Political Science 303                            Office: ZH-107

State & Local Government                 Office Hours: M-W 9:00 to 9:50 a.m.

Spring Semester 2010                          & 1:00-1:50 p.m. Otherwise by Appointment                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Instructor: Dr. Steve Berg                     E-mail:                     

Meeting in DU 246                               Office Phone” (815)753-0183

@ 10:00 to 10:50 P.M.  M-W-F.



Course Description:


Course Catalog definition of POLS 303:

Examines the structure, functions, and governance dynamics of local and state governments. Includes relationships of local and state government legislative, executive, and administrative actors; management processes; and intergovernmental relations.
Credits: 3


 “LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS (3 Credit Hours). “Examines the structure, functions, and governance dynamics of local and state governments. Includes relationships of local and state government legislative, executive, and administrative actors; management processes; and intergovernmental relations.  State and local governments all too often get the short shrift when people think about politics.  Yet, these governments provide most of the essential services to their citizens and residents.  They are also the only levels of government where the average person can make their influence felt.  This course is intended to help the student gain crucial understanding of the nature of state and local governments, the problems facing them, and their history and development.  It will also include the structures and functions of state and local government units, the politics and administration of local government, and the relationships - historical and current - among citizens, politicians and administrators.  Attention will also be focused on the obstacles to honest, ethical public service, and to how to best provide services and assistance to citizens and residents at the local level, while maintaining their human dignity.



Expected Political Science Course Outcomes:


1.   Content: Students should show familiarity with major concepts, theoretical perspectives and empirical findings as related to the course.

2.   Communication Skills: Students should demonstrate effective oral and written communication skills.

3.   Research Skills: Students should have an understanding of basic research skills and be able to apply analytical and research skills in written assignments for the course.

4.   Critical Thinking: Students should use critical thinking and skeptical inquiry in problem solving.



Required Texts:


Governing States and Localities, Second Edition, by Kevin D. Smith, Alan Greenblatt, and Michele Mariani; Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago by Mike Royko;  Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics by William L. Riordan.



Supplemental Readings:


Managing Local Government: Cases in Decision Making (Second Edition), by James M. Banovetz.  I have placed  Case Numbers 6 and 8 on electronic reserve.  You can access these cases through Blackboard.  I have also placed copies of Case Studies 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 16 on physical reserve there at Founders Library.  You may select any one of these for your Case Study Paper for this course.  If required, your Instructor may put additional materials on reserve in Founders Library.  This semester I am also experimenting with putting other items on electronic reserve via Blackboard.  This will include some selections from The Shame of the Cities by Lincoln Steffens.


Midterm and Final Examinations:


There will be a midterm and a final exam in this class.  These will be take-home tests, and will consist of a selection of essay questions.  The final exam will be comprehensive.  They are due at the beginning of the specified class period. 


Local Government Budget Research Paper and Case Study:


Each student is expected to attend at least one public meeting of a village board, city council, or the legislative branch of a similar local governmental entity.  For those of you who have access to cable television, you can enjoy (?) the DeKalb City Council meetings in the comfort of your own residence, or at a public establishment if you can seize the remote control.  If you prefer to study this particular local government entity, the student will also get a copy of the current year’s budget for the same organization.  If this is not possible, come see me and we may be able to work out the use of another public organization’s budget.  I recommend the budget from the City of DeKalb, as it is reasonably well done and has relevance to most people in the class.  Like many other budgets, there is some obfuscation of how much economic development efforts really cost the beleaguered taxpayers, but that will not prevent you from gaining a basic understanding of public budgeting from this particular budget.  If possible, I may lead an expedition to view the DeKalb City Council in action.  This budget paper should be no more than 10 pages in length, with a title page, appendices, a copy of the relevant part of the budget document, and your bibliography and citations not counted as pages.  The budget is probably the most important document created by any governmental entity.  It is where the actual priorities are set for the organization each year.  As some budgets are massive in size, and difficult to cover in the page limit for this paper, with the permission of the Instructor, you may limit the scope of the paper to one or more departments.  Your paper should give an executive overview of the budget and discuss what you think the priorities are for your selected governmental organization for the relevant budget year.  You should also discuss why these are the priorities selected.  What I am most interested in after you cover the priorities, are the sources of funding for the entity, and their strengths and weaknesses.  You must also discuss where most of the money is spent.  Where does the money come from?  Where does most of it go? How does the actual spending relate to the priorities of your entity?  Also, how might your particular local government best handle an economic recession?  A subtle hint:  most of it will probably be spent on personnel lines.  In summary, what is the name of the government in question, what are its priorities, where does the money come from, where is most of it spent, and how might that entity adjust its spending when faced with falling revenues?


