TAMIU Geographer Studies Impact of Mexico's Decentralization

Dr. Michael Yoder, associate professor of geography at Texas A&M International University, will present the results of a study on contemporary urban governance in Northern Mexico and its impact on the region's urban growth and planning at a southwest regional geography conference Friday.

The paper, titled "Decentralization, Municipal Governance, and Urban Land Use Change in Northern Mexico," will be presented at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the Southwest Association of American Geographers (SWAAG) at Oklahoma State University.

Elected treasurer of SWAAG this past July, Dr. Yoder hosted the annual meeting in Laredo last October.

According to Yoder, the Mexican constitution was altered in 1983 to allow local governments to generate their own tax revenues and coordinate their own planning. The decentralization of governance away from Mexico City and toward states and municipalities was designed to relieve the federal government of the burden of being the key provider of social services and infrastructure throughout the country.

"Another important reason for decentralizing government was to allow municipalities to go into the business of attracting business, given that the lion's share of manufacturing previously had occurred in the vicinity of Mexico City," Yoder added, "As a result, state and local governments not only have more latitude in offering incentives to attract manufacturing, but greater oversight of the urban planning process."

The study further found that city planning has become a flexible process, such that local civic boosters can easily alter master plans to accommodate the interests of businesses that open plants in a given municipality.

Yoder's study concludes that the policy of decentralization has in fact led to the creation of a new type of centralization, but at the local level.

"Local business and political leaders call the shots now, whereas before, it was political leaders in Mexico City. Workers and other citizens are still at the mercy of decisions made by powerful land owners, industrialists, and their political allies," he says in the study.

Yoder's study also notes the spread of suburban sprawl and sub-standard housing.

"One result is the unsightly suburban sprawling of manufacturing plants and substandard worker housing in cities like Torreón, Nuevo Laredo, and Monclova. The region, however, remains vulnerable to plant layoffs or closings, given the fierce competition Northern Mexico faces with China and other lower wage places, the study finds," Yoder explains.

"Globalization has not been kind to the average citizen of Northern Mexico," Yoder concludes.

For further information on Yoder's study, please contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at 326-2180.

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Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu