Moving Beyond Schoolhouse Rock and Understanding Regulatory Processes

This week in North Philly Notes, Sara Rinfret, editor of Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?, writes about why regulations do matter.

Former President Trump often used slogans on the campaign trail to “end bad regulations” or to halt the “war on coal.” These soundbites assisted the Trump administration’s efforts to rollback more than 100 environmental regulations in the United States during his presidency. But, why? Are regulations bad?

Teaching courses on U.S. government to high school or college students often only covers the Schoolhouse Rock‘s version of “How a Bill Becomes a Law.” Unfortunately, we do not spend enough time examining in our curriculum what occurs after a piece of legislation becomes law.

Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?, urges that we must increase our understanding of regulatory processes to document policymaking in the United States less complex, with a myriad of access points for public participation. The book uses illustrative environmental policy case studies to guide the reader through the stages of administrative rulemaking. Unpacking these regulatory stages moves us beyond our Schoolhouse Rock mindset and illustrates how and why Congress delegates its decision-making authority to administrative agencies.

Congress delegates the implementation of policy to administrative agencies because it does not have the time or expertise to do so. This delegation of authority provides administrative agencies the ability to create law through the administrative rulemaking process. The stages of this process can be best understood by learning from the case studies that examine each of the distinct steps, such as rule development, public comment, to post-rulemaking activities. Our regulatory adventure does not stop after the stages of the rulemaking, but it is monitored and carried out by state environmental inspectors who ensure compliance with environmental law. These individuals, for example, ensure a nearby company is not improperly disposing of waste.

Unfortunately, the regulatory process is not discussed enough and often depicted as detrimental to business. Who Really Makes Environmental Policy? dispels this myth by inviting and encouraging the opportunity for students, practitioners and the general public to engage in a clear, step-by-step guide about the stages of the process. Specifically, we argue environmental policymaking is not made in a black hole. Instead, taking the time to understand regulatory processes is another access point for the American public to directly engage in providing input by using electronic platforms such as Regulations.gov.  

Regulations are not bad in general; they protect the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. The heavy lifters of environmental policy are career civil servants, your next-door neighbor who works for agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, or the National Park Service, to name a few. We just need to do a better job of understanding the process, which is the goal of Who Really Makes Environmental Policy? As Regulations.gov clearly states, “Make a difference. Submit your comments, and let your voice be heard!”

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase titles for Hispanic Heritage Month. View our full list of Latino/a Studies and Latin American/Caribbean Studies titles. (Also of interest Studies in Latin American and Caribbean Music series)

Accessible Citizenships shows how disability provides a new perspective on our understanding of the nation and the citizen.

Afro-Caribbean Religions provides a comprehensive introduction to the Caribbean’s African-based religions.

Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music recounts the life and times of one of Cuba’s most important musicians.

The Brazilian Sound is an encyclopedic survey of Brazilian popular music—now updated and expanded.

Caribbean Currents is the classic introduction to the Caribbean’s popular music brought up to date.

Chilean New Song provides an examination of the Chilean New Song movement as an organic part of the struggles for progressive social change, deeper democracy, and social justice in Chile in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The Coolie Speaks offers a remarkable examination of bondage in Cuba that probes questions of slavery, freedom, and race.

Daily Labors examines the vulnerabilities, discrimination, and exploitation—as well as the sense of belonging and community—that day laborers experience on an NYC street corner.

Democratizing Urban Development shows how community organizations fight to prevent displacement and secure affordable housing across cities in the U.S. and Brazil.

Dominican Baseball, from the author of Sugarball, looks at the important and contested relationship between Major League Baseball and Dominican player development.

Fernando Ortiz on Music features selections from the influential Fernando Ortiz’s publications on Afro-diasporic music and dance—now available in English.

From Puerto Rico to Philadelphia is a history of Puerto Rican immigration to Philadelphia.

Globalizing the Caribbean, now in Paperback, illustrates how global capitalism finds new ways to mutate and grow in the Caribbean.

