The Reports

George Mason University’s team is in the midst of a multi-year study analyzing the fiscal challenges in the wake of the Great Recession. While considerable effort has been devoted to understanding macroeconomic trends, far less attention has been giving to understanding the recession’s impact at the municipal level.

The project is structured around six struggling cities: Pittsburgh, Providence, Detroit, San Bernardino, Chicago, and Baltimore. The case studies incorporated on-site interviews with local leaders, members of the community, and the media to understand the interaction of policy and economic and sociodemographic factors.

Below are the full case studies as well as shortened two-page snapshots of the full studies. Also available is a report detailing much of the framework used to conduct the studies. Finally, the Financial Crisis Toolkit was developed by a group of Mason MPA students following their work analyzing fiscal distress in Rhode Island in Spring, 2012.

To learn more about the State and Local Government Leadership Center, visit our website here




Sarah McLaughlin Emmans

Sarah McLaughlin Emmans provided critical program management and research for this GMU project, working closely with Mr. Shafroth while conducting her own considerable research agenda. Ms. Emmans previously worked as a research manager with the Pew Center on the States Research and Information team. Prior to her work at Pew, Emmans worked as a research consultant to the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. Ms. Emmans also worked in the Illinois Governor’s Office of Policy Development and as the deputy director of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Southeast Regional Office. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Dartmouth College and a master’s in public policy from the University of Chicago.


Michael Lawson

Michael Lawson is an affiliate faculty member at George Mason University.  In addition to his work on this project, Mr. Lawson teaches a course on organizational performance management and is an independent consultant in public management and policy.

Michael Lawson has more than 30 years of professional experience—mostly working on behalf of local governments. Mr. Lawson was the Director of the ICMA Center for Performance Measurement. In that role, Lawson had primary responsibility for a program that assists local governments’ use of performance measurement to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public services. Prior to joining the International City/County Management Association, Mr. Lawson served as director of government finance for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) from 1988 to 1997. At CCM, he was engaged in a wide range of issues ranging from state-local tax reform to education finance. From 1981-1988, Mr. Lawson was a research fellow/public finance analyst for the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. At the ACIR, he focused primarily on tax and expenditure policies of state and local governments in the U.S. He holds a master’s degree in public affairs from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Purdue University.


Paul L. Posner

Paul L. Posner is director of the public administration program at George Mason University and a former president of the American Society for Public Administration.

He served for many years with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, where he was managing director for federal budget and intergovernmental relations, leading GAO’s work on the long-term federal budget outlook and emerging challenges for public-sector finances at all levels of government.

Posner is the author of “The Politics of Unfunded Mandates,” which was published in 1998 by Georgetown University Press and was the winner of the 2008 Martha Derthick Best Book Award given by the Section on Federalism and Intergovernmental Management of the American Political Science Association. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.


Timothy J. Conlan

Dr. Timothy Conlan is a University Professor at George Mason.  He is the author of many books, monographs, articles, and book chapters in the areas of federalism, legislative politics, and public policy making.  Conlan’s 1988 book, New Federalism: Intergovernmental Reform from Nixon to Reagan, received the “Martha Derthick Book Award” from the Section on Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations of the American Political Science Association in 1998.

In 2002, he received the Daniel J. Elazar Distinguished Scholar Award from the Federalism Section of APSA. Dr. Conlan is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and served as a Fulbright Senior Scholar at Erasmus Universiteit in the Netherlands in 1998. From 1985-86, he served as Assistant Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations.

Armstrong headshotAndrew Armstrong

Andrew Armstrong is a PhD student and research assistant at George Mason University.   His research explores the evaluative impact of warning system “false alarms” on public opinion and threat perception.

Prior to graduate school Andrew was an analyst at TNS Global.  Andrew holds a masters in political science from UC Davis, and a bachelors with honors in psychology from Haverford College.


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