Sunday, May 1, 2011
Thank you to the Land Use Prof Blog for including me as a guest blogger for the month of April; I have enjoyed participating. I will sign off with a brief pop culture reference, which would amuse my students because I am typically hopelessly ignorant in this field. If you watch Parks and Recreation--an entertaining comedy about a parks department manager's struggles with red tape, unenthusiastic city employees, vacant lots, and budget cuts--you are likely familiar with the show's story line about state auditors. In the show, the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, faces a budget crisis, and state auditors played by Rob Lowe and Adam Scott swoop in and threaten to shut down the parks department. Parks department manager Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) saves the day by organizing a brilliant money-making harvest festival, although the state auditors stick around after the festival and appear to maintain some authority over Pawnee affairs. The New York Times recently featured an article with more serious real-life scenarios that echo this television story line, describing how Michigan has empowered state auditors to take control in struggling towns. In Benton Harbor, Michigan, for example, the article reports that a state auditor has laid off workers and introduced "a plan to merge the fire and police departments into a single unit." It is not clear that a harvest festival will cure Benton Harbor's financial woes, but the article offers an interesting glimpse into expanding state authority over municipal affairs.