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J. Brian Charles  |  Staff Writer

Email : jbcharles@governing.com Twitter : @JBrianCharles

As Governing’s urban policy writer, Brian covers a broad array of issues affecting the nation’s cities. Before joining Governing, Brian was an opinion editor with The Hill newspaper, where he focused on publishing op-eds on criminal justice, race and education. He also written extensively on police reform and public health.  

Finance

Leaning on the Land

More and more communities are considering reviving an old tax idea that’s been tried in only a few places.

September 1, 2019
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Infrastructure & Environment

Coastal Cities Rethink Zoning Regulations in Fight Against Climate Change

From Boston to Miami, coastal cities are changing where and how developers can build in order to protect homes and property from future flooding.

June 27, 2019
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Urban

Will Up-Zoning Make Housing More Affordable?

Making neighborhoods denser is an idea with growing appeal. The question is whether it works.

July 2, 2019
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Education

Absenteeism Costs Schools Money. A Simple Change Can Reduce It.

It involves tweaking the tone and the look of letters home to parents.

June 6, 2019
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Public Safety & Justice

Right to an Attorney? Most Tenants Face Landlords Without One.

But a handful of cities are starting to provide counsel in civil court.

June 10, 2019
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Urban

Cities Are Hiring a New Kind of CEO

Chicago's new mayor is the latest to carve out a position for a chief equity officer who focuses on racial and economic diversity and discrimination.

May 30, 2019
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Infrastructure & Environment

Human Composting, Liquid Cremation: States Search for Greener Funeral Options

Washington just became the first U.S. state to sanction "human composting," the latest eco-friendly alternative to traditional burial and cremation.

May 22, 2019
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Management & Labor

After Second Ransomware Attack in 14 Months, Baltimore Refuses to Pay

The city is the latest government to be targeted by hackers and forced to decide whether to pay to restore vital public services.

May 8, 2019
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Health & Human Services

Denver Voters Deny Homeless the 'Right to Survive.' Here's What That Means.

Initiative 300, a first-of-its-kind ballot measure that even divided advocates for the homeless, failed on Tuesday by an overwhelming margin.

May 7, 2019
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Health & Human Services

Mold, Rats and No Hot Water: Will Federal Oversight Improve Public Housing in New York?

The city keeps getting slapped for the poor condition of its public housing. Nothing has changed so far.

April 26, 2019
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Finance

States, Cities Add Sweeteners to Attract 'Opportunity Zone' Investors

With 8,700 low-income communities competing for private investment, some places are topping on the incentives to make themselves stand out.

April 17, 2019
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Education

How Charter Schools Lost Democrats' Support

The biggest school reform movement in the past decade is taking some hits.

April 1, 2019
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Public Safety & Justice

NYPD's Big Artificial-Intelligence Reveal

The nation’s largest police force has developed a first-of-its-kind algorithm to track crimes across the city and identify patterns. Privacy advocates worry it will reinforce existing racial biases.

March 26, 2019
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Finance

Mortgage No More: Baby Boomers Who Rent Are On the Rise

In the past decade, there was a 43 percent increase in renters over the age of 60. The trend brings with it new challenges -- and benefits -- for cities.

March 18, 2019
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Health & Human Services

Will Statewide Rent Control Catch On Beyond Oregon?

It's the first in the nation to pass a rent control law that covers tenants across an entire state.

March 4, 2019
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Urban

Amazon HQ2 Was an 'Unfortunate Distraction' From 'Needy Communities'

The online retail giant's plans in New York attracted bad PR for a new federal program aimed at helping economically distressed areas like Long Island City.

February 20, 2019
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Urban

Affordable Housing Crisis Reaches a Tipping Point in Charlotte, N.C.

After experiencing explosive growth in recent years, the city is tripling its spending to address the shortage of lower-income units.

February 15, 2019
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Public Safety & Justice

The Criminal Justice Reforms Trump Didn't Mention in His State of the Union

The president touted a bipartisan bill he signed to reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. But he's been quiet about his support for a new juvenile justice law that could impact more people.

February 7, 2019
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Urban

As Airbnb Battles Cities Trying to Regulate It, One State Joins the Fight

A new law in Massachusetts aims to curb short-term rentals, which critics say are limiting the affordable housing stock and turning residential property into unregulated hotels.

