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Historic Preservation and the Identity of a City


Photo from flick user JasonParis

Each and every city is unique.  The distinctiveness of a city lends to the idea that each city has its own separate identity. The identity of a city largely depends on the identity of its citizens, and vice versa.  In a way, we are our cities.  We come to love cities mainly because of how we identify with them and when someone truly identifies with a city, they will often choose to live in that city for life.  This is why it's important for a city to find and embrace its own unique identity.  There are many factors that help shape a city’s identity, but one of the most important factors is the city’s history. 

Urban history is shaped by location and trade.  For example, Chicago’s history was shaped by the many railroads and canals that brought various industries and cultures to the region; San Francisco’s history was shaped by the industries and cultures brought by the gold rush and Navy bases.  Both of these cities were affected by devastating disasters (a fire and an earthquake, respectively), which led to dramatic changes in their urban framework. These two examples, like other cities, are truly embodiments of the historical events of the past. 

A city’s architecture is perhaps the most concrete representation of its history.  Architecture is much more than just the physical design of buildings; instead architecture can, in many ways, be viewed as a reflection of the cultural movements of the past.  Every city has its own unique story to tell, and those stories are told not only through its citizens, but through its buildings.  Preservation of historic architecture is imperative to preserving the unique identities of our cities.  A concept that went out of fashion in the 1960s and 1970s, historic preservation is making a comeback as cities embrace their identities. 

From the Spanish colonial architecture of California and the Southwest to the English colonial style of the Northeast, architecture acts as a physical representation of a city’s history.  Detroit’s many factories and warehouses speak for its industrial heritage, while New Orleans’ elaborate iron balconies speak for its French colonial past. Walking through a historic city like Boston, one witnesses the city’s history manifested in its winding streets and dense brick buildings.  Boston embraces its revolutionary past and is thus able to maintain a strong and unique identity that stands apart from many other urban centers.  Without historic preservation efforts, many cities like Boston and New Orleans would have lost touch with their history.

Photo from flick user KatjusaC

However, as cities modernize they find that they must change their identities to remain relevant.  This raises the important question: how can cities respect the past while also forging new identities?  Many cities are finding ways to build their future on the past by utilizing its history and landmarks as a core for attracting tourism and social activities.  For example, Cleveland and other Ohio cities have invested millions into preserving the old Ohio & Erie Canal and transforming its towpath into a biking and hiking destination.  The canal, which once brought commerce and prosperity to Cleveland, is now a modern tourist attraction.

Cities can also enhance their landmarks with the use of public lighting.  Innovative lighting helps to modernize a space, while embracing its historical significance.  From the Eiffel Tower to the Statue of Liberty, lighting frames historical landmarks which contribute to their branding and, ultimately, their identities.  Historic preservation means that cities can maintain their historic identities, but it does not mean that cities cannot expand upon their identities in a modern, globalized world.


Ethan Lawson is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow.  Ethan is a senior at Baldwin Wallace University, majoring in political science and history with a minor in urban studies.  He has also spent time studying at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, while also volunteering for the SHAWCO program, which provides education for low-income children in the greater Cape Town area.  He plans on pursuing a graduate degree in Urban & Regional Planning after graduating in 2014.

Re-Imagining America through the Lens of Municipal Innovation


Photo from CNNMoney

The Post-Industrial-Knowledge-Service Economy

Rising out of the depths of the Great Recession, we are living in turbulent and fiscally uncertain times.  We’re trapped between employment and financial uncertainties, and an ever-widening knowledge and skills gap.  We are feeling the reverberation of the push for a post-industrial, service-industry economy that has resulted in low-skill, low-pay jobs; at the same time, technological advancements have given way to a “knowledge-based economy” characterized by greater flexibility, innovation and knowledge production, and a shift away from labor toward social capital and the exchange of ideas. 

In spite of this perplexing narrative, one piece of the story has remained consistent: skepticism of the usefulness and effectiveness of government is on the rise.  The public is not happy with the public sector.  But Americans are rethinking what is no longer working; many have figured out that the directional nature of change does not have to be the traditional top-down flow from Washington to states to localities. 

Municipal Innovation: The Bottom-Up Solution

It is true that the challenges cities face cover a wide variety of issues.  Tack on budget deficits, looming bankruptcies, and the temptation to contract out government services, and it is clear that community improvement is not an easy task.  Yet city governments across the country realize that they cannot afford to sit idly, waiting for Washington to make change.

Instead, through municipal innovation city governments have taken a cross-sector, cross-generational approach to tackle some of the most serious issues in their communities.  Innovative government leaders have established collaborative infrastructures to more effectively connect the human, social, and physical capital of their communities.  These leaders work to facilitate and foster greater efficiency and transparency within government and throughout public service careers in order to better provide public services.

Municipal innovation has opened the doors to greater collaboration between government agencies, community-based organizations, the private sector, and citizens.  Cities are learning to do more with less, and improve upon the assets of their communities.  As a result, cities have become the drivers and incubators of social change and better governance.  And by sharing their innovative ideas and success stories, cities are paving the way for greater change across America everyday.   

The Marriage of Technology and Civic Engagement

Municipal innovation is unique because it utilizes technology and intensifies public engagement in the decision-making process.  Through technological advancements, city governments can easily measure performance as well as identify and preempt internal problems.  The use of data analytics has changed government personnel and administrative procedures, in turn improving the effectiveness and transparency of government.

Cities have also incorporated the use of technology in the provision of services.  Social media and online forums have transformed the traditional “town hall” meetings.  City agencies can hear directly from the community, quickly identify problems, and use the information to create immediate solutions.  With digital interactive platforms, city agencies can easily upload plans and proposed solutions that are accessible to community members, who in turn can provide their comments and suggestions. 

The instantaneous movement and exchange of ideas central to municipal innovation embodies the flexibility of the knowledge economy.  Constant creation and reinvention facilitates a new awareness of where money is being channeled in a community, which has subsequent implications for resource allocation and problem-solving.  The use of technology to fuel innovation also empowers whole communities by bringing life to voices of those previously unheard from. 

Re-Imagining America through the Lens of Innovation

Through the innovative use of 21stcentury technological advancements, cities are helping propel the country out of uncertainty, away from the inadequacies of the envisioned post-industrial economy, and toward a more sustainable future fully utilizing the resources of the knowledge economy.  Municipal innovation showcases an intrinsic strength of cities: they are big enough to make a difference, but small enough to make things happen quickly and effectively. Innovative cities, the emergence of a new, creative class of thinkers, and an active and engaged public sets a strong foundation to a bottom-up solution that unites all levels of a community.  Strong and successful cities have become essential to a strong America, but re-imaging America through the lens of innovation makes for longstanding change.   Cities will come to embody the change you wish to see, because change will be your vision of a better future. 


Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

Youngstown: A Shrinking City with Big Ideas


Photo from Model D Media

“Here in Youngstown. Here in Youngstown. My sweet Jenny I’m sinking down. Here darlin’ in Youngstown.” Bruce Springsteen’s folk ballad Youngstown describes the rise and fall of the rust belt city that sits on the Mahoning River, from the discovery of iron ore in the early 19th century to the decline of the steel industry in the 1970s. Typical of his heartland rock style, Springsteen laments about fall of the working class and the destruction of the American dream.

Springsteen’s tale is one that Youngstowners are all-too familiar with. Since the decline of the steel industry, the city’s population dropped from 140,000 in 1970 to a meager 65,000 in 2012. As a result of the sudden economic downturn, crime and poverty rose dramatically. During this period of severe decline, Youngstown gained some unflattering nicknames, like “Murdertown, USA” and “the armpit of Ohio.” In many ways, it appeared that The Boss may have been right: the city was “sinking down.”

But despite its deteriorating reputation, Youngstown has refused to give up. The rapidly shrinking population forced the Youngstown municipal government to innovate. Such severe problems require unique solutions; in 2005, the city partnered with Youngstown State University to create its “Youngstown 2010” plan, which called for a safer, cleaner, and smaller Youngstown. The main component of Youngstown 2010 is simple: downsizing the city’s infrastructure to match its declining population. Youngstown has decided to fully embrace the model of the shrinking city, and so far, the results have been positive.

Dilapidated houses are being torn down left and right to make room for green space and urban gardens, as abandoned buildings promote more crime. Youngstown has accepted that its population will continue to shrink, and the Youngstown 2010 plan is setting out to fight the negative symptoms that are associated with this dramatic population drop. The plan offers a clear and comprehensive vision of the future land-use within the city of Youngstown.

Land use is very important for the redevelopment of a shrinking city, but it is not the only component of the Youngstown 2010 plan. The plan also calls for diversifying the economy, which used to be almost entirely based on manufacturing. Tax incentive programs have helped attract and preserve investment throughout the city. In the years since the plan was proposed, many major new investments have been made in Youngstown, with numerous successful new businesses being built from the Youngstown Business Incubator.

From technology to manufacturing, Youngstown is showing signs of a rebound. Turning Technologies, a homegrown tech company that makes audience response systems, continues to expand rapidly in its offices next to the Youngstown Business Incubator. In 2007, it was named America’s fastest growing private technology company by Inc. Magazine. Even the steel industry is rebounding in the Mahoning Valley. Vallourec Star, an international steel company based in France, invested over $1 billion in Youngstown where it has built a state-of-the-art steel pipe mill.