The case study report is your analysis of one of the case studies in Managing Local Government: Cases in Decision Making, by James M. Banovetz, which are on physical reserve, at the Founders Library, and with a few of these also on electronic reserve.  The electronic reserve cases will be available via Blackboard.  You are to select a case from those your Instructor placed on reserve, which were carefully selected from the Banovetz book.  Make your own selection of one of these cases according to your interests.  This case study analysis paper should be no more than 5 pages in length.   In this paper, you should provide a short executive summary of your particular case.  Then, you should discuss in more detail the selected case study and then how you would address and hopefully solve the problems in it.  They may not all be solvable.  At the end of each case study are questions.  I do not want you to merely answer these questions, but they are a good guide for you to use in your paper.  Your Instructor will go over one case study out of the book, before your case study papers are due, as an example.  Your Instructor will go over a case study (not one of the ones on reserve) in class to show you how to properly this case study report assignment.  Be sure to properly cite the page numbers for those parts of your case study, and include a relevant bibliography for what you cite. 


The tests and papers you hand in for this course are to be typed or printed by ink-jet or laser computer printers.  You may also hand in your papers via  Blackboard using the digital drop box, but there have been problems with papers getting lost or truncated by this program.  Similar difficulties seem to also plague papers handed in via e-mail.  Normally your Instructor prefers to avoid modern state-of-the-art technology as it still tends to hate him for his efforts helping to advance it for so many years.  So, you might want to avoid problems by handing in your papers in class, instead.  Papers and tests should be double-spaced, and preferably be in size 12 type in a standard font like Times New Roman.  If you are handing in your work via Blackboard, you must submit it in a format read by Microsoft Word.  I can now accept papers in the newer Microsoft Office .docx file format, and also in the format produced by the Open Office Suite.  As this is a college level course, spelling, command of the English language, and grammar are important elements of your work, and will be taken into account during grading.  Papers showing evidence of plagiarism will be dealt with harshly.   For further information on plagiarism, please consult the following websites: or, or discuss the matter with the Instructor before handing in the work in question. 


Late Paper Policy:


All papers, such as the budget research paper, the case study paper and the tests, are due at the beginning of the specified class meeting.  Papers turned in after this, at the discretion of the instructor, will be docked at least one letter grade per day in arrears.  Should a student have an emergency situation such as illness or family emergency, if possible they should contact the Instructor prior to the class meeting where the paper is due, concerning the nature of the emergency.  In any event, all such circumstances must be documented to the satisfaction of the Instructor.  At his discretion the student may be allowed to e-mail the paper, and the reduction in grade due to lateness may be waived or reduced.  Every semester your Instructor has problems with students who apparently cannot handle or meet deadlines.  Eventually you are going to have a boss, who will be even more of a heartless tyrant than your Instructor, and who will not accept late assignments.  You might as well get used to meeting deadlines now. You know about the assignments for this course from the beginning of the semester.  There is really no excuse for any late papers.  It is to your advantage to get your assignments in on time.


Participation and Attendance:


For the class to be successful, all students must regularly and meaningfully participate.  Of course, for this to occur, students must have completed all of the assigned readings prior to each class.  Students should be prepared to discuss the readings and add relevant observations based upon their own experiences.  In order to make the class more current, the Instructor will bring in items of interest concerning local governments and share them with the class.  Students are encouraged to do the same.  Should participation not be present to the satisfaction of the Instructor, he reserves the right to assign topics to individual students for them to present in class.   The Instructor also reserves the right to call on any member of the class to have them contribute to the discussion or to verify a suitable level of a student’s preparedness.  If it is sadly apparent that many in the course have not read the material, or if there are other clues indicating that adequate levels of preparation have been lacking in the students, the Instructor reserves the right to inflict pop quizzes on the assembled multitude.  Speaking of which, in the past there have been substantial problems with student preparation and participation in those parts of the course where we cover Boss, and Plunkitt.  This has forced your Humble Instructor to largely read the books aloud in class, causing bored students to sleep or slink out of class.  This is greatly upsetting to your Instructor, who has carefully structured the course so that it is relevant, and deals with exciting practical local politics, rather than merely boring theory out of over-priced textbooks.  So, this semester, when we get to this particular part of the course your Instructor will be coming to class prepared to inflict pop quizzes on the surly multitude in the seats.  Consequently, it will be far better to come prepared to discuss the material, than to show up unprepared.  I have ways to make you talk.  I have ways that will make even a statue talk…  A word to the wise should be sufficient.


