National League of Cities to Partner on MacArthur-Funded Study of City Fiscal Capacity

May 21, 2012
The National League of Cities Center for Research & Innovation has received a three year grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to study city governments' responses to and recovery from the Great Recession. 

NLC will analyze U.S. cities' public investment and fiscal health in a collaborative project with the University of Illinois at Chicago's College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs and be advised by a working group of the Federal Reserve System, led by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. 

The study will examine how city governments can adjust to the current global economy, relieve constraints, and plan for more adaptive, sustainable growth. It will provide the Federal Reserve with an understanding of the need for strong regional economies. 

Chris Hoene, director of the Center for Research and Innovation at the National League of Cities, said the decline in city fiscal conditions over the last several years leaves many public leaders looking for pathways to growth. 

"The fiscal outlook for U.S. Cities has revealed a dire need for understanding and information about the underlying fiscal and economic capacities of cities and the factors that drive those capacities," Hoene said. 

Annual surveys by the National League of Cities have shown a persistent trend of city service cuts and retrenchment over the last decade. From 2009 to 2011, budgets were cut most often in infrastructure and personnel, including wages, pensions, and benefits. 

Michael Pagano, dean of the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago said "The Great Recession has endangered city services and cities' ability to invest in any future economic growth. This level of analysis will enhance dialogue on issues like pensions, workforce development, cuts to social and human services, jobs, public safety, and the tax base," Pagano said.

The researchers, led by Pagano and Hoene, will release a series of reports and convene a series of events for policy makers and key stakeholders throughout the three-year period covered by the MacArthur grant.
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The National League of Cities is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. Working in partnership with the 49 state municipal leagues, NLC serves as a resource to and an advocate for the more than 19,000 cities, villages and towns it represents. More than 1,600 municipalities of all sizes pay dues directly to NLC and actively participate as leaders and voting members in the organization. For more information, please visit www.nlc.org.

The University of Illinois at Chicago ranks among the nation's leading research universities and is Chicago's largest university with 27,000 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world. For more information about UIC, please visit www.uic.edu.

The Chicago Federal Reserve serves the Seventh Federal Reserve District, an economically diverse region that includes all of Iowa and most of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Seventh District has a large national share of many important economic sectors. The Chicago Fed has a head office in Chicago and a branch office in Detroit. Congress created the Federal Reserve System in 1913, charging it with the responsibility to foster a sound banking system and a healthy economy. This remains the broad mission of the Fed and its component parts: the 12 Federal Reserve Banks nationwide that each serve a specific region of the country, and the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., which is set up to oversee the Fed System. 

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. More information is at www.macfound.org.