How Did You Get to Be Mexican? is a readable account of a life spent in the borderlands between racial identity.

The International Monetary Fund and Latin America chronicles the sometimes questionable relationship between the International Monetary Fund and Latin America from 1944 to the present.

Latino Mayors is the first book to examine the rise of Latino mayors in the United States.

Latinos and the U.S. Political System is an analysis of American politics from the vantage point of the Latino political condition.

Latinx Environmentalisms puts the environmental humanities into dialogue with Latinx literary and cultural studies.

Liberation Theology asks: How does the church function in Latin America on an everyday, practical, and political level?

Merengue, now available as an ebook, is a fascinating examination of the social history of merengue dance music and its importance as a social and cultural symbol.

Migration and Mortality documents and denounces the violent impacts of restrictive migration policies in the Americas, linking this institutional violence to broader forces of racial capitalism.

Música Norteña is the first history of the music that binds together Mexican immigrant communities.

New Immigrants, Old Unions provides a case study of a successful effort to unionize undocumented immigrant workers.

The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation is a landmark history of the New York Young Lords, and what their activism tells us about contemporary Latino/a politics.

Not from Here, Not from There/No Soy de Aquí ni de Allá is a lively autobiography by Nelson Díaz, a community activist, judge, and public advocate who blazed a trail for Latinos in Philadelphia.

Revolution Around the Corner is the first book-length story of the radical social movement, the Puerto Rican Socialist Party.

Selecting Women, Electing Women offers an analytic framework to show how the process of candidate selection often limits the participation of women in various Latin American countries.

The Sorcery of Color is an examination of how racial and gender hierarchies are intertwined in Brazil.

Sounding Salsa takes readers inside New York City’s vibrant salsa scene.

Terrorizing Latina/o Immigrants is a comprehensive analysis of changes in immigration policy, politics, and enforcement since 9/11.

Women’s Empowerment and Disempowerment in Brazil explains what the rise and fall of Brazil’s first and only female president can teach us about women’s empowerment.

Celebrating Banned Book Week

This week in North Philly Notes, in honor of Banned Book Week, we highlight Temple University Press’ Critical Race Theory titles.

Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory, edited by Francisco Valdes, Jerome McCristal Culp and Angela P. Harris

Its opponents call it part of “the lunatic fringe,” a justification for “black separateness,” “the most embarrassing trend in American publishing.” “It” is Critical Race Theory. But what is Critical Race Theory? How did it develop? Where does it stand now? Where should it go in the future? In this volume, thirty-one CRT scholars present their views on the ideas and methods of CRT, its role in academia and in the culture at large, and its past, present, and future.

Critical race theorists assert that both the procedures and the substance of American law are structured to maintain white privilege. The neutrality and objectivity of the law are not just unattainable ideals; they are harmful actions that obscure the law’s role in protecting white supremacy. This notion—so obvious to some, so unthinkable to others—has stimulated and divided legal thinking in this country and, increasingly, abroad. The essays in Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory—all original—address this notion in a variety of helpful and exciting ways. They use analysis, personal experience, historical narrative, and many other techniques to explain the importance of looking critically at how race permeates our national consciousness.

Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, Third Edition, edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

Critical Race Theory has become a dynamic, eclectic, and growing movement in the study of law. With this third edition of Critical Race Theory, editors Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic have created a reader for the twenty-first century—one that shakes up the legal academy, questions comfortable liberal premises, and leads the search for new ways of thinking about our nation’s most intractable, and insoluble, problem—race. The contributions, from a stellar roster of established and emerging scholars, address new topics, such as intersectionality and black men on the “down low.” Essays also confront much-discussed issues of discrimination, workplace dynamics, affirmative action, and sexual politics. Also new to this volume are updated section introductions, author notes, questions for discussion, and reading lists for each unit. The volume also covers the spread of the movement to other disciplines such as education. Offering a comprehensive and stimulating snapshot of current race jurisprudence and thought, this new edition of Critical Race Theory is essential for those interested in law, the multiculturalism movement, political science, education, and critical thought.

