Perhaps the most underanalyzed but important part of local government is the city council. The key is knowing how much councils are shaped by their form of government and election processes. Here’s a look at how council members work with mayors, city managers, and one another, and how these habits are influenced by structure and representation. Don’t worry: There are some good story ideas here, too.
City hall isn’t so much a public policy factory as a switching yard, where ideas come in from the outside and are acted on. So where do big public policy ideas originate in your city? And what happens to them as they move along the tracks? This could be a rich source for your reporting, and an eye-opening series of stories for your readers.
Forget about the NIMBYs vs. greedy developers showdowns. The real stories in local government are about efforts to create more interesting and attractive urban environments, and the people involved in these efforts. Some are elected officials or city workers, but many aren’t. They’re people in neighborhoods doing things that are slightly unusual, such as walking, biking, or taking buses to work . . . or restoring old homes.
Local governments aren’t the kid brothers of state and national governments. They are grounded in something different: people and places, and the interactions of the two. If you’re going to cover city hall, then, you can’t cover it the way you’d write about Congress or a state legislature. This is the first in a series of articles about how reporters and bloggers can write about city hall in smarter, more satisfying ways.