“Why the Federal Government Should Give More Power to Mayors
Sarah Goodyear. April 18. 2012
“We’re being strangled by the lack of action at the federal level. That’s why mayors are where the action is.”
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed uttered these words during a panel discussion titled “Cities 2012: Are Cities the New Global Building Blocks?” at the New York Ideas forum Tuesday, co-presented by The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and the New-York Historical Society.
Reed and his fellow panelists, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and New York Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, talked a lot aboutthe new report from the McKinsey Global Institute, which shows that 259 of the largest cities in the United States are responsible for 10 percent of global GDP. That economic significance, they argued, means that American cities merit way more clout than they get in the current political environment.
The mayors talked about the multitude of challenges facing American cities today – unemployment, pension and health care costs, outdated infrastructure, education, social inequity. All three emphasized that municipal government is more accountable, more innovative, and more responsive than federal government.
“I hope for the good of the country, cities continue to lead on these issues,” said Reed, whose hard-nosed pension reform deal attracted national attention last year. “Because if we wait for the federal government to move on issues like immigration and real job creation, then I think we’re going to be waiting for some time.”
Reed pointed out that a huge proportion of the nation’s GDP is generated in cities, but that mayors still have a hard time getting the feds to pump money back into them. “If you look at the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, less than 10 percent of those dollars went into cities, where 80 percent of GDP occurs,” he said. “We’re going to have to shift national politics, and we’re going to have to shift state politics. Governors have a better lobby than mayors do. That’s why they got 90 percent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, when that money should have gone to cities. Because we deploy it faster, we’re more creative, and we’re more representative of the majority of the United States of America.”
Via: The Atlantic Cities
Photo: Elena Olivo