US Mayor Article

The Entrepreneurial City Tells How to Retool Cities

By Tony Iallonardo
March 20, 2000


With the publication of its new book, The Entrepreneurial City: A How-To-Handbook for Urban Innovators, the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) has created a user-friendly compendium of ‘90s city success stories.

Think of it as a primer on city hall mechanics. That’s probably why the Manhattan Institute recommends The Entrepreneurial City for a newly elected  mayor. While a new  mayor would indeed benefit, candidates for Mayor can use it as well and either group will find that they can use these cases as benchmarks against which to measure most of their city’s services. Former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith identifies his audience in his introduction, saying, “When first elected, the  mayor contributing to this briefing book all started with a clear and coherent philosophy of innovative government, incorporated good ideas, and put them into action. They have notched many successes, racked up some failures, and learned a great deal along the way. The purpose for including these experiences in our briefing book, as Winston Churchill repeatedly advised, is that as leaders, ‘the further backward you can look, the further forward you can see.’” Goldsmith is now the Chief Domestic Policy Advisor to Texas Governor George W. Bush.

Former Mayor Goldsmith’s tone is emblematic of the entire book, which has a decidedly practical and centrist orientation that (for the most part) overlooks ideology. With every case study, names, phone numbers and email addresses of people who administered these programs are provided so that  mayor and other interested parties can contact directly those who can help them implement the ideas. Additionally, it is a quick read, skimming the surface of policy and management issues, without getting bogged down in the plethora of details and thorny problems that are endemic in revitalizing a city.

The Entrepreneurial City is one more publication in a series of writings in recent years that examines how big city  mayors have managed to turn things around. Last October, Fred Siegel, writing for The Washington Post published an op-ed titled “Big-League Mayors; Suddenly, City Hall Is The Place to Be” which encapsulated this sea change in urban politics that turned city governments into practical laboratories experimenting in reform. Which  mayor did Siegel, who examines urban policy for the centrist Progressive Policy Institute, single out? Among the “new breed”, he mentioned Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley, New York’s Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Philadelphia’s (former) Mayor Ed Rendell, and Milwaukee’s Mayor John O. Norquist.

Not only do the  mayor that Siegel discussed get favorable treatment, but also the efforts of them – Former Indianapolis Mayor Goldsmith, Jersey City’s Mayor Bret Schundler, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White, and San Diego Mayor Susan Golding.

The book covers seven broad topics quickly and effectively: Managing City Finances, Improving Education, Reducing Crime, Cutting Regulation, Increasing Economic Development, Welfare, and Civil Society. Though it’s a shame topics like environmental cleanup, transportation, and recreation and the arts were not explored more fully, Mayoral candidates and new  mayor would do well by simply buying copies for their staffs and using it as an operational plan.

The Entrepreneurial City is available for $10 plus shipping and handling. Excerpts from the book, and ordering information is available at the web site: www.manhattan-institute.org