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The American Mayor: The Best and the Worst Big-City Leaders Paperback – March 19, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For years the designer Blackwell has been dining out on his 10 best-and-worst-dressed celebrity lists; People magazine has made hay out of its 50-most-beautiful people issues; now Melvin G. Holli gets into the act with The American Mayor: The Best and Worst Big-City Leaders. If Holli's lists are neither as frivolous nor as pulchritudinous as Blackwell's nor People's, in their own way, they're certainly as interesting. Polling some 160 experts ranging from journalists to historians to social scientists, Holli has compiled both the required lists of the 10 best and 10 worst mayors in the United States from 1820 to the present and also some fascinating insights into what separates the good from the bad. In addition to biographies of each, and a summary of his or her major accomplishments (or lack thereof), the book also contains several chapters analyzing just what qualities contribute to a successful mayor. Anyone interested in city government--or leadership in general--will find much to admire (and probably more than a few conclusions to argue with) in this best-and-worst list for civic-minded readers.

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“An intelligent, inquisitive public will find The American Mayor to be worthwhile and interesting reading. Holli asks his own questions about the nature of leadership, providing interpretations which are original and significant. This is a remarkable book which should be required reading for all students of urban history, public policy, or political science.”
—Michael P. Weber, Duquesne University

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (March 19, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0271018771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0271018775
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,487,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Watujel on February 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
The subject matter sounds interesting, but Holli's writing style is dry and plodding. Some of these mayors sound like interesting characters, but they don't come to life in this book. The leadership analysis at the end is for die-hards only. Though the book was promoted in general-interest news articles, it's not going to generate much enthusiasm outside the ivory tower.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JAMES FIORENTINI on December 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An interesting book, which rates Fiorello La Guardia, the Little Flower, as the best Mayor in the history of the United States. The author is right-- La Guardia was certainly one of the best if not the best and an inspiration to all of us. I liked the book found it somewhat interesting, but, another reviewer said, some of his characters did not really jump to life. (The review of La Guardia did.) Nevertheless, I found it worth reading.

I found myself in agreement with some of the ratings, and in disagreement with others.

I can not understand the law rating of Ed Koch, who turned New York around.

I also disagree with his low ratings of some depression era Mayors shows a bias against the old style ethnic politicians like James Michael Curley of Boston, rated as one of the worst. Most Bostonians rate him as the best. He championed the poor Irish immigrants, and opened the doors of city hall to them. Curley was a populist, and the review shows a bias against populist Mayors.

Frank Hague, (Boss Hague) of Jersey City, is rated as the second worst Mayor in history. He was certainly not a good Mayor. However, the voters of Jersey City would beg to differ that he was near the bottom. They elected him for a stunning 30 years, a record no modern day Mayor can hope to match. Hague enjoyed, as the book states, long vacations on the Jersey Shore and no one can find out how they were paid for. He may have been corrupt.

But, if we was corrupt, so, sadly, were many others of that period, so that fact alone cannot make him the second worst in history.

But what kept Hague re-elected for thirty years was his championing of a hospital for the poor.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful By MT in Ottawa ON on August 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
Cleveland Mayor (now Congressman) Dennis Kucinich was one of the best & most fascinating ... not one of the worst.

"There is little debate," wrote Cleveland Magazine in May 1996, "over the value of Muny Light today. Now Cleveland Public Power, it is a proven asset to the city that between 1985 and 1995 saved its customers $195,148,520 over what they would have paid CEI." Kucinich's move also preserved hundreds of union jobs. In 1998, city council granted Kucinich amnesty, stating that he had "the courage and foresight to refuse to sell the city's municipal electric system."
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