Zachary Gappa

Do you think government today can't get anything done? Check out James Fallows’s piece in The Atlantic this month. He writes a great article on a pair of Mayors who are doing big things in their cities. It’s exciting: efficient, local, credible political action - actual change you can believe in! Forget placing your hope in some grand federal legislation. Turn instead to the people who are actually getting things done: Your local officials.

Fallows looks at two specific examples: Greenville, South Carolina and Burlington, Vermont. Greenville was home to major textile manufacturing in the mid-20th century, but adapted quickly when it saw no light at the end of that tunnel. In the subsequent decades, government officials and businesspeople pushed to attract up-and-coming industries to town. A strong succession of mayors from the 70s to today have continued to recruit businesses and push through their visions of an integrated, sociable community. In addition to attracting manufacturers, they worked for walkable downtowns, a baseball stadium, hiking trails, parks, and a vibrant mixed-use downtown showcasing popular retail stores, restaurants, and hotels. And Greenville’s conservative population was all for it! The efforts were labeled "public-private partnerships", for that is both (a) what they were and (b) a term that could be embraced by government-wary conservatives. At the end of the day, Greenville’s people, local government, and businesses all won and the city is thriving.

Burlington, VT is on the other end of the partisan spectrum, claiming a Socialist mayor, Bernie Sanders, bent on using the force of government to improve his city. Interestingly, Burlington also uses the term "public-private partnerships." And they have made many similar efforts: helping businesses grow, and establishing parks, bike paths, and public spaces.

Zachary Gappa

Zachary Gappa is Managing Editor at the John Jay Institute Center for a Just Society and Operations Manager at Gappa Security Solutions.