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Gamechangers in Chief

Three young mayors, on stage at a Citizen event last month, made clear why innovation in city government is no longer a thing to scoff at. It’s real.

Three young mayors, on stage at a Citizen event last month, made clear why innovation in city government is no longer a thing to scoff at. It’s real.

On the night that Hillary Clinton accepted the nomination to be the Democratic candidate for president—with balloons and flashing lights and the world’s attention on her—it took three young Mayors across town to embody what real politics is (or should be) about: Thinking, innovating, and reinventing communities to make every resident successful.

At The Citizen’s DNC event at The Barnes Foundation, “Oxymoron No Longer: Innovation in City Government,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren; Braddock Mayor John Fetterman; and former South Orange Mayor Alex Torpey held forth on what it takes to not only win over voters, but also take on entrenched city councils, and reluctant school boards, and moribund business cultures.

Warren described opening co-operative businesses in neighborhoods to bring services and jobs; Fetterman talked about using a nonprofit to bring much-needed services to residents; and Torpey talked about community-led development that benefits both builders and residents. They talked about making a difference in the lives of real people, in towns where politics hardly seems to matter—until someone steps up to change politics as usual.

In the shadow of the DNC, in the wake of the RNC a week earlier, with the (frankly) worst of American politics on display every day this election season, these three young mayors were more than just smart and innovative. They were a sign that it is possible to fight against the fear, stagnation and stubbornness that seems so integral to politics in America.

As Mayor Warren said, when talking about creating more business and opportunity for Rochester’s poorest residents, real change means taking real risk, despite the chance of political failure.

“Don’t be afraid to fail,” she said. “We’ve gotten so concerned that if it doesn’t work out, you’ll take the political hit. But what if it does? What if it is successful? What if this is the game changer for our community?”

Watch the video of the event below.

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