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A Research Agenda for Shrinking Cities

Justin B. Hollander

This prescient book presents the intellectual terrain of shrinking cities while exploring the key research questions in each of the field’s sub-domains and reviewing the range of methodologies within these topics.
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Chapter 3: Focus on local

Justin B. Hollander


The last chapter’s attention to the regional context of shrinkage offered important lessons and scaffolding. Now I turn to the scale that matters most in much of the world: the local. From parishes to towns, from cities to boroughs, the small-scale political apparatus and administrative functions of local government shape and reshape the planning and response to shrinkage.

The regionalist argument may be convincing, but local is where decisions are made, where policies and plans are implemented (either formally or informally) to shape how a shrinking place manages change. What is meant by local varies from region to region, country to country. In the U.S., local governments can be tiny hamlets of 6 square miles (e.g. Stafford, Oregon), or they can stretch across tens of thousands of square miles (e.g. Elko County in Nevada).

In the most rural areas, counties perform all local government functions across these large land areas (approaching regional in scope), but more urbanized parts of the U.S. operate at finer geographies. Either way, legally they are both considered local, and through the provision of infrastructure, land development regulation, and emergency services they impact the lives of residents and the attractiveness of any given place. Likewise, the choices of thousands of individuals and families can impact the basic functioning of local governments. A mass exodus from a locality is expected to result in a reduction in tax revenues and can impinge on the ability of that local government to provide services. This chapter...

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