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Zimpher’s Work Earns Presidential Praise

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Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York and immediate past Board Chair for CEOs for Cities, was called “Obama’s favorite college leader” in an article published last week. Chancellor Zimpher briefed the press corps, along with Press Secretary Jay Carney, after over 100 college leaders and other figures in education met with President and Michelle Obama to discuss solutions for low-income students. Chancellor Zimpher has been close to the Administration’s education efforts including involvement in financial aid overhaul proposals and an agreement to prevent sexual assault on college campuses. President Obama is wise to choose Chancellor Zimpher as an ally in the treacherous world of higher education. She is an innovator and strives not only for the betterment of higher education for students, but also to use higher education as a tool to improve communities.

Leading up to her current involvement at the national level, Chancellor Zimpher has led a fruitful career at various higher education institutions. In 1998, Chancellor Zimpher became the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the first woman to do so. It was here that she began to present herself as a force for education and community betterment. While Chancellor at UWM, Chancellor Zimpher introduced a strategic plan, known as the Milwaukee Idea, which would tie the university to the economic health and strength of the greater Milwaukee area. This plan sought to strengthen both the city and the university and give the university an edge over nearby rival Marquette University.

After leaving UWM, Chancellor Zimpher became President of the University of Cincinnati, where she was, once again, the first woman to fill this position. She continued to build connections between higher education institutions and the communities they serve.  While she was president, Chancellor Zimpher established the university’s Center for the City, designed to facilitate partnerships that encourage university and public expertise to work toward bettering the community; as well as chairing a neighborhood development group that involved five of the community’s largest employers. It was during her time at UC, Zimpher co-founded Strive, a birth-to-career collaborative that connects all levels of education with business, civic, and nonprofit organizations. Strive has since grown into a national network of innovative partnerships geared at holistically addressing challenges in education.

Now, as the Chancellor of SUNY—yet again, the first female in this role—Chancellor Zimpher has been striving to make SUNY an example of what a good university should be.  Within her first year as chancellor, she launched The Power of SUNY, a strategic plan that aims to use the university to drive economic revitalization across the state of New York. Already this year, Chancellor Zimpher has been busy, introducing a comprehensive online learning platform that will initially offer eight degree programs and expanding the SUNY Works program that seeks to engage Fortune 500 CEOs from around the state. Chancellor Zimpher’s goal is to “ensure that every student in the state has the experience he or she needs to succeed in the world”.  Given all the experience gained from her successful career thus far, that goal shouldn’t be that hard to reach. Chancellor Zimpher has learned and appreciates the importance of connections and partnerships when it comes to higher education.

Colleges and universities don’t exist in a vacuum, and Chancellor Zimpher recognizes this. She sees the potential higher education provides for students and for the nation. By engaging the community and creating partnerships with businesses, nonprofits, and civic institutions, schools—like SUNY—are creating amazing opportunities for their students. In return, the communities that serve them benefit. Chancellor Zimpher recognizes the good she can do for her students and their communities and even, as with SUNY, entire states.

***

Olivia Bailey is a CEOs for Cities City Success Fellow. Olivia is a senior at Cleveland State University, majoring in Urban Studies, with a focus in Urban and Regional Planning. She is a native of Northeast Ohio and has spent the last few years living in Cleveland. She has plans to pursue a graduate degree in either Planning or Historic Preservation after graduating and getting some more real world experience.

A Cycle of Positive Development

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Higher education is considered by some to be the ivory tower: a sector so removed from the rest of society that it had its own rules and agenda, where theory is more important than practice and students only experience the “real world” after graduation. Looking at the state of education today, however, it’s clear that students and professors alike have begun the climb down from the tower. Colleges and universities around the country are focusing on civic engagement and are taking greater strides to engage the community at large. These institutions are realizing that the benefits of higher education go beyond just their student body. They recognize that they hold the key to a powerful tool that can improve communities, especially in urban areas. Here are just a few of the many different ways colleges are approaching civic and community engagement:

Cleveland State University, an urban university whose major focus is “Engaged Learning”, has many different programs and projects designed to get students involved in the community. At the end of January this year, grants for $2,500 to $5,000 were awarded to 24 CSU faculty members and student organizations to be used across of variety of disciplines to promote community engagement. CSU is playing a large role in the redevelopment of Cleveland and is working to create a sustainable neighborhood that students can share with the community. 

Drexel University, like many colleges, has a specific entity (the Lindy Center), dedicated to civic engagement; they provide various service opportunities for students and oversees clubs and programs for community engagement. As a university in an urban core, Drexel students participate in community projects in the neighborhoods surrounding the campus as a “long-term strategy to improve the quality of life”.With regular service projects and plans for a community outreach center built in the adjacent neighborhood of Powelton Village, Drexel students are making a difference in West Philadelphia.

