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State vs. city government: A relationship at an ‘all-time low’?

July 3, 2018

Smart Cities Dive,

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July 2, 2018-

At a Washington, DC event in May, Harvard Kennedy School professor and former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith argued cities are “almost at war with their statehouse,” and that “cooperation between cities and their states is at an all-time low.” The differences between city government and their counterparts in state houses have been well-documented, with many blaming ideological differences between traditionally conservative state legislators and more liberal city leaders. Others have said the divide between rural and urban legislators creates rancor in state houses.

But is the relationship at an all-time low? Goldsmith did not respond to repeated requests for further comment, but Mark Pertschuk, director at Grassroots Change, an organization that looks to empower grassroots movements and tracks states’ preemption of local control, believes it is.

“I don’t think that the Founding Fathers, it could have ever occurred to them that some idiot in the Arizona legislature or in the legislature in Texas would wholesale challenge local democracy,” Pertschuk said. “It just never occurred to them.”

Pertschuk said the most egregious example of this is in Arizona, where he said the legislature is “quite literally at war with all the subdivisions of the state, not just cities and counties but primarily cities and counties.”

“They’re going against a tradition that goes back to the very founding of the state,” Pertschuk said. Laredo, TX was in the Texas Supreme Court this week battling the state — and losing — over a plastic bag ban.

“The people that are making minimum wage in Wisconsin can’t make hundreds of thousands of dollars of political contributions, whereas [the American Legislative Exchange Council] and the Chamber of Commerce, the NRA and Pepsi and Coke and the huge wholesalers of soda can together fund an entire state Senate campaign,” Pertschuk said.

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