Even while Youngstown’s population continues to shrink, its investments are growing. Downtown has been transformed from a ghost town to a vibrant location for restaurants, bars, and other businesses. Students at Youngstown State University can now walk downtown and see a show at the Rust Belt Theater Company, hang out with friends at the Lemon Grove Cafe, and enjoy a beer from the Rust Belt Brewing Company at any of the new bars downtown. The interest in downtown has even led to the conversion of office space into apartments. For the first time in years, downtown is feeling like a true neighborhood.

Youngstown still has a lot of work to do in order to truly recover from its economic downturn, but the Youngstown 2010 plan has helped the city take some major steps toward recovery. Despite its problems, the future is looking bright for this small rust belt city. In 2009, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Youngstown as one of the 10 best cities in which to start a business, and in 2012 Forbes Magazine ranked Youngstown one of the 10 best cities to raise a family in. Most recently, during his State of the Union Address, President Obama mentioned Youngstown’s potential future as the epicenter of the coming 3D-printing revolution. With news like that, maybe it’s about time for Bruce Springsteen to write a new song about Youngstown.


Ethan Lawson is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Ethan is a senior at Baldwin Wallace University, majoring in political science and history with a minor in urban studies.  He has also spent time studying at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, while also volunteering for the SHAWCO program, which provides education for low-income children in the greater Cape Town area.  He plans on pursuing a graduate degree in Urban & Regional Planning after graduating in 2014.

Terroir and the Distinct City


Photo from flickr user Steven Depolo

Craft beer has recently boomed in popularity across the United States with unique ingredients taking main stage. Often a brewery utilizes local ingredients and easily recognizable regional favorites for flavoring. Terroir, a term generally reserved for wines and cheese in the past, refers to the idea of tasting the flavors of a locality, and is becoming a main focus in the craft brewery world.

But what is the ‘taste of place’?  What about a specific beer sets it apart from other craft breweries? Many of the descriptions of beer are reminiscent of perfume, with elements such as smoke, imported chocolate, roasted coffee, flaked oats, and fresh raspberries.  Clichés of the brewery locale often also play into the ingredients used. Exotic elements from oysters to Rocky Mountain oysters -- as well as tamer ingredients such as bananas, sorghum, and millet -- are just a few examples of the array of ingredients used in the beers popularized by craft breweries. Cave aging in oak barrels or slowly fermented in painstaking steps distinguish craft beer from its mass-produced alternatives; the emphasis on process and uniqueness of ingredients prepares the taster for a truly local experience. To explore a city’s beer scene, just as you may explore the food scene, provides insight into what makes any city a distinct city.

In a recently released list of top cities to visit for beer-lovers, Grand Rapids was listed third, highlighting the nationally recognized Founder’s Brewing Company.  Founder’s produces year round staples like their Dirty Bastard and seasonal specialty favorites like their Breakfast Stout and their Curmudgeon Old Ale, which are sure to please the weariest traveler. Beer lovers can tour the brewery, enjoy samples, and relax in the taproom with some delicious specialty dishes paired with the brew house’s signature beers.

Grand Rapids is at the forefront of cities whose craft brew niche is growing in popularity among visitors and locals alike. Spend some time drinking like a local and visit us for our national conference in Grand Rapids September 29 – October 1 and check out some other local favorite breweries while you are there: Schmohz Brewing Co., Grand Rapids Brewing Co.,and Brewery Vivant .


Valerie Lightner is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Valerie is a Junior at Kenyon College in central Ohio, majoring in Anthropology with a minor in History and a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies. She was raised on the east side of Cleveland and is, of course, very passionate about her Cleveland teams. She also loves blues music, animals, and city exploration adventures. This upcoming school year she is excited to embark on her first international adventure, studying abroad in Denmark and England. Valerie hopes to continue her work in non-profits after graduation, potentially moving in the direction of social activism in urban centers.

Anchoring Success in the Urban Core


Photo from flickr user JohnE777

The way that a city is made has drastically changed in recent decades.  The post-World War II narrative of rapid suburbanization on the rural frontier fueled by amplified housing demand and a subsequent mass exodus of city cores is all too familiar.  With the exodus of people came the disappearance of job-providing institutions, such as corporate headquarters and manufacturing firms.  As the story goes, long periods of inactivity and disinvestment in city cores led to the demise of the traditional American downtown, once a hub for economic activity.

An Alternate Ending: Anchor Institutions

A 2010 report from CEOs for Cities provides an alternate ending to this narrative: city leaders and developers have started to pay greater attention to the types of institutions that wield significant influence as employers, purchasers of goods and services, and sources of creativity and innovation.  These influential “anchor institutions,” a label developed in 2002 by Harvard Professor Michael Porter, have the power to transform a region.

Anchor institutions differ from traditional institutions because they are essentially “anchored,” they never move and are highly motivated to invest in place.  They include some of the fastest growing organizations with major real estate holdings concentrated in the urban core: colleges and universities, hospitals, art centers, public utilities, and even professional sports franchises.  With the decline in investments from government and businesses alike, anchor institutions have become desirable sources for leadership and development in city cores.  The following examples have built vibrant neighborhoods around these valuable anchors.

Syracuse, New York
Under the leadership of Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Syracuse University has undertaken two mega-projects that are reshaping the city: the Near West Side Initiative and the Connective Corridor.  University engagement is central to these efforts, and urban landscaping, outdoor, art, bike paths, and free shuttle bus service have helped to reshape these neighborhoods and rejuvenate the city.

Newark, New Jersey
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, which opened in 1997, was a successful attempt to help revitalize the city with a showcase facility that would be “in Newark and of Newark;” its employees, contractors, visitors, and programming would reflect the city’s diversity.  The New Jersey Performing Arts Center is the sixth largest performing arts center in the country and has transformed the city into a cultural, artistic, and educational center.   

Grand Rapids, Michigan
The Medical Mile is located near the Grand River, in the Hillside District of Downtown Grand Rapids.  With the establishment in 1996 of the Van Andel Institute for biomedical research, Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile was born.  The “mile” has rapidly expanded to nearly five times its original size, helping to give life to a robust life sciences industry in Grand Rapids.

These “anchor institutions” have spawned educational  facilities, as well as museums, restaurants, hotels and shopping centers. This map details the high volume of institutions within and around the Medical Mile.  Some recent additions include Grand Valley State University’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Grand Rapids Community College Calkins Science Center, and Spectrum Health System.

Not only has Downtown Grand Rapids become a hub for biomedical research, but the Medical Mile has transformed the region into a destination with a dynamic and integrated network of human capital.  CEOs for Cities’ 2013 National Meeting, The Art of the Collaborative City will be held right in the heart of this flourishing downtown area fueled by the Medical Mile.

Check out our exciting events and speakers, including a panel discussion of Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile. Register here to join us September 29-October 1.


Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities: Preparing for an Urbanized World


Photo from The International Society for Presence Research

Corporations are finding themselves in an increasingly globalized and urbanized world. As the world's population continues to migrate to urban centers, these corporations realize they have to adjust to meet this shift. Cisco created its “Smart+Connected Communities” initiative to address the challenges associated with the global urban shift. These challenges include overcrowding, pollution, budget and resource constraints, inadequate infrastructures, and the need for continuing growth.

Anil Menon became the president of Cisco's Smart+Connected Communities (S+CC) in March 2009. Since then, he has consistently worked to bring together people, services, community assets, and information using intelligent networking capabilities. By bringing community leaders together, it is easier to address the challenges and create a more sustainable environment. Anil leads a cross-Cisco team focused on services-led solutions in safety and security, energy, real estate, and transportation.

Cisco’s S+CC initiative focuses heavily on using technology to revitalize cities, develop smart cities, and deliver next-generation services. New tools have the potential to help city governments address the long list of challenges that they are facing. Anil Menon and Cisco believe that technology can be extremely effective in bringing positive change to city government both internationally and domestically. There are powerful new connectivity technologies and software that better support co-production, collaborative consumption, and participation in municipal governments. As the world continues to urbanize, the need for smart technologies in city governments is rising. In this regard, Cisco’s investments are proving to pay off.

S+CC has collaborated with numerous cities and regions to use technology to help solve challenges in urban areas. In 2010, Cisco and the City of Holyoke (MA) partnered up to create an Internet-based, connected community model to help revitalize the local economy. In 2009, Cisco partnered with the City of San Francisco to promote similar initiatives, with a particular focus on the environment. On Earth Day 2009, Cisco and the City of San Francisco launched the Urban EcoMap, representing a first step toward the vision of a sustainable San Francisco.

In addition to these examples, Cisco has worked with many other cities across the country and the world to bring advanced collaborative technologies to city governments. For the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and this trend shows no sign of reversing. The people at Cisco realize that cities are the primary location for the main challenges of the 21st Century. But they also realize that many of these challenges can be addressed through new technologies that will help city governments collaborate with their citizens and create a sustainable model for growth. To invest in cities is to invest in the future.

S+CC President Anil Menon will be a featured speaker at CEOs for Cities’ 2013 Fall National Meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Register now to join the conversation about The Art of the Collaborative City.


Ethan Lawson is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Ethan is a senior at Baldwin Wallace University, majoring in political science and history with a minor in urban studies.  He has also spent time studying at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, while also volunteering for the SHAWCO program, which provides education for low-income children in the greater Cape Town area.  He plans on pursuing a graduate degree in Urban & Regional Planning after graduating in 2014.

