Compromises are ways of opening the door to change by reducing the objections of interest groups. They are at the heart of decision making in city halls and are the closest thing in politics to an art form. Here’s what reporters should know about how compromises come about . . . and why.
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.
Civic work runs on relationships. But because communities are diverse and power so diffuse, it takes connections that are both broad and deep to be effective. This, in turn, requires we approach relationship building differently in civic work than in other activities. Here’s a key to success: Learning to ask people to do things for you.
As we’ve grown in recent decades in our knowledge of how cities work, we’ve lost our understanding of how city politics works. As a result, we have a greater storehouse of what ought to be done, but less and less knowledge of how to do it.