Who governs? And why? How do they govern? These remain vital questions in the politics of our small cities and towns. In this new book, author Daniel Bliss takes issue with those who believe that small towns and cities are fatally vulnerable to the pressures of a global economy. Based on in-depth analyses of small town America, this book demonstrates how political agency can address and solve real problems affecting US towns, including capital flight, industrial closures, and job losses. Bliss illustrates how small localities exercise choices – such as nurturing local businesses and developing infrastructure rather than engaging in a "race to the bottom," heavily mortgaging tax revenues to attract large box retailers and small box call centers while passively watching more productive firms and better-paying jobs slip away.
Taking careful account of comparative literature as well as variations in city governments, their planning agencies, and their relations with state authorities, this book explores the ways in which local politicians and public planning bodies can mobilize local constituencies to weather global challenges and common structural problems such as unfavorable demographics, skill shortages and out-migration. Economic Development and Governance in Small Town America holds out the promise of meaningful democratic change even in unfavorable political and economic circumstances.
Table of Contents
1. A Theory of Institutional Capacity and Governance for Economic Development
2. The Economic Context of Municipalities
3. Institutional Frameworks: Intergovernmental Support and Bureaucratic Organization
4. Ely: Infrastructure Delivered, Governance Contested
5. Hibbing, Minnesota: The Evolution of Activist Development
6. Sterling and Rock Falls, Illinois: Reform and Recovery?
7. Comparing Governance of Economic Development
Appendix I. Survey Questionnaire
Daniel Bliss is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Illinois Institute of Technology, USA.
"Daniel Bliss presents a remarkably timely and thoughtful analysis of small town governance in the United States. In contrast to the uncritical romanticism and victimization narratives often drawn on to depict rural and small towns, Bliss makes a powerful empirical case for how local institutional capacity and citizen involvement shape differences in effective local problem solving."
– Susan Clarke, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA