: American Institutions. Illinois, IL: Northwestern University Press
Scott M., (1971). American City Planning Since 1890: a History Commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the American Institute of Planner. California, CA: University of California Press
Wright, D. S., (1982). Understanding Intergovernmental Relations .California, CA: Brooks/Cole