Liberal Cities


"At a time when the federal government is dominated by right-wing Republicans, and when liberal state governments are rare, cities are electing a new generation of progressives--a trend high-lighted on May 17 when the second-largest city in the country, Los Angeles, replaced a cautious Democratic incumbent mayor with progressive Antonio Villaraigosa.

"It is not surprising that urban politics trend left. Cities are more likely than suburbs or rural areas to be home to the people who are least comfortable with George W. Bush's America: racial minorities, gays and lesbians, immigrants, trade unionists, the working poor and the young professionals whose "new urbanist" homesteading has renewed downtowns from Providence to San Diego. Cities also have problems that are not solved by the free market in which conservatives place their blind faith: poverty, violence, decaying schools and NAFTA-battered industries...

"...progressives are taking their stand at the municipal level. "Local governments are the only place where progressive ideas can get any traction--where big ideas are being tried... "Cities are where you can break through the big money, the media spin--everything thing that is wrong with our politics--and capture the public's imagination"...

Cities for Progress "a campaign to get elected officials and the communities they represent working together to influence national policy" ...

""Being a Democrat in the legistlature or ven in Congress these days, you can only nibble around the edges," explains West Palm Beach, Florida, Mayor Lois Frankel, who served as minority leader of the Florida House of Representatives before making the jump to municipal politics. "Being a strong mayor is the best political job you can get right now. It's so much more a hands-on environment. You can do things quickly and you can really influence the quality of life"...

"Unlike the situation in state and federal races, however, big money can be beaten at the local level, he says. "In a city where the population is under a million, you can create a network of people in the neighborhoods that counters the smears and the attacks," says Agran. "A group of ten or twenty committed people can do a lot; a group of 300 or 400 people, which we had, can win"...

"More than 120 communities nationwide, from Ashland, oregon, to Camden, New Jersey, have passed living-wage laws, raising hourly pay rates as high as $12 an hour for employees of firms that contract with municipalities... And 134 mayors in thirty-five states--including Republicans such as Mike Bloomberg of New York and Alan Arakawa of Maui county, Hawaii--have done at the local level what George W. Bush has refused to do nationally: agreed to meet the Kyoto Protocol's target of reducing greenhouse emissions

""The best way for the Democratic party to renew itself is to recognize that the next Great Society vision will come from the cities, and so will the next generation of Great Society leaders," says New York City Councilman Bill Perkins. The national group Progressive Majority is helping to elect local officials who will eventually climb the political ladder" (John Nichols. "Urban Archipelago: Progressive Cities in a Conservative Sea." The Nation, June 20, 2005: 13-16).


"In most nations, cities are a big deal--the mayor of Mexico City is likely to be his country's next president. But in America, cities are the neglected step-children, exploited and abused when not simply ignored. Often they are portrayed as rank collections of pathology, modern Gomorrahs deserving destruction, and often enough they get it, with the aid of racist and destructive policies. American indifference to the death of our cities regularly astounds foreign visitors... instead of sharing Europe's love of cities..

"IJt is time for progressives to reconsider and realign our views on cities--the most productive and most sustainable centers of our economy, the most vital and generous centers of our culture and, potentially, the most democratic and forward-looking of our many units of government... the burgeoning New Cities and Cities for Progress movements" (Joel Rogers. "Cities: The Vital Core." The Nation, June 20, 2005: 20-22).


Colby Glass, MLIS