Politics Magazine

Milken Global Conf. Addresses Local Planning Challenges Amid Decreased Funding

Posted on the 16 May 2014 by Jim Winburn @civicbeebuzz

The following is an excerpt from the Milken Global Conference held in Los Angeles on April 29, featuring a discussion with Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor of California.

Josh Tyrangiel, moderator: To what degree is all of the innovation in cities and metros that we’re seeing in policy and planning a direct result of the lack of federal funding?

Gavin Newsom: Meaning, forcing innovative thinking and forcing us to think outside the box? I think that’s part of it, but there’s an entrepreneurial spirit that’s always been alive and well at the local level, even in the good times. There’s a saying that states are laboratories of democracy, cities laboratories of innovation. The real breakthroughs are happening at the local level.

It’s fortuitous because it follows the broader trends that we’re all experiencing. We’re moving from something old to something new. The industrial economy is running out of steam – it’s running out of gas, it’s in atrophy, it’s stalled. Now it’s about bottom-up, not top-down, thinking. The pyramid has been inverted. It is cities that are enlivened by proximity and enlivened by a lack of ideology – pragmatism is the governing principle. It’s a two-way conversation that we’re having at the local level, which creates a kind of energy that expands the horizon of capacity and possibility. That is lost at the state level and certainly is lost with all the quarreling at the federal level.

Josh Tyrangiel: I think that’s a great table-setting defense of cities as innovation labs. At the same time, you’ve run a budget. Is there some sense that there is no more white knight – no one is coming to save cities, so locally leaders have to figure out for themselves ways to innovate?

Gavin Newsom: Leadership in the past was defined by people in elected office giving things away. Now leadership in the new world we’re living in is about taking things away. It’s a little more difficult. You can cut budgets or you can tax your way to prosperity. Neither necessarily works. You’ve got to grow your way.

I think the most progressive cities, in a non-ideological sense, are ones that understand that you’ve got to create conditions where success becomes irresistible – platform thinking. You create conditions where people can entrepreneurially take risks and experience the reward of that risk, and create the conditions where you can bring people together with a quality of life that’s superior to your competitors.

From my perspective as former mayor of San Francisco, it’s all about climate control. Not the old adage of leadership in the past, which was command and control. It’s not hierarchical thinking. I’m not selling down a vision as mayor. It’s this notion of the platform again – cultivation, coordination, and collaboration as opposed to machine thinking, which was “You vote, I decide, and I dispense more things to you.” It has given way to something completely different: active citizenship, not inert citizenship. It’s a different paradigm. I think the private sector understands this intimately, and increasingly government at the state and federal level is going to be compelled by the nature of these trends to understand it in the future.

More at planningreport.com.

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