The Attack on American Cities
69 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 25, 2017
American cities are under attack. The last few years have witnessed an explosion of preemptive legislation challenging and overriding municipal ordinances across a wide-range of policy areas. City-state conflicts over the municipal minimum wage, LGBT anti-discrimination, and sanctuary city laws have garnered the most attention, but these conflicts are representative of a larger trend toward state aggrandizement. These legal challenges to municipal regulation have been accompanied by an increasingly shrill anti-city politics, emanating from both state and federal officials. This Article describes this politics by way of assessing the nature of—and reasons for—the hostility to city lawmaking. It argues that anti-urbanism is a long-standing and enduring feature of American federalism and seeks to understand how a constitutional system overtly dedicated to the principles of devolution can be so hostile to the exercise of municipal power. The Article also provides a current accounting of state preemptive legislation and assesses the cities’ potential legal and political defenses. It concludes that without a significant rethinking of state-based federalism the American city is likely to remain vulnerable.
Keywords: preemption, cities, municipal law, states, federalism, anti-urbanism, sanctuary cities, home rule, Trump
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