Community Spirit Matters


Community spirit matters. It brings us together to accomplish big goals and overcome serious challenges. What is amazing is that community spirit is often grounded in the smallest actions. Actions like talking with neighbors, eating with family and friends, exchanging favors, and other random acts of kindness. These acts create the social connections necessary to solving big problems and maintaining a healthy democracy. 

The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) is an organization dedicated to growing America’s community spirit. For 69 years, NCoC’s Annual Conference has been a must attend event for community builders searching for new ways to engage their neighbors and create positive change. Given the current social and political polarization, the need for this Conference couldn’t be greater.

Leaders from the nonprofit, private, open data, and technology sectors will converge at the Conference to share best practices and uncover innovate civic engagement strategies. There will be high-quality Learning Summits, panels, and networking receptions – all chances to bolster our own community spirit and take on the issues facing our field.

We hope to see you on Sept. 19-20 at the 2013 National Conference on Citizenship.

"Friends and Family" Discount: NCoC has discounted registration for members and subscribers of CEOs for Cities on August 22 - 23. Click here to register today for only $99.

The Transformation of Space into Place


Photo from The Atlantic Cities

The transformation of spaces into creative and vibrant places is a current trend in the 21st century. The Internet is full of success stories detailing how cities, in their quest to find distinctiveness, have rediscovered assets of built and physical environments. With these strong and conscious efforts, significant improvements to the livability of whole communities follow. Common to these success stories is placemaking.

In the process of making place it becomes increasingly important to understand how people fit into civic design. And to understand how, it is important to realize the tendency for a built environment to turn its back on people. In order to transform space into place, the connection between people and their built environments must be re-established.

Making Places worth Caring About

In his 2004 TED talk “The ghastly tragedy of the suburbs,” James Howard Kunstler hints at the making of place as creating a sense of place, as having the ability to create meaningful places. These are places of both quality and character. From his narrative, it is clear that buildings play a large role in the making of place as space is most definitively defined by built structures and environments.

A major component of Kunstler’s talk is the relationship between the public realm and a citizen’s ability to perform civic duties. According to Kunstler, this ability derives from a body of culture- a culture of good civic design. Good civic design requires extensive skills and methods; unfortunately, skillful civic design was disregarded following World War II, resulting in a “catastrophe of human environments.” 

As a nation we gradually lost the ability to define place and space after World War II. If we don’t know where we come from or what type of people we are, it is difficult to navigate our future. To be in a “hopeful present,” we need to regain the ability to define place and space. This is a difficult task, however. Thousands of places in the U.S. are places not worth caring about. Kunstler proposes creating permeable spaces in built environments- destination spots full of shops, bars, and bistros- where things constantly move in and out of the space, creating a vibrant place worth investing in and visiting.

Re-Opening Our Eyes     

In This Land: Visual Pollution (2007), President of Scenic America Kevin Fry narrates a NYT slide show on the miserable suburban landscape found in so much of America. Amidst pictures of dejected spaces, Fry describes America as a “nation going insane” with no sense of who we are or where we are from. Our built environments have been built as places for cars. We live between isolated, concrete environments that are only accessible by car.

With this isolation, serendipity and connection to place is lost. Your chance of interaction with people is diminished, and your connection to these built environments is mostly situational and involuntary. Why care about a place if you don’t feel connected to it?  Fry suggests, by re-opening our eyes and seeing the need for increased interaction not only between people and buildings, but also between people and people, we can generate a reversal of these built environments.

Creating Destinations and Experience Centers

Cleveland, Ohio

East Fourth Street in Cleveland, Ohio is a vibrant pedestrian-only street located moments away from Downtown Cleveland’s historic theater district and the Gateway Sports Complex, home to the Indians and Cavaliers. The street is lined with eateries, entertainment venues, and retail and housing complexes. As recently as 2000, this street was solely known for seedy behavior and criminal activity. Collaboration between the government, businesses, and developers paired with the vision of attracting and retaining young professionals to Downtown Cleveland turned East Fourth into one of the most vibrant urban environments in the city.

Los Angeles, California

The Grove sits adjacent to the original Farmer’s Market, a historic landmark established in 1934 on the corner of Fairfax and 3rd. Primarily an outdoor marketplace with retail and entertainment venues, The Grove was designed to emulate historic districts in Los Angeles with plazas and courtyards. A streetcar takes visitors from the historic Farmer’s Market through the heart of The Grove. Since its opening in 2002, The Grove has become a prime destination spot for tourists and Los Angeles natives alike.

Chicago, Illinois

In Millennium Park sits a 66 feet long and 33 feet high bean-like structure formally called Cloud Gate, and unofficially referred to as “The Bean.”  The Bean is comprised of stainless steel plates, creating a vast mirrored surface. This giant structure reflects the city skyline, allowing visitors to photograph themselves with the Chicago skyline behind them.

These three spaces provide examples of permeable spaces. By reversing the built environment from a space built for cars to a space built for people, these spaces became interactive places worth caring about. All three examples are propelled by interaction between people and buildings, and between people and people. Connection is thereby re-established and choice is reintroduced into civic design.

Meet Me in St. Louis…In 2015

St. Louis is one city to keep your eye on in the next few years with its CityArchRiver 2015 plan to reconnect the iconic Gateway Arch to Downtown St. Louis- a disconnection that is nearly fifty years old. The construction of Interstate 70 closely followed the completion of the Gateway Arch in 1964. While the intention of the highway was to facilitate greater movement into the region’s center, the highway was responsible for disrupting the city’s street grid and consequently isolated the national monument. As this project takes off, cities across the country will be looking to St. Louis as an example of how to approach reducing the impact of interstates in urban areas.

A major component of CityArchRiver 2015 is to build a “Park Over the Highway,” which will connect the downtown area with the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River waterfront. Visitors will be able to walk from the Old Courthouse parallel to the Gateway Arch, directly to the Arch grounds, and to the riverfront on one continuous greenway. As a result of additional park acreage, there will be ample space for events, museums, bicycle paths, playgrounds, performance and entertainment venues, and a reinvigorated riverfront.

St. Louis is not only attempting to reconnect the Gateway Arch to downtown, but also attempting to reverse the built environment from one suited for cars to one suited for people. And with this reversal, space and place will be re-defined because connection and interaction between people and the built environment will be re-established. The Arch will once again become something to celebrate, something worth caring about, and at the same time St. Louis will find rediscover its distinctiveness.

See the proposed transformation with the CityArchRiver 2015 Slider Gallery


Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

Meeting Interview: Jay Byers - CEO, Greater Des Moines Partnership


At our National Meeting next month, Jay Byers - CEO for the Greater Des Moines Partnership - will participate in the City Success Stories Lightening Round. He will share how the Partnership serves more than 4,700 businesses and 20 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce in Central Iowa. He recently took some time to answer a few questions that will help us get to know him before next month's meeting.

Tell us a little bit about your work.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization serving Central Iowa.  Together with 20 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce and 4,700 business members which employ a workforce of more than 150,000,the Partnership works to grow opportunity, create jobs, and promote the best place to build a business, a career and a future.

How has intentional collaboration with cross-sector leaders aided your work?

Capital Crossroads, our current ongoing regional vision plan, has engaged a diverse group of 50 individuals from across Central Iowa to serve on the Steering Committee.  The Committee invited public input on ways to improve the Central Iowa region, covering a 50-mile radius from the State Capitol.  More than 5,000 local voices contributed to the process via one-on-one interviews, focus groups and online surveys.  Research was conducted to assess the area’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges. The Steering Committee then evaluated and prioritized ideas and developed eleven areas of focus.  Eleven capital plans were developed to elevate our region. Each of the eleven plans impacts growth in its area of focus and on an integrated basis.  To date, more than 400 citizens are serving in various capacities to move the plan forward.

What projects are you currently working on that are aimed at improving cities?

Our Capital Crossroads regional vision plan is Central Iowa’s roadmap to the future.  It is broad and ambitious, and includes focus on our region’s sustainability, talent, and leveraging opportunity.  We are into year two of a five-year implementation.  Capital Crossroads’ aggressive implementation strategy has already made a significant regional impact on multiple fronts.  The American Chamber of Commerce Executives selected the Greater Des Moines Partnership for the 2013 Alliance for Regional Stewardship Regional Champion Award for our work on Capital Crossroads.

What urban innovations have you seen or worked on in the last year that you think are game changers?

Technology is changing the game and making so many things more accessible. For us, themes of walkability, access to healthy (and local) foods, increasing educational attainment, and the like, are key.

About Jay Byers

Jay Byers is Chief Executive Officer for the Greater Des Moines Partnership.  The Partnership is the regional economic and community development organization serving more than 4700 businesses and 20 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce in Central Iowa.

Byers currently serves on the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) Board of Directors, Iowa Chamber Alliance Executive Committee, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100.  He also is active with the Professional Developers of Iowa and Iowa Association of Business and Industry.  He recently received the Certified Chamber Executive certification and is a graduate of ACCE’s Ford Foundation Regionalism and Sustainable Development Fellowship.  Byers was named to the ACCE 2009 “40 Under 40 Rising Stars of the Chamber World,” to the Des Moines Business Record’s “Forty Under 40” Class of 2006, and the Business Record’s “Forty Under 40” Alum of the Year in 2012.    Byers serves on the boards of ChildServe, Greater Des Moines Committee, Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, Simpson College Board of Trustees, VSA Iowa, The Homestead, the Alpha Tau Omega National Fraternity, and Drake University’s International Advisory Council.

