In the face of failures and dysfunction at the national level, the welfare- and democracy-enhancing potential of cities has come into focus in recent years. Yet, not all cities are able to realize their promise as democratic engines of economic growth and human development. Why some fail, while others succeed depends crucially on the politics and governance practices that shape cities and metropolitan regions. Understanding the politics of urban planning and development is therefore fundamental to unlocking the potential of our cities to boost the wealth, health, and well-being of citizens and communities in ways that are sustainable and equitable. This course focuses on urban politics in the United States and Europe. Key topics include U.S. and European urban politics viewed in the large, and more specifically the politics of land-use, economic development, housing, water, policing, and transit. Cross-cutting themes include: the role of business and non-profits in local governance; citizen participation and urban social movements; the importance of race, ethnicity, and class in shaping group conflict and co-operation at the local level; as well as the costs and benefits of local government fragmentation. The course involves in-class exercises, group work, and simulations, as well as guest lectures. Most class sessions build off single-city case studies, including written and multi-media cases on Atlanta, Copenhagen, Detroit, Madrid, Naples, New Orleans, New York, Pittsburgh, San Juan, Seattle, and Stuttgart.
The course purposes are twofold: (1) to enhance your sophistication in thinking about and analyzing the factors and conditions that shape political and planning processes at the urban level and what their consequences are; and (2) to hone your skills in thinking strategically about how to exercise influence in and on these decision processes.