TABLE of CONTENTS April 2016

Cover Story

Beyond North Carolina's LGBT Battle: States' War on Cities

BY Alan Greenblatt

North Carolina's fight over LGBT protections is part of a larger recent shift in political dynamics: States are thwarting local laws any chance they get -- while simultaneously complaining about federal intrusion on their own.

FEATURES

In Baltimore Mayor’s Race, Sheila Dixon Seeks Forgiveness and a Second Chance

The former mayor, convicted of corruption, is trying to win back voters’ trust. The odds are she will. BY J.B. Wogan

Synthetic Drugs: An Emerging, Evolving Threat

While states are focused on the opioid epidemic, they may not be paying enough attention to the lab-created drugs that are hard to control. BY John Buntin

Massachusetts’ Unlikely Transit Team

The state’s secretary of transportation, Stephanie Pollack, is a liberal in a conservative administration and an advocate in an administrative post. But she’s making it work. BY Daniel C. Vock

Governments Struggle to Root Out Fake Minority Contractors

States and cities want to support women- and minority-owned businesses. But they often don’t know who they’re really paying. BY Mattie Quinn

OBSERVER

Public Safety & Justice

Window for Criminal Justice Reform Closing in Congress

It’s one of the few issues with bipartisan support in Washington. But for several reasons, the chances for change this year are dwindling. BY Alan Greenblatt
Finance

Chicago’s Shockingly Bad Finances

You’ve probably read about the Windy City’s money problems. But chances are they're worse than you thought, and a recent ruling didn't help. BY Liz Farmer
Management & Labor

Public Unions Claim Victory in Supreme Court's 4-4 Tie

The ruling lets unions keep collecting fees from nonunion members -- for now. The case is likely to be retried. BY Mike Maciag
Infrastructure & Environment

D.C. Commuters Could Go Airborne

The city may build an aerial gondola to shuttle people into and out of its oldest neighborhood. BY Daniel C. Vock

POLITICS + POLICY

Assessments

The Shaky Edifice of Federal Power

As states act more like independent sovereigns, Washington has itself to blame. BY Alan Ehrenhalt
Potomac Chronicle

College Debt and the People Presidential Candidates Have to Win Over Most

Presidential contenders have plans for making college more affordable. But it's an issue not easily solved from the Oval Office. BY Donald F. Kettl
Politics

What Well-Liked Governors Have in Common

Many of the governors with the highest approval ratings were elected on the other party’s turf. BY Alan Greenblatt
Public Safety & Justice

Making a Drug More Available to Save Addicts' Lives

There's a growing movement to make the drug that can reverse overdoses widely available at pharmacies, police departments and schools. BY Mattie Quinn
Infrastructure & Environment

Oregon's Anti-Coal Law Could Have Far-Reaching Effects

In a decision that could spell the end for coal in the West, Oregon became the first state in the nation to pass legislation to completely do away with the dirty energy source. BY Elizabeth Daigneau
Economic Engines

From 'Her' to 'Mr. Robot': Movies and TV Make Public Transit Hip

Riding the subway is a sign of a good life -- according to pop culture, anyway. BY Alex Marshall
Urban Notebook

In Defense of the Urban Freeway

There's a push to tear them down. But they're one of the biggest things driving the urban renaissance. BY William Fulton

PROBLEM SOLVER

Education

'Fragmented' School Districts: A Complicated Issue

In much of the country, school districts survive even when they have few students. In an era of budget cutbacks, these districts are prime targets for consolidation. BY Mike Maciag
Smart Management

States Start Making Colleges Work for Funding

At least 20 states are developing performance-based systems for funding higher education. The impact varies widely from state to state. BY Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene
Better Government

An Older, Poorer America Is Coming

As more aging Americans slip into poverty, governments need to be ready. BY Mark Funkhouser
Tech Talk

CIOs Fear Mass Exodus of Government IT Workers

States are not only anticipating a wave of retirements but also trouble filling the vacancies. How are they preparing? BY Tod Newcombe
Public Money

The Great Recession's Lessons on Rainy Day Funds

At least one state is using the experience to find a new way to prepare for the next recession. BY Justin Marlowe
Urban

With NYC's Wi-Fi Kiosks, People Can Practically Go Phoneless

The sleek new stations throughout the city let users make 911 calls and search the web -- all for free. BY David Kidd