Article Summary – How America Ends
|Title||How America Ends|
|Author||Yoni Appelbaum, Senior Editor, The Atlantic|
Will democracy survive our current factionalism?
|As Is Situation:|
Our two-party system is messy, but it has shown a remarkable ability throughout our history to adapt to change. Continually competing for majority support, our parties have assimilated movements, built and rebuilt coalitions and tailored their platforms to those ever-changing coalitions. And they have absorbed and even quashed the assaults of Nativists, Luddites and Know-Nothings and other extremists.
At first glance, the author appears to suggest that it is solely up to the GOP (or center-right) to reform itself and save our nation, a notion that seems simplistic if not unfair. However, after watching the recent impeachment trial in the US Senate, the author’s fears about the GOP seem all too prescient. With the solitary exception of Mitt Romney, GOP Senators appeared almost eager to cast aside long-held conservative principles (starting with public accountability). To many observers, they seemed less a party than a cult slavishly devoted to their “supreme leader.”
Our history gives us hope that American system will prevail, but success will not be attained solely because of the work of one party or the consequences of one election. For our democracy to prosper, we must do more than hope that one party will put the country first. Sure, both parties could benefit from serious reform, but we also must take other steps. We must engage more citizens, reduce the influence of money in politics, improve civic education, make our elections competitive and improve governance. And we must ground these actions in our founding constitutional principles.
Article Summary – Civic Responsibility & Democracy
|Title||The Enemy Within, Atlantic, December 2019|
|Author||James Mattis, retired United States Marine Corps general & former Secretary of Defense|
Have we taught our children the principles of citizenship or already forgotten them?
|As Is Situation|
Mattis warns that our constitutional system, as robust as it is, cannot long endure our current tribalism & paralysis. He urges more personal humility, respect, compromise & collaboration. He counsels more support for our civic institutions & leaders who are diplomatic, collegial & patient. He implores us to substitute long-range ideals for short-term gratification. Finally, he calls for a renewed commitment by each of us to become better, more informed citizens, actively engaged in tackling the growing backlog of civic problems & perfecting our union for future generations. Mattis does not address the costs of civic education, but Civic Way believes that the best investment we could possibly make in democracy would be in a more thorough, robust K-12 civic education.
News Summary – Localism (Part 3)
|Title||A 10-Year Perspective of the Merger of Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky|
|Author||Jeff Wachter (Abell Foundation)|
Has nation’s most recent major city-county merger, by Louisville & Jefferson County Kentucky into Louisville Metro government, met expectations?
In 1997, city & county leaders merged Greater Louisville Economic Development Partnership & Louisville Area Chamber of Commerce into Greater Louisville Inc. (GLI), area’s first full-service, regional economic development organization (EDO)
Growing City-County racial divide as city’s African-American population nearly doubled from 18% in 1960 to 33% in 2000
6 of 26 council districts (23%) represented by African-Americans & while this has diluted influence within USD, it has extended influence into county
State legislature passed enabling legislation lifting ban on city-county merger referenda & allowing one-time-only referendum for county voters
Post-merger issues may include tax distribution, service refinements (e.g., policy & fire), USD boundaries & political representation (especially for minorities)
Restructuring local government is daunting. Winning voter approval is a formidable hurdle, often pitting supporters against odd coalitions (e.g., rural whites & urban African-Americans). Implementing structural changes also poses serious challenges. Still, if we want local governments to do more (often with less), we must be willing to challenge the status quo & replace calcified structures & processes with modern models & systems.
Merging local governments (e.g., counties, cities & special districts) & realigning their operations with today’s challenges will not be easy. But, those regions with the vision & boldness to be innovative will likely become more competitive, not just among their more recalcitrant peers, but in the global marketplace as well. More effective, efficient & accountable local governments will win the future. They will make better use of scarce resources & enable their leaders to speak with one voice & tackle the regional challenges that too often vex our current jumble of balkanized, overlapping & bickering fiefdoms.
News Summary – Localism (Part 2)
|Title||Our Towns, A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America (2019)|
|Author||James & Deborah Fallows|
Visiting towns across America by plane, the Fallows found communities confronting local problems head-on with hope, candor, compromise, pragmatism & determination, a story of regions, cities & towns transforming themselves in spite of toxic national politics.
Traditionally, federal government offered the best vehicle for solving intractable challenges (e.g., civil rights, public education, health care, clean air & water & interstate highways). However, the growing gap between federal dysfunction & faith in local governance is causing local leaders & governments to seize the initiative in confronting civic problems.
