National Civic Review

The National Civic Review, the quarterly journal of the National Civic League, is one of the nation's oldest civic affairs journals. Now in its 99th year of publication, the Review features thoughtful essays on democratic governance and civic engagement. The journal is published for NCL by Jossey-Bass Publishing. The Review is a vital supplement to the information flow of decision makers, researchers, students, and educators across the country.

Available Online Articles

  1. 99:2 - Summer 2010
  2. 99:1 - Spring 2010
  3. 98:4 - Winter 2009
  4. 98:3 - Fall 2009
  5. 98:2 - Summer 2009
  6. 98:1 - Spring 2009
  7. 97:4 - Winter 2008
  8. 97:3 - Fall 2008
  9. 97:2 - Summer 2008
  10. 97:1 - Spring 2008
  11. 96:4 - Winter 2007
  12. 96:3 - Fall 2007
  13. 96:2- Summer 2007
  14. 96:1 - Spring 2007
  15. 95:4 - Winter 2006
  16. 95:3 - Fall 2006
  17. 95:2 - Summer 2006
  18. 95:1 - Spring 2006
  19. 94:4 - Winter 2005
  20. 94:3 - Fall 2005
  21. 94:2 - Summer 2005
  22. 94:1 - Spring 2005
  23. 93:4 - Winter 2004
  24. 93:3 - Fall 2004
  25. 93:2 - Summer 2004
  26. 93:1 - Spring 2004
  27. 92:4 - Winter 2003
  28. 92:3 - Fall 2003
  29. 92:2 - Summer 2003
  30. 92:1 - Spring 2003
  31. 91:4 - Winter 2002
  32. 91:3 - Fall 2002
  33. 91:2 - Summer 2002
  34. 91:1 - Spring 2002
  35. 90:4 - Winter 2001
  36. 90:3 - Fall 2001
  37. 90:2 - Summer 2001
  38. 90:1 - Spring 2001

NCR 95:4 - Winter 2006

 

Article 1: The Future of Public Libraries in an Internet Age
BY RUTH A. WOODEN
With the internet reshaping so many aspects of our lives, it has become common for prognosticators to speculate about the ultimate demise of all sorts of institutions that many of us have come to take for granted. So when Public Agenda set out to investigate public and civic leaders' thinking about public libraries today, we were not at all certain what we would hear.

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Article 2: The 2006 All America City Award Winners
BY MICHAEL MCGRATH
The National Civic League announced the ten winners of the 2006 All America Cities Award at the end of a three day event in Anaheim, California, in June. The communities addressed a range of social and community issues, with innovative strategies to improve health care, foster better housing opportunities, stimulate economic development, deal with demographic change, promote civic engagement among youth, and improve education programs.

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NCR 95:3 - Fall 2006

 

Article 1: Public Engagement in California: Escaping the Vicious Cycle
BY DANIEL YANKELOVICH & ISABELLA FURTH
According to a new model of leadership, civic leaders would act as intermediaries between elected officials and the unorganized public.

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Article 2: Donors and Fundraising in the 2004 Presidential Campaigns
BY JOSEPH GRAF
Analysis of campaign contributions in 2004 paints a picture of the presidential donor pool as more fluid than we used to believe.

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NCR 95:2 - Summer 2006

 

Article 1: A Consensus for Reform: Connecticut Lawmakers Opt for Public Financing
BY NICK NYHART
Elected officials in Connecticut pass a bill to establish full public financing for all elections to state offices including their own.

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Article 2: Outstanding Educators and Citizens
BY GARY R. CHANDLER
Successful educators understand the importance of integrating the efforts of families, schools, and other institutions within the community.

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NCR 95:1 - Spring 2006

 

Article 1: Youth as Important Civic Actors: From the Margins to the Center
BY JEE KIM & ROBERT F. SHERMAN
Public opinion polls and extensive research on attitudes held about young people (teenagers, primarily) in the United States portray a consistent, and troubling, point of view: that teenagers are plagued by expensive problems (crime, addiction, pregnancy, dropping out) and contribute little of positive value to our society. As Shepherd Zeldin notes, there is an emerging body of research indicating that, at a minimum, contemporary beliefs and narratives about adolescents convey the implicit message that youth are a source of worry, not potential.

