Public Policy Themes Public Policy Essay

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An examination of the four basic steps of policymaking reveals this quite clearly.

The first step in the policymaking process is the agenda setting that must come before policies are even considered. Bringing problems to the attention of policy makers and thus setting the policy agenda is accomplished by many different players with different aims, from citizen groups to businesses to media organizations and many others. All of these groups r individual representatives (and sometimes simple individuals) can use a variety of methods for setting the agenda, form private meetings with policy makers to speaking at town hall meetings or city councils to engaging in media or public awareness campaigns. In larger governments, lobbying is a major source of agenda-setting activity, as the interests of groups that engage lobbying services are brought to the direct and immediate attention of government representatives in what amounts to a pay-for-play system. The political elements of agenda setting tend to be substantial at all levels of government (Gerston 2011).

After the agenda is set and the specific problems that need to be addressed by public policies are identified, developing and adopting policies forms the next step in the policymaking process. Oftentimes, the same stakeholders that were involved in setting policy agendas remain involved in developing policy; if a police chief was instrumental in raising public awareness about a lack of police funding, for example, he might also be officially consulted as to budget needs and allocation measures before they are adopted. Many instances of public policy creation are required by law to obtain input from citizens or to conduct certain studies to determine needs, resource availability, impacts, etc., and all of the information gathered from such sources must form part of the considerations during the policy development phase. Finally, discussion and negotiation amongst different policymakers with different constituents or other values/interests must take place before policies can be adopted (Gerston 2011).

While it is often the most visible and directly relevant step in the policy process for most citizens, policy implementation is in some ways the most straightforward and basic steps involved. The development and adoption phase often (in efficient and properly conducted policymaking systems, at least) maps out the price resource allocations and other practicalities of policy adoption, and though forecasts are rarely exactly accurate they should be close enough to allow for smooth implementation. Still, there can be large numbers of departments, officials, and lower level employees involved in the implementation of public policy, and with certain policies the entire population of citizens is necessarily a part of the implementation procedure. Obviously, the greater the number of people involved the more complex and the less efficient it becomes to carry out the direct practical and physical elements of policy implementation (Gerston 2011).

The final phase in policymaking is the evaluation and termination process, which is sometimes viewed as evaluation a return to agenda setting. The two perspectives both involve the assessment of policy costs and effects in order to determine whether or not implemented policies achieved their purposed goals, as well as if these goals are worth the resource and time allocation necessary to implement the policies. If more efficient or effective means of attaining the same goals can be identified via the review process, the policy is likely to enter the development and adoption phase again, or possible changes to the policymaking environment might cause the agenda setting phase to again influence policy development in a specific area. If the policy is not part of an ongoing process, or if it comes to a close and is replaced or rendered obsolete for some reason, policy termination also involves certain complexities including the reorganization of human resources, ensuring all policy beneficiaries' needs will be met, and that the other needs met by the policy will continue to be addressed in some manner. Typical players in this phase include policymaking officials and key individuals involved in the implementation of the specific policies involved (Gerston 2011).

Even this brief overview of the policymaking process demonstrates the complexity that exists in such an undertaking. From agenda setting through eventual termination, policymaking involves large numbers of stakeholders, each with their own interests and values. Balancing these and achieving real good is easier said than done.

Section IV: The Henry Flowers Case

When Henry Flowers applied to become the new attorney for the El Paso Independent School District, he and his sister Miriam, the president of the school board, certainly new that nepotism laws would create a certain conflict of interest. According to Texas Government Code Chapter 573, it is illegal for any official to vote in the hiring of a person related to them by blood or marriage, meaning that the president of the school board could have no part in hiring her brother. Miriam complied with this part of the law, and abstained form voting in the hiring decision, but this does not mean that the law was followed nor that the hiring of Henry Flowers can be upheld due to the nepotism laws. Chapter 573 goes further than simply prohibiting the involvement of public officials in the hiring of their relatives, and it is in this area of the law that Miriam overstepped her bounds.

After prohibiting the hiring of individuals related to an official by that official, Section 42 of Chapter 573 of the Texas Government Code reads, "A candidate may not take an affirmative action to influence the following individuals regarding the appointment, reappointment, confirmation of the appointment or reappointment, employment, reemployment, change in status, compensation, or dismissal of another individual related to the candidate within a degree described by Section 573.002: (1) an employee of the office to which the candidate seeks election; or (2) an employee or another officer of the governmental body to which the candidate seeks election, if the office the candidate seeks is one office of a multimember governmental body." This is the particular statute that Miriam violated during the hiring process of her brother as the district's attorney.

Spending ten minutes singing Henry Flowers' praises to the rest of the board prior to recusing herself form the actual vote certainly constituted an "affirmative action" on Miriam's part, in direct violation of the above-quoted statute. One could argue that Miriam is not technically a candidate, as she is already the elected president of the school board, and indeed the interpretation of this statute's application to this case is not made clear in the law itself. Most school board positions are elected on an annual basis, however, and as such even office holders could be considered to be in a perpetual state of candidacy, making Miriam's affirmative action illegal. It is also possible that the hiring of Henry Flowers would as the district's attorney would be entirely impossible according to Section 44 of the same chapter of Texas Government Code, which prohibits any official from taking any part in the confirmation of an appointment of a relative to a position over which the official will have control or oversight. As the president of the board, Miriam will doubtless have to take part in the confirmation of Henry Flowers' appointment to the position of the district's attorney, and as this is the case there is no way for Flowers to be hired by the district in any capacity that reports to the board while Miriam is the sitting president.

Nepotism laws can have unintended consequences, including preventing good people form being hired to fill positions simply because they are related to decision makers. The ills caused by such laws are greatly outnumbered by the benefits of their protections, however.


Gerston, L. (2010). Public Policymaking: Process and Principles. Armonk, NY: M.E.


Texas Constitution and…[continue]

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