POSC 301/401 — Decision Making in American Cities

Section 14985

Fall 2004


Instructor:  Michael Craw

Office:  219 Mathers

Office Hours: TW 9-11 and by appointment

Mailbox: 110 Mathers

Office Phone:  368-5265

Cell Phone: (812) 325-6042

Class Times: MWF 11:30 – 12:20

Room: Sears 540

E-mail: mcc20@case.edu



Course Description and Objectives


At first glance, one might guess that urban politics and policymaking are very similar to politics and policymaking at the national level.  The political institutions and actors at the national level, e.g. the President, Congress, interest groups, bureaucracy and so on, have clear counterparts in city government, such as the mayor, city council, local businesses and nonprofit groups, and city departments.  However, there are two forces at work at the level of the city that make urban politics significantly different from national politics.  First, city governments are embedded in a complex network of local governments that may both drive competition for resources and create opportunities for cooperation.  Secondly, city governments are embedded in the American federalist system of government, which subjects them to the influence of state and federal policy decisions.


In this class, we will evaluate not just city governments, but how cities are governed. Municipal governments, counties, federal and state agencies, nonprofit groups, and businesses are but a few of the entities that play important roles in financing, providing and producing local public goods. By the end of this course, you should be familiar with some of the policy issues facing American cities today, the structure of urban governance, and how and why this system of governance meets and fail to meet the needs of city residents.




The easiest way to get in touch with me is by e-mail (mcc20@case.edu).  In addition, I will from time to time use e-mail to communicate information about the class (e.g. cancellations or changes in the reading assignments and class discussion topics).  If you do not have an Case e-mail account, please see me as soon as possible.  You may reach me at my home number above during reasonable hours (before 11 p.m.).  Or you may see me during my office hours or by making an appointment to see me.

Course Requirements and Grading


I will evaluate student performance in this class according to the following components:


Participation:                             10%

Mid-term Exam:                       25%

Final Exam:                               25%

Paper/Group Presentation:        40%


Participation:  One of the primary objectives of this class is to develop your ability to critically analyze political and public policy issues.  This is best done by actively engaging in discussion of policy issues with others who are well informed about an issue and who can bring different experiences to the discussion.  Class participation, therefore, will be a factor in your final grade.  Students are expected to come to class prepared for discussion by having studied the assigned reading in advance.  From time to time we may carry out in-class exercises and I will use the number of these exercises that I receive from you to help me assess the participation and attendance component of your grade.


Exams:  There will be two exams in this class, a mid-term and a final, each worth 25% of your final grade.  The mid-term exam will be on Friday, October 15, and will cover material on the syllabus through October 8. The mid-term exam will have an in-class component of multiple choice questions and identification questions.  During the exam, you will also receive an essay question, to be completed by you out of class and returned to me within 24 hours. I will provide you with more details on the format of the exam in class.


The final exam will be on Thursday, December 9, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.  This exam will be a comprehensive exam, and will be done entirely in class. Similar to the mid-term exam, it will consist of multiple choice, identification and essay questions.


As a rule, I do not allow people to take make-up exams except under exceptional circumstances or in cases of medical or personal emergencies.  If you must miss an exam, I require at least one week’s notice to schedule a make-up exam. Missing an exam without sufficient advance notice or a verifiable medical excuse (e.g. a doctor’s note) will result in a zero on the exam. 


