Week One (10 Points)

Begin reading the opening chapters of your textbook State and Local Politics by John Straayer, Robert Wrinkle, and J.L. Polinard. In an attempt to excite you about this course, I would like to talk about some interesting public policy issues for the first few assignments. I want to demonstrate to you that government and politics at the state and local level go right to the heart of the most important societal issues in the United States and how we see ourselves as individuals and citizens. The most important public policy goals and objectives are played out at the state and local government level on a daily basis, even more so than at the national level of government. Broad-based belief systems and ideologies like "Liberalism," "Conservatism," "Environmentalism," "Individualism," and "Free Enterprise" are part and parcel of the daily fabric of state and local politics. This week we will see how this is so.

I suggest that you read the following very interesting articles which bring into sharp relief the fact that local government, particularly in this case city government, is vital and integral to our sense of liberty, freedom, equality, and the role of government in our lives. You may also want to visit one or more of the web sites recommended on the course outline. The suggested articles are:

1. Alan Ehrenhalt, "The Intellectual Regalia of 30 Years Ago," Governing (September 1997).

2. Fred Siegel, "The Future Once Happened Here: Liberalism and the Decline of America's Big Cities," The Insider (March 1998).

3. Fred Siegel, "Rudy Awakening," The New Republic (April 19, 1999).

4. Steven Hayward, "Broken Cities," Policy Review, (March-April, 1998).

5. John Podhoretz, "The War Against Rudy Giuliani," The Weekly Standard, (April5/12 1999).

6. Arch Puddington, "Cops, Crime, and the 'New York Times,'" Commentary, (June 2000).

7. Heather MacDonald, "The Excellent NYPD," City Journal (Summer 2000).

You can view the articles above by clicking on the titles. Remember, some of the article links for this course are scanned images and are not easy to read. In some cases it may be easier to print out those articles that are difficult to read in hard copy form.

The articles I have assigned have a great deal to do with the work of Professor Fred Siegel, an urban scholar at the Cooper Union College. Ehrenhalt's article is a review of Professor Siegel's groundbreaking book The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A. and the Fate of America's Big Cities (Free Press 1997),

and Siegel's article "The Future Once Happened Here: Liberalism and the Decline of America's Big Cities" is a summary of his findings in that book. Siegel and Ehrenhalt basically believe that there have been some real public policy victories in recent years, that this success has resulted in the revitalization of America's big cities, and that this success has much to do with abandoning old assumptions that influenced public policy decision-making between 1960 and 1990. Indeed, most of us must acknowledge that up until the early 1990s cities like New York City were deemed "ungovernable" - places to flee rather than to settle. The crack epidemic of the late 1980s and early 1990s brought levels of violent crime to unprecedented levels. Crime and high taxes caused big name companies to move their headquarters to adjacent suburbs. The middle-class tax base continued to shrink and public spaces were dominated by thugs, panhandlers, the homeless, drug dealers, vagabonds, and "squeegymen." Today while there are still big problems in the major cities, many of the worst problems concerning the quality of life seem to have taken a turn for the better.

In fact, it might be appropriate to view first six weeks of assignments for this course in terms of the common theme of the "attack on standards." By standards I mean simply the behavioral expectations that society upholds in order to bestow rewards and punishments on individuals. While you are completing the readings for the first three weeks, be aware of the idea of uniform standards throughout public life - in education, in law enforcement, in college admissions, in the welfare system - and take note of the attempts to reestablish, revise, redefine, or completely dismiss the notion of standards.

In my view, it would be difficult to think of a more important issue facing society than what kinds of standards are used to measure such things as individual achievement, mental illness, criminal behavior, and eligibility for governmental aid programs. The things that society expects individual citizens to do or not to do goes to the very core of our conception of freedom and responsibility, as well as good and evil. The fact is, that almost all of the changes taking place with regard to either reestablishing standards, redefining them, or doing away with them is taking place at the state and local levels of government. That is to say, whether it be deciding what students should have to know before graduating high school, or what they should have to score on tests in order to gain admittance to college, or what individuals must avoid doing to stay out of prison, or what kinds of behavior constitute mental illness, or what an individual must do in order to receive government aid, are mostly questions that are being debated at the state and local levels of government.


In a couple of paragraphs, no longer than two pages, please address the following questions either one at a time or in narrative form (i.e. as if your telling a story). Of course the multiple choice questions should be answered one at a time.

1. Describe what Ehrenhalt and Siegel identify as the primary problems with public policy in the big cities in the years after the 1960s? What were the failed assumptions made by public officials about citizenship, personal responsibility, and public order?

2. Tell me what Ehrenhalt means when he says that in the 1960s "Liberation was the promise of the future" and "restriction and regimentation was a relic of the past?" What does Siegel mean by "modern liberalism?"

3. Choose the correct answer to the following question: The "immigrant model" of social mobility says:

a. Despite disadvantages, clinging to habits of hard work, sacrifice, education, and strong family ties will result in social/economic success.

b. Poor people don't have a chance in the United States.

c. Immigrants add diversity and color to American life.

d. Immigrants have to work mostly in industries that serve their communities in order to become wealthy.

4. Choose the correct answer to the following question: Beginning in the 1960s, public policy started to move away from the expectations of the "immigrant model" of social mobility. This happened mostly because policy makers felt that the more intense discrimination faced by Black Americans constituted a higher obstacle toward economic mobility than the ones facing most other Americans, immigrant groups included.

Which of the following would be an example of the drift away from the "immigrant model" in public policy.

a. Civil Service Tests b. Requiring SATs for admission to college c. Affirmative Action in hiring and college admissions d. Stop and Frisk police actions.

5. What is the "Broken Windows" theory of crime? What is the difference between "Broken Windows" and "Community" Policing?

6. Choose the correct answer to the following question. The discussion of crime in the assigned articles leads us to conclude that, in general:

a. Educating prisoners helps them adjust to life outside of prison.

b. Crime is mostly a matter of racism and poverty.

c. Higher police salaries result in lower crime rates.

d. Economic conditions do not always determine the levels of crime and vice. Very often, the level of crime and vice determines economic condition.

7. Identify two policies that New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has implemented that reflect his commitment to the principle of "once city, one standard":

8. After completing the suggested readings, how do you feel about the belief that crime is primarily a function of poverty?

Click Here for Comments and Answer Page

Click Here to Return to Seth Forman's Home Page

Click Here To Proceed On To Assignment Number 2 Page

Click Here to Return to Course Outline Page

Click For:

Third Week's Assignment

Fourth Week's Assignment

Fifth and Sixth Week's Assignment

Seventh and Eight Week's Assignment

Ninth Week's Assignment

Tenth and Eleventh Week's Assignment

Twelfth Week's Assignment

Thirteenth Week's Assignment

Fourteenth Week's Assignment

E-mail: seth.forman@co.suffolk.ny.us