All Politics is Local: Even Global Warming


Day: Thursday
Time: 4:00-5:30PM
Location: Faculty Dining Room(FDR)

Today for the first time in World History more people live in cities than do not. But how do our cities work? What role does leadership, innovation and creativity play in the success of our cities? How different might America be if the founders had been rugged urbanites and not gentleman-farmers? If, as they say, all politics is local, can leadership at the local-level change national or even global politics?

I will lead these study sessions as someone who discovered a passion for politics when I was 16 and for local government at 19. These twin passions led me to pursue a career in local government and politics spanning over 30 years, including 22 as an elected official. I hope to infuse you with this passion through these conversations!

Local government is that closest to the people and for many politicians this is off-putting. But for some the day-to-day interaction with the people directly affected by the decisions you make (and the very direct feedback received) is exhilarating and remarkably rewarding. We will explore a variety of leadership challenges and issues that face American cities and how different approaches are needed in diverse circumstances. Whether you are seeking a career in politics or simply believe that every citizen should be active in our civic life, these conversations will hit home with you!


February 18th: Shaping America-s Cities: The Job of Mayor
As a two-term Mayor (2002 - 2009), I will lead this introductory session and explore the learning curve of a new Mayor; how time and experience play a role and the importance of setting an agenda. We can compare notes about your hometown as well, exploring how you perceive the politics there.

February 25th
A Nation of Metro-s: We-re not in Kansas Anymore
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker isn-t from Kansas, he-s from Utah! He is in his third year as mayor and served over a decade in the Utah State Legislature. And like almost every state, Utah-s economy comes largely from its metro areas, its cities. SLC is a metropolitan area with inspiring recreational outlets, gorgeous natural resources and scenery, a world-class research university, an international airport, lively neighborhoods and neighborhood centers, a thriving business community, a resurgent downtown, expanding public transit, increasing diversity in its population, and a vibrant cultural life. In short one of America-s many great cities.

In the 1980-s American cities were depicted as awful places in movies like "Escape from New York" and "Escape from Los Angeles" - post-apocalyptic penal colonies! In the 1990s cities became cool again, depicted in shows like "Seinfeld" and "Fraser". Since 2000 cities have become downright hot as shown in shows like "Sex in the City". To the public, the perception of cities has started to catch up with the reality.

For the last forty years Cities and urban areas - metros - have been treated by the federal government as if they were economic and social basket cases. Today many are sophisticated economic communities competing with the best in the world, yet the federal approach remains frozen in the era of "Escape from New York". If the US is to compete with an increasingly global set of competitors that needs to change!


March 4th 

If at First You Don-t Succeed: Building Mass Transit in an already built city requires heavy lifting!
Joni Earl has been the CEO of the three-county Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) since 2001. She previously was the COO for Snohomish County in Washington State and a City Manager.

Metropolitan Seattle has debated building mass transit since Bertha Knight Landes was elected Seattle-s Mayor in 1926 (the first woman CEO of a major American City). But talk is one thing and actually building a system is quite another. 

Joni will talk about the political and physical challenges of creating a mass transit system where there was none. And she will talk about the feeling of riding that first train when it opens!


March 11th 
Shaping a Message: From "I feel your pain" to "There is Intelligent Life in America"
Marianne Bichsel will help lead this session. Marianne was a principal in a public affairs firm that specialized in crisis communication, a congressional press secretary and my first press spokesman. She currently serves as managing director for communications at Casey Family Programs, a nationally significant foundation focused on reforming the foster child system. She was student body president at the University of Washington.

Marianne will help us understand how shaping a message around a controversial issue can largely determine the success or failure of a policy initiative.


March 18th
Spring Break - Enjoy!


March 25th
Post Racial America: The Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative

Mickey Fearn will join us for this session. Mickey has a long history of working with at-risk youth and was the first director of my Race and Social Justice Initiative. Currently he is Deputy Director of the National Parks Service in Washington, DC.

During my 2001 campaign I was struck by how different parts of the Seattle community perceived issues so differently, often along racial lines. I thought it was important to dig deeper into this. The challenge is that in most political (and social) environments a discussion of  institutional racism is about as welcome as a root canal.

Mickey will help us explore how to take a very general direction from the Mayor and turn it into a significant conversation about race in the workplace and ultimately a road map in how to change people-s view of themselves and each other.


April 1st
A Call to Arms: Protecting the Climate City-by-City Across America
Helping lead this session will be KC Golden, the policy director for Climate Solutions, a Northwest regional NGO dedicated to finding practical and profitable solutions to this generations- most difficult challenge. He is an alumnus of HKS.

KC will talk about the history of efforts to mitigate climate change and the extraordinary political environment that led to the creation and success of the movement known as the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.


April 8th 
Leading America-s Cities: When do you rely on consensus and when do you use dynamite?

O. Casey Corr will help guide this session. Casey is a former journalist with the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, an author and my first Communications Director in the Mayor-s office. He currently serves as Director of Strategic Communications for Seattle University. He is an HKS alumnus. 

One of my earliest challenges upon becoming mayor involved the siting of a library, park and community center in an urban center with a sturdy political logjam (thus the dynamite allusion), so sturdy in fact the previous mayor refused to tackle siting these seemingly innocuous facilities.  

Casey will bring a strategic focus on how to approach contentious issues in a local political environment where it is guaranteed that whatever decision is made, it will make some (maybe most) mad. Is it better to avoid conflict and rely on a "flabby" consensus that doesn-t make waves or to tackle the controversial and get things done?


April 15th
Counting a City-s Assets: The role Universities and the Arts play in creating vibrant, innovative and prosperous Cities

I will lead this conversation on how important it is for a city to understand what its assets are and build upon these. With global competition it is critical that cities go about planning for the future in a deliberate manner - hoping for the best no longer is good enough!