May 3, 2001

U. S. Conference of Mayors Executive Director J. Thomas Cochran calls Reason Institute Report "Fallacious, Deceptive, Chock Full of Errors"


Statement by J. Thomas Cochran
Executive Director, The United States Conference of Mayors

The report released in Washington today by the Reason Public Policy Institute claiming that “city manager-led government is most efficient” is fallacious, deceptive, chock full of errors and naïve.  In its report, entitled “Competitive Cities: A Report Card on Efficiency in Service Delivery in America’s Largest Cities,” the organization attempts to rank the largest forty-four cities by service delivery efficiency.  However, upon close scrutiny, the data that these rankings are based upon is wholly insufficient to make the claims that the Institute releases today.

After thorough examination of the report, we find that many cities did not provide the requested information to the Reason Institute.  Six of the largest cities in the nation are not represented in the study, and in many instances cities were ranked where only data was collected on only three or four of the eleven categories used to rank the cities.  A process that makes universal conclusions on such inadequate data is intellectually dishonest.

Through such initiatives as the calculation of  ‘gross metropolitan product’ in the largest 314 U.S. metro areas, our sharing of the best programs and policies cities have to offer through our Best Practices Center, and our partnership with the Inner City 100, which identifies the fastest growing small businesses in America’s cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has long supported, with strong evidence, the position that it is absolutely wrong to judge an active Mayor, or city, on the basis of whether that city has an “appointed” chief administrative official or a “hired” city manager.  Aside from insufficient data, we see no reference in the report correlating the purported efficiencies in service delivery to the structure and/or actions of a “hired” city manager versus “appointed” chief administrative officer.  Innumerable other variables could and are likely to affect various performance levels in a given city.   To that end we view the study, and its conclusion that local governments led by city managers are more efficient, as seriously flawed and deceptive.

Cities in which the Mayor appoints a chief administrative officer are too numerous to mention, but we know and the world knows that cities like Chicago, Knoxville, Denver, Charleston, San Francisco, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Boise are some of the best operated cities in our nation.

Over the last 10 years, an entrepreneurial culture has emerged among the mayors of this nation.  We see this every day at the U.S. Conference of Mayors as international guests visit our cities to celebrate their management systems and innovations.  Just this month, through the leadership of Ambassador Felix Rohatyn, we are having our second Transatlantic Mayors’ Summit in Berlin, where Mayors from the U.S. and Europe will discuss international urban and trade issues.  Just last month we were in Boston to participate in the announcement of the fastest 100 growing businesses in America’s inner cities with Professor Michael Porter of Harvard University Business School and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. 

From these viewpoints, U.S. mayors are emerging on the world scene as the public Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of cities in the most powerful nation in the world—providing services to millions of residents and representing them and their businesses worldwide. 

As our Standard & Poor’s metro economic studies indicate, the United States is number one in the world economically.  It is so because our U.S. metro areas have become the engines for America’s economic growth and have been led by our new entrepreneurial American Mayors.

A report that draws faulty conclusions from incomplete data about such leaders and forms of local government is injurious to our local democratic institutions and to our recent success.

Addendum:  The Report suggests that the U.S. Conference of Mayors “ranks” the most livable cities annually.  We do not rank such cities, but through an independent panel of judges award cities for exemplary programs and initiatives that improve a city’s “livability.”  Again, The Reason Institute got it wrong.

The United States Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are about 1,100 such cities in the country today. Each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor.

Contact: Jubi Headley, (202) 861-6766


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