The introduction raises the question of whether free-market imperatives have cost localities democratic control over the ability to shape economic and community development, or if local governments can meaningfully exercise choices in these policy areas on behalf of and with the participation of their constituents. It sets the frame for a study of whether more stable institutions and processes for shaping policy can produce more and/or better policy outcomes, even when material resources are short, and points out theoretical grounds for such a result despite the limitations of local government’s weak constitutional standing in the United States and other English-speaking countries, and despite strong temptations to engage in a “race to the bottom” in the pursuit of business investment. Additionally, it briefly describes each of the four case study communities and provides a roadmap for the remaining chapters in the book.