While consultants have crept into various aspects of municipal governance, a selected few have transcended the others reaching the status of urban gurus. Although consultants are often perceived as depoliticizing urban affairs, research shows that the urban guru often instigates politicization. Research on urban gurus does thus highlight distinctions between gurus and ‘lay’ consultants, but it has paid insufficient attention to describing how, through their interaction with cities, politicization occurs. Moreover, the literature often portrays this interaction as an authority relationship in which the guru is superior, while in fact cities play an important role in bestowing ‘guru’ status. Using fieldwork, I examine the long-term interaction between Richard Florida and the City of Toronto, explaining how Florida’s elevation to guru status by being brought to Toronto ended with him self-describing as ‘persona non-grata’. To explain the anomaly of this interaction and the way in which gurus instigate politicization, I differentiate between consultants’ ‘substance’ and ‘process’ roles in policy formulation processes. I show that, regarding substance, the guru offers a policy paradigm rather than policy instruments and, regarding process, their strength is in performing ideas rather than pulling strings behind the scenes—in both respects making the policy process more public and contested.
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