February 1, 2019
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Urban

Distressed Cities Find Hope in Federal 'Opportunity Zones'

A new program may be a boon to struggling cities -- if it targets the right ones.

February 1, 2019
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Public Safety & Justice

How Police and Anti-Crime Measures Reinforce Segregation

Cities' efforts to get tough on crime can make it harder for low-income residents to find good jobs and housing.

January 23, 2019
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Health & Human Services

How Housing Policies Keep White Neighborhoods So White (and Black Neighborhoods So Black)

Decades of local zoning regulations and land-use policies have kept racial segregation firmly rooted in place.

January 23, 2019
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Education

Still Separate After All These Years: How Schools Fuel White Flight

Segregated schools aren’t just the products of segregated neighborhoods. In many cases, predominantly white schools are driving the racial divide.

January 23, 2019
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Public Safety & Justice

How States and Cities Reinforce Racial Segregation in America

The black-white divide is still a major problem. Government policies are partially to blame.

January 23, 2019
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Urban

During Shutdown, Mayors Show What Bipartisanship Looks Like

The U.S. Conference of Mayors gathered in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to discuss its agenda and tout its members' ability to work across party lines -- even on immigration.

January 23, 2019
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Health & Human Services

Can California and NYC Afford Their Near-Universal Health-Care Plans?

Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Bill de Blasio initiated ambitious plans this week to cover drastically more residents, including undocumented immigrants who are not currently eligible for subsidized insurance.

January 10, 2019
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Management & Labor

No More Muzak: Alaska's Hold Music Now Features Local Bands

Goodbye, elevator music!

December 21, 2018
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Urban

To Fight Blight, One City Turned to Courts

In less than four years, St. Petersburg, Fla., has reduced the number of vacant homes by more than 75 percent.

December 21, 2018
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Public Safety & Justice

A Growing Response to School Shootings: Panic Buttons -- on Phones

Washington, D.C., is the latest school district to adopt the technology in an effort to improve emergency response times.

December 13, 2018
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Public Safety & Justice

Who Needs the State? New York City Goes Rogue to Reform Bail

While state lawmakers have been locked in a stalemate on the issue, the city has implemented new rules and programs that have helped it achieve the lowest incarceration rate of any big U.S. city.

November 30, 2018
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Health & Human Services

Can Paying for the Poor to Have Lawyers Actually Save a City Money?

Lawyers in Philadelphia think so. They want the city, which is suffering from an eviction crisis, to spend more on helping people fight landlords in court.

November 19, 2018
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Finance

Why Losing Out on Amazon HQ2 Isn't So Bad for Cities

A new study points to evidence that luring a large corporation isn’t the best way to spur job growth.

November 15, 2018
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Education

Set Up to Fail? How High Schools Aren't Preparing Kids for College

Small schools and high poverty schools are putting their students at the biggest disadvantage, according to a new report.

November 15, 2018
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Politics & Elections

No More Clock Changes? California Chooses Year-Round Daylight Saving Time

But the voter-approved measure still faces several major hurdles.

November 7, 2018
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Politics & Elections

Ten Commandments Amendment Cruises to Victory in Alabama

The constitutional amendment, allowing religious monuments in government buildings, will almost surely wind up in court.

November 7, 2018
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Politics & Elections

On Felons' Rights, 2 States Take 2 Different Directions

Florida voters opted to automatically restore voting rights to former felons, affecting some 1.4 million residents. In Louisiana, voters instituted a five-year waiting period for felons to seek political office.

November 7, 2018
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Urban

Despite Sky-High Rents, California Voters Reject Rent Control

It was supported by many city and county officials but opposed by Gavin Newsom, the newly elected Democratic governor.

November 7, 2018
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Education

South Carolina Voters Refuse to Give Up Their Power to Elect School Superintendents

Voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have made the position appointed.

November 7, 2018
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Education

For College Towns, Having a World-Famous University Is a Mixed Blessing

Just ask New Haven, the home of Yale.

October 10, 2018
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Politics & Elections

Looming Teachers Strike Brings Political Risk to 2020 Hopeful

If Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti intervenes in the labor dispute, political observers say practically every potential outcome could hurt his future.