Paper and Presentation:  Part of being a good political scientist is being able to evaluate public policy issues critically and to present your findings to other people. To this end, you will select an urban issue area on which to focus for the semester during your first week in class. Over the course of the semester, you will complete a paper on a research question pertaining to your topic. You will develop your paper in three stages.  First, you will write a 2-3 page research proposal, in which you should discuss your research question, why it is significant, and possible sources of information. You are required to conduct interviews with at least two individuals working in the Cleveland metropolitan area on your urban issue as part of your project, and you should identify individuals you might talk to for your interviews in your proposal. You will have a chance to submit a draft of your proposal to a partner in class for comments prior to submitting it to me for approval. The final draft of your proposal is due to me by 5:00 on Friday, September 24. You will be expected to make an appointment to meet with me the following week to discuss your proposal. The proposal counts as 12.5% of your overall paper grade, or 5% of your total grade in the class


In the second stage of your paper, you will complete a draft of your paper and conduct an oral presentation in class discussing your research question and your findings sometime in November. For the oral presentation, you will teach the class about your urban issue and what you have learned about it. There will be two presentations per class session, and so you should plan on having a total of 25 minutes of presentation time. Leaving about 10 minutes for questions and discussion, therefore, you should plan your presentation for about 15 minutes. The oral presentation will be 25% of your overall paper grade, or 10% of your total grade in the class.


On the day you present, you will also turn in to me a draft of your research paper. The paper will not be given an official grade, but I will read it, make comments and suggestions, and return it to you for revisions no later than Monday, November 29.  Of course, if you would like me to read earlier drafts of your paper, you are free to see me during office hours. The third stage then is for you to complete the final draft of your paper. The final draft of your paper is due to me by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, December 3. The final paper grade is 62.5% of your overall paper grade, or 25% of your final course grade.


I encourage you to work outside of class with other class members on your papers and presentations (though, of course, the paper you turn in must be your own work). To that end, you may wish to take down the names and contact information for a few classmates:









Academic Integrity


Cheating, plagiarism and other violations of academic integrity standards will not be tolerated.  Any work turned in that is in violation of these standards will automatically receive a grade of zero and the matter will be referred to the Academic Integrity Board.


For your reference, the university defines academic misconduct in the following ways:


All forms of academic dishonesty including cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation, and obstruction are violations of academic integrity standards. Cheating includes copying from another’s work, falsifying problem solutions or laboratory reports, or using unauthorized sources, notes or computer programs. Plagiarism includes the presentation, without proper attribution, of another’s words or ideas from printed or electronic sources. It is also plagiarism to submit, without the instructor’s consent, an assignment in one class previously submitted in another. Misrepresentation includes forgery of official academic documents, the presentation of altered or falsified documents or testimony to a university office or official, taking an exam for another student, or lying about personal circumstances to postpone tests or assignments. Obstruction occurs when a student engages in unreasonable conduct that interferes with another’s ability to conduct scholarly activity. Destroying a student’s computer file, stealing a student’s notebook, and stealing a book on reserve in the library are examples of obstruction. (Case Academic Integrity Board)


Required Texts and Reading Assignments


Judd, Dennis R, and Todd Swanstrom. 2004. City Politics: Private Power and Public Policy. 4th ed. New York: Pearson. This is a fairly popular text to use in urban politics. I like it because it is not another boring, static text that presents topics in a disjointed fashion. Rather, the running theme of the book is one of the fundamental conflict between democratic governance (the “will of the majority”) and privatism (induced by quasi-market pressures on cities) that underlies urban politics.


Oakerson, Ronald J. 1999. Governing Local Public Economies: Creating the Civic Metropolis. Oakland, CA: ICS Press.Oakerson’s book drives home the point that urban politics is about urban governance rather than just about city governments. Multiple entities are involved, both public and private. This is another important theme in this class.


Pelissero, John P. (ed.)  2003. Cities, Politics and Policy: A Comparative Analysis. Washington, DC: CQ Press. This book is an edited volume, which means that chapters tend to stand alone, but the authors and the editor are all well-known experts in the field of urban politics…these are people who know what they are talking about.


Additional reading items will be distributed in class or placed on reserve.


Course Outline


Note that these topics and reading assignments may change throughout the course of the semester, depending on our speed and interests. Changes will be announced in class.


