local government

Why Political Scientists Should Study Smaller Cities

By Tanu Kumar (Claremont Graduate University) and Matthew Stenberg (University of California, Berkeley) | The United Nations estimates more than half of the global population currently lives in cities, and 68% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050 (United Nations 2018). A large portion of this growing urban population lives outside of major metropolitan areas. Yet much of our knowledge about urban politics comes from studying the largest cities, and smaller cities are systematically understudied relative to their share of the population. In our article, “Why Political Scientists Should Study Smaller Cities,” we examine what an insufficient focus on small cities might lead scholars to miss. We explore many policy areas where we might expect smaller cities to be different than larger ones and we offer strategies to study smaller cities. Read More

October 11, 2022 // 0 Comments

Examining the Dynamics Between Formal and Informal Institutions in Progressive City Planning

By Andrea Restrepo-Mieth (University of Pennsylvania) | Urban public space serves a myriad of social, economic, civic, and environmental functions that ultimately play an important role in improving our quality of life.  Uses range from protest and engagement with the state to the manifestation of cultural expressions, and from commercial and livelihood ends to exercise and recreation. Despite its benefits, the conservation and creation of public space can be a challenge in cities with growing populations, little land for expansion due to geographical or administrative boundaries, and tight land markets. Furthermore, given multiple and pressing demands on public budgets, it is easy to bypass investments in creating or upgrading public space infrastructure, prioritizing instead transportation and infrastructures more clearly associated with economic growth objectives. Medellín, like many cities in the global South, is no stranger to these realities and faces serious, persistent public-space deficits. Read More

February 23, 2022 // 0 Comments

When Agency Challenges Structure: How Immigrants Trace a Path Towards Election to Local Government

By Shervin Ghaem-Maghami (University of Toronto Mississauga) and Vincent Z. Kuuire (University of Toronto Mississauga) | Running for political office is a demanding and complicated affair. Aspirants must navigate convoluted social and political structures in order to decide if they wish and feasibly can launch their candidacies. Further, they have an endless number of choices to make relating to the management of their campaigns: which issues to champion, which groups and segments of society to appeal to, how to shape the narrative about the issues confronting their electoral jurisdictions, and how to portray themselves as the right person to resolve those challenges, among many others. Read More

February 2, 2022 // 0 Comments

Staying Afloat: Planning and Managing Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Risk in Florida’s Coastal Counties

By Robert Hines (University of Georgia), Andrew J. Grandage (Western Carolina University), and Katherine G. Willoughby (University of Georgia) | For many coastal communities, there is no escaping the realities of sea level rise (SLR) because they already experience visible disruptions from it, ranging from nuisance flooding to enhanced storm surge. However, bigger problems lie down the road. Critical Infrastructure that provides water supply, wastewater treatment, control of stormwater runoff, and transportation are recognized as vulnerable to SLR and intensification of existing flooding hazards (Allen et al. 2019). Moreover, without adaptive measures in place, SLR could lead to population shifts of a similar magnitude to the Great Migration, as residents gradually move from inundated areas to those not exposed (Hauer, Evans, & Mishra 2016). Read More

December 17, 2021 // 0 Comments

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

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

November 10, 2020 // 0 Comments

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

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

September 4, 2020 // 0 Comments

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

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

September 2, 2020 // 0 Comments

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

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

May 7, 2020 // 0 Comments

Does Inter-municipal Cooperation Really Reduce Delivery Costs?

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

February 27, 2020 // 0 Comments