Direct democracy practices such as initiatives and referenda are increasingly ignored or circumvented by political leaders who allocate subsidies toward new professional sport stadium developments. In a democracy, such a means of governing may be problematic if the outcome is unreflective of the public will. The existing literature makes several theoretical connections for this line of political decision-making, including urban growth machines and trustee–delegate representation. In this paper, these concepts are integrated with empirical evidence to support the conceptualization of civic paternalism, a term that provides partial description of the political decision-making process. Civic paternalists justify their decisions by arguing that a city’s continued vibrancy and growth optimize community benefit while remaining acutely aware of their decisions’ political consequences. We illustrate the concept of civic paternalism by drawing from interviews with political leaders associated with one of the most recent cases of the no-vote subsidy.
Kellison is with the Department of Tourism, Recreation & Sport Management, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Michael J. Mondello is with the Department of Management at the University of South Florida, Tampa, FL.