De Facto Devolution and Urban Defunding: The Priority of Persons Over Places

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Much attention has been focused on devolution of federal functions to states and localities; yet, little devolution is evident. Many forces are generating interest in devolution, but opposition remains potent. Meanwhile, a bipartisan process of de facto devolution involving a defunding of urban programs has been under way for two decades. De facto devolution has been driven predominantly by a shift in federal policy making from places to persons whereby the political incentives for federal officials now lie more in responding to the rights and interests of individuals than to the prerogatives and interests of state and local governments. This article, therefore, examines forces for and against devolution; the devolution records of Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court; de facto devolution in the context of federal emphases on persons; and implications for cities.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government, Lafayette College, Easton, PA, USA

Publication date: April 1, 1999

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