In the spotlight

Can States Promote Minority Representation? Assessing the Effects of the California Voting Rights Act

By Loren Collingwood (University of California, Riverside) and Sean Long (University of California, Riverside) | California passed its own version of the Voting Rights Act (CVRA) in 2001, aiming to diversify local elected offices. At the time, 449 of California’s 476 cities employed at-large districts to elect candidates to the city council. The CVRA compels at-large cities to transition their city council elections to a by-district basis if plaintiffs can demonstrate the presence of racially polarized voting (i.e., Latinos preferring one candidate, and Whites/Anglos another). Read More
  • We are pleased to announce that our two-year Journal Impact Factor score has increased from 2.192 to 3.032 and our five-year impact score increased from 2.551 to 3.629. This is the fifth consecutive year our scores have increased and these are our best numbers yet. Thank you to everyone who supports UAR as an author, reviewer, or reader! Read More
  • By Markie McBrayer (University of Idaho) | Wichita Falls Independent School District (WFISD)—a school district in North Texas—was recently under scrutiny for unequal distribution of bilingual funding among their schools. In their school district, campuses with greater numbers and proportions of bilingual students received less total bilingual funding from the district. For instance, Zundy Elementary in WFISD received $32,000 for their 140 qualifying bilingual students, while Southern Hills Elementary received $236,000 in bilingual funding for their 88 qualifying students, suggesting vast inequities in the school district. Deborah Palmer, a professor of education equity and cultural diversity at the University of Colorado in Boulder, stated that unequal distributions of bilingual resources, like those seen in WFISD, are “fairly drastic inequities” and should be considered “a serious issue.” Read More
  • By Hao Chen (Nanjing University), Lili Wang (Southern University of Science and Technology), and Paul Waley (University of Leeds) | Our study takes place in Laochengnan (old city south, literally translated), a historic area in the old city of Nanjing, China. Nanjing used to be the ancient capital of China's ten dynasties and is famous for its historic heritage. The Laochengnan area is located in the south of the old city, comprised of thousands of traditional houses inherited from Ming or Qing dynasties. Because of its long-standing history and rich folk culture, many local people and scholars regard it as the cultural root of Nanjing. As in many other Chinese cities, Laochengnan faced the threat of redevelopment. Since 2006, the local government has tried to transform the area into a high-end residential area and a commercial and business district. Such entrepreneurial plans triggered widespread and intense tensions and conflicts between local governments, local cultural activists, national cultural elites, the central government, and local residents. These tensions and conflicts are, our research shows, organized around three competing urban visions – entrepreneurial redevelopment, historical conservation, and community conservation. Read More
  • By Eric Stokan (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Aaron Deslatte (Indiana University Bloomington), and Megan E. Hatch (Cleveland State University)| Local governments play a central role in promoting the economic health and vitality of their community.  Ensuring adequate jobs and bolstering revenues falls squarely within the purview  of municipal governments, and they have the capacity to use a range of policy tools to this end (tax abatements, tax increment financing, business incubators, etc.).  Research has noted a shift in the type of policies that have been used over time, referencing distinct economic development “waves” where local governments in the United States have shifted focus from business attraction to retention to entrepreneurship and more recently to promoting equity and sustainability.  This is reflected in the type of policies they use, from traditional financial tax incentives like property tax abatements to retention surveys to business incubators and finally to community development loans and provisions to ensure affordability of housing and the formation of community development corporations.  Researchers have long been curious about the factors that drive the decision to use certain types of policies and why local governments would place greater weight on goals related to economic growth than on equity or sustainability. Read More
  • By Ting Guan (Beijing Normal University) and Tao Liu (Zhejiang University) | Conventional wisdom suggests that representation is closely linked to democracy and its related political and organizational institutions such as democratic elections and constitutional states (Pitkin 1967). However, if we look back in history, neither the concept nor the practice of representation has necessarily been linked to democracy or elections. Moreover, contemporary scholars have shown clearly from a theoretical approach that political representation and representative claims exist in non-democratic settings. In this study, we have explored participatory representation in the Chinese context, to better understand its operational mechanisms and functional logic. Read More
