Around the Institute

Without Federal Support: Cities Step Up

June 29, 2014  • Mauro Whiteman, College Journalism Scholar

What will America’s cities look like in 2024? Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Bloomberg Associates Principal Janette Sadik-Khan, Brookings Institute Vice President Bruce Katz, Speck and Associates Principal Jeff Speck joined Atlantic CityLab Editor Sommer Mathis at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival to discuss the changing face of America’s cities.

As leadership in Washington remains gridlocked by partisanship, municipal leaders are hard at work redesigning cities to attract vibrant, diverse communities and new economic opportunities. “The business community is tired of the dysfunction of the federal government,” Reed said. 

“I think cities feel like they’re on their own,” Landrieu said. “What we’re having to do to survive and to compete and to get better is we’re having to innovate, which is great in many ways.”

Millennials are choosing urban environments with high walkability and the opportunity for innovation, meaning that cities have to compete to attract talented workers, Reed said. More than a quarter of 19-year-olds have opted out of getting a driver’s license, Speck added. Cities are working with their existing assets — like streets — to make necessary transformations, Sadik-Khan said.

Because of the expanded role of city-level leaders in national and international affairs, cities will be able to leverage their assets against existing multilateral institutions, Katz said. “The world’s evolving as a network of trading cities,” he said. “We’re going back to the Hanseatic League, essentially. We’re going back to the Silk Road. … This is the new reality.”

“Ten more years of this kind of affirmative, positive energy emanating up from the ground, I think states and the national government are going to have to change,” Katz said.

For the full session, watch here.