Only a handful of people in the nation have got the ear of Texas
Gov. George W. Bush, the Republicans' great hope for regaining the
White House in 2000.
Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith is one of them.
But while Governor Bush is keeping coyly quiet about the details
of his new "compassionate conservative" philosophy, Mayor Goldsmith -
one of Mr. Bush's top domestic-policy advisers - is happy to talk.
And more and more people are listening.
In fact, Goldsmith - and the small Midwestern metropolis he runs -
have now taken on national significance. What's worked here will
surely shape the Bush campaign. And if Bush wins, what's worked in
Indianapolis could be coming to a town near you.
Goldsmith is a curious blend of business-savvy conservative and
socially conscious politician. In fact, his take on policy seems to
be a kind of Republican version of President Clinton's third-way
strategy - firmly rooted in the conservative tradition, but with
"Government can really mess things up," he says, sitting in his
25th-floor conference room, looking out on the fast-growing skyline
of America's 12th largest city.
But then, talking about crime and prisons, he says, "I'd rather
cut everybody's prison sentence by 10 percent and extend the rigor
their post-release monitoring so they stay off drugs." Not the words
of a traditional lock-'em-up conservative.
Goldsmith is known as Mr. Public-Private Partnership. It's a
wonkish term. And Goldsmith is definitely an idea-driven policy
wonk, requiring his staff to read things like Reason magazine and
articles by management guru Peter Drucker.
But his wonkish ways have helped bring a flurry of unique ideas to
There are the privately run city airport and jail, for instance.
And the fact that, with the city's help, the local archdiocese is
building the first Roman Catholic elementary school to be
in any American inner city since the 1950s. Not to mention that
during Goldsmith's seven years as mayor, the city has cut
property taxes four times and trimmed its budget $41 million.
Privatization is one of Goldsmith's mantras. Today, the city's
car-towing operations, golf courses, sewer-bill collections, and
document copying, to name a few, are all run by private companies.
He argues that, too often, governments assume the way to solve a
problem is to boost spending: Trash collection falling behind? Boost
the trash department's budget.
But Goldsmith says that approach leads to waste. …