Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Rubin, Irene

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


Rock Island (Ill.)--Politics and government; Davenport (Iowa)--Politics and government; Local government--Illinois--Rock Island; Local government--Iowa--Davenport


Some policy issues tend to capture serious attention by government and others do not. This dissertation focuses on the process by which policy issues rise, compete, prevail or fail to emerge on the agenda of local government. The dissertation examines the formation of the policy agenda in relation to the activities of the relevant agenda-setting actors in the Cities of Davenport, Iowa and Rock Island, Illinois. The research questions are: (1) To what extent are some of the existing conceptual approaches in agenda-setting applicable to the exploration of agenda-setting in local government? (2) How do public officials, the public and the media block, promote and displace issues? and (3) How does agenda-setting in City Hall pave the way for policy stability and change in local government? The findings illustrate that problem recognition is central to agenda-setting. Intergovernmental relations, the localized effect of federal programs and focusing events contribute to problem recognition in City Hall. Neighborhood groups in the community also recognize problems and are able to convey them to the public officials. Legal and structural components in local government, advocacy coalitions, focusing events, technical feasibility, value acceptability and the process of softening determine the mix of solutions selected by the policymakers. The activities of interest groups and citizens, the public mood and council turnover influence the salience of issues. The policy and political actors, including the mayors, city administrators, council members and citizen organizations, and economic interests are the major participants able to block and promote issues. Federal and state regulations, the elimination of federal programs and natural disasters force city government to generate and select policy solutions. As the policy and political actors influence the salience of issues, they open policy windows, and place viable issues on the institutional agenda. Policy windows close when policymakers perceive problems as solved, key actors fail to get involved and the impact of natural disasters fades. While the activities of neighborhood groups contribute to the displacement of issues from the institutional agenda, the public officials can reintroduce them, reinitiating a new agenda-setting cycle.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [185]-196).


vii, 203 pages (some color pages)




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