“I Love This City!”

Last week, Jon Stewart interviewed New York’s new Mayor, Bill De Blasio.

Neither my husband nor I had actually heard De Blasio speak. We knew, in a hazy way, what his platform had been and what his stated priorities were, having followed the campaign coverage in the New York Times and elsewhere, but this was the first time we’d actually heard De Blasio himself.

He plopped his huge frame down in the “guest” chair on the Daily Show set, and responded to Stewart’s greeting. The first words out of his mouth were “I love this city!”

I was so jealous.

How long has it been since Indianapolis has had a mayor who unabashedly loved this city, and said so at every opportunity? I can tell you–it has been since Bill Hudnut. There are a lot of things politicians can fake, but it would take truly significant acting skills to convey the genuine devotion to place that was Hudnut’s signature and seemed so authentic coming from De Blasio.

Loving one’s city is no guarantee that a mayor’s policies will be wise, or his appointments capable. It’s not a substitute for political savvy or the sort of deep understanding of the nature of urban community that are the (rare) attributes of a really great mayor. That said, however, an obvious love for one’s city tells citizens a lot of important things about character and political motivation.

Too many mayors view election to City Hall as a stepping stone to higher office rather than an opportunity to make their city better. Too many seek office to feed an ego rather than serve a constituency. These motives aren’t the property of one political party, and they aren’t limited to mayors, obviously–but I would argue that they hamper mayors in ways they don’t hamper legislators.

A mayor who loves his city makes it his business to know his city. He or she is a student of urban policy, an ever-present participant in civic conversations, a visitor to distressed precincts as well as privileged enclaves, and a convener of contending interests rather than an instigator of conflict–in the immortal words of George W. Bush, “a uniter, not a divider.”

I don’t know how De Blasio will do as Mayor. For a man who is small in stature, Bloomberg–who also clearly loved New York– left very big shoes to fill. But there is something very reassuring about electing someone who so obviously cares about the city he will lead–who embraces the public rather than walling himself off from it, who invites dialogue rather than shunning it.

Yep. I’m jealous.

9 thoughts on ““I Love This City!”

  1. I believe only those of us who truly remember the Hudnut years can understand Sheila’s view of the importance of the leader of any city loving it, protecting it and its residents and moving it into the future. The current GOP and staunch Republicans have lost sight of, not only Mayor Hudnut’s accomplishments, but the meaning of the Republican party has disappeared from their minds and their hearts. Indianapolis cannot be compared to New York City on any level but the Hudnut years were filled with his ready access to the public and his willingness to listen to their needs. New York City has no idea how fortunate it is that Goldsmith was forced to resign as Deputy Mayor when the true Goldsmith was made public. Putting aside the domestic abuse arrest; look at the lies regarding his place of residence and fleeing the city before the blizzard hit, knowing it was coming…shirking one of his primary responsibilities as Deputy Mayor. Mayor Hudnut’s love of this city and it’s residents put him on city streets, working with street repair crews during the hottest days and with trash collectors on the coldest days with the deepest snow. It put him on neighborhood basketball courts and enjoying an open fire hydrant to spay children during the heat of Indiana summers. These times included his conversations with city workers and neighborhood residents to hear directly from them regarding their thoughts and their needs. We won’t see this in NYC; an impossibility due to it’s size and population. But hopefully we will see him put his words into action; benefitting New Yorkers and setting an example to other city leaders. We won’t see that under the current administration but…election day is coming!

  2. A person once asked me how I liked living in Indiana. My comments went something like “blah blah blah, but blah blah blah”. When I was finished, she said, every person I have ever asked that question says “I like the blah blah blah, BUT….” Everyone qualifies their statement with “BUT”. Try it sometime. It’s significant.

  3. Indianapolis looks so smart & attractive on Google search. Lucky to live in a small city, ~ 5 times smaller than the one I live in. With such a large population and high percentage of arable land the US is fortunate to be able to have a proliferation of small cities. It must make many practical aspects of urban living: driving; parking; pollution management; crime management; pedestrian safety; etc, more relaxed. That said, Sydney’s mayor for the last 10 years has hugely improved our urban amenity, including as one of many improvements constructing multiple cycleways in a hub & spoke arrangement across the city. No one ever believed Sydney could become a cycle city, but it now is.

  4. I suspect Bill Hudnut possessed a rare combination of finding and working from that delicate balance between his faith and his politics. Wise is the person who learns to bloom where he’s planted. If we step back and look at Hudnut’s career across the years, we’ll note that wherever he found himself planted, he bloomed.

  5. AgingLittleGirl; that one sentence says it all. I became disabled in April 1994 while working for the City of Indianapolis since 1972, moved to Florida in October of that year to be near my father. After he died I moved back here in 2001; Thomson Electronics, the United Airlines Maintnance Hub and Post Office Hub at the airport were all gone, the Hoosier Dome had become the RCA Dome and Circle Centre Mall was not as originally planned over 14 years – Goldsmith had been busy getting rid of anything related to Mayor Bill Hudnut. Indy, the great city I left in 1994 was not anymore in 2001 due to the pettiness and power of one little man. The true Goldsmith was finally “outed”; one of the major newscasters here stated, after reporting his arrest and resignation as Deputy Mayor of NYC, “Hopefully, this will end his political career.” ’nuff said?

  6. I moved to Indianapolis in the summer of 2004, and I still think the City is fantastic! In 2005, I entertained a couple of friends, on two separate occasions, from my former home City on the Mid-Atlantic Seacoast. They both fell in love with Indianapolis, and both congratulated me on my choice of Indy as my new home base.

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