Kirlin, John

John Kirlin

Distinguished Professor of Public Policy
Founding Director of McGeorge Public Policy Programs
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Dr. John Kirlin has expertise in policy analysis, administration, state-local fiscal relationships, regional governance, land use, and environmental and natural resources policies


Kirlin has decades of experience in the public policy sector. He is an author of dozens of articles, book chapters and monographs. He has also engaged in policy issues as both a consultant and as an expert witness for various government agencies and clients. As an elected fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, Dr. Kirlin has served as an environmental policy advisor to the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and NOAA’s National Ocean Service. Dr. Kirlin joined McGeorge School of Law in 2015 as Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Founding Director of the Public Policy Programs.


University of Notre Dame, BA
University of California, Los Angeles, MPA; PhD (Political Science)

Curriculum Vitae
Research Focus

Representative Scholarship and Activities

Roles in the US representative democracy

"Can Something be Done? Propositions on the Performance of Metropolitan Institutions." In: Lowdon Wingo (series editor) Reform of Metropolitan Governments. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press for Resources for the Future, 1972. 7-42 (with Francine Rabinovitz and Steve Erie). Routledge Revival, 2015.

"Strengthening Effective Government-Citizen Connections through Greater Civic Engagement," Public Administration Review 62, Special Issue (September 2002) With Mary K. Kirlin.

"Big Questions for A Significant Public Administration," Public Administration Review 61:2 (March/April 2001) 140-143.

"The Impact of Fiscal Limits on Governance." Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 25:2 (Winter 1998) 195-208.

"What Government Must Do Well: Creating Value for Society." Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 6:1 (January 1996) 161-185.

Managing Development through Public/Private Negotiations Washington, DC: The Urban Land Institute and the American Bar Association, 1985. Co-editor.

"A Political Perspective." In: Trudi C. Miller (ed.) Public Sector Performance: A Conceptual Turning Point. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984. 161-192.

The Political Economy of Fiscal Limits. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1982.

Natural resources policies

"Napa County's proposed land-use rules ignore wildfire risks." San Francisco Chronicle. March 19, 2019. Opinion//Open Forum section

"California's Marine Life Protection Act Initiative: Supporting implementation of legislation establishing a statewide network of marine protected areas." Ocean and Coastal Management. 74 (2013) 3-13. Kirlin, J., Caldwell, M., Gleason, M., Weber, M., Ugoretz, J., Fox, E., Miller-Henson, M.

Executive Director, Delta Vision. Implementing California Governor's Executive Order. May 2007-December 2008. Foundation for a five-bill package of legislation enacted in 2009, including creation of the Delta Stewardship Council.

Executive Director, Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. Public-private partnership, based in the State of California Resources Agency. November 2004 –May 2007. Initiated processes and led development of proposals for 24 Marine Protected Areas between Point Conception and Pigeon Point, then established by regulations of the California Fish and Game Commission. Process continued through 2011, resulting in 124 MPAs, covering 16.0% of state waters outside of the San Francisco Bay and 9.4% of state waters in "no-take' zones, a singular accomplishment by a sub-national government worldwide.

"Learning from Innovations in Environmental Management." Member of a Panel established by the National Academy of Public Administration; funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 1998-2000. Publication, Environment.Gov – Transforming Environmental Protection for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: National Academy of Public Administration, 2000.

"Protecting Species and Ecosystems within Planning Processes." Environmental Planning Quarterly 12:4 (Fall 1995) 6-10.

Local and regional governance and services

"Emerging Regional Organizational and Institutional Forms: Strategies and Prospects for Transcending Localism." In Jon Jun and Deil Wright (eds.) Globalization and Decentralization: Institutional Contexts, Policy Issues and Intergovernmental Relationships in Japan and the United States. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1996. 107-133.

Toward Government Simplification, Accountability and Efficiency: Financing Regional Policy Making (Technical Report). Los Angeles: The 2000 Partnership, 1992.

"Land Use Consequences of Proposition 13." Southern California Law Review 53:1 (November 1979) 95-124 (with Jeff Chapman).

How Cities Provide Services: The Impacts of Alternative Structures. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1977. With John C. Ries and Sidney Sonenblum.

Analyses to inform public policy making

"Identifying Policy Choices and Facilitating Mobilization of Resources for Action." General support from Lilly Endowment, Inc., to the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, 2002-2004. Principal Investigator and Director of the Center. $4,000,000. Numerous policy briefs, research monographs, presentations and conferences. Also authored or co-authored publications, usually on regional governance.

"Serving Central Indiana by Enhancing the Capacity of the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment." General support award from Lilly Endowment, Inc., 1999-2002. Principal Investigator and Director of the Center. $3,400,000. Numerous policy briefs, research monographs, presentations and conferences.

"California Policy Choices." William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, 1984-1993. Principal Investigator. $585,000. Founded and edited or co-edited the nine-volume series California Policy Choices (USC Press. ISSN 0742-0927) publishing chapters by university faculty and some other experts on public policy issues confronting California. Also authored or co-authored chapters, especially on fiscal issues.