July 19, 2017
A lot of what fosters it is out of their control, but a little audacity goes a long way.
June 19, 2017
A lot of the hard-line GOP governors who won in 2010 have surprised their supporters with a shift toward pragmatism. What’s driving the change?
May 22, 2017
Some want to save the fiscally challenged city in New York by effectively abolishing it.
April 19, 2017
In the past, politicians have ignored the realities that exist in big cities. They seem to be doing it again.
March 13, 2017
Hip restaurants have helped revive cities. But is the boom fizzling out?
February 24, 2017
For centuries, commerce and fresh air went together. They’re starting to again.
January 5, 2017
A look back at their evolution may offer some idea of what lies ahead.
December 19, 2016
Cities and states have very different ideas for fixing decrepit urban highways.
November 10, 2016
They vow to rev up the local economy all the time, exposing their misunderstanding of cities and political office.
October 6, 2016
The stadiums that cities invest in often end up losing money. There’s another, more profitable option: music festivals.
September 12, 2016
It's making a comeback in public schools. But to really make voters more informed, the curriculum could use an overhaul.
August 17, 2016
Cities are increasingly viewing parking in a negative light and rethinking its place in metropolitan America.
July 6, 2016
Cities love to boast that they're special. It's not always true, but it can be a useful myth.
June 15, 2016
There are lots of ideas out there. None of them are working very well.
May 9, 2016
There’s a common perception that the Establishment is disappearing. In fact, it died decades ago at all levels of government.
April 1, 2016
As states act more like independent sovereigns, Washington has itself to blame.
March 23, 2016
A gritty blue-collar town in Minnesota reflects the tensions in many places located between cities and suburbs.
February 2, 2016
Unlike a generation ago, today’s urban renaissance often displaces people and businesses.
January 19, 2016
In the ideological war over urban planning, anti-transit conservatives are gaining funding and allies.
December 1, 2015
In North Carolina, lawmakers don't want to embrace the state’s shift away from rural, small-town life. But their efforts may be futile.
November 1, 2015
Most public policy decisions are best described as transfers of wealth where somebody wins and somebody loses.
October 1, 2015
Whether states are governed by a coalition of farmers and teachers or an alliance of corporate executives and insurance brokers matters.
September 1, 2015
When cities try to regulate them, they find themselves in a legal minefield.
August 7, 2015
Wealthier people often move to gentrifying neighborhoods for the mom-and-pop stores, but their presence is driving the shops away. Can cities save them?
July 1, 2015
They may have had their negatives, but unlike Congress today -- and to some degree, the states -- they got the job done.
June 1, 2015
After advising municipalities on how to construct roads for years, Charles Marohn now believes America needs to stop building new highways. Will his new way of thinking catch on?
April 1, 2015
Over the past few decades, it’s become easier to convict public officials for corruption but harder to know who’s really guilty of it.
March 1, 2015
Some worry the benefits of a better education don’t outweigh the new problems it brings.
February 1, 2015
It’s hard to define, but it's dramatically changing the urban landscape and bringing a host of new challenges to local leaders.
February 1, 2015
Some say Democrats suffered big blows in November because they’ve become a party of urban elitists.
January 1, 2015
The midterm elections marked the return of divided government, with more than a third of states in split-power situations.
December 1, 2014
Inspired by an idea that originated in 1970s Brazil, urban planners in America are increasingly thinking small scale to solve big problems.
November 5, 2014
After a fight led by liquor stores, the state will keep decisions about whether or not to sell alcohol at the county level.
October 31, 2014
The longtime mayor of Boston was an unconventional politician, and that's why he was one of the most successful urban leaders of his generation.
October 17, 2014
More than 80 years after Prohibition ended at the national level, Arkansas voters will decide in November whether to keep their state dry.
September 1, 2014
As state legislatures' structures and salaries have changed, so have the type of people the political office attracts.
August 21, 2014
As gay Americans gained more acceptance and integrated themselves throughout cities over the past decade, a sociologist argues they've also lost some of their community and history.
August 1, 2014
America's fourth-largest city has never had a zoning code.
July 1, 2014
As suburban poverty rises, cities aren’t as enthusiastic about annexing the suburbs anymore.
