Who Cares About New York?

01/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Harry Moroz Senior Adviser, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

With auto bailouts, stimulus packages, and presidential transitions to worry about, the nation's cities are often overlooked by our media gods. Sure, every once in a while a crooked mayor like Kwame Kilpatrick makes the national news. Or Obama's Chicago connection reminds people of the Windy City. But for the most part, the accomplishments of the nation's cities -- and some of their less media-friendly failings -- go unnoticed.

In part, of course, this is because we don't all live in L.A., Seattle, or New York (though we New Yorkers might think differently). So who cares if Charlotte's light rail system is attracting record riders, or if Philadelphia is experimenting with tax incentives to hire ex-offenders, or even if students boycott Chicago public schools for a day to protest unequal school funding?

But these distant stories offer important lessons for our own cities (and, yes, small towns) and, especially, provide us an idea of what economic problems are not being addressed at the national level.

So as part of our Year in Review at DMI, we decided to highlight underreported stories from cities across the country.

There's intrigue, magnetic levitation, and a brief appearance by Osama Bin Laden in Honolulu's struggle with entrenched business interests to break ground on a new light rail system:

Oilmen defending their product against "militant" environmentalists? Interference from malefactors on the mainland? Populist supporters of ballot initiatives slandering a "despotic" mayor? Are we in Texas? At a meeting of the UN? In California?! Try Honolulu, Hawaii, where Mayor Mufi Hannemann is at the center of a raging controversy about whether to build light rail in their city.

There's a rogue sheriff protecting innocent Chicago renters from outlaw landlords:

By mid October, Sheriff Dart had had enough. He announced that he would not enforce the evictions unless lenders gave renters, and not just mortgage holders, the 120-day notice of foreclosure eviction required by state law.

Then there's the unassuming mayor taking on the most powerful Street in the world:

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has a reputation for being soft-spoken and understated. So it came as a bit of a surprise when he and Law Director Robert Triozzi took aim at 21 of Wall Street's largest and most powerful banks. Influential firms -- from Deutsche Bank to Bank of America and Goldman Sachs -- were put on notice: the City of Cleveland was suing them for instigating and perpetuating its housing crisis.

Urban America is resurgent and hearing the stories -- both good and bad -- from its diverse environs will help city dwellers and suburbanites alike better understand the nation's economic challenges. Check out DMI's entire State of the Cities report here.