Your Instructor believes that the course will be far more valuable, (and much less boring) if we adopt as much of a seminar format as is possible in a class of this size.  This means that you all must be ready to carry your side of the work by being prepared to intelligently discuss the course material extensively and in depth.  Your Instructor has considerable experience in politics and local government, and you also have a wealth of experience to be tapped, and we shall make the most of it.  In addition, I am bringing in some outside speakers to provide additional knowledge and experience to the course.  This course has significant current event content.  I expect students to go out and find items of interest that are germane to the course and bring them in for discussion.  The Instructor will also be doing this.


As part of your Instructor’s ongoing exploration into the wilds of the Blackboard software, we are going to experiment a bit more this semester and utilize the discussion board feature of the program.  For those reticent students who prefer to hide behind a screen and keyboard whilst discussing the course material, this will be a useful alternative to speaking out in class.  Such participation will also count towards the participation portion of your course grade.  Flame wars instigated by keyboard commandos will be harshly discouraged and summarily crushed by the Instructor.  The quality and relevance of student comments and other postings will be carefully and fairly graded by the Instructor, and will apply to the participation part of the student’s grade.  To make keeping track of posters possible, anonymous posting is disabled for this course. Tentative plans are to have one forum for each week of the course.  Students will be allowed to start threads on these forums.


Students are expected to attend all of the classes.  If a student misses more than two classes or is chronically tardy, the Instructor reserves the right to proportionally lower the participation and attendance portion of their final grade.  Absent and tardy students miss class material and disrupt class discussion.  Tardiness is strongly frowned upon.  If you are in an unusual situation, such as having a class at Barsema Hall or the Engineering Building immediately preceding this one, it is in your best interest to discuss this difficulty with the Instructor to receive Special Dispensation.  The Instructor has noticed an increase of tardy students in the past several semesters.  Such boorish and inconsiderate behavior disrupts the class, and greatly irritates the Instructor.  Should this tardiness problem persist, the Instructor reserves the right to close and lock the classroom door once the class has commenced, and the offending tardy individuals will not be allowed to enter the room.  Your Instructor may do this anyway due to security problems forcibly brought to his attention by the Late Unpleasantness there in Cole Hall.  Persistently and chronically absent and tardy individuals may wind up being administratively withdrawn from the course.  Attendance will be taken and recorded, generally at the end of each class period.





Unless otherwise cleared with the Instructor in advance, all cell phones, pagers, IPODS, and other assorted communication and entertainment devices shall be turned off during the class meetings.  It is expected that class members will conduct themselves according to classically accepted norms of civility (as understood and exemplified by the Instructor).  Students who fail to comport themselves in a courteous manner and are disruptive, obnoxious, or abusive will find themselves physically and administratively removed from the course and may face formal charges in the university judicial system. 



The Instructor reserves the right to have a sense of humor, and exercise it in class.




Cheating will not be tolerated in this course.  This includes the offense of plagiarism.  If there is any doubt about possibly committing plagiarism, it is best to avoid it by prudently citing the sources of your materials. Generally, if you use quotation marks in a sentence, you need a citation.  Your Instructor prefers that you use the Chicago or Turabian styles of citations.  Here is an example of how to cite information from a book:


“Initially, in his 1751 essay “Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind”  (1965: 71), Franklin was concerned lest the English colony of Pennsylvania be overrun by the “Palatine Boors.”  Yet, later on in a 1753 letter to his friend in England, Peter Collinson, he praised the German immigrants for their frugality and industry (1965: 72-79).”


