The Mayoral Transference Property

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 8 2010 9:13 AM

The Mayoral Transference Property

Ah, one of my favorite politically unrealistic Matthew Yglesias concepts makes a comeback as he discusses who should replace Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago.

My understanding of how they do this in China is that they’d promote the mayor of some other city. Consider Boston, for example. The metro area is about half the sizeof Chicago’s, but the city proper has only 645,169 people to Chicago’s2,851,268. And incumbent mayor Tom Menino has shown a Daley-esqueability to get endlessly re-elected. What’s more, in terms of crime andschool system performance, Boston is clearly among the best-governedcities in America. Why not give him a chance?


You'd think that crime problems are as unique to cities as anything else, but we actually do this with police commissioners -- a successful commissioner in a smaller city is rewarded by getting to the big show in New York and Los Angeles . Also, Matthew and I live in Washington, D.C., where our mayor from 1999 to 2007 was Anthony Williams, who got his job by being placed in control of most of the city's budget not by local voters but by Congress. He did a good job and we made him mayor, and voila, he did a good job at that, too.

Is this going to happen? Oh, no. Don't be silly. But at the same time that tea party activists take a hard look at repealing the 17th Amendment and taking away from voters the ability to directly elect senators, it's a nice thought experiment. People are nowhere near as confident as they used to be that their local elections will produce the right people.


David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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