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Article 2: A Rising Movement
BY KAVITHA MEDIRATTA
On a warm morning in mid-September, fifteen hundred New York City students walked out of Dewitt Clinton High School and marched two miles to their school district's headquarters to protest the use of metal detectors in their school. Clogging the busy streets in the northwest Bronx neighborhood, the marchers forced traffic to a standstill. It was the largest youth-led protest in the city's recent history.

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NCR 94:4 - Winter 2005

 

Article 1: Deliberation in the Balance: A Cautionary Note on the Promise of Deliberative Democracy
BY MICHAEL K. BRIAND
Diversity is, and always has been, one of the nation’s most important strengths. Yet it can sometimes seem more a liability than an asset. In everyday
life, differences create friction, and nowhere is the downside of diversity more evident than in our civic and political life, in which decisions have to be
made and actions taken that affect everyone. Because people have differing interests and priorities, conflicts inevitably occur.

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Article 2: Solving a Classic Dilemma of Democratic Politics:
Who Will Guard the Guardians?
BY J.H. SNIDER
The founders of the United States were deeply concerned about the corrupting influence of power. They understood that, given the chance, elected officials would seek to preserve and enhance their power, even at the expense of democratic institutions. Accordingly, they designed a government based on separation of powers, where “ambition” would “counteract ambition.” This entailed an elected president with veto power over legislation, an independent court with the ability to declare legislation
unconstitutional, a legislature in which a two-thirds majority can override a presidential veto, and bicameralism in which legislation must pass
both houses of the legislature.

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NCR 94:3 - Fall 2005

 

Article 1: A Time for Change: El Paso Adopts the Council-Manager Form
BY DEREK OKUBO
The “strong mayor” form of government is a rarity among contemporary Texas cities. Until last year, El Paso and Houston were the last holdouts against
the more prevalent city council–city manager model, first proposed by the National Municipal League in 1915. In February 2004, the voters of El Paso approved a charter change to move from a strong mayor to a council-manager government. An additional charter amendment approved by voters included a shift to four-year, staggered city council terms starting with the election in April 2005. (Granting pay increases for council members was the only charter related amendment that failed at the polls during that election.)

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Article 2: Progressive Passion: Reviving the Fighting Spirit of Nonpartisan Reform
BY MICHAEL MCGRATH
Former President Jimmy Carter has served as an election observer all over the world, often in impoverished, strife-ridden countries such as Haiti or
Mozambique. When he travels abroad these days, he is sometimes asked what must be an embarrassing question: Why are there so many problems with
election administration in the state of Florida? Carter offered a partial explanation in an op-ed published in the Washington Post shortly before the 2004 election. “Some of the basic international requirements for fair elections,” he wrote, “are missing in Florida.”

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NCR 94:2 - Summer 2005

 

Article 1:A Campus View: Civic Engagement and the Higher Education Community
BY DAVID A. CAPUTO
In recent years,there have been a variety of efforts to define, develop, and implement civic engagement programs in institutions of higher education. As
happens with most changes in curriculum and new programs, results are often mixed or still unknown. Most programs are in their infancy, and it is far too
soon to know if they will have their desired outcome of strengthening individual student civic engagement and thus reinforcing American democracy. What
follows is a brief discussion of civic engagement, some thoughts on current efforts to broaden it, and a series of suggestions regarding what we need to
know in the future.

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Article 2: Cracking the Atom of Civic Power
B Y HARRIS WOFFORD
Asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton said,“Because that’s where the money is.” Like Sutton perhaps, higher education may be short of money,
but it is not short of brain and brawn. There is no better place to look for the human resources that cities need to meet the extra educational and social
needs of children and families, or to help solve other critical problems, than America’s four thousand colleges and universities. Their faculties, administrations,
and trustees are more than a million strong, with connections to millions of alumni. The largest of the campus resources, right on hand to be called
into action to help America’s cities, is sixteen million students.