In this example, the author is citing work by Benjamin Franklin.  These are an example of a format that cites within the text.  Each citation is linked to a bibliographical entry by the year and then the page number(s), enclosed in parentheses.  Consequently, works consulted for your papers need to be included in a bibliography placed at the back of the paper.   Here is the bibliographical format used with the preceding citations from Benjamin Franklin:


“Franklin, Benjamin.  1965.  The Political Thought of Benjamin Franklin.  Edited by             Ralph L. Ketcham.  Indianapolis, New York, Kansas City: The Bobbs – Merrill Company, Inc.”


When you use an Internet source, I expect you to use the following format, taken off of the Library of Congress website.  “Chicago Citation Format:
(Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed., sections 17.270, 17.237)


  1. Author last name, first name, middle initial, if given.  If no author, use the site owner.
  2. Title of Site (italicized); a subsection of a larger work is in quotes.
  3. Editor of site, if given.
  4. Publication information, including latest update if available.
  5. Name of sponsoring institution or organization.
  6. Electronic address or URL.
  7. Date of access, in parenthesis.

Last name, First name Middle initial.  Title of Site.  City: Publishing Company, copyright date.  Sponsoring source.  http://…(accessed date).


Library of Congress. (accessed January 5, 2006).”

Library of Congress.

Accessed August 4, 2009).


You should put the same information in your bibliography page.  The Library of Congress website also gives good information on how to handle citations for many other sources of data.  I prefer the Chicago Manual of Style format, but the others work well, too.  The main ideas behind using proper citations is to give credit to the work of other people, and also make it easier for your readers to go back and read your sources for further information.  You will need to use proper citations and bibliographical references for all of the papers and tests in this course.  If you have any doubt about how to proceed with citations, please contact your Instructor, or the relevant English language tutors working in the English Department or the Residence Halls.  Students who fail to properly cite in their papers can expect to be written up for plagiarism, and charges will be appropriately filed.  Proper citation is essential for any material you quote or closely paraphrase. Respect for intellectual property is one of the core values of this university and also of your Instructor.  It is also imperative that you do your own work.  Your Instructor has frequently worked on group projects, where he and a minority of the project team performed the lion’s share of the work.  Reflecting on this, he expects each of you to work independently and not copy, steal, or collude with others in the performance of the assignments for this course.  This is not to preclude the laudable socializing and lifelong friendships that hopefully are being formed as you trudge through the labyrinth of your academic career.  I trust that you are getting together outside of class for socializing and discussions.  (And also to plot against me.)  Just do your own work.  Marked similarities of work occurring in tests and papers is an indicator of possible cheating, and arouses my suspicions.  A word to the wise: your Instructor has been known to detect plagiarism quite well, and he reserves the rights to give a student a zero (0) on a given plagiarized test question, term paper or test, a 0 (zero) on the entire assignment, and/or an F in the course.  Those who cheat can expect to face the full force of the Departmental, College and University rules on intellectual property and academic misconduct. 



Grading Structure:


Final letter grades will be based upon the following:


Grading scale:

90% to 100% = A

80% to 89% = B

70% to 79% = C

60% to 69% = D

0% to 59% = F


The scale in use indicates that grading will not be done on a curve but as a percentage of successfully completed work. The following list shows the percentage toward your final grade for each graded exercise.  The possible pop quizzes are counted toward the Participation and Attendance part of your final grade.  You Instructor is not going to use the gradebook feature of Blackboard.


Allocation of Points for the Final Grade:


Budget Research Paper                            10%   10 Points

Case Study                                                                10%   10 Points

Midterm Examination                                        30%   30 Points

Final Examination                                        30%   30 Points

Participation                                                     10%   10 Points

Attendance                                                       10%   10 Points

Total                                                                100%  100 Points



Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities:


Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to

making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented

disabilities.  Those students with disabilities that may have some

impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations

should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the

fourth floor of the Health Services Building.  CAAR will assist students

in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors.  It is

important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any

disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


Religious Holidays:


Your Instructor has no way of knowing a student’s religious affiliation.  Nor, does he care what that affiliation might be so long as it does not involve involuntary human sacrifice.  Consequently, if observances of your Faith require your absence from a regularly scheduled class meeting, a prudent student will notify the Instructor in advance so accommodations can be appropriately worked out.




