Cities Can Use This Innovative Technology to Reduce Gun Violence

Getting to the scene of gunfire quickly and having the situational intelligence necessary for immediate action is key for first responders.

An example of ShotSpotter's dashboard, showing where within a city gunfire was detected by audio sensors. (photo: ShotSpotter)

An example of ShotSpotter’s dashboard, showing where in a city gunfire was detected by acoustic sensors. (photo: ShotSpotter)

This is a guest post by Ralph A. Clark of SST. Inc./ShotSpotter.

Technology can be a wonderful thing, yet just acquiring the latest device or gadget doesn’t mean it will magically transform your life if you don’t know how to effectively use it. The same thing can be said about gunfire detection technology and the potential it has to be a significant game changer.

Today’s technology can offer tremendous new breakthroughs for cities, but successful outcomes must be planned for and embraced by both city officials and the community at large. The technology provider must also provide a full solution and be a trusted partner offering access to industry experts, ongoing services, training and more.

It’s no secret that gun violence in our cities is escalating and impacting public safety. Cities of all sizes across the country have already employed, or are considering implementing, gunfire detection technology as a potential solution. Rather than just adding more “feet on the street,” cities are finding that the right investment in technology can make cities safer while maximizing existing personnel and allowing them to better engage with the community.

Timely and Accurate Information is Key

One of the most important benefits gunfire detection provides is to radically improve access to vital information that enables safe and timely response to emergencies and can help resolve and prevent incidents in the first place. Whether it’s the urban gunfire that plagues our cities daily, or the very infrequent, yet tragic, gunfire from an ‘active shooter’, getting to the scene quickly and having the situational intelligence necessary for immediate action is key for first responders.

Unfortunately, the citizens most affected by gunfire are the least likely to call it in. In fact, it is estimated that fewer than two in 10 shooting incidents are reported to 911 – and, when calls do come in, the information comes in several minutes after the fact and is most often inaccurate.

To help remedy this problem, my company provides a gunfire detection and analysis solution – ShotSpotter – that uses proprietary acoustic sensors to detect and locate gunfire in real time. Alerts are then qualified in our Incident Review Center (IRC) and broadcast in under than a minute to 911 dispatch centers, patrol cars and even smartphones, with the precise location, number of rounds fired, multiple or single shooters, and other valuable situational intelligence. These alerts are critical because they enable first responders to arrive at the scene quickly and safely in order to aid victims, collect evidence, and quickly apprehend offenders.

A Proven Tool for Gun Violence Reduction

Already, many cities and police departments across the country have turned to advanced gunfire detection technology to dramatically improve their ability to respond to gunfire incidents. With more than 90 deployments across the country, cities using this technology are reporting significantly reduced gun-related crime and achieving better engagement with their communities. In our latest National Gunfire Index for 2014, an analysis of actual gunfire data from 47 American cities using our solution, we found the median reduction in gunfire incidents was 28.8 percent from 2013 to 2014. Fall River, Massachusetts, saw the largest decrease with an almost 58 percent reduction.

Mayor Sam Sutter of Fall River said, “We are extremely pleased with the dramatic decline in gunshots Fall River has seen over the last few years. While the 57.4 percent decrease is substantial, there is still much more to do. I believe we have the people, the strategy and the tools – including ShotSpotter – to make our city even safer yet.”

One of our early customers, the city and police department of San Francisco, California, has experienced nearly a 50 percent decrease in recorded firearms violence since deploying ShotSpotter as part of their gun violence abatement strategy. A spokesperson from the office of the mayor said that ShotSpotter was key in lowering crime rates, with homicides now at a 30-year low in the city.

Across the country in Canton, Ohio, the police department is using ShotSpotter as a preventative tool, along with proactive community-focused efforts, to combat gun-related crime that was escalating in the 75,000-person city. With the system in place for more than two years, the department reports that gunfire incidents have decreased by nearly one third per year, and evidence collection has increased by nearly four times.

The Future of Gun Detection is Bright

ShotSpotter is already driving meaningful outcomes in cities today, and we are hard at work on new developments that could make it even easier and more cost-effective for cities to use the technology. We recently announced that we are working with GE and its energy start-up, Current, to embed our technology into Current’s intelligent LED street lights. This means wherever there is an array of streetlights, there could also be a precise, real time gunfire detection alerting service to help law enforcement respond to and deter gunfire.

