There are many ways to make this case, but I’m not really convinced by Florida’s arguments and analysis in this op-ed. Continue reading
Among other things, he writes:
"This might sound ironic, considering all the damage Mr. Ford was able to do in just two years, but what Toronto needs is a more powerful mayor, not a less powerful one. Cities have become the key economic, political and social organizing units of our time. It’s vital that their leadership be appropriately empowered."
Fair enough, but the rising importance of cities as “the key economic, political and social organizing units of our time” does not necessarily mean we need strong mayors. Indeed, strong mayors can actually produce the opposite effects that Florida so badly wants to see. A large body of scholarship (see here and here, for instance) has taught us the importance of dispersing power, rather than concentrating it, in democratic (and other!) systems..
Immediately after this paragraph, he writes:
Unlike the nations they’re located in, whose governments are as often as not paralyzed by ideological gridlock, many of our great global cities are becoming virtual laboratories of democracy, developing pragmatic, non-ideological policy approaches to everything from crime and education to infrastructure development and job creation.
First, I would argue that municipal governments like Toronto’s are just as polarized along ideological lines as national governments. Besides the daily news reports about the left-right divide on city council, my colleague, Dr. Chris Cochrane at the University of Toronto, is working on a book that empirically shows a clear left-right clustering on Toronto city council on a variety of issues over time, confirming and extending common assumptions about the ideological divide that exists in Toronto city council.
Second, even if it’s true that “many of our great global cities are becoming virtual laboratories of democracy, developing pragmatic, non-ideological policy approaches to everything…”, I find it hard to believe that strong mayors are necessary or even helpful for facilitating this type of democratic governance.
I’m not a municipal politics scholar by any means, and so I will leave it to others, like my more learned colleague, Loren King, to comment on the rest of the arguments in the op-ed. But I’m not convinced that strong mayors are necessary for the types of outcomes that Florida wants to generate.