August 31, 2018
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Education

How Education Reform Taught Teachers to Cheat

In school districts across the country, being held accountable for grades and graduation rates has motivated educators to tamper with results. Some places are starting to crack down on this temptation.

September 6, 2018
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Politics & Elections

Florida Republicans' Recipe for Passing Controversial Ballot Measures: Just Add More

What do offshore drilling and vaping have to do with each other? Nothing, except that they appear together on one ballot question in Florida, which appears to be ground zero this year for legal battles over ballot language.

August 27, 2018
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Infrastructure & Environment

Los Angeles Will Be the First City to Use Body Scanners on Subways. Which Could Be Next?

Several cities and transit agencies have been working with the TSA to test the security devices.

August 16, 2018
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Management & Labor

As Amazon Enters Government Purchasing Market, Signs of a Bad Deal Emerge

The online retail giant's new relationship with public schools and agencies raises concerns that the company is cornering the marketplace and costing taxpayers more money.

August 2, 2018
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Urban

Are Smartphones Speeding Up Gentrification?

Location-based apps like Yelp and Foursquare might be exacerbating housing problems in transitional neighborhoods.

August 1, 2018
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Finance

The Downsides of Property Tax Caps

They have created fiscal stress for states and municipalities, and exacerbated inequality. A new report offers a simple solution to alleviate those issues.

July 26, 2018
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Management & Labor

With an NBA Assist, All-Star Host City Aims to Help Minority-Owned Businesses

Charlotte, N.C., is using the sporting event as an opportunity to close the investment gaps between businesses owned by white women and people of color.

July 12, 2018
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Workforce

The Janus Ruling Is a Blow to Public Unions. It's Especially Bad for Black Women.

The Supreme Court's decision could weaken unions' collective bargaining power, which has historically benefited women of color more than most.

July 9, 2018
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Urban

One Woman's Quest to Fight Gentrification by Asking Residents How

Cat Goughnour is pushing several cities to give community members more say in urban design.

July 5, 2018
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Urban

Can Gentrification Be Illegal?

A lawsuit alleges that Washington, D.C., illegally wooed "creative-class" millennials at the expense of longtime residents. Others argue, "this is not a conspiracy. This is capitalism.”

July 2, 2018
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Education

After Decades of Reform, Has Chicago Finally Learned How to Fix Education?

Some promising signs suggest the city may be turning around its troubled school system. It offers lessons for other struggling districts.

July 26, 2018
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Politics & Elections

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Why Some States and Cities Want to Secede

The push to form new governments is heating up in places from Georgia to California.

June 19, 2018
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Management & Labor

To Pay Minimum Wage or Not? Debate Over Tipped Workers Heads to D.C.

There's a growing movement to eliminate the so-called tip credit for bartenders and servers. Washington, D.C., could be next to outlaw the practice.

June 14, 2018
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Politics & Elections

For New Generation of Black Mayors, Focus Is on Balance

San Francisco just elected its first black female mayor at a time when the number of big-city black mayors has been on the decline. Their leadership style has changed, too.

June 14, 2018
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Health & Human Services

Beyond Books: How Libraries Are the Latest Front in the Opioid Fight

Libraries across the country are training their staff to administer the drug that can reverse an overdose.

June 12, 2018
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Urban

Mayors' Priorities Aren't Changing, But Their Attitudes Are

The annual National League of Cities report reveals a shift in the way mayors talk, especially about infrastructure.

May 31, 2018
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Education

Can a Business Exec Save One of the Largest School Districts in America?

Austin Beutner, the new leader of Los Angeles schools, is the latest big-city superintendent with no education experience. Some say that -- and his ties to charter schools -- are cause for concern.

May 16, 2018
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Urban

Cities Now Use Taxes to Fight Blight. Is It Working?

Land use experts question whether vacant property taxes are the right way to spur development.

May 14, 2018
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Urban

Beer Boom: How One City Used Suds to Brew Up a New Economy

Roanoke, Va., is betting big on beer.

May 10, 2018
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Infrastructure & Environment

Housing Discrimination Still Hurts Home Values in Black Neighborhoods

Despite an urban real estate boom, the home-values gap for traditionally African-American neighborhoods is actually getting worse.