Tufts University operates a number of projects and programs through its Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. Every Tufts student belongs to this college and is able to take part in various engagement projects, regardless of their field of study. In their 2012-2013 annual report, Tisch College reported nearly 2,000 students enrolled in active citizenship courses and over 3,000 students contributing community service hours. One such project is the Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund. Last month, the TNSF awarded 22 local nonprofits with a total of $19,300 in grants.

These colleges and universities have recognized their potential to be the heart of their respective cities and to serve a greater purpose than mere education. They can act as the vehicle for change and can enormously improve the well-being of a city. That said, from a strictly educational standpoint, civic engagement is also a powerful tool. When students are learning something, it’s much more effective if they can actually put it into practice and see the results than if they were just reading about the work other people have done. Engaging the community as a student gives the chance for a young person to be aware of the world beyond their own life and helps them become valuable members of society. Civic engagement is mutually beneficial for students, universities, and the community. It’s a cycle of positive development that can be the key to unlocking truly successful urban environments across the nation. The idea of being ‘involved’ during your college years used to mean joining a club or participating in Greek life, but now getting involved means taking part as an active citizen in the greater community, and being able to see the benefits -- to you, and to the city you’re calling home.

***
Olivia Bailey is a CEOs for Cities City Success Fellow. Olivia is a senior at Cleveland State University, majoring in Urban Studies, with a focus in Urban and Regional Planning. She is a native of Northeast Ohio and has spent the last few years living in Cleveland. She has plans to pursue a graduate degree in either Planning or Historic Preservation after graduating and getting some more real world experience.

What States Should Do to Keep Their Cities Out of Bankruptcy

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Detroit

To head off problems before they become crises, states need to monitor their local governments' finances and borrowing practices.

By Susan K. Urahn, Executive Vice President of the Pew Charitable Trusts

Detroit's bankruptcy has added urgency to the discussion of how state and local governments should respond when a municipality faces financial distress. The Motor City's revenue shortfall is unusually large, mirroring its sharp population decline, but Detroit isn't alone in its struggle to balance its books after years of poor fiscal management and excessive reliance on debt. Tenuous finances have pushed other municipalities to the brink of receivership or bankruptcy, often requiring state policymakers to decide whether to intervene and, if so, when and how.

A small number — about 10 — of the nation's 55,000 local governments and special tax districts file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection each year. In addition to Detroit, recent high-profile examples include Jefferson County, Ala.; Stockton and San Bernardino, Calif.; and Central Falls, R.I. While fiscal distress usually builds up over several years, a variety of events or factors can push local governments into financial crisis. In Jefferson County, it was a failed sewer project. In the California and Rhode Island cities, it was escalating public-pension costs. Detroit's situation was more complex, the result of decades of decline in its tax base and the restructuring of the automobile industry.

In a recent Pew Charitable Trusts report, "The State Role in Local Government Financial Distress," we found that 19 states have passed laws allowing them to intervene in local-government fiscal crises. In dire cases, states have set up advisory commissions, receivers, emergency managers and financial control boards to oversee the local governments. These mechanisms are intended to prevent bankruptcy, which officials consider to be so harmful that only 12 states specifically authorize local governments to file for bankruptcy protection. In a state such as Alabama, which has no law to authorize intervention in local-government financial emergencies, the city or county is on its own to resolve a crisis. Jefferson County and the city of Prichard sought bankruptcy protection as a last resort.

Regardless of the approach that states choose, it's prudent for officials to monitor local governments' budgets and borrowing practices. North Carolina, a state hit hard by the Great Recession, has proved that this practice works. Local governments must send financial data at regular intervals to the state, which compiles profiles of each city and county and posts them in a public database. If the budget numbers show a potential shortfall, the state steps in to make sure that local officials resolve the problems. If necessary, the state can assume control of day-to-day operations -- an action it has taken five times since the 1930s. North Carolina also approves and sells local-government bonds through a state commission.

In New York state, where upstate communities have struggled economically for years, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has begun issuing scores for local governments' level of fiscal stress based on about two dozen financial indicators submitted by local officials. Outgoing California Controller Bill Lockyer has called for a similar early-warning system in that state to prevent future Stocktons and San Bernardinos.

Monitoring also underscores the need for local governments, as well as states, to adopt long-term financial plans that align revenue and expenses over several years. These plans should include projections of public-pension and retiree-health-care costs, which are increasing pressure on governments at all levels with the retirement of the Baby Boom generation.

