• Urban Law Bulletin

The Urban Law Bulletin: May 15, 2019

The Urban Law Bulletin is a bi-weekly e-newsletter highlighting significant news and legal developments in the field of urban law.


Environment and Sustainability #sustainability

The Town That Extended "Smart Growth" to Its Water

As much of the western United States is grappling with drought, Westminster, Colorado is setting an example for other cities with its new approach to water conservation. The city relies on its comprehensive plan for zoning, water data, and a Geographic Information System software to make “a rough estimate of how much water each type of building would use.” This allows Westminster to predict the demand for water, based on a given parcel’s zoning. Using this approach, Westminster hopes to “guide developers to smarter construction.”


The Rocky Mountains rise behind the Denver skyline. Charlie Riedel/AP

Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion #equality

How Cities Plan to Save the Census

With the 2020 Census rapidly approaching, cities, nonprofits, and libraries are working through Complete Count Committees to inform communities about the importance of the census and encourage response. The 2020 Census will be the first digital census, and there has been “little new federal money to work with.” A lack of internet access and the potential inclusion of a citizenship question are among the threats to an accurate census response.


Jersey City's census kickoff included a large “I count because…” chalkboard in front of City Hall. Around the country, cities are gearing up for a year of preparation to ensure that the 2020 census counts all their residents. (Photo courtesy Jersey City)

Law and Justice #justice

Lose the Chalk, Officer: Court Finds Marking Tires of Parked Cars Unconstitutional

The Sixth Circuit recently held that chalking, a practice in which parking enforcement officers place a chalk mark on a parked car’s tires indicating how long a car has been parked there, violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches. The Court found no probable cause to warrant the search since the markings are made at times when the cars are still legally parked. “[T]he enforcement of a two-hour parking limit was not a matter of public safety, but simply a way of raising revenue.”


Alison Taylor sued the city of Saginaw, Mich., over the practice of chalking car tires to enforce parking limits. She had gotten 14 parking tickets in three years.Brittany Greeson for The New York Time

City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

Does a City Need a Mayor?

Mayors across the United States function in varying capacities, with some supervising city administration, others taking on solely ceremonial roles, and many playing roles in between. The town of Pueblo, Colorado had been functioning for approximately the past sixty-five years without a mayor, until last year. “Pueblo is an extreme case, but quite a few cities that long had weak-mayor governments have gone strong-mayor in the past couple of decades. . . .The one fundamental truth that seems to emerge. . . .is that no one arrangement is ideal for every city.”


New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (AP)

Scholarship Corner #scholarship

“What would happen if the City of Chicago, the Chicago Public Schools, and Cook County all became insolvent at the same time? How should policy-makers and courts respond? This Article argues that the pension and budget crises that have left so many local governments deeply in debt have generated another looming problem: the prospect of simultaneous debt crises in overlapping local governments—municipalities, school districts, counties, and other special purpose entities that govern and tax the same territory. These crises will be worse than prior local insolvency crises, as conflicts among overlapping governments will increase the pain suffered by taxpayers, service recipients, and creditors alike.”

Adam J. Levetin et. al., Junk Cities: Resolving Insolvency Crises in Overlapping Municipalities, 107 Cal. L. Rev. 459 (2019).


Now Available: Global Perspectives in Urban Law: The Legal Power of Cities

Global Perspectives in Urban Law: The Legal Power of Cities is a collaborative scholarly focus on comparative and global perspectives in the growing field of urban law. This brand new volume offers diverse insights into urban law, with emerging theories and analyses of topics ranging from criminal reform and urban housing, to social and economic inequality and financial crises, and democratization and freedom for individual identity and space. Particularly now, social, economic, and cultural issues must be closely examined in conjunction with the rule of law not only to address inadequate access to basic services but also to construct long-term plans for our cities and our world. The book is now available from Routledge here.

Global Perspectives in Urban Law: The Legal Power of Cities (Nestor M. Davidson & Geeta Tewari eds., Routledge 1st ed. 2018). #international


We thank the Urban Law Center's Urban Law Student Fellows for assisting in preparation of The Bulletin, which provides news in major areas of urban law, and categorizes the stories as follows:

· City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

· City-State Relations and Preemption #preemption

· Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion #equality

· Environment and Sustainability #sustainability

· Housing and Development #housing

· International/Global Urban Law #international

· Law and Justice #justice

· Public Health #health

· Technology #technology

· Transportation and Infrastructure #transportation

· Urban Mobility #mobility

· Urban Planning and Space #planning


If you have an article, legal decision, or commentary that you would like to share in an upcoming Bulletin, please e-mail it to urbanlaw@fordham.edu.


Subscribe to The Urban Law Bulletin here.


The Urban Law Center at Fordham University School of Law

Nestor M. Davidson

Faculty Director, Urban Law Center


Geeta Tewari

Associate Director, Urban Law Center


Urban Law Student Fellow Lead Contributor

Thomas Lloyd


Urban Law Student Fellow Contributors

Steven Stern

Shirley Urena

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