I was struck by something the mayor of Cincinnati said recently in a conversation on the Urbanophile blog, published by one of our Governing columnists, Aaron Renn. The mayor, John Cranley, essentially proclaimed that the time has come for cities to stop dreaming of regional solutions to urban problems, to stop thinking that they would be better off if they could annex the suburban territory that lies just outside their borders. Cincinnati, he said, can get along just fine without any more than the roughly 80 square miles and 300,000 people that it currently comprises. At this point in the 21st century, Cranley argued, taking on suburban territory simply gives cities new problems that they don’t need.
The mayor expanded on his ideas with me in a subsequent conversation. In the past, he told me, “You had a sentiment that urban cores need the wealth of the suburbs to have a better budget picture. People in the suburbs escaped the city to flee the problems. But that’s changing. You’re going to see cities in a better financial situation than a lot of the suburbs.”