Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
Ineffective environmental policies pose a problem for municipalities as they strive to create sustainable communities. Improving these policies may establish standard practices that assist municipalities in meeting related environmental goals. Statistics show the municipalities within this study operate at different levels of goal achievement. Little is known, however, about the influences that directly affect the development of environmental policies. The purpose of this study was to determine the ways in which public officials address environmental issues and the factors considered in policy discussions that lead to their decisions. The theoretical framework comprised Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith's advocacy coalition and Arrow's rational choice theory. This phenomenological study explored the experiences of city council members within a region of 10 cities in southern California. Interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of 5 city council members from 4 adjoining cities, 1 city staff member, and 1 agency representative with knowledge of all 10 cities. Data were analyzed with 3 cycles of coding to identify themes and patterns. Emergent themes included meeting community needs, educating the public, being fiscally responsible, and "doing the right thing." Participants recognized the effect of their personal influences and biases, particularly religious beliefs, on environmental policy decisions, although political affiliation appeared to be unrelated to these biases. The implications for positive social change include informing and educating both public officials and community members about regional environmental issues and their related community needs and goals.