McGill University Comparison


Learning Objectives for Cities Paper: Throughout this course, you will apply the concepts learned from the course materials, online lectures, and your critical reflections to conduct a comparative study of two cities/counties for a single policy issue within a framework of multi-level governance (federalism). Your single policy issue is of your choosing and will be approved by your instructor. 

The goals are simple—to explain policy outcomes for subnational governments, evaluate the politics behind the policy issue, and critically think about the impact of the policy issue for citizens and residents alike. 

·      You will incorporate outside research materials to examine two subnational governments (2 city governments or 2 county governments) and explain the policy process for a single policy issue. 

·      You will consider the conditions that shape the policy issue and the roles of policy actors. 

·      You will evaluate the policy outcomes for the localities (city government/county government) to understand why the outcomes might be similar and/or different using the comparative method (most-similar systems or most-different systems). 

·      You will reflect on the impact of the policy issue for individuals living in those cities/counties.  

Materials: You will use your textbook, any course content, and outside research materials (state/local issued government reports, news articles, academic articles, books, etc.) to create your essay. You must cite at minimum, 3 external research materials for each city/county government, which in total is 6 (aside from the textbook so 7 for minimum). Use the VC library’s website, google scholar, or even just a simple google search to look up your issue.

Directions: Following your paper proposal outline as your guide of the your most-similar or most-different comparisons of a single policy issue for two sub-national governments:

You will write a 5 to 7 pages, double-spaced paper, using 12-point font. You must have an introduction paragraph and a conclusion. Use the MLA or APA style guide to cite your source(s) and provide a reference or “works cited” page. Late submissions are not be accepted. Missing parenthetical citations and a reference page will result in a zero for the grade due to academic dishonesty. Unicheck, the plagiarism detection tool of Canvas, will be used.

The Logic of Comparing Systems for Cities/Counties: You pick two cities or counties to analyze and decide whether they are similar or different to each other on characteristics that you find important. It is your argument. Take the lead and think about your localities and the outcomes you observe! You can also See Module 1 for a refresher.

Cities/Counties can be different within a state or across states, same thing goes for being similar. 

For Example:

Some scholars will argue that Chicago and NYC are similar to each other because they are major cities, have a diverse demographic and have a strong democratic party influence. 

Others argue that they are different because Chicago is not a global city like NYC and Chicago still remains a blue-collar city with lower property values and lower income than residents of NYC, as well as they are regionally different and have different state influences.

Most-Similar Design: Cities/Counties may be similar in a variety of ways—size, demographics, economics, and political culture, etc., BUT the outcomes of your policy issue is different. 

So, similar localities but different outcomes.

?What is the reason for that difference? Identify the factor(s). This is your explanation. 

Most-Different Design: Cities/Counties may be different in a variety of ways—size, demographics, economics, and political culture, etc., BUT the outcomes of your policy issue is similar. 

So, different localities but similar outcomes.

?What is the reason for that similarity? Identify the factor(s). This is your explanation.

Respond to the Following: Under the system of multi-level governance (federalism), consider, explain, and evaluate the following for your chosen policy issue at the subnational-level in a comparative essay— (Make sure to have Introduction and Conclusion paragraphs)

1)    Discuss whether your cities/counties are similar or different to each other in terms of their background— Where are they located? What are the demographics of your subnational governments? Are they large/small localities? Do they have a particular political culture? What form of subnational government are they and how are they organized? 

Make your argument clear from the beginning. Say they are similar or different as cities/counties! And then you move onwards….

2)    Define the issue and describe the policy issue in both cities/counties—How is the policy issue formulated in your cities/counties? Why is this policy issue important? 

3)    Describe the policy origins for both cities/counties—Is it a national/state/subnational policy? Who initiated the policy? Is it derived from grassroots (group-level) efforts or not? Do the localities have similar/different origins?  (This could be your factor)

4)    What is the goal(s) of the policy for both cities/counties?—Is it simple or complex for one or both localities? Were the goals inspired from other localities dealing with the same issue? Are there other supporting/contrasting policies in place at the subnational level (city/county governments) and/or at the national level?  (This could be your factor impacting outcomes)

5)    Identify and describe the important policy actors for both cities/counties—Who are the main policy actors involved in your issue and are there many in each locality? Who plays a dominant role for your policy issue? Are others left-out? (This could be your factor impacting outcomes)

–Consider mayors and councils/commissions. 

–Consider state representatives at the executive office or legislative office (governors/attorneys-general/state house representatives/state senators, etc.).

–Consider national representatives (U.S. House Representatives/U.S. Senators, etc.).

–Consider non-governmental groups (NGOs/neighborhood groups/special interest groups, etc.) and individual activists at the local-level. 

6)    Evaluate the overall coordination and agency of policy actors for both cities/counties—Is there a high level or low level of coordination and interaction among policy actors for this policy issue in each city? Are only elected or appointed governmental officials interacting with each other? Are there outsiders being allowed to give insights, such as local activists, etc.? (This could be your factor impacting outcomes)

7)    Explain the financing of this policy for implementation at the local level for both cities/counties—Where is the financing coming from for both localities? Local/state taxes? Federal grants? Other loans? Private developers? (This could be your factor impacting outcomes)

8)    Describe the status of the policy and explain any structural constraints you have identified for both cities/counties—Has the policy been implemented at the local-level for both localities? If so, how? If not, why and how did it not get carried out/will it get carried out?  (Wrap up the explanation)

9)    Evaluate the role of the judiciary for both cities/counties—Has the state court system or federal court system gotten involved? Are there any judicial reviews/injunctions to stop the policy? Are there any lawsuits? (This could also be a factor impeding outcomes, much to the frustration of local governments or perhaps they delight in it being stalled?)

10) Evaluate the impact of this policy issue on local residents in both cities/counties—Will/does this policy have a positive or negative impact on local residents in each locality? Is it a popular policy? Has there been any push-back from local residents, neighborhood groups, or non-governmental organizations? Social movements? State ballot initiatives? Are some residents in your localities benefiting more than others from this policy?

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