Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Directly Elected Mayors in Urban Governance: Impact and Practice

David Sweeting

Polity Press



In a globalized world that is increasingly urban, cities are viewed as being more able to respond to local needs and wants, and better positioned to find local solutions and develop more sustainable futures (page 8). It is within this context that the directly elected mayoral model is promoted. In this edited collection by David Sweeting, examples of directly elected mayors are examined from around the world, in both big and small urban areas, and the impacts of this type of leadership are explored.

Directly Elected Mayors in Urban Governance comprises 15 chapters. These are categorized into three parts: UK Perspectives; International Perspectives; and Comparative Perspectives.

Part I focuses on directly elected mayors in England. Four out of the six chapters examine Bristol, where Sweeting is based. Two chapters look at Liverpool. These two cities are explored because they adopted a directly elected mayor model of governance following the Localism Act of 2011: Bristol through referendum and Liverpool through existing legislation (pages 19 to 20).

Part II widens the scope to look at specific country experiences. In Chapters 7 to 12, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic are analysed and discussed. In some of these countries, the directly elected mayoral model is a typical feature of the local political system (like in the US and Australia). In other countries the model has been adopted as part of government reforms (for example, in Germany and Poland).

Part III brings together Parts I and II with three chapters that evaluate what lessons can be drawn for urban governance from the experience of directly elected mayors. Chapter 13 compares the experiences of Poland and England. In Chapter 14 the experiences of Greater London (UK), Portland (USA), and Freiburg (Germany) are used to evaluate whether the directly elected mayoral model contributes to progressive urban leadership and forms an important part of place-based power.

Sweeting concludes that directly elected mayors are very well placed for good urban governance in urban political leadership. This book openly evaluates experiences, including strengths and weaknesses, of this governance model. It highlights the importance of formal and informal power, multi-level governmental contexts, human agency, and representation, among other things. It provides relevant reading for students, academics and practitioners in public policy, public management, urban studies, politics, law and planning.


Book note prepared by Hannah Keren Lee

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