the cities issue The Next Steps on the Big Issues
Question + Answers
Mayors of global cities steward the most important economic units on the planet — the cities that are the engines of innovation and economic growth. But they lack the power, tools, data and the broad policy infrastructure to be as effective as they need to be. We have medical schools and lifelong training for doctors, law schools for lawyers, engineering schools for engineers, business schools for business leaders and professionals.
We need a similar infrastructure for mayors and their staffs to ensure they can govern effectively.
As the American political thinker Benjamin Barber has pointed out in his forthcoming book, If Mayors Ruled the World, government is the most democratic and pragmatic and the least ideological at the local level. We need to empower our cities and mayors, and give them the tools, training and infrastructure they need to build better, more effective and sustainable cities. It is the grandest of the grand challenges we face.
Richard Florida is a professor at the Rotman School of Management and director of U of T’s Martin Prosperity Institute. He is also Global Research Professor at New York University and a Senior Editor at The Atlantic where he cofounded The Atlantic Cities.
While we strive to build resilient cities, Superstorm Sandy exposed acute urban vul- nerabilities in new York, the wealthiest of global cities. In the flooding that besieged Calgary and Toronto in the summer of 2013, business and civic leaders were challenged to maintain the continuity of vital services. How are performance measurement stan- dards helping some of the smartest mayors and city managers build resilient cities? A common set of indicators, globally standardized by the Global Cities Indicator Facility within the International Organization for Standardization framework, builds a data platform on cities globally that generates evidence-based strategies. More informed cities leads to cost-effective solutions for infrastructure investments, and smarter, healthier futures for citizens. Action? Harness the power of metrics in day-to-day decision-making: embrace indicators to accelerate the transition to intelligent, resilient cities.
Patricia McCarney is a professor in the Department of Political Science and Director of U of T’s new Global Cities Institute, home to the Global City Indicators Facility (GCIF),which she founded in 2009.
Cities are the emergent outcome of decisions of thousands of firms and millions of people, each of whom are trying to maximize their own well-being. Government polices define the “rules of the game” for these agents. To improve the productivity and quality of life of our cities we need public policies that encourage people and firms to make choices that not only benefit themselves but also help achieve societal goals. People need to be enabled to be part of the solution. We can’t just tell people to “behave more sustainably”, we need to provide the means by which their day-to-day activities can actually be more sustainable. Providing better transit services that they can actually use to reliably and quickly get to work each day is but one such example.
Professor Eric Miller of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Engineering is Director of the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute. He is the 2012 winner of the Margolese National Design for Living Prize and an internationally recognized expert in transportation planning.
PHOTOS: LORNE BRIDGMAN; JOHN HRYNIUK, KEVIN KELLY