April 30, 2018
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Urban

This Small Southern City Is the Most Innovative in the Country

Fayetteville, N.C., earned the top honors in the annual Equipt to Innovate report, a joint study from Governing and the nonprofit Living Cities.

April 26, 2018
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Politics & Elections

Supreme Court Could Reshape Texas Political Districts for Midterms

The justices will hear oral arguments on Tuesday in a case over the state's legislative and congressional maps, which have been accused of discriminating against black and Latino voters.

April 23, 2018
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Public Safety & Justice

More States Forcing Prosecutors to Hand Over Evidence -- Even When It Hurts Their Case

The Supreme Court required prosecutors to do this decades ago, but they don't always follow the rules. New York is the latest state to strengthen them.

April 20, 2018
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Urban

As Fair Housing Act Turns 50, Landmark Law Faces Uncertain Future

Under the Trump administration, and most Republican White Houses, enforcement of the 1968 anti-discrimination law has weakened. Housing advocates say the constantly changing federal approach has held back progress.

April 11, 2018
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Public Safety & Justice

How Police in One City Are Using Tech to Fight Gangs

Predictive technologies promise to let police fight crime before it happens. But do they work?

April 11, 2018
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Management & Labor

To Pay or Not to Pay Hackers? Ransomware Poses a Dilemma for Governments

Baltimore's 911 system and a range of city services in Atlanta were hijacked in the past week.

March 29, 2018
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Urban

Despite Legal Protections, Black Families Face Housing Discrimination

A new study is the latest to show that landlords often discriminate against minorities and people who use rental vouchers.

March 28, 2018
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Management & Labor

How ‘Service Design’ Is Changing the Way Cities Work

New York City is betting that it can learn important lessons from the way the private sector runs. The bet is starting to pay off.

April 10, 2018
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Public Safety & Justice

Which States Are Most Dependent on the Gun Industry?

A new report ranks states' economic reliance on firearms, taking into account jobs, sales and political contributions.

March 26, 2018
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Politics & Elections

If Trump Axes Public Media Funding, Rural Areas Could Lose Government News

The president doesn't want the federal government to help fund public radio and TV stations anymore. Such cuts could exacerbate the already sharp decline in coverage of state capitols and city halls.

March 21, 2018
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Public Safety & Justice

California's Biggest (and Most Surprising) Marijuana Opponent

As an African-American Democrat, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas isn't like a lot of other anti-drug advocates.

March 16, 2018
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Education

Black Students Have Longer Commutes Under School Choice

Of the cities studied, only in New Orleans did white students travel farther than their black peers.

March 15, 2018
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Management & Labor

Daylight Saving Time? Some States Could Soon Ditch It.

Florida is closest to ending the clock-changing practice, but other states have flirted with the idea.

March 8, 2018
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Public Safety & Justice

Connecticut Goes to War With NRA

The NRA has "in essence become a terrorist organization," said Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is considering cutting it out of the state's gun permitting process. It's not the only state, however, that directs funds toward the group.

March 7, 2018
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Finance

With Some Homeownership Incentives Gone, Will More Americans Actually Rent?

Republicans eliminated some of the tax benefits for owning a home. But experts aren't sure how much that will matter.

March 7, 2018
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Public Safety & Justice

3 Cities Lead Fight Against Human Trafficking

Atlanta, Chicago and Minneapolis have won funding to better identify and help victims.

March 6, 2018
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Management & Labor

So Many Tweets and Calls, So Little Time: How Governments Can Manage It All

Emails, voicemails, texts, Facebook and Twitter have made it easier for residents to reach out to governments -- and harder for governments to respond.

March 6, 2018
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Infrastructure & Environment

Mainland Mayors Partner With Puerto Rico Leaders to Help Rebuild

More than 40 city leaders have joined a new exchange to share disaster relief expertise with their local counterparts on the island.

March 2, 2018
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Education

Do School Vouchers Help Kids Get to College? Studies Offer Mixed Results.

New studies suggest that school vouchers have minimal impact on college enrollment and even less of an effect on college graduation rates.

February 27, 2018
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Education

Is Flint's Water Crisis Leading to Lower Test Scores?

