Friday, May 2, 2014
So many interesting sessions here making it hard to choose which panel to attend, but I had to give some more co-blogger love and check out Ken Stahl's paper and the panel on local government law.
Nestor Davidson (Fordham Law School) started the panel off with a talk on administrative law at the local level. fascinating stuff and unquestionably important for us land-usey types. Many land use decisions are made or carried out by local agencies and I had never given much thought to how really different admin law is at the local stage. I was particularly taken aback by the lack of separation of powers and the increased blurring of public and private lines.
Ken Stahl presented a paper/essay/book review building off "The Great American City" by Sampson. Here is the official abstract:
Urban policymakers have long debated whether to focus on people or on places. Give poor people the means to leave deteriorated neighborhoods, or attempt to bolster such neighborhoods by reinforcing the social norms of the community? Direct the police to crack down on low-level crime, or foster informal connections between the police and local institutions? Definitive answers to these questions have been elusive, but Robert Sampson’s new book GREAT AMERICAN CITY provides some needed insight. Sampson demonstrates that people are ineluctable products of their local environments, and he concludes that “place-based” policies that focus on building community are more likely to be successful than policies premised on the assumption of individual mobility and choice. This essay revisits the “people v. places” debate in light of GREAT AMERICAN CITY. Though the book is sure to have a tremendous impact on that debate, Sampson devotes relatively little attention to the policy implications of his work, and thus I attempt to articulate and probe what I see as the book’s major policy implications. Principally, I interpret Sampson’s work as an implicit challenge to the predominant public choice model of local government, which conceptualizes urban residents as mobile individuals who make locational choices regardless of social context. Seen in this light, GREAT AMERICAN CITY raises important questions about the wisdom of policymakers’ longstanding reliance on the public choice model, but also leaves much to speculation. I further argue that in light of Sampson’s findings, efforts to aid disadvantaged communities might be most effective if they undertook to induce people to stay in such communities.
I have not yet read this book and really enjoyed hearing Ken's description and the concerns it raised for him with regard to neighborhood structure and power.
Ashira Ostrow (Hofstra) rounded out the panel with a talk on the strange weighted voting system used in Hudson, NY. Not clear to me (or Ashira) whether the system is constitutional (based on the one person - one vote requirement) but if so it could present an interesting structure for local governments where representative's vote are based on their number of constituents.