UIC to Lead MacArthur-Funded Study of Cities’ Fiscal Health

The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a three-year, $950,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to lead a joint study of city governments’ responses to the Great Recession.

The study will examine how city governments can adjust to the current global economy, relieve constraints, and plan for more adaptive, sustainable growth.

Michael Pagano, dean of the UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, in collaboration with the National League of Cities Center for Research & Innovation, will lead an analysis of U.S. cities’ public investment and fiscal health and will be advised by a working group of the Federal Reserve Bank.

The Federal Reserve Bank’s understanding of the need for strong regional economies makes for a dynamic collaboration with UIC and the National League of Cities, Pagano 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,” he said.

Annual surveys by UIC and 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.

“Ironically, these cuts create a drag on the national economic recovery,” Pagano said. “Municipalities need to invest in the local economy, supply the infrastructure for economic development, and ensure their residents’ health, safety and welfare. Cities and metropolitan regions are the drivers of wealth, production, competitiveness and innovation.”

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

“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.

The researchers will release continuous reports throughout the three-year period.

UIC ranks among the nation’s leading research universities and is Chicago’s largest university with 27,500 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.

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.

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 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..

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