Failure to oversee finances and embrace multiyear budget plans can produce harsh consequences, as seen in the bankruptcies in Detroit and elsewhere: service cuts, government-employee layoffs, high property taxes, lower public-pension checks, losses for bondholders and higher borrowing costs. Instead of putting themselves in the position of having to react to local-government fiscal crises, states should work harder to stop them from happening in the first place.


American Cities Project

Cities are essential to the nation’s prosperity — central to the quality of life, the livelihoods and the long-term prospects of most Americans. Pew’s American Cities Project conducts original research and analyses to help policymakers understand the challenges facing urban centers and promising policy options that can improve fiscal outcomes for localities. Learn more.
 

This column originally ran in Governing Magazine and has been reposted with its permission.


 




 

To Make Your Community Healthier, Make It Denser

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City

By David Dixon FAIA, Leader, Stantec's Urban Places Group

In the wake of 9/11, author Stephen Johnson wrote in Wired that "density kills" and advocated turning to the decentralized vision of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1939 Broadacre City as a way of protecting Americans in the future. As it turns out, he got it backwards: Density saves lives. The contemporary affinity for higher-density, mixed-use, walkable places in cities and suburbs alike arguably represents the single most significant contribution to public health — for those who can afford them — since World War II.

Healthy density

Five years before the Wired article, the Centers for Disease Control had already reported that inactivity and poor diet caused “300,000 deaths in the United States…second only to tobacco.” That landmark study placed much of the blame on low-density, typically suburban environments whose physical layout encouraged auto trips at the expense of walking, leading to increased rates of obesity, diabetes, and auto fatalities. Today, the health benefits of urban densities are compelling. The incidence of chronic health problems in walkable urban neighborhoods is generally lower than in typical suburban and exurban neighborhoods. A 2008 report by University of Utah researchers found that men who lived in walkable neighborhoods weighed 10 pounds less than men in low-density neighborhoods, a recent Journal of Transport and Health article links cities with more compact street networks to lower levels of obesity, diabetes, high bloop pressure and heart disease.

The data for auto fatalities are particularly stark — per-capita auto fatalities rise roughly 400 percent along a continuum of density from typical urban to typical suburban. Six decades of sprawl have helped give the United States a level of traffic fatalities three to five times higher than other developed countries. Today, auto fatalities represent the #1 cause of accidental deaths in the United States.

Walkability is not an automatic product of density, nor is it restricted to cities. “Walkable densities” outside of downtowns begin at roughly 40-60 units per acre, which translates into one to two thousand households within a five- to ten-minute walk of a neighborhood Main Street. Achieving these densities requires elected leaders willing to make the case for change and developers who understand mixed-use development. Zoning and other regulations, written to enable auto-focused development, often need updating to make denser and more walkable development possible. In many communities introducing walkable density also requires innovative public/private partnerships to work through financial gaps in still-recovering markets or to raise funds to transform brownfields. But even with these ingredients in place, a lingering fear of change — particularly in the form of density — often presents an additional hurdle. In these cases the process starts by engaging the community in planning for a healthier future by providing information and tools to understand the benefits and costs of well-designed density.

The payback from density extends beyond physical health. Walkable neighborhoods promote economic health by attracting knowledge workers and investment and promote environmental health by creating an inviting alternative to sprawl. From Dublin, Ohio, to Sandy Springs, Georgia, to Brampton, Ontario, suburban communities and their leaders increasingly recognize these benefits and have assembled the same ingredients to create a new generation of higher-density, mixed-use, walkable downtowns. However, even as we succeed in redirecting planning toward the creation of denser, healthier neighborhoods, one more task demands our attention.

Equitable density

The benefits of density generate an “amenity paradox” that threatens to translate America’s already egregious wealth gap into a widening health gap between rich and poor. Life-filled, walkable, transit-served neighborhoods have delivered the goods in ways that Jane Jacobs prophesized 50 years ago — with the glaring exception of diversity. Ten percent of U.S. households control 75 percent of all U.S. wealth. They, along with their slightly less affluent peers, are consuming walkable neighborhoods at a voracious rate. This demand is bidding up housing costs and forcing poorer residents into less healthy, car-dependent environments. For the first time in America’s history more poor people live in suburbs than cities. Clustered increasingly at the fringes of car-centric suburbs, yet often unable to afford a reliable car, they are isolated from access to health care — and jobs, education, and support networks.

