Transforming your city on a budget can foster a bottom-up approach to public policy and urban transformation. It can manifest a sort of direct democracy that empowers citizens, community groups, and local businesses to be change agents in their cities – and to work in collaboration with city officials to foster a vibrant city life. There are many ways citizens and governments can collaborate. Below are only a few modest, yet transformative, approaches for revolutionizing cities.
One approach – employed by cities from the Bay Area to New York City to D.C. – is to require large employers to offer tax-free transit benefits to their employees. These “commuter benefits ordinances” are relatively new – the first was adopted in 2009 – but have the potential to dramatically expand access to transit, especially to workers in lower-paying jobs who are currently less likely to receive tax-free transit benefits. Early evidence from the Bay Area suggests that requiring employers to offer the benefits can lead thousands of people to switch to lower-impact modes of commuting.
Educational games allow us to present complicated issues in a simple but engaging format. As populations and economic potential become increasingly concentrated in urban areas, cities around the world are on the front lines of pressing global issues ranging from inequality to sustainability. In a world of limitless demands and finite resources, tackling these challenges requires both ingenuity and collaboration between public officials and citizens—and cities need to ensure that residents are equipped to engage. Technology can be a powerful tool for improving transparency, accountability, and communication between city officials and their residents. Technology can also empower the next generation of community leaders through civic education games and other interactive platforms.
The tremendous growth of socially responsible investing means that, whether corporations are in the S&P 500 or just starting out, they now understand that large pools of investment capital are looking at their performance, not just with an eye toward short term quarterly investment horizons, but with a focus on long term risk issues such as the sustainability of supply chains and long term product viability in the face of disruptions caused by climate change as illustrated by the Occidental and Exxon votes.
Over the course of the year, working on this project exposed me to the specific needs, challenges, and constraints that are unique to the public sector. These are some of the insights I learned about getting traction in local government.
Enter the city of Cleveland, Fairfax Renaissance Development Corp., Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority and PNC Bank. Together, we have mapped a plan to revitalize the Fairfax neighborhood.
At the recent Global Cities Team Challenge Expo, Acquanetta Warren, the Mayor of Fontana California, expressed that ‘Technology makes government more accessible.’ Similar to cities, however, district-level organizations face constant challenges associated with financial and human resource constraints. In an environment of competing priorities and limited resources, strategies that depend on upfront investment and long-term returns are difficult to adopt at any level of governance.
Sustainability programs often require such long-term visions and upfront investment. In order for smart districts to become sustainable districts, it is imperative to develop strategies that leverage administrative frameworks, external resources, and novel technologies to minimize costs and facilitate continuous progress.
Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) empower local business people, commercial property owners, and professionals in a specific geographic area to collaborate with the support of a local municipality in organizing, financing, and carrying out physical improvements and marketing of their districts. The key to its resilience over the years was the innovation of ‘compulsory BIA membership and levy payments’ which overcame the perennial free-rider problem intrinsic to voluntary business associations of the past. It is generally acknowledged that the BIA model, through this ability to harness business funds and reinvest them directly back into the local business area, has been a success internationally, in terms of enhanced economic, social, and community development outcomes.
A crescendo of calls from transport safety bodies are demanding the repeal of a widely used, but arguably outdated method for setting speed limits.
Now is a good time to rethink the way we manage flood risk. Or more accurately, perhaps now it is time to actually manage flood risk.
It’s not a novel concept. Many corporations today consider active risk management an asset and a central part of the strategic management of their organization. Corporations have a Risk Manager who reports directly to the CEO. Risk Managers identify, analyze, assess, control, avoid, minimize, or eliminate unacceptable risks. In doing so, they actively manage their portfolio of risk by using risk avoidance, risk retention, risk transfer, or a combination of these strategies. Most large government agencies also have a Risk Manager who routinely negotiates insurance contracts and works department heads to develop risk reduction strategies.
A “bottom-up” approach means being intentional about systematically incorporating citizen voice throughout a smart cities project lifecycle. This is needed to help move urban residents from passive consumers to engaged consumers. And this trend will continue to rise as urban dwellers are demanding more flexible, personalized services. Additionally, building an infrastructure to continuously manage and measure what matters most to advance the economic and social well-being of a city can’t happen in a vacuum; it requires broad-based community engagement.