Category Archives: Cities & Towns

Blue Cities, Red States

Source: Abby Rapoport, American Prospect, August 22, 2016

As cities have moved left and states have moved right, the conflicts between them have escalated. ….

…..“PREEMPTION” LAWS ARE not new, nor are they necessarily about undoing local legislation. But with some notable exceptions, past preemption laws have generally enforced what can be called “minimum preemption”: They force localities to do something where they might otherwise have done little or nothing. As it’s often said, they set a “floor” for regulation. For instance, the federal government has been setting minimum standards of environmental protection for years, preempting the states from allowing lower environmental standards. Similarly, states often set a floor for various local regulations, whether regarding pollution, trade licensing, gun ownership, or other matters.

Most current preemption laws, by contrast, are what one might call “maximum preemption.” These laws aren’t about setting minimums; instead, they prohibit local regulation. States have prevented localities from creating paid sick leave requirements for businesses, or raising the minimum wage. Many who oppose these measures blame their proliferation on the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, which has drafted “model” preemption bills for state lawmakers to use. “Pretty much anything you can think of that matters to the American family is under assault by local preemption,” says Mark Pertschuk, the director of Grassroots Change, which fights preemption laws around the country……

Arts Stability and Growth Amid Redevelopment in U.S. Shrinking Cities’ Downtowns: A Case Study

Source: Joanna P. Ganning, Economic Development Quarterly, Vol. 30 no. 3, August 2016

From the abstract:
While the relationship between arts businesses and redevelopment has been studied extensively in world-class cities, it remains understudied in weaker market cities. With tight municipal budgets, shrinking cities cannot afford to not understand both the benefits of the arts for downtown redevelopment and the impact of redevelopment on the arts. Using block-level data for a U.S. shrinking city’s downtown (St. Louis), this study finds that the arts have neither anchored redevelopment nor been driven out of the downtown by redevelopment. The latter finding signals an opportunity for shrinking cities to harness the benefits of the arts in downtown redevelopment.

D.C.’s White Donor Class: Outsized Influence in a Diverse City

Source: Sean McElwee, Dēmos, June 2016

Key Findings:
– The donor class doesn’t represent the diversity of Washington D.C.’s population. While 37 percent of D.C.’s population is white, 62 percent of mayoral donors and 67 percent of City Council donors are white.
– The rich are disproportionately represented in the donor class. Only a quarter of D.C.’s adult population makes more than $100,000, but 59 percent of council donors and 61 percent of mayoral donors do.
– The pool of donors who make small donations is more representative than the pool of those who make large donations. Women make up about half of those giving less than $50 to mayoral and council races, but only 31 percent of those giving more than $1,000. People of color make up 47 percent of mayoral donors giving less than $25, but 31 percent of those giving more than $1,000.
– The small donor pool contains more income diversity as well. Those making $100,000 or more comprise 44 percent of donors giving $25 or less to mayoral candidates, but 72 percent of those giving $1,000 or more.
– Mayoral candidates relied heavily on big donors, raising less than 7 percent of their total funds from donors giving less than $100, and 67 percent from donors giving more than $1,000.
– A system of public financing would increase the diversity of D.C.’s donor class, leading to more responsive policymaking.

Sorting Through the Determinants of Local Government Competition

Source: Michael Overton, The American Review of Public Administration,Published online before print June 22, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Competition among local governments for business investment and residents is a key feature of metropolitan governance scholarship. Despite the excellent work exploring interjurisdictional competition, the conceptualization and operationalization of competition still lack the necessary complexity to fully capture the determinants of competition. In reality, the degree of competition between local governments is a multidimensional concept. How do the different dimensions of competition impact a city’s own-source revenue yield? Using a Spatial Durbin Model (SDM) to analyze a sample of 2,299 U.S. cities, this study finds that household income differentiation and manufacturing differentiation are important in a city’s revenue yield, and both types of differentiation limit head-to-head competition among local governments. In addition, the results indicate that entry barriers and collaboration affect a city’s revenue yields, while the number of cities in a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) does not influence those collections.

Fiscal Health of Large U.S. Cities Varied Long After Great Recession’s End

Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts, American Cities Project, Issue Brief, April 2016

From the overview:
Though the U.S. economy improved for a fourth straight year in fiscal year 2013, many big cities faced constrained budgets because of weak property tax revenue growth and cuts in federal and state aid.

This brief focuses on the cities that anchor the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. The fiscal health of the cities varied considerably in fiscal 2013, depending on their circumstances. Still, a number of trends emerge concerning the cities’ revenue, spending, and reserves.

The analysis, based on audited city financial statements, continues work undertaken by The Pew Charitable Trusts’ American cities project following the Great Recession, which ran from late 2007 through mid-2009. For this multiyear series, Pew has examined data in the financial statements of the central city in each of the nation’s 30 largest metro areas (as defined by the 2010 census). Though included in previous analyses, Cincinnati was excluded from the most recent look at revenue, spending, and reserves because city officials changed its fiscal year in 2013. That resulted in financial documents that covered only six months and made it impossible to compare financial information to previous years or to other cities included in the analysis.

A separate brief, “Issuance of New Money Bonds Remains Low in Large U.S. Cities,” looks at trends in city bond issuances through 2014….

Powerful Cities?: Limits on Municipal Taxing Authority and What to Do About Them

Source: Erin Adele Scharff, New York University Law Review, Volume 91 Number 2, May 2016

From the abstract:
Cities are once again on the rise and have become the site of major public debates, from income inequality and immigration policy to where and how Americans should live. While municipal leaders are often eager to fill the void in political leadership left by Congress and state elected officials, they are often hamstrung by state home rule laws, which define the powers states grant to municipalities. These laws limit, among other things, municipal taxing authority. Recently, local government scholars have wrestled with whether and how to grant municipalities more fiscal authority, but such scholarship has not provided a unified theory of municipal taxing authority.

This Article considers in detail whether and how to expand city taxing authority. It argues that state law should grant municipal governments “presumptive taxing authority.” This presumptive taxing authority would parallel municipal regulatory authority and be similarly subject to state preemption law. Such reform would open the door to more municipal revenue innovation, while ensuring that the state can vindicate its weighty policy interests.