The editors also published Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror, edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

Listen Up! Temple University Press Podcast Episode 3

This week in North Philly Notes, we debut the latest episode of the Temple University Press Podcast, which features host Sam Cohn interviewing author Stephen Feldman about his book Pack the Court!

The Temple University Press Podcast is where you can hear about all the books you’ll want to read next.

Click here to listen

The Temple University Press Podcast is available wherever you find your podcasts, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Overcast, among other outlets.

About this episode

Should Democrats add justices to the Supreme Court if given the chance, whether in 2021 or afterward? Or would Democratic court packing destroy the Court as an apolitical judicial institution? In his new book, Pack the Court!, Feldman has written a defense of Supreme Court expansion—a topic that is very much in the news right now with Democrats looking to pass the Judiciary Act of 2021, a bill that proposes to increase the number of Justices and change the ideological balance of the conservative majority. 

One criticism of court packing is that it will destroy the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as a judicial institution. According to this view, the Court’s legitimacy is based on a law-politics dichotomy: The idea that law and politics must remain separate and independent. The justices must decide cases by neutrally applying the rule of law. If politics infects the Court and its decision making, then Court decisions are tainted. But as Feldman’s insightful book shows, law and politics are forever connected in judicial interpretation and decision making. Pack the Court! insists that court packing is not the threat to the Supreme Court’s institutional legitimacy that many fear.

Temple University Press podcast host Sam Cohn spoke with Stephen Feldman about his new book and expanding the Supreme Court.

The Top Five Reasons to Pack the Supreme Court

This week in North Philly Notes, Stephen Feldman, author of Pack the Court! explains why Democrats should expand the number of Supreme Court justices.

Democrats should pack the Supreme Court if and when they have the opportunity. Yet, many object to court packing, arguing that it would destroy the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as a judicial institution. According to this view, the Court’s legitimacy is based on a law-politics dichotomy: The idea that law and politics must remain separate and independent. The justices must decide cases by neutrally applying the rule of law. If politics infect the Court and its decision making, then Court decisions are tainted.

Although many Republicans and Democrats share this view of the Court, it is seriously mistaken. Here, then, are five reasons to support court packing.

1. History of the Court’s Size. History reveals that Congress has repeatedly changed the number of justices based partly on political grounds; seven times by express statute. The Court has fluctuated between a minimum of six and a maximum of ten seats. Nothing in the Constitution precludes Congress from changing the Court’s size. From 1861 to 1869, for instance, politically driven Congresses changed the number of authorized Court seats from nine to ten to seven to nine. Most recently, for more than a year from February 2016 to April 2017, Mitch McConnell and a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee de facto reduced the Court to eight justices when they refused to open confirmation hearings for Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland.

2. History of the Appointment and Confirmation Processes. Despite the usual insistence that politics must be irrelevant to the Court’s business, presidents choose and congresses typically confirm (or reject) Supreme Court nominees based heavily on political considerations. Contrary to conservative claims that Democrats politicized and ruined the confirmation process in 1987, when they refused to confirm Robert Bork, presidents starting with George Washington have seen Congress shoot down their nominees for political reasons. Throughout American history, nearly one-fourth of the Supreme Court nominees have failed.

3. Analytical Argument Against the Law-Politics Dichotomy—Understanding the Law-Politics Dynamic. The law-politics dichotomy is a myth, propagated over the years for professional and political reasons. Contrary to this myth, law and politics dynamically interact in Supreme Court decision making. Law is neither the handmaiden of politics nor mere window-dressing, hiding political machinations. But law should never be understood as being separate and independent from politics, at least in Supreme Court decision making. In most cases, the justices sincerely interpret the relevant legal texts—the Constitution, statutes, executive orders, and so on—but interpretation is never mechanical. The justices’ political ideologies always influence their textual interpretations, so law and politics always intertwine in the adjudicative process. Politics, in other words, shapes the justices’ interpretive conclusions even though the justices focus on the law. Unsurprisingly, then, the justices’ legal interpretations and judicial conclusions ordinarily coincide with their respective political preferences.

