This seminar investigates the role of cities in providing services to constituents and asks how characteristics such as form of governance, form of financing, labor...More >>
This seminar investigates the role of cities in providing services to constituents and asks how characteristics such as form of governance, form of financing, labor relations, interlocal cooperation and competition, and state/local relationships affect the quantity and quality of service delivery. We will consider the extent to which cities should offer particular services (such as education, policing, alleviation of poverty, and economic development), the various ways of paying for those services that are selected (taxes, fees, debt), and various governance structures for deciding among these alternatives (strong mayor, mayor/city council, city manager). Finally, we will consider the causes and consequences of fiscal distress that may interfere with service provision, and the role of different institutions in avoiding and alleviating local fiscal distress. In making these inquiries, we will often evaluate cities (which are formally known as "municipal corporations") as economic units not unlike publicly held corporations, with "shareholders" (voters), a "board of directors" (mayor and city council), and "product lines" (street cleaning and maintenance, safety, education, recreation, libraries) that it offers to potential "consumers" (residents, employers, and employees). While no formal training in economics is required, we will consider empirical studies and basic economic theories to evaluate different forms of service delivery and governance.