ON-Lion Letter

"Conservative influence in City Hall has been on a downward slide," begins a November article by former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker on Public Sector Inc.  "By late 2013, there were no Republican mayors governing the largest twelve cities in America, down from six in 2000.  At present, there’s just one:  San Diego's Kevin Faulconer, elected in February.

"The voting trends in legislative and presidential races are equally striking," Baker continues.  "If you break down the nation’s electoral map on a county-by-county basis, it becomes a sea of red interrupted by intensely populated blue metropolitan areas.  We have become a country of Blue Cities and Red Everyone Else.

"But demographics do not dictate destiny, nor does political party necessarily dictate philosophy," he writes.  "While most conservatives tend to be Republicans, some Democratic politicians, including mayors, have successfully implemented conservative policies."

Public Sector Inc. is a project of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research's Center for State and Local Leadership, which is substantially supported by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee.

"For the best interests of our urban populations, there are compelling reasons why conservatives -- whether they be Republicans, Democrats or Independents -- can and should become a stronger voice in our nation's cities," according to Baker.  "Cities could benefit greatly from the focused application of conservative principles on the challenges confronting them.

"While I was mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, our priorities were improving public safety, promoting economic development, supporting public schools and improving government operations," he continues.  "Each of these must be a constant focus of any city’s leadership.  Fortunately, there are examples of conservative leaders with proven success in each of these critical areas.

"There is nothing liberal or conservative about creating a better future for our kids in the toughest neighborhoods of our city.  It is simply the right thing to do," he concludes.  "How you do it becomes the point.  In St. Petersburg, I governed as a conservative fiscally and socially -- and I have the scars to prove it.  But we also placed a priority on Midtown, the most economically depressed part of our city, an area primarily populated by African Americans, most of whom are Democrats."

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