Local & Regional Governance

A challenging fiscal context, shifting demographics, economic insecurity, and a changing role of the public sector are just a few of the complex circumstances facing local and regional governments.

GCI’s Local & Regional Governance Research Cluster promotes research and policy analysis that evaluates policy decisions and in specific cases, supports local municipal staff, administration, policy-makers and non-profits in local and regional policy making and programming. The Institute’s mission supports the Local & Regional Governance Research Cluster’s focus, not only regarding municipal planning and policy, but also on understanding cities in their regional context.

Current Local & Regional Governance Research Cluster Projects

Participatory Budgeting: Grassroots Democracy in Action

In a time of widespread budget crises and plummeting trust in government, community members and government officials are searching for more democratic and accountable ways to manage public money. Since 2012, PB Chicago has been picking up momentum and generating excitement about new opportunities for residents to engage their government, have their voices heard and make decisions about how their public dollars should be spent. Together with Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) and a broad coalition of aldermen, community-based organizations, and funders, the GCI Director of Neighborhoods Initiative, Thea Crum and Faculty Fellow Rachel Weber are working in several Chicago wards to conduct research on the process and engage residents in a large-scale experiment in direct democracy where residents in each ward vote to decide how to spend $1 million of their aldermanic capital discretionary funds. For more information about PB Chicago, visit GCI’s Participatory Budgeting page.

Participatory Budgeting Research »

Fiscal Policy Space Of Cities: Responses To Changing Economic & Fiscal Conditions

The Great Recession will have American cities cutting services and raising fees for years to come, according to Michael Pagano in his blog for The Atlantic Cities. Focusing on city fiscal behavior, GCI Fellow and CUPPA dean, Michael Pagano, looks at how and why cities adopt certain fiscal policies in the context of their legal/constitutional frameworks, economic conditions, and the needs and demands of their constituencies.  Pagano is a nationally recognized expert in municipal finance.  Working in collaboration with the National League of Cities and the Local Fiscal Working Group of the Federal Reserve Banks, the research team is building a large quantitative database to produce a comparative analysis of municipal fiscal policies. This multi-year project is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. GCI will be hosting this research team’s data repository for this project, which will include detailed financial data for the past 20 years, data on state-imposed tax and expenditure limitations, data on city-imposed tax and expenditure limitations, and date on the changing economic base of cities.  More information about this database is available on the Fiscal Policy Space website.

Sustainable Coastal Community Development Initiative

The Sustainable Coastal Community Development initiative of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program supports and guides this GCI program, providing academic research and technical assistance to local governments and planning agencies within northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana.

GCI Fellow and associate professor of Urban Planning and Policy, Martin Jaffe, is the principal investigator and coordinator of this research and is working in collaboration with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission, non-profit organizations (such as Chicago Wilderness, the Metropolitan Planning Council, and the Center for Neighborhood Technology), as well as federal, state and local officials.   Sea Grant’s Sustainable Coastal Community Development initiative addresses a wide variety of emerging environmental issues affecting the Chicago metro area, such as regional water supply planning, innovative approaches to water quality management (including the use of computer models to identify environmental “tipping points” for urban waterways), the use of green infrastructure for urban stormwater management, habitat protection, and climate change adaptation at the state, regional and local levels of government.  Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is committed to both protecting and enhancing the wide range of environmental and ecosystem services provided to communities in the lower Lake Michigan basin.

Engineered Conflict: School Closings, Public Housing, Law Enforcement and the Future of Black Life

GCI Faculty Scholar David Stovall’s project, Engineered Conflict: School Closings, Public Housing, Law Enforcement and the Future of Black Life organizes legal jurisprudence theory, post-colonial theory and philosophy of race to interrogate state-sanctioned violence, urban space and the politics of exclusion. As a project slated for the Spring 2016 semester, the project draws attention to policy formation and implementation as ideological rationales for containment and marginalization. Because school closings, destruction of public housing and federal corruption statues are primarily investigated as singular entities, their grouping under the auspices of a planned instability provides a framework to examine conditions of urban space for African-American and Latin@ residents.

Beyond ‘Chiraq’ and Homan Square: Alternatives to Mass Incarceration, Military Urbanism, and Homeland Security in Chicago

GCI Faculty Scholar Ronak Kapadia’s project “Beyond ‘Chiraq’ and Homan Square: Alternatives to Mass Incarceration, Military Urbanism, and Homeland Security in Chicago”, asks how contemporary activists, artists, lawyers, and cultural producers have identified and challenged the growing links between mass incarceration, military urbanism, and homeland security in four key sites across Chicago. Specifically, Kapadia will analyze recent works by the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, We Charge Genocide, Project NIA, and Transformative Justice Law Project. As multi-issue, multi-generational political projects, these case studies will serve as the analytical grounds for his analysis of alternative strategies of resistance against the militarization of urban police violence and the broader domestic reverberations of the global war on terror. At stake here is the quality of life for this city’s most vulnerable inhabitants, primarily working-class people of color, racialized immigrants, and trans and gender non-conforming people who have come to be seen as a source of targets and threats that need to be continually tracked, scanned, warehoused, and controlled, if not entirely eliminated, in the name of security. By analyzing local and transnational forms of activism and cultural production, Kapadia argues for a new framework through which to understand the links between mass incarceration and the global war on terror. In the process, the project documents more critical and imaginative responses to US state violence as well as the alternative models of coalition and collectivity that these violent politics have engendered within multiple activist communities across Chicago.

Suburbanization of Poverty in the Chicago Metropolitan Region

Recent demographic trends show that poverty is growing faster in suburban areas than urban centers. While poverty is on the rise in all areas, suburban poverty is a particularly complex phenomenon because many suburbs lack the organizational and policy infrastructure and financial means to confront this problem. Restructuring of labor markets, immigration patterns, and changing housing markets have contributed to these major demographic shifts, but anti-poverty programming and poverty have not caught up to respond to these changes.  GCI research examines the depth and scope of the suburban poverty in the Chicago Metropolitan Region and assesses the national and local policy implications in this new suburban context.

Household Relocation Decision-making Tool (with UIC Urban Transportation Center)

Households face a variety of factors that affect their decisions of where to move. Some factors, such as affordability or job opportunities, are more important than others. PS Sriraj from UIC Urban Transportation Center and GCI Research Specialist, Megan McKenna Mejía are building on an existing UTC decision-making support tool for individuals and families looking to relocate within the Chicago metropolitan area.  Using input from community stakeholders to identify important relocation factors, the web-based tool will offer users up to date data about housing availability, transportation accessibility, social services, education, and more- all in a user-friendly interface that allows users to rank their preferences to find the best relocation options. The tool will target low-income households to empower users with the data they need to make strategic relocation decisions.

Chicago Politics Database (with Department of Political Science)

Supporting and promoting civic engagement is a core part of the Great Cities Institute’s and the Department of Political Science’s mission. Dick Simpson, a GCI Scholar for 2005-2006, currently Professor and Head of Political Science at UIC, and former Chicago Alderman has compiled sources of current information on Chicago Politics. These resources include links to research papers, books, videos, Chicago City Council and Anti-Corruption Reports with current data on how council members have voted, and information from other city and independent sources on Chicago Politics.  Those with additional information they wish posted or questions about the site may email him at simpson@uic.edu. Access the archives here.