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Mayor Diaz on the Perils of Partisanship

In Part 2 of our interview with Manny Diaz, former mayor of Miami, Diaz discusses the ways in which political partisanship in the US is hurting our cities.
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Thursday, November 29, 2012 08:00 EST | 8
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Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
12/18/2013 2:01:58 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: Excellent observations
Agree with your points here, @hfreeman17. Leadership in business or in a city often means stepping up to declare the strategy, not to let things run themselves, or to allow factions to run away with the agenda. That serves no one.

hfreeman17
hfreeman17  
12/18/2013 1:53:35 PM
User Rank Urban Legend
Re: Excellent observations
I was impressed with what Mayor Diaz said and also studying up on his accomplishments. Our own Manhattan Institute in 2004 named him "Urban Innovator of the Year."

My observation with respect to partisanship is that it can be productive when--at the federal level, for instance--it leads to a compromise bill that can help constituents from very different parts of the country and represented by very different legislators.  Politics makes odd bedfelows, and all that.

But I have always thought of a Mayor--aside from being closer to her or his constituents--as a chief executive, whose task is always to act, because "the buck stops here." Same goes for President.  I was surprised that Diaz was a lawyer and not a business owner, because he appears to have acted decisively on behalf of all Miami.  Business leaders instinctively know that in order to make payroll, to keep the business afloat, partisanship is so much hot air.  It does no good.  I am also shocked when I see a mayor or governor or president blaming someone else for things not getting done.  It might be true, but it doesn't help the people who are directly counting on that *leader* to get things done.

The leader ultimately has to avoid being partisan and cut through all the talk to accomplish what the people need.

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
11/30/2012 6:31:49 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: Excellent Observations
Interesting question, Mary, and good points PeterJ, about at what point this insulation happens. I also wonder if it matters what status the person had before entering office. For example, Rahm Emanuel is the mayor of Chicago. Is he more "untouchable" because of his prominence? I actually don't know the answer, and would love to hear from anyone who is in Chicago. But I agree with PeterJ that this can happen at any level. But you're not going to be an effective mayor if you let it happen early on.

PeterJ
PeterJ  
11/30/2012 2:50:54 PM
User Rank Urban Legend
Excellent Observations
Mary, I do think that insulation can happen at any level of office and regardless of the size of the constituency. Maybe it is communication that matters most. Some public officials are very effective at it - they use media and other tools of the office to connect with the public. They work on building a public relationship and and invest in it over time. Maybe it is the building of political capital that allows some to do bolder things.

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
11/30/2012 9:46:18 AM
User Rank Staff
Re: Excellent Observations
Do you all think that governors also have the ear of the people and are closer to their constituents?

I'd like to think so.

I suppose another question might be: At what precise point in the political hierarchy does the official lose touch with the reality of those who elected him/her?

PeterJ
PeterJ  
11/29/2012 11:18:40 PM
User Rank Urban Legend
Excellent Observations
Yes, there is accountability at the city level, and elected officals, namely mayors, are the administrators to whom citizens seek leadership. It cannot be deflected at this level, which I think results in democracy working as it should. And I do beleive citizens respect officials who honestly lead, communicate, and deliver sorely needed leadership.

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
11/29/2012 6:19:29 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: Excellent observations
"One great observation: If politicians had to face their constituents every day the way mayors of large cities do, we'd see less partisan shenanigans."

I believe that as well. I recently went to see the movie Lincoln, as well as a musical called A Civil War Christmas -- both of which revolve around the presidency of Abraham Lincoln and that period of time. In seeing both of these, I was reminded that there was a time when citizens could go right up to the White House and ask/demand things of the president. Those days are long over. Even Senators and Representatives exist as little more than pre-packaged soundbites.

There's a great talk by Benjamin Barber (who intends to be writing for Future Cities soon) called If Mayors Ruled the World... I think he's onto something.

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
11/29/2012 1:11:07 PM
User Rank Staff
Excellent observations
Applause for former Mayor Diaz of Miami regarding the errors and evils of partisan politics at the local level. He also speaks to why we need to resist partisanship at the federal level.

One great observation: If politicians had to face their constituents every day the way mayors of large cities do, we'd see less partisan shenanigans.

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