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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Luis R. Fraga
POL S 381
Seattle Campus

Urban Politics and Policy in the United States

Introduces actors, institutions, processes, and policies of substate governments in the United States. Provides and intensive comparative examination of historical and contemporary politics and policy-making. Promotes understanding of city government and its role within the larger context of state and national governments.

Class description

This course introduces students to major actors, institutions, processes, and policies of substate governments in the United States. Through an intensive comparative examination of historical and contemporary politics in city governments, we will gain an understanding of municipal government and its role within the larger contexts of state and national governments.

The study of city governments in the United States is distinct from the study of state and national politics in several respects. One, unlike state and national governments, city governments have made major structural changes in their systems of representation and administration in response to changes in the distribution of political influence. Such institutional transformations have had immediate consequences for the capacity of different segments of the population to subsequently influence public policy. Two, due to their limited formal authority within the American federal system, many municipalities have not had the resources to resolve major problems that exist within their boundaries. As a result, economic growth has been the primary focus of much urban policy making. The focus on economic growth has not served all segments of the population equally. Lastly, metropolitan areas in the United States have included the most diverse class, racial, and ethnic groupings of the citizenry. Effective strategies of managing intergroup conflict and facilitating intergroup cooperation have always been of great importance to local governments. Responses to this interaction at the urban level have often set the pattern for subsequent state and national action and inaction. Much can be learned about American politics generally by studying urban politics in the United States.

Student learning goals

The primary learning objectives of the course are to understand: 1) the path dependency of historical institutionalism;

2) how structures of governance including elections, representation, and administration determine interest asymmetry in policy benefit;

3) how issues of race, ethnicity, immigration, and social class have always and continue to directly affect city politics and policy making; and

4) how access, equity, and inclusion have always been and continue to be central to city governments and have served as laboratories for how these issues are addressed at state and national levels of government.

General method of instruction

Lecture and discussion section.

Recommended preparation

There are no formal prerequisites for the course. A course in American national government will be very helpful.

Class assignments and grading

There will be short reflection essays based on the readings. All examination are in the essay format.

The formal course requirements are:

1. Class participation 20% of course grade, 10 % section/quiz participation, 5% lecture participation, 5% literature reviews 2. Midterm examination 30%, 3. Final examination 50%

It is expected that students will have completed all assigned readings before discussion sections and come to section fully prepared to discuss the readings. Students are also expected to prepare assigned literature reviews before section. It is expected that students will meet with TAs and the professor during office hours or by appointment as needed.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Luis R. Fraga
Date: 11/01/2013