Meet America's eleven most interesting Mayors
There has been some energy around the election of city mayors for a while now - we've touched on it here - led by the late Benjamin Barber, political scientist and author of If Mayors Ruled The World (and see him in full flight here). Does the campaign for Mayor strike the right combination - where a rich and felt collective identity (wanting the best for your "city"), can operate at a level which can be more effective than either the local district or national government? How is this different from the medieval "city-states" from which our national states grew?
Whatever - the phenomenon is on our radar. So we were happy to be alerted to this piece from Politico magazine about "the eleven most interesting Mayors in America". It's a fascinating round-up of different kinds of civic vision, showing that there is much life in City Hall, "beyond the yellow-haired, Twitter-happy personality dominating American discourse". Take this profile of Louisville, Kentucky's Greg Fischer:
At a 2013 conference in San Francisco, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a new policy in which all his city’s records would be publicly available by default, and delivered a line that married the folksy simplicity of a political slogan with the message of a numbers geek: “It’s data, man.”
Fast-forward nearly four years, and Fischer has carved out just that reputation, defining his tenure in Louisville with high-tech and open-data initiatives that have cut costs and improved public health, as the city has added tens of thousands of jobs. In 2011, shortly after taking office, he named a city “innovation czar.” One result: a partnership with a company that vacuums up data from individual asthma inhalers so health agencies know what really triggers attacks. Fischer also launched LouieStat, a metrics system that in 2012 helped identify problems across municipal agencies—like the cause of 300 monthly inaccuracies in the fingerprinting process at city jails. It was improper staff training, not anything as tricky as software, and after the training was revamped, the number of inaccuracies came down to just 10 in following years.
Fischer, 59, is a Democrat, but in a deep-red state his track record fulfills the most fashionable of Republican beliefs: that a businessman, even with virtually no political experience, can deliver common-sense reforms. A Louisville native, he invented a beverage and ice dispenser and ran the company that made it; later, he started a private investment firm and Louisville’s first business accelerator. His previous life in politics was a single Senate primary, which he lost.
Fischer, who peppers his speech with corporate-sounding phrases like “de-optimizing potential,” entered politics with the same goal he had in business—to “serve as a platform for human potential to flourish.” Although he recognizes that business skills don’t always translate to politics, at a time of sky-high institutional distrust of government, he believes that cities are the best ticket toward earning back public trust, particularly with the help of data and crowd-sourcing. “It emphasizes to people we’re all interconnected,” Fischer says.