Prior to his current role, Byers served as the Partnership’s Senior Vice President, Government Relations and Public Policy.  Before joining the Partnership, he worked as District Director for Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell and as a corporate attorney at the Ice Miller Law Firm in Indianapolis, Indiana.  He is a graduate of Simpson College and the University of Iowa, College of Law.  Byers resides in Des Moines, Iowa with his wife Katie, and two daughters, Sophie and Charlotte.

Talent Dividend Webinar Series


CEOs for Cities is pleased to announce a three-part fall webinar series designed specifically to meet the needs of cities participating in the  Talent Dividend Network and Talent Dividend Prize Competition.   This event, spread over the next three months and with generous in-kind support from the presenters will explore how geospatial mapping may be used to better inform metro strategy around college completion using  Columbia, SC, McAllen, TX, and Lakeland, FL as examples, strategies around adult college completion, and a comprehensive review of the 2nd year benchmark reports from Joe Cortright. Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to stay engaged with the TD Network!

Webinars will be held the first Friday of each month and will begin at 12pm EST.    

Participants must register for each webinar separately.

Webinar #1:

October 4, 2013
12:00 pm EST
Presented by Peter Winograd and Amy Ballard, Center for Education Policy at University of New Mexico.

Using Geospatial Mapping To Build City Success:  Creating Support, Setting Priorities, Marking Progress

This webinar will focus on how cities can use data visualization and powerful maps to create a strong platform for advocacy by bringing diverse community groups together; identifying areas of need and gaps in resources; and documenting progress towards key goals in education and economic development.  We will share real-world examples from three of the Talent Dividend cities and provide webinar participants with some ideas for using their own data more effectively to strengthen local initiatives.

Webinar #2: 

November 1, 2013
12:00 pm EST
Presented by Patrick Lane, WICHE

Adult Learners: A Key Piece of the College Completion Puzzle

This webinar will focus on why reengaging adult learners (particularly those with some college credit but no degree) is such an important part of any metropolitan strategy to increase degree attainment. With demographic and workforce projections showing that the traditional education pipeline will not provide sufficient students to meet the future needs of employers, bringing back adults who have started but not finished a postsecondary credential is crucial. In addition to focusing on the need to serve these potential students, the webinar will also share promising strategies to develop collaborative relationships with other stakeholders to increase degree attainment.

Webinar #3:

December 6, 2013
12:00 pm EST
Presented by Joe Cortright, Economist, Impresa, Inc.,

Year 2 Talent Dividend Progress Reports

This webinar will present the year 2 talent dividend progress reports covering the 57 cities participating the the Talent Dividend Prize competition.  The webinar will describe the data and methods used to count the number of degrees awarded in each metropolitan area, and the process for reviewing and approving this data.  The webinar will describe the range of results for participating talent dividend cities.  The year 2 process and methods will serve as the basis for the final determination of the Talent Dividend Prize winner in the fall of 2014. 

Presenter Bios

PETER WINOGRAD currently serves as the Director of the Center for Education Policy (CEPR) at the University of New Mexico. CEPR’s mission is to conduct independent research on a wide range of education issues and to use that research to strengthen the efforts of policy makers, educators and citizens in meeting the challenges facing New Mexico.

Winograd has been deeply involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of New Mexico’s major education reform initiatives including early childhood care and education; statewide longitudinal education data systems; high school redesign and college readiness; and teacher and principal recruitment, preparation, retention, and evaluation. Dr. Winograd directed the Wallace Foundation Educational Leadership Grant from 2004 to 2008 and also directed the New Mexico Title II Teacher Quality Grant from 1999-2003. Since coming to New Mexico in 1996, Dr. Winograd has obtained and directed more than $17 million in grants aimed at improving student success; teacher and principal quality; and using data to inform policy.

Winograd’s previous experience includes serving as the Education Policy Advisor to Governor Richardson for two years and the Director of the New Mexico Office of Education Accountability (OEA) in the Department of Finance and Administration for six years. Dr. Winograd also served as the Director of The Center for Teacher Education & Educational Policy in the College of Education at the University of New Mexico; Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Kentucky; Director for the University of Kentucky Institute for Educational Research; and Co-Director for The University of Kentucky and University of Louisville Joint Center for the Study of Educational Policy.

AMY BALLARD is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Education Policy Research where she focuses on data visualization to support CEPR's wide range of projects in areas including early childhood education, community asset mapping, educational resource allocation and many others.  She is particularly interested in the implications of geographic location as it relates to educational opportunities and outcomes.  Her favorite reading includes software manuals and anything by Edward Tufte.

In addition to her professional pursuits, Ms. Ballard is a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership program at the University of New Mexico, prompted by her leadership experience at Central New Mexico Community College as a Faculty Chair and Chair of the Faculty Chair Council.  She intends to research the use of spatial and other data to enhance understanding of community educational needs in New Mexico.  She has been a GIS practitioner for the last 20 years as an archaeologist, college instructor at Central New Mexico Community College and currently as an education researcher at the University of New Mexico.  The organizations she works with have received 3 Esri Special Achievement in GIS awards in 2010, 2012 and 2013.  She received the 2013 Red Chile Outstanding Service Award from the New Mexico Geographic Information Council.  Amy has been an American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing Certified Mapping Scientist in GIS/LIS since 2005 and also holds an Esri Professional Certification.

PATRICK LANE joined Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) in 2008 as a project coordinator. He is heavily involved in WICHE’s adult degree completion work. He coordinates the Adult College Completion Network and has worked extensively on WICHE’s Non-traditional No More: Policy Solutions for Adult Learners project. Both projects focus on indentifying policy and practice solutions to help adults with prior college credit return to postsecondary education to complete their degrees. He also coordinates WICHE’s College Access Challenge Grant Network—a collaborative learning network of western states working to increase the number of low-income students succeeding in postsecondary education. He came to WICHE having spent several years working in education policy in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, where he served as a special advisor to the secretary of education 2006-2008 and the field director for the WorldTeach program from 2003-2005. He received a master’s degree from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in 2007 and is currently pursuing a PhD in public administration at the University of Colorado Denver. 

JOE CORTRIGHT is President and principal economist for Impresa, a Portland consulting firm specializing in regional economic analysis, innovation and industry clusters. Joe is also a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution,  and senior policy advisor for CEOs for Cities, a national organization of urban leaders. He has served as an advisor to state and local governments, private businesses, foundations and advocacy groups in more than a dozen states, Canada and Europe.

Joe's work casts a light on the role of knowledge-based industries in shaping regional economies. Joe's latest report is City Vitals--a tool for benchmarking urban economic health--published by the national organization CEOs for Cities. Cortright is the author of three publications on industry clusters published by the Brookings Institution: Making Sense of Clusters (2006) -- a review of academic literature on industry agglomeration -- Signs of Life (2002) -- a benchmark analysis of the clustering of the U.S. biotechnology industry and High Tech Specialization (2001). Cortright has also written extensively on the migration of talented young workers among metropolitan areas in a series of studies entitled The Young and Restless for cities around the nation. His work is quoted regularly in the media, in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times to The Economist, Business Week and USA Today.

Smart Cities and the Internet of Everything


The Foundation for Delivering Next-Generation Citizen Services

Recently our friends from Cisco's Smart+Connected Communities Initiative sent us an an IDC-authored Citizen Services White Paper. white paper focuses on challenges faced by Cities, Smart Cities Maturity model, how a city can begin and sustain smart cities journey and finally what are the concrete next steps that cities can take. It includes cases studies from Barcelona, Songdo and Lake Nona – 3 of our 9 iconic S+CC Initiatives. The paper is geared towards heads of state, governors, Mayors, CIOs and Line of Business leaders. We hope you find the white paper as compelling and informative as we do.

Executive Summary

Smart Cities are a dynamic 21st century approach to transforming, improving and revitalizing municipalities.

The vision of Smart Cities is quickly becoming a reality as urban centers around the world look to create communities that become the places where people want to live, learn and play and where businesses seek to invest. Smart Cities like Songdo, Barcelona and Lake Nona, described in this paper, use information technology, network communications including the Internet, and sensors to automate routine processes plus provide rapid and intelligent decision-­‐making for creating dramatic efficiencies and cost savings in existing functions and processes. Smart Cities connect governments much more closely to people. They provide the support infrastructure to deliver new services, and address a wide range of urban challenges – from environmental sustainability to job creation and economic growth.

Municipal leaders, politicians, civic planners and other key stakeholders in information technology organizations that support cities need to understand the value of Smart Cities and how they can play a part in helping urban centers realize this exciting vision. The transformation to Smart Cities is underway and is no longer a question of “if.” It is a matter of “when.”

The transformation to Smart Cities requires an ecosystem that brings both existing and new partners together to unlock the tremendous value that emerges from connecting people, processes, data and things. Smart cities form public private partnerships to manage and finance complex projects that bring together best in class infrastructure and technology architectures in an ICT Master plan. This white paper is intended to provide deeper understanding of the Smart-­‐City vision, offer context of the importance and value it will bring to its stakeholders, and suggest a roadmap for how to create a Smart‐City evolution plan. It has been authored for Cisco Systems, Inc. by global advisory services provider International Data Corporation (IDC), a renowned and leading information and communications technology market research company. The discussion in this white paper includes:

  • Trends driving Smart City growth,
  • The role of the Internet of Everything in building the foundation for Smart City evolution,
  • IDC's maturity model that assesses stages of Smart City development,
  • Key factors that will shape and build the Smart City reality,
  • Case studies of current major urban centers that have embarked on the Smart City journey, and,
  • Key takeaways and recommendations for municipal leaders to help them in their effort to transform urban centers into the Smart Cities of tomorrow

Cities around the world are at a crossroad, seeking to navigate a direction for the future. The Smart City vision offers a path towards building better communities and creating urban centers that work efficiently, effectively and productively. This white paper offers insights, perspectives and essential guidance to those municipal leaders who will play a vital role in leading cities along that journey.

