Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Affairs

First Advisor's Name

Allan Rosenbaum

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

John Stack

Third Advisor's Name

N. Emel Ganapati

Fourth Advisor's Name

Shaoming Cheng


voter referendum, land preservation, county government, federalism, home rule, reformed government, environmental protection, direct democracy, public administration

Date of Defense



County jurisdictions in America are increasingly exercising self-government in the provision of public community services through the context of second order federalism. In states exercising this form of contemporary governance, county governments with “reformed” policy-making structures and professional management practices, have begun to rival or surpass municipalities in the delivery of local services with regional implications such as environmental protection (Benton 2002, 2003; Marando and Reeves, 1993).

The voter referendum, a form of direct democracy, is an important component of county land preservation and environmental protection governmental policies. The recent growth and success of land preservation voter referendums nationwide reflects an increase in citizen participation in government and their desire to protect vacant land and its natural environment from threats of over-development, urbanization and sprawl, loss of open space and farmland, deterioration of ecosystems, and inadequate park and recreational amenities.

The study’s design employs a sequential, mixed method. First, a quantitative approach employs the Heckman two-step model. It is fitted with variables for the non-random sample of 227 voter referendum counties and all non-voter referendum counties in the U.S. from 1988 to 2009. Second, the qualitative data collected from the in-depth investigation of three South Florida county case studies with twelve public administrator interviews is transformed for integration with the quantitative findings. The purpose of the qualitative method is to complement, explain and enrich the statistical analysis of county demographic, socio-economic, terrain, regional, governance and government, political preference, environmentalism, and referendum-specific factors.

The research finds that government factors are significant in terms of the success of land preservation voter referendums; more specifically, the presence of self-government authority (home rule charter), a reformed structure (county administrator/manager or elected executive), and environmental interest groups. In addition, this study concludes that successful counties are often located coastal, exhibit population and housing growth, and have older and more educated citizens who vote democratic in presidential elections. The analysis of case study documents and public administrator interviews finds that pragmatic considerations of timing, local politics and networking of regional stakeholders are also important features of success. Further research is suggested utilizing additional public participation, local government and public administration factors.





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