An analysis of the power structure of a model city planning board
A federally-sponsored poor people's organization was analyzed as a power structure according to Walter Buckley's criteria of differential goals and social order by compliance. Power, or 'the capacity to control the behavior of others...by manipulation of available means,' was distinguished from authority. Specifically, this study concerned how representatives of the poor are selected and what they do with the measure of power they achieve. For a period of six months, October 1970 to March 1971, the Model Neighborhood Residents' Commission in Houston, Texas was intensively studied. The election of new commissioners was observed and investigated. Detailed notes were taken at commission meetings, as well as at Steering Committee and Task Force gatherings. The manifest power of individuals in the commission sessions was measured following Lippitt, Polansky and Rosen. Analysis of the decision-making process was adopted from the pluralists. Positions were used to indicate authority rather than power. Finally, borrowing from Floyd Hunter, reputations for influence were solicited by sociometric-type questions in the interview schedule. The various measures were compared for similarities and differences in the structures they disclosed. Thirty-eight commissioners and several officials were formally interviewed; informal discussions were held with other commissioners and alternates. A fairly cohesive group of powerful commissioners was discovered. The composition of this group did vary somewhat according to method used. A model for achieving power on the Xodel Neighborhood Residents' Commission in Houston was formulated. The power structure was delineated. Real power was found to rest with the Model Cities Department. The most powerful commissioners in the final analysis reflected the Department's views. Dissident elements were subdued to insure a smooth-running program. It was concluded that the poor in Houston do not control the Model Cities program. The poverty organization, which does not represent all elements in the model neighborhood, could potentially be a vehicle for the poor. However, at the present time the Model Neighborhood Residents' Commission is effectively controlled by an agency of the city government.