IDC White Paper - Smart Cities and the Internet of Things

The Smartest Cities in America


With 40 million users from 180 countries, Lumosity is the leading online brain training program designed to improve core cognitive abilities such as memory, attention and fluid intelligence. Based on the science of neuroplasticity and personalized for each user, Lumosity training enables users to remember more, think faster, and perform better at work, school, and in everyday life.

This year Lumosity analyzed user data to determine the smartest cities in America. The study involved 3,385,648 people between the ages of 15-85 who had participated in all 5 cognitive training exercises: Speed, Memory, Attention, Flexibility, Problem Solving. The results are grouped into Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSA), which are urban centers combined with adjacent areas that are socioeconomically tied to them through commuting.

Source: CollegeDegreeSearch.net

Call for Presentations: Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities


Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities
An Interdisciplinary Convening Hosted by
The Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University and
The Cleveland Restoration Society

June 5-7, 2014
Cleveland, Ohio

Call for Presentations

The Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University and the Cleveland Restoration Society are convening an interdisciplinary meeting to discuss the role of historic preservation in revitalizing America’s legacy cities, where long-term population loss and economic decline present significant challenges for the future of the urban built environment. These cities have significant cultural heritage and a large stock of historic buildings, yet vacancy and abandonment are very pressing realities and, at times, demolition may be the best course of action.

At this crucial juncture, cities face difficult questions. What is the role that preservation can and should play in shaping the future of legacy cities? How can historic assets be identified and leveraged for planning and revitalization? What benefits and impediments exist in integrating preservation into community and economic development? How should we make decisions about what to save and what to destroy? This convening will be an opportunity to collaborate, share ideas, and devise solutions, with the goals of launching a more integrated approach to planning for the future of legacy cities, bringing preservation into urban policymaking, and crafting a 21st-century preservation profession that is responsive to current needs and conditions.

We invite policymakers, community leaders, practitioners, and scholars from a range of fields, including urban planning and design, community and economic development, urban policy, and historic preservation.  The convening will take place at the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University from Thursday, June 5 through Saturday, June 7, 2014, and will include a mix of speaker sessions, roundtable discussions and local tours.

Proposals are invited on any topic that addresses the role of historic preservation in America’s legacy cities. Potential topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • Case studies of innovative projects, policies, or programs that leverage and/or incorporate historic resources
  • Synergies and tensions between preservation and legacy city planning and development
  • Partnerships between public, private, nonprofit, and/or community actors
  • The role of preservation in community and/or economic development
  • Preservation and rightsizing policies at the local, state, and/or federal levels
  • Decision-making around demolition and targeted reinvestment
  • The role of non-governmental (or quasi-governmental) actors in shaping and revitalizing historic cities and neighborhoods (e.g., community development corporations, land banks)

Proposals can be for individual presentations or entire sessions. The program committee will organize individual proposals into sessions of 3-5 speakers, with presenters having about 15 minutes each. Session proposals should similarly include 3-5 speakers.

Please send all proposals in either Word or PDF format to LegacyCityPreservation@gmail.com. All of the following information must be included:

  • Session title (if a session proposal)
  • Individual presentation title(s)
  • A one-page (about 300 words) description of the proposed presentation or session
  • Name, contact information (address, email, phone), and a brief bio (100 words) for each speaker. For session proposals, all speakers must be confirmed prior to proposal submission.

Deadline for proposal submission: February 1, 2014.

You will be notified if your proposal has been accepted by March 15, 2014.

Presenters are required to register for the convening. Any presenter not registered by May 15, 2014, will be dropped from the program.All presenters are responsible for their own registration fees, travel, lodging, and expenses. Information on registration fees and hotel rates will be available in early 2014.

For more information, visit urban.csuohio.edu/conference/LegacyCityPreservation or find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/LegacyCityPreservation.

Questions may be sent to LegacyCityPreservation@gmail.com or to Dr. Stephanie Ryberg-Webster at: s.ryberg@csuohio.edu.

Convening Cosponsors:

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

American Planning Association, Ohio Chapter

The American Assembly

Baltimore Heritage

Center for Community Progress

CEOs for Cities

Cincinnati Preservation Association

City Beautiful

City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission

Councilman Jeffrey Johnson, City of Cleveland

Cleveland Construction

Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative

Greater Ohio Policy Center

Heritage Ohio

Michigan Historic Preservation Network

National Trust for Historic Preservation

Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation


Preservation Alliance of Greater Akron

Preservation Buffalo Niagara

Preservation Dayton

Preservation Detroit

Preservation Rightsizing Network

Sandvick Architects

Smart Growth America

Urban Land Institute – Cleveland



Engagement Through Arts


Ideas, connections and innovation are the ultimate resources in today’s world. Figuring out how we can facilitate these very things to bolster the cultural and creative capital of a city is critical. At our upcoming National Meeting in Grand Rapids, we will hear firsthand examples of creative solutions that utilize art and artists to engage citizens in creative dialogue:Jim Walker will discuss how Big Car utilizes socially engaged art in Indianapolis, Phil Cooleywill discuss the 30,000 square-foot warehouse, Ponyride, in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, and Kemi Ilesanmi will share how The Laundromat Project offers arts-education in underserved communities.Read more about these fascinating organizations.

Who:Big Car

What: Big Car is a grassroots nonprofit arts organization with a collective of artists, writers, musicians, and active citizens who work together on projects and programs in the Indianapolis community. . . . Their mission is to “bring art to people and people to art” by facilitating artistic ideas, and simultaneously increasing livability and creativity in communities. . . .

How: Through cultural organization and engagement-based arts programming, including performances, games, exhibitions, and events, Big Car brings together people of all backgrounds in local Indiana communities to inspire creativity and activate public spaces. . . . Big Car collaborates with local residents and stakeholders by forming partnerships in order to build social capital and encourage civically engaged communities. . . .

Why you should know about Big Car:Big Car utilizes “social practice art,” or socially engaged art. . . . Social practice art is unique; individuals that may not necessarily define themselves as artists become directly involved in the process of art, building connections and empathy among participants. . . . The organization focuses on people and process rather than products. . . . Their events begin with identifying particular issues and concerns; artists then connect with participants by brainstorming creative approaches and solutions to address the issues and concerns. . . . Their projects engage whole communities in planning and creating community-building projects, bridging the gap between art institutions and residents. They opened the Service Center, a “grassroots hub for art, culture, education, and health,” in the Lafayette Square neighborhood in 2011. . . . Local arts and community groups use the space for performances and activities. . . .

Who: Ponyride

What:Ponyride is a multiple-use space in a 30,000 square-foot warehouse in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit. . . . This space houses around 40 small companies and community projects and serves as a study to see the potential positive impact the foreclosure crisis can have. . . .

How:Ponyride provides cheap space, $0.10-$0.20 per square-foot, for “socially-conscious” artists and entrepreneurs to work and share knowledge, resources and networks. . . . This space remains cheap because of the consistent flow of community support and resources. . . . Tenants have the opportunity and resources to produce, create, and educate community members in creative and innovative ways.

Why you should know about Ponyride:Artists and entrepreneurs that find home in Ponyride serve members of Detroit communities through various activities and workshops. . . . Living in a collaborative space allows for shared resources and knowledge, which helps to build a creative community in spite of Detroit’s struggles. . . . The opportunities Ponyride’s tenants offer are referred to as “education;” Community members can partake in weekly activities including figure drawing, dance workshops, sewing tutorials, yoga, and even a class to learn about the process of cultivating coffee. . . .

Who: The Laundromat Project

What:The Laundromat Project is a community-based, non-profit arts organization in New York City that offers arts-education in underserved communities that would otherwise not have the opportunity due to income, age, or background. . . .

How: The organization is committed to remedying social inequities, raising the quality of life, and fostering vibrant communities and vibrant economies through art and creativity. . . . To do so, the organization brings art workshops and program to the local Laundromat, where the community members already are. . . .

Why you should know about the Laundromat Project: The communities that the Laundromat Project focuses on are communities that do not have access to art and cultural facilities, so the organization’s workshops and programs focus on increasing the accessibility of art and culture for everyone. . . . The Laundromat Project also offers professional development opportunities for artists within these communities, encouraging artists to develop public art in their neighborhoods. . . . One of the Laundromat Project’s public art programs is Works in Progress (WiP),   which brings free, hands-on workshops and programs to local Laundromats and community spaces during summers. . . . In the long-run, the Laundromat Project envisions owning and operating an art center attached to a Laundromat with space for artists to create and foster collaborative public art practices for whole communities. . . .


Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

2013 National Meeting


2013 National Meeting Summary
Grand Rapids, MI | Sept. 29 – Oct. 1, 2013

CEOs for Cities’ 2013 National Meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan gathered over 320 cross-sector civic CEOs and changemakers from over 80 cities to explore the theme, “The Art of the Collaborative City.”  It was the largest National Meeting in CEOs for Cities history, exceeding the record attendance of over 250 in Boston in 2012.

This year’s conference explored the intersection of the private, public, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors and the intersection of art, design, talent, and place to catalyze city success. We used ArtPrize, the internationally acclaimed art competition that Time Magazine listed in its "Five Festive Events You Won't Want to Miss in 2013," as our canvas, to help our business, community, foundation, and government leaders explore the smart practices that are helping American cities grow in investments, talent, and quality of life.

Program Overview

Sunday, September 29

We kicked off the conference on September 29, 2013 with a reception at the Reserve Wine & Food. During the reception, attendees heard remarks from Lee Fisher, President and CEO, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, CEOs for Cities Board Chair, and Kathleen McIntyre, Ford Motor Company Fund.

Monday, September 30

Monday, September 30, began with welcoming remarks from Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and Jerry Tubergen, CEO of RDV Corporation and unveiling of a compelling new video about Grand Rapids.

Bruce Katz

Bruce Katz followed with a keynote presentation on the Metropolitan Revolution. Katz detailed how the country’s 388 metropolitan regions account for 91% of the GDP, with the largest share coming from the top 100 metropolitan areas, and explained that metropolitan areas are leading the country in getting back to the basics of economics as well as leading in transportation, manufacturing, applied sciences, immigration, and innovation. According to Katz, cities and metro regions can start their revolution by establishing networks, setting a vision, and finding their game-changer.

The Medical Mile

Brian Harris, CEO of H&H Metal Source in Grand Rapids, moderated a panel on the nationally acclaimed Grand Rapids Medical Mile, which includes Michigan State University Medical School, the Van Andel Institute, the Spectrum Health System, and a number of other noted health care and higher education institutions. The impressive panel of Grand Rapids CEOs discussed how it was important to bring together competitors and to foster an environment of “co-opetition” (competition + cooperation). The game changer for the medical mile was the unique collaboration of competing organizations.

Tony Hsieh

For our midday keynote, we traveled to the JW Marriott hotel to hear Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, speak at a luncheon held in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Economic Club. Hsieh explained that company culture is Zappos’ number one priority and discussed ways that Zappos is working to integrate their new corporate headquarters – located in the old Las Vegas City Hall building – with the downtown Las Vegas community. Hsieh’s Downtown Project, a $350 million privately funded investment in downtown Las Vegas, focuses on a “Return on Community”, rather than the typical real estate investment goal of Return on Investment. Tony was joined by his colleagues Fred Mossler and Zach Ware, and together they noted that they are forfeiting short-term profits, and are instead focused on Collisions, Community, and Co-Learning. The Downtown Project’s ingredients for success include a density of 100 residents per acre, street-level activity, and culture of creativity, openness, and optimism.

Walking Tours; Governor Snyder; The Role of Art in Public Places

After lunch, we split into separate groups for walking tours of GRid70, Grand Valley State University’s Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy, Haworth | Interphase @ MoDiv, and Start Garden.

To close day one, we gathered at the Grand Rapids Public Museum for a reception, special remarks from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, and a panel on the Role of Art in Public Places. Welcoming the meeting attendees to the state of Michigan, Governor Snyder stated, “You're here at a fascinating moment in our history", before describing the progress Michigan has made since the hit of the national recession and noting the rejuvenating power ArtPrize has had on the Grand Rapids economy and downtown culture.

Following Governor Snyder’s remarks was a panel composed of national leaders in the arts: Michael Kaiser, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Kemi Ilesanmi, Executive Director of New York City’s The Laundromat Project, and Rick DeVos, the Founder of Grand Rapid’s ArtPrize. The panel, moderated by Jim Hackett, CEO of Steelcase Corporation, explored how art can catalyze community engagement, empower individuals, and serve as an important educational tool. The panelists noted that it is in cities’ best interests to incorporate art in public places because communities with prevalent arts cultures are often the most thriving and competitive. 

Tuesday, October 1

On Tuesday, October 1, day two of the conference began with welcoming remarks by Bob Milbourne and Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, CEOs for Cities Board members, and special remarks by Doug DeVos, President of Amway Corporation.

Joe Cortright- the Green Dividend

Joe Cortright unveiled The Green Dividend™, the latest research report from CEOs for Cities. The Green Dividend Report quantifies a net economic impact of $31-billion for the US economy for reducing vehicle miles travelled by only one mile per day. Additionally, Cortright explained how market forces are already encouraging people to drive fewer miles due to increased gas prices and an increased appeal to living in cities.

Anil Menon

Anil Menon, President of Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities, shared a global perspective on cities during his Tuesday morning’s keynote presentation. Menon noted that by 2050 there will be big changes in the world: China will be the largest economy, the U.S. will be down 30%, and many European countries will drop out of the top ten globally. Furthermore, there will be a proliferation of mega-cities (cities with a population greater than 10 million). Menon explained that the U.S. will have to establish new different business models in order to remain competitive and adapt to the changing times. He indicated that we must utilize technology and implement key digital infrastructure changes to the way people work, live, and play. Menon’s concluding message was that that innovation happens when you bring multiple disciplines together and challenge them to solve a problem.

The Lightning Round

Brian Boyle, Issue Media Group, moderated a lightning round panel of presentations highlighting innovative work in seven different American cities. Meg Fitz, Greater Des Moines Partnership, discussed the Capital Crossroads’ plan to make Des Moines the healthiest city/region in the nation by focusing on sustainability and wellness. Phillip Cooley, founder of Ponyride in Detroit, discussed his work in hiring the homeless. Erin Flynn, Portland State University, described Electric Avenue, a public-private partnership in downtown Portland that examined charging patterns and the behavior of electric car drivers. Karen Gahl-Mills, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, described how the arts and culture community of Cleveland is using imagination as a community development tool. Tim Maloney, Haile/US Bank Foundation, and Dan Reynolds, Landor Associates, shared how they are using public art to illuminate community needs in Cincinnati. Chris Muller, M Retail Solutions, shared efforts of bringing the rapids back to Grand Rapids. And Jessica Zenk, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, discussed how they are harnessing the arts to make transportation systems more appealing for pedestrians.

The Power of Place

Brian Payne, CEO of the Indianapolis Foundation and Central Indiana Community Foundation and CEOs for Cities Board member, moderated a panel about the power of place, which focused on how to redesign, rebuild, and revitalize cities. Jessica Goldman Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties, discussed how their developments have used artistic sidewalks to combat under lit streets, foliage to hide parking structures, and public art walls to create a vibrant sense of place, and Dick DeVos, CEO of The Windquest Group, discussed how the Grand Vision nonprofit organization he helped found has worked to attract and retain talent in Grand Rapids.

City Changemaker Awards

Six dynamic city leaders were honored as the first ever group of "City Changemakers." This year's awardees included Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Mark Rosenberg, President of Florida International University, Olga Stella of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and Jim Walker, founder of Big Car. Each individual was nominated based on their innovative leadership in making their cities more vibrant, sustainable, and economically competitive. In a panel discussion moderated by SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, each of the panelists highlighted the positive change occurring in his/her city.

Mayor Michael Nutter

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter gave the meeting’s closing keynote presentation, and spoke eloquently about Philadelphia’s efforts to balance the city budget and provide low-cost access to services through public-private partnerships. Mayor Nutter also discussed his efforts in developing a skilled and talented workforce.

Homeless for the Holidays


Authored by Andre Shashaty

1.17 million school kids have no home, U.S. says.

Most Americans will enjoy Thanksgiving dinner in the comfort of their own home. But for more than 1.17 million children, that won't be possible because they have no home, according to the U.S. Department of Education (DE).

That count is from the 2011-2012 school year, and reflects a 10 percent increase from the 2010‐2011 school year total of 1,065,794. The states with the largest numbers of homeless students were California, New York. Texas, and Florida.

"The DE figures are a shocking reminder of the intense shortage of decent affordable housing in our country, and the consequences it has for our children," said Andre Shashaty, president of Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a national nonprofit education and advocacy group. Shashaty is also the author of the forthcoming book, Death of a Dream: The end of 50 years of progress for cities and the rise of the new American slum.

The actual total number of homeless children is probably closer to 1.7 million, Shashaty said. This is an estimate that is based on adding to DE figures kids who are homeless but not of school age or who are not enrolled in public schools. 

In 2010, the total was at least 1.6 million, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness. That was a 33 percent increase from 2007, when there were 1.2 million homeless children, the center said.

The data shows that homelessness among children has been increasing steadily on a national basis, and has increased dramatically in some states. DE said homelessness among students increased 13 percent from the 2009-2010 school year to the 2010-2011 year.

Forty-three states reported increases in the total number of homeless children and youths enrolled in public and charter schools in the 2011-2012 school year.

Ten states reported increases of 20 percent or more in the number of homeless students that year.  They are Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.

Just a few weeks after the DE data came out; the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development released data that claims there were only 610,042 homeless people in 2013.  In other words, while DE says there were 1.17 million homeless children enrolled in school, a different federal agency says there are only 610,000 homeless people of all ages.

"If you are wondering what gives, you're not alone. The answer is that HUD does not count people as homeless if they are sharing someone else's living quarters or living in a motel that is not paid for by a government agency," Shashaty said.  "Nor does it admit such people to the network of homeless shelters it operates unless they can prove their situation is temporary."

