PA 8540: Local Government Administration
Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs, U of MO – Columbia
Instructor: Charles Sampson, Ph.D.
Phone (573) 882-4317 or 882-4243
“A Tale of Two Cities” Project
Dr. Sampson has given assignments that will require you to conduct intensive research into the historical, demographic, political, financial and legal characteristics of two cities. One of the cities should be a 2004 National Civic League All America Award winner. The second city should be one selected as one of America’s Most Livable Communities.
This Sourcepack will point to research tools that can help you locate information you’ll need to complete your projects. Carefully review your course syllabus for details about the assignments – do not rely on this Sourcepack alone to understand your instructor’s expectations.
The reports will be due beginning the third class meeting and each three-week interval thereafter, i.e., October 2nd , October 23rd, November 13th, and November 27th. You are to provide a 10 – 15 page paper for presentation at each seminar. The papers should be provided to the professor and participants one week in advance.
Your assignment reads, “The first paper is intended to provide a history and socio-demographic view of the municipality and is expected to describe population characteristics e.g., ethnic proportions according to the 1990 and 2000 decennial census; percent of female headed households; major industries/business, family income; educational achievement and incidence of major crimes.”
You can look up your selected cities in a general reference source such as the Encyclopedia Americana and perhaps find a historical overview. Gale’s Cities of the United States, Vol. III has historical overviews (and more) for the largest towns in the Midwest. Some of the largest American cities are profiled in the Contemporary Metropolitan America set – rather dated (published 1976) but good for setting the stage for 20th century history in all respects: commercial, demographic, socio-economic, political, etc. Of course you can also find history on many cities’ official web sites.
Use MERLIN, the library’s online book catalog, to find history books on your selected cities. If MERLIN does not show enough books on your selected municipalities, change your search to “ALL MERLIN.” By doing so you will be checking the library holdings at UMSL, UMKC, UMR, and MU all at once. Still not enough? Click on the MOBIUS Union Catalog button. This expands your search to about 50 additional libraries in our network. Most books you find through MOBIUS are requestable simply by clicking the “Request Item” button. Books requested through MOBIUS take about a week to arrive. If you do not find what you need in MOBIUS, use the Worldcat database (in our database list) to find books in 37,000 library collections worldwide. Place a request through our Interlibrary Loan service, but allow several weeks for books from out of state to arrive.
Find journal articles on specific facets of city history by checking library databases. The database called America History and Life is probably your best bet for this assignment. Tip: once in the database, choose “Advanced” from the navigation bar at the page top. The “Advanced” search screen allows searching by field. On the Advanced screen In the Subject field, enter the state and then the city. Example: Missouri Columbia. This may be the most efficient way to see all the articles in this database that cover the history of a particular city or town. If you see an article you like, you can click on the “Find it at MU” button to find out whether we have it in either paper or electronic form.
II. Socio-Demographic View:
The list below points to some of the best websites for socioeconomic and demographic statistical information on American places:
- Get U.S. Census data, including race, income, education, family structure, labor and housing characteristics for cities by choosing 1990 or 2000 from Missouri State Census Data Center site. This site covers all states.
- County and City Data Book for 2000
- Get city statistics from state government sources: use the “Statistics by State” link list.
- America’s Top-Rated Cities: A Statistical Handbook – Not available electronically, but a good source for business, education and government facts.
- American Housing Survey a part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s work
- Crime in the United States statistics
- For detailed educational statistics, check the state’s education department website. Searching for statistics by school district might be the way to go, as some cities are completely contained within a single school district. However it depends on the city – you have to check to see how they have things organized.
- Want more? There is a goldmine of social and demographic information on cities in the U.S. Census Bureau’s American FactFinder website. Tip: in American FactFinder, click on “Datasets” in the left navigation bar.
Your assignment reads: “The second paper should describe and analyze the political environment in the municipalities. It should include descriptions of the types government; role of partisanship in local elections; mayors’ length of term in office; significant issues that impacted the last two elections; size and nature of the voting age population; percent of that group that registered to vote in the 2000 Presidential election; at least one major problem faced by the council; nature of relations between mayor and council; size of city council; the extent of minority participation in council policy-making; and the nature of relations between city officials and the governor and Congressional representatives.”
- Find the city website through a directory such as State & Local Government on the Net or Google.
- The Municipal Yearbook (a print resource located in the library) tells the type of government for municipalities. It also includes some discussion of the year’s events, court cases and legislation, and their effects upon relationships between local governments and the state and federal governments.
- America’s Top-Rated Cities: A Statistical Handbook tells the type of government and more.
- The Missouri Municipal League has a website which includes helpful handouts, including this guide for newly elected municipal officials. Municipal leagues can also cover smaller areas, such as the St. Louis County Municipal League. If you have selected towns or cities outside Missouri, check to see if the municipal league for that area has helpful materials on their website. Link to municipal leagues for other states.
