A missed opportunity to focus on the Republican urban agenda at the Republican National Convention
I didn't think about trying to be prepared well in advance of the Republican National Convention with a post on what would be a reasonable Republican approach to urban issues that is congruent with Republican Party principles.
A couple months ago Aaron Renn of Urbanophile wrote a piece, "A $63 million high school football stadium shows changing Republican values," about how (paraphrased) "Republicans aren't against investing in public/civic facilities so long as they improve quality of life," that there is a recognition that an overfocus on "low taxes" comes with costs.
I meant to write about it. I'd probably distinguish between (sub)urban Republicans and exurban and rural Republicans. Granted the old Republicans of the Northeast had a civic-infused agenda, albeit with a different perspective on a lot of things. But for example, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York's 2nd District located in Central Long Island has a pro-transit agenda, given the needs of his constituents, many of whom ride the LIRR. In the DC metropolitan area, past Republican Congressmembers from Northern Virginia have been amongst the area's major leaders concerning transit matters.
But it's true that reasonable people can agree on some things and disagree on others, and can agree on investing in community. Although what people think is appropriate to invest in can vary considerably. Maybe it's high school football centers yes, and senior centers or social service clinics no.
OKC Mayor Mick Cornett Speaks At RNC In Cleveland," News9/OKC).
The "Metropolitan Area Program" he created is a system of planning, funding, and building a wide range of community facilities ("Cornett, Couch Say MAPS 4 Could Be Used To Fix Oklahoma City Street," KGOU) that is a leading national urban best practice.
Utah has had a series of Republican governors doing great things on regional and statewide smart growth planning, the environment, and transit. (Although the state still goes ape**** about federally-owned lands.)
2. Republican agenda from Speaker Ryan. Similarly, I haven't read the Republican Congress agenda document by Paul Ryan titled A Better Way. Mostly I disagree with his dominant agenda of tax cuts for the rich and diminishment of resources for the less well off, but listening to him on NPR yesterday, his point about needing more nuanced and individualized approaches for social supports makes sense to me.
If that's a Republican agenda, well, I could support it, provided they stop focusing on tax cuts for the rich, see "Can We Find Our Way Back to Lincoln?," New York Times.
3. The 2016 Republican Platform is bad on transportation. I think the Republican Party, this year anyway, is disinclined to be pro-urban, seeing "urban" as tied very much to the Democrats and President Obama.
From The 2016 Republican Party Platform | GOP:
America on the Move
Our country’s investments in transportation and other public construction have traditionally been non-partisan. Everyone agrees on the need for clean water and safe roads, rail, bridges, ports, and airports. President Eisenhower established a tradition of Republican leadership in this regard by championing the creation of the interstate highway system. In recent years, bipartisan cooperation led to major legislation improving the nation’s ports and waterways.
Our Republican majority ended the practice of earmarks, which often diverted transportation spending to politically favored projects. In the current Congress, Republicans have secured the longest reauthorization of the Highway Trust Fund in a decade and are advancing a comprehensive reform of the Federal Aviation Administration to make flying easier and more secure.
The current Administration has a different approach. It subordinates civil engineering to social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit. Its ill-named Livability Initiative is meant to “coerce people out of their cars.” This is the same mentality that once led Congress to impose by fiat a single maximum speed limit for the entire nation, from Manhattan to Montana. Our 1980 Republican Platform pledged to repeal that edict. After the election of Ronald Reagan, we did.
Now we make the same pledge regarding the current problems in transportation policy. We propose to remove from the Highway Trust Fund programs that should not be the business of the federal government.
More than a quarter of the Fund’s spending is diverted from its original purpose. One fifth of its funds are spent on mass transit, an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population, concentrated in six big cities. Additional funds are used for bike-share programs, sidewalks, recreational trails, landscaping, and historical renovations. Other beneficiaries of highway money are ferry boats, the federal lands access program, scenic byways, and education initiatives. These worthwhile enterprises should be funded through other sources.
We propose to phase out the federal transit program and reform provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act which can delay and drive up costs for transportation projects. ... With most of the states increasing their own funding for transportation, we oppose a further increase in the federal gas tax.
There are many problems with these positions. Foremost is their belief that transportation only equals roads, and that the "highway gas excise tax" should only support roads, and that "complete roads" only make provisions for motor vehicle traffic, not other users, be they pedestrians, bicyclists, or transit users, and that from an optimal throughput standpoint, investing "highway gas taxes" in transit helps to add capacity to roads in the most congested metropolitan areas, which are the linchpins of the US economy.
4. According to the article, Mayor Cornett's speech at the Convention focused on how Republican mayors are handling urban matters. It was scheduled at 2pm Monday, which clearly indicates that urban issues, at least for this presidential election, are a low priority.