  • The Harris Poll has recently released a survey in which they teamed up with the MacArthur Foundation and surveyed nearly 1,000 Chicagoans to better understand Chicago's biggest challenges regarding public safety. Read More
  • By Jayce Farmer (University of Nevada) | Residential and small business consumers account for over 38% of the nation’s energy consumption. Therefore, policies emphasizing sustainability at the community-level become vital for urban communities. Yet, there is limited understanding regarding the roles state and local government relationships play in community focused sustainability. Read More
  • By Agustin León-Moreta (University of New Mexico) | Conservation is a defining policy challenge of our time. With growing urbanization, the conservation of open spaces takes center stage in global debates on livability in cities. Multiple public goods result from the conservation of natural resources in metropolitan areas. They include, for example, improved environments for public health, recreation, and sustainable food systems. For these and related reasons, cities are pursuing more and more alternative approaches for the conservation of land and open spaces. Read More
  • By Benjamin Egerod (Copenhagen Business School) and Martin Vinæs Larsen (Aarhus University) | Can citizens make an impact on local policy by changing whom they vote for in local elections? In a new study of local governments in Denmark spanning 35 years, we find that voters’ electoral input has a sizeable effect on what policies local governments’ pursue. Our findings, together with a number of other recent studies from the United States, upends the conventional wisdom that local government is unresponsive to citizen demands. Read More
  • By Kevin Morris and Peter Miller | The year of 2020 was one marked by disruption and upheaval as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States proceeded with scheduled elections during the pandemic, forcing voters to reconsider whether and how they would be involved in the contests. We take advantage of a natural experiment to assess how COVID and the substantial reduction in polling places affected turnout in Milwaukee during the April presidential primary election relative to a set of voters largely unaffected by closed polling places. Unlike previous cases of polling place consolidation in the literature, the episode in Milwaukee was brought about by a natural disaster at the last minute before an election rather than an administrative decision made well in advance of election day. Read More
  • By Timothy Weaver (University at Albany, SUNY) | In recent years, scholars and pundits alike have proclaimed the emergence of an urban-rural divide that now marks “America’s political faultline.” With this observation comes the apparently uncontroversial argument that, over the course of the past few decades, cities have become increasingly liberal in contrast to the deepening conservatism in the countryside. This observation seems to be confirmed by Chris Tausanovitch and Christopher Warshaw who developed a ranking of American cities according to the policy preferences of their residents. They find that almost all cities over 250,000 are on the liberal side of the liberal-conservative spectrum, with San Francisco, Washington D.C., Seattle, Detroit, and New York City all being among the top ten “most liberal” cities in the U.S. In a related move, Clarence Stone has recently argued that the developmental “urban regimes” he famously wrote about in the 1980s, have been replaced by an “urban governing order” in which the distribution of power “more fluid.” This opens to door for new actors—potentially from historically marginalized populations—to push for more progressive policies. Read More
  • By Edith J. Barrett (University of Connecticut) | The Covid-19 pandemic, the resulting economic recession, and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 have made ever clearer the gross inequalities in urban America. They highlighted the disparities in social and material well-being and drew further attention to the missing voices of underrepresented groups in urban policy decisions. Especially overlooked in urban policy are the needs of low-income urban teenagers. Teenagers are the most frequent users of public spaces, and in fact, public spaces may be the only areas youth can claim for themselves. Read More
  • UAR Co-Editor Yue Zhang recently participated in a webinar organized by the Asian Institute, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. The event presents a panel of experts from India, the United States, Canada, and Europe to discuss the State of the Cities Report: India, which was released in March, 2021. Read More
