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Donald F. Kettl

Columnist

Donald F. Kettl, a columnist for Governing, is a professor emeritus and the former dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, College Park. Until his recent retirement, he was the Sid Richardson Professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. He is a senior adviser at the Volcker Alliance and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Kettl, who holds a Ph.D. and master's degrees in political science from Yale University, is the author of several books, most recently The Divided States of America: Why Federalism Doesn't Work (2020) and Can Governments Earn Our Trust? (2017).

He can be reached at Dfkettl52@gmail.com or on Twitter at @DonKettl.

Counties and their public health officials have been on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, struggling amid white-hot politics that has weakened the nation’s response. Can we do better when the next pandemic strikes?
We’re used to thinking of it as a waterfall of policies and fights flowing down from Washington. But increasingly it’s about ideas and movements that are erupting from the states.
The stimulus program that followed the Great Recession was a model for tracking projects and spending down to the ZIP code level. We don’t have that with the American Rescue Plan, dooming us to fight about what matters most.
Too often local governments aren’t prepared, with well-trained staff in place around the clock. That has big implications for emergency management and homeland security.
State and local governments are still trusted more than Washington, though they’re having their own brushes with incivility and polarization. But they’re still the best bet for preserving our traditions of governance.
When it comes to major life events, agency boundaries never line up with the challenges people face. There’s a federal push to get at the problem, and state and local governments should be part of the solution.
It’s shaped politics, government and culture throughout our history. Schools may not be teaching critical race theory as such, but today’s students — tomorrow’s leaders — need to explore why these disparities continue to exist.
The expanding legalization of marijuana sales is failing to give entrepreneurs from disadvantaged communities a chance to get into the cannabis business. Policymakers should take a new look at licensing, tax and other policies.
The battles over masks and vaccine mandates threaten the idea, going back to the founders, that surrendering a bit of personal freedom is necessary to secure everyone’s welfare.
A campaign in the states to make public workers “at-will” employees and undo civil service protections has gained traction at the federal level. But there are early signs of a counter-trend in local government.