Oklahoma City was held up Wednesday as an example of how cities can get creative to solve their problems.
Mayor Mick Cornett and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson spoke about transforming cities at the 2010 Creativity World Forum being held this week at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.
Both agreed the key to improving cities is educating young people and attracting and retaining talented workers.
Cornett said Oklahoma City has made progress in those areas with the three MAPS programs.
â€œOklahoma City has tapped into the idea that quality of life is the No. 1 ingredient for economic development,â€ Cornett said. â€œWe see our young people clamoring to live in Oklahoma City now.â€
Both Johnson and forum moderator Carol Coletta, president and chief executive of CEOs for Cities, were impressed with Oklahoma City's ability to create a vision of a better city with the MAPS programs and see it through to completion.
Johnson, a former NBA all-star with the Phoenix Suns, was elected mayor of his native Sacramento in 2008. He echoed Cornett's comments on quality of life, saying it was one of three main reasons he ran for mayor.
â€œI wanted to live in a cool city,â€ Johnson said.
He recalled in his final year with the Suns asking his teammates their least favorite NBA cities. The answer: Milwaukee, Salt Lake City and Sacramento.
Johnson said after an NBA game, players usually got back to their hotels in Sacramento about 10 p.m. The last thing they wanted to do was order room service, but they had no other options because downtown was deserted after 5 p.m.
Young, educated professionals are of the same mind, Johnson said. He has stressed the importance of the arts in creating a higher quality of life and job creation.
â€œIt's about vitality,â€ he said. â€œIt's about having something to do even if you don't want to do it.â€
Both mayors also spoke of the challenge in luring tourism to cities that aren't commonly thought of as vacation destinations.
Cornett said Oklahoma City is fortunate to live at the crossroads of three major Interstate highways, but he often finds people who have driven through the city have never bothered to stop.
â€œTheir only experience with Oklahoma City was at 70 miles per hour,â€ Cornett said. â€œWe've given them reason to stop.â€
After winning the mayor's job, Johnson visited New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to seek advice and was surprised that Bloomberg wasn't even sure where Sacramento was. He said it is a common problem in a state where Los Angeles and San Francisco get all the attention.
Johnson explained to Bloomberg that Sacramento is halfway between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.
â€œI don't want to be the mayor of a halfway point,â€ Johnson said. â€œI am the mayor of the capital of California, and Mayor Bloomberg doesn't know where it is.â€
Cornett said the key in taking a city to the next level is developing a sense of unity among local leaders, the business community and the voters. He said Oklahoma City has done that with its MAPS program.
â€œIt's gotten to the point where if you are a politician, you are expected to put the city's interest before your own political career,â€ Cornett said. â€œIf you are a business leader, you are expected to put the city above your own business interest. If you don't, you are an outcast. In this city, everybody is pulling on the same rope.â€