Initiative & Referendum Institute

at the University of Southern California 



When Voters Make Laws: How Direct Democracy is Reshaping American Cities

Symposium at the University of Southern California

April 6-7, 2007

Initiatives and referendums are reshaping the government, policies, and even the geography of American cities and counties. Citizen lawmakers are using direct democracy to limit growth, block Wal-Mart stores, issue bonds for schools and parks, set minimum wages, finance arenas and stadiums, and a host of other issues. This symposium brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to discuss new research on how government (especially, but not exclusively, including direct democracy) is impacting urban economies and the urban environment, and how local government is evolving in response to demographic and political changes.




Friday, April 6, 2007

Lewis Hall, Room 100


9:00 am

Continental breakfast


9:30 am - 10:00 am



10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Session 1


Elizabeth Garrett (USC) and Mathew D. McCubbins (UC-San Diego)

"When Voters Build Cities: How Direct Democracy Is Shaping and Reshaping the American Landscape"


Matthew E. Kahn (UCLA and Tufts University)

"Do California's Greens Vote for Compact Cities? Evidence from Transportation and Housing Supply Policies"



Richard Little (USC)

Gary Painter (USC)


12:00 pm - 1:15 pm



1:15 pm - 4:15 pm

Session 2


Elizabeth R. Gerber (University of Michigan)

"The Impact of Direct Democracy on Local Government Fiscal Policy"


John G. Matsusaka (USC)

"Direct Democracy and Public Employees"


David M. Primo (University of Rochester)

"The Effect of Local Initiatives on Government Spending"



Rod Kiewiet (California Institute of Technology)

Caroline Tolbert (University of Iowa)



Saturday, April 7

Lewis Hall, Room 308


9:30 am - 10:00 am

Continental breakfast


10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Session 3


Michael L. Smith (Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic)

"Is Direct Democracy Good for the Environment? A Re-examination of the Link from the Perspective of Central and Eastern Europe"


Robert W. Helsley (University of British Columbia)

"Urban Political Economics"



Jan Bruekner (UC-Irvine)

Tracy Gordon (Public Policy Institute of California)


Sponsored by the Lusk Center for Real Estate, the Initiative and Referendum Institute, and the USC-Caltech Center for the Study of Law and Politics, through a grant from the Haynes Foundation. Please contact Betsey Hawkins to RSVP or for any questions:, (213) 740-7737. Organized by Stuart Gabriel, Elizabeth Garrett, John Matsusaka, Gary Painter.


2014 Initiative & Referendum Institute

University of Southern California

Los Angeles CA 90089-0071