The city agenda : local governance and national influence in the policy agenda, 1900-2020

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2022-09-12

Authors

Shannon, Brooke Nicole

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Abstract

All politics may be local, but local government policy is often inspired by the national level. The nationalization of politics; school board and city council meetings erupting with anger about national elections, public health policies, or campaign issues such as critical race theory being taught in schools, these examples reflect growing cohesion of politics and messaging from national to local politics. National politics affects local government in less bombastic ways as well, though. Movements for equitable representation, cleaning up dangerous downtowns, and even for civil rights often begin at the national level with an eye to urban politics, and affect local governmental policy agendas, as city councils respond to national politics.

Local government has a pragmatic reputation. New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia reportedly embraced it, saying, “There’s no Republican or Democrat way to pick up the garbage”. Municipal governance is much more than service provision and garbage collection, although both are consequential in any city. I look directly to policies of local government for how external political movement and the myriad problems facing local policymakers influences impact agenda setting. I use city council meeting minutes from Austin, Texas from 1900 to 2020 to examine issues comprising the local policy agenda. I find the local agenda is influenced by local conditions and national attention alike, in unexpected policy areas.

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