With ShotSpotter sensors embedded into lighting fixtures throughout a city, broader coverage areas will be available on a more affordable basis. Well-lit streets are already a plus for crime prevention, but now cities will be able to use street lighting for much more than just illumination.

The new GE LED streetlights are another way cities can get on board with gunfire detection by smartly leveraging their existing infrastructure. By blending new technologies together, cities can get more for less while improving the public safety outcomes and benefits to the communities they serve.

Smart Cities with Smart Technology

The use of technology to enhance and extend the capabilities of today’s cities is a smart and wise investment.  There is only so much that more manpower can do to reduce gun violence, and budget constraints are a constant issue. The results of gunfire detection technology prove that timely and accurate information helps cities to do more with less, enabling them to respond  and making the city safer for both the communities they serve and first responders.

About the Author: Ralph A. Clark is the President and CEO of SST. Inc./ShotSpotter.

How Two Ohio Cities Used Partnerships to House Veterans

Cities like Parma, Ohio, are partnering with organizations such as Purple Heart Homes and The Home Depot Foundation to ensure aging veterans and those with service-connected disabilities have safe housing. (Photos: Purple Heart Homes)

Cities in the Cleveland area are increasingly using the opportunity to rally their communities in support of housing for veterans, including aging veterans and those with service-connected disabilities.

In the face of limited local and federal resources, the cities of Parma and South Euclid have begun to partner with nonprofits to build, preserve, or adapt the homes of aging veterans as well as those with service-connected disabilities. These partnerships allow the cities to maximize the use of traditional programs used to rehabilitate or adapt homes for seniors and those with special needs, such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).

From 1966-1972, as part of the Vietnam War, Parma resident Dale Dunmire served in the U.S. Navy. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal, and returned home where he began a 35-year career with Cuyahoga County Corrections and the Sherriff’s Office.

After a 2014 operation left Mr. Dunmire wheelchair-bound, he had a ramp installed to help him get in and out of his home. Following an insurance denial for the ramp, the durable medical supply company offered to finance the metal ramp for $325 a month – an amount which Dale could not afford. The ramp was repossessed, leaving Dale home-bound and unable to continue his physical therapy.

As Dale and his family began grappling with their new reality, his Medicare provider connected him to Purple Heart Homes (PHH). PHH is a non-profit started by Dale Beatty and John Gallina, both service-connected disabled veterans of the Iraq War, to provide housing solutions to aging veterans and fellow service-connected disabled veterans.

To build Mr. Dunmire’s ramp, PHH worked closely with both the City of Parma and The Home Depot Foundation. In addition, volunteer associates from the local retail Home Depot, known as “Team Depot,” were key partners. Joining this team were local contractors who provided expertise and local restaurants that provided volunteers with food.

“Our city’s motto is ‘Progress Through Partnerships,’” said Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter. “I couldn’t think of a better example that illustrates this.”

To help the project, the city waived the permit fees affiliated with the work. “Our city was happy to help in a small way in terms of the permit fees – but overall, we have limited resources to do this type of work for our residents,” said Mayor DeGeeter. “We aren’t in a position to use a lot of CDBG money for home accessibility projects and we have only some money available through our senior center. By working with Purple Heart Homes, and thanks to the support of our local Team Depot, The Home Depot Foundation, and the good will of our community, we were able to make sure that a veteran who has called Parma home for more than 20 years can continue to do so.”

In South Euclid, another Cleveland suburb in Cuyahoga County, the city worked with Purple Heart Homes, Inc. to revitalize foreclosed properties and provide homes for two service-connected disabled veterans. Working with One South Euclid (a nonprofit citizens group), the North East Ohio Foundation for Patriotism (NEOPAT), and local contractors and suppliers, two previously foreclosed vacant properties that were acquired by the Cuyahoga Land Bank were rehabilitated and provided to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Thanks to the property contributed by the land bank for these projects, the overall cost of each home was dramatically reduced. PHH then worked with the city, which agreed to waive contractor registration fees and permitting expenses and expedite the inspection process for the homes.

Once again, PHH’s involvement with the city rallied the community’s support, and volunteers provided much of the needed labor to rehab each home. During the volunteer days when building was happening, the city provided extra police to direct traffic and manage the increased need for parking.

