In the spotlight

No Right to Rest: Police Enforcement Patterns and Quality of Life Consequences of the Criminalization of Homelessness

Tony Robinson | In response to a persistently high number of people experiencing homelessness, concerns have grown among many local officials that the urban environment is being undermined by the presence of unsheltered homeless people, living in public places. An associated concern is that when homeless people are allowed to conduct acts of living in public spaces (such as sleeping or panhandling), they fall into unhealthy behavioral patterns that lengthen their spell of homelessness and undermine their long-term prospects. As a response, an increasing number of cities are criminalizing activities common to homeless people, passing laws that prohibit such things as sleeping, sitting, eating, panhandling, or sheltering in public spaces. Read More
  • Daniel Kübler and Philippe E. Rochat | Across the world, city-regions are characterized by fragmented systems of governance. As they have sprawled independently from institutional boundaries, areas of urban settlement span across large numbers of local jurisdictions. In some countries, governmental fragmentation has been reduced via territorial reforms. In other countries, such as the United States, or Switzerland - which is in the focus of our study - governmental fragmentation of metropolitan areas is very high. Many studies have shown that this situation impedes the ability of city-regions to implement policies that would be beneficial to the region as a whole. Read More
  • Barbara Ferman | On October 19, 2017, Bill Gates announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would invest $1.7 billion in education with 60% going for curricula development and network building among schools, 15% for charter schools, and 25% for “big bets that have the potential to change the trajectory of public education over the next 10 to 15 years.” (quoted in L. Camera, 2017) Less than one month later, on November 16, 2017, the School Reform Commission (SRC), the body set up by the Pennsylvania legislature to govern the Philadelphia School District, voted to dissolve itself, returning school governance to Philadelphia[1] This vote was the result of intense grassroots activism involving thousands of teachers, nurses, school aides, students, parents, and other activists. Read More
  • Eric Seymour and Joshua Akers | Evictions have recently gained national attention, in large part through the publication of Matthew Desmond's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Evicted. According to subsequent work from Desmond and colleagues at Princeton University's Eviction Lab, we now know that roughly 1 in 40 renter households were evicted between 2000 and 2016, with nearly one million renter households facing eviction each year. While eviction is certainly more likely for low-income renters, Desmond's work shows how families experiencing eviction fall even further into poverty as a result. After eviction, it becomes even more costly and difficult for already vulnerable families to find housing, hold jobs, and stay healthy. Read More
  • Jessica Trounstine has recently published Segregation by Design: Local Politics and Inequality in American Cities (Cambridge). A fascinating empirical examination of how local governments have used the distribution of public goods and land use control to increase the wealth of white property owners at the expense of people of color and the poor. This post by Trounstine discusses the core argument of the book and some potential solutions. Her post is followed by several reactions to the book from notable scholars of local and urban politics. Read More
  • The Politics of Refuge

