Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Does Conservative Revolt Stop Here? URBAN BACKLASH

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Does Conservative Revolt Stop Here? URBAN BACKLASH

Article excerpt

ON an Indian summer afternoon, Mayor Frank Jordan is pressing the flesh among merchants on fashionable Union Street, when a woman asks what he is doing about city buses. They run late, drivers are rude, and safety is a concern, she says. "That's why I'm renegotiating the driver union's contract to change the work rules," the mayor responds. Taking on labor is part of Mr. Jordan's reelection strategy to push some of the popular themes of the day, such as cutting government and curbing crime. Given the conservative trend that has transformed politics nationwide, such a tactic seems logical. Yet Jordan, a moderate Democrat, is in trouble in his reelection bid this fall - from someone more to the left. Part of the reason is surely the city and the challenger. San Francisco is notoriously liberal. Moreover, out of a field of seven candidates - none Republican - Jordan's principal opponent is Willie Brown, the well-known and wily former speaker of the California Assembly. Yet many analysts see more in Jordan's campaign troubles than local politics. They see the start of a possible urban backlash against the new conservative agenda in Washington and state capitals. This fall's big-city elections will test whether Republicans can extend their base at the local level - and whether more conservative ideas, from mayors of both parties, can be successfully implemented. "Cities are the last Democratic bastions," says William Schneider, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "Suburban state legislatures have been uniformly hostile to cities. Suddenly, Washington is no longer friendly." Indeed, the Republican takeover of Congress last November changed the longtime relationship between Washington and big urban centers. Mayors have long depended on federal assistance for everything from transportation funds to aid for the homeless. Now, with a new mood of fiscal constraint in Washington and suburban Republicans more pervasive in state legislatures, mayors are being forced to rethink the way they manage their cities. This may spell eventual difficulties for sitting mayors of all political stripes - including the class of more conservative mayors such as Jordan here and Richard Riordan (R) in Los Angeles. That's because the performance of local government is easy for voters to judge. Expectations of fiscal restraint may clash with the need to plow the streets, light city parks, and round up stray dogs. Over time, argues Eric Schockman, a political scientist at the University of Southern California, conservative remedies to local budget shortfalls may actually hurt those who advocate them. Mayor Neil Goldsmith (R) of Indianapolis has captured national headlines with his ambitious plans to privatize the city's airport and other services. …
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