The Reports

2017: Changing Landscapes in Constituent Communication: A Guide for Elected Leaders

The report is a guide for Virginia’s elected city & county elected leaders about the rapidly evolving changes in communication between elected leaders and constituents: how in a world of Facebook, Instagram, twitter, etc. can elected Virginia leaders be effective in reaching out to and learning from their respective communities. The guidebook provides information how elected Virginia leaders can develop an effective social media presence, understand Virginia’s related laws, and better navigate the social media roadway. It looks at evolving policies counties and cities have adopted–or might wish to consider.

The Prezi presentation is an online tool for Virginia County and City Leaders to see, hear, and learn how different jurisdictions in the Commonwealth are utilizing these emerging tools–and how that is making a meaningful difference in not just governance, but also hearing from and communicating to citizens and taxpayers far more effectively than ever before. The prezi allows leaders to “visit” different Virginia cities and counties to see and learn how their ordinance, practices, and effectiveness in reaching out is changing.


Analyzing Fiscal Challenges in the Wake of the Great Recession 

George Mason University’s team conducted 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.


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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