June 1, 2014
Nearly every state has faced lawsuits over school funding. But only in Kansas have judges tried to quantify the quality of education.
May 1, 2014
In 1994, Seattle won praise from urbanist thinkers nationwide with its 20-year plan for population and economic growth.
May 1, 2014
The Eastern European city found a way to offer free rides to citizens for a small cost to government. The U.S. has tried it before. Will cities try it again?
April 1, 2014
With kids on the decline in urban areas, cities can make themselves more attractive to young families by building more playgrounds.
March 1, 2014
After years under Michael Bloomberg, known to many as a “downtown mayor,” New Yorkers are looking to their new mayor to refocus resources on communities.
February 1, 2014
It’s a tempting idea, but cities simply don’t have the power to do what most of their residents want them to do.
January 1, 2014
After years of stagnation following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is building itself a new economy.
November 1, 2013
Privatizing parking meters was a disaster for Chicago. So why is Cincinnati doing it?
October 1, 2013
We measure school performance by test scores because it’s easy. But no simplistic set of A-F grades can ever account for all the intangible ways schools nurture their pupils.
September 1, 2013
One minute, states are complaining about the federal government meddling in their business. The next, they're imposing dictatorial mandates on localities.
August 1, 2013
The wealthy Virginia county outside Washington, D.C., has been free of the nasty political environment home to its neighbors – until now. Causing the controversy is a proposed streetcar, which nearly a dozen cities are building.
May 29, 2013
Despite its high murder rate, dysfunctional schools and aging transit, the central area of Chicago is growing faster than any other big city.
April 30, 2013
The laboratories of democracy have reopened after the recession. But they’re not delivering the results that most experts have been conditioned to expect from them.
Political success is never simple. But it seems the new governors who
are making a mark are the ones who've paid their dues in state
February 1, 2010
Recalling 22 years of assessing the ebb and flow of states and localities.
January 1, 2010
The idea of "megaregions" is getting a bit too much mega-hype.
December 1, 2009
Why the double-yellow stripe is making a comeback in downtowns.
November 30, 2009
This fall, Parkview High School, in Lilburn, Georgia, was unable to field a ninth-grade football team. That is no tragedy; many schools have never even...
September 30, 2009
Gregory Bialecki wants something for Massachusetts that no other state has: a comprehensive statewide zoning code. He thinks that's needed to break down the longstanding...
September 16, 2009
We all learned in school about the Battle of New Orleans, the glorious American military victory in the War of 1812 that took place weeks after ...
January 27, 2009
Here's one of the more unusual "State of the State" stories I"ve seen in a while. A couple of weeks ...
August 23, 2007
A short article in the Chicago Sun-Times last week got me thinking again about a local politics issue that's more interesting than it may seem: the rules for zoned residential parking.
August 21, 2007
In a conversation last week with Michael Nutter, who is all but certain to become mayor of Philadelphia in a few months, I was struck by a couple of things: the dramatic return of the crime issue in urban politics right now, and the dilemma an incoming mayor such as Nutter faces in trying to deal with it.
July 1, 2007
Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that 2006 may be something more
than a routine veto year.
What we're seeing is moderate Republicans being picked off by
organized conservative opposition.
February 12, 2007
Here's a interesting new law: In Illinois, from now on, if you change your name and then run for office within three ...
January 31, 2007
Governing Correspondent Rob Gurwitt went to Los Angeles to get a feel for the politics and policies of its mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa. I talked with...
January 4, 2007
I guess I shouldn't be surprised when Adrian Fenty says his first priority as mayor of DC will be fixing ...
California governors have a penchant for reinventing themselves in an
election year. And voters seem to admire the audacity of a chameleon.
November 17, 2006
A belated thought about what happened in Virginia last Tuesday, and what it might mean for other states:
There was a time, not too ...
In New York, it's the governor, the Assembly speaker and the Senate
president who decide all the state's crucial policy questions.
September 1, 2006
A successful transit line means a more intense commercial life around
the stations, and that means higher property values, higher rents and
the invasion of chain stores.
August 24, 2006
Wandering around the NCSL website the other day, I stumbled on some interesting figures on the gender makeup of legislatures. Women comprise about 23 percent of ...
June 29, 2006
Those Supreme Court justices, they're a bunch of teasers, aren't they?