As a result of low land and labor costs, each home is financed with low-cost mortgages that are paid in part by the veteran, with a second soft mortgage held by PHH that diminishes over time and conditionally gifts 50 percent of the home value. A deed restriction ensures each home will remain owner-occupied by a veteran, and over time, the veteran accrues equity in the home, which they are able to take with them in the event they choose to move to another location.

On January 25, 2016, after seeing the value of their work for both veterans and cities in the region, PHH moved to solidify their presence and held the first meeting of the Northeast Ohio Chapter of Purple Heart Homes. The organization’s chapter will bring together the networks and experiences established during each of these projects to more cities in the area.

Cities are increasingly facing the challenges of an aging population with varying degrees of disabilities. Previous CitiesSpeak articles have talked about the value that can be found by focusing on the issue of housing and the veteran sub-population.

As cities in Ohio have seen, a focus on veteran housing provides leaders with the opportunity to learn what works, which stakeholders and programs can be best aligned, and how to best bring communities together to meet the housing needs of their neighbors.

For more information on Purple Heart Homes visit purplehearthomesusa.org, and for more information about The Home Depot Foundation visit homedepotfoundation.org.

Elisha_blogAbout the Author: Elisha Harig-Blaine is the Principal Associate for Housing (Veterans and Special Needs) at NLC. Follow Elisha on Twitter at @HarigBlaine.

Does the Maker Movement Hold the Key to Economic Growth?

The power of this movement is its ability to draw production back into cities. This can have profound economic and social benefits.

MakerspaceA man builds a 3D printer at a makerspace. (Getty)

This is an excerpt from NLC’s upcoming report, The Maker Movement. The report was created in partnership with the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University.

If you’ve visited Pittsburgh lately, you might have noticed companies like Google and TechShop have setup outposts in the city’s developing urban core. Drawing on the prowess of the robotics engineering programs at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Melon, the city has found a new calling, becoming one of the most encouraging spots for innovation in the country, and the so-called maker movement.

These economic investments in startups, makerspaces and the technology sector are resulting in real dividends for the city. Revenue from economic growth has translated into protected bike lanes, open spaces and parks, and events – projects aimed at making the city a place people want to stay and lead active lives.

From Rust Belt cities like Pittsburgh to rugged outdoors towns like Burlington, Vermont, the maker movement is providing localities a framework for unlocking growth and engaging citizens. With the growth of the movement, which views the producer as the consumer, co-location of manufacturing, engineering and design is common – a process that is transforming our city landscapes.

And that’s the power of the movement: its ability to draw production back into the cities where consumption occurs. This can have profound economic and social benefits. In addition to added jobs, proximity means more innovative potential for workers. The untapped skills and knowledge of out-of-work producers become part of the creative economy of the city.

But, what is the maker movement, exactly?

In the 1990s and early 2000s, the United States’ technology and manufacturing industries experienced a significant transition. With the advent of the Internet, computers began shrinking in size and price, while global connections grew exponentially and economies became inextricably linked.

During this time, the U.S. began outsourcing much of its technological needs. However, the introduction of new technologies such as 3D printers and non-commercial droids spurred an interest in Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and Do-It-With-Others (DIWO) hobbies. Faster prototyping and the availability of fabrication tools as well as easier sourcing of parts and direct distribution of physical products online further contributed to the desire to grow community workspaces.

In this sense, the maker movement gained momentum from the increasing participation of all kinds of people in interconnected communities, defined by interests and skills. The increased predominance of makerspaces offers individuals a compelling social experience that is built around interpersonal relationships.

According to Atmel Corporation, the leading manufacturer of microcontrollers and touch technology semiconductors, and a major backer of the maker movement, there are an estimated 135 million U.S. adults who are makers. In 2013, Wired magazine reported that the overall market for 3D printing products and similar maker services reached $2.2 billion in 2012, a compounded annual growth rate of almost 29 percent when compared to the $1.7 billion the industry recorded in 2011. Projections are expected to reach $6 billion by 2017 and reach $8.4 billion by 2020.

Each region of the U.S. and each local community has a slightly varied understanding of what the actual maker movement is, and its definition is often affected by the unique economic environment of each locality. In many cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the maker movement has emerged organically as former manufacturing cities look to diversify by incorporating innovative new technologies into their existing factories.

