Lessons from a pragmatist mayor

What can we learn from Henry LaGuardia and his role in infrastructure and building livable communities?

What can we learn from Henry LaGuardia and his role in infrastructure and building livable communities?

LaGuardia was mayor of New York for three terms from 1934 to 1945 as a Republican and is acclaimed as one of the three or four greatest mayors in American history.

LaGuardia, a “Republican that had support across party lines,” was very popular in New York during the 1930s. As a New Dealer, he supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat.

LaGuardia revitalized New York City and restored public faith in city hall. He unified the transit system; directed the building of low-cost public housing, public playgrounds and parks; constructed airports; reorganized the police force.

These objectives seem like the situation in B.C. at present? Do we need a unified transit system? Do we need more low-cost public housing? Are we in a recession and in need of resolving our infrastructure deficit? Are we facing debt conditions similar to the depression era 1930s North America? Are we arguing over governance issues for mass transit?

Yet it was a conservative Republican that understood that a strong economy needs to provide affordable transportation, housing and other amenities.

LaGuarida understood that spending money on projects that do nothing to improve the livelihood of the average citizen is useless.

Rather he focused his capital plans on building assets that would transform New York not only into a major financial centre, but also a commercial centre, manufacturing center, transportation center and so on.

He epitomized the saying, “If I can’t use it, I don’t want it.” LaGuardia understood the need for infrastructure and a higher standard of living transcends politics.

Jack Layton also advocated the need for mass transit to increase accessibility and mobility for low-income people. Both saw the futility of polarized politics during economic distress. Sadly, both pragmatists are gone.

Avi Ickovich




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