SANTA FE, N.M. — So far, Mayor Javier Gonzales’ two major proposals since becoming mayor are his “People to the Plaza” plan to close Santa Fe’s historic central space to vehicle traffic and a measure to increase fines for talking or texting on cell phones while driving.
And Gonzales has only been in office for two months. But some in the national press already see him as part of a wave of mayors fighting to stem the tide of economic inequality.
In an op-ed piece published April 29 in The New York Times under the headline “Will Liberal Cities Leave the Rest of America Behind?” Thomas B. Edsall writes about the “declining ability of the American political order to deliver a steadily rising standard of living to the vast middle and working classes.”
“Standing in opposition to these adverse trends, a wave of newly elected mayors from New York to Seattle has taken office committed to deploying the power of city government and aggressive wage and tax policies to attack inequality and revive social and economic mobility,” Edsall opined.
“These outspoken mayors have generated a growing optimism on the Democratic left that local officials can restore support for government activism. Mayors and city councils, in this view, can lead the drive to improve the prospects and living conditions of those in the bottom third of the income distribution.” Gonzales is listed as among new mayors fighting the good fight.
Edsall cites as the source material for his piece a longer article in “American Prospect,” by Harold Meyerson called “The Revolt of the Cities.” There, Gonzales is part of a section that first highlights New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to support pre-kindergarten with a tax on the wealthy, raise the minimum wage and pare back the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy.
“But de Blasio is just one of a host of mayors elected last year who campaigned and now govern with similar populist agendas,” Meyerson writes. “The list also includes Pittsburgh’s (Bill) Peduto, Minneapolis’s Betsy Hodges, Seattle’s Ed Murray, Boston’s Martin Walsh, Santa Fe’s Javier Gonzales, and many more.
” ‘We all ran on similar platforms,’ Peduto says. ‘There wasn’t communication among us. It just emerged organically that way. We all faced the reality of growing disparities. The population beneath the poverty line is increasing everywhere. A lot of us were underdogs, populists, reformers, and the public was ready for us.’ ”
Yeah, well, Santa Fe had already elected David Coss – who steadfastly backed Santa Fe’s nationally high minimum wage, has been outspoken supporter of immigrant rights and pushed through a pro-gay marriage measure – in two elections and pretty much always votes liberal, so “the public was ready,” indeed.
Edsall’s article assigns great importance to what the nation’s liberal mayors are up to. He concludes:
“Urban America is now on a reconnaissance mission for progressive politics. What we’re still waiting to find out is whether the policies and programs developed in the nation’s thriving urban core will prove to be broadly applicable. Can the new progressive mayors lay the groundwork for a national agenda, or will bold and innovative policy experiments that privilege New York and Seattle fail their disadvantaged cousins like Stockton, Detroit, Buffalo and Baltimore?”
So have at it, Mayor Gonzales.