If the Court decides cases pursuant to a law-politics dynamic—and the law-politics dichotomy is a myth—then the primary criticism of court-packing vanishes. If Supreme Court decision making is not and never has been apolitical, then court-packing cannot undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as an apolitical institution. Court-packing cannot infect the Court with politics because the law-politics dynamic is already (and always) inherent in legal interpretation and Supreme Court adjudication.

4. Politics of the Roberts Court. Despite claiming to follow the rule of law, the Roberts Court has consistently decided cases in accord with a conservative political agenda. Corporations and the wealthy usually win; the poor might not even get into court. Employers win; unions and employees lose. Whites win; people of color lose. Men win; women lose. Christians win; non-Christians lose. Republicans with entrenched political power win; Democratic voters lose. Gun owners win; everybody else loses.

If the Democrats were to enact progressive legislation—for example, statutes restoring and fortifying voting rights, creating universal health care, strengthening environmental protections and fighting climate change, restricting gun ownership, and protecting documented and undocumented immigrants—the Roberts Court, with its current personnel, would likely construct constitutional barriers to weaken or invalidate such laws.

5. Public Support for the Court. Would court packing cause many people to lose faith in the Court’s authority? The question here is not how the Court actually decides cases, but rather how the public perceives the Court. Nevertheless, political science studies suggest that the Democrats should go ahead and pack the Court. The public’s diffuse support for the Court is resilient, sustained by “a reservoir of favorable attitudes or good will.” Even when the Court issues a decision contrary to an individual’s personal views, that individual is unlikely to lose faith in the Court. If anything, when news of Court activities draws an individual’s attention, then that attention (to the Court) will likely reinforce the individual’s positive views of the institution. In a sense, the more one knows about the Court, the more one is likely to find its decisions legitimate (the opposite is true for Congress). In fact, many Americans understand that Supreme Court decision making entails a combination of law and politics—the law-politics dynamic. The people’s support for and loyalty to the Court does not depend on the myth of the law-politics dichotomy. To the extent that individual views of the Court’s legitimacy might change in response to a court-packing plan, partisan shifts would likely cancel each other out.

In conclusion, the potential for court packing is baked into the checks and balances of our tripartite national government. As history demonstrates, the Constitution grants Congress and the president control over the size of the Court as well as the nomination and confirmation processes. Therefore, at any particular time, politics determines whether court packing is possible and appropriate. When the time is right, as it is today, then a court-packing proposal would likely reinforce rather than weaken the Court’s legitimacy.

Announcing Temple University Press’ Fall Catalog

This week in North Philly Notes we showcase the titles forthcoming this Fall from Temple University Press

“Beyond the Law”: The Politics of Ending the Death Penalty for Sodomy in Britain, by Charles Upchurch, provides a major reexamination of the earliest British parliamentary efforts to abolish capital punishment for consensual sex acts between men.

Are You Two Sisters?: The Journey of a Lesbian Couple, by Susan Krieger, authored by one of the most respected figures in the field of personal ethnographic narrative, this book serves as both a memoir and a sociological study, telling the story of one lesbian couple’s lifelong journey together.

Asian American Connective Action in the Age of Social Media: Civic Engagement, Contested Issues, and Emerging Identities, by James S. Lai, examines how social media has changed the way Asian Americans participate in politics.

The Civil Rights Lobby: The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Second Reconstruction, by Shamira Gelbman, investigates how minority group, labor, religious, and other organizations worked together to lobby for civil rights reform during the 1950s and ’60s.

Elaine Black Yoneda: Jewish Immigration, Labor Activism, and Japanese American Exclusion and Incarceration, by Rachel Schreiber, tells the remarkable story of a Jewish activist who joined her imprisoned Japanese American husband and son in an American concentration camp.

Fitting the Facts of Crime: An Invitation to Biopsychosocial Criminology, by Chad Posick, Michael Rocque, and J.C. Barnes, presents a biopsychosocial perspective to explain the most common findings in criminology—and to guide future research and public policy.

