John Cochran, at our sister publication CQ Weekly, has written an article suggesting that cities have reasons to believe that they will get more help from the federal government, now that Democrats are in charge.

"It's been a long while since the nation's mayors have looked to Washington with so much optimism," Cochran writes.

From there, he starts hedging. is password protected, so let me summarize his key points.

Federal urban policy is stuck in the past, a hangover from the days "when center cities had lost their economic purpose and urban and suburban areas were worlds apart." Today, city cores are more vital and they share greater similarities with suburbs as to what they'd like to see happen on the major federal issues that concern them, such as immigration, transportation and the environment.

The new Democratic powers on the Hill are likely to be friendlier to cities than Republicans have been. After all, many of the top leaders and committee chairs, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, represent cities. Barney Frank, the new financial services chairman, represents Boston suburbs. More importantly, he supports increasing Community Development Block Grants, which President Bush has tried to get rid of.

Having said that, there doesn't seem to be any more play in the domestic budget for Democrats than there was for Republicans. Cities have learned out of necessity not to be so dependent on federal handouts.

"Cities are still looking for money," Cochran writes, "[but] they want Congress to support local initiatives and, more than that, to follow their lead on a range of issues, including some once thought of primarily as the province of federal or state government: poverty, housing finance, even alternative energy and global warming."