NYC Leads the Way

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy (Brookings Institution Press)

With the federal government stymied by partisan gridlockBruce Katz, founder of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and co-author with Jennifer Bradley of The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy (Brookings Institution Press, 2013), talks about the way cities, and especially New York, are on the forefront of civic innovation.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Metropolitan Revolution

            A revolution is stirring in America. Cities and metropolitan areas are the engines of economic prosperity and social transformation in the United States.  Like all great revolutions, this one has been catalyzed by a revelation: Cities and metropolitan areas are on their own. The cavalry is not coming. Mired in partisan division and rancor, the federal government appears incapable of taking bold action to restructure our economy and grapple with changing demography and rising inequality. In traditional political science textbooks, the United States is portrayed neatly as a hierarchical structure—the federal government and the states on top, the cities and metropolitan areas on the bottom. The feds and the states are the adults in the system, setting direction; the cities and metropolitan areas are the children, waiting for their allowance. The metropolitan revolution is exploding this tired construct. Cities and metropolitan areas are becoming the leaders in the nation: experimenting, taking risk, making hard choices, and asking forgiveness, not permission.

            Like all great revolutions, this one has been ignited by a spark. The Great Recession was and continues to be a shock to the American zeitgeist, a brutal wake-up call that revealed the failure of a growth model that exalted consumption over production, speculation over investment, and waste over sustainability. Nearly four years after the recession’s official end, it is clear that the real, durable economic reshaping is being led by networks of city and metropolitan leaders—mayors and other local elected officials, for sure, but also heads of companies, universities, medical campuses, metropolitan business associations, labor unions, civic organizations, environmental groups, cultural institutions, and philanthropies. They are deliberately building on their special assets, attributes, and advantages through coinvention and coproduction.

             If American history is any guide, these metropolitan innovations will not begin or end in isolation. We know that innovations naturally replicate “horizontally” across multiple cities and metros, adapted and tailored to the unique circumstances of disparate places. A smart export strategy in Portland will inform thinking and action in Phoenix within months, given easy accessibility to information and the tendency of smart ideas to spread virally in a political market. Cities and metros are fast, eager learners, ever observant of their peers, able to move quickly to spot innovation elsewhere and apply it at home.

             We believe in metropolitan pragmatism, metropolitan power, and metropolitan potential. This book explains why. 

From the book The Metropolitan Revolution (c) 2013 by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley. Reprinted by permission of Brookings Institution Press. All rights reserved.

Comments [13]

Guy from NYC

One last thing I can't resist commenting on, respectfully, re: your comment on asking restaurant owners what they think. My personal experience having worked in about a half a dozen restaurants in my youth is that such owners are mostly sociopaths, dishonest, greedy, tax cheats who delight in taking advantage of their front of the house staff, and abusing their mainly foreign back of the house employees. Of course they hated being "regulated" by workplace safety or food safety laws they saw as impediments to making more money.
One of the one's I know actually went to jail, but I'm pretty sure at least 3 others deserve to be there. Just my experience talking, and maybe this is a coincidence, but I bet you'd get a similar reaction from 9 out of 10 with any experience in the restaurant biz.

These are the folks you'd have us model our public policy on?

Jun. 15 2013 09:22 AM
Guy from NYC

It's not that your business experience disqualifies you from commenting, it's your lack of curiosity, disproportionate regard for your contribution to society while denying you have benefited in any way from the commonweal, and refusal to recognize that your world view doesn't allow you to see outside of what you've been told your experience means that grates on me personally. It's that so many accept without question the fantasy world you've built upon self-aggrandizement.

Jun. 15 2013 09:10 AM


My comments did not come about from Fox News, NPR or any other biased "news" organization. My personal experience doing business in NYC has lead me to the realization that our city, state, and federal government actually hinder small business while at the same time claim credit for their success. I would bet that 9 out of 10 restaurant owners would agree with my assessment.

I never thought that the call screener would actually put me on the air and I regret not pulling over to concentrate on getting my points across in a more concise manner.

Jun. 14 2013 10:47 PM

Scott, I can understand your defensiveness but you might want to listen to the actual argument you laid out before lashing out at critics.

