Robert Turner                                                                

315 Ladd                                               

Office Hours T-Th 12-2 pm

or whenever my door is open or by appointment


Who Governs Saratoga Springs?

SSP-100 046

Fall 2007


"In a political system where nearly every adult may vote but where knowledge, wealth, social position, access to officials, and other resources are unequally distributed, who actually governs?"( Dahl, Robert A. Who Governs?  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961.)


            How well does democracy work in Saratoga Springs?  How do we know?  The foundation of democracy in the United States is its institutions of local government.  The men and women chosen by their fellow citizens to govern them determine not only what their governments do, but also the quality of the democratic process.  The day-to-day operation of government and hotly contested 2007 election in Saratoga Springs provide a real life laboratory for studying the practice of democracy in 21st century America. 


Students will observe city council meetings, county board of supervisor meetings, school board meetings, planning and zoning board meetings, and campaign events; conduct interviews with local political elites; and conduct a survey of citizens’ vote choice in the 2007 Saratoga Springs city election.



  • Democratic Theory Paper (10%)
  • Civic Engagement Paper (12.5%)
  • Campaign Strategy Paper (12.5%)
  • Saratoga Springs Elections Project (32.5%)
  • Final Exam (22.55%)
  • Class Participation (10%)


This is a 4-credit course.  The class time accounts for three of those credits. The 4th credit is earned primarily through your attendance and participation at the local political events. 



Introduction to Saratoga Springs Politics

September 5 Saratoga Springs Local Politics and Players


September 7 Tour of Saratoga Springs

--Meet in front of Case Center

--Reading packet on Saratoga Springs politics


Section I  Democratic Theory

September 10-12 Substantive Democracy

Robert Dahl, On Democracy, Ideal Democracy p. 35-83


September 14  Procedural Theories of Democracy

Robert Mueller, Capitalism, Democracy, and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery, p. 137-191


September 17-19 The New England Town Meeting

Frank M. Bryan, Real Democracy: The New England Town Meeting and How It Works (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004): 56-81.

Jane Mansbridge. Chapters 4-6, Beyond Adversary Democracy, 39-76.


**September 18- Democratic Mayoral Primary


Paper #1 due September 21st (Rough Draft Meetings with Julia Sept. 16th-18th)


Section II  Civic Engagement and Political Participation

September 21  Disappearing Social Capital

Putnam, Robert, Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital, 65-78

Kayla Meltzer Drogosz, Citizenship Without Politics? A Critique of Pure Service, National Civic Review, 14-21


September 24  Observational Research Methods

James M. Glaser, The Challenge of Campaign Watching: Seven Lessons of Participant-Observation Research. PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 29, No. 3. (Sep., 1996), 533-537.

--begin attending government/local civic group/city council meetings


September 26  Associational Life

Theda Skocpol, Advocates without Members:  The Recent Transformation of American Civic Life, in Civic Engagement in American Democracy, ed. Theda Skocpol and Morris P. Fiorina (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1999) 461-510


September 28 Political and Economic Inequality

Kay Lehman Schlozman, Sidney Verba, and Henry E. Brady, “Civic Participation and the Equality Problem,” in Civic Engagement in American Democracy, ed. Theda Skocpol and Morris P. Fiorina (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1999) pp. 427-59.


October 1-  Discussion of Engagement/ Choose Candidate

(Rough Draft Meetings October. 1st-5th)


October 3 Is Participation Always a Good Thing?

Morris Fiorina, Extreme Voices, a Dark Side of Civic Engagement, 395-426. 

Lawrence M. Mead, The Great Passivity, Perspectives on Politics, December 2004, Vol. 2/No. 4

Verba, “Would the Dream of Political Equality Turnout to Be a Nightmare?” Perspectives on Politics, December 2003, 663-679.


October 5  Historical Perspectives on Participation

Michael Schudson, Good Citizens and Bad History

Matthew A. Crenson, Benjamin Ginsberg, From Popular to Personal Democracy, National Civic Review, vol. 92, no. 2, Summer 2003 173-189


October 8 Civic Engagement Paper due October 8th


Section III  Campaigning

October 10-12  Political Campaigns

            Daniel Shea, Campaign Craft


October 15  No class- spend time with candidates


October 17-19 Voter Mobilization

Green and Gerber, Get Out the Vote! How to Increase Voter Turnout, 2004


October 22 No class- spend time with candidates/attend debates

(Rough Draft Meetings October. 17-22)

Campaign Strategy Paper Due October 24.


Section IV Voting Behavior

October 24  Socio-economic explanations and Candidate and Issue-Based Voting

Abrahmson et al, Ch 5 Social Forces and the Vote

Ch 6 Candidate Issues and the Vote


October 26 Retrospective Voting and Party Loyalty

            Abrahmson et al, Ch 7 Presidential Performance and Candidate Choice

            Ch. 8 Party Loyalties, Policy Preferences, and the Vote


Section V.  Saratoga Springs Elections Project

October 31  Trick or Treat- preparing exit poll questions

Rips, and Rasinki.  2000. The Psychology of Survey Response. New York: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 1.


November 2 and 5  Survey Research and Design



exit poll question ideas due October 24th

                    -finalized exit poll due November 2nd


November 6 Saratoga Springs Election Day—Students must be available to conduct exit polls


November 7 - Quantitative Analysis of Exit Polls

You will learn Excel and some base statistical techniques to explain the outcome of the 2007 Saratoga Springs election


November 9


November 12 PowerPoint presentations


November 14 - Library Research


November 15 Public Presentation of Election Findings


November 16  Open Day


November 19  Elected Officials Day

Kristi Andersen, What I Learned (and Re-Learned) When I Ran for Local Office,

Alan Hertke, My Life as a School Board Candidate:  Lesson Learned in Local Politics


November 21-23   Thanksgiving


Section VI  Institutional Constraints on Democracy

November 26-28 Does Sprawl Constrain Democracy

David Rusk, Upstate New York: a House Divided Why New York State Must Change Its "Rules of the Game" To Reinvigorate Regional Economic Growth, Prepared for the New York Thruway Alliance Economic Summit Syracuse, New York May 20, 2005 1-22


David Rusk; Inside Game/Outside Game: The Case for Regional Equity, p. 1-22


November 30 Perceptions of Local Officials

Office of New York State Comptroller, Outdated Municipal Structures:  Cities, Towns and Villages – 18th Century Designations for 21st Century Communities 1-30


Sydney Cresswell, Municipal Leaders Talk About Governing New York Communities, Feb 2006,


Government, Business & Civic Leaders Talk About...Governing New York's Communities, July 2005 Local Governance Dialogue Project


December 3 Guest lecturer


December 5 Political Impact of Sprawl

J. Eric Oliver.  Democracy in Suburbia; Ch 3  Cities of Riches and Squalor 68-98;

Remaking the Democratic Metropolis 187-215


Section VII Leadership and Power

December 7 Ambition Theory

Ehrenhalt, The United State of Ambition, Politicians, Power and the Pursuit of Power, Ch 2, 3, and 6


December  10  Urban Regime Analysis

Clarence N. Stone, Looking Back to Look Forward: Reflections on Urban Regime Analysis, Urban Affairs Review, Vol. 40, No. 3, 309-341 (2005)


December 12 Conclusion

December 18 Final Exam 9-12 am, Tisch 307