Shows, sports, tragedies & tweets have masked exciting progress in unexpected places. Like Louis Brandeis’ “laboratories of American democracy,” local governments have long served as civic labs for testing ideas, reforming institutions & achieving tangible civic progress (e.g., Cleveland’s Mayor Johnson in the early 20th Century). Localism offers real hope for overcoming national inertia on many issues (e.g., as demagogues fuel national divisions over immigration, many communities quietly welcome immigrants as assets).
|Criteria for success:|
|Sample success stories:|
With this book, the Fallows have given us a powerful antidote to our national dysfunction & an important contribution to civic progress. It not only chronicles the oft-unheralded efforts of optimistic local leaders driven to improve their communities, but demonstrates the exciting promise of local leadership, cooperation & action. Shifting our focus to local issues will free us to tackle problems & attain progress in more civilized, pragmatic ways.
News Summary – The New Localism
|Title||The New Localism, How Cities can Thrive in the Age of Populism (2018)|
|Author||Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak, The Brookings Institution|
|Defining features of new localism:|
|Relevant historical trends:|
|Factors creating fertile conditions for New Localism:|
|Sample New Localism success stories:|
Copenhagen – created publicly-owned, privately-managed public asset corporation to acquire urban core area, update zoning, borrow funds, build transit line & other infrastructure & raise funds for future phases (e.g., harbor renewal & transit expansion)
|Outlook for New Localism:|
|New Localism best practices:|
For anyone who cares about government & community progress, we urge you to read this important & timely book. It provides a great foundation for understanding the forces contributing to New Localism as well as best practices & proven strategies for implementing New Localism as a governing philosophy in your state, region or community.
|Title||The Democratic Party Still Doesn’t Get Grassroots Politics (1-29-18)|
|Author||Sarah Jones, Staff Writer for the New Republic|
Will the Democratic Party seize the opportunity to go local?
Historic numbers of young women and men running for public office, both legislative and executive. Smart, idealistic and principled, they run to make a difference in their communities, often with minimal national resources. Without such support, or any guidance at all, one cannot help but wonder if their enthusiasm will survive their first electoral loss. The importance of money in politics cannot be denied, but shouldn’t we expect more from our future leaders than how much money they can raise?
Despite the mounting fervor of local politics, national Democrats like those at the DCCC seem less than enthusiastic about new campaign methods. New candidates seeking support from the DCCC face a gauntlet of off-putting screening tactics, including questions about their fund-raising contacts. Such recruitment tests, while arguably a rational response the DCCC’s fund-raising failings, call into question the ability of national Democrats or any party organization to build and sustain a strong network of young leaders.
If the Democratic Party is too feckless to harness progressive political energy at the local level, on what institutions should we rely to develop the leadership of the future? The answer is unclear, but one path could be to invest in non-partisan leadership institutes that share the values of those young leaders. Developing young leaders with progressive values, particularly those with marginalized backgrounds, requires networking, mentoring, systems and tools, not just money. This is one investment that we cannot afford to neglect.
One of the prerequisites of civic renewal is effective leadership. While some may be born effective leaders, most are not. They are picked from the crowd, nurtured and mentored. We don’t just throw them to the wolves, we share our experiences, give them the tools and point them in the right direction. Then we get out of the way. They will do us proud.
|Title||Our Day of Reckoning|
|Author||Camille Busette, Director of the Brookings Race, Prosperity, and Inclusion Initiative|
Since 1968, has America made progress as a land of opportunity?
Our future competitiveness will depend on people of color, but the American Dream remains out of reach for too many. Regardless of the source—the Census Bureau, Federal Reserve or Annie E. Casey Foundation—or the metric, the facts are clear. People of color face the longest odds for success in the land of opportunity. And, despite post-Great Recession gains, our vast racial wealth gap remains. Even more worrisome, current federal policies could exacerbate inequality, limit economic mobility and undermine our global competitiveness.
Despite profound demographic changes (e.g., for the first time, most children under age 10 are non-white), our nation seems sharply divided between white and non-white, natives and immigrants, haves and have-nots, insiders and outsiders. For many people of color, the nation offers the threat of insecurity and despair. After eight years of our first African-American president and a national vision of hope, we have handed the keys of national power to the forces of anger, intolerance and greed.
To ensure our optimal economic performance and our global competitiveness, our nation must afford its young ample educational options and its adults every opportunity to fully participate in our ever-changing economy.
