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Nickels is an interdisciplinary scholar, whose work focuses on urban politics and policy, community based organizations, and local democracy. Nickels’ current research investigates the political impact of municipal takeovers, or the use of state-appointed emergency managers to address local fiscal crises, on local democracy. A self-described scholar-activist, Nickels got her start in feminist activism and organizing. She previously served as the Vice-President of the Michigan National Organization for Women and President of the local Grand Rapids chapter. Nickels is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Kent State University in Ohio, where she teaches courses in public and nonprofit administration. She also serves on the board of editors for the Journal of Public Affairs Education and is a part of the leadership collective for ARNOVA's section on Community and Grassroots Associations.
Highlights the lives of Grand Rapids, a city known for large-scale events like ArtPrize; major businesses like Meijer Steelcase, and Amway and the philanthropic and political contributions of its wealthiest residents, from the bottom-up. In this collection of critical essays, poetry, and personal narratives, the experiences of grassroots activists and residents working day-in and day-out to make Grand Rapids what it is and making it what it can be. Raises the voices of those individuals and grassroots groups.
Examines the development and use of Municipal takeovers, examining how this policy of aggressive state intervention calls into question two principles of local autonomy enshrined in home rule: that allowing local matters to be handled by local authority removes the need for state special legislation and that giving local governments functional autonomy allows them to solve problems without state intervention. This article presents case studies of New Jersey and Michigan to examine differences in home rule protection as well as approaches to municipal takeover.
Examines how a local faith based organization garnered social capital within its surrounding community to pursue successful community development in the absence of and opposition to governmental support and political resistance.
Discusses the complex and often amorphous nature of community development policy and practice. Argues for more inclusion of community development theories and practice in public affairs curriculum in order to foster more democratic and inclusive practice.
Explores the backlash to the municipal takeover of Flint, Michigan. Explains how traditional views of local government and democracy are uprooted during times of fiscal distress and how community organizers coalesce around narratives of popular sovereignty and democratic principles of accountability.