For the past 20 years they've been saying that raw partisan gerrymandering is potentially unconstitutional ...
Middle-aged suburbs with a disproportionate number of houses from the
1950s and '60s are in trouble.
Woodrow Wilson's term as governor of New Jersey had a major impact on
the future of state government in America.
April 27, 2006
So much has been said already about Jane Jacobs in the short time since her death -- or will be said in ...
Supermarkets are slowly returning to the inner city. Some governments
are clearing roadblocks to help build stores.
March 31, 2006
Well, Sunday morning I'll be running around the house grumbling about all the clocks, just like I do twice every year, wondering ...
March 23, 2006
It's been amusing to watch the Minnesota university system and state legislature squabble over what to call the new stadium that will be built on ...
March 1, 2006
The past decade has brought a marked increase in partisan
unpleasantness in legislative bodies almost everywhere in the country.
February 1, 2006
We have a weakness for anointing eager young sons with modest
credentials, solely on the strength of their connection to fathers we
wouldn't take back if they begged us.
February 1, 2006
Does an unconventional coalition in Colorado offer a model for
Democrats around the country?
January 29, 2006
Having written a story for Governing's February issue on coalition politics in Colorado -- and having touted Colorado all year as a state that offers ...
January 1, 2006
Nebraska's single-house legislative body is unlike any that has
existed in any state before or since.
December 15, 2005
I never know what the reaction is going to be to my Assessments column in Governing when it is published each month. Some months there ...
Patronage and hiring violations are facts of life in almost all
November 29, 2005
I ran into Tom Cronin, the political scientist, the other day, and he raised a really interesting question that I couldn't answer. The question was ...
November 1, 2005
After centuries of abuse, gridded streets are finally getting some
October 28, 2005
I find myself pondering a lunchtime talk I heard yesterday by Chris Leinberger, the developer and New Urbanist thinker who's currently involved in recreating downtown ...
October 24, 2005
I haven't looked at any financial statements from Arnold Schwarzenegger or Michael Bloomberg lately, so I don't know just how rich either of them is.&...
October 17, 2005
"ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The author of a new state law that allows felony charges against owners of dangerous dogs was hospitalized over the ...
October 17, 2005
Fifteen years ago or so, around the time legislatures were first passing term limits laws, we ran an article in this magazine pondering what life ...
October 1, 2005
The conventional wisdom about suburbs and sprawl can change
dramatically over time.
September 6, 2005
I've been arguing for years that nobody in national politics really believes in federalism--not as an end in itself. Federalism and devolution are just ideological ...
Seat-Belt mandates are no panacea, no matter how much money is thrown
Chicago's mayor is encouraging citizens to exercise control over seedy
bars in their neighborhoods.
A surprising number of Republicans are joining with liberals to enact
new state minimum wage laws.
June 28, 2005
Maybe it's my Jetson-era upbringing, but I've always had a weakness for the Seattle monorail project. Some of it was just my own contrarianism, I ...
June 14, 2005
Going after NACO for convening in Hawaii may be a bit of a cheap shot, but it's one that local TV news will ...
June 1, 2005
Local zoning laws mandate parking spaces as if empty lots were a
There are three basic elements to a superior urban experience,
declares Author Joel Kotkin: economic power, personal security and
It can be a nuisance changing every clock in your house twice a year.
But Daylight Savings Time is not a subject of public controversy--
except in Indiana.
This is a season of lamentation for believers in the American federal system, or at least for those who believe state governments ought to occupy a position of honor and respect within it. States and their advocates complain that they are being bullied and pushed around by every branch of government in Washington: preempted, mandated, zeroed out, lectured to and generally dissed.
Decades ago, on a long car ride home from college, a friend of mine and I were talking about whether the liberal arts education we were getting had any practical use. He said he thought his might. He was majoring in medieval history, and in the event of a new Dark Age-- post-nuclear chaos or the aftermath of a huge natural catastrophe--he would know exactly what to do.
December 1, 2004
"My fellow citizens, I rise today to speak in opposition to affordable housing, quality day care and the Baptist Church."
I briefly considered saying those words a few weeks ago as I spent a long Saturday afternoon at a County Board meeting in Arlington, Virginia, waiting for the five minutes allotted to me as a citizen speaker on a public issue.