From Improvement to City Planning: Spatial Management in Cincinnati from the Early Republic through the Civil War Decade, by Henry C. Binford, offers a “pre-history” of urban planning in the United States.

Gangs on Trial: Challenging Stereotypes and Demonization in the Courts, by John M. Hagedorn
, exposes biases in trials when the defendant is a gang member.

Invisible People: Stories of Lives at the Margins, by Alex Tizon, now in paperback, an anthology of richly reported and beautifully written stories about marginalized people.

Islam, Justice, and Democracy, by Sabri Ciftci, explores the connection between Muslim conceptions of justice and democratic orientations.

The Italian Legacy in Philadelphia: History, Culture, People, and Ideas, edited by Andrea Canepari and Judith Goode, provides essays and images showcasing the rich contribution of Italians and Italian Americans to Global Philadelphia.

Making a Scene: Urban Landscapes, Gentrification, and Social Movements in Sweden, by Kimberly A. Creasap, examines how autonomous social movements respond to gentrification by creating their own cultural landscape in cities and suburbs.

Making Their Days Happen: Paid Personal Assistance Services Supporting People with Disability Living in Their Homes and Communities, by Lisa I. Iezzoni, explores the complexities of the interpersonal dynamics and policy implications affecting personal assistance service consumers and providers.

The Many Futures of Work: Rethinking Expectations and Breaking Molds, edited by Peter A. Creticos, Larry Bennett, Laura Owen, Costas Spirou, and Maxine Morphis-Riesbeck, reframes the conversation about contemporary workplace experience by providing both “top down” and “bottom up” analyses.

On Gangs, by Scott H. Decker, David C. Pyrooz, and James A. Densley, a comprehensive review of what is known about gangs—from their origins through their evolution and outcomes.

Pack the Court!: A Defense of Supreme Court Expansion, by Stephen M. Feldman, provides a historical and analytical argument for court-packing.

Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities, by erin Khuê Ninh, considers how it feels to be model minority—and why would that drive one to live a lie?

Pedagogies of Woundedness: Illness, Memoir, and the Ends of the Model Minority, by James Kyung-Jin Lee, asks what happens when illness betrays Asian American fantasies of indefinite progress?

Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania, by Beverly C. Tomek, highlights the complexities of emancipation and the “First Reconstruction” in the antebellum North.

Vehicles of Decolonization: Public Transit in the Palestinian West Bank, by Maryam S. Griffin, considers collective Palestinian movement via public transportation as a site of social struggle.

Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?: Creating and Implementing Environmental Rules and Regulations, edited by Sara R. Rinfret, provides a clear understanding of regulatory policy and rulemaking processes, and their centrality in U.S. environmental policymaking.

The Political Incorporation of Chinese Migrants

This week in North Philly Notes, Amy Liu, author of The Language of Political Incorporation, recounts lessons she learned studying how Chinese migrants are treated in Europe.

Central-Eastern Europe is not an oft-discussed migration destination. Yet, places such as Hungary are some of the most popular European countries for Chinese migrants. Likewise, the Chinese constitute one of the largest migrant populations—not just in Hungary, but in all of Europe. To better understand the Chinese in Europe, I surveyed over 2500 Chinese migrants in Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Portugal, Romania, and Serbia. I find that while the vast majority still held on to their Chinese passports (Beijing forbids dual citizenship), there is substantial variation in the migrant networks. Some are from parts of southern China with large migrant populations in Europe. These southern Chinese communities have a distinct vernacular that ensures their insularity—not just from the local Europeans but from other Chinese.

Everyone else is resigned to larger, all-inclusive Chinese networks. The diversity of these networks requires Mandarin Chinese—the Chinese lingua franca—to be the operating vernacular. The use of this lingua franca means the average Chinese migrant engages regularly with other Chinese persons from different backgrounds. They also interact with the locals more frequently—whether it is because the locals had learned Mandarin or because the Chinese migrant had learned the local European language. This repeated, regularized diversity in interactions translates into a differential: The Chinese in lingua franca networks were on average more trusting of authorities (6 percentage point differential) and civically engaged (7 percentage point differential) than their co-nationals in insular networks.

