I'm writing to endorse Dawn Zimmer for mayor of Hoboken. I grew up a few miles away from Hoboken and my brother, Robert Florida, lives there now with his wife and three young children, all of whom attend public school. I visit them often in Hoboken and know the city well. I have studied cities across the nation and around the world, and my research shows me that people are happiest when living in cities or towns that have forward-looking ethical leadership -- something that Hoboken has sadly lacked in the past. Zimmer offers a vision of a greener, more sustainable, more people-friendly Hoboken. It's a vision that's right for our times and one that can make Hoboken a model for smaller, urban communities across the nation.
During the reign of Bush/Cheney, many progressives had all but given up hope on national politics. We despaired of ever again having a president we could look up to. Then came Barack Obama -- seemingly out of thin air – who single-handedly revolutionized national politics and gave us reason to hope again.
If elected mayor, I suspect Zimmer will have the same revitalizing effect upon Hoboken -- a city that for far too long has been ill served by machine politicians and self-interested developers who've placed their own economic interests before what's best for the city. That's why the city is stagnating now, and that's why some residents here have begun to despair of ever having good governance. Jane Jacobs, the great urban theorist, had a word for politicians, developers and civic leaders who oppose progressive politics: She called them squelchers. What distinguishes thriving cities from those that stagnate and decline, she wrote, is the dread presence of squelchers.
But when young bright apostles of progressive change such as Dawn Zimmer win elected office, they squelch the squelchers. And by so doing they release a city's pent-up creative energies. Right now, Hoboken is struggling with a fiscal problem. But in the same way that Obama is mending our national economic woes, Zimmer will mend Hoboken's fiscal woes. Then, once the city is fiscally solvent, she'll set her sights on her important political initiatives: Turning Hoboken into a city with balanced budgets and balanced development; new infrastructure and less traffic: better schools and happier families; green initiatives and more open spaces; bike lanes and parks as well as more independently run shops and fewer bland corporate entities..
Jane Jacobs noted also that when a city becomes overly gentrified – rife with expensive high-rise condominiums and corporate chains on Main Street, it becomes so sterile and sanitized that even the gentrifyers start to move out. With the courage of her political convictions, Dawn Zimmer has the talent to turn Hoboken into the kind of city that residents will happily spend their lives in.