Do you need a unifying theme in academia? Do I have one? On the surface, my work may seem disjointed… how do feminist activist pedagogy and home rule fit together on one research agenda?
I have been warned by numerous scholars, and practitioners alike, to keep an open mind about the use of municipal takeovers. These policies are not designed, they have argued, with malicious intent. Instead, they offer, these policies are intended to help fiscally distressed municipalities deal with the reality that they are facing municipal bankruptcy or dissolution.
In other words, would I rather see these cities go bankrupt? Would it be better that the state did nothing and watched the city grow poorer and poorer? No!
That does not, however, mean that municipal takeover policies should go unquestioned. The impact of these policies are real—and deserve scrutiny.
My research found that despite politicians’ claims to the contrary, municipal takeovers are in fact political, and have significant political consequences at the local level. By taking an in-depth, policy-focused look at the municipal takeovers in Flint, I found that the state’s intervention not only suspended the authority of local elected officials in the short-term, but reshaped the local political landscape for the long term.
In the summer of 2015, months before the city of Flint made national, rather international, headlines for the water crisis, I began my fieldwork in Flint. I was there to conduct research on the state’s takeover of Flint, under the now infamous “PA 4”. I wanted to understand the political impact of the takeover. At the time, I was a PhD candidate at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey studying public policy and administration with a focus on community development and urban politics.