The 5 Best Big-City Mayors


    CHICAGO: Daley surveys his domain from the rooftop of city hall

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    Hickenlooper's honeymoon has not been without flare-ups. Before he took office, Denver's police department had been facing public criticism over allegations that officers were using excessive force.

    Hickenlooper appointed a task force to look into the matter and recently nominated a civilian monitor to oversee and critique internal police investigations. Civil-liberties groups complain that the civilian monitor lacks enforcement authority. But with the Denver economy recovering, the police controversy doesn't seem to have dampened enthusiasm for the mayor, a colorful guy who rides around on an Aprilia scooter and once suggested that employers earmark a percentage of their payroll to buy local artwork.

    "If I make a mistake, I'll apologize," says Hickenlooper. So far, no apologies seem necessary. —By Daren Fonda.

    With reporting by Rita Healy/Denver

    Martin O'Malley / Baltimore
    Wonk 'n' Roller
    Twice since Martin O'Malley was elected mayor six years ago, Baltimore has been hit by blizzards. Each time, he had city workers phone as many as 25,000 elderly residents to ensure they were O.K.

    Then he had cops punch through the drifts, carrying bread, milk and toilet paper to those seniors running low. That's a snow job voters appreciate, and it helped re-elect O'Malley with 87% of the vote last year.

    O'Malley, 42, has mastered that kind of retail politicking as a lifelong political buff. His parents met while working at the Democratic National Committee, and he was doing cheers for Hubert Humphrey by age 3. Gary Hart bought him his first legal beer at 21.

    O'Malley grew up in Washington's tony Maryland suburbs but fell hard for blue-collar Baltimore while attending the University of Maryland's law school there.

    His urban innovations—primarily CitiStat, a computerized score sheet intended to make key city agencies like public works, housing, transportation and police more accountable—have brought other curious mayors on pilgrimages to Baltimore. "We've moved from a traditional, spoils-based system of patronage politics to a results-based system of performance politics," O'Malley says.

    Cities traditionally measure the performance of municipal agencies at annual budget drills. But Citistat regularly confronts officials with citizens' complaints about broken streetlights or inadequate policing, allowing authorities to shift personnel and resources as needed. Every two weeks, managers head to see O'Malley or his top aides on the sixth floor of city hall to account for how well they have done just that. Workers who fare well can end up with Orioles tickets; managers who fall short have wound up with pink slips. The program has saved the city $100 million, O'Malley aides say. Last year Harvard University praised CitiStat for slashing overtime paid to city workers and cutting absenteeism in half at some agencies.

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