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NCR 94:1 - Spring 2005

 

Article 1: Electoral Reform and Deliberative
Democracy in British Columbia
BY HENRY MILNER
Nowhere else in the world have ordinary citizens been so empowered to shape political institutions.

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Article 2: HAVA or Havoc?
BY SARAH TOBIAS
“I think a lot of us had a sense that something . . . went wrong on Nov. 2 and it had to do with the election process and procedures in place that were unacceptable.” The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was intended to transform America’s electoral future for the better. Anticipating that the new law would prevent disfranchisement and promote public confidence, its sponsors claimed that passage of HAVA would herald “a new day for our nation’s democracy.”

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NCR 93:4 - Winter 2004

 

Article 1: Strengthening Participatory Approaches to Local Governance: Learning the Lessons from Abroad
BY JOHN GAVENTA
Citizens and governments are coming together in new ways to participate, deliberate, and develop solutions to pressing social, economic, and community development issues.

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Article 2: Finding the Right Path: Public Agencies and Civic
Engagement
BY RICHARD C . HARWOOD
The real opportunity here is for public agencies to make civic engagement a way of doing public business. This requires that civic engagement become part of an organization’s very culture.

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NCR 93:3 - Fall 2004

 

Article 1: Protecting Poor People’s Right to Vote: Fully Implementing Public Assistance Provisions of the National Voter Registration Act
BY ANDREW M. FLEISCHMANN

Imagine a country with a separate voter registration system for poor people. A country that neglects this registration system for the poor so severely that in most areas fewer than one out of ten unregistered citizens actually use it. A country that so disregards the plight of its low-income citizens that their disenfranchisement— and the attendant political disregard for the needs of the poor—is rarely, if ever, reported.

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Article 2: Is Public Journalism Morphing
into the Public’s Journalism?

BY LEONARD WITT

Much of what public or civic journalists were struggling so hard to accomplish for more than a decade from mostly within the news media is suddenly being thrust upon the entire news media from the outside at lightning speed. Few saw it coming.

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NCR 93:2 - Summer 2004

 

Chapter 1: Full Representation: Uniting Backers of Gerrymandering Reform and Minority Voting Rights
By Robert Richie

Recent federal court rulings allow gerrymandering of congressional districts for partisan advantage but not to promote racial diversity. Election reformers should join with civil rights activists to replace this lose-lose approach with a win-win solution known as full representation.

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Chapter 3: Thinking Outside of the (Ballet) Box
Cynthia M. Gibson

Voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts are important, but simply exhorting nonvoters to go to the polls is not enough. A broader reform agenda would galvanize an apathetic electorate by encouraging civic and political engagement beyond the ballot box.

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NCR 93:1 - Spring 2004

 

Chapter 1: The Regional Civic Movement in California
Nicholas P. Bollman

California has long been acknowledged as a leading "incubator of democracy," encouraging reforms across the political spectrum. Can a burgeoning regional civic movement energize citizen involvement to help tackle the state's pressing energy crisis, budget deficit, polarized political parties, and other critical issues?

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Chapter 2: The New Home Rule
John O'Looney

For the last several decades, the concept of regionalism has been touted as a response to social challenges such as affordable housing, environmental degradation, and similar problems often beyond the powers of local governments acting alone to solve. However, some civic commentators are now suggesting re-examining an old idea--strengthening home rule to empower local governments.

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NCR 92:4 - Winter 2003

 

Chapter 2: Citizenship without Politics
Kayla Metzger Drogosz

More and more Americans are choosing to spend their social capital on direct service volunteer work. Is it possible to take the politics out of civic life, and more important, what does this trend mean for the health of civil society?

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Chapter 3: The Promise of National Service
EJ Dionne Jr. and Kayler Melter Drogosz

Despite widespread support for the concept of national service, putting it into practice can often result in controversy. A brief history of such efforts and the disputes they have engendered can help guide future thinking about how balance competing visions of strengthening one of civil society's most vital supports.

