Urban Politics and Planning

 The central foci of this course are the roles of public governance and modes of resolving stakeholder conflicts in shaping cities and urban regions. Key policy topics include land use planning and regulation, urban (particularly downtown) revitalization; large-scale infrastructure investment; air quality regulation; and contemporary efforts to achieve “smart” growth at large scale. Cross-cutting themes include the special role of business in local governance; citizen participation; equity issues in urban place-making, the costs and benefits of local government fragmentation; and contending theories about the balance of forces in U.S. urban politics.

While the issues and group conflicts on which we shall focus are urban—from segregation, sprawl, and programs for central city renewal to mass motorization, the recent revival of mass transit, and contemporary efforts both to enhance sustainability and promote more compact patterns of settlement—the governments involved are often national and/or state (provincial in some other countries) as well as local. The course purposes are at once to enhance your sophistication in thinking about the ways in which public decisions that shape urban places are arrived at, and your skill in thinking strategically about how to exercise influence in such decision processes.

The course focuses roughly 75% on the U.S. system, 25% on international comparisons. Students who wish to explore such comparisons more deeply are encouraged to do so in their course writing.

This is a discussion course. It follows that the value of our meetings will hinge very largely on your advance preparation and your willingness to engage the issues actively in class. The readings are a mix of case studies and analytic materials, but you are encouraged as well to draw on your direct knowledge of politics and planning in locales where you have lived or worked.