It seemed like a good idea at the time. Anthony Weiner — by this point the New York City mayoral candidate more likely to wind up on Dancing With the Stars than in Gracie Mansion — began shouting “bo! bo! bo!” on a float in the West Indian-American Parade, looking like an out-of-place figurine atop a Fourth of July-themed cake. “Anybody here from Jamaica-aaa?” he called out in something that could charitably be described as a weak attempt at a Jamaican accent. Then came the dancing, a perfected variety of the trot dads have embarrassed their teenage daughters with since at least 1993.
“Fucking Anthony Weiner,” said the man filming this particular time-capsule potpourri. “Hah.”
2013 was a terribly strange time to be, or want to be, a mayor — especially for the politicians with the highest profiles. In a year that saw an often unbelievable parade of global tragedies, mayoral politics frequently became a collective clown show, something to laugh at or be shocked by when everything else seemed just too dark. For the vast majority of the United States, the mayor of Toronto means absolutely nothing. But for the vast majority of 2013’s late fall, Rob Ford held our American eyeballs captive, saying “Hey, wait and see what I do next.”
Ford has been the ultimate distraction. It’s far more fun to watch a belligerent mayor knock down Toronto city council members than it is to scroll through photos of the wreckage in the Philippines, or the reports of seemingly endless American mass shootings. It should come as no surprise that Ford is now appearing weekly on D.C. radio to talk football. Because, yes, D.C. could use a distraction from its miserable team, too.
Real pain and mayhem lurk beneath the red-nosed veneer. (See Bob Filner, the former San Diego mayor accused of a litany of sexual harassment.) And the reality of Ford’s substance abuse isn’t really all that funny. But even the pairing of comedy and tragedy is an entertainment formula as old as Shakespeare. Ford’s bumbling decay is like that of a far more stupid Falstaff. Huma Abedin, standing by her husband’s side, is a reminder of the very real human cost of someone acting like a public fool.
But beyond the sideshow, 2013 has actually held a very different story about mayors. This is the year that they were some of the only politicians in America who actually got stuff done.
If you haven’t heard, the federal government is a bit of a productivity hellscape these days. Mayors, says Bruce Katz, a vice president at the Brookings Institution and coauthor of The Metropolitan Revolution, have picked up the slack. Mayors are “the vanguard of policy innovation,” says Katz. He points to Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, who recently signed a trade agreement with Mexico City; to Philadelphia’s Michael Nutter, who has been ramping up trade missions of his own; to San Antonio’s Julian Castro, who’s worked to expand access to pre-K; to Louisville’s Greg Fischer and his bluegrass economic investment plan.
The Bob Filners and Rob Fords of the world are the exception to the rule. “This may be the only level of government that is really stepping up right now,” Katz says. And this is a trend that should continue, including from the very power-perch that Anthony Weiner failed so spectacularly at securing. The transitions of power from Bloomberg to de Blasio, from Menino to Walsh, promise to make 2014 a fascinating year for mayors, too. And this time, as the new crop of urban politicians looks to cement a political identity, the biggest stories in the media may just match the biggest stories in the cities.
“I am bullish on mayors,” says Katz. Now it’s just a matter of a few of the loudest of those bulls not crowding out everyone else.
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"The Senate approved the Republican-proposed budget Thursday night, a major step forward for the GOP effort to enact tax cuts. The budget, which now moves to the House, is projected to expand the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Its passage will allow the GOP to use a procedural maneuver to pass tax legislation through the Senate with 50 or more votes, removing the need for support from Democratic senators."
"President Donald Trump overrode his own advisers when he promised to deliver an emergency declaration next week to combat the nation’s worsening opioid crisis ... Blindsided officials are now scrambling to develop such a plan, but it is unclear when it will be announced, how or if it will be done, and whether the administration has the permanent leadership to execute it, said two administration officials. 'They are not ready for this,' a public health advocate said of an emergency declaration after talking to Health and Human Services officials enlisted in the effort."
"The number of U.S. adults without health insurance is up nearly 3.5 million this year, as rising premiums and political turmoil over 'Obamacare' undermine coverage gains that drove the nation’s uninsured rate to a historic low. That finding is based on the latest installment of a major survey, released Friday. The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index asks a random sample of 500 people each day whether they have health insurance."
The initial data Twitter gave to the Senate's Russia Probe was "a batch of tweets that the Kremlin’s English-language news network paid the company to promote, The Daily Beast has learned. That’s just a sliver of what investigators believe to be Russia’s propaganda campaign on the social network—which helps explain the dissatisfaction that followed those first disclosures."
"Senate Democrats on Thursday failed in their first attempt to save the state and local tax deduction, which helps many residents of California and other high-cost states reduce their federal income tax bills. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-47 to reject an amendment that would have prevented the Senate from considering any bill that repeals or limits the deduction as part of a planned tax overhaul."