 

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NCR 92:3 - Fall 2003

Tools for Democratic Engagement

Chapter 4: Should the Public Meeting Enter the Information Age?
J. H. Snider

Although in theory the public meeting can be an important contribution to the democratic process, in practice it often falls short. Snider discusses how information technology can improve the impact of public meetings.

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NCR 92:2 - Summer 2003

Strategies for Promoting Civic Engagement and Citizen Democracy
Table of Contents View/Download (pdf)

Note from the Editor

 

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Chapter 2: The Healthy Communities Movement: A Time for Transformation
Tom Wolff

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Chapter 7: From Popular to Personal Democracy
Matthew A. Crenson, Benjamin Ginsberg

The author of this article uses the term personal democracy to describe the current state of affairs in which the rise of interest group advocacy, the reinvention of government, and a shift in the meaning and practices of civic education have contributed to demobilization of popular democratic support for collective ends.

 

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NCR 92:1 - Spring 2003

Innovating in the New Millennium: Lessons from the Local level
Table of Contents View/Download (pdf)

Note from the President

 

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Chapter 4: America's Urban Crisis a Decade After the
Los Angeles Riots

Peter Dreier

The riots that broke out in Los Angeles after the verdict in the Rodney King case were the most costly in our nation's history. This article details the largely ineffectual response by elected leaders and contrasts them with the more successful efforts by grassroots activists to orchestrate positive change.

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Chapter 5: Devotion: Declaring Our Intentions in Public Life
Richard C. Harwood

This reflection on politics and public life in America today calls for a new covenant among political leaders, the media, and citizens, and summons us to take seriously the challenges and responsibilities that patriotism, understood as devotion to one's country, requires.

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NCR 91:4 - Winter 2002

New Directions in Political Reform
Table of Contents View/Download (pdf)

Note from the President

Passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) was the most significant legislative reform of the federal campaign finance system in more than a quarter-century. However, while this achievement is indeed substantive, its ultimate impact remains unclear....

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Chapter 3: Behind Closed Doors: The Recurring Plague of Redistricting and the Politics of Geography
Steven Hill

Beginning in early 2001,a great tragedy occurred in American politics. It happened quietly, for the most part behind closed doors, and with minimal public input or oversight. The net result of this tragedy is that most voters had their vote rendered nearly meaningless, almost as if it had been stolen from them....

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Chapter 6: Taking Democracy to Scale: Creating a Town Hall Meeting for the Twenty-First Century
Carolyn J.Lukensmeyer, Steve Brigham

Over the last decade we have watched democracy surge and ebb around the world. With its firm commitment to strengthening democratic movements, the United States has encouraged, directly assisted in, and even led many democratization efforts. Yet to maintain a credible leadership role, we must acknowledge that our own democracy has much room for improvement....

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NCR 91:3 - Fall 2002

Social Capital and New Urbanist Design
Table of Contents View/Download (pdf)

Note from the President

The nineteenth-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer suggested that all truths pass through three stages: first they are ridiculed, then they are violently opposed, and finally they are accepted as self-evident. Though somewhat anachronistic, this observation usefully reminds us of the passions that may accompany debate over new public ideas...

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Chapter 2: Social Capital and New Urbanism:Leading a Civic Horse to Water?
Thomas H. Sander

New Urbanism has been ascendant in the last several decades, riding its promise as a strategy to reduce suburban sprawl and automobile dependence, while increasingly fostering stronger communities. The number of neighborhood-scale New Urbanist projects completed or under way rose 37 percent in 2001 to more than two hundred developments in thirty-nine states, up from a 25 percent increase in 1999 and a 28 percent increase in 2000...