HUD only counts as homeless the people who were living in HUD-funded shelters or in the open and were willing to talk to volunteer survey workers on a single night in January when HUD does a "point-in-time" count.  The fact that it is done in January each year guarantees a low count.

DE works harder to identify as many homeless students as possible because it is required by law to see that every child gets a good education, even those with no stable place to call home. School districts count a student as homeless if he or she is "sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement."

"HUD refers to people who are sharing someone else's home as being 'doubled up,' as if it were a relatively minor inconvenience for them. That is a deception that gives Congress an excuse to ignore housing problems and condemns children to a very hard life," Shashaty said.

"Having a roof over one's head temporarily is not the same as having a home, especially for children.  These arrangements lack any shred of security or stability, making it hard for kids to stay safe, let alone have success in school," Shashaty said.

Doubling up usually involves a poor family living with people who are just as poor but have a lease, creating enormous overcrowding and stress. Shared living quarters and motels often don't offer use of a kitchen or easy access to a bathroom, and privacy is nonexistent.

For more details on homelessness in America and other issues in affordable housing and community sustainability, go to www.p4sc.org. The Partnership for Sustainable Communities is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to educating policymakers and the public about housing and community development problems and solutions, all with the goal of long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability. It depends on donations and membership dues to do its work. Get details at www.p4sc.org. Or call 415-453-2100 x 302.


Andre Shashaty is a writer, editor and publisher known for his expertise on housing, urban policy, sustainable communities, and real estate. He has successfully launched, operated, and sold a publishing business; directed two national nonprofit groups; published hundreds of articles in magazines and newspapers; and been a leading advocate for affordable housing.

Shashaty is president of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a nonprofit education and advocacy group based in San Rafael, CA.

From 1992 to 2008, he edited Affordable Housing Finance magazine, establishing it as the most authoritative journal on housing and community development in the U.S.He was owner and publisher of this and other periodicals and conferences, which he sold in 2006 to Hanley Wood.

Shashaty wrote hundreds of articles and commentaries that established him as a thought leader in the housing and community development field. In 2005, he received an award from the National Association of Home Builders for his work.

In 2008, Shashaty received national media attention and won multiple awards, including a Neal Award from American Business Media, for a series of articles about corruption at the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the G.W. Bush Administration.   

In the 1980s, Shashaty broke a story about influence peddling in the federal Sec. 8 housing subsidy program that was picked up in national print and broadcast media, and which lead to the prosecution of several Reagan-era officials at HUD.

In 2002, Shashaty founded and directed The Campaign for Affordable Housing (TCAH), a nonprofit group organized to promote greater public acceptance of affordable housing.  

Shashaty has written hundreds of articles about housing and community development. His free-lance work has appeared in The New York Times, Better Homes & Gardens, The Washington Post, and many other publications.  

He wrote a book on seniors housing which was published by the Home Builder Press in 1990.

Earlier in his career, Shashaty was editor-in-chief of Commercial Property News and held several senior editorial positions for other periodicals.

The Power of City Dividends


Lee Fisher recently reflected on his travels to cities accross the country as President and CEO of CEOs for Cities in a blog post for Code for America. In his travels, he's learned about the Power of Progress - and the importance to motivate, mobilize, focus, and accelerate action. The progress principle informs what we call our City Dividends, premised on research and experience that show measurable progress, or “moving the needle,” on targeted work can reap huge economic growth dividends for cities, and accelerate movement on important goals. City Dividends focus this idea down to the power of one: showing that the difference in one percentage point, one mile, one measurement (a small step) has the potential to yield a large economic dividend (a big idea)—which helps demonstrate measurable progress.

Change is happening across America from the bottom up. Read more about how cities and metro regions are shaping America's future at Code for America.

A New Name / A New Look


Our newsletter has a new name and a new look that better reflects who we are and what we do. The new name is derived from our signature work known as City Dividends.

City Dividends

Making Small Changes that reap Big Economic Dividends

To achieve city success, it is essential to motivate, mobilize, focus, and accelerate action.We believe the best way to do that is by using the “Power of Progress.” This theory of action is based on what Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile calls the “progress principle”- the single most important motivator and catalyst of positive action is making progress and showing forward momentum in meaningful work. Small but regular “wins” have a cumulative increase, and can trigger much bigger reactions.

The progress principle informs our City Dividends, premised on research and experience that show measurable progress, or “moving the needle,” on targeted work can reap large economic growth dividends for cities, and accelerates movement on important goals. City Dividends focus this idea down to the power of one: showing that the difference in one percentage point, one mile, one measurement (a small step) has the potential to yield a large economic dividend (a big idea)—which helps demonstrate measurable progress.

CEOs for Cities has already developed three City Dividends—the Talent, Green, and Opportunity Dividends. Each dividend reflects one small change that leads to a big difference:

  • The Talent Dividend: A one percentage-point increase in the four-year college attainment rate for the population aged 25 and older in the 51 largest U.S. metropolitan areas is associated with an $856 increase in annual per capita income for the metropolitan area, totaling an increase $143 billion for the entire nation.
  • The Green Dividend: If we can reduce the number of miles traveled per person per day in the 51 largest U.S. metro areas by one mile, the nation would save $31 billion on fuel and the expense of purchasing and maintaining vehicles.
  • The Opportunity Dividend: A one percentage-point reduction in poverty in the nation’s 51 largest metro areas is associated with government savings of $31 billion per year—as each additional person in poverty is associated with $19,000 in anti-poverty expenditures in a metropolitan area.

City Vitals

Benchmarking your City’s Success

You will notice that our newsletter is divided into four sections:

Connected City; Innovative City; Talented City; Your Distinctive City.

Here’s why.

Given the complex, interconnected problems that cities and regions face, it is critical to frame and organize work that puts a focusing lens on the city and region, and helps to see and understand the critical levers for city and regional success. Framing is critically important, because, as Wayne Dyer has noted, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

It is important to benchmark city/regional performance in the four areas most vital to CITY success that spell out the word ‘CITY’: Connections, Innovation, Talent, and Your distinctiveness. These are what we call City Vitals.

Connected City

How does your city connect it physical, human and social capital? Cities thrive as places where people can easily interact and connect. We measure the local connectedness of cities by looking at a diverse array of factors including voting, community involvement, economic integration and transit use. Our measures of external connections include foreign travel, the presence of foreign students and broadband Internet use.

Innovative City

How does your city foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship? The ability to generate new ideas and to turn those ideas into reality is a critical source of competitive advantage not just for businesses but for cities and regions. Invisible and weightless, ideas can’t be measured directly, but the footprints they leave in the economic landscape can be traced by counting numbers of patents, the dollar value of venture capital investments, the extent of personal entrepreneurship and the number of small businesses.

Talented City

How does your city develop, retain, attract, train, and employ its talent? The indispensable asset in aknowledge economy is smart people. Talent, which we measure byeducational attainment, the numberof creative professionals, themigration of well-educated youngadults and the number of foreign born college graduates, reveals theunderlying intellectual capital a regioncan draw on to build its economy andto weather the inevitable shocks ofcompetition and change.

Your Distinctive City

How does your city find its authentic voice? It’s DNA? How does it link and leverage its distinctive assets? The unique characteristics of place may be the only truly defensible source of competitive advantage for regions. In a world of global competition, a strategy of “pretty much the same, maybe cheaper” is a recipe for mediocrity and economic stagnation. Our measures of distinctiveness are inherently incomplete. Every city has its own unique characteristics for which there are few, if any, statistics. We offer some initial measures of distinctiveness drawn from market data about consumer behavior and its variance across U.S. metropolitan

Cities should assess their City Vitals and adopt City Dividends because they can’t afford to drive into the future without collective energy, intense focus, and a well-informed, accelerated path to success.

The future belongs to those cities and regions who can frame their opportunities and challenges, act in ways that demonstrate measurable progress, and connect and engage with the smartest people and the smartest ideas in the most places and in the most ways. In the words of Steve Jobs, the cities and regions that “tear down walls, build bridges, and light fires” will be the ones that change their future and our nation’s future.

Lee Fisher
President and CEO
CEOs for Cities

Repurposing Urban Roadways for More Than Just Cars in the Midwest


Photo from flickr user citymaus

Cities throughout the United States are redesigning their roadways to accommodate multiple means of transportation. One of the major push/pull factors of alternative commuting options is the cost of fuel, coupled with the desire to live as close to work as possible. To make these changes a reality, city governments and transportation authorities have worked to add bicycle lanes, increased public transportation service, and has made sidewalks safer for pedestrians. Focusing on examples in Cleveland and Chicago, this article will focus on enhanced bicycle infrastructure. Both cities have experienced increases in bicycle commuting, and, as such, needed to add adequate bicycle infrastructure to assure a safe ride for cyclists. The repurposing of roadways for multiple means of transportation has come with both praise and harsh criticism from motorists.

Rankings of Bike-Friendliness in Cleveland and Chicago, and Infrastructure Improvements:

According to a 2011 article in Bicycling Magazine, to meet their criteria for the most bicycle friendly city in the United States, cities had to prove that they are accommodating to bicycles. Segregated bike lanes, municipal bike racks, and bike boulevards helped cities to improve their score. Bicycle Magazine ranked 50 major cities based on their bike friendliness.

