Survey Illuminates American Mayors' Priorities

A new study conducted by former Boston Mayor Tom Menino and the Initiative on Cities at Boston University surveyed 70 mayors on their challenges, policy agendas, and relationships.
October 9, 2014, 9am PDT | Maayan Dembo | @DJ_Mayjahn
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During his 20 year tenure as mayor of Boston, Tom Menino chatted with many different mayors on their experiences in city government. Driven by these conversations, Menino spearheaded a nationally representative study of American mayors on policy priorities and challenges, controlling for city size and political party.

Often seen as more nimble than federal bureaucrats, mayors are cited as not letting partisan politics influence their policies. Despite this, as Alexis Stephens of Next City discusses, there are key differences between Republican and Democratic mayors in this study.

In general, mayors cited aging infrastructure and fiscal, budgeting concerns as their top two challenges. However, as Stephens writes: "Breaking down the same answers by political affiliation exposes a divide on priorities... with Republican mayors emphasizing 'economic development' challenges, and financial management at the head of the list for Democratic mayors."

Overwhelmingly, the most obvious policy discrepancies between Democratic and Republican mayors were more ideological. "The surveyors also asked the mayors whether the government should try to close the gap between rich and poor, even if it came at the expense of businesses and/or the affluent. Republican mayors overwhelmingly were opposed (almost 90 percent), while more than half of the Democrats agreed with the tradeoff approach... This might have to do with the different challenges, particularly fiscal, that Democratic mayors are facing."

With regard to economic health, the study also found that mayors from poorer cities were more likely to "support gentrification" an increase in property values even at the expense of displacing the city's poor than mayors of wealthier cities.

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Published on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 in Next City
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