  • By Pierre Filion (University of Waterloo), Laura A. Reese (Michigan State University), and Gary Sands (Wayne State University) | The story of Amazon’s aborted attempt to locate part of its second headquarters in Long Island City, New York is well known. To briefly recap, in 2017, Amazon announced an open competition for the site of a second headquarters representing perhaps the largest single economic development opportunity in history. The company offered the winning city a $5 billion investment and the creation of up to 50,000 well-paid new jobs. Two locations were selected in November, 2018 – Long Island City and Northern Virginia. Each location would see half of the total promised investment and half of the jobs. New York’s incentive package, valued at $3 billion, included the cost of public improvements as well as performance-based grants. On February 14, 2019, however, Amazon announced that it was canceling plans for this major investment in New York City. The company indicated that they were unwilling to proceed with the project in the face of grass roots and political opposition. Read More
  • About six years ago, Urban Affairs Review started publishing a different cover photo for each issue, usually taken by one of the editors, editorial board members, or friends of the journal. The photos are taken in an urban setting and usually depict public art, crowds, architecture, or public transit. In mid-2020, we started to publish photos that portrayed current events in cities across the United States, specifically COVID-19, the protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, and the November election. Read More
  • By Dale Thomson (University of Michigan-Dearborn) | Retired business executives donated $70 million to the City of Kalamazoo to help it respond to increasing fiscal stress. Four foundations purchased a 178-acre industrial site along Pittsburgh’s riverfront to redevelop as a mixed-use site with high sustainability standards. In Detroit, a riverfront park is being redeveloped with a $50 million donation from a local foundation. These stories suggest that, in the age of fiscal austerity, philanthropy is playing an increasingly prominent role in helping cities provide core services and promote community and economic development (CED). Read More
  • By Katy Hansen (Duke University), Shadi Eskaf (UNC-Chapel Hill), and Megan Mullin (Duke University) | Many elected officials expect to be punished at the ballot box for increasing taxes and fees. At a recent city council meeting in Westminster, Colorado, one council member acknowledged potential retaliation for supporting a 10% water rate increase, telling a constituent, “I have to do what I think is best for the long term health of my city […] and if it costs me my job on council […], that is a consequence I’m willing to pay.” Both scholars and policy practitioners consider the fear of electoral punishment to be an important explanation for local decision making about public services. Read More
  • By Rachel Moskowitz (Trinity College) | With American cities’ socio-economic cleavages and ethnic diversity growing, policy making on urban public school issues has become ever more complex. For instance, what happens when the majority of voters are of a different racial group than a majority of the students in a city? One of the primary responsibilities of municipal government is the provision of public goods for its residents. Public education is one of the most substantial of these public goods. Decisions about education are often controversial; local education policy and politics are hotly contested and the outcomes can dramatically impact the lives of metropolitan residents. Read More
  • By Zack Taylor (University of Western Toronto), Jan Doering (McGill University), and Dan Silver (University of Toronto) | Sociologists and geographers have long placed space and place at the center of their analyses. They have shown that people’s identities and attitudes are inflected by their social and physical contexts—who their neighbors are and what kind of place they live in—although they have not always extended this to politics. Studies of urban politics, on the other hand, have focused on individual characteristics such as race and gender rather than space or place. In their important study of exit polls in American big-city elections, Trounstine and Hajnal (2014) find that race overwhelms all other factors. Elections in large American cities are predominantly contests between cohesive groups defined by race. Read More
  • The Urban and Local Politics section of the American Political Science Association invites nominations for its 2021 awards. The following will be awarded at the 2021 Annual Meeting Read More

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About the Forum

Urban Affairs Review is a peer-reviewed, bi-monthly journal focused on questions of politics, governance, and public policy specifically as they relate to cities and/or their regions. The Urban Affairs Forum is a space for leading thinkers about urban issues to share their research, ideas, and experiences. Visit us for insights on local and regional politics, urban governance, and public policy that are based in the research findings of our diverse community of scholars and practitioners. You can learn more about the Forum here.

 

We are interested in Forum contributions about urban, local, and regional topics. If you would like to contribute, email Jered Carr at jbcarr@uic.edu.

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