I want to be a mayor

For generations, they write, we held the view that “the feds and states are the adults in the system, setting direction; the cities and the 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 risks, making hard choices.” We are seeing “the inversion of the hierarchy of power in the United States.”

What produced this shift? First, they argue, the Great Recession blew up the deformed growth model we had settled into — one “that exalted consumption over production, speculation over investment, and waste over sustainability.” The new growth model, which the most successful cities are practicing, focuses on creating networks that combine skilled laborers and knowledge workers, with universities and technical schools, with quality infrastructure and high-speed Internet, to do manufacturing, innovation, technology development and advanced services — with an eye to exporting all of them. That’s how we build a 21st-century middle class. “The best cities now understand that you need to a have a sector of your economy that is world class” in order to thrive, the authors argue.

Second, cities know that neither Washington nor state government will save them. “Cities and metropolitan areas are on their own,” the authors write. “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.”

Look around and you see cities “doing the hard work of growing our new economy,” they said to me in an interview.