In Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson, through her character Laura Timmins, tells stories about the daily struggles of the residents of a poor English hamlet coping with the wrenching changes of late 19th Century England. Cooperative working of open fields which had supported self-sufficiency is replaced by enclosed landholdings, industrialization and imminent starvation. The contrasts between the stories of Queenie, the beekeeper and Dorcas Lane, the postmistress, reveal the evolution between an agrarian communal society and an industrialized economy. Their stories tell so much more than conventional legal description could provide.
This article proposes “The Storied City” as a better way to understand what is at stake in regard to local government authority and to help us to arrive at better solutions. The article describes a cognitive science approach to law, uses it to critically evaluate conventional "pyramid" legal analysis of local government authority, and suggests stories as alternative models for defining such authority. The article illustrates the storytelling analytical approach in three situations: a local government's condemnation of private property for resale to a private developer, the delegation of land use control authority to neighborhood groups, and local government attempts to zone out nontraditional families.
Part I describes a cognitive science approach to law. Part II traces the evolution of local government powers and focuses on the particularly intractable problem of adequately defining their proper scope. Part III unpacks conventional local government legal analysis by exploring the writings of Frank Michelman, a prominent local government law theorist. Part IV reveals the unstated assumptions of conventional legal analysis and the serious and unsettling consequences of those assumptions for defining local government authority. Part V reconstructs conventional local government legal analysis in cognitive terms and Part VI concludes by suggesting stories as alternative cognitive strategies for defining local government authority.