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Rob Gurwitt  |  Former Correspondent
robg@valley.net  |   |  Google+

Rob Gurwitt is a GOVERNING contributor.

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October 1, 2013

The Demise of the Public Hearing

Technology is changing the way citizens interact with local government.
April 30, 2013

How Generation X is Shaping Government

Overshadowed by baby boomers on one side and millennials on the other, it’s Generation X that’s actually shaping the way government and citizens interact.
August 31, 2012

Baby Boomers’ Impact on Elections

They hold tremendous influence -- more than half the voting-age population is now over 45 -- but baby boomers and their role at the polls are a bit hard to pin down.
June 1, 2010

Divorce, Arkansas-Style

Governor Mike Beebe has split up his state's huge health and social services agency after a painful two-year experiment with consolidation.
June 1, 2010

Eminent Reluctance

When Virginia reacted to the Supreme Court's eminent-domain decision, no one had a trickier balancing act than Governor Tim Kaine.
June 1, 2010

A Rift Runs Through It

Nine years ago, voters in Dallas opted to remake the riparian no- man's-land in the center of the city. Now its leaders are fighting over what they meant.
June 1, 2010

Turnpike Tempest

Governor Ed Rendell wants to lease out the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Things could get ugly along the way.
June 1, 2010

Blunt Instrument

Nobody questions Ed Blakely's credentials as an urban thinker. New Orleans just wants him to think before he talks.
December 31, 2009

Bleak Outlook for State Finances

The coming year will be excruciating for state budget-makers not just because revenues continue to decline and new rounds of budget cutting are necessary, but...
November 30, 2009

How Much Reform Can Providence Handle?

The Wu Tang Scram of tofu, bok choy, Napa cabbage and cashews served at Julian's, a restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, might not seem like...
August 31, 2009

How Bureaucracy and Bickering Brought Down Niagara Falls

Down an overgrown path along the bluffs above the Niagara River gorge, a couple of miles downstream from the breathtaking cataract that gives Niagara Falls,...
August 28, 2009

The Two Sides to Niagara Falls

Read more about Niagara Falls in "Decline and Falls" in the September 2009 issue of GOVERNING.
July 6, 2009

The Sisterhood of Auditors

When she took over as Los Angeles controller in 2001, the most trenchant piece of counsel that Laura Chick received from her predecessor, Rick Tuttle, was...
June 30, 2009

Laura Chick Is Watching

It took Laura Chick barely a month in Sacramento to start making waves. As California's new inspector general charged with overseeing how the state spends...
April 30, 2009

Bordeaux vs. Budweiser

There are people in Johnsburg, New York, who still won't set foot in the Tannery Pond Community Center, even though it was built in part...
December 31, 2008

Death and Life in the Pressroom

If you want to know what the dying days of a journalistic era look like, mount the marble steps to the fourth floor of Connecticut's...
December 31, 2008

Joining Forces

One of the more interesting experiments in maintaining newspapers' traditional capacity to cover state government was announced in November by the St. Petersburg Times and...
December 31, 2008

Postcards from the Edge

Then and Now As the largest newspaper in Connecticut and the paper of record for the state's capital city, the Hartford Courant has long held...
November 30, 2008

Welcome Mat

On a sunny fall afternoon, Rafael Ramos pulls up in front of a modest house in a working-class neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut. He hops...
September 30, 2008

Breakdown

When a public system issues a cry for help, it often does so in horrific ways. Sure, there are stacks of polite studies and the...
September 5, 2008

A Taste of the Country

It is more than likely that you've never heard of Calvin Beale, a rural demographer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture who died of colon cancer on Monday, at the age of 85. He was a quiet, courtly bureaucrat in a city where those qualities tend to go unremarked.
June 30, 2008

Atlanta and the Urban Future

There is going to be a hard-fought campaign for mayor of Atlanta next year, and to understand it better, you might pay a visit to...
April 30, 2008

Eds, Meds and Urban Revival

Look out from an upper-floor window of the old Sears building on the edge of downtown Birmingham, Alabama, and you can begin to appreciate the...
November 1, 2007

Deals and Ideals

Forest City Enterprises makes communities pay big money for many projects it builds. But it builds some good ones.
November 1, 2007

Moving Outside

John Kitzhaber has been to the top in politics. He thinks he may be able to achieve more working from the bottom up.
September 1, 2007

Brinkshman

As Chicago's transit chief, Ron Huberman is playing some dangerous games. He may not have much choice
July 31, 2007

Bratton's Brigade

One May night, two police officers bicycle-patrolling their beat in a violence-prone neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island, spotted a car parked near a recreation center....
July 1, 2007

Can Dallas Govern Itself?

Over the past decade, political chaos and bureaucratic mismanagement turned Big D into a Big Mess. It's struggling to recover.
July 1, 2007

Power Reclaimed

California's term-limit law was turning Assembly speakers into ciphers--until Fabian Nunez came along.
April 1, 2007

Cookie-Jar Clampdown

Tougher lobby laws are being discussed all over the country. A few states have enacted them. Whether they will work remains to be seen.
April 1, 2007

Drug Doubter

Vermont prosecutor Robert Sand says what he thinks about marijuana. He's making people uncomfortable.
February 1, 2007

Rescue Mission

Florida's chaotic social service agency may be ungovernable. But Bob Butterworth is giving it a shot.
January 31, 2007

Mayor in the Middle

During the first week of December 2006, about a dozen Los Angeles hotel workers set up a week-long fast outside the Westin LAX hotel, not far...
December 1, 2006

Blackout

Big-city newspapers aren't telling citizens the things they need to know.
December 1, 2006

Restoration Governor

It's been 16 years since a Democrat ruled Massachusetts. That won't make Deval Patrick's job any easier.
November 1, 2006

Urban Outfitter

Helping cities thrive, not just survive.
October 1, 2006

Turnabout Tale

After losing a GOP primary bid for lieutenant governor, Nebraska state auditor Kate Witek is seeking reelection--as a Democrat.

Extended Contract

The hot conservative issues of the 1990s are migrating to state ballots.
September 1, 2006

Charter Changeover

After Katrina wiped out one of the worst school systems in the country, New Orleans has seized the chance to redesign its whole approach to public education.
June 1, 2006

Restless in Des Moines

Sensing trouble in the fall, Iowa's Senate Republicans have turned to Mary Lundby to bail them out.
May 1, 2006

Battered School Boards

Reformers dismiss them. Experts call them obsolete. But we can't give up on school boards, because they're needed.
April 1, 2006

Ageless Young Turk

S. David Freeman has been shaking up public agencies for half a century. He doesn't see any reason to stop.
February 1, 2006

Mellowed MilitantMellowed Militant

Ron Dellums, the angry Berkeley radical of the 1960s, is making a comeback. But he doesn't sound so angry anymore.
September 1, 2005

Blunt Instrument

Lillian Koller likes to cut through red tape--even if that means bending a few rules of courtesy.
August 1, 2005

How Dense Can You Get?

Staten Island is the epicenter of the national debate over balancing the need for affordable housing with the desire to control development.
August 1, 2005

Motor Trouble

Joel Silverman was asked to reform his state's vehicle license management. Not everyone wanted it reformed.
June 1, 2005

Local Avenger

Todd Smith has declared war against the red tape his state imposes on county government.
June 1, 2005

Wilder's Last Crusade

Virginia's ex-governor has made a career out of accomplishing the unexpected. He is betting he can do it one more time as mayor of a proud but messed-up city.
May 1, 2005

Tabor Repairman

What's more surprising than Andrew Romanoff becoming Colorado's House speaker? His revenue-reform success.
April 1, 2005

Pride of Place

Fred Kent has spent three decades developing a common-sense approach to streets, buildings and human sociability.
February 1, 2005

Easy Enforcer

Terry Tamminen brings a Southern California mellowness to the un- mellow job of reorganizing state government.
January 1, 2005

Burned By Success

An ingenious development director worked miracles in a small Georgia town. That didn't make the whole town happy.
December 1, 2004

Heir to Power

The speakership of the Massachusetts House has long been a virtual license for one-man rule. Under Sal DiMasi, it may evolve into something a little less autocratic.
December 1, 2004

A Revolting Development

Even as state revenues rebound, a property tax rebellion is brewing.
October 1, 2004

The Last One-Term Statehouse

If Virginia governors could serve two terms, they'd get a lot more done. But would the state be better off?
October 1, 2004

Speaking Up

For years, Philadelphia Councilman Brian O'Neill sat quietly and minded his own business. Then he was handed some power.
August 1, 2004

Making New Friends

Ray Allen didn't set out to become an ally of liberal activists. He just happened to agree with them on a few things.
June 1, 2004

Sharp Tongue

Florida legislator Susan Bucher is a woman of strong opinions. She's willing to express them anywhere, anytime.
April 1, 2004

How to Win Friends and Repair a City

Atlanta needs all the help it can get. Luckily, it has a mayor who knows where to get it.
April 1, 2004

Mission Improbable

Would you hire a county prosecutor to run a hospital network? If you knew Mike Duggan, you might.
March 1, 2004

Edge-Ucation

What compels communities to build schools in the middle of nowhere?
February 1, 2004

Fast Track

Marco Lopez does things any ambitious young politician might do--he just does them younger and better.
December 1, 2003

Sleeper Speaker

The November elections were very good to New York City's Gifford Miller, who has come a long way in a short time.
October 1, 2003

The Lone Comptroller

Fellow Republicans in Texas don't think Carole Keeton Strayhorn is much of a team player. That doesn't bother her a lot.
October 1, 2003

Connecting The Suburban Dots

Hub-and-spoke transit systems reflect old commuting patterns. A few metro areas are planning suburb-to-suburb rail lines.
August 1, 2003

The Big Easy's Makeover Mayor

Ray Nagin is taking a businesslike approach to changing New Orleans' image. But much also depends on how well he masters the art of politics.
August 1, 2003

Gridlock Guru

Want to drive in Manhattan at rush hour? You'll have to pay for it if Sam Schwartz gets his way.
June 1, 2003

Into The Haze

It's risky for a legislator from rural California to pick a fight with agriculture. Dean Florez felt he had no choice.
April 1, 2003

Are City Councils A Relic of The Past?

One of America's oldest political institutions isn't adapting very well to 21st-century urban life.
April 1, 2003

Man of Precision

Estimating revenue is a task that trips up many state finance officials. West Virginia's Mark Muchow gets the numbers right every time.
February 28, 2003

The Ordeal of David Paterson

It seemed, at the time, like an auspicious moment. On a slushy winter's day at the New York State Capitol, David Paterson entered the Assembly...
February 28, 2003

Playing for Maps

As the legislature tangles with Governor Paterson's budget, it will be keeping a close eye on a crucial event 20 months away. This is the 2010 election,...
February 1, 2003

Call of The Wild

Alaska's Frank Murkowski left the U.S. Senate to take over a state that's going broke. Why would he do that?
January 1, 2003

New Day Under The Dome

Republicans control more legislatures this year than they have in decades. They didn't pick the easiest time to take over.
December 1, 2002

David Bronner: High-Roller

When the news broke this fall that Alabama's public employee pension fund intended to take a controlling interest in US Airways, financial trend-watchers seemed puzzled.
October 1, 2002

Southern Discomfort

When they come to power in the South, Republicans often find a new enemy: each other.
October 1, 2002

Ray Nagin: Creole Crackdown

Ever since the July day when Mayor Ray Nagin announced that 84 arrest warrants had been issued in a massive campaign against public corruption, New Orleans has been a changed city.
August 1, 2002

Larry Salci: Transforming Transit

Sometimes in public life, the best politician for the job may not be a politician. That, at least, is the gamble that St. Louis-area public transit is taking with Larry Salci.
July 1, 2002

Betting on the Bulldozer

If Philadelphia can just clear away the rubble of its abandoned buildings, whole new neighborhoods might spring up. But it will cost a fortune, and there's no guarantee it will work.
June 1, 2002

Mee Moua: Breaking In

No one could accuse Mee Moua of lacking political courage. This spring, just weeks after the Democrat won a special election to the Minnesota Senate, she jumped feet-first into an emotional debate over whether the state ought to mandate reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.
April 1, 2002

Mysteries of Urban Momentum

Thirty years ago, Minneapolis and St. Paul were hot. Now they're not. Local leaders are trying to figure out why.
April 1, 2002

George Zoffinger: Shaking the Stadium

George Zoffinger has never had much trouble telling people what he thinks. "Sometimes," says a friend and colleague, "we cringe."
February 1, 2002

John McKay: The Tax Man Cometh

An election year is a notoriously awkward time to push contentious legislation. Why irritate powerful special interests--let alone some portion of the electorate--when your colleagues want everything to be as calm as possible?
December 1, 2001

The Massachusetts Mess

Politics has always been rough in the Bay State. These days, though, meanness sometimes seems like an end in itself.
December 1, 2001

Shirley Franklin: Old Hand, Fresh Appeal

For someone who grew up in Philadelphia, Shirley Franklin has the perfect Atlanta pedigree. That may explain why she managed a few weeks ago to win the city's mayoralty without a runoff, and will take office next month as Atlanta's first female chief executive.
November 1, 2001

Thomas M. Menino: Main Street Maestro

Winning with commerce
November 1, 2001

Kathleen Sebelius: Believer in Balance

Taking consumers seriously
October 1, 2001

Gerald Gordon: Without Gimmicks

Local economic development efforts operate according to two broad assumptions. If you're going to have a separate development arm, the thinking goes, it should be a public-private partnership. And if it's going to compete successfully, it has to have a bundle of direct incentives--especially tax write-offs--to throw at businesses.
September 1, 2001

Black, White and Blurred

Race is still an issue in big-city politics. It's just not THE issue anymore.
August 1, 2001

Webs of Authority

Perhaps because their experience with online government is so new, local governments remain unsure of how to make room for it within their organizations. In many--probably in most--it remains the domain of information technology staff. But this, says Byron West, Denver's director of television and Internet services, "is like trying to steer the ship from the engine room."
August 1, 2001

Richard Howorth: Bibliocrat

In 1979, Richard Howorth moved back to Oxford, Mississippi, to open a bookstore. He had more than simple commerce in mind. Oxford was home to the University of Mississippi and William Faulkner's native turf, yet it remained a cultural backwater, remembered around the country, if at all, as the site of anti-desegregation riots in the early 1960s. Howorth, who'd grown up in Oxford, saw his store as a place of culture, literacy and broad-mindedness that could help the town nurture those values in itself.
June 1, 2001

Larry Bartels: Playing Solomon

For a guy who doesn't vote, Larry Bartels sure knows how to get himself in a political tangle. True, he never intended to thrust himself into the contentious debate over racial fairness in public office. And he certainly didn't plan to put himself at the center of the first major redistricting case of the decade.
May 1, 2001

Good Old Boy, Circa 2001

Mississippi's House speaker found he couldn't run the place the old- fashioned way. So he invented a better way.
April 1, 2001

John Chichester: Governor's Nemsis

Three decades ago, as a young man in his early 30s, John H. Chichester left Virginia's Democratic Party because he thought it had become too friendly to big government. Fifteen years ago, at the mid-point of the Reagan years in Washington, he ran for lieutenant governor as a Reagan supporter and spokesman for his party's conservative wing.
March 1, 2001

The Riskiest Business

Under attack by the feds, the insurance companies they regulate and the consumers they're supposed to protect, state insurance commissioners are running out of friends.
February 1, 2001

Mel Martinez: Up from Orlando

Last winter, when Elian Gonzalez went to visit Walt Disney World in Orange County, Florida, county workers got a chance to see what a media pile-on looks like. Turns out, it was just a preview.
January 1, 2001

Land Grab

How the eminent domain bulldozer created a private-property backlash.
December 1, 2000

Judy Martz: Cautious Ambition

Judy Martz, soon to become Montana's first woman governor, likes to wear a turtle pin on her blouse. It's a symbol, she says, of her motto: "Behold the turtle. He only goes forward when his neck's stuck out." But as Martz might now be the first to tell you, sometimes not sticking your neck out gets you further.
October 1, 2000

Not-So-Smart Growth

One way for communities to expand is to grab any piece of unattached territory nearby. But compulsive annexation carries a high price.
October 1, 2000

Bill Sizemore: Initiative King

Two years ago, Bill Sizemore got drubbed in Oregon's gubernatorial election. Running as a Republican against the incumbent Democrat, John Kitzhaber, he didn't even attract a third of the vote.
September 1, 2000

Rudderless in Hartford

Connecticut's capital city seemed on the verge of a comeback, but the recovery has largely stalled. The problem may be the structure of its government.
August 1, 2000

Tom Coleman: Safe Driver

Almost half a century ago, after he'd gotten home from the Korean War, Tom Coleman found himself selling chemical fertilizer to the farmers of south Georgia.
July 1, 2000

The Lonely Leap

So far, Kansas is the only state to have outsourced child welfare on a large scale. It is still grappling with the consequences.
July 1, 2000

Jim Brulte: Doing It All

Midway through his first year in the California Assembly, Jim Brulte decided the place wasn't for him. It was 1991.
May 1, 2000

Upside Down on Long Island

Democrats won a big victory in Nassau County after years of defeat. Now they have to find a way to keep the county from going broke.
April 1, 2000

Michael Porter: Cluster Power

At first glance, Michael Porter's key insight, that the ability to compete is the key to business success, doesn't sound all that relevant to state and local policy.
March 1, 2000

Yesterday's Legislature

In the old days, legislatures were secretive and autocratic. In Albany, the old days continue.
January 1, 2000

Mayor Brown & Mr. Bobb

Can a strong mayor and a strong manager find happiness together in a city with big problems? So far, yes.