Local & Regional Governance

A changing role of the public sector, a challenging fiscal context, shifting demographics, and economic insecurity 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.

Learning and Exchange

On Friday, November 6, 2015, as part of our Public GOOD Initiative with the National Public Housing Museum (NPHM) and in conjunction with the Architecture Biennial, GCI co-hosted a forum on the “Future of Public Housing,” held at The Jane Addams Hull-House Dining Room. We might have entitled, the event, “Public Housing as a Public Good.” Other co-sponsors included The Institute for Public Architecture (IPA) and the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University.  Several participants came from New York City, including Rasmia Kirmani Frye, Director of Public/Private Partnerships, New York City Housing Authority, and Nadine Maleh, Executive Director, Institute for Public Architecture, who moderated the discussion. GCI Director provided opening comments on affronts to the “public” and the importance of the concept of the public good. Stay tuned for more programming from GCI and NPHM on our public good initiative.

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. In 2012 GCI’s Neighborhoods Initiative partnered with the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) and a broad coalition of aldermen, community-based organizations, and funders to launch Participatory Budgeting Chicago. Since then, GCI’s Director of Neighborhoods Initiative, Thea Crum and Faculty Fellow Rachel Weber have been conducting research and evaluation of participatory budgeting (PB) processes in Chicago. The primary goal of the research is to determine who participates in PB processes, what new knowledge or skills participants gained as a result of their participation, and which outreach techniques are most effective in encouraging participation. Because PB provides a kind of ‘barometer’ of what Chicago residents are experiencing in their communities, the research gauging resident opinion and political behavior also provides city administrators and decision-makers with information about how well the city is being managed and which city services require further improvement. In addition, Ms. Crum also serves on the North American PB Research Board. The goal of the board is to support the evaluation of PB processes across the US and Canada and guide a broader research agenda for PB. For more information about PB Chicago, visit GCI’s Participatory Budgeting page.

Participatory Budgeting Research »

Explaining school closures in Chicago, 2000-2013

A study, released in Fall 2016, sheds light on the multiple, conflicting interests that school districts must balance to plan for the capital needs of school-age populations. The researchers, Rachel Weber, Stephanie Farmer and Mary Donaghue, investigate the fact factors that led to the closure of public schools between 2000 and 2013 in Chicago. They reverse engineer the school closure decisions under two mayoral administrations by constructing a logit model that estimates the decision to close schools that were open as of 2000 as a function of physical, student, geographic, political, and neighborhood demographic factors. The findings reveal some distance between the official rationale for closures and the realities of capital budgeting under austerity: building utilization and student performance were predictors of these closures, but so was the race of students in each school. Specifically, schools with larger shares of African American students had a higher probability of closure than schools with comparable test scores, locations, and utilization rates. Whether administrators explicitly considered the race of a school’s students in planning decisions or whether race in the model was a proxy for other unmeasured characteristics, the cumulative effect of technical decisions interacting with a racially differentiated education environment forced African American students and their families to bear the burden of these administrative disruptions.

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 was 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 data on the changing economic base of cities.

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.

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 has not caught up to respond to these changes.  GCI research examines the depth and scope of 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 former GCI Research Specialist, Megan McKenna Mejía built upon 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 offers 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 is intended to 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 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 Dick Simpson at simpson@uic.edu. Access the archives here.

Chicago Area Study

The Chicago Area Study is a biennial study that collects survey data on life in the Chicago metropolitan area.  Its purpose is to collect original social science data that inform policymaking and social science theory, provide hands-on methods training to students in survey methods, and fund faculty research on pressing issues in the metro area.