Big city mayors and their state governors tend to get along much better when they're from opposing political parties than when they belong to the same party. Political opposites not only learn to co-exist, they also tend to work together far more productively.|
The most famous example of this is Democratic Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt, of New York, and his political ally, Republican Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York City. Once Roosevelt became president, LaGuardia opened an office directly across the street from the White House to help channel relief to Depression-stricken cities.
The most celebrated mayor-governor fit in recent Illinois history involved Gov. Richard Ogilvie (1969-1973) and Mayor Richard J. Daley (1955-1976). Bent initially on disassembling the Chicago machine, Ogilvie ended up partnering with Daley in restructuring Illinois government under the 1970 Illinois Constitution, enacting the state's first income tax and laying the foundation for the Regional Transportation Authority.
"The state of coexistence between the governor and the mayor permitted the domain of each to prosper," wrote Ogilvie's biographer, Taylor Pensoneau. This remarkable arrangement stood in stark contrast to Daley's relationship with Ogilvie's successor, Democrat Gov. Dan Walker (1973-77).
Walker fostered a Springfield-Chicago party schism that took years to overcome. Daley rued the day that "a good governor," Ogilvie, had been replaced by a Democrat Party antagonist, Walker.
Big city mayors and state chief executives cannot avoid a collision. Their relative weight and standing within their party is always in question, as is their political ambition. Republican Mayor John Lindsay, of New York, (1966-73) repeatedly clashed with his party counterpart, GOP Gov. Nelson Rockefeller (1959-1973), which distracted them from dealing with the city's pending collapse.
Rivalry afflicted the relationships of Democrat Mayor Ed Koch and Democrat Gov. Mario Cuomo, and Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani and GOP Gov. George Pataki. Democrat Gov. Hugh Carey kept his Gotham Town counterparts -- Mayors Abraham Beame and Ed Koch -- in check with a state-imposed financial control board .
New York's new mayor, Democrat Bill de Blasio, finds his agenda largely stymied by Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In Illinois, Republic Gov. James Thompson (1977-1991) worked productively with three successive Chicago Democrat mayors -- Michael Bilandic, Jane Byrne and Harold Washington (1976-1987) -- on transportation, independent city authorities and restructuring Chicago schools. GOP Gov. Jim Edgar and Democrat Richard M. Daley, amicable in their dealings, never quite turned the corner on a major city-state deal.
Why do mayors and governors of different parties tend to work better? Interparty cooperation transcends rivalries and personalities. It is driven by the respective constituencies that each brings to negotiations between city and state. If the mayor's party is in a majority in one or both houses of the state legislature, the mayor brings more bargaining resources to deal with his counterpart. The same holds for the governor.
Party opposites typically have different political bases: geographic (upstate/
downstate); interest group support (business/labor) and political party allies within and outside of the legislature. When Democrat mayors and governors have the same constituencies or much overlap, the result is a more restricted menu from which to choose. The greater their constituency differences, the more each brings to the table and the greater the prospect something larger can be accomplished than in dealing largely with one's own party.
Big city mayors once took a defensive position toward their state governments, primarily to keep the state out of the city's business. By the late 1960s, mayors and their cities needed their state governments to share tax revenues, support their schools and to assume costs of critical functions. They discovered that the quest for greater independence under home rule authority had been overtaken by greater financial and economic dependence between city and state.
As state and city elections approach, what relevance might this have for our current state of affairs between Chicago and Springfield?
State and city alike face daunting financial challenges whose solutions, according to most observers, will require game-changing responses.
However, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, both Democrats, are constrained in their policy responses to these challenges in what they can do for each other and by what each must do to get reelected .
On the other hand, the election of Republican Bruce Rauner as Illinois governor this November would significantly change policy options and choice between parties and across their constituencies. A new alignment would generate broader, more promising solutions than currently exist.
History supports that big solutions rarely materialize where large-city mayors and their governors belong to the same party.
And big solutions are precisely what we now need.
Don Haider was the 1987 Republican Candidate for Chicago Mayor and served as the city’s budget director. He is a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
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