The outsize importance of the entirely unrepresentative state of Iowa in the US presidential selection process casts America as tractor pulls, county fairs, town halls and truck stops.

Yet more than 80 percent of Americans live in cities and densely-packed suburbs. The crazy primary process seems to totally stiff big cities which makes it much easier for the candidates and the media to neglect the question of a federal urban agenda. A strong federal/metropolitan relationship is arguably more important than its ever been in the wake of the Bush administration’s total abdication of responsibility for urban America. But what would a progressive, proactive urban agenda look like?

A new collaborative video project between The Nation and the Drum Major Institute asks the people who know our cities best: America’s mayors. In ten punchy video interviews, the mayors of Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Rochester and Salt Lake City offer their prescriptions for a reinvigorated urban agenda.

The contrast between the mayors’ priorities and the presidential candidates’ rhetoric couldn’t be more stark. “In presidential elections, the media and pollsters focus on issues like war, abortion, gay rights, things that, quite frankly, for those of us in the trenches, aren’t the hot-button issues,” says Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. “People want to know that their kids will get a good education, that their neighborhoods will be safe and clean…. It’s difficult for me to understand how presidential candidates don’t see that. Those are the issues that affect Americans each and every day. We [mayors] are dealing with them, and [candidates] should also be dealing with them.”

New York Times‘ columnist Clyde Haberman recently surveyed the videos which he wrote help fill the “silence” on urban issues in the presidential campaign to date.

Watch Diaz and the others at for insights into urban issues, presidential politics and the elections.