New Mexico

What if mayors ruled the world?

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (Photo: Eric Garcetti)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (Photo: Eric Garcetti)

Freakonomics Radio has a great episode on the dynamics of mayors and their ability (compared to governors and presidents) to directly and immediately impact the lives of citizens, primarily because they deal with tactical issues with relatively less political obstacles.

The segment, “If Mayors Ruled the World,” features mayors Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles), Toni Harp (New Haven), Richard Berry (Albuquerque) and Marty Walsh (Boston), and riffs off a new book by the same name, “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities” by Benjamin Barber.

One interesting anecdote is that a significant number of mayors start out as legislators, and very few (only three) have gone on to become presidents, the theory being that the mindset for a successful national political campaign takes bigger-picture vision, whereas being the executive of a city is entails mostly operations, tactical thinking and execution.

Related excerpt:

DUBNER: You’d think that the traits make someone successful as a mayor would be incredibly valuable, however, at a state or federal level. Being an executive getting things done, understanding that you are going to tick off certain constituencies in order to serve the greater good. And yet, it seems like when we look at this moment in time at least in the U.S. at state and federal governance we see on one hand people who love to shout at their enemies across the aisle, but it’s not like they are shouting in service of great accomplishment, are they? It seems like if you had to measure what’s getting done on a daily basis I’d think that most mayors are getting a whole lot more done than most governors and federal officials, yeah?

SMITH: Yeah, but this is probably another reason why mayors, particularly in New York City, haven’t gone on to higher office historically, is that the conditions that allow them to be autocratic here don’t exist at the national level. It is very much more at the national level about building some, you hope, sense of compromise. You know you’ve got to work with the Senate and the House in a way that doesn’t exist at the local level. And so to Obama’s frustration, obviously, he’d like to operate more like a mayor, more sort of unilaterally. And so maybe that’s the quality that does not transfer very well.

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These 7 local governments will Code for America in 2015


Code for America today announced the next class of municipalities for its 2015 Fellowship Program that partners civic technologists with local governments for one year to “explore answers to local challenges by engaging with the community, building applications, and testing the results.”

Participating governments include Albuquerque, New Mexico; Indianapolis, Indiana; Miami-Dade County, Florida; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Somerville, Massachusetts; Vallejo, California; and West Sacramento, California.

Official quotes from leaders of the respective cities:

Mayor Richard J. Berry, Albuquerque, New Mexico:

“We are delighted to welcome the 2015 Code for America fellows to Albuquerque. We look forward to collaborating with the fellows to identify ways in which we can match citizens in need with critical information and services. This exciting collaboration between the City of Albuquerque, the fellows, and our community will build digital capabilities in the city and continue to strengthen Albuquerque’s position as an innovative place to live, thrive, and do business.”

Mayor Greg Ballard, Indianapolis, Indiana:

“Indy’s selection for the next Code for America program provides an excellent opportunity to bring forward-thinking solutions to city government. Indy is using data in innovative ways to enhance public safety. Our team looks forward to working with the Code for America fellows to better integrate data in our daily efforts to make Indy an even better place live and work.”

Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, Miami-Dade County:

“It is a privilege for Miami-Dade County to be Code for America’s first government partner in Florida. This collaboration will drive a more open government, stimulate economic development and improve the delivery of regulatory services to our community. Code for America is an organization that has successfully advanced these capabilities through technology and innovation and the organization will be an important partner in our ongoing work to make Miami-Dade County more open, transparent and efficient.”

Mayor William Peduto, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

“I am honored and excited that Pittsburgh is joining with Code for America to build the city’s reputation for innovation and transparency. We look forward to working in particular on new approaches to procurement that drive increased community participation, and in so doing, build the digital capabilities of our great city. I know the Fellows can learn from us — and us from them — as we work together to make government better for city residents.”

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, Somerville, Massachusetts:

“In a time of national gridlock where municipalities increasingly need to be the driving force for creative problem-solving and innovation, it’s critical to have a nimble organization like Code for America working directly with cities to develop new solutions and accelerate our progress. Our Fellows will be helping to expand data-based decision-making in our schools to improve outcomes for our students, and we are honored that we were selected to host them.”

Mayor Osby Davis, Vallejo, California:

“The Code for America fellowship is an opportunity for us to enhance communication and increase engagement, and to maximize public involvement and collaboration. The City Council and I are thrilled to have been selected after having made the application to Code for America a top priority this year. We look forward to the many possibilities that will surely come from this fantastic partnership.”

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, City of West Sacramento:

“Code for America is rapidly transforming America by catalyzing civic innovation in America’s cities to strengthen democracy and reimagine how we create value and services. West Sacramento is excited to lead the nation in partnership with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments as a Code for America city working not only to spur civic innovation in our own town, but to design that innovation for widespread adoption region wide…spreading Code for America’s transformative impact to small cities and rural towns.”

Code for America has partnered 103 fellows with 30 local governments over the past four years. Learn more about the fellowship program here.