Thought Bubble: Are Cities the Feds of the Future?


October 14, 2016 11:44AM

As cities step into the global arena, could city-based diplomacy become more effective than international negotiations? And if cities can become self-sufficient, then is independence in the pipeline for areas like London?

These are just a couple of the thought-provoking, but very real questions that Sarah Power tackled in her latest Factor-Tech political piece, “Future Cities Could be More Powerful than Countries.” And while much of her focus was on the growing mass economies of European hubs, Gallop conducted a recent U.S poll that shows 71 percent of Americans put more faith in local governments to address critical needs, compared to 62 percent who believed their state governments were equally up to the challenge.

As someone who works on state-based policy solutions, I can attest to the ever-increasing gray area around whether an issue is best left to state or local governments. What happens when developing local policy seems to conflict with state constitutional protections? An aspect of the Beacon Center’s litigation efforts is aimed at answering that pivotal question, as exhibited in our defense of the Anderson family—Nashville area AirBnb hosts who’ve had their property rights infringed upon by locally-imposed ordinances that favor the big-money hotel and hospitality industries.

Indeed, Power’s article notes that by 2050, the UN predicts that 66% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. “People are flooding to cities for jobs, money and culture, and in turn mayors are pushing for more control over the money they generate and the citizens they represent.” While we certainly have a long way to go before reaching such benchmarks, it’s still easy to see this trend moving in Nashville and other cities across the country.

Austin, another rapidly growing city, also pushed the envelope recently with their ban on Uber. In September of 2014, the mayors of Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Houston announced the Mayors National Climate Change Action Agenda. Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Haven, Conn., and New York City are issuing identification cards to undocumented residents, allowing them access to city services and the ability to establish bank accounts. Seattle became the first city to mandate a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour.

In fact, those on the left aren’t the only ones suggesting that localities can take some of these matters into their own hands. Compact for America, a right-of-center coalition, is advancing the idea of “prosperity zones”, or communities that largely operate in a regulation-free bubble.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with some of these measures undertaken by Nashville and other municipalities across the country, their examples do make the assertions in Powers’ article a bit more real for policymakers at the state level. If our constitutional rights are protected at the state level, then lawmakers and policymakers must start preparing to address this growing trend with solutions that maintain the constitutionally protected socio-economic liberties of people across our states.