Other U.S. Cities

We began with a smaller, relatively homogeneous sample of smaller cities. Seeking larger, more diverse places, we added Chicago and Boston. Having done at least a month in each place and followed up over a period of years over two or three decades, we had a significant collection of documents and continuing contacts in each place. Why try for more?

The main reason is curiosity as to the extent of the progressive city type: over time and across the universe of cities. Those of us who worked with the collection have been curious as, we thought, would anyone looking at the original collection. Thus there’s a degree of obligation to collect and post a wider range of cases – even if only minimally represented here. This is done with trepidation and caveats.

These vary according to what information we have gotten. There are cases where scholars have written full scale books or dissertations. In some of these we have partial coverage. We mention others, usually with a bibliographic entry or a sample document if we know of one and we have permission to post it, or it is a public document. We do not mention the cases we do not know about at all, of course; and we say little where we know little, even if there are books or dissertations, articles or theses. We do try to keep a list, and we need to ask others to send in accounts where our information is lacking. Please do so: Pierre Clavel pc29@cornell.edu.

Partial Coverage.There is significant published research on the following case, which we see as “progressive cities” for at least a period four years (nothing lasts forever). We devote a page to San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Madison, WI – otherwise a glaring omission, as Paul Soglin was one of the earliest 1970s progressive mayors and served in two other non-consecutive periods, and we have posted a brief account. We mention Crystal City, TX; and other early examples are mentioned in the extensive sub-collection on the Conference on Alternative State and Local Policies.

No Coverage, but recent and worth mentioning. Renewed attention to U.S. cases of the progressive city came in 2013, the signal case being the election of Bill DeBlasio in New York City, whose proposals to institute universal pre-kindergarten in the city schools and press the state government to finance it with a tax increase on the top two percent of the statewide income distribution appealed to a broad public. Once elected, DeBlasio got the city council to pass the pre-K proposal and the state to support it though with a less permanent appropriation; and then a series of other local measures: paid sick leave for city workers and, eventually, an increase in the city minimum wage alongside a general state increase. See New Interest in the Local Level.

Other cities elected mayors who led similar changes. Seattle, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and Boston got attention for minimum wage increases abetted by national agitation from groups like “Fight for 15.” San Antonio predated New York on the universal pre-K proposal with a successful referendum in 2012. [1]   These are redistributive campaigns, but not exclusively. Recent city “progressiveness” has featured what some call the “social”, as well as the economic, aspects of this: sanctuary cities, environmental issues, transgender bathrooms.



[1] On Richmond CA see Steve Early, Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City (Boston: forthcoming from Beacon Press in January 2017). On San Antonio my source is Arturo Vega, “San Antonio’s Urban and Mayoral Politics–The Case of PreK4SA,” paper presented at the Urban Affairs Association Annual Meeting, March 19-22, 2014, San Antonio, Texas.