Activists in City Hall: The Progressive Response to the Reagan Era in Boston and Chicago (Paperback)Pierre Clavel (author)
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In 1983, Boston and Chicago elected progressive mayors with deep roots among community activists. Taking office as the Reagan administration was withdrawing federal aid from local governments, Boston's Raymond Flynn and Chicago's Harold Washington implemented major policies that would outlast them. More than reforming governments, they changed the substance of what the government was trying to do: above all, to effect a measure of redistribution of resources to the cities' poor and working classes and away from hollow goals of "growth" as measured by the accumulation of skyscrapers. In Boston, Flynn moderated an office development boom while securing millions of dollars for affordable housing. In Chicago, Washington implemented concrete measures to save manufacturing jobs, against the tide of national policy and trends.
Activists in City Hall examines how both mayors achieved their objectives by incorporating neighborhood activists as a new organizational force in devising, debating, implementing, and shaping policy. Based in extensive archival research enriched by details and insights gleaned from hours of interviews with key figures in each administration and each city's activist community, Pierre Clavel argues that key to the success of each mayor were numerous factors: productive contacts between city hall and neighborhood activists, strong social bases for their agendas, administrative innovations, and alternative visions of the city. Comparing the experiences of Boston and Chicago with those of other contemporary progressive cities-Hartford, Berkeley, Madison, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Burlington, and San Francisco-Activists in City Hall provides a new account of progressive urban politics during the Reagan era and offers many valuable lessons for policymakers, city planners, and progressive political activists.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 224
Weight: 372 g
Dimensions: 229 x 156 x 16 mm
"The interlinked stories of social movement and progressive governance make for a fascinating read. . . . Some of the most engaging passages describe how various community leaders came together to generate innovative policy ideas that fed into the Flynn and Washington administrations. . . . What could Obama have learned (and could still learn) from these local leaders about staying in campaign mode while governing, continuing to organize, and having organizers among the inner circle? What could he have anticipated about the backlash that comes from breaking the race barrier? Clavel's stories of 1980s urban progressivism definitely still resonate today."-Lisa Ranghelli, Shelterforce, Winter 2010
"In a sophisticated and approachable narrative, Clavel discusses how redistributive politics with a neighborhood focus triumphed-at least for a few years-in two of America's major cities. He does an especially skilled job of discussing what happens when the progressive dog actually catches the car of city government and becomes responsible for ruling."-Choice, June 2010
"Based largely on interviews with municipal policymakers, progressive politicians, university intellectuals, and neighborhood activists, in addition to a bountiful social science literature on urban planning and governance, the book argues that progressive forces scored noteworthy successes at the local level at a time when like-minded activists failed to have their voices heard nationally. Clavel's research has enriched our understanding of politics and governance in two important cities during a time of conservative ascendance."-American Historical Review
"This energetic and accessible account of progressive successes and failures in a range of American cities in the 1970s and 1980s, including the author's in-depth original research on Boston and Chicago, provides an ideal gateway to the future. Brimming with insights and thoughtful commentary on political strategies, it could be used as a springboard by coming generations of activists and planners."-G. William Domhoff, University of California, Santa Cruz, author of Who Rules America?
"Pierre Clavel's Activists in City Hall is an important history of progressivism at the city and local government level. His extensive interviews, firsthand observation, and careful use of a mostly ignored literature all make an important contribution to urban studies, political science, urban planning, and history. Clavel carefully considers the role of neighborhood organizations, university intellectuals, and progressive politicians along with the 'growth machine' or usual governing coalition that they opposed. This is a must-read book for students, scholars, and political activists."-Dick Simpson, University of Illinois at Chicago, author of Inside Urban Politics and The Struggle for Power and Influence in Cities and States
"Pierre Clavel has a definite idea of what makes a city progressive: a commitment to popular participation, social movements, and redistribution. In Activists in City Hall, he reflects on important themes including the complex relationship between social movements and city government, the connection between redistribution and popular participation, the role of planners and intellectuals in progressive government, and the long-term and far-reaching effects the progressive administrations of Boston and Chicago had on later governments and other cities. His insights on these topics make this an important book."-Gerald E. Frug, Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, author of City Making and coauthor of City Bound
"Recent years have seen an increasing interest by both academics and activists in the relationships among social movements, regional organizing, and urban planning for social equity. Pierre Clavel's remarkably prescient book reminds us that the roots of this phenomenon-both the idea of an active interplay between movement organizing and pragmatic policy and the notion that one can scale from local and regional experiments to state and federal policy-partly stem from an early era of progressive city administrations in Boston and Chicago. Full of case study detail, nuanced in its approach, and offering a powerful theoretical frame that weaves together policies, politics, and power, Activists in City Hall is an important contribution to the literature on urban change and progressive planning."-Manuel Pastor Jr., University of Southern California, coauthor of This Could Be the Start of Something Big
"While progressives are challenged in finding their voice nationally, the opposite can be said about activists in the halls of local government. Pierre Clavel's important work showcases how activists are successfully expanding the range of voices being heard in the halls of city government and winning campaigns, demonstrating that government can be more than a spectator sitting on the sidelines of economic development. Clavel's case studies demonstrate not only how progressives can advance innovative public policy benefiting a wider range of economic interests but also that we are capable of governing. This book is a breath of fresh air for anyone feeling alienated amid the current political moment."-Amy B. Dean, coauthor of A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement