This week saw the unofficial end of summer, and the official launch of campaign season. Other bloggers have covered the treatment of transportation, environment and energy issues in the Democratic and Republican Platforms (PUNCHLINE: prepare to be underwhelmed, at best). But I’d like to turn away from the national scene and rather focus on the local leaders that also took stage over the past weeks.
Eight mayors spoke at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, and three at the Republican convention in Tampa. Among these were some remarkable urban transportation leaders, notably LA’s Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who has championed innovative funding solutions to accelerate an ambitious regional investment in transit that will define Los Angeles for generations to come.
Over the past four years, his leadership has moved beyond local advocacy to change the national debate about how we finance transportation. This fall, Los Angeles voters will decide whether to expand transit investment, but his handiwork can already be seen in the America Fast Forward provisions included in the federal transportation bill (MAP-21) signed into law this summer by President Obama and being implanted by USDOT.
In Tampa, Republican Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was a lone, but important voice who referenced the need for communities that are “more walkable, more sustainable, more affordable and more business-friendly.” Over the past decade Oklahoma City has re-envisioned itself, and invested millions of public dollars (both local and federal) into updating transportation and land use systems with an eye towards reducing obesity rates among its citizens and improving the city’s image and economic cache.
The truth is simple and inspiring. Across the country, local leaders -- Republican and Democratic – are stepping forward with a portfolio of innovative strategies to make their cities more competitive, more affordable, healthier and quite simply, great places to live.
The old saying goes, all politics are local. And in seems in 2012, all transportation inspiration and action is also local. As noted by the Economist in its coverage of the election, “To feature the leaders of America’s economic engines and population centers is simply sound politics.” Let’s hope November’s election winners take this to heart.
Addendum: A thought-provoking article in the Next American City builds on the theme of my blog, but asked the question: "... when did we become so resigned as to accept that mayors should succeed despite the feds?" Read it at http://americancity.org/daily/entry/urban-nation-the-feds-lionize-mayors-but-forsake-their-cities