Tim Campbell writes about intercity junkets:
[T]he 500 largest cities on the planet are sending delegations to visit each other, repeatedly and consistently every year, on the order of thousands of study trips annually. The cities are selected carefully, so that visitors may acquire valuable knowledge to speed improvements back home.
The pattern became crystal clear to me conducting research, including detailed responses from 45 world cities, for my forthcoming book, Beyond Smart Cities. These cities indicated they visit often and continuously every year, often more than 10 times per year. They tend to choose visit partners that are their like themselves. The rich tend to visit the rich — for example, Stockholm visits London, London visits New York. But the “poor” — cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Dakar, Senegal; and Tabriz, Iran — visit rich and poor in equal shares. And though visitors often select similar-sized hosts, even the mega cities more frequently visit their cousins in the one to five million range (like Seattle) than their sister mega-cities. Perhaps something about that moderate city size enables newcomers to get their arms around the whole thing in a short time.
One of the challenges of articulating a federal urban agenda is figuring out how the federal government can support cities like San Francisco, New York, and Des Moines. Often, the diversity of these cities – political, demographic, and otherwise – is cited as a reason why a comprehensive urban policy is impossible.
Yet, the constant sharing between cities that Campbell writes about is evidence that these differences are often overstated (or perhaps misstated). Usually, the important question is not whether San Francisco’s paid sick days policy will work in New York City at all, but how to tweak San Francisco’s policy to meet New York’s idiosyncrasies. The federal government, then, can support the same policy objectives in a range of diverse cities, as long as it leaves room for local adjustments.