All Forum Posts

Beyond Bottom-Up Politics: The Potential, the Limitations, and the Unknown

May 16, 2019 // 0 Comments

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

Financial Engineering by City Governments: Factors Associated with the Use of Debt-related Derivatives

May 8, 2019 // 0 Comments

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

Scholars Exchange: Municipal Takeovers

April 29, 2019 // 0 Comments

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

UAR Article Featured on NPR

April 14, 2019 // 0 Comments

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

Engaging in Active Learning: Mock Political Campaigns

April 9, 2019 // 0 Comments

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

Upzoning Chicago: Impacts of a Zoning Reform on Property Values and Housing Construction

March 29, 2019 // 3 Comments

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

Private Governance of Public Schools: Representation, Priorities & Compliance in New Orleans Charter School Boards

March 26, 2019 // 0 Comments

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

Could Housing Crashes Change Voter Preferences?

March 20, 2019 // 0 Comments

Deirdre Pfeiffer, Jake Wegmann, and Alex Schafran | The election of President Trump in November 2016 came as a surprise to many. Analysts attributed Trump’s election to various factors, such as hostility towards immigrants and racial minorities in white, working class communities that formerly supported Obama and Russian meddling in the election. However, an underexplored factor is the role that the recent housing downturn may have played in the election. There is research showing that Midwestern and Rustbelt counties with a higher percentage of underwater homes (i.e., owing more than the home is worth) were more likely to vote for Trump in 2016 than Romney in 2012. Read More

Voting Can Be Hard, Information Helps

March 4, 2019 // 0 Comments

Melody Crowder-Meyer, Shana Kushner Gadarian , and Jessica Trounstine | How do voters make decisions about which candidates to support? This isn’t just a question we study as political scientists – it’s a question we confront as voters as well. In 2016, one of us had to vote for a presidential nominee by picking convention delegates on a ballot that did not clearly indicate which presidential candidate each delegate supported. In 2017, another one of us was asked to select 5 names from a list of 13 candidates for town board on a ballot with no additional information about the candidates – not even their party affiliations. In contrast, in both of those years, the one of us living in California chose among candidates – in both partisan and non-partisan races – on ballots including not just names but also “ballot designations” indicating candidate occupations and past experience in the office. Read More