The transition away from generic, mass-produced, made-in-China merchandise and back to local industry seems to encourage entrepreneurs who are looking to share their ideas and innovations with other like-minded people, and build broad-based support for the maker movement.

Brooks Rainwater bio photoAbout the Author: Brooks Rainwater is the Director of the Center for City Solutions and Applied Research at the National League of Cities. Follow Brooks on Twitter at @BrooksRainwater.

Supreme Court Puts Clean Power Plan Regulations on Hold

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan requires power plants to reduce carbon emissions and establishes state-by-state targets to accomplish this goal.

In a 5-4 decision, the court halted enforcement of the plan until after legal challenges are resolved. (Getty Images)

The Supreme Court may currently be on recess but that did not stop it from issuing a stay preventing the Clean Power Plan regulations from going into effect until the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court if it chooses to, rules on the regulations.

The Clean Power Plan requires power plants to reduce carbon emissions and establishes state-by-state targets to accomplish this goal.

Twenty-seven states and others are currently challenging the Clean Power Plan. They argue that the regulations exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority granted under the Clean Air Act.

“We disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the Clean Power Plan while litigation proceeds,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement. The National League of Cities, on behalf of local leaders across the country, reaffirmed its support for the plan.

The National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors also previously filed a motion in the D.C. Circuit supporting the Clean Power Act. It discussed the impact climate change has had on cities.

The Supreme Court has apparently never blocked an EPA regulation before the Court has had a chance to rule on the regulation. The Court’s actions indicate it is likely to hear this case on appeal after it is decided by the D.C. Circuit. The four more liberal Justices (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) voted against the stay.

Curious as to how this might affect your city? There will be two upcoming conference calls to learn more about the impact of the Clean Power Plan stay on local governments.

Lisa Soronen bio photoAbout the Author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

Predatory Small Business Lending Concerns Voiced at Federal, State Hearings

The push for more fairness and transparency within the non-traditional business lending industry was recently brought to the attention of policymakers on Capitol Hill and at the Illinois State House.

As we recently covered, predatory lending to small business owners is of growing concern now that entrepreneurs are increasingly relying on the unregulated, alternative lending market to borrow under the $250,000 threshold needed for most traditional bank loans.

The lack of regulation and oversight of the alternative business lending industry has allowed several bad apples to emerge and take advantage of business owners – particularly in lower income and high-minority communities – with exorbitantly high interest rates, hidden fees, and other unreasonable penalties that make repayment difficult.

A panel discussion on Capitol Hill, spearheaded by the advocacy group Small Business Majority, zeroed in on how educating business owners and regulating the alternative lending market are two needed strategies to prevent businesses from taking out loans with predatory terms. Small Business Majority Founder and CEO John Arensmeyer was joined by representation from Accion Chicago, Fundera, and the Aspen Institute to raise awareness about what Arensmeyer called the “wild west” of business lending.

“It’s crucial that small business owners have protections in place and a way to separate trustworthy lenders from bad actors,” said Arensmeyer.

illinois_statehouse_building_fullsize_by_nashvilledino2 (1)

The Illinois State Senate Financial Institutions Committee recently convened a hearing on predatory small business lending. (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the Illinois State Senate Financial Institutions Committee convened a hearing on predatory small business lending and the lack of access to capital for business owners. During the hearing, Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers called for new state legislation to protect business owners from becoming victims of alternative lending schemes that are not in the best interest of the borrower.

The legislation suggested by Treasurer Summers would require transparency in loan terms and prevent fee traps, among several other steps to protect small business borrowers.

“Chicago’s small business community deserves protection from the unchecked greed of predatory lenders,” Summers said. “While access to capital is the number one concern of small business owners across the state, bank and commercial loans continue to decline, steering [business owners] to underhanded lenders. As we continue to urge banking partners to increase their local investment, this new, common-sense legislation would ensure transparency in lending that so often puts our entrepreneurs at risk.”

If state legislation emerges from the ongoing discussions in Chicago, it would likely mirror many of the same stipulations that are in the national Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights, a pledge that NLC recently endorsed that pushes for more transparency in the alternative lending market.

City leaders can begin to understand the scope of this issue in their own communities by surveying business owners about their credit usage, talking to businesses about their borrowing needs, and informing business owners about their borrowing rights.

We are curious to know about the landscape of access to capital in your city. Are their credit barriers for business owners? Is predatory lending on your radar as a potential issue? Share your story with us.

