Government in the Twilight Zone
Volunteers to Small-City Boards and Commissions
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Illuminates how local board systems operate and the motivations and experiences of their members.
While 97 percent of all American cities are smaller than 50,000 and millions of Americans experience civic life in these communities, what we know about their politics and governance is limited, particularly how local board systems operate, who the board members are, what motivates them to serve, and what they think about their experiences. Drawing on a unique and extensive set of survey data from board members, mayors, and city councilors in sixty cities across six states, Government in the Twilight Zone significantly expands our knowledge of small city boards and politics. By embedding the empirical research in the historical trajectory of small towns, John R. Baker provides a rich narrative that discusses the role of entities such as planning commissions, parks and recreation boards, and zoning appeals boards. He also clarifies how board and commission members are recruited in small cities, explains how these organizations work to make the decisions required of them, and reveals what they and their city councilors and mayors think about their importance and effectiveness.
John R. Baker is Professor of Political Science at Wittenberg University. He is the editor of Lanahan Readings in State and Local Government: Diversity, Innovation, Rejuvenation.
"Professional city managers have long known about the influence and importance of advisory boards and commissions in the decision making in local government. Thank you, Rob, for shedding a little light on these groups that operate in the twilight of government." — Scot E. Simpson, City Administrator, River Falls, Wisconsin