Nor is this a passing trend. Demographer and economist Chris Nelson projects that over the next 30 years the U.S. will experience a growing shortage of transit-oriented housing. As we employ density to create healthy neighborhoods, we also need to employ it to create equity. The challenge is not market acceptance. Housing economist Laurie Volk points out that many people who choose urban lifestyles seek diversity. In a time of constrained public resources, the answer won’t lie in public dollars. Where possible, we need to tap the rising value of amenity-rich urban neighborhoods to fund the mixed-income housing that makes the concept of diversity real. Density bonuses in return for increased affordability, inclusionary zoning and public benefit agreements represent potential strategies. More are needed.

After decades of disinvestment, cities face an era of opportunity not seen since the Great Depression. To paraphrase that great urban planner, Spiderman, with opportunity comes responsibility. Heading the list of our responsibilities as a society is expanding access — for everyone — to environments that support healthier lifestyles.


About David Dixon

David Dixon FAIA is a senior principal at Stantec and leader of the firm’s new interdisciplinary Urban Places group. He recently published the second edition of Urban Design for an Urban Century: Shaping More Livable, Equitable, and Resilient Cities (Wiley, 2014), co-authored with Lance J. Brown.

 

 
 

How to Leverage Design to Build the Digital City

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Digital city

By Michael Martin, Place-Based Innovation Lead, HD MADE

I left my job as a city planner and joined a digital creative agency. Why? Because I am certain that to make our future cities versatile, responsive, and engaging, we must combine citizen interaction with smart technology and design.

At HD MADE I lead our place-based initiatives, which include work with the Times Square Alliance and the Alliance for Downtown New York. We’re working with these clients to reimagine how they integrate digital into every part of their organization, programs, and neighborhoods.

How do you get there?

Digital roadmap
Before diving into implementing any tactical digital solutions, technology needs to take a spot alongside transportation, housing, and economic development in the strategic/master planning process. The roadmap needs to be forward thinking - next 18 months - and comprehensive;  it should include a full-scale analysis of all things digital, from a city’s social media strategy and website design to public wi-fi networks and open data policies.

Crowdsourcing ideas
The roadmap should include a plan to source the best possible ideas. Competitions soliciting for new ideas like like NYC Big Apps and the Market Street Prototyping Festival have proven to be effective at catalyzing innovation. They also allow citizens to have direct impact on the city while empowering them to be more involved.

Bringing in the right technology partners can also generate new ideas. With a partnership you can leverage your downtown’s built environment to test whether a given solution is right for you. Meanwhile the partner is happy to fund implementation to learn how their technology performs in the real-world.

Responsive
Technology integration must be responsive to actual challenges experienced by people in your city. Solutions should solve real-world problems and incorporate research and citizen engagement. Thinking through the journey of the people who will access technology in regards to your city is imperative to effectively planning for a digital future.
 

What does it look like?

1) Location-based technology can deliver hyperlocal information about where a person is at the moment — events, a business, a new park, or even emergency services info.  Pairing location with time of day could drive even more contextual information (“What’s happening right now”). Meanwhile, beacons, tiny bluetooth-enabled devices, link to an app to push relevant notifications when a person passes within a given range of that beacon. Users must opt-in to trigger the device. Beacons could be used:

  • for interactive guided tours of a neighborhood or city
  • to engage people in a discussion while they are in a particular place
  • to push deal information from business association members

2) Integrate smart technology into infrastructural elements of your city to make them responsive and able to be communicated with it. For example:

  • Public digital displays that feature citizen-generated Instagram photos
  • Send a text to a building that is outfitted with a specific sensor, which then sends back that sensors information
     

What’s next?

Start exploring and start researching. The goal is not to be trendy but to be impactful; technology offers huge opportunities to cities — we must think deeply about the best way to cultivate new ideas, incubate them, and regrow our cities with a strong digital foundation.
 


About Michael Martin

Michael Martin leads Place-Based Innovation at HD MADE, a digital creative agency based in New York. He is an urban planner by trade, having formerly served as Executive Director of St. Claude Main Street in New Orleans, where he earned Louisiana's Best Main Street Award in 2013. Now he lives in Brooklyn, walking around the boroughs various neighborhoods.

 

 

 

 

Tame Your Data With Metrics and Dashboards

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By Ryan Stanton, Smart Cities Leader, Schneider Electric

From big data to open data, the discussion of digital data is a hot topic for cities right now. And for good reason, digital data promises to improve decision making by understanding the health of our cities while increasing transparency to citizens and stakeholders. While the use of data has long played a critical role in cities, new technology continues to enable previously unimagined sources and uses of data.

In fact, researchers at IDC report that between 2005 and 2020, the world output of digital data will increase by a factor of 300. Connected sensors now exist in all corners of our cities, providing an almost endless stream of information from smart buildings, traffic sensors, parking sensors, and even citizens themselves. And the pace of deploying connected sensors will only continue, yielding an unfathomable increase in data in just the next 5 years. Yet, the use of this additional data in decision-making doesn’t seem to have caught up.

The problem today lies not in the data itself, rather, in how it’s presented and to whom.

The promise of using tech-driven data to understand the health of cities, make better decisions, and increase transparency requires transforming incredibly complex datasets into simple and relevant information for everyone. In essence, digital data needs to be controlled and tamed in order to be helpful.
 

City dashboards and vital signs

This leads us to a topic of discussion at the upcoming CEOs for Cities 2014 National Meeting in Nashville: Metrics and dashboards. This panel discussion will be focused on the use of metrics and dashboards to benchmark and monitor progress in all areas of cities. Distilling data into usable, easy-to-understand, and actionable information requires not only thorough analysis, but a clear understanding of the audience.

For example, Schneider Electric uses digital metrics and dashboards to track our progress toward strategic business goals. Since our industry can change rapidly, it’s vital for us to have real-time data and watch metrics closely. To accomplish this, Schneider partnered with Salesforce to deploy a company-wide digital platform to track and report customer relationships, business opportunities, and sales.

This platform allows us to create customized metrics and dashboards for each audience, including management, operations, sales, and more. This way, each user can track what’s most important to them, dramatically increasing our visibility into the health of the business, while driving better decision-making.

Quite simply, we’ve undergone a transformation through the use of digital data.
 

The right dashboard for the right audience

Cities face similar challenges around the use of data. In the same way our finance department tracks different metrics than project managers, Mayors, department heads, and operational staff each has their own valuable metrics to monitor. Dashboards for each audience should give them relevant and easy to understand information.

The Mayor’s dashboard may feature big picture metrics such as operational costs and progress against the city’s annual goals. Dashboards for operational staff may include countdowns to scheduled maintenance, operating temperatures, and pressures. Meanwhile, the dashboard for citizens may feature the number of taxpayers’ dollars saved or which city building is the greenest.

For the City of Boston, Schneider Electric recently deployed an energy management system that includes a dashboard platform which provides configurable metrics for energy and sustainability data. In this way, the Mayor could see metrics that matter to him, like overall energy costs for the city, while department heads can create dashboards to compare the energy use of individual buildings at specific times.

The growth of digital data should empower decision-making and improve transparency. But without taming data into actionable metrics and information for each audience, the data you have can become a lost opportunity. We hope you’ll join us Nov. 6 in Nashville as we dive deeper into how metrics and dashboards can help you move the needle on city progress.

 

 

 

The CEO As Urban Statesman, Harnessing the Power of CEOs to Make Cities Thrive

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By Sam Williams, Business City Partnerships

Metro cities are the drivers of our nation’s economy and will contain 80% of the population by 2020.  They are complex geographic, social, political and economic regions.  With a multitude of local governments, issues such as infrastructure, healthcare and economic development frequently bog down in political standoffs. 
In The CEO As Urban Statesman, Williams uses case studies including participant interviews and research from five cities to argue that business leaders can and should contribute to their communities by using their business skills to help solve public-policy problems.  Leading cross-sector coalitions, focusing on tipping point critical issues, each city has tapped the leadership of business to compliment, not replace, the role of government.  Backed by professional staff or consultants these coalitions operated in public meetings recruiting leaders from different viewpoints around the table and determining the facts in a case study method.  They then debated a short list of alternatives and focused on most likely solutions driving for consensus and eventual action.  It works and Williams tells how with personal interviews and insight. 


In Atlanta CEOs Pete Correll, Tom Bell and Michael Russell headed a successful biracial cross-sector task force to rescue Atlanta’s safety-net hospital from impending financial collapse.  They gained political approval to convert the hospital from government control to a not-for-profit with a private board and raised $350 million for improvements making it a national success story.  In Oklahoma City, CEO Ray Ackerman and part-time Mayor Ron Norick led a decade long coalition to restore the city’s pride by convincing voters to pay for redeveloping downtown, creating a canal from a dry riverbed that spawned an entertainment district and rowing venue.  In Houston, former astronaut and entrepreneur Mae Jemison headed a multi-jurisdictional task force to create an economic recovery plan from Hurricane Ike and a blue print for future disaster response.  Salt Lake City, after their Olympics, was choking on traffic and business wanted to accelerate a twenty year plan to expand transit and roads.  Banker Scott Anderson and former legislator and then chamber executive Lane Beattie assembled a metro alliance to support a regional transportation plan and led the campaign to approve funding.  Today the Wasatch Valley transit and road improvements are almost complete.  John Turner, a Columbus, Georgia executive worked for fourteen years to create the longest urban whitewater course in the world on the stretch of the Chattahoochee River that runs through downtown by working with two states, two cities, environmental activists, funders  and regulators.  Columbus State University located a campus downtown, loft housing was built, restaurants and entertainment flourished and the city became a magnet for millennials. 


These projects are quite different from one another, but they share common themes.  This book explores each case in detail, extracts their salient characteristics and provides a list of best practices for public and private sector leaders who are interested in improving quality of life and growing jobs in metro cities.  In addition to the book, Williams helped create over 15 such coalitions in metro Atlanta during his tenure as President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and now urban strategy consultant and professor at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.

Tackling Low Wages and Gentrification in a Livable City

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Asheville

By Jay Walljasper

Asheville traveled pretty far down the same path as most American cities in the 1970s and 80s with a dwindling downtown and booming suburbs. All the boarded up buildings gave rise to a proposal to tear down eleven square blocks downtown and construct a state-of-the-art shopping mall. Plans fell through and the mall was build elsewhere, hurting downtown even more in the short run but setting the state for a remarkable revival.

Downtown Asheville today - with its wealth of restored art deco architecture and an almost absence of chain stores - rivals the Blue Ridge Mountains and Biltmore mansion as a tourist draw, says Robin Cape of the Asheville Buncombe Sustainable Community Inititative and former city council member. The historical buildings foster lively streetlife, plentiful small businesses and a flourishing arts scene. An old Woolworth store has been repurposed as Woolworth Walk - a collection of galleries featuring photography, paintings, jewelry and music. You can visit artists' studios in the nearby River Arts District.

The congeniality and energy of this relatively small city (population: 85,000) explains why it lands near the top of many lists of the best places to live. That's why New Belgium (the iconic brand behind Fat Tire Ale) is building a new brewery here and the Moog Music technology company relocated from New York. Asheville also hosts a cluster of businesses in a field that is unfortunately certain to grow in the coming years: climate change. The federal National Climate Data Center - the world's largest depository of weather information - has been here for decades and is now joined by the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center at the University of North Carolina-Asheville and The Collider Center for Climate and Resilience, which Robin Cape describes as a hub for scientists, entrepreneurs and artists working on solutions and adaptions to climate change.

With all that going for it, Asheville might seem to be the rare city that doesn't need a cluster group to work on creative solutions to its problems across many sectors. 

Not so fast, says Vice Mayor Marc Hunt. The average median earnings here are $25,000 and rising real estate prices mean many of the artists who give the city its identity worry about being priced out of town. "Average job growth and capital investment as well as wages are relatively weak here," he says.

"What our CEOs for Cities Cluster is working on is how to leverage our unique, strong assets to grow and attract employers who pay higher wages. This is helping our civic leadership see how we can collaborate really well on this, and involve younger people who have not been at the table yet." 

 

Stay tuned for updates on Asheville's efforts to tackle low wages and gentrification...

 


This blog is an excerpt from our recent report "The Connected City: Stories and Lessons from The Connected City." Check out the full report here. 

The CEO As Urban Statesman, Harnessing the Power of CEOs to Make Cities Thrive

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By Sam Williams, Business City Partnerships

Metro cities are the drivers of our nation’s economy and will contain 80% of the population by 2020.  They are complex geographic, social, political and economic regions.  With a multitude of local governments, issues such as infrastructure, healthcare and economic development frequently bog down in political standoffs. 

In The CEO As Urban Statesman, Williams uses case studies including participant interviews and research from five cities to argue that business leaders can and should contribute to their communities by using their business skills to help solve public-policy problems.  Leading cross-sector coalitions, focusing on tipping point critical issues, each city has tapped the leadership of business to compliment, not replace, the role of government.  Backed by professional staff or consultants these coalitions operated in public meetings recruiting leaders from different viewpoints around the table and determining the facts in a case study method.  They then debated a short list of alternatives and focused on most likely solutions driving for consensus and eventual action.  It works and Williams tells how with personal interviews and insight. 