November 1, 2004
Economists have a reputation for being cool and dispassionate, but a few phrases or concepts have the capacity to turn even the meekest of them into hectoring ideologues, exasperated with the inability of others to exercise simple common sense.
November 1, 2004
You and I might not agree on the best American governors of recent years, but we would probably agree on what makes a governor effective. Mostly, it's a matter of having a coherent program and finding ways to get it enacted.
October 1, 2004
El Paso has always been a little bit eccentric. When the state university campus was built there, in the 1920s, the local leaders chose Bhutanese architecture, based on an obscure style used in the Himalayas in medieval times.
July 1, 2004
The Minnesota House and Senate went home for the summer a few weeks ago, having concluded a legislative session that left just about everyone disappointed.
June 1, 2004
There are some who say that direct democracy is the wave of the future in American government. If I may be excused for paraphrasing John F. Kennedy, let them come to Denver.
May 1, 2004
I used to think that, for some reason, the American judicial system was avoiding me. Over more than three decades of adult life, as a citizen of three different jurisdictions, I had never once served on a jury.
April 1, 2004
It's difficult to notice dogs that don't bark, as Sherlock Holmes demonstrated more than a century ago. It's also difficult to notice phones that don't ring.
April 1, 2004
Twenty-five years ago, a mayor of Chicago was defeated for renomination because of an insult rendered by his public transit system. The city was digging out from a blizzard, and there weren't enough trains to carry all the passengers who needed service.
March 1, 2004
Early in the Nixon administration, when supporters of civil rights worried that the new president was about to follow up on the racially divisive rhetoric of his 1968 campaign, Attorney General John Mitchell sought to reassure them with a few simple words: "Don't watch what we say--watch what we do."
January 1, 2004
Fifty-eight years ago, Justice Felix Frankfurter told his brethren to stay out of the business of drawing political maps. "Courts ought not to enter this political thicket," Frankfurter warned in Colegrove v. Green. "The fulfillment of this duty cannot be judicially enforced."
December 1, 2003
1It's a cliche that there are no great Washington novels. I don't know if it's true or not. It may be. The book most often cited as a candidate, "Democracy," by Henry Adams, was written 120 years ago; in recent times, more critics probably have praised it than have read it.
November 1, 2003
There was a small news item in last month's issue of this magazine. The Business of Government section reported on a new online program in Missouri that gathers disease data from 50 labs and hospitals and tells the Health Department almost instantly if something resembling an epidemic is loose in the state.
October 1, 2003
There's something about the subject of public housing that saps the enthusiasm of even the most dutiful students of government. Self- described policy wonks who have little trouble discoursing on the Medicaid dual-eligible problem or the mass transit mode split start to fidget when anybody brings up Section 8 or Hope VI.
September 1, 2003
"Why do I love Paris?" Cole Porter keeps asking, in one of his least clever songs. "Why, oh why, do I love Paris?" Finally he ends the suspense. It's because his sweetie is in the neighborhood.
July 1, 2003
I remember being taught in the fourth grade that one of the few really noble elements of human nature was the willingness to put aside differences in time of crisis. It's no fairy tale, either; we've all seen it dozens of times. A river floods, or a city is devastated by an earthquake or terrorists strike without warning--and all of a sudden there's a feeling of common purpose and a suspension of petty bickering.
June 1, 2003
A few weeks ago, the Vermont Senate discussed a proposal to require that all state judges step down from office upon reaching the age of 110. This may sound like the mootest of moot points, given that no jurist in Vermont--or anywhere in the world, I imagine--has ever lived that long. But it had a purpose.
May 1, 2003
A few weeks ago, the chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority descended 100 feet below ground, unfurled a huge American flag, announced the opening of a tunnel, and began scouring history for superlatives. "This project," he boasted, "rivals the Hoover Dam and the Panama Canal."
April 1, 2003
Somewhere in America, I suppose, there is a public official who believes unreservedly in devolution--believes that power, autonomy and flexibility should reside as far down in the governmental system as practically possible--and is willing to act on the basis of those beliefs, even at the expense of his own political authority.
February 1, 2003
The problem is, it couldn't still be there. Small local bookstores can't make a go of it in most places these days. I wish that weren't true, but it is.