About the Author: Emily Robbins is the Senior Associate of Finance and Economic Development at NLC. Follow Emily on Twitter: @robbins617.

How Cities Can Solve Police Challenges with Open Data

In the past year we have witnessed a complete shift with many police departments today embracing data transparency as the foundation to enhancing – or, in some cases, restoring – trust.

Increasingly, police departments are promoting transparency through open data in order to establish stronger relationships with citizens and rebuild trust with the communities they serve. (photo: Creatas/Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Kara Turner.

From the White House to police departments to individual citizens, there is recognition that data-centered police-community relations will better meet the needs of both the police and those they serve. Transparency is the foundation of trust and ultimately engagement. In the past year we have witnessed a complete shift with many police departments today embracing data transparency as the foundation to enhancing – or, in some cases, restoring – trust.

Above, a census of currently available open datasets about police interactions with citizens in the U.S. (data.gov/PoliceOpenDataCensus)

Above, a census of currently available open datasets about police interactions with citizens in the U.S. (data.gov/PoliceOpenDataCensus)

Join Bill Schrier, Chief Information Officer of the Seattle Police Department and Cam Caldwell of Socrata for an engaging discussion on The Open Policing Movement on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 10 a.m. PST / 1 p.m. EST. Together, they’ll discuss tactics for using open data to take on law enforcement challenges.

Schrier brings a unique perspective from the field. Only a few years ago, when the Seattle Police Department faced a federal investigation, the department took the opportunity to embrace reforms in oversight, training, and reporting. Today, his department has established a much stronger relationship with citizens and has even found ways to reduce operating costs.

Webinar participants will learn exactly what to consider before incorporating and deploying new technologies to improve public safety. Specifically, the webinar will showcase:

  • How crime data transparency delivers results
  • Examples of public safety data transparency in cities
  • How the latest available tools can reduce costs and increase efficiency

City leadership, data analysts, and law enforcement professionals are encouraged to attend this important discussion on open data and law enforcement. Sign up now for the webinar.

About the Author: Kara Turner serves as Content Marketing Manager for Socrata. In recent years, she led Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s communications team and served on the Board of Directors for AIGA Baltimore. She enjoys narrating her dog’s life and participating in DC’s theatre scene.

NLC and Children & Nature Network Choose Seven Cities for Planning Cohort

The continued efforts of NLC’s Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative and the Children & Nature Network are geared towards providing children the most optimal opportunities to play, grow, and learn in the great outdoors. 

The Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) partners have selected seven cities for the planning phase of our initiative to better connect children to nature. This phase involves activities as varied as conducting gap and asset assessments and participation in an international conference, and brings teams together from mayors’ offices, parks departments, and non-profit community organizations.

CCCN project partners, the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education & Families (IYEF) and the Children & Nature Network (C&NN), selected the cities of Saint Paul, Minnesota; Madison, Wisconsin; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Providence, Rhode Island; Louisville, Kentucky; Austin, Texas; and San Francisco, California; to participate through a competitive process. Cliff Johnson, IYEF Executive Director, highlights the importance of their pioneering work. “Cities already offer a host of opportunities for their citizens to experience nature, whether in neighborhood parks or larger public lands, but not all residents typically share in these benefits. Led by the efforts of these seven cities, CCCN aims to reduce current inequities and foster connections to nature among all children.”

Over the next seven months, the selected cities will receive technical assistance from the CCCN partners for a  planning process to complete community assessments, and analyze equity issues, and will also have extensive opportunities for peer exchange and learning. Through this process, cities will develop implementation plans by August 2016, eligible for further CCCN grant funding and assistance through October 2017.

cccn-seven-cities-blog-post

In addition to helping cities improve nature connections for children – particularly children who have had little access previously – the CCCN initiative employs funding from The JPB Foundation to test twin hypotheses: that cities constitute a valuable geographical unit for deepening the children and nature movement, and that fully engaged municipal leaders can advance efforts farther, faster, and ultimately more sustainably.

The seven-city planning cohort can look forward especially to significant learning opportunities among experts and peers gathered at the C&NN 2016 International Conference and Cities & Nature Summit. The Children & Nature Network extends an open invitation to a wide variety of additional participants to attend the Conference and Summit including other city leaders, planners, public health advocates, field practitioners, and thought leaders committed to advancing policies, partnerships and programming for connecting children to nature.

