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2009 Capstone Papers

All students in the MPA Program are required during their second year to complete a capstone project that draws on the cumulative lessons of their graduate experience. The project culminates in a paper and an oral presentation.

Projects are organized by topic, e.g., criminal justice, issues in managing public services, performance measurement, environment and sustainability, and addressing emerging issues.

Criminal Justice

The Diffusion of New Criminal Laws within North Carolina: An Analysis of Law Adoption and Penetration — Rebekah Temple 
Studied for nearly a century, innovation diffusion has been applied to many disciplines. The concept is that an innovation – an idea perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption – will spread in a social system through a process over time. Research on the diffusion of policy innovations has primarily focused on the diffusion of innovations among the American states. Seemingly absent are studies of how policies diffuse within states. This research examines the rate at which new criminal laws are adopted within North Carolina, their subsequent use, and dispersion patterns among the counties.


Putting Words into Action: Strategies to Reduce Conflicts of Interest in Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils in North Carolina — Amber Smith 
After a state auditor’s report released in July 2008, Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils (JCPCs) became the center of a controversy surrounding the appearance of conflicts of interest. Since these councils allocate state funds to local service providers, it is imperative that they remain transparent and impartial. The purpose of this research is to identify strategies Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils use now or can implement to minimize actual and potential conflicts of interest through reviewing the literature and surveying members of JCPCs across the state. Options identified address the policies, training and culture of JCPCs.

Off-Duty, Extra-Duty and Secondary Work: Managing Municipal Police Working Privately — Duane Hampton 
While it is known by many names, the practice of private employers hiring municipal police officers to provide law enforcement services is common across the nation. In North Carolina, municipal officers have logged hundreds of thousands of hours working under their municipal authority for private employers. This capstone examines the extent of this practice across the largest municipal police organizations in North Carolina and how those agencies manage and administer this plan. By understanding the extent of the practice and how it is managed by peer organizations, administrators can better assess and compare their own management choices.

Issues in Managing Public Services

Biting Off More Than They Can Chew? Examining Performance for Restaurant Inspections Across North Carolina Counties — Megan Wright 
Local health departments in North Carolina are responsible for conducting regular sanitation inspections. North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources monitors county performance by their rate of inspection, that is, the number of inspections completed versus the number of inspections mandated. State oversight ensures counties provide adequate surveillance of restaurants, however, local health departments vary in the number of inspections they are able to complete. A series of interviews with Environmental Health Professionals identified factors which help or hinder counties complete a higher proportion of restaurant inspections. This capstone offers strategies that counties can use to achieve a higher inspection rate.

North Carolina Public Libraries: An Empirical Analysis on Determinants of Usage — Alicia Medina 
Public libraries have evolved into community centers offering a greater variety of services than provided previously. With growing populations, cities and counties are also looking to add new library branches. As public entities seek to expand their library services, understanding what factors impact usage can help local governments choose the right location and service levels to maximize their return on investment. This study uses a multi-variate regression to analyze the significance of various location variables in determining levels and patterns of use.

Mapping the Way to Local Food Systems for North Carolina's Cities and Counties — Sybil Tate 
The purpose of this document is to answer the question, “How can North Carolina’s cities and counties develop local food systems?” This document uses four case studies to illustrate policies that cities and counties are considering or have implemented to overcome barriers to developing local food systems. Recognizing that urban, urban-fringe and rural counties, as well as municipalities have different barriers and goals for local food systems, this document outlines economic development opportunities for these jurisdictions and policies that may be useful in exploiting these opportunities.

An Analysis of Small Business Center Services and Client Needs — Ashley Clark Perry 
The Small Business Center Network, composed of 58 Small Business Centers (SBCs) located within each North Carolina community college, is a primary state-funded economic development tool. SBCs support small business growth and development through community-based services. In addition to core curriculum requirements, each SBC develops strategies to address the needs and opportunities of small businesses in their local service area. This capstone analyzes the practices used by SBCs and their capacity to meet the needs of small businesses. The results provide insight into small business development and support services.

Performance Measurement

Does a Balanced Scorecard Dilute a Local Government's Focus on Results? — Darrell Butts 
The balanced scorecard (BSC) approach to performance measurement has gained popularity among local governments in recent years. The BSC, as applied in the public sector, typically focuses on four different perspectives: financials and results, customer satisfaction, employee learning and growth, and internal business processes. Some performance measurement authorities, after years of urging local governments to move their measurement efforts from outputs to outcomes, worried that this balance might dilute the governments’ focus on results. This capstone examines the implementation of the balanced scorecards in selected local governments to explore the possibility of a lesser focus on results than found in traditional performance measurement systems.

Putting More Feet on the Street: An Examination of Downtown Revitalization Strategies and Performance Measurement Indicators — Monica Evans 
The creative class thesis asserts that cities that take a more community development approach to downtown development can increase their competitiveness in attracting businesses and residents. This research identifies downtown development strategies that small to medium size cities in the U.S. are using to revitalize downtowns. This capstone designs a performance measurement template based on those strategies to help cities benchmark their revitalization progress.

