In the midst of what they saw as dark times for national politics in late 2016, urban affairs experts Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak had a realization that launched what would become their new book, The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism.
“In a series of conversations, we reflected that while national politics was pessimistic, local politics was optimistic,” says Citizen Chairman Nowak. “All politics has become national, but problem-solving has become local.”
It’s not hard to see—and hope—that Nowak is right. He mentions, as an example, what happened last year with the debate over climate change. While President Trump scrubbed all mention of climate change from the EPA’s website, and pulled the United States out of the Paris Accords, and continued to champion the idea that cold weather means global warming is a hoax, cities from San Francisco to Philadelphia refused to follow suit.
“They said, we’re going to keep following the accord because we want reductions in greenhouse gases,” Nowak says.
Cities have also weighed in with pushback on immigration, and criminal justice, and drug policy. They are, in essence, like independent city states, the hub of new thinking that may be the real answer to the angry populism that propelled Trump to victory and shaped our politics before and since.
Nowak is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Drexel University, creator of The Reinvestment Fund, and a consultant on urban development, education and culture to various foundations and organizations. Katz is the Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institution, where he focuses on global urbanization issues.
The New Localism uses different case studies to explore its three themes:
- Are there new models of growth? (Pittsburgh)
- Are there new models of governance? (Indianapolis)
- Are we undervaluing the wealth of the public? (Copenhagen)
Each provides a roadmap for urban growth that is cemented in the idea of change: No longer can “local” mean just City Hall. Now it must include government, and private business, and academia, all working together to solve problems.
Katz and Nowak will talk about their findings, and their hope, in a conversation and book signing at The Hive next Tuesday. The event, which will include a cocktail reception and a chance to mingle with the authors, is open to the public.
As with the book, the crowd is likely to be “smart people” looking to be part of the solution. “We’re looking for people who are looking out for tomorrow, not caught in the past,” Nowak says. “I think there’s a broad audience of those people out there.”
Here’s hoping there is, for all of our sake.
A Conversation and Signing withAuthors Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak, Tuesday, January 16th, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm, free, The Graham Building, 30 South 15th Street, 4th floor. RSVP here.Photo via Public Domain Pictures (CC0)