The surveys were conducted over a five-year period—all before the COVID outbreak. For over a year now, the pandemic has put the Chinese—those in China proper and its migrant/diaspora population globally—on display. As we begin to return to some post-pandemic normalcy, here are two lessons the Chinese in Europe can teach us.

First, what drives higher incorporation levels among the Chinese in the lingua franca networks (i.e., diversity) is also what undermines it when there is a crisis. When I was doing surveys in Romania, the tax authorities launched a four-month raid of Chinatown. It was part of a larger, national campaign to collect unpaid taxes. Responses to these raids—seen very much as an ethnic attack—varied by networks. Those in the insular networks bunkered down and weathered the storm. Conversely, those in the inclusive networks finger-pointed and demarcated new group boundaries. There was sudden suspicion of anyone and everyone that was different. And here is the irony: Those most hurt by the raids were those who trusted and engaged more before; and conversely, those who had been insular were left relatively unscathed. The troubling implication is that anti-Asian hate crimes—while they do not discriminate against passport color or the generation number—affects those who were better integrated in the U.S. And this makes bouncing back after the crisis subsides even harder.

Second, political rhetoric—even the empty rhetoric—matters. During my research, Hungary—led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party—pursued aggressive nationalist rhetoric. And policies matched the rhetoric (e.g. the border fence). Yet, during this time, Chinese migrant attitudes towards the Hungarian authorities remained consistently high (86% in 2014; 95% in 2018). The interviews corroborated these numbers. Interestingly, even at the height of targeting the Muslims and refugees, Fidesz reached out to leaders in the Chinese community to emphasize the Chinese were not the targets of the xenophobic policies. Similarly, text analysis of Hungarian language newspapers across the political spectrum showed when the Chinese are talked about, it is rarely negative. Even as COVID broke out in Hungary, Orbán refrained from associating the Chinese with the virus. This is in stark contrast to his American counterpart. What the former U.S. president did to link COVID with the Chinese cannot be undone. As the Asian-American community tries to make sense of what happened last month in Atlanta, the Biden administration must exercise caution in what it says and how it says it.

Celebrating Women’s History Month

This week in North Philly Notes, we celebrate Women’s History Month. Use promo code TWHM21 for 30% off all our Women’s Studies titles. Sale ends April 15, 2021.

Anna May Wong: Performing the Modern, by Shirley Jennifer Lim, shows how Anna May Wong’s work shaped racial modernity and made her one of the most significant actresses of the twentieth century.

The Cost of Being a Girl: Working Teens and the Origins of the Gender Wage Gap, by Yasemin Besen-Cassino, traces the origins of the gender wage gap to part-time teenage work, which sets up a dynamic that persists into adulthood.

Feminist Post-Liberalism, by Judith Baer, reconciles liberalism and feminist theory.

Feminist Reflections on Childhood: A History and Call to Action, by Penny A. Weiss, recovers a history of feminist thought and activism that demands greater voice and respect for young people.

Good Reasons to Run: Women and Political Candidacy, edited by Shauna L. Shames, Rachel I. Bernhard, Mirya R. Holman, and Dawn Langan Teele, how and why women run for office.

Gross Misbehavior and Wickedness: A Notorious Divorce in Early Twentieth-Century America, by Jean Elson, a fascinating story of the troubled marriage and acrimonious divorce of Nina and James Walker elucidates early twentieth-century gender and family mores.

Motherlands: How States Push Mothers Out of Employment, by Leah Ruppanner challenges preconceived notions of the states that support working mothers.

Savoring the Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara, edited by Linda Janet Holmes and Cheryl A. Wall, an anthology that celebrates the life and work of a major African American writer.

Their Day in the Sun: Women in the Manhattan Project, by Ruth H. Howes and Caroline C. Herzenberg, tells the hidden story of the contribution of women in the effort to develop the atomic bomb.

Undermining Intersectionality: The Perils of Powerblind Feminism, by Barbara Tomlinson, a sustained critique of the ways in which scholars have engaged with and deployed intersectionality.

Women Take Their Place in State Legislature: The Creation of Women’s Caucuses, by Anna Mitchell Mahoney, investigates the opportunities, resources, and frames that women utilize to create legislative caucuses.

Women’s Empowerment and Disempowerment in Brazil: The Rise and Fall of President Dilma Rousseff, by Pedro A.G. dos Santos and Farida Jalalzai, explains what the rise and fall of Brazil’s first and only female president can teach us about women’s empowerment.

Considering electric vehicle initiatives

This week in North Philly Notes, Rachel Krause and Christopher Hawkins, coauthors of Implementing City Sustainability, consider the administrative complexity that local governments face to implement sustainability efforts.

Between President Biden’s announcement about replacing the federal government fleet with US-made electric vehicles, General Motors’ recent plans to eliminate the production of light-duty cars and trucks with tail-pipe emissions by 2035, and a few well-placed super bowl ads, electric vehicles are experiencing an upswing in popular attention.

This timing, which parallels the United States’ recommitment to international climate protection goals, is not a coincidence. An estimated 17% of the country’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions come from light-duty passenger vehicles, making their decarbonization essential to achieving larger mitigation efforts. A transition away from gas-powered cars and trucks, along with a simultaneous transition towards clean electricity, is considered by many to be the most feasible route to decarbonizing the transportation sector.

Articles on the future of electric vehicles frequently lead with statements of imperative and possibility only to follow with a litany of challenges that need to be overcome prior to meaningful progress. To a degree, this post follows that typical format, but focuses on a single under-examined consideration: the administrative complexity that local governments face during efforts to implement policies and integrate infrastructure supporting the widespread use of electric vehicles. For example, the setup of a relatively standard city-wide vehicle charging system would likely require on-going collaboration from members of local planning, transportation, and public works departments, not to mention the elected and top managerial leadership who establish general priorities and allocate resources accordingly. The scope of actors and complexity of their interactions would be significantly greater in cities aiming to facilitate electric vehicle integration in a manner that is broadly inclusive and equitable.

In Implementing City Sustainability, we examine the administrative challenges associated with implementing initiatives that necessitate the active input of multiple semi-independent units across an organization. Electric vehicle initiatives are one example (of many) where fuzzy boundaries of responsibility, the presence of externalities, and a potential lack of departmental buy-in can stymie progress on organization-wide goals.

In the book, a case study of the City of Oakland, California provides relevant insight around the implementation of a broad electric vehicles initiative. From the outset, it is worth noting that sustainability efforts in Oakland prioritize equity. Led by “Sustainable Oakland,” a small unit within the City’s Public Works department, programmatic priorities aim to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in ways that also address the city’s historic and racial inequities. This approach is explicitly spelled out in the city’s Equitable Climate Action Plan (ECAP). In this context, the city’s vehicle electrification policies have focused on ensuring that the approximately 60% of Oakland residents who live in rented multi-family units will have convenient access to charging infrastructure. This availability can in turn facilitate a locally robust used car market for electric vehicles, making them a financially and logistically viable option for a much larger segment of the population. 

In 2017, Oakland’s city council passed an ordinance requiring that all newly constructed multi-family and non-residential buildings include charging infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles. Extensive conversations were held with renters, property owners, developers, and utility company representatives prior to this ordinance’s final drafting and passage. Its successful implementation, guided by the ECAP, will rely on the active cooperation of multiple city departments. Although implementation logistics and cross-departmental collaboration are often not headline-grabbing topics–at least not when they are working correctly—they are key to the achievement of many sustainability initiatives, including those related a wide-spread transition to electric vehicles.

