In many ways, the local mayor is the most accessible high-ranking public official most of us are likely to come across. Mayors may have varying degrees of power and influence depending on the city or town they serve, but nearly all of them engage in the sort of street-level politics that puts them directly in touch with their constituents. They open new supermarkets and make personal visits to the neighborhood school. The good ones, anyway, are plugged in to community groups and senior centers. If they want to be effective, mayors have to show up and meet the people.
So odds are fairly decent you've had a chance to shake the hand and maybe even bend the ear of your own mayor. But what about the mayor of the next town over? Or the one who presides over the major city in your state? How about the mayor of the biggest city in the country? The world?
Much less likely, of course. You might be asking, why would I care about talking to the mayor of a city I don't live in? There's several good reasons, actually.
To start, it's never been more clear that no city is an island. If you read The Atlantic Cities on a regular basis, you already know this. Cities all over the world are collaborating and exchanging ideas more than ever before. When one city comes up with an innovative new approach to a problem faced by many others, you can practically watch as the idea spreads, replicates, and is honed and fine-tuned elsewhere. The sharing of ideas between mayors and other city leaders is in fact the guiding principle behind The Atlantic's upcoming CityLab summit on municipal innovation.
No mayor of a major American city has ever become president. But there's a growing movement among urban theorists and scholars that argues the leaders of complex metro areas are the ones doing the real heavy lifting in strengthening our economy and solving our thorniest problems. This week, as the federal government has shutdown in a spectacular failure of leadership, the "metro revolution" has never felt more relevant.
Early next week, we'll be gathering a small group of mayors from across the country and the world for a series of interviews on everything from how they approach their jobs to their biggest frustrations to their wildest hopes for the future. Then next month, we'll publish those interviews as a series of videos here on the site. And we want to hear from you: If you could ask any mayor anything you've ever wanted to know, what would you ask? We'll pick the best questions and incorporate them into our interviews. So submit your questions for the world's mayors below: