Potomac Chronicle

Are States Still 'Labs of Democracy'?

Writing recently in The New York Times, Duke University business professor Aaron Chatterji painted a discouraging picture of the states’ current status as “laboratories of democracy.” He argued that “just when we need their innovative energies, the states are looking less and less likely” to be generating new ideas for federal policy. Has the flame of state creativity somehow gone out?

That would be a tough case to make to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who is proposing a massive remake of federally funded job training, social welfare and health programs. Snyder has set out a “river of opportunity” plan that he hopes will make Michigan first in the nation in training for skilled trades, lift all third-graders to proficiency in reading and launch what he calls “Medicaid expansion done right.” To accomplish his aim, Snyder has created a new department designed to weave together an assortment of federal grant programs and to combine state programs dealing with health, welfare and families. READ MORE

The ‘CEO-Mayors’ Who Care About Cities Instead of Profits

One of the most compelling urban tales I’ve encountered in recent years is about Dan Gilbert, the entrepreneur who decided five years ago to move his company and all its employees from the Detroit suburbs into downtown as the city was sliding into bankruptcy. A risk-taker in business, he was willing to make one huge bet on a historic urban revival.

Gilbert’s company is Rock Ventures, better known for one of its subsidiaries, Quicken Loans. It has been enormously successful, to the point where Gilbert’s net worth has doubled in just the past year to almost $4 billion, according to Forbes. Gilbert is reported to have purchased as many as 40 buildings in the downtown area and moved more than 12,000 of his employees into them while recruiting other companies to fill more. READ MORE

Is Federalism Breaking Down?

What’s the most important issue that the 2016 presidential candidates won’t be talking about? A very good bet is the train wreck facing federal-state-local finances. There are lots of mega-issues on the table -- international crises, immigration and health reform battles, and economic growth -- but whoever wins won’t be able to duck the big intergovernmental issues lurking down the tracks.

The good news is that state and local governments have recovered remarkably well from the gruesome economic collapse in 2008. Tax revenues in most states have recovered to pre-recession levels. READ MORE

Washington’s Media Myopia

More than two years ago, I wrote what was admittedly a very grumpy column bemoaning what had happened to the Washington press corps. Specifically, I railed on about how the White House Correspondents’ annual dinner had changed, and what that said about both the capital and the media that supposedly covered it.

“The dinner has evolved (or devolved) into a self-important, narcissistic gathering of corporate chieftains, big-name lobbyists, Hollywood celebrities, reality TV stars and a different breed of journalists -- more from TV, especially cable TV, and glamour magazines like Vanity Fair than The New York Times,” I wrote. “A few old-time journalists grouse about the change, but for the most part, the coverage, replete with photos of women in fancy dress and men in tuxedos, is all breathless and gushy.” READ MORE

The Police Problem Hiding behind the Humvee

In the days after the tragic shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., news programs ran video after video showing local police around the country armed with machine guns and driving heavily armored vehicles. The New York Times described a desert-khaki-painted MRAP -- for mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle -- sitting next to a snowplow in the municipal garage of Neenah, Wis. And a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that the University of Central Florida in Orlando owns a grenade launcher, retooled to fire tear-gas canisters.

MORE: Read the rest of the December issue. READ MORE