There have been a number of books this year about an interesting phenomenon–the rise of mayors of major American cities as the real movers and shakers in the global economy. Benjamin Barber has even weighed in, particularly with the concept of the parliament of global mayors and the new sovereignty. These books are mildly interesting, but they do make one valid point–that certain mega cities have become city-states in recent years, and places like the New York Metropolitan Area, Mumbai, Lagos, Tokyo and others really aren’t just about picking up the garbage anymore.
Its for this reason that Bloomberg in New York and Walsh in Boston may be doomed to failure because, well, they want to be mayors, but they have been elected to lead cities that need doges. The issue in New York isn’t one of rich v. poor or republican v. democrat or downtown v. brooklyn or conservative v progressive as so many want to argue. The problem is that New York has thrived during the Bloomberg years because Bloomberg saw New York as his stage for the demonstration of his power. In a large way, Menino has done the same. The city as a place to live has, in large part, taken a secondary role to the concept that the city becomes a player in showing the prowess and skill of the mayor. Cities have become major ponzi scheme in recent years–both new money and new power need to float in to keep the ship afloat, call it trickle up. And if you stop bringing in the money and the power, the whole thing will be revealed as a scam. It is within the ambit of a good doge to keep all the plates in the air and spinning.
So when you get new mayors who are homey, real folk who just want to help the poor in the hood, the real risk is that you are getting someone who just can’t keep the plates in the air. Instead of building better neighborhoods, you are likely to get fevalas, which is not going to be good. I wish Boston and New York luck with their new mayors. I think both new mayors are pigmies with little chance of success, not because they aren’t well intentioned, but because it is, no longer, 1978. One’s politics no longer matters. What matters, and on this I agree with Barber, is how well you can hob nob with the power people who make it all come together. It will be nice having a mayor in boston who speak English, and it will be interesting to have a mayor in New York with one kid with an afro on his head and another who’s a coke head, but amusement aside, these men just aren’t big enough for the job at hand.