Prepare a research paper on the decision-making process in an actual local government, and the role that the city manager takes during this process. This paper will be the result of traditional academic research (journals and books) and attendance at, and reporting on, how the local governance process plays out. An outline for the research paper will be provided in advance of the first week of class. Below is a detailed description of what is needed.
To provide students with an additional perspective on the role of the local government manager, each student shall prepare a research paper on the decision-making process in an actual local government, and the role that the city manager (and others) take during this process. This paper will be the result of traditional academic research (journals and books) and attendance at, and reporting on, how the local governance process plays out.
While not every student enrolled in this course lives/works in the State of Florida, this research paper will be based upon actual local government activities that typically take place in Florida. If your home state does not operate as we do here in Florida, please contact me as soon as possible so that we can work out alternative arrangements for you.
For the research paper, you are to select a local government agency. It can be the municipality where you live or where you work (and this may be the best choice since at least one site visit to that municipality is encouraged). It can be another municipality that interests you; maybe a municipality where you would like to live or work in the future. However, you will need to submit the name of that municipality during the first week of the course for my approval.
Once approved, you should take the following steps in order to set up your research paper:
- Visit the municipality’s website and find their link to an upcoming public meeting. This can usually be found under the City Clerk/Town Clerk tab and will typically have a link to something identified as AGENDA.
- Once you find an upcoming agenda for a public meeting, click on that agenda link and attempt to identify an item that the elected body will be considering on SECOND READING (and a second reading is an action which is required by law in the State of Florida). The reason why it is important to identify an item that is on SECOND READING is that the action of the elected body is near completion on this matter when it gets to its second reading. The purpose of this research paper is to write about everything that took place leading up to the apparent final vote on the matter which will take place on SECOND READING. Try to find an interesting topic. Maybe it will be a change in zoning matter. Maybe it will be an approval for a large mixed-use development. Maybe it will be approval for the removal/relocation of statues of confederate generals. Again, try to find a topic that will be interesting to you and to others.
- Here are the questions that need to be answered in your paper:
- How did the issue originally come up? What “triggered” the issue before the elected body?
- Through which departments of the City was it shepherded? Was it a Planning & Zoning Department item? Was it through one of the Public Safety Departments (police and fire)? How involved did the initiating department get in the matter and what was their involvement?
- Were there preliminary reviews by any subordinate boards? Did the matter need to go before a Planning & Zoning Board, a Historic Preservation Board, another local board unique to the municipality being studied? If there was a preliminary board review, what was the general discussion about the matter before them? Did the preliminary board take a final position and make a recommendation on the matter? What was the final vote of the preliminary board?
- Was there any public input at the preliminary board review? What was the public input? How many citizens (and possibly subject matter experts) fell into the “for” camp and how many fell into the “against” camp?
- When did the matter finally get to the governing body? Was there anything unusual and/or unique which took place between the time of the recommendation of the preliminary board and the advancement of the item to the elected body?
- Once the matter was scheduled (probably on first reading) for the elected body, what was the recommendation of the city/town manager? Did that recommendation concur with the recommendation of the preliminary reviewing body? If so, what were the city manager’s comments about the recommendation of the preliminary reviewing body? If the city manager did not concur, what was his/her justification for recommending against the preliminary reviewing body’s position?
- Since you will be looking at a governing body agenda item that is being considered on second reading, is there a difference between what was initially considered on first reading and what was actually considered on second reading? If the second reading was different than the first, what if anything impacted the matter between first and second reading? Was it the recommendation of the city/town manager? Was it input from the public? Was it media coverage (radio, TV, newspaper, social media, etc.)?
- How much input was there from the public? Did citizens show a great deal of interest in this topic, or was it just business as usual? Were any passions elevated and were there strong opinions from the public on either side of the issue?
- What was the general discussion about the item by the governing body? Was this a controversial issue, or was it more of a “slam dunk”? Was the outcome in jeopardy from the outset, or was the outcome very predictable?
- What was the final vote of the elected body? Was it unanimous or was it a split decision? After the vote, was there much reaction from the public in attendance at the meeting of the governing body?
- Finally, in your opinion, was the decision a good decision or a bad decision? What will be the impact to the community from the decision?
- In order to make the paper meaningful, you will have to do some historical research on the topic being considered by the governing body. This can be accomplished by reviewing minutes or replays of a video streaming of past meetings (generally found online on the municipality’s website or possibly by going to the municipality to interview key players). If possible, you may want to attend the SECOND READING meeting of the governing body to actually see what happens in real time.
- This paper should be 7-10 pages in length and should be constructed using the questions outlined above.
- Chapter Four- Urban Policymaking of our textbook will help considerably in putting together your paper.