Municipal Government – PS 163

May 23, 2005

Spring 2002
Instructor: Dr. David L. Schecter
Office Hrs: 10-11:30am M,W and by appt. (238 IT (Industrial Technology))
email: Ph: 278-6938 (office)

This upper-level course will prepare students to understand the complexity and power of municipal (local) governments. Students will: 1) Understand the history of municipalities, their tremendous diversity and their place within our federal system; 2) Study the basic institutions of local government, such as the role of councils/commissions, mayors and the courts. In addition, we will focus on the impact of the media, particular public policies and the economy on local systems; 3) Write about the actual workings of local government and relate what is found at the local level with theories of governance detailed in our readings and class discussions. This class is designed to spur new ways of thinking about governments and is not intended to simply reinforce old attitudes or pre-judgments (commonly called prejudices). Students are asked to have patience in the course, particularly in the first few weeks, as they may be introduced to new materials, or attitudes expressed by others in class, that are in opposition to their own views. I hope an increased awareness concerning the workings of government and the views of fellow citizens will translate into greater participation within the system long after the term is over. In addition, this course often looks specifically at Fresno County politics for examples and insight. We will use current events and articles to understand such substantial topics as the current budget crisis in our cities, education, the environment and how money is raised and spent at the local level. Students are expected to quickly get up-to-speed on these topics and be able to debate them in class on a daily basis.

Required Text
1) City Politics: Private Power and Public Policy, 3rd ed. by Judd/Swanstrom (CP)
2) In addition, each student is expected to read the Fresno Bee* (website: each day and be prepared to discuss current events in class. Each day be sure to read the front page, the national politics pages, the California section, the Local News section, opinion/editorial pages (including letters-to-the-editor) and the Business section. You should also try to read at least one national paper each day (hard copy or online version), such as the San Francisco Chronicle*, New York Times* or ,i>Washington Post.* You should also try to watch CNN s Politics Today (usually on around 2pm) and The Newshour with Jim Lehrer (on PBS -usually cable Ch. 8- at 6pm it can also be watched online at definitely try to catch the Shields/Brooks political debates each Friday). You should also try to catch National Public Radio (89.3 FM) for the morning (8-9am) and evening (5-7pm) news coverage. I will draw current event questions for our exams from these kinds of newspaper, television and radio sources. No student is expected to read/listen to/view all of these sources every single day, but you are expected to have a good handle on current events beginning immediately. (At minimum you should be reading the Bee each day). * = free copy available at the library each day

A point system is used in this course to determine your final grade. All students begin with “0 points and build up to a grade of their choosing. Points are earned in the following way:
Reading Quiz on Ch 1-5……(Take-Home, due Mon Feb 25)….5 POINTS TOTAL
Midterm Exam on Ch 1-9 (In Class, Wed Mar 20). .17 POINTS TOTAL
Final Exam on Ch 10-15…. ..(In-Class, Mon May 20, 8:45 am)…23 POINTS TOTAL
Service-Learning Requirement. .30 POINTS TOTAL
Govt Meeting Paper . (due Mon Apr 29th).. 10 POINTS TOTAL
Participation quality (not quantity)/Attendance / reaction papers ..15 POINTS TOTAL

90-100 Points, A; 80-89 B; 70-79 C; 60-69 D; 0(?)-59 F.

Students should keep track of their own point totals during the term, but they may check with me at any time for confirmation / discussion of grades. In this course it is possible for the entire class to earn an A. Conversely, grades will not be curved in this class. If you are one point away from the next higher grade, you will receive the lower grade. This system is designed to reward serious, steady work. To be fair to all students, no make-up exams will be given during this term. If you miss a test, you lose the points. On days when a written assignment is due, being absent will not be an excuse for not having the assignment in on time i.e.: students who come to class a day after an assignment is due expecting to turn in the assignment will receive no credit for the work. After all, every due date and the description for every course assignment is known far in advance. Special Note: Only students who completely fulfill the government meeting paper and service learning requirements for the class can receive a passing grade .i.e: you cannot skip either of these major assignments and still pass the class, regardless of your points. There are no exceptions to this policy.

Attendance, Participation and Explanation of Other Grades
All students are expected to attend every class session and plan to stay for the entire period. I notice those students who consistently work hard and show intellectual effort, but I also notice those who exhibit regular patterns of poor attendance. I will take attendance each of the 36 days class is scheduled to meet (of Weeks 2-17) and those will each count for _ point (9 points total). If you miss a day you lose the _ point (i.e. there are no excused absences ). Any student who misses more than 9 of these class days (~25% of the class) during this term will automatically fail the course. There are no exceptions to this policy. Relative to participation: If you have not read the assigned materials before class each day, please be fair and limit your class comments to allow those who did prepare to participate more fully. Those who take the time to read before class deserve to have their views heard before students who are not prepared, but feel they have a right to talk at will (when they have not taken the time to read or really think about the new material). Total participation/effort will count 3 points. You will also write 2 reaction papers during the term that will be worth 3 points each (meaning one of them can count as 3 points worth of extra credit ). All writing assignments in this course must be typed.