Safe from the Storm: Tools for Establishing Special Needs Registries in North Carolina's Counties — Sarah J. Waterman 
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the emergency management response was criticized for its inadequate efforts to help individuals with special needs. As part of a larger project on preparedness, the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management is currently working to develop a model special needs registry. Using interviews with officials from North Carolina counties with established registries, this paper identifies key features of registries, considers challenges and offers tools for other counties to use in the development of special needs registries based on the experiences of their peers.

Increasing Stakeholder Participation in Cluster Analysis — Lukas Brun 
Cluster analysis has become an important tool in state and local economic development planning. Although generally conceived as an expert-led technical analysis, cluster analysis can be reframed to engage stakeholders in a collaborative process. This research compares the traditional and collaborative models of cluster analysis, and reports on the costs and benefits of each.

Environment and Sustainability

Improving Plastic Bottle Recycling in North Carolina: Local Government Barriers and Potential Mitigation Strategies — Katie Burdett 
Plastic bottles are a prevalent form of consumer plastic in the waste stream and opportunities to recycle these materials are readily available. However, North Carolina’s local government plastic bottle recycling programs are underperforming. This capstone study examines the barriers local governments face to improving their plastic bottle recycling programs. Interviews with local governments identify perceived barriers and the research identifies other potential barriers. Findings from this study provide both local governments and the State with potential legislative and non-legislative strategies for improving plastic bottle recycling rates.

Beyond the Goals of the Utility: A Community Perspective on Drought Surcharges — Mary Tiger 
A drought threatens both water supply and a utility’s primary source of revenue. Consequently, many utilities explore the use of surcharges, which temporarily increase water rates during drought, as a way to stabilize revenues and promote conservation while keeping in mind the need for affordable water. Such was the case for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities during the 2007–08 drought. The purpose of this research is to gauge common themes of customer and City Council member perspectives on the drought surcharge. Insight from this research may help utilities think beyond their own objectives when considering, developing and communicating about drought surcharges.

Green Practices in Orange Counties: A Survey of Sustainable Policies at the Local Level — Weiping Yang 
The earth’s climate has changed on both global and regional scales since pre-industrial times and local governments have emerged as key arenas for policies to address climate change. To what extent are local governments implementing green and sustainable practices? What sustainable policies and programs have local governments adopted? How might local action be related to a wider set of factors, such as population size, household income, educational attainment, and political climate?

The North Carolina Brownfields Program: A Preliminary Study of Factors Affecting Length of Time Required to Reach a Finalized Brownfield Agreement — Greg Mavraganis 
North Carolina’s expanding population presents growth management challenges. The North Carolina Brownfields Program (NCBP) encourages redevelopment of brownfields (properties where the threat of environmental contamination has hindered re-development). This study examines sites that have successfully completed the brownfields process, analyzes site characteristics that affect the length of time required to reach a finalized brownfields agreement, and suggests areas for future research. This study aims to help NCBP program staff, local governments, and developers to maximize benefits from the brownfields program.

Addressing Emerging Issues

Sharing the Wealth: What Happens to Municipalities when Counties Decide to Charge the Local Sales and Use Tax Distribution Method — Emily Anderson 
North Carolina authorizes counties the option to levy a local sales tax. Counties are required to share sales tax revenue with municipalities, but can decide how this revenue is distributed to municipalities, on a per capita or ad valorem basis. A change in the distribution method alters how revenue is allocated between the entities. This paper uses case studies to explore the monetary impacts a change in the sales tax distribution method has on small, rural municipalities and identifies strategies municipalities employ when they are negatively impacted by a change in the sales tax distribution method.

Foreclosure Prevention: Homeowner Counseling Efforts in North Carolina Cities — Mira Schainker 
Foreclosure rates are overwhelming local governments nationwide. North Carolina cities and counseling agencies are experiencing unprecedented growth of borrowers in need of crisis counseling. This study explores the ways in which North Carolina cities and local foreclosure counseling agencies deliver counseling services and provide outreach to troubled borrowers. Findings identify barriers facing cities and counseling groups and strategies that facilitate counseling efforts. Given the current level of the foreclosure crisis, efforts should be made to increase resources for post-purchase counseling in the short-term while planning for methods to increase pre-purchase counseling in the long-term.

Voting Down the Debt or Voting Up the Cost: Unintended Effects of Referendum Requirements — K.C. Tydgat 
Many states are constitutionally required to hold successful referendums before they issue general obligation debt – debt that pledges taxing power as collateral. This study finds that although the referendum requirement does not affect the total amount of debt states issue, it changes the type of debt they issue. States that require referendums are more likely to use other types of debt that do not require voter approval. When states circumvent the referendum, citizens have less democratic control over state finances and states risk paying higher interest rates.

Trial by Hire: The Impact of Succession Planning on Internal Hiring in Municipal Governments in Three States — Jason Damweber 
In response to what scholars and practitioners are referring to as an impending “workforce crisis,” some local government organizations are developing and implementing succession planning strategies, yet little is known about the effects of these efforts. This research examines internal candidate development and hiring as a measure of succession planning success at the local level. Using quantitative and qualitative data, the study finds that a link exists between succession planning efforts and the frequency with which internal candidates are identified in the final selection pools and selected for key positions. Further, the study finds that HR directors in municipalities probed generally perceive succession planning efforts to be of value, but that other factors play an important role in the identification of talent and ultimately in hiring decisions.