February 1, 2003
Mike Huckabee, the governor of Arkansas, is as amiable a fellow as most governors, and normally spends a good deal of his time traveling around the state and mixing with his constituents.
January 1, 2003
Amnesty and forgiveness are two different things. Amnesty is indiscriminate--the canceling of debt, obligation or penalty not out of a desire for individual justice but out of a belief that there is something to be gained by simply wiping the slate clean.
December 1, 2002
The importance of governors lies not in their being electoral power
brokers or potential presidential candidates but in making policy.
November 1, 2002
"If all who are engaged in the profession of education were willing to state the facts instead of making greater promises than they can possibly fulfill, they would not be in such bad repute with the lay public."
October 1, 2002
Every year, this magazine honors people who have accomplished impressive things in state or local government.
September 1, 2002
You've heard it said, no doubt, that states have been a little timid this year about raising taxes to get themselves out of economic trouble. That's true--at least for those who don't smoke or drink.
August 1, 2002
Citizens and public officials alike aren't very good at evaluating
risk and making intelligent decisions about it.
July 1, 2002
States are the level of government we go to because we don't expect
the others to succeed.
June 1, 2002
Once upon a time in this country, architects did everything they could to sound like romantic poets. Generations of history students have faithfully copied down Daniel Burnham's pompous but powerful admonition to "make no little plans--they have no magic to stir men's blood."
May 1, 2002
Forty years ago, American society looked into the transportation future and found it thrilling. The first U.S. astronaut had orbited the earth. Preparations for a moon landing were underway.
April 1, 2002
How's this for a juicy scandal: A state legislature sets up publicly funded caucuses to assist its majority and minority parties with legislative research and strategy.
March 1, 2002
It isn't the teenagers who are the main obstacle to safer licensing
laws; it's their parents.
February 1, 2002
When people think about Montana, "consensus" isn't the first idea that pops into their heads. "Conflict" would be more like it. The history of Big Sky Country is filled with epic confrontations between farmers and ranchers, miners and copper companies, environmentalists and property owners.
January 1, 2002
Oregon has long had a reputation as a health-conscious place, so you probably won't be surprised to learn that people there don't smoke quite as much as people in the rest of the country.
December 1, 2001
Since crises aren't predictable, we can only hope to have the right
leader at the right moment.
November 1, 2001
Granville Hicks, the literary critic, would have been a hundred years
old a few weeks ago. Hicks died in 1982, and so he isn't exactly a
household name anymore--I didn't know much about him myself until I
ran across a copy of "Small Town," his portrait of the village of
Grafton, New York, written just at the end of World War II. But the
story is worth remembering, both for the unusual life the author led
and for the ideas he emerged with after decades of personal struggle.
October 1, 2001
When I started writing this column, I promised myself I wouldn't use
it as a soapbox for personal grudges or quarrels. It can come off as
bad sportsmanship, and most of the time, it bores the reader. But some
opportunities are just too juicy to pass up.
September 1, 2001
At the intersection of Wilson and Highland streets, a few blocks from
where I live in Arlington, Virginia, there is a big, gaping hole in
the ground. It isn't much to look at, as you might expect. But it's a
hole in the ground with a rich history. If you will indulge me in a
few paragraphs of local nostalgia, I think I can use it to draw some
lessons about the ways of growth, planning and survival these days in
August 1, 2001
Abolishing elected treasurers, auditors and commissioners would
probably do more good than harm.
July 1, 2001
I can't imagine many of you have been to the New Hampshire House of
Representatives. But I can help visualize it for you: Just close your
eyes and think of an old public high school auditorium.
July 1, 2001
For years, Boston's Tom Menino has argued that retail commerce is the
key to revitalizing urban neighborhoods. Other cities have begun to
June 1, 2001
A few years ago, I went for a drive through the winding streets of
Emery Manor, a subdivision of small, Levittown-like rambler houses
built in the Chicago suburbs in the early 1950s. People in the older
neighborhoods nearby said terrible things about Emery Manor when it
was going up: They called it a drab, tasteless collection of identical
tiny boxes, scarcely better than shacks.
