In October 2012, the fellows of the Forum convened with two visionary former mayors to address some of the most salient issues confronting the American city today: funding infrastructure, open space, and public amenities even as state and federal support dwindles.

Richard M. Daley, mayor of Chicago from 1989 to 2011, touted the reconstruction of his city, from the condemnation and subsequent rebuilding of public housing to the largest green building program in the nation. Manny Diaz, mayor of Miami from 2001 to 2009, described his role in the development of a thriving urban core in once-suburban Miami, complete with a radically new form-based zoning code and billions of dollars spent in new open spaces, housing, and cultural facilities.

Over dinner, the Forum fellows challenged the mayors on how to accommodate the enormous costs of open space and infrastructure maintenance, especially as many American cities face shrinking capital budgets and suburban migration. Mayor Daley advocated for privatizing city services and collaborating with a regional body of governments to ensure that regions, and not just cities, would thrive. Mayor Diaz recommended developing constituencies that would champion projects even after the mayor leaves office. And while the federal government may be ill-equipped to tackle critical issues of infrastructure, there was consensus that mayors could lead the way. One last suggestion arose that perhaps increasingly autonomous city-states would soon become the most effective form of confronting our anemic economy and crumbling infrastructure.


Alex Garvin

Mayor Manny Diaz and Mayor Richard M. Daley

Ester Fuchs, Mayor Manny Diaz, and Mayor Richard M. Daley

Ester Fuchs, Mayor Manny Diaz, and Mayor Richard M. Daley

The Forum for Urban Design