I write this at the conclusion of the Republican Convention in Tampa. I watched parts. I followed some of the speeches via Twitter feeds from all corners of the debate (Way. More. Fun!). I’ve spent a few minutes at the Mitt Romney website.
I have found nothing about city matters excepting for the usual wedge issues (less regulation and less taxes lead to a better economy which leads to more economic prosperity, which leads to more tax revenue which leads to better infrastructure which leads to better cities, which leads to…). Feel free to compare the current arguments to those made during the 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 elections.
And, although it’s a bit too early to criticize the Democrats for similar nullity when it comes to city issues at their upcoming convention, I am relatively confident that we will see their own version of wedge issues veiled as a public policy platform. Democrats have been more interested in recent years of working to craft a true city-specific policy agenda, but much of it gets bogged down in the morass before it is truly hatched. In the end, the policies usually wind up as secondary, less ambitious (and less effective) projects and programs.
My broader political views are becoming more eclectic as I age. I don’t utilize this blog to spout my own beliefs on these subjects– I save those jewels for my lucky colleagues at work. However when it comes to cities I find it alarming, yet predictable, that neither major party seems terribly interested in addressing issues that confront our cities, our streets, our neighborhoods– our people. A quick perusal of EoP blog entries, the book The Economics of Place and the surrounding research on the subject points to an undeniable link between healthy, vibrant communities and strong economies. It’s the ultimate unifier of people, places and jobs. Yet, sadly, this pro-hometown, pro-infrastructure, pro-quality of life argument just doesn’t fit nicely into national political positioning that relies on issues that divide.
Sixty million people around the world move to cities every year. China will build over a dozen international airports during the next American presidential term in office. U.S. city governments in California, Michigan, Pennsylvania and elsewhere are facing bankruptcy and receivership. Americans are less healthy, due in part to many living in poorly designed unwalkable communities.
At some point, we must confront these facts locally, statewide, AND at the federal level. Our nation cannot reach its potential if we allow our communities to become places that aren’t worth caring about.