Chicago has made great strides in increased bicycle infrastructure; it is ranked as the 5th bike-friendly city in the US as of 2012, and it was previously ranked 10th in 2011. Former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley is said to have more enthusiasm for bicycle infrastructure in the United States, according to Bicycle Magazine. When Mayor Rahm Emmanuel became mayor in 2011, he brought with him former transportation director, Gabe Klein, to move Chicago’s bicycle infrastructure development forward. Cleveland ranks significantly lower, and is ranked as the 39th bike-friendly city in the US as of 2011. Bicycle Magazine cites the Towpath Trail, which connects Cleveland to Akron, is a popular trail among cyclists, as an example of how Cleveland has begun to improve bicycle infrastructure. Unfortunately, there was no ranking for Cleveland for the 2012 ranking by Bicycle Magazine.

Chicago has more than 200 miles of bicycle infrastructure within its city limits, including two-way bike paths with their own traffic signal segregated from traffic. Throughout the city, there are thousands of bike racks at businesses, parks, and transit stations. The increased bicycle infrastructure has been beneficial to places of businesses and neighborhoods throughout the city. The City of Chicago isn’t done yet, they have plans to build on its existing infrastructure. According to the Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, the Chicago Department of Transportation (or CDOT) plans to add an additional 645 mile network of bicycle facilities, and to assure that Chicagoans have access to bicycle infrastructure within a half mile.

The City of Cleveland has been slower at improving bicycle infrastructure. As more people move Downtown, and to other thriving close-in neighborhoods such as University Circle, Detroit Shoreway, Ohio City, and Tremont, there has been pressure to improve its roadways to make them more accommodating to all means of transportation than cars. In January of this year, the City of Cleveland’s Planning Commission announced a plan to add up to 70 miles of bicycle lanes to the city streets. So far, only 47.5 miles exist in Cleveland. From 1990 to 2012, bicycle commuting has increased in Cleveland, and because of the rising number of cyclists, this has prompted advocacy groups like Bike Cleveland to advocate for improved infrastructure for Cleveland bicycle commuters.

Social Drawbacks to Improved Bicycle Infrastructure

One drawback to bicycle advocacy and improving bicycle infrastructure is the antagonizing attitude of motorists. Because of the automobile-centric culture of the United States, there have been many motorists who have adapted to the changes in roadway infrastructure, and others believe that roadways are for motor vehicles only; cyclists to the sidewalk! Some motorists have labeled cyclists, according to an article in The Oregonian as “stop sign-running free-loaders.”

City officials in Chicago and Portland are now talking about adding a bicycle tax for city cyclists. Already most cities require bicycle owners to register their bicycles for a small fee. In Chicago, a councilwoman recently proposed implementing an annual $25 bicycle tax. Such taxes and fees are acceptable by some bicycle advocates, but are often unacceptable by others, because bicycle advocates and commuters already enjoy an inexpensive commute. Motorists who are in favor of such a tax see it as a responsibility that cyclists should have.

Roadway improvements are costly, including improvements for bicycle infrastructure, so it is understandable why cities may favor taxing cyclists. However, there are many cyclists who commute out of necessity, not choice, and if such taxes were levied on them, it would hurt them. According to the mentioned article, other cities have explored the possibility of looking to cyclists for revenue, but mostly for the purpose of improving roadway conditions.

Cities throughout the country have been working to improve infrastructure for all commuters. However, there still is a long way to go due to the country’s automobile-centric culture. Since more people are moving back into cities, or at least closer to the cities, city governments and departments of transportation need to make strides in roadway improvement for all commuters to coexist. There will be a cost to the improvement of roads to make them complete, but there needs to be a way where all commuters, from motorists to pedestrians to come together to talk about a solid plan to make commuting easy and free of danger for all who drive, ride, or walk on our streets.


Edward Chenock, Jr. is currently a City Success Fellow at CEOs for Cities. He is a recent graduate of Cleveland State University, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies. Housing and Neighborhood Development, Bicycle Commuting Issues, Urban Revitalization, and Historic Preservation are among his interests related to the field of urban affairs. In addition to his work at CEOs for Cities, he also serves as the Chairman of the Landmarks Commission for the City of Euclid, Ohio.

City Valentines


If cities gave out Valentines, what would they say? We took a quick stab at it-- so you can share or give them to the thought leaders and city advocates in your life! What would your City Valentine say? Tweet us with the hashtag #CityValentine or post on our Facebook timeline and we'll pick one to create and post on our blog tomorrow! 

It's important that cities show love for their people as well as people showing love for their cities! Show love for your city!

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For the transit lover in your life-- a Valentine that expresses appreciation for greener travel and bringing people into the urban core. 

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Love makes the world go round, but our roads, sewer lines, and electrical posts certainly help! They all probably need some love also... 

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Density has many advantages-- from the environment to innovation. While love can be sprawling, who doesn't love to get cozy?

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We here at CEOs for Cities love our benchmarking. Share this card with the data enthusiast in your life, and also send them our City Vitals 2.0 report

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...literally! I'm sure all of our cities would appreciate a few more people in their hearts. 

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We hope you enjoyed! 


The Bicycle: The Simple Tool for 21st Century Urban Sustainability


Authored by Christopher Berggren

As Americans grapple with a wide range of societal problems like obesity and other health issues, traffic gridlock and reduced family time, and socially isolated city-centers, we might stop to ask how we got this way and how we can change. Having lived in Europe for three months last summer, I can speak for other Americans who have traveled to other locales and marveled at the high quality of living in those places – especially compared to the automobile-dependant, lifeless cities of the U.S. How we got to be a largely car-dependant, unhealthy society has to do with the early surrender of our cities to cars without the balancing mechanism of maintaining our streetcar and bicycle modes, which had been prominent in nearly all American towns of more than 10,000 people up until the 1930’s. Today, several European cities, most notably Amsterdam and Copenhagen, have become models in the utilization of the simple bicycle as a major tool in the restoring of transportation balance and sustainability to their urban fabrics.

Economic Impact of the Bike and Health Benefits

In Denmark, tax-payer funded universal health care has spurred promotion and investment in bike usage, since the health benefits of bike usage are well known and accepted. One study found a 30% reduction in mortality among adults who commute to work by bicycle. The city of Copenhagen estimates that $100 million is saved annually through health care savings, which doesn’t even take into account societal gains from increased productivity from a healthier work force, with additional savings from less road maintenance and congestion. In Copenhagen, the cost of building grade-separated bikeways is about $2 million per mile per side, which is fully paid for in five years: the city’s economic impact study estimates that every mile cycled yields a net gain for society of 21 cents, compared to a net loss of 12 cents per mile driven by car. These figures include both savings in the public sector and the rise in private sector economic activity.

Bicycle Commuting and Urban Sustainability

Today, more people bike to work in greater Copenhagen than in the whole of the United States, with commuters riding an average of 3 ½ miles each way. Over the past 30 years, the city of Copenhagen has gradually removed car-parking and road space, effectively clearing the way for bike infrastructure. In the Netherlands, where the culture of the bicycle is perhaps the most inclusive of any country in the world, there is a public-private organization called the Dutch Cycling Embassy that capitalizes on the acclaimed Dutch model of urban transportation. It promotes urban mobility to business and government leaders from around the world, who are concerned because of urbanization and the need to revitalize cities, and the necessity of sustainability in transit solutions. The Dutch have first-hand experience of the bikes’ direct contribution to better health and urban livability, road safety, cleaner air, improved traffic flow, decreased social isolation, and an improved economy.

Marketing the Bicycle as a Viable Form of Transit

Here in America, making the bike a viable form of transit by building infrastructure conforming to code involves recasting bicycle users as regular citizens, as opposed to “cyclists’, who are seen as composing a sub-culture. The Danish consulting firm Copenhagenize advises cities on how to bring about positive imaging of bikes and urban mobility through behavior and marketing campaigns, and their very name stands for the concept of making cities more livable through the development of “complete streets” - which happens to be the name of an American non-profit organization and movement – itself responsible for some gains in U.S. cities.

Improving the Urban Fabric and Restoring Downtown Vitality

As our cities struggle with declining state and federal funds, empty sidewalks, and questions of how and where to best accommodate new growth, leaders are beginning to look for models for sustainable development. For value-driven solutions, they need look no further than the popular tourist centers of Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Like many U.S. cities, these cities have a limited land mass in which they can effectively grow. And while numerous cities here in the U.S. have large areas in which to accommodate future growth, in reality they can only achieve long-term vitality by centering development within existing, built-up areas. Today’s singles and young families desire meaningful town life that allows them to walk or bike on safe paths through downtowns stocked with shops, entertainment, and urban amenities. As the Dutch and Danish urban models have demonstrated, substantial numbers of people would ride bikes routinely if proper and extensive tracks were incorporated into our cities. The simple bike can unlock the door to smart-growth in America, without compromising our love affair with cars.


Christopher Berggren is a first-time contributor to CEOs For Cities, and is an urban photographer and blogger focusing on civic amenities that make cities livable as well as socially and economically sustainable. He recently completed research projects in Copenhagen and Stockholm, interviewing local leaders and studying the features of planning that make these among the most visited and ecologically advanced cities in the world. He is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and his photography and commentary can be found at his Planning Photography website. His work has been published by The Urban Times, This Big City, Better Cities and Towns, The Sustainable Cities Collective, and the Congress of New Urbanism. He divides his time between San Diego and New York and accepts assignment work.


Zimpher’s Work Earns Presidential Praise


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


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



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



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


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.

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


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.




Tackling Low Wages and Gentrification in a Livable City



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


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


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.


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.


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.