Monday, August 23 — Course Introduction


Wednesday, August 25 — Historical context of American cities

            Reading: Judd and Swanstrom, Chapter 2


Friday, August 27 — Historical context

            Reading: “Atlanta Reaches Out”, Governing, April 2004.

            We will choose urban issue areas today.


Monday, August 30 — Machine politics

            Reading: Judd and Swanstrom, Chapter 3


Wednesday, September 1 — Reform movement

            Reading: Judd and Swanstrom, Chapter 4


Friday, September 3 — Machines and reform

            Reading: TBA


Monday, September 6 — Labor Day, no class


Wednesday, September 8 — Migration

            Reading: Judd and Swanstrom, Chapter 9


Friday, September 10 — The Mayor

            Reading: Pelissero, Chapter 6


Monday, September 13 — The City Council

            Reading: Pelissero, Chapter 7


Wednesday, September 15 — City bureaucracy

            Reading: Pelissero, Chapter 8


Friday, September 17 — Drafting a research proposal

            Reading: TBA

            In-class review of research proposal drafts


Monday, September 20 — City bureaucracy

            Reading: TBA


Wednesday, September 22 — Political participation

            Reading: Pelissero, Chapter 3

            Sign-up for times to meet to discuss proposal


Friday, September 24 — Discussion of urban issue 1

            Reading: TBA

            Proposal Due at 5:00 p.m. today


Monday, September 27 — Minority political incorporation

            Reading: Judd and Swanstrom, Chapter 14


Wednesday, September 29 — Political incorporation

            Reading: TBA


Friday, October 1 — City budgeting: an overview of issues

            Reading: Pelissero, Chapter 9


Monday, October 4 — City budgeting, additional issues

            Reading: Judd and Swanstrom, Chapter 12


Wednesday, October 6 — Voting with the feet and local public policy

            Reading: Peterson (1981), pp. 41-46


Friday, October 8 — The development imperative

            Reading: Judd and Swanstrom, Chapter 13


Monday, October 11 — Development

            Reading: Pelissero, Chapter 10


Wednesday, October 13 — Discussion, urban issue 2

            Reading: TBA


Friday, October 15 — Midterm Exam


Monday, October 18 — Fall Break, No class


Wednesday, October 20 — Fragmentation

            Reading: Judd and Swanstrom, Chapter 10


Friday, October 22 — Fragmentation

            Reading: TBA


Monday, October 25 — Provision vs. production

            Reading: Oakerson 1999, Chapters 1-2


Wednesday, October 27 — Polycentricty

            Reading: Pelissero, Chapter 11


Friday, October 29 — Discussion, urban issue 3

            Reading: TBA


Monday, November 1 — Polycentricity

            Reading: Oakerson, Chapter 3


Wednesday, November 3 — Metropolitan governance

            Reading: Oakerson, Chapter 5


Friday, November 5 — Metropolitan governance

            Reading: Oakerson, Chapter 6


Monday, November 8 — Regional governance

            Reading: Judd and Swanstrom, Chapter 11


Wednesday, November 10 — Intergovernmental environment

            Reading: Pelissero, Chapter 2


Friday, November 12 — Intergovernmental environment

            Reading: TBA


Monday, November 15 — Presentation: ______________________________

            Reading: TBA


Wednesday, November 17 — Presentation:_______________________________

            Reading: TBA


Friday, November 19 — Presentation: _____________________________________

            Reading: TBA


Monday, November 22 — Presentation: __________________________________

            Reading: TBA

Wednesday, November 24 — No class


Friday, November 26 — Thanksgiving Break, no class


Monday, November 29 — Discussion, urban issue 4

            Reading: TBA


Wednesday, December 1 — National urban policy

            Reading: Judd and Swanstrom, Chapter 6


Friday, December 3 — National urban policy

            Reading: Judd and Swanstrom, Chapter 7

            Paper due at 5 p.m.


Monday, December 6 — Review day


Thursday, December 9, 8:30 -11:30 a.m. — Final Exam