Implementing City Sustainability delineates four paths forward that cities can use to successfully chart their way through the adoption and implementation of integrative sustainability strategies. Whether it is designing and implementing a plan to make electric vehicle charging stations available to apartment dwellers in Oakland, improving the energy efficiency of large commercial buildings in Orlando, or establishing green infrastructure in Kansas City, how cities organize their sustainability efforts to obtain cooperation from the range of involved partners is integral to success.

Books for the Inauguration

This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase a half dozen of our political science titles in honor of the inauguration.

We recommend Good Reasons to Run, edited by Shauna L. Shames, Rachel I. Bernhard, Mirya R. Holman, and Dawn Langan Teele, about women and political candidacy, because Kamala Harris became the first female vice president.

The editors and contributors to Good Reasons to Run, a mix of scholars and practitioners, examine the reasons why women run—and do not run—for political office. They focus on the opportunities, policies, and structures that promote women’s candidacies. How do nonprofits help recruit and finance women as candidates? And what role does money play in women’s campaigns?

We recommend The Great Migration and the Democratic Party, by Keneshia Grant, because it shows the political impact of Black migration on politics. (Grant focuses on three northern cities from 1915 to 1965)

The Great Migration and the Democratic Party frames the Great Migration as an important economic and social event that also had serious political consequences. Keneshia Grant created one of the first listings of Black elected officials that classifies them based on their status as participants in the Great Migration. She also describes some of the policy/political concerns of the migrants. Grant lays the groundwork for ways of thinking about the contemporary impact of Black migration on American politics.

We recommend We Decide! by Michael Menser for its investigation of and insights regarding participatory democracy.

We Decide! draws on liberal, feminist, anarchist, and environmental justice philosophies as well as in-depth case studies of Spanish factory workers, Japanese housewives, and Brazilian socialists to show that participatory democracy actually works. Menser concludes his study by presenting a reconstructed version of the state that is shaped not by corporations but by inclusive communities driven by municipal workers, elected officials, and ordinary citizens working together. In this era of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, the participatory democracy proposed in We Decide! is more significant than ever.

We recommend Democratic Theorizing from the Margins, by Marla Brettschneider, for its clear account of the lessons and theories of democratic culture

Democratic Theorizing from the Margins lays out the basic parameters of diversity-based politics as a still emerging form of democratic theory. Students, activists, and scholars engage in diversity politics on the ground, but generally remain unable to conceptualize a broad understanding of how “politics from the margins”—that is, political thinking and action that comes from groups often left on the outside of mainstream organizing and action—operate effectively in different contexts and environments. Brettschneider offers concrete lessons from many movements to see what they tell us about a new sort of democratic politics. She also addresses traditional democratic theories and draws on the myriad discerning practices employed by marginalized groups in their political activism to enhance the critical capacities of potential movements committed both to social change and democratic action.

We recommend Rude Democracy, by Susan Herbst, about how civility and incivility are strategic weapons on the state of American democracy, given how polarized our country has become.

Democracy is, by its very nature, often rude. But there are limits to how uncivil we should be. In the 2010 edition of Rude Democracy, Susan Herbst explored the ways we discuss public policy, how we treat each other as we do, and how we can create a more civil national culture. She used the examples of Sarah Palin and Barack Obama to illustrate her case. She also examined how young people come to form their own attitudes about civility and political argument. In a new preface for this 2020 paperback edition, the author connects her book to our current highly contentious politics and what it means for the future of democratic argument.

And we encourage readers to look for our forthcoming (in March) title, Furthering Fair Housing, edited by Justin P. Steil, Nicholas F. Kelly, Lawrence J. Vale, and Maia S. Woluchem. This book analyzes federal policy to advance racial equity in housing and neighborhoods.

Furthering Fair Housing analyzes multiple dimensions of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, which was the most significant federal effort to increase equality of access to place-based resources and opportunities, such as high-performing schools or access to jobs, since the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The editors and contributors to this volume identify failures of past efforts to increase housing choice, explore how the AFFH Rule was crafted, measure the initial effects of the rule before its rescission, and examine its interaction with other contemporary housing issues, such as affordability, gentrification, anti-displacement, and zoning policies.

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