GT: You were previously involved in the national political arena, and yet today you are not only focusing much of your time and effort on city-based politics, but you also say that national government is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Can you explain your shift of emphasis?
Eger: It has been a strange personal odyssey for me. I spent 10 years in Washington both in the FCC and the White House. I had never really lived in a community or worked in a community to understand how things really worked. And I was also buying into the notion that you had to get the president of the United States or some very senior government official to take ownership of an issue before it was real. So when a few people woke up and said that we have to do something about the 1934 Communications Act and asked me to go to Washington to put together an organization, I went.
People were saying we've got to do something about creating a vision for America in the Information Age and we want to change the way people think, particularly in Washington. This made sense to me and led to the formation of an organization called Opt-in-America. We established this very distinguished board of advisors, but nothing really happened because I couldn't get an ear. However, as I crisscrossed the country talking to librarians and to school boards and local chambers of commerce and so forth, I realized that there was a deep frustration with the way in which our system of government worked, a deep frustration with those we were electing to represent us. And while people in local communities weren't necessarily on top of everything that was happening, they were a reasonably informed group. And they were angry.
What I discovered during that two- or three-year period, from 1987 to '90, was that what happened in Washington really wasn't that important. I realized that maybe what Daniel Bell and Marshall McLuhan and others talked about had finally happened. We had reached that funny stage in the history of the nation state where, to paraphrase Bell, the nation state had grown too big to solve the problems of the city and yet was too small to solve the problems of the world.
Then when I began to look and read more, one of the things I came to grips with was that there really was only a global economy and a consolidation of regional economies with strong cities at the core. At that point I began to realize that power had shifted. Sovereignty was being redefined. And while most communities did not know they had this power, they did. They just had not found a way to exercise it.
GT: In San Diego, at the International Center for Communications, you have been examining what it actually means to reinvent the city for the 21st century and you have come up with some very definite ideas. Can you describe some of this work?
Eger: The first effort we undertook was a study called San Diego in the Global Village. Previously, while I was busy reinventing myself -- repotting myself if you will -- I went back and reread McLuhan and realized it was here. It is not the same world community that he envisioned, but the global village was here. Telecommunications and technology, or telecom and IT, and economics -- the economics of the global economy -- had converged. And in the wake of this convergence between technology and economics, we are seeing the rise and rebirth of city states that [will be], if they are successful, connected to this global economy. That is what the first study dealt with.
We tailored it and we put it on the desk of every city council member and every supervisor, knowing that we were going to