- Mayor’s length of term, size of city council and other basics might be found in the municipality’s Code of Ordinances. Not all ordinances are online, but you can check the city or town’s website and also try Municode.com. If neither of these ideas work out, try contacting the Reference Desk of the city’s main public library.
- One way to find significant issues debated in recent elections is by checking old newspapers. Try Lexis-Nexis Academic from the library’s database list and see if it offers your cities’ newspapers in full text. Tip: In Lexis-Nexis Academic, choose the “Guided News Search” tab and then select “U.S. News” from the first drop-down box.
- The online Mayoral Elections Results Database will tell whether the last mayoral election was run as a partisan race.
- For size and nature of the voting age population, look for tables that show data by age in the Census Bureau’s online American FactFinder.
- For voter registration statistics for the year 2000 by state, see the Current Population Survey report P20-542. For similar information by city, check the newspapers. You may be able to find local voting statistics through the “Statistics by State” link list.
- For financial data, see Table #18 of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Finances of Municipal and Township Governments (2002 is the most recent edition). Check for more data in additional publications from the U.S. Census of Governments. The Government Finance Officers Association website might be helpful, too.
Your assignment reads: “The third seminar is intended to observe trends in revenue and expenditures between 1990 and 2000. Namely: 1) Changes in citizen preferences (demands) for public service, 2) Changes in local resources and tax revenues, 3) Changes in external sources, i.e., intergovernmental aid from state and federal government, and 4) Changes in municipal debt.
Some city government financial information is available through the U.S. Census of Governments website. Tip for finding tables that show data by municipalities or metropolitan statistical areas: use the “Find” feature (the icon is a pair of binoculars) to search for city names within the pdf files.
Annual reports printed by municipalities themselves could include the financial and trend data you’ll need, but such reports may be printed in limited quantities, intended mainly for local distribution. You can look for them in public libraries located within the municipality. Older editions might be available through interlibrary loan. Larger cities’ annual reports could be available online, but there are no guarantees. Be sure to place your interlibrary loan requests early, since materials can take several weeks to arrive.
Check city websites for archived minutes of council meetings. Minutes can be time-consuming to search, but they might contain information that you need.
You may be able to find evidence of citizen preferences or demand for public services by browsing local newspapers. (See section for Paper #2 above for information on locating newspapers.) You could also check city or municipal league websites for notices of hearings that have already taken place, or will take place. Our library databases could prove useful here as well. Check in particular PAIS and Worldwide Political Science Abstacts for articles about cities and the issues they are facing.
Your assignment reads: “The fourth session will allow us to observe several variables indicative of policy direction: 1) Annexations undertaken/sought since 1990, 2) Tort liability, 3) Eminent domain, 4) Neighborhood improvement districts, 5) Tax increment financing.”
It is possible that after conducting research for papers #1, #2 and #3, you will know where to look for this information: check the library databases, newspapers, laws/ordinances, meeting minutes, city websites, etc. The availability of information on annexation, tort liability, etc. will vary widely, according to the municipality you have chosen. If you are unable to find sufficient information in print or online sources, your last resort may be to phone the municipality and ask questions. At this advanced point in your research, it is advisable to contact your instructor if you encounter problems.
If you have chosen a Missouri municipality, you can read the state law about Neighborhood Improvement Districts in under sections 453, 455 and 457 of the Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 67. You may find statutes for other states through the legal section of LexisNexis Academic (find LexisNexis in the library database list.)
Your assignment reads: “When these four seminars are completed you will have garnered a substantive knowledge of the municipality. You are to then assume you are an Administrative Assistant in the cognizant municipality. The municipality leader desired home rule designation. Your final assignment is to prepare a memorandum to the mayor setting out the advantages of being a home rule city, the arguments against making the change and the specific process the city must undertake to change.”
You may use any of the sources listed under papers #1, #2, #3 and #4 above, and any additional sources you may have discovered during the course of this semester, to support your arguments.
- As you work on these projects, you may encounter new terms and concepts. The Encyclopedia of Urban America: The Cities and Suburbs, edited by Neil Larry Shumsky, is a good reference source to check if you want to become familiar with context and background of issues, or find definitions. Just keep it in mind as a supportive resource.
- You may have a harder time finding materials on smaller cities in Ellis Library or on the internet. It is possible you may have to rely more heavily on our interlibrary loan service. Place your requests early so that you have what you need in time to complete your assignments.
- If you request materials through interlibrary loan for the earlier assignments in the semester, you might have to return them before your later assignments approach. Before returning materials to the library, consider gleaning them with the later assignments in mind. Photocopy any pages you think you might want to use for later assignments. This will save you from having to make multiple requests.
- Though sources above are listed under discrete headings for seminars #1, #2, #3 and #4, this is not meant to limit them to those assignments. It should be understood that any of the sources above may be used for more than one assignment.