Barely one in 10 students scored proficient on recent state reading exams.

February 26, 2018
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Public Safety & Justice

This Anti-Violence Program Has Been Proven to Cut Crime. Can It Work in Baltimore?

The Roca program has helped keep hundreds of youths out of jail in Massachusetts. Now officials want to transplant that success to one of the toughest crime cities in the nation.

February 21, 2018
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Education

Trump Proposes Unprecedented Expansion of School Choice

The president's budget calls for a $1.1 billion investment in school choice.

February 12, 2018
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Education

In School Funding Fight, Connecticut Weighs Uncertain Next Steps

Everyone agrees the state's education system isn't working. But no one can agree on how to fix it.

February 7, 2018
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Public Safety & Justice

Murder, Scandal and a State Intervention: What's Going on With Baltimore's Police Department?

Homicide rates are at an all-time high in the city, and its police department has been mired in turmoil. The state is stepping in.

January 31, 2018
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Urban

Children May Suffer Worst Effects of Housing Crunch

The number of children packed into overcrowded homes remains high and comes at a tremendous social cost.

January 19, 2018
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Education

Cold-Weather Closures Expose Years of Underinvestment in Urban Schools

Thanks to a generation of underfunding, many big-city school districts now face deteriorating buildings and billions of dollars in maintenance needs.

January 10, 2018
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Finance

GOP Tax Law Could Starve Cities of Revenue

Housing experts predict that the tax overhaul will spur home values and property tax revenues to drop, forcing cities to find new ways to raise money -- or to cut spending.

January 9, 2018
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Urban

Cities May Be Facing a New Housing Crisis

As rents and demand for renting increase, millions of Americans are being evicted -- sometimes with only a few days' notice.

January 4, 2018
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Politics & Elections

With Recount Over, Atlanta's Next Mayor Faces a Changing City

The recount on Thursday confirmed Keisha Lance Bottoms' lead, likely keeping the city's decades-long tradition of black mayors alive. But shifting demographics will change how people lead it.

December 14, 2017
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Public Safety & Justice

To Reduce Recidivism, New York City Tries a Bold New Approach

The city is eliminating short-term jail sentences for low-level misdemeanors. Other cities will undoubtedly be watching the impact.

November 21, 2017
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Urban

As Bill de Blasio Enters Second Term, Progressives Push for More

After four years in office, the New York mayor has a mixed reputation among liberals. But he seemingly has a chance to change that.

November 15, 2017
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Urban

Columbus Day? In More Than 50 Cities, It's Indigenous Peoples Day.

What started as a fringe movement has gained steam in recent years.

October 9, 2017
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Public Safety & Justice

Before Las Vegas Shooting, Nevadans Voted for Stricter Gun Control. Then the State Refused to Enforce It.

Nevada's recent politics suggest just how difficult it can be for states to enact gun control measures -- even when a majority of citizens favor them.

October 2, 2017
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Public Safety & Justice

Justice Department Ends Era of Pushing Police Reform

The Trump administration's latest reversal of Obama policing strategies instead puts an emphasis on tough-on-crime policies. But the shift will undermine efforts to rebuild relations between communities and police, say many law enforcement officials and experts.

September 28, 2017
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Health & Human Services

For Political Refugees, Hurricanes Pose a Special Threat

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, it hit one of the country's biggest gateways for refugees -- a population that has already had to rebuild their lives and will now struggle to do it again.

September 8, 2017
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Health & Human Services

Wilmington's Solution to the Opioid Crisis

A coastal North Carolina city ranks first in the nation in opioid abuse. Now it wants to become an innovation hub for battling the crisis.

September 1, 2017
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Urban

Harvey Has Many Asking: How Hard Is It to Evacuate a Major City?

Houston is the nation's fourth largest city. While all urban areas present unique evacuation challenges, some are bigger than others.

August 29, 2017
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Public Safety & Justice

A Plan to Combat Gun Violence That Doesn't Focus on Guns

New York City is taking an innovative approach that relies on street-level "violence interrupters" to curb crimes involving weapons. Chicago's been doing it for years.

August 29, 2017
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Public Safety & Justice

Cities Nationwide Brace for More Alt-Right Protests This Weekend

Are they prepared?

August 17, 2017
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