In Atlanta CEOs Pete Correll, Tom Bell and Michael Russell headed a successful biracial cross-sector task force to rescue Atlanta’s safety-net hospital from impending financial collapse.  They gained political approval to convert the hospital from government control to a not-for-profit with a private board and raised $350 million for improvements making it a national success story.  In Oklahoma City, CEO Ray Ackerman and part-time Mayor Ron Norick led a decade long coalition to restore the city’s pride by convincing voters to pay for redeveloping downtown, creating a canal from a dry riverbed that spawned an entertainment district and rowing venue.  In Houston, former astronaut and entrepreneur Mae Jemison headed a multi-jurisdictional task force to create an economic recovery plan from Hurricane Ike and a blue print for future disaster response.  Salt Lake City, after their Olympics, was choking on traffic and business wanted to accelerate a twenty year plan to expand transit and roads.  Banker Scott Anderson and former legislator and then chamber executive Lane Beattie assembled a metro alliance to support a regional transportation plan and led the campaign to approve funding.  Today the Wasatch Valley transit and road improvements are almost complete.  John Turner, a Columbus, Georgia executive worked for fourteen years to create the longest urban whitewater course in the world on the stretch of the Chattahoochee River that runs through downtown by working with two states, two cities, environmental activists, funders  and regulators.  Columbus State University located a campus downtown, loft housing was built, restaurants and entertainment flourished and the city became a magnet for millennials. 

These projects are quite different from one another, but they share common themes.  This book explores each case in detail, extracts their salient characteristics and provides a list of best practices for public and private sector leaders who are interested in improving quality of life and growing jobs in metro cities.  In addition to the book, Williams helped create over 15 such coalitions in metro Atlanta during his tenure as President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and now urban strategy consultant and professor at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.


Continue the conversation! Join us for a webinar featuring Sam Williams on April 22, 2015 at 2 p.m. EST. Register now. 

Aligning Economic Incentives to Create REAL Smart Growth

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Past and Future Road Signs

By Rick Rybeck, Director, Just Economics

If smart growth is so smart, how come there’s so much dumb growth?  Economic incentives for sprawl are partly to blame.  If we understand the economic incentives for sprawl, the remedies become clear.  Properly applied, these remedies can create jobs, enhance housing affordability and reduce tax burdens.

Today, infrastructure such as transit can be a double-edged sword.  We create it to facilitate development.  Yet, the resulting inflation in land prices near transit stations often drives development (particularly affordable development) to cheaper but more remote sites.  We then extend the infrastructure to these remote sites only to have the process repeat.  Thus infrastructure created to facilitate development ends up chasing it away.  We run after sprawl with more infrastructure, but never catch up.  This process destroys both the countryside and urban budgets as cities end up with much more infrastructure per capita than they would need if development was more compact.

Part of the problem stems from the ability of private landowners to appropriate publicly-created land values.  This is the fuel for land speculation.  Utilizing value-capture techniques can recapture publicly-created land values and return them to the agencies that created them (such as transit authorities).  In this way, infrastructure can become financially self-sustaining.

Additionally, if properly designed and implemented, value capture can actually encourage the development of high-value land.  High-value land, typically adjacent to urban infrastructure such as transit, is where we want development to occur.  The more we can accommodate development at these high-value locations, the more compact development patterns will become.  This will facilitate walking, cycling and transit while preserving rural areas for agriculture, conservation and recreation.

Some jurisdictions have accomplished this by transforming their traditional property tax into a value capture fee.  This is accomplished by reducing the property tax rate on privately-created building values while increasing the tax rate on publicly-created land values. 

The lower tax rate on buildings makes it cheaper to construct, improve and maintain them, reducing rents for residents and businesses.  (The typical property tax on buildings is only 1% or 2%, but has the economic impact of a 10% to 20% sales tax on construction labor and materials.)   The higher tax on land values reduces land speculation and helps keep land prices low.  This reform concentrates development near transit and other urban infrastructure.  It promotes jobs by making it cheaper to improve and maintain existing buildings and by keeping business rents low. Check out Break the Boom and Bust Cycle.

The CEO As Urban Statesman: Harnessing the Power of CEOs to Make Cities Thrive

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By Sam Williams, Business City Partnerships

Metro cities are the drivers of our nation’s economy and will contain 80% of the population by 2020.  They are complex geographic, social, political and economic regions.  With a multitude of local governments, issues such as infrastructure, healthcare and economic development frequently bog down in political standoffs. 

In The CEO As Urban Statesman, Sam Williams uses case studies including participant interviews and research from five cities to argue that business leaders can and should contribute to their communities by using their business skills to help solve public-policy problems.  Leading cross-sector coalitions, focusing on tipping point critical issues, each city has tapped the leadership of business to compliment, not replace, the role of government.  Backed by professional staff or consultants these coalitions operated in public meetings recruiting leaders from different viewpoints around the table and determining the facts in a case study method.  They then debated a short list of alternatives and focused on most likely solutions driving for consensus and eventual action.  It works and Williams tells how with personal interviews and insight. 

