local government

Pensions in the Trenches: How Pension Spending Is Affecting U.S. Local Government

November 10, 2020 // 0 Comments

By Sarah F. Anzia (University of California, Berkeley) | Local government budgets are in the spotlight. The COVID-19 economic downturn has decimated certain streams of local government revenue. Scrutiny of policing has raised attention to municipal expenditures. It might seem like public employee pensions are disconnected from all of this: they are usually discussed as a state-level issue, and one involving quantities like funding ratios, unfunded liabilities, and investment returns rather than spending. But the reality is that they are very much connected. Spending on public employees’ retirement benefits—including those of public safety employees—is an important part of local government budgets everywhere. And long before 2020, many experts were warning that pension costs were on the rise, forcing changes to how local governments operate. Read More

STATE OF THE FIELD – American Regionalism and the Constellation of Mechanisms for Cross-Boundary Cooperation

September 4, 2020 // 0 Comments

Call for Contributions: Urban Affairs Forum Colloquium | Guest Editors: Jen Nelles and Jay Rickabaugh | The question of how local governments coordinate policies and projects across jurisdictional boundaries fascinates a small subset of scholars across a broad range of disciplines. In the social sciences, research focuses on (among other things) governance, institutions, the consequences of political fragmentation, collective action, and the practicalities of service and infrastructure provision. Much of the literature questions the suitability of the institutions that have emerged in response to multiplying cross-boundary problems and highlights concerns of effectiveness, equity, and accountability. Most scholars active in this field are aware of the range of instruments available to tackle regional issues and grasp collective opportunities; the existing literature, however, reveals a field rife with both explicit and unconscious biases. Read More

Getting STIF[ed]: Louisville’s Yum! Center, Sales-Tax Increment Financing, and Megaproject Underperformance

September 2, 2020 // 0 Comments

By Robert Sroka (University of Michigan) | Cities getting fleeced by professional sports teams on stadium and arena deals is nothing new. Nor is the underperformance of infrastructure megaprojects, which frequently go over budget, take longer than expected, or fail to meet revenue targets. Despite sports facilities representing some of the most financially significant and visible megaprojects that many cities will contemplate, there is often a disconnect between discussions of sports venues and the larger suite of infrastructure megaprojects. Read More

Intermunicipal Cooperation in Metropolitan Regions in Brazil and Mexico: Does Federalism Matter?

May 7, 2020 // 0 Comments

By Oliver D. Meza (CIDE), Eduardo José Grin (Getulio Vargas Foundation), Antônio Sérgio Fernandes (Federal University of Bahia), and Fernando Luiz Abrucio (Fundação Getúlio Vargas) | Metropolises, not states, are the ones capable of saving the world from its most pernicious problems. This common theme is frequently present in the rhetoric of multi-national organizations echoed in newspapers’ headlines. Clearly, cities and metropolitan regions have advantages over other levels of governments in terms of their proximity and policy tools to face problems such as water shortage, waste management, human security, housing, urban mobility, among others. For most countries, especially in the developing world, these topics present formidable challenges into reaching sustainable models of livelihood due to the lack of intermunicipal cooperation. The real question is whether metropolitan regions are actually capable of cooperating to address these and other problems independent to the surrounding institutional context. Metropolitan regions are embodied in a political and administrative context, largely shaped by supra-local levels of government. Read More

Does Inter-municipal Cooperation Really Reduce Delivery Costs?

February 27, 2020 // 0 Comments

By Germà Bel (Universitat de Barcelona) and Marianna Sebő (Universitat de Barcelona) | Growing skepticism expressed by local governments towards private-sector participation in public service provision has led many local authorities to experiment with new forms of public service delivery. In recent decades, one of the alternatives most frequently adopted has been inter-municipal cooperation (IMC). IMC is seen as a tool that can lower costs by exploiting economies of scale, while maintaining greater government control over production, something that is not readily achievable with privatization. Further benefits of IMCs include the enhanced cross-jurisdictional coordination, service quality and inter-municipal reciprocity. Concerns over stability, equity and universality may also stimulate cooperation. Read More

Factional Voting in Local Elections: The Case of Cambridge, MA

February 7, 2019 // 0 Comments

By Jack Santucci | Cambridge (MA) is the last of 24 U.S. cities to elect its assembly with the single transferable vote (STV). The point of this system is for a group with, say, 30 percent of votes to end up winning 30 percent of seats — if voters sort into groups. But are voters actually sorting into groups under this STV system? Seventy, fifty, or even thirty years ago, those groups were political parties. As the city became overwhelmingly Democratic, that party system collapsed. Read More

Ada County, Idaho is Growing and so is the Role of Women in its Governance

November 15, 2018 // 1 Comment

By Jaclyn J. Kettler | A major story following the 2018 midterm elections is the impressive gains women made in the U.S. Congress and in state races. National media, however, has largely overlooked key victories for women running for local office. For example, in Harris County in Texas, 17 African-American women won their races for local judgeships. Here in Idaho, voters elected two women to the 3-member Ada County Commission. It appears to be the first time women will hold a majority of seats on the Ada County Commission. Ada County includes Boise, the state capital and one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country. Read More

Thorny Property Politics: Cook County’s 2018 Democratic Primary for Assessor

October 30, 2018 // 1 Comment

By Amanda Kass | Assessors play an important role in the property tax process in the United States. A homeowner’s taxes are based on the estimated value of their home, and that estimate is made by the assessor. If an assessor over- or under-values a property, then the homeowner will be over- or under-taxed. Over-taxation can produce a cascade of negative consequences, including foreclosure for failure to pay property taxes, while cities want to maintain high collection rates. Read More

Making (Political) Magic in Anaheim

October 18, 2018 // 0 Comments

By Peter F. Burns Jr. and Matthew O. Thomas | For the past decade, the theme of Disney vs the neighborhoods has dominated Anaheim politics, and this conflict is central to the city’s 2018 elections.  When voters go to the polls in November, they will select a new mayor for the first time in eight years, elect three city council members as part of the city’s new district-election format, and decide on a local living wage referendum, which may or may not eventually apply to Disney. Read More