    June 11, 2019

    Benjamin Gonzalez-O'Brien, Loren Collingwood, and Stephen El-Khatib| The July 1st, 2015 shooting of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant, reignited the debate over sanctuary policies in the United States. Lopez-Sanchez had been deported seven times and had been arrested on a marijuana possession charge in San Francisco, but was subsequently released when the city chose not to prosecute him despite a request by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that he be held so he could be taken into custody for deportation. Then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump seized on the shooting as an example of the crime encouraged by sanctuary city policies throughout the United States and promised to strip funding from these localities if he became president. As president, Trump followed through with this promise, signing an executive order titled, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” on January 25th, 2017, just days after his inauguration. Read More
  • Staci M. Zavattaro| I knew I was in trouble. I was teaching my new elective Public Sector Communications for the first time. I meticulously planned assignments – group work, active discussions, a comprehensive project. That first night, there were four people in the room – myself and three (eek!) master of public administration students. I went home and realized almost everything I had planned would not work. I went back the next week and asked the students for their help. I said I wanted to flip the classroom – something I had never tried before – and would do it only if they agreed and were willing to work with me along the way. We gave it a try. Read More
  • Emily Farris| As a political scientist trained in American Politics with a focus on urban politics, Introduction to American Politics is not usually my favorite class to teach. It’s not the students, it’s not Trump… it is the material. Intro textbooks rarely cover local politics, and I grow tired of talking about Congress or the Presidency, as if they are the only politics that matter. So, this semester I approached my Introduction to American Politics class differently, thanks to the timing of our local election in Fort Worth and a small honors section of the course. Read More
  • Clarence N. Stone and Gregory D. Squires| By many accounts, the nation’s politics have turned dysfunctional. Multiple problems go unaddressed. Numerous people feel strongly that their concerns are unheard. Evidence abounds that large segments of the population are underserved. Gridlock, declining civility, and hyper-partisanship stand out on the worry list for national politics. Against this backdrop, reports of local civic vitality offer a glimmer of a possible turn for the better—but only if we can find the needed levers of change and learn how they might be strengthened.  A small group of D.C. area scholars embarked on such an effort a few years back, deciding on “Bottom-up Politics” as the label for our effort. Bottom-up emphasizes that understanding, energy, and problem solving can be found locally. By no means, though, does “bottom-up” mean that the local is broadly self sufficient or operates in isolation.  Read More
  • Akheil Singla and Martin J. Luby| The use of financial derivatives, such as interest rate swaps, by city governments has been covered in the news media with some frequency over the past few years. The preponderance of these stories focus on the negative outcomes associated with these financial instruments, particularly in terms of increased interest payments, termination payments or other financial losses. While reporting on the issue often stops with simply stating the losses, some media accounts call into question the use of these instruments by governments at all, suggesting that governments 1) lack the financial sophistication to engage in these deals, 2) use the instruments out of desperation because of a declining financial health, 3) are increasingly staffed with finance professionals either at the administrative or board level that have experience with more complex financial instruments in their previous professional careers which leads to greater use and/or 4) are being influenced by financial sector firms that will benefit from the use of these financial instruments. Read More
  • Ashley E. Nickels, Amanda D. Clark, and Zachary D. Wood | Municipal takeover policies claim to eschew politics. These policies, which rest on the principle that local government is broken, suspend local democracy in an attempt to fix local fiscal problems. Fear of municipal bankruptcy, economic contagion, and credit downgrades are among the most common motivations for intervening in local municipal affairs. These changes radically rearrange how decisions are made, who has access to decision makers, and, ultimately, who is in power. Many states have adopted or copied municipal takeover policies from each other; as such, when the policies are put in place, we may expect to see similar results or responses from local communities. Read More
  • Megan Rubado and Jay Jennings recent Urban Affairs Review article was featured this weekend on NPR's Morning Edition.  Rubado was interviewed by Scott Simon about their article which shows that decline in expert local news coverage is having negative consequences on the quality of local elections. Read More
  • By Elizabeth A. Craigg Walker | Teaching Political Science can be extremely content heavy, so it is a struggle to “flip the classroom,” in which the students complete the content material at home in order to have a hands-on experience within the class.  I created a group project where the students participate in a mock-political campaign.  While this focused on a National Campaign, this could be adapted to a local election context as well.  This project aligns with the Student Learning Outcome of students will understand the political process.  In order for this group project to be effective, I used weekly scaffolding activities to hold the students accountable.  In addition, you should create weekly Student Learning Outcomes that would align with the student understanding a segment of the political process. Read More
  • Yonah Freemark | Upzoning—a policy that increases the allowed scale of new construction—has recently attracted considerable attention from policymakers. States from California to Utah are considering legal changes that would require municipalities to increase the amount of new housing allowed to be built in certain neighborhoods. In Minneapolis, local officials have done what was previously thought politically impossible: Allow the construction of multi-family apartments in neighborhoods formerly zoned only for single-family homes. Read More
  • J. Celeste Lay and Anna Bauman | Charter schools now operate in 43 states and the District of Columbia and their numbers have grown significantly. In most school districts, there are only a handful of charter schools that operate alongside traditional neighborhood-based public schools. However, in 14 urban districts, over 30 percent of the students are enrolled in a charter school. At 93 percent of its public school students in charters, New Orleans tops this list. Read More
  • Plan your conference! Adam Dynes, 2019 MPSA Urban and Local Politics Section Chair previews some of this year's panels and round tables. Read More

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 Scott Minkoff at minkoffs@newpaltz.edu.

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