The Instructor of this course was a champion non-traditional student at this University for many years.  Consequently, he realizes that most students must work in order to afford to attend NIU, and also that crises and emergencies unfortunately crop up in the lives of students.  Should these arise (and I surely hope they do not), whenever possible, prompt discussion of the situation with the Instructor is a Really Good Idea.  There are very few of us in academia who have not had to deal with our own “Semester From Hell” and often ways can be worked out to prevent total disaster from occurring.  Those students who are on scholarships requiring the maintenance of acceptable grade point averages are advised to contact the Instructor immediately should they suspect that they might be in some difficulty in the course.  This is especially true for those students with athletic scholarships.  Should any of you have a personal crisis of one sort or another that you believe may adversely impact your performance in this course you are advised to see me immediately during my office hours.  I do not need to hear all of the gory private details, but will try to work with you to salvage as much of your grade in this course as is possible. As you are no doubt aware, this university is a bureaucratic system that thrives on paperwork and requires copious documentation.  While I will respect your privacy in these matters within the limits of University Policy, I generally need to have some sort of evidence to bring to Higher Authority to help justify clemency and mercy for hapless students.   This University, like most others operates on Rawlsian principles of Justice.  According to these principles, Justice is Fairness.  So, if I offer special treatment to one person after the fact, I must offer it to everyone else.  It is always much easier to make accommodations before the end of the semester.  It is virtually impossible to do much grade salvage work after the semester is ended.  In the hopefully unlikely event that anyone must be absent due to a death in the family or similar tragedy, please come talk to me and give me some documentation such as a newspaper obituary and most if not all problems relating with what you missed from class can usually be worked out.   The best way to contact me is immediately before or after class.  Otherwise, contact me via e-mail using the address at the beginning of this syllabus. 


Tentative Weekly Schedule:


Week 1 (January 11, 13, & 15): Introduction to the course.  Also, please read Chapter 1 in Governing States & Localities


Week 2 (January 11, 13, &15): On Monday, appropriately celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, on which there are no classes held.  Then, read The Nature of Local Government which is in the Introduction of the Banovetz Case Study book.  This selection is on electronic reserve and can be accessed via Blackboard, and also read Chapter 2 in Governing States & Localities.


Week 3 (January 25, 27, & 29): We are concentrating on state constitutions.  For this week be sure to read Chapters 3 in Governing States & Localities.   


Week 4 (February 1, 3, & 5): political participation, voting and interest groups.  Read Chapters 4 and 5 in Governing States & Localities.


Week 5 (February 8, 10 & 12): legislatures and executives.  Please read Chapters 6 and 7 in Governing States & Localities.


Week 6 (February 15, 17 & 19): bureaucracy and the court systems.  Please read Chapters 8 and 9 in Governing States & Localities.


Week 7 (February 22, 24 & 26): local government and metro-politics.  Read Chapters 10 and 11.  The Mid-Term Exam will be posted to Blackboard on Wednesday.


Week 8 (March 1, 3 & 5): public finance.  Please read Chapter 13 in Governing States & Localities.   The Mid-term Exam is due at the beginning of class on Friday. 


March 7 through March 14: Spring Break.


Week 9 (March 15, 17, & 19): Continuing on with budgeting and public finance.  Then, moving on to education, crime and punishment.  Please read Chapters 13 and 14 in Governing States & Localities. 


Week 10 (March 22, 24 & 26): introduction to Chicago Politics.  Read pages 5-46 from Boss by Mike Royko. The Case Study Paper is due at the beginning of class on Friday.


Week 11 (March 29, 31, & April 1):  Continuing on with Chicago Politics.  Read pages 47-158 in Boss by Mike Royko.


Week 12 (April 5, 7, & 9): Read pages 159 to the end in Boss by Mike Royko.  Then, we will start going over the joys of Tammany Hall from New York City.  So, also read the entire book Plunkitt of Tammany Hall by Richard Riordan. 


Week 13 (April 12, 14, & 16): Finish Plunkitt of Tammany Hall by Richard Riordan.  The budget paper is due at the beginning of class on Friday.


Week 14 (April 19, 21, & 23): We cover the reserve readings from The Shame of the Cities. 

Week 15 (April 26 & 29):  Then, there will be a summary and final review of the course.    Also, the Final Examination is handed out and posted to Blackboard on Monday.


The Final Exam is Due Monday, May 3, 2010, from 10-11:50 a.m.  Due to University Regulations, the class must meet at this time, on this date.  I have to be there, and I will be dutifully sitting on the table graciously accepting your final exam papers.  I may bring some donuts if there is sufficient interest expressed by the class.