What does it take to successfully lead a big American city into a prosperous and livable future? For one thing, you need to lead—through strong actions that deliver on the basics, keep residents safe and bring everyone along to make the big changes cities need to thrive.
These are among the lessons we learned at December’s fourth annual Ideas We Should Steal Festival presented by Comcast NBCUniversal from former Philly mayor Michael Nutter and former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed, politicians with long histories of getting done what needs doing in their respective cities.
“If you take care of the consequential things in people’s lives, the public will come with you and you can do the things you actually run for office for,” Reed said, in a conversation moderated by Citizen Co-founder Larry Platt. “Folks elect politicians to win for them. The underlying data is really, really good; what people want right now is decisive action from mayors.”
“Folks elect politicians to win for them. The underlying data is really, really good; what people want right now is decisive action from mayors.”
You also need services, for example, that address the deep emotional toll of violence in cities. “Washing down a sidewalk does not take away a trauma,” Nutter said. There are children, families, and communities affected by violence in our streets. Murder and violence, they agreed, make citizens believe less and less that a city is theirs; thriving cities, and their economies, flourish on the tail of safety. As Reed put it: “You have to shape the public will and make people believe again.”
That is not partisan; it is not even, really, politics. It is serving the people who elected leaders in the first place. Or as Nutter succinctly put it, with a nod to the title of the panel: “There is no conservative or progressive way to fix a pothole. You just need to fix the fucking pothole.”
For more mayoral wisdom—and more fiery talk from Nutter—see the video below:
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