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Chapter 3: Sprawl,Politics, and Participation: A Preliminary Analysis
Thad Williamson

Advocates of smart growth and other policies intended to constrain urban sprawl increasingly cite a desire to rebuild community as a primary objective of, and rationale for, reshaping America's built environment. Authors Kaid Benfield, Jutka Terris, and Nancy Vorsanger write in their fine book Solving Sprawl that "smart growth helps restore a sense of community by building more compact neighborhoods that are walkable, with sidewalks and safe crossings as well as home and shop entrances close enough to the street to be convenient and inviting." Recent publications of the Congress for the New
Urbanism stress themes of "building social capital" and "reviving community" in making the case for pedestrian-friendly places modeled on a small town downtown, not on a strip mall...

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NCR 91:2 - Summer 2002

Issues in Democratic Politics:
Public Deliberation,Electoral Reform,and Civic Participation
Table of Contents View/Download (pdf)

Note from the President

Much of the National Civic League's work in communities was developed over the same period in which policymaking authority and responsibility were being devolved from the federal government to state and local governments. As communities adapted to the challenge of meeting new obligations, the need to change how they did business became apparent...

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Chapter 1: Deliberative Dialogue to Expand Civic Engagement: What Kind of Talk Does Democracy Need?
Martha L.McCoy,Patrick L.Scully

The need to expand and deepen civic engagement is a central theme of a loosely defined and growing civic movement. A strong civic life and a flourishing democracy presume the active involvement of many people across society. Civic engagement is thus both a barometer of our public life and a focal point for action when we want to improve it...

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NCR 91:1 - Spring 2002

Issues in Local Government Structure and Performance
Table of Contents View/Download (pdf)

Note from the President

As the charter revision project moves forward, we are again devoting an edition of the National Civic Review to issues of local government structure and performance. The articles collected here examine everything from charters themselves to the role and position of the mayor, the city council, and the chief administrative officer in various forms of local government...

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Chapter 2: An Institutionalist Perspective on Mayoral Leadership: Linking Leadership Style to Formal Structure
Craig M.Wheeland

The factors that influence effective mayoral leadership are still not well understood. There is continuing debate in the academic literature over theories of mayoral leadership, and many communities debate ways to change their form of government to influence how their mayor provides leadership...

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NCR 90:4 - Winter 2001

The American Communities Movement
Table of Contents View/Download (pdf)

Note from the President

Taken together, the articles in this issue showcase the innovative activity of community movements and chart the path of future development. The public deliberation and civic participation that these movements engender are essential resources for our democratic republic...

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Chapter 1: The American Communities Movement
John T. Kesler, Drew O'Connor

Across the United States, a number of community-based movements and local groups share complementary visions and approaches to community transformation. This article gives an overview of these movements and examines some of their common concerns...

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NCR 90:3 - Fall 2001

Digital Democracy: Civic Engagement in the Twenty-First Century
Table of Contents View/Download (pdf)

Note from the President

Speculative mania and turbocharged rhetoric fueled an explosive growth in IT. Although this wild ride is now literally and figuratively spent, its positive effects can be seen in the widespread adoption and implementation of information-based technologies in all sectors of society...

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Chapter 1: Civic Renewal and the Commons of Cyberspace
Peter Levine

This article brings together two current discussions. One...concerns the somewhat shaky condition of American civil society. The other investigates the Internet as a particular kind of public resource, a "commons."...

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NCR 90:2 - Summer 2001

The State of Politics in America: Issues in Political Reform
Table of Contents View/Download (pdf)

Note from the President

Election 2000 put voting reform on the national agenda. The inability to ensure that all duly registered voters could vote and that all votes could be counted was unsettling to everyone. Such problems have direct implications for the legitimacy of our political system...

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Chapter 2: Federal Campaign Finance Reform: The Long and Winding Road
Scott Harshbarger, Edwin Davis

This article traces the series of reform fights in Congress over the past fifteen years...[and] is intended to offer some perspective for those who first began paying attention to campaign finance reform during the 2000 presidential campaign, when McCain brought the issue to the nation's attention and made it a priority in the crowded agenda of the nation's capital...

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To order a copy of the National Civic Review, contact Jossey-Bass Publishers. If you wish to subscribe to the Review, please become a member of the National Civic League.

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