The midterm and final exam for this course will be in-class and essay-style. You will need to bring a blue book to class on March 20 and May 20 to take the exam. To provide the 20 possible points that can be earned toward your final grade the exams will be a mix of short- and long-answer essays, with a few identify questions also added. Test questions are drawn from each of the readings, class discussions and current events. Keep in mind that class lectures will often go over materials from the texts, but attending lectures only and not reading for class will not prepare you enough to pass. I promise. As the semester progresses you will be given numerous examples of items that will probably appear on the test, but the best way to prepare for the exams is to take careful notes while reading the assignments and attending class. The tests are not cumulative i.e.: they only cover the readings and lectures in that section of the syllabus.
The take-home exam due Feb 25 will be a series of short-answer/short-essay questions.

Government Meeting Papers

Where should I go? An important part of this class requires each student to attend one government meeting over the next 17 weeks and write a detailed paper on what was learned. Meetings may include, but are not limited to those of: City Councils, Board of Supervisors, The Courts (following a trial, for instance), School Boards (of any of the Unified School districts), Planning and Zoning Boards, Medical Boards, Water Boards, Boards of Trustee and the like. If you are unsure of whether a particular government meeting is acceptable to attend, please check with me first. (Student government meetings are not acceptable, for example). For coverage of probable meetings you should follow the political stories in the local paper. For additional lists of meetings you should call Fresno County directly — start with the Clerks Office at 488-1710. On the web try go to Departments, then Board of Supervisors, then scroll down to 2002 Meeting Schedule. For the City of Fresno try the main office at City Hall, 498-1560 or (Phone numbers for the courts and other local/state government entities are listed in the Blue/Government pages of the local phonebook).

How will the paper be graded?
The paper will be worth 0-10 points and I will grade it based on how well you follow the directions below. The paper is due no later than Mon April 29th, but it can be turned in any time before then.

What should I write?
Organization: The Government Meeting Paper should be structured as follows: It must be 6-8 pages, typed and double-spaced. I prefer a 10 to 12-point, clean font. (You are reading 11-point Times New Roman now). Please no cursive fonts or obnoxiously wide margins. I never need fancy cover pages or folders just a simple staple and your name / course # in the upper corner will do fine. Papers with titles are fine.

Content: The papers will be scored using the rubric at the end of this section. Please read the rubric carefully, as it describes exactly what will separate an A paper from the rest of the pack. The papers should be divided into three separate sections. Since the final paper is worth 10 points, think of the 1st and 3rd sections as worth approximately 3 points each and the 2nd section as worth 4 points. (Physically dividing your paper into sections is not always necessary, but you are welcome to do that if you like).

Section 1 (~2 pages in length) should cover the specific content of the meeting you chose to attend. Who was involved in the meeting? What were the specific topics/bills covered at the meeting? Write this section under the assumption that I very well may not know many of the people at the meeting.
Section 2 (~4 pages in length) of the paper is the most important, in terms of content. In this section, you must detail how the meeting relates/related to aspects of this course covered in the readings and class discussions. In other words, you are to tie together here the practical knowledge found at the meetings with the theoretical/academic issues from class. You should literally cite (with page #, when possible) items from the readings that relate to the meeting you attended and draw from class discussions in your paper. For instance, the notes that you take during the semester as you go through the readings are an excellent place to find topics that you should be able to relate to your meeting and including them will help to prove that you have gotten through many of the readings assigned. I will expect you to cover relevant topics through Ch 13 of the CP text. (Personal opinion should be avoided in this section, at all costs).
Section 3 (~2 pages in length) should detail your opinion of the meetings. While the first two sections of the paper are dry and serious in nature, you should use this section of the work to highlight your personal thoughts on the meeting. This does not imply that you become sarcastic or smarmy in this section, but I hope that you will be candid and even share a few personal anecdotes.

Other Concerns:
A) Proof of attendance should accompany each paper, such as copies of the official agenda, tapes, pictures, etc. I have samples of these I can show you in class.
B) Strong papers from former students are available for review.

The Scoring Rubric
This rubric is developed for you to know, ahead of time, what will be expected. Before you turn in any essay for this class, you should spend a few minutes here.

Score of 9-10 on government meeting paper: The 9-10 essay implies a strong argument and provides convincing specific support from the readings and class discussions. The writer demonstrates mature command of language through a variety of sentence structures, word choices, quotes or paraphrases from the readings. Control of usage and mechanics, despite occasional flaws, contributes to the writer s ability to communicate the purpose of the paper. The writer thoroughly understands the concepts involved and through the essay can convince others of their viewpoints or help make the reader aware of something completely new or original. These essays are kept and shared with other students. These are powerful due to organization and creativity.