In Atlanta, CEOs Pete Correll, Tom Bell and Michael Russell headed a successful biracial cross-sector task force to rescue Atlanta’s safety-net hospital from impending financial collapse.  They gained political approval to convert the hospital from government control to a not-for-profit with a private board and raised $350 million for improvements making it a national success story.  In Oklahoma City, CEO Ray Ackerman and part-time Mayor Ron Norick led a decade long coalition to restore the city’s pride by convincing voters to pay for redeveloping downtown, creating a canal from a dry riverbed that spawned an entertainment district and rowing venue.  In Houston, former astronaut and entrepreneur Mae Jemison headed a multi-jurisdictional task force to create an economic recovery plan from Hurricane Ike and a blue print for future disaster response.  Salt Lake City, after their Olympics, was choking on traffic and business wanted to accelerate a twenty year plan to expand transit and roads.  Banker Scott Anderson and former legislator and then chamber executive Lane Beattie assembled a metro alliance to support a regional transportation plan and led the campaign to approve funding.  Today the Wasatch Valley transit and road improvements are almost complete.  John Turner, a Columbus, Georgia executive worked for fourteen years to create the longest urban whitewater course in the world on the stretch of the Chattahoochee River that runs through downtown by working with two states, two cities, environmental activists, funders  and regulators.  Columbus State University located a campus downtown, loft housing was built, restaurants and entertainment flourished and the city became a magnet for millennials. 

These projects are quite different from one another, but they share common themes.  This book explores each case in detail, extracts their salient characteristics and provides a list of best practices for public and private sector leaders who are interested in improving quality of life and growing jobs in metro cities.  In addition to the book, Williams helped create over 15 such coalitions in metro Atlanta during his tenure as President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and now urban strategy consultant and professor at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.


Continue the conversation! Join us for a webinar featuring Sam Williams on April 22, 2015 at 2 p.m. EST. Register now. 

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Aligning Economic Incentives to Create REAL Smart Growth

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Past and Future Road Signs

By Rick Rybeck, Director, Just Economics

If smart growth is so smart, how come there’s so much dumb growth?  

Economic incentives for sprawl are partly to blame. If we understand the economic incentives for sprawl, the remedies become clear. Properly applied, these remedies can create jobs, enhance housing affordability and reduce tax burdens.

Part of the problem stems from the ability of private landowners to appropriate publicly-created land values.  This is the fuel for land speculation.  Utilizing value-capture techniques can recapture publicly-created land values and return them to the agencies that created them (such as transit authorities).  In this way, infrastructure can become financially self-sustaining.

Today

Our infrastructure such as transit can be a double-edged sword. We create it to facilitate development. Yet, the resulting inflation in land prices near transit stations often drives development (particularly affordable development) to cheaper but more remote sites. We then extend the infrastructure to these remote sites only to have the process repeat. Thus infrastructure created to facilitate development ends up chasing it away. We run after sprawl with more infrastructure, but never catch up. This process destroys both the countryside and urban budgets as cities end up with much more infrastructure per capita than they would need if development was more compact.

Part of the problem stems from the ability of private landowners to appropriate publicly-created land values. This is the fuel for land speculation. Utilizing value-capture techniques can recapture publicly-created land values and return them to the agencies that created them (such as transit authorities). In this way, infrastructure can become financially self-sustaining.

Additionally

If properly designed and implemented, value capture can actually encourage the development of high-value land. High-value land, typically adjacent to urban infrastructure such as transit, is where we want development to occur. The more we can accommodate development at these high-value locations, the more compact development patterns will become. This will facilitate walking, cycling and transit while preserving rural areas for agriculture, conservation and recreation.
Some jurisdictions have accomplished this by transforming their traditional property tax into a value capture fee. This is accomplished by reducing the property tax rate on privately-created building values while increasing the tax rate on publicly-created land values.

The lower tax rate on buildings makes it cheaper to construct, improve and maintain them, reducing rents for residents and businesses. (The typical property tax on buildings is only 1% or 2% of value. But, because it is collected each and every year that an improvement adds value to a property, it can have the economic impact of a 10% to 20% sales tax on construction labor and materials). The higher tax on land values reduces land speculation and helps keep land prices low. This reform concentrates development near transit and other urban infrastructure. It promotes jobs by making it cheaper to improve and maintain existing buildings and by keeping business rents low.

In Pennsylvania

Between 15 and 20 communities have implemented this approach to property taxation. Pittsburgh and Harrisburg are the largest cities to do so. You can learn more about this concept and the experience of these Pennsylvania cities by checking out an article, Break the Boom and Bust Cycle.

Learn More

Contact Just Economics LLC. It has worked with others to develop model state authorizing legislation and model municipal legilsation to implement this reform.