Shaping the Metropolis: Institutions and Urbanization in the United States and Canada, by Zack Taylor, Montreal, Quebec, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019
Reviewed by: Tony Filipovitch, Minnesota State University Mankato
Zach Taylor addresses three audiences in this book: political scientists interested in comparative study of the policy process; urban practitioners interested in local cooperation and conflict; and urban historians interested in the historical development of four cities (Toronto, ONT; Vancouver, BC; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; and Portland, OR).
Taylor builds his argument with four detailed case studies, drawing on his own interviews with key players and published data from news journals and from secondary research. The four cities were chosen, not because they are typical of Canadian and American cities, but because they are considered innovators in metropolitan governance.
Taylor’s thesis is that urban governance has evolved differently in the United States and Canada, and that these institutional differences have resulted in cities with different characteristics. The American institutional system is based on the federated model of the US Constitution, the Canadian institutional system is based on the English Parliamentary system. In the US, policies are formed through legislative coalition-building and negotiation, the Canadian system is characterized by a cohesive and disciplined majority government which combines the legislative and executive under majority party control.
I enjoyed this book, and it is not a criticism to say that despite his thorough and careful scholarship (as a scholar, you have to admire a 400-page book that has 100 pages of endnotes and bibliography), there is work that remains to be done, testing his thesis in other metropolitan areas. For example, how does the experience of the American consolidated city/county governments (Miami/Dade County, Indianapolis UNIGOV) fit into Taylor’s argument? All four case studies involve centrally unified metropolitan areas; what is the experience of metropolitan areas coordinated through the Council of Governments system (like the Association of Bay Area Governments [ABAG] in San Francisco’s Bay Area)? Taylor has set the framework for some exciting further research.
The reviewer may be reached via e-mail at Anthony.firstname.lastname@example.org.