Metropolitan President?

October 27th, 2008

There’s a great article in the Washington Post today about Brarack Obama as a “metropolitan candidate.”…).

Surely  Obama does have more of a connection to cities than any other presidential candidate in a long time. What’s interesting though is how the Post paints him as more interested in the appealing to metropolitan regions broadly as opposed to the urban core, both because swing voters live in suburbs and because the distinction between suburbs and cities is quickly evaporating, as evident by the dramatic increase in suburban poverty. Obama’s regional policies involve an emphasis on infrastructure development a white house office of urban policy that will “goad cities within a metropolitan region into working together,” and the creation of more public-private partnerships. 

These policy proposals seem fairly broad at this point, but what’s interesting is that it seems like some mayors are finding hope in them. I found the most interesting part of the article to be this quote from the Minneapolis mayor:

“Mayors like this package partly because, aside from infrastructure spending, it doesn’t cost much in a time of low budgets. Cities need a president who understands that they “are no longer the basket case they are often described as from Washington,” said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (D). “The skills we need in a president aren’t the old skills of putting together a benevolent program for communities that will always be disempowered. We need someone who’s done what Obama has done, to go into communities that have been hard hit and understand their assets, mobilize people to help them solve their problems.”

It appears that big city mayors like Obama not only for his commitment to cities but also for his recognition of region-wide problems and his demonstrated commitment to community empowerment. If the election does turn out the way many our predicting it will, it will be interesting to see whether these two interests an be pursued from the White House, which has been in the habit of either ignoring cities or providing them with grants and subsidies that do not recognize their need for empowerment within a region-wide setting.