This course will consider the source, scope, and limits of local government power. It will consider the relationship of local governments to state and federal government and of the relationship of local governments to the individuals and communities within and around them. Specific themes will include the potential of local governments to be responsive democratic communities, the potential of local governments to become isolated or exclusive enclaves, and the effect of local governments on the metropolitan political economy. We will example doctrines empowering local governments to act, like home rule, and limits on local government action imposed by various forms of state and federal preemption. We will also consider land use and zoning as levers of local government power and their effects on economic and racial diversity.
By the end of this course, students should gain the following substantive knowledge and practical skills:
• Knowledge of key rules of local government law, including those related to land use, contracting, and police power, and how they interact with federal and state law.
• Knowledge of the consequences of local government decisions on residential patterns and current debates about the scope of local government power in the context of issues like immigration, environmental justice, and economic development.
• Experience with problem-solving methods to evaluate local government decision making, using case- and problem-based analysis.
• Familiarity with different conceptions of local power drawn from political and social science, as well as from the urban planning and development literature.