Speaking for myself, this segment was slightly irritating/boring because there were big, bold, and pointed assertions made (by the guest) -- but with no evidence to back anything up, other than intellectual gobbledygook. With regard to your comments -- this happens when I listen to FOX News almost as a rule -- I start to get interested, and I know the person speaking has a good idea, but then the speaker or host starts getting so mad that the rational, unbiased listener never gets the chance to really dig in and have something to think about. I imagine that person having been worked up into a frenzy by showmen like Rush Limbaugh, their heads filled with dangerous quarter-truths. (BTW, I have run several small businesses myself and done well for myself.)

Jun. 14 2013 08:26 PM

Just listened to much of this -- unfortunately the whole idea is ridiculous. Our economy is based on cities? Big Pharma, Big Medical, Military, Auto, Planes, Big Ag, Real Estate, Universities, Government Spending -- these are the drivers of our "Economy" -- and none are based in cities.

Wall Street is sort of based in NYC, it it is extremely arguable what role Citibank, Chase etc. plays in our economy, despite Bush's and Obama's desperate lunges at saving their butts. (I would assert that they are overall a lag on the economy, continuing to rely on government subsidies to operate, and hopelessly distorting market economics.)

There is interesting innovation, then there are stoner conversations and this is definitely the latter!

Jun. 14 2013 08:12 PM

@guyfromNY and superf88,

Why don't you try leaving your basement apartment in your parents house and grab a happy hour beer to discuss how your vast business experience qualifies you to make such moronic comments. I would love to hear how my real world business experience disqualifies me from commenting on how government hinders privately funded business. I would also like to share my experience in paying over $900,000 in taxes and employeeing 20 or so people is bad for society as a whole.

If you can't borrow money from your parents, I'd be happy to buy the first few happy hour rounds.

Jun. 14 2013 08:01 PM

Thank you, "Guy from NYC." I also had a strong reaction to what caller Scott said (although I was going to assert this more politely, but you're right, the guest and/or Brian ought to have employed their logic and knowledge to respond to this guy).

It is sad to hear people in this day and age sounding so arrogant and ignorant.

In addition, all of his examples of successes due to "business" were actually examples of healthy micro-economies due solely to government. For example, a bunch of brew pubs, locksmiths, and Starbucks hived around some regional hospitals in Downtown Detroit sounds like the poster child for Big Government spending either seeding or outright sustaining "business."

Jun. 14 2013 05:18 PM
Guy from NYC

The caller Scott just mouthed the popular brainless cliches that government has "overreached" and failed and the solution is that we should not regulate (his) "small business"--talking points we hear all the time presented without evidence that normally just happen to dovetail with the mouther's private interests. But what is surprising is that neither Brian nor the guest could be bothered (or are equipped) to critique this shill or contest these talking points? "I think the caller makes an important point" Blah blah blah. Spare us from this infantile "libertarianism."

Jun. 14 2013 11:25 AM
Maria from NYC

More on neo-liberals and cities:

Jun. 14 2013 11:22 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I agree with your guest. Before there were nations, there were city-states. By definition, all of the earliest civilizations were city-states first, though they depended on the surplus food of the outlying areas where most of the people toiled away in agriculture. Personally, I believe that a national economy needs no more than 8 million people to be relatively viable and self-sufficient. For example Sweden, the Netherlands, and so on. 8 million is, IMO, the economic "sweet spot." The "future" (actually the present) is a world of megalopolises. New York City today is a relatively small city compared to most of the major cities in the world. Living and even farming are both going vertical. It is rapidly becoming a vertical world, and roads or bridges will be built between buildings because of the limitations on the 2 dimensional ground. Eventually, billions will be living in structures rarely even having to "come down to earth." :)

Jun. 14 2013 11:17 AM
antonio from baySide

Does the guest feel like anything needs to be done to transform the sprawlish wastelands surrounding the cities?
It's obvious when white flight occurred in the late 50's and 60's the suburbs were the the place to be and the resources followed; Now that the logic has finally has sunk in that sprawl is wasteful, the affluent want those discarded streets back. Is it fair?

Jun. 14 2013 11:14 AM
Maria from NYC

The neo-liberal focus on cities is yet another way to bypass democracy. Local government in NYC is being dissolved. First the schools/school boards, next the City Council. The Community Boards are completely ignored.

Jun. 14 2013 11:13 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

With a corrupted Washington in perpetual gridlock, it's up to States and municipalities to initiate and show leadership on public policy.

Bloomberg, for mostly better, has done exactly that, just as the founding fathers intended.

Jun. 14 2013 10:18 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.