Localism in America: Opportunities closer to communities - AEI

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Commentators have observed over the past few years that the fabric of American civic institutions is fraying. Much has been said of our polarized political arena and declining confidence in American institutions.

An underappreciated positive element amid the many markers of civic decline is Americans’ confidence in and optimism about their local communities. As concerns about an overreaching federal government have spread across the ideological spectrum, writers and analysts have begun to think anew about the merits of federalism and solving public problems at the community level.

Join us for the release of “Localism in America,” a new collection of essays from AEI and the Center for Opportunity for Urbanism highlighting ideas and proposals from writers of diverse ideological backgrounds about the promise and limits of taking on big challenges at the local level.

Join the conversation on social media with @AEI on Twitter and Facebook.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


4:45 PM

5:00 PM
Ryan Streeter, AEI

5:05 PM
Opening remarks:
Stephen Goldsmith, Harvard Kennedy School

5:25 PM

5:40 PM
Panel discussion

Natalie Gochnour, University of Utah
Howard Husock, Manhattan Institute
Doug Ross, New Urban Learning
Anne Snyder, Center for Opportunity Urbanism

Joel Kotkin, Center for Opportunity Urbanism


6:30 PM
Wine and cheese reception

7:00 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Doug Lewis at [email protected], 202.828.6027.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries or to register a camera crew, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829

Speaker Biographies

Natalie Gochnour serves as an associate dean in the David Eccles School of Business and director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. She also serves as chief economist for the Salt Lake Chamber. Her experience includes a diverse mix of public service and business experience. From 2006 to 2013, she guided the public policy work of the Salt Lake Chamber, Utah’s largest business association, representing 7,700 member businesses. During Ms. Gochnour’s state service, she advised Utah Governors Norman Bangerter, Mike Leavitt, and Olene Walker, and she served as the media spokesperson for the governor’s office during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. She also served as a political appointee in the George W. Bush administration, serving as an associate administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency and a deputy to the secretary at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Ms. Gochnour has both an undergraduate and master’s degree in economics from the University of Utah. She teaches public finance at the University of Utah.

Howard Husock is vice president for research and publications at the Manhattan Institute, where he is also director of the institute’s social entrepreneurship initiative. He is the author of “Philanthropy Under Fire” (Encounter Books, 2013), a City Journal contributing editor, and a contributor to Forbes.com. From 1987 through 2006, Mr. Husock was director of case studies in public policy and management at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he was also a fellow at the Hauser Center on Nonprofit Organizations. His publications on the nonprofit sector have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, National Affairs, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Society, Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Public Interest​. Mr. Husock has written widely on US housing and urban policy, including in his book “The Trillion-Dollar Housing Mistake: The Failure of American Housing Policy” (Ivan R. Dee, 2003) and his monograph “Repairing the Ladder: Toward a New Housing Policy Paradigm” (Reason Foundation, 1996). His work has appeared in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Philanthropy, and The Wilson Quarterly. A former broadcast journalist and documentary filmmaker whose work won three Emmy Awards, Mr. Husock serves on the board of directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He holds a B.A. from Boston University’s School of Public Communication and was a mid-career fellow at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Joel Kotkin is an internationally recognized authority on global, economic, political, and social trends. His most recent book is “The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us” (Agate, 2016). He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange, California, and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He is executive editor of the widely read website New Geography and writes the weekly “New Geographer” column for Forbes.com. He is a regular contributor to The Daily Beast, Real Clear Politics, and Orange County Register. Mr. Kotkin is the author of eight books, including “The New Class Conflict” (Telos Press, 2014), “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050” (Penguin Press, 2010), and “The City: A Global History” (Modern Library, 2006).

Doug Ross is a former state senator, Michigan commerce director, and US assistant secretary of labor. In 1999 he formed the nonprofit New Urban Learning to figure out how to graduate Detroit children from high school and send them to college and technical schools at the same rate as affluent suburban communities such as Birmingham and Grosse Pointe. With generous support from philanthropist Bob Thompson, Mr. Ross started seven university-prep charter schools in Detroit that demonstrated the ability to graduate more than 90 percent of their open-admissions Detroit children from high school and enroll more than 90 percent in college every year, beginning with the first high school graduating classes in 2007.

Anne Snyder is a fellow at the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, a Houston-based think tank that explores how cities can drive opportunity for the bulk of their citizens. She is also director of the Character Initiative at the Philanthropy Roundtable, where she is writing a book to help foundations and business leaders strengthen “the middle ring” of morally formative communities and institutions. Ms. Snyder previously worked for Laity Lodge, the H. E. Butt Family Foundation, The New York Times, World Affairs Journal, and the Ethics & Public Policy Center. She has been published in The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, City Journal, Philanthropy Magazine, Orange County Register, Houston Business Journal, Comment Magazine, and elsewhere.

Ryan Streeter is the director of domestic policy studies at AEI, where he oversees research in education, American citizenship, politics, public opinion, and social and cultural studies. Before joining AEI, he was executive director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Streeter has had a distinguished career in government service, which includes being deputy chief of staff for policy for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, special assistant for domestic policy to President George W. Bush at the White House, and policy adviser to Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith. Outside of government, he has served as a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute and as a research fellow at the Hudson Institute. He is the author of “Transforming Charity: Toward a Results-Oriented Social Sector” (Hudson Institute, 2001); the editor of “Religion and the Public Square in the 21st Century” (Hudson Institute, 2001); the coauthor of “The Soul of Civil Society: Voluntary Associations and the Public Value of Moral Habits” (Lexington Books, 2002); and a contributor to the Stephen Goldsmith book, “Putting Faith in Neighborhoods: Making Cities Work Through Grassroots Citizenship” (Hudson Institute, 2002). Dr. Streeter has a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Emory University, an M.A. from Northern Illinois University, and a B.A. from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

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