Score of 8-8.5 on government meeting paper: The 8-8.5 essay shows effort and promise for the writer. It presents a thesis (argument) and often suggests a plan of development that is carried out effectively. Mastery of the readings may not be fully indicated with the use of quotes or paraphrases, but the writer provides enough supporting details, makes competent use of language, and sometimes varies sentence structure. Occasional errors in usage and mechanics do not interfere with the writer s ability to communicate the purpose of the paper.

Score of 7-7.5 on government meeting paper: The 7-7.5 essay presents a thesis (argument) and often suggests a plan of development, which is generally carried out. The writer may or may not have completed the required readings and utilizes generalizations or lists for support. Sentence structure tends to be repetitious, and errors in usage and mechanics sometimes interfere with the writer s ability to communicate the purpose of the paper.

Score of 6-6.5 on government meeting paper: The 6-6.5 may present a thesis (argument); however, the plan of development is usually not carried out. Indicating the writer may have spent little time with the readings or thinking about the concepts involved, the writer provides support that tends to be sketchy and/or illogical. Sentence structure is simplistic, repetitious and occasionally awkward. Language is often inappropriate in tone, or style. Errors in usage and mechanics are frequent.

Score of 1-5.5 on government meeting paper: This paper presents a thesis that is vaguely worded, weakly asserted or there is no central argument present. Support, if any, tends to be rambling and superficial. Sentence structure is difficult to follow and errors in usage and mechanics interfere with the writer s ability to communicate the purpose of the paper.

The Service-Learning Component

Thirty-percent of your grade in this course (30 points) comes from your active involvement with service-learning in our community. While I will spend an entire class period during the third week of the semester explaining the key aspects of the service-learning concept, for now we can suffice to say that service-learning is the experience of combining our readings and discussions with a literal period of service being given to a non-profit and/or government agency which, in turn, serves our community. In other words, while the government meeting paper requirement has you simply viewing and responding to a particular public meeting it remains a relatively passive activity. Service-learning on the other hand requires active learning as you volunteer 15-20 hours of your time this semester to a non-profit agency or government entity of your choosing. By giving service time to the community you can expand your own horizons and really discover the impact of particular municipal policies on people in the real world. In addition, while our curriculum calls for studying the organization, powers and functions of local government it does not necessarily require students to be actively engaged in a local political or non-profit organization. The service-learning component remedies this situation by giving credit to students for taking what they learn in the classroom and applying those concepts to entities needing their help. Besides venturing into the community and giving time to your chosen organization, a key feature of the service learning approach is that a series of intellectual, reflective essays will be written to describe these experiences.

The steps to follow for the service-learning component include:

1) By Monday, February 18th you must choose the non-profit agency or government entity where you will volunteer. By this date you must have contacted the agency directly and set-up a brief orientation with your contact person about your service responsibilities. By Friday, February 22nd please turn-in to me a sheet or large index card with the following information: the organization name you have chosen, the contact person, the dates and times you have informed them you are able to work for the term, your email address and home phone number. Please try to arrange your initial orientations by the end of February. By Monday, March 4, or as soon as possible that week, you must turn-in to me a 2-3 page typed, reflective essay which speaks to at least the following 5 issues: Why did you choose this agency? How did your initial meeting go with your contact person? What will you be doing for the agency and how do those responsibilities sound to you? What are your initial hopes/fears about this agency and the role you can play in helping them reach their goals? How committed are you to this agency and your responsibilities on this assignment? We will discuss this paper in more detail during the third week of the semester. The paper will be worth 3 points. I will deduct 1 point from your final grade for every day after March 11 that this short paper is late (unless you have explained to me, in writing, prior to the 4th what extenuating circumstances caused you to be tardy on the assignment .i.e.: your agency had to move the agreed-upon orientation date, etc). Please plan ahead on this assignment by contacting the agency you choose far in advance of the February 22nd deadline. Remember, they are professionals who very well may not be able to meet with you at the last minute just because you have a paper to do. Completing this assignment on time is proof of your professionalism and commitment to the course assignment.

You may wish to consider giving your service time to the following organizations, although you are not limited in any way from simply choosing groups on this list it is just to give you a feel for the diverse kinds of agencies/organizations who have either worked with Fresno State students in the past or who have expressed an interest in working now with students in this course. As we will discuss in class, Fresno State is holding an outstanding Service to the Community Expo on February 7th , from 10-2pm inside the Satellite Student Union. There is no better event to get to know literally 50 different community agencies. (Yes, contacting agencies and getting your feet wet are big parts of this assignment which I understand are not the usual kinds of assignments that students do )

School: California State University - Fresno
Professor: Dr. David L. Schecter
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