Mayors' Influence Going Beyond City Limits

<p>Mayors are becoming more active -- and more visible -- beyond their jurisdictions. This article looks at how the role of the mayor is changing.</p>
July 2, 2007, 9am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Being mayor of an American city has traditionally had its rewards (some of them ill-gotten), but until recently it was a dead-end job. Only three presidents ever ran cities, none among the ten biggest of their day; the last ex-mayor to become president was Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s, and he was also an ex-governor. Indeed, the bigger the city, the more abbreviated the subsequent career. The last year a mayor of New York was elected state governor was 1869."

"These days mayors seldom tackle an issue of national significance without pointing out how incompetent the federal response has been. Climate change is an especially fashionable stick with which to beat Washington. Two years ago, as the Kyoto protocol went into effect without America, Seattle's mayor called on other cities to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 7%-the same cut that would have been required of the nation. More than 500 have since signed the 'cool mayors' agreement. Mr Bloomberg, for his part, has signed up more than 200 mayors for his gun-control alliance."

"Ironically, mayors' reputations have also been helped by the dearth of federal cash that they complain about. Before revenue-sharing ceased in the 1980s they had a richly deserved reputation as beggars. Since then the shrewder mayors have turned themselves into salesmen. They lobby for corporate headquarters and sports teams and try to lure visitors to spruced-up city centres."

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Published on Thursday, June 28, 2007 in The Economist
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