The political dynamics of America’s cities and urban regions have remained remarkably similar over time. From the nation’s founding to the present, a devotion to the private marketplace and a tradition of democratic governance have been the pivotal values defining American culture. Finding a balance between these two imperatives has never been easy; indeed, the tension between the two is the mainspring that energizes nearly all important political struggles that occur at the local level. The politics of growth becomes obvious when conflicts break out over public expenditures for such things as airport construction, convention centers, and sports stadiums. Projects like these are invariably promoted with the claim that they will bring prosperity to everyone in the urban community, but such representations do not lay to rest important concerns about whether these are the best or the most effective uses of public resources. The fact that there is conflict at all lays bare a second imperative: the politics of governance. Public officials and policymakers must find ways to arbitrate among the many contending groups and interests that demand a voice in local government. The complex social, ethnic, and racial divisions that exist within America’s cities have always made governance a difficult challenge. A third dynamic has evolved in step with the rise of the modern metropolis over the past century: the politics of metropolitan fragmentation. During that period, America’s urban regions have become increasingly fragmented into a patchwork of separate municipalities. One of the consequences of the extreme fragmentation of political authority within metropolitan regions is that it helps perpetuate residential segregation, and makes it nearly impossible to devise regional solutions to important policy issues such as urban sprawl.