Fall 2008 Course Description

Politics and Process

Section Title: Policymaking in Cities
Instructor(s): William Spelman
Course: P A 383C - Politics and Process
(previously Policy Development)
Unique Number: 64725
Day & Time: Mondays, 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Room: SRH 3.111
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information

This course fulfills requirements for the following specialization(s):

Description: Most of the time, most of us take city government for granted. We drive on the streets, flush the toilet and put out the trash, call 911 on the loud party next door – and somebody takes care of it for us. Sooner or later, however, something unpleasant and unexpected happens: We’re late to work and get caught in traffic; the sewer backs up into our front yard; a cop shoots an unarmed kid in the back and a whole community is up in arms. Even if you’re primarily interested in international development, foreign policy, or state or federal domestic policy, at some point in your life you will ask, “How could the city be so stupid?” For better or worse, this course attempts to explain some of that stupidity.

We first take up issues of policymaking common to all units of government: Who rules and who really rules; the stage model of policy development; the role of critical actors in problem framing, policy advocacy, and implementation. We then apply this basic framework to a variety of urban problems, examining potential solutions and the political machinations needed to get the solutions adopted and implemented. Problems considered include the urban underclass and the persistence of poverty, crime, and social disorder; suburbanization and sprawl, regionalism, and transportation; economic and population growth, affordability, and sustainability. The course is (still) new and I had to start somewhere, so we will focus on problems of North American cities; I suspect you will find that most of the principles apply to cities throughout (at least) the developed world.

Policymakers of all kinds need to do a wide variety of things well. To get you used to this, I’ll ask you to make presentations, write an op ed article and some talking points, and perfect the gentle art of the one-page memo. Because the real work of urban policy making is in the details, most of these assignments require application of basic principles to specific cases.

Return to Fall 2008 Course Schedule