Where the Real Revolution Is Being FoughtCommentary by Pete du Pont
August 14, 1997
What kind of characteristics do you look for in a city if you want a good place to live? I'll tell you what I look for - a place where families and businesses and jobs are welcome, but criminals aren't.
Much of America's public policy debate is founded on the political arguments taking place in Washington, along with the current accomplishments, rivalries, and failures of congressional Republicans, who hold the majority in Congress. At the same time, much of the progress towards better places to live and work is being made by mayors and city administrators. Several Republican mayors, for example, are doing dynamic jobs in reinvigorating their cities. They are making them family and business friendly, while making it hard for criminals to prosper. If the media are looking for a revolution, they might want to look to the city and county governments around the country.
Mayors Richard Riordan of Los Angeles and Rudy Guiliani of New York are two mayors who, as CEOs of our largest cities, get a fair amount of attention, but there are a number of other less prominent mayors who are blazing trails. Mayor Bret Schundler of Jersey City, N.J., for example, has taken a town battered by poverty and poor public education and turned that city around - even to the point of recently being re-elected despite an all-out push by the unions to try to get him defeated. It should be noted that Jersey City has a majority minority population, and Mayor Schundler is white.
For a better look at the revolution on the municipal level, take a look at Tom Fetzer, the Mayor of Raleigh, N.C. Raleigh was already a good city when he became mayor three years ago. In addition, the economy has been favorable, helping mayors across the country look good.
Mayor Fetzer could have gone on cruise control, but that's not the style of these young Republican mayors. Like the Republicans in Congress, the Republican mayors want to cut taxes, cut spending, shrink the size of government, privatize services, give children better educational opportunities, and return people from welfare to work. Unlike Congress, the mayors are broadly achieving their goals.
The crime arena is a good example. One of the reasons Mayor Fetzer keeps getting kudos is because Raleigh is becoming a safer place to live. While the number of city employees in Raleigh has grown from 2,528 in 1992 to 2,621 today, that figure doesn't reflect the internal dynamics. Between 1992 and the present, the number of nonpublic safety employees fell from 1,614 to 1,485. In comparison, public safety employees grew from 914 to 1,136. As a result, crime, which was never high, has been slowly decreasing - about 3.9 percent over the past several years.
In addition, Mayor Fetzer has been cutting taxes - three consecutive cuts adding up to more than 13 percent. Because of these efforts, the mayor of Raleigh has been winning praise from outside sources.
Money magazine listed the Research Triangle - including the cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill - as 16th on its annual rating of America's best places to live. That marks the fifth year in a row the area scored in the top 25 of the 300 largest
Outlook magazine ranked the Raleigh metropolitan area as the top city in the nation for corporate expansion and relocation.
In October 1996, Fortune magazine ranked Raleigh/Durham the fifth best place to balance work and family life.
In January 1997 Time ranked Raleigh-Durham 15th on its list of technological "boomtowns" for job growth.
Forbes magazine ranked the Triangle as 13th in the nation in producing jobs.
Safe streets, good jobs, and a family friendly atmosphere. Those are the marks of a good society, and they are the marks of an increasing number of towns under a new class of innovative mayors.
The media continually focus on what they think is a revolution in Washington, but the real revolution is going on in the cities and counties across the country. Mayor Fetzer is just one of those revolutionaries, and so is Mayor Schundler. Fortunately, by the time Washington and the media figure out where the real revolution is, it will be over - and it will have been won by the good guys.