It's becoming clearer everyday that the real action in the global economy lies not in nation-states but in its mega-regions. So it's no surprise that cities are attracting a new, smarter and savvier lineup of political leaders. And, with Washington DC's political and chattering class essentially bereft of new ideas, the axis of policy innovation has shifted to the mayors. You know the zetgeist has shifted when The Nation, the magazine which takes to policy-pulse of the national liberal left, has a cover story on a mayor. Not just any mayor, but Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City, Utah.
"Largely because of his policies around global warming and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions locally, in 2005 Anderson was honored with a World Leadership Award in the category of environmental work. ... The Salt Lake City mayor has also changed the way city officials interact with their constituents, making his administration one of the most accessible in the country. ...Anderson has restructured the city's criminal justice system and, suspicious of the tenets of the war on drugs, thrown the Just Say No DARE program out of the city's schools. Instead of pushing for more and more low-end offenders to be sent to jail or prison, he has built one of the country's most innovative restorative justice programs, for which he was nominated for a second World Leadership Award... Mental health courts now channel mentally ill criminals into mandatory treatment programs rather than dumping them behind bars; a misdemeanor drug court similarly replaces punishment with treatment; and the city now has one of the most active victim-offender reconciliation programs in America....On other fronts, Anderson has gone out on a limb to defend gay rights and has been an outspoken opponent of wholesale sweeps against illegal immigrants. And last but not least, he has repeatedly taken on big developers, from "sprawl mall" advocates to those in favor of unregulated suburban growth in the large Salt Lake Valley region..." More here.
And mayors are moving up to higher office. In my own region, Martin O'Malley outgoing mayor of Baltimore has just been elected governor of Maryland; and Tim Kaine, former mayor of Richmond is governor of Virginia.
And could it be that two New York City will throw their hats in for the Republican nomination in 08. It's pretty clear that Rudy is running. Now according to a New York Magazine cover story, it looks as if Michael Bloomberg is contemplating his chances as well. It's always struck me as a sign of the times that Bloomberg ran for mayor in the first place. Remember NYC is a city that was not-so-long ago driven into bankruptcy and lorded over by nut-balls like Ed Koch. Why would someone like Bloomberg, a multi-billionaire entrepreneur who built an entire industry around the convergence of information and finance, want such a job? Could it be that he runs one of the most powerful economies in the world. Being President is probably the only thing that could interest him now.
Interesting trend, isn't it, that mayors are becoming serious players and key innovators in the global economy.