Editor’s note: Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley wrote this response to an April 20, 2009 op-ed, “Small-Town Big Spending”, by Tom Brokaw, a special correspondent for NBC News.
Mr. Brokaw is right to call for a thorough rethinking of anachronistic local-government structures. The fundamental geographic unit of the 21st century is the metropolitan area. New forms of governance must reflect this shift.
Metropolitan areas — tightly linked collections of cities, suburbs and townships — are the engines of American prosperity. They house about 80 percent of the United States population and account for almost 90 percent of the G.D.P. We need metropolitan-scale governance to address global competitiveness, climate change and poverty reduction, all of which transcend local boundaries.
Places like greater Denver, Louisville and Portland have developed transportation and land-use strategies that reflect the true metropolitan scope of economic and social life. States and the federal government must support these and other collaborative efforts by changing laws and rules that split metropolitan areas apart.