One very good thing about our "let a thousand labs operate" federalist system is that we get to see what works in other places and take advantage of the experience. One very strange part of the system, however, is that we never seem to learn from the mistakes that happen elsewhere. And, one very weak part of the system is that the labs are operated by local governments.
Some political theorists and ideologues wax rhapsodic about decisions being made and problems being solved at the level closest to the people. But, when I think "local government" I tend to think -- based mostly on the seven or eight cities of various sizes I've lived in over the past half century -- "un-professional," "sinecures," "patronage," "pay-back," and "party hacks." I do not think "knowledgeable people likely to solve complicated problems." [of course, see my Implied Disclaimers]
That was an admittedly lengthy introduction to the topic of this post: Economic Development Authorities and the failure of local pols to learn from their own mistakes and those of others. [subplot: consultants who'll gladly give you a rosy scenario.] Earlier this month The Brookings Institution released "Space Available: The Realities of Convention Centers as Economic Development Strategy" (Jan. 2005), by Heywood Sanders. In its Executive Summary, the author notes:
[click here for the rest of this post, which seems to have overwhelmed Typepad.]