What We Learned From Mark Funkhouser, Publisher of Governing

Posted on July 20, 2014

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Unofficial Picture Show: A Night of Funk(houser)


Official Picture Show: The David Nguyen Collection: A Night of Funk(houser)


Mark Funkhouser, publisher of Governing, addressed a standing room only crowd of ELGL members, Oregon Fellows, Portland State University faculty and staff, and other local government professionals on July 17 at Base Camp Brewery.

The following are a few takeaways from Mark’s remarks:

Mark opened by discussing the three Ls: loneliness, loyalty, and legitmacy.

Loneliness: “People feel a need to connect to other people.” Mark stressed the need to connect with other people and that fewer people today feel connected to their community vs. past decades.

The two other “L’s”:  Loyalty and legitimacy must be earned.

He challenged the audience to answer “why does your city exist” question. Answering this is a good way to reset your purpose. Find out about its origin. Ask, how is it different now?

“Every city has a regime: it outlasts election cycles and lives on forever”

Mark discussed being the mayor of Kansas City, MO during their first bid to land Google Fiber. Google Fiber ended up choosing Kansas City, KS. Mark joked that Google Fiber didn’t realize that Kansas City, MO was actually the bigger jurisdiction. Around Kansas City, MO, Mark is known as the mayor who lost Google Fiber.

Mark thinks that publicly-owned fiber (i.e Chattanooga, TN and Sandy, OR) is the best option for cities but it’s often impractical because of the start up cost and infrastructure costs.

It’s now been 100 years since cars have been the dominant means of transportation. Mark feels that the reign of the automobile is coming to end. Cities of the future will be built around alternative means of transportation as opposed to cars.

Cleveland, Detroit, and Oklahoma City are three cities best positioned for the future, in large part because of the available land and also because of the leadership. Financial sustainability is obviously going to be extremely important.

Mark is confident that Detroit is headed for a revival. He believes in the new leadership and is intrigued by the renewal options.

Mark is a big fan of the Cleveland mayor who is a self-described “horrible public speaker” but has found other ways to communication.

Mark highlighted the Oklahoma City’s mayor and his gutsy decision to make the city more walkable.

The natural pressure for cities, at least big cities, is positive. Wealth concentrates at the core of the city.

“We earn government’s legitimacy by delivering basic services well everyday.”

With regard to what Mark would ask Mayor Hales and Mayor Ballard at our upcoming sustainability discussion, he said “I ask all mayors: why did you run for office? What are the challenges your city faces? What are you doing about it?”

The mayor of Los Angeles and his assistant Rick Cole (former city manager) are examples of excellence in local government.

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