As the author reminds us, Dr. Martin Luther King called on us to recognize our common humanity. To honor our legacy, realize our hopes and inspire the next generation of leaders, we must become—and fight to remain—the land of opportunity.
|Title||What Millennial Mayors Are Doing for City Hall (1-31-18)|
|Author||Andrew Small, freelance writer in Washington, DC and former editorial fellow at CityLab|
Will millennials have the opportunity, capacity and right stuff to lead?
A wave of bright, young leaders is rising across the country, from Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend (IN) to Mayor Lydia Mihalik of Findlay (OH) to Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami. Millennial leaders possess many characteristics that public executives need to face the future—the humility to be admit ignorance, the courage to ask questions, the ability to multi-task and the willingness to share and borrow great ideas.
Distressed or stagnating local jurisdictions, like South Bend was in 2012 when Newsweek labeled it one of “America’s Dying Cities,” will test our local leaders. But they also will offer exciting opportunities for the untested idealists of today to become the proven leaders of tomorrow. A youthful public executive office offers hope to voters, an opportunity to replace nostalgia with foresight, to see old problems with new eyes, to trade caution and certainty for innovation and experimentation.
The torch of leadership is inevitably from one generation to the next. Millennials are no different. They may surface first in local government, but their service as Mayor or County Executive will likely be a stepping stone to higher executive office. We should embrace such rising stars and help them take the next step.
|One More Thing|
If we believe in government and care about its quality, we must think more about how to enhance its leadership. Supporting young, emerging leaders can take many forms, but one way is to provide them with the systems and tools they will need to attain their vision for their communities and restore public faith in government.
|Title||The Future of Community Indicator Systems|
|Author||J. Benjamin Warner, President & CEO of Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI)|
Which measures matter & who decides which measures matter?
1.The community indicators movement, invigorated by 30 years of experience & local innovation, will evolve from democratizing data to galvanizing civic progress.
2. Efforts to develop standard global progress measures, led by OECD & UN, will continue.
3. Demand for creating a uniform, national well-being index for US, one that surpasses traditional indicators like gross domestic product (GDP), will continue to grow.
4. Several factors (e.g., technology & data availability, literacy & visualization) will enhance our capacity to measure civic progress, but some factors (e.g., data proliferation) will make it harder to select effective measures.
1. Community indicator systems distill data in ways that help civic groups shape priorities, assess conditions, forge strategies & take civic action; they are a vital component of any effective community change model
2. Community indicator systems, while evolving, are not without defects, e.g.:
– Political pressures can distort decision-making, threaten funding & undermine efforts to sustain a broad civic progress agenda
– Some systems are designed to preserve, advocate or promote rather than to address long-term civic needs
– Some indicators are excluded that could illuminate cross-cutting issues, prompt unconventional thinking or suggest innovative solutions
3. When issues defy easy measurement, some leaders shoehorn clumsy proxy indicators
1. Nation’s oldest community indicator system, “Quality of Life Progress Report.”
– System designed to measure progress over time, not to compare other cities
– Initial system included 83 measures covering economy, public safety, health, education, environment, mobility, government, social & culture
– System since expanded to measure other aspects of community life (e.g., poverty impact)
– Indicators & methodologies continually revised as better data become available
– Annually, leaders use data to highlight negative trends & mobilize civic action
2. Citizen input critical to success & growth of indicator system, e.g.:
– Indicators selected by citizens & informed by experts
– Citizen input used to improve data usability for laypersons
– Multiple presentation options offered (e.g., simple briefings, detailed reports & interactive web-based mapping) to accommodate diverse audiences
3. Biggest challenge facing system is securing support from political leaders without sacrificing system’s political independence (never championed by single official).
1. Design indicator system to promote needed civic change, not leaders or institutions:
– Build system that serves interests of entire community & represents vital constituencies & geographic units, not just civic institutions or political incumbents
– Select reliable indicators with direction (i.e., highlight performance gaps, spot future trends & suggest needs for improvement)
– In selecting indicators, strike balance between possible & practical, rigorous & familiar
2. Create unifying index for aggregating data, simplifying complex issues, connecting citizens to data & enhancing system utility for compelling civic change.
3. Use system to tell vital stories, anticipate civic problems & spur civic change.
4. Diversify civic leadership groups not only to better visualize civic progress, select measures & set priorities, but to ensure that the entire community’s interests are served.
We agree that the challenge facing communities is not so much to bring more data to citizens, but better data. With better data (& more compelling stories), communities can track their progress. The Community Indicators Consortium (CIC) offers training & research to help communities build civic tracking systems & share their experiences. We also applaud CIC’s effort to integrate community indicators with government performance measures. Ultimately, this initiative could yield a powerful platform for spurring civic progress in every community.