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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What Does the Disaster in Ferguson Reveal About Local Government?

Rick Hills asks some fascinating questions over at Prawfsblawg:

Although Ferguson's population is two-thirds black, its municipal leadership is overwhelmingly white. The (black) chief of the state highway patrol turns out to enjoy more popularity with Ferguson's own (white) municipal police chief. [...] Why, then, has not Ferguson's local voters taken control of their own municipal government, electing a mayor and council that creates a police force that the majority can trust? The question has relevance beyond Ferguson's particular situation: The whole point of jurisdictional fragmentation of counties among many small local governments is to give voice to groups that otherwise would be drowned out at the county and state level. If small local governments like Ferguson cannot represent the preferences of two-thirds of their residents, then what good are they?

To answers these questions, Hills looks to Fischel's Homevoter Hypothesis:

Anecdotal evidence from Ferguson suggests that the disproportionate representation of whites in Ferguson's city government might be the result of black voters' disproportionately being renters rather than owners.. Ferguson's disproportionately black renters are harder to mobilize for low-salience municipal elections. Both black and white politicians in Ferguson seem to agree that the transience of Ferguson's renting population contributes to their lack of political participation.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/property/2014/08/what-does-the-disaster-in-ferguson-reveal-about-local-government.html

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