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Economics

If Mayors Ran America …

4:25 PM EST on January 15, 2008

In 2004, after John Kerry and John Edwards conceded a second term in the White House to George W. Bush, the editors of Seattle's liberal-tarian weekly The Stranger published an essay entitled "The Urban Archipelago," calling on urban Democrats and their political candidates to unite on issues relevant to cities, where the majority of Americans live. Though an enjoyable read, most of the essay isn't suitable for print on a family blog, but here's a representative passage:

With all the talk of the growth of exurbs and the hand-wringing over facile demographic categories like "security moms," you may be under the impression that an urban politics wouldn't speak to many people. But according to the 2000 Census, 226 million people reside inside metropolitan areas -- a number that positively dwarfs the 55 million people who live outside metro areas. The 85 million people who live in strictly defined central city limits also outnumber those rural relics. When the number of city-dwellers in the United States is quadruple the number of rural people, we can put simple democratic majorities to work for our ideals.

According to the New York-based Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, those ideals include funding for police, health care, housing, utilities, transit and other infrastructure -- and, for the most part, still aren't being talked about in the heart of the 2008 presidential primary season by either dominant party. So DMI, in association with The Nation magazine, launched MayorTV, a series of interviews with mayors from coast of coast, in which they talk about why cities matter and challenge White House hopefuls to make urban America part of the national discussion. (Mayor Michael Bloomberg has so far not participated.)

In addition to being "an ATM for the major presidential candidates," said DMI Executive Director Andrea Batista Schlesinger in a recent TV interview, "If cities aren't functioning, being the economic engines for their regions, then it becomes the problem of suburbs and exurbs, and it becomes the problem of the country."

Video: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, via MayorTV/YouTube

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