Politics in States and Communities
Internet Influence on the Power of State and Local Governments
The advent of the Internet has changed many aspects of people’s everyday lives. It expanded the possibilities for self-education and professional development, facilitated access to information, and changed the way people communicate. However, according to various research projects, the influence of the Internet is exaggerated. Surveys reveal that traditional media, for example, TV and newspapers, remain the most influential (Sipes, 2012).
Nonetheless, the possibilities that the Internet give should be taken into account by the state and local governments. These possibilities do not weaken the power of the governments. On the contrary, they allow establishing the direct connection between the citizens and the local and state governments. Such connection is a two-way street.
On one hand, the direct dialogue with citizens gives authorities the opportunity to closely monitor the realization of projects, implementation of programs, etc. It can be used to expand political participation of people by providing them with information and encouraging their involvement. Finally, Internet platforms are a good place for people to exchange ideas, brainstorm proposals, and give their feedback about future projects (Cole, 2012).
On the other hand, for the citizens themselves, the Internet opens new horizons in numerous fields. They can easily reach general information and specific data that enable them to assess the work of the local government. Secondly, facilitated communication and the possibility to freely voice their ideas to a wide audience help citizens organize themselves into groups and make a strong and comprehensive statement (Kim & Lee, 2012).
All in all, the availability of the Internet and its infinite virtual space enable the implementation of the concept of direct democracy. These new possibilities are beneficial both for the local authorities and citizens. They establish bilateral communication that helps involve people in various projects, get their feedback, and make local government more transparent and effective.
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Charter Schools and Tax-Supported Vouchers for Parents
The educational system of the USA has a complex structure. On the school level, it is represented by three types of educational institutions. They include public, charter, and private schools. The difference between public and private schools is quite simple to understand. Charter schools, however, are more difficult to characterize.
Charter schools can be placed in between private and public schools. They are partially funded by the authorities. Consequently, some aspects of their work are controlled by the state. However, charter schools are more flexible. The set of rules in each school, its charter, spells out internal school policies. Charter schools receive additional funding from private donations. Nonetheless, admission of students is free (Moore, 2012).
Thus, charter schools present an alternative to public schools for those parents who cannot afford to pay for private ones. Since this type of school is partially state-funded, they are not fully autonomous. Thus, this means that private groups are not to be allowed to operate charter schools themselves. The presence of state control is necessary to ensure that allocated funds are properly used, and the school gives a proper level of knowledge to the students. Consequently, charter schools should be allowed to take key decisions only after state approval.
As for tax-supported vouchers that allow parents to choose the school that they find fit for their child, it is a reasonable suggestion. The quality of education differs significantly from school to school. Despite the arguments of those, who advocate public schools and see other options as purely profit-oriented, parents should be able to make their own informed choice (Bernstein, 2013). Recent nationwide research proves that the system of charter schools, for instance, yields better students’ performance than that of public schools (Cremata, Davis & Dickey, 2013). Undoubtedly, it does not mean that all public schools are less effective than private or charter schools. However, if free choice is given to the parents, public schools will be more motivated to improve their performance and attract students.
Planning and Zoning by Local Governments
Most cities and towns in the USA have a Planning and Zoning Division. The task of this division is to implement planning and zoning laws, the aim of which is the prevention of incompatible use of land. Consequently, the state can pass zoning ordinances that limit construction in certain areas, determine the height of buildings, or the use of land. All of this is done in order to promote the welfare, safety, and health of all the people in the area.
Zoning ordinances can be divided into three categories. The first permits certain use of land in a particular zone, the second prohibits the use, and finally, the third obliges the owners of the land to apply for a specific exception (Miller, 2013).
However, effective planning and zoning can pose different problems. Sometimes authorities’ plans contradict the interests of landowners. This can happen, for instance, when new zoning ordinances are passed. In this case, the already existing property may conflict with new regulations. For example, there is a factory in an area that, according to a new zoning ordinance, is considered to be residential. The general practice is that such already existing non-conforming use is continued, and the owners of the factory are not forced to change or close it. However, if the already existing factory closes for any reason, further use of the building will have to conform to the new zoning plan. Thus, the factory in the example will not be allowed to reopen (Dealing with zoning problems, 2013).
All things considered, it is clear that planning and zoning done by local governments play a key role in the preservation of the safety and health of the citizens. The planning allows taking into account long-term infrastructure development of the area. Zoning, on the other hand, ensures the prevention of incompatible uses. Although there can be a specific exception to zoning plans, they are otherwise obligatory for all new land-use and building projects in the area.
Assistance to Wealthy Residents Hit by Recession
The massive decline in the global economic market in 2007 marked the beginning of what is now called the Great Recession. Since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the USA has never seen such a financial crisis. Its effects were felt in most spheres, but the bank and real estate sectors were hit the hardest. Now that the country is finally starting to stabilize the main question is who local and state governments should help first.
People who had the most lost the most. Numerous upper middle class families had to face the most profound consequences of the recession. However, they should not be the ones who are assisted by the states in the first place.
Firstly, local and state efforts need to be directed at helping enterprises. The more companies fail, the higher are the chances that the country will replunge into recession. This means that enterprise assistance ensures economic future both of the region and the country.
Secondly, numerous analysts draw public attention to the major difficulties that the youth faces in the present economic climate. Unable to find work, it is the young graduates that join the growing number of unemployed (Marche, 2012). Consequently, special projects should be launched in order to reverse the trend and secure jobs for the youth.
Finally, a survey conducted by Pew Research Center shows that the middle-class has also suffered heavy economic strain (2012). As it is the middle-class that constitutes the core of every healthy society and sound economy, it is this direction that should be taken next.
Undoubtedly, the economic recession is a hard time for the nation at large, and its consequences are still to be faced. Therefore, in order to return the country’s economy to the pre-recession level, local and state governments need to take carefully planned assistance measures. Helping enterprises, providing jobs for young specialists, and aiding the middle-class should be the three major objectives at present.