Sarah Milligan-Toffler, Executive Director of C&NN, who will host the event in St. Paul, notes that “We look forward to convening leaders from around the world to advance access to nature in low-income communities.”

The Cities & Nature Summit portion of the conference will build on CCCN  leadership academies that took place in October 2015, including attendees from the seven planning cohort cities plus nine other communities including Seattle, Washington; Salt Lake City, Utah; North Little Rock, Arkansas; St. Petersburg, Florida; Columbia, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and New Haven, Connecticut. At the Leadership Academies, these sixteen teams joined with each other and national experts to explore strategies for providing children with equitable and abundant access to nature, with particular focus on children of color and low-income children.

PriyaCookAbout the Author: Priya Cook is the Principal Associate for the Connecting Children to Nature program, the newest program of NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

What It Takes to Be a 21st Century City

“Local governments are competing to be the most progressive, the most innovative, to lure the most Millennials, and to be at the forefront of the new American 21st century city.”

Gabe Klein discusses the sharing economy at NLC’s 2015 Congress of Cities in Nashville, Tennesse. (Jason Dixson)

This is an excerpt from City of the Future: Technology & Mobility, and the first in our “Viewpoints on the Future” blog series.

Gabe Klein has worked his entire career in the transportation business, switching between the private and public sectors. He headed both Chicago and Washington, D.C.’s Transportation Departments, and prior to that worked for several private sector companies, including Zipcar.

He now works as a Special Venture Partner at a venture capital firm that funds next generation mobility companies, and advises a cadre of startups. His unique experiences in different sectors have led him to see the immense value in both public and private contributions to urban development — but even more so in cross-sector partnership.

Klein has seen a change in the way cities think about land use, public space and transportation, and also in the way they partner with businesses and NGOs to improve the quality of life of their residents.

“Local governments are competing to be the most progressive, the most innovative, to lure the most Millennials, and to be at the forefront of the new American 21st century city,” says Klein.

Public-private partnerships (P3s) have been most successful overseas, but they are starting to be implemented in the United States as well. For example, the city of Chicago has successfully implemented several P3s to improve its transportation network. Beginning in 2003, the city coordinated a partnership called the Chicago Regional Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program. This arrangement between the U.S. Department of Transportation, the City of Chicago Department of Transportation, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Metra, Amtrak and six private freight railroads aims to address necessary infrastructure improvements, increase Chicago’s freight and passenger rail capacity, and ease congestion throughout the region’s transportation network.

The city of Chicago also leased its parking garage and meter systems out to private partners, and in doing so was able to pay off some of the debt acquired in building Chicago’s famous Millennium Park. Because they are becoming more politically palatable, U.S. cities will begin working with the private sector to jointly fund their transportation projects. There will be an uptick in the application of P3 arrangements for toll roads, parking structures, and other major infrastructure assets that fall outside the traditional purview of city management.

Cities have begun pushing the envelope more, not only in terms of transportation planning but also implementation. The levers of government are being used more effectively in partnerships with the private sector. Together, the two entities are leveraging each other’s strengths.

These partnerships have helped with financing, as cities can now utilize not only federal money but both private and philanthropic dollars. The time is past due to rebuild existing infrastructure, and we all realize that it must be rebuilt in a much more resilient way.

The price tag is mind numbing, but it is critical to the vibrancy of our cities. Today’s modern mayors get the connection between land use, transportation, housing and employment. Long range plans are more coordinated, but harder to implement given the outdated and shabby state of many of our cities’ infrastructure.

Cities will need to rely on outside partners and embrace innovation if they want to remain at the cutting edge. Mr. Klein notes that “there is a great deal of innovation coming out of the private sector and government has started embracing it and applying it in ways that meets civic needs and goals.”

He imagines a scenario in which city governments could provide the framework for the changes they want to see, ensuring service equity, job creation, and safety, and letting the private sector fulfill the service role.

For more thoughts from Klein, follow him on twitter: @gabe_klein.

Nicole DuPuis bio photoAbout the Author: Nicole DuPuis is the Senior Associate for Infrastructure in NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research. Follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicolemdupuis.

3 Innovative Ways Cities Can Curb Overdose Deaths

New strategies can empower city leaders to not only coordinate actions across multiple levels of government but stem the tide of addiction and substance abