From State Capitols to City Halls

Smarter State Policies for Stronger Cities

Author(s): Alan Mallach (Senior Fellow)

This policy focus report was prepared by Alan Mallach pursuant to a joint program agreement between the Center for Community Progress and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

States matter. What happens in state government can make or break a city’s efforts to revitalize, yet this is frequently overlooked when it comes to a municipality’s economic, physical, and social improvement. Historically, states have supported urban revitalization, but in ways that fostered unequal outcomes while often limiting cities’ ability to leverage taxation powers, redevelop streetscapes and green spaces, and preserve neighborhoods for their residents. Yet state government is also uniquely positioned to foster real, equitable change—if key actors understand how. This report returns the emphasis onto the people at the heart of our communities. Now more than ever, policymakers need to understand this push and pull between cities and states. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the United States’ pervasive inequities and made starker the need to remedy them, while our nation’s racial reckoning demands more equitable, healthier cities offering access to decent education, jobs, housing, and healthcare to all. Cities are often held hostage by state policy—but they do not need to be. This report offers the foundation for a more constructive future.

Reviews

This is a must-read for both the practitioner and the theorist when it comes to analyzing best practices, creating and implementing policy, and how states can catalyze municipal urban revitalization by enabling flexible fiscal policy. Alan Mallach once again provides us with state-of-the-art analysis of these issues. Moreover, he suggests clear recommendations for making state and local governments better partners.”

— Gus Frangos, President, Ohio Land Bank Association and Cuyahoga Land Bank

Alan Mallach has brilliantly weaved together the nexus between state and local policy to revitalize cities. This report is thorough, relevant, and timely—and it provides a critical perspective on the importance of building capacity to ensure stronger alignment. A detailed accounting of all of the ways state laws impact municipalities, it considers the unintended consequences of well-meant policies alongside policy recommendations, and Mallach’s essential report will be a must-read for state and local policy makers.”

— Sue Pechilio Polis, Director of Health and Wellness, National League of Cities

We all deserve access to stable jobs, affordable housing, and green spaces, but unfortunately our systems aren’t built to guarantee that for future and even current generations. This report takes a thoughtful look at how we as policy makers can have a direct impact on building inclusive cities for all. From State Capitols to City Halls: Smarter State Policies for Stronger Cities provides real tools to support our communities, break down policies that breed inequality, and give everyone a fair shot at a high quality of life.”

— Eric P. Lesser, Gateway Cities Caucus Chair, Massachusetts State Senate

From State Capitals to City Halls: Smarter State Policies for Stronger Cities articulates a clear strategy for revitalizing urban cities. Understanding the state’s role in the growth or decline of cities is often overlooked and underestimated in economic development approaches. This report should be a handbook for state legislators and city officials, along with local practitioners attempting to create equitable development practices using state resources for local approaches.”

— Anika Goss, Chief Executive Officer, Detroit Future City

At the local level, we tend to look for local solutions, but Mallach reminds us that the tools available to municipalities are largely dictated by the state in which we operate. He provides a thoroughly researched overview of the tug-of-war between states and cities and offers pragmatic strategies to work within that context. Importantly, Mallach notes that municipalities can often be quite effective at lobbying for change at the state level and he outlines specific ways the state can empower municipalities and support local efforts.”

— Katelyn E. Wright, Executive Director, The Greater Syracuse Land Bank

Madison Gharghoury, Development Associate and Special Assistant to the President/CEO

Published: February 2022

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