May 1, 2001
The 20th century produced a pantheon of brilliant urban thinkers and
planners. Some built, some mostly wrote, some did both. Some did
better than others at translating their ideas into reality. But one
way or another, we are living with the consequences of their vision:
April 1, 2001
Back when Lester Maddox was governor of Georgia, in the late 1960s,
there was a riot at the state prison. Reporters asked him what he
planned to do about the conditions that caused the trouble. Maddox
rejected the entire premise of the question. "There's nothing wrong
with our prison system," he said. "We just don't have a very good
class of prisoners anymore."
March 1, 2001
A few minutes into the movie "Traffic," in a Washington, D.C.,
cocktail party scene, an amiable red-haired man offers some wisdom
about the nation's drug problem: "You'll never solve this on the
February 1, 2001
We Americans profess not to like nepotism very much, but when we see
it on a grand enough scale, we're intrigued. We're not bothered by a
presidential election in which both of the candidates owe every
political triumph in life to the exploits of their fathers. We can get
used to the idea of the president's brother as attorney general, or
the president's wife as chief domestic policy adviser.
January 1, 2001
If you live in Louisville, this is the time of year when it hurts your pride a little bit just to pick up the sports page. The cities that are your natural rivals--cities that used to rank right alongside you in size, image and self-confidence--are winning priceless national publicity on the professional football field.
December 1, 2000
The mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson, is talking about an
experiment he launched earlier this year. Once a week, his department
heads and senior managers are required to appear at an open meeting
and answer questions from ordinary voters. "I learned that from the
Sandinistas," he says.
November 1, 2000
One afternoon in the fall of 1995, John McDonough tells us in his new book, "Experiencing Politics," he was sitting in his seat on the floor of the Massachusetts House of Representatives as the chamber prepared to vote on a huge tax break for Raytheon, the locally based defense contractor.
October 1, 2000
If there's any group of American citizens you wouldn't expect to find at the cutting edge of political reform, it's the lobster fishermen along the coast of Maine. Not only do they have a national reputation for being cranky loners--they readily accept it.
August 1, 2000
In the mid-1980s, when metropolitan Portland first began planning a light-rail line, the downtown merchants in suburban Gresham, Oregon, discussed the issue and reached a quick consensus: They didn't want it.
August 1, 2000
Philosophy students occasionally wile away idle moments by arguing over what constitutes a truly victimless crime. It's a more complicated issue than one might suppose.
July 1, 2000
On a wall at my neighborhood community house, in Arlington County, Virginia, there are two gold plaques with 43 names on them.
July 1, 2000
Millions will be spent in this year's battle for the Wisconsin
legislature. But the candidates won't know where most of the money is
coming from. They'll be bystanders in their own campaigns.
July 1, 2000
On a wall at my neighborhood community house, in Arlington County, Virginia, there are two gold plaques with 43 names on them. They are the names of all the people who have served as president of the Lyon Village Citizens Association since 1926, the year the neighborhood was created.
June 1, 2000
We've told this story in Governing before, but it makes the point so well that I hope you'll indulge my telling it one more time:
There's a common pesticide called Atrazine that's used by farmers in many of the grain fields of the Midwest.
May 1, 2000
On the far west side of Detroit, between the murky River Rouge and the suburb of Dearborn, sits a little neighborhood called Copper Canyon. It's a pleasant community of modest brick bungalows, manicured lawns and peaceful streets. It's also one of the few integrated neighborhoods remaining in the city.
April 1, 2000
Most of the time, it doesn't bother me when people talk about political issues in moral language. In fact, it bothers me when they don't.
March 1, 2000
There was a time, not too long ago, when almost everyone in Seattle remembered Caspar Sharples. He was a revered physician and educator during the early years of this century, the founder of two hospitals and a guiding force behind development of the city's school system.
March 1, 2000
All things being equal, Bob Keenan is a man who prefers to have government stay out of the way and let private enterprise tackle the tough societal jobs.
February 1, 2000
I'm not a lawyer, so I've never aspired to being a judge. But I sometimes indulge in fantasies about the sort of judge I would be, if given the chance. I'd be a wonderful judge--patient, fair-minded, even-tempered, witty, self-deprecating--but above all, restrained.
January 1, 2000
There are two significant things to say right off the bat about Florida's new statewide anti-poverty program.