It’s been a long night. So just a few notes.
Nobody really knows what lies ahead for the US, but we are probably heading into a period when cities and metro areas must do even more to take care of themselves. And there’s lots of evidence, from last night, that urban populations know that.
The sweep of victories on public transit measures is impressive. Raleigh, Indianapolis, Atlanta, and the biggest transit plan of all this year, in greater Seattle. In California, where revenue raising measures require 2/3, most of the Bay Area and Los Angeles area measures are on track to hit that very high bar.
This is becoming a common pattern. There is a strong urban consensus about what it takes to make a great city, and the will is there, among urban populations, to do what needs to be done.
Some friends are despairing about federal funding for public transit, which is required to deliver the promised transit plans, and for other critical urban needs. I can’t predict what Federal policy may actually be like. If you need reasons for hope, there are three:
- This president-elect is from a big city, he famously likes to build things, and he campaigned on infrastructure spending. It’s unlikely he will turn off the spigot on urban investments, or that a narrowly divided Senate would let him if he did.
- I’ve also been through this moment — when one party appears to have won the White House and the Congress — several times. Each time, it’s appeared that there’s now no impediment to the agenda, but it’s never been that simple. When you can actually enact an agenda, you pause, especially when you have such a narrow majority in one chamber.
- There’s simply no mandate here for an anti-urban agenda, or even for budget-cutting and fiscal austerity. This election was just not about that.
But maybe the Federal role does shrink. If so, cities and regions will have to do what needs to be done themselves. Mayors and regional leaders may have to lead in larger and more courageous ways. Bruce Katz (The Metropolitan Revolution) and Benjamin Barber (If Mayors Ruled the World) have been charting this path for a while. But if tonight’s transit measures are any indication, urban voters know what needs to be done, so the conditions for courageous urban leadership are there.
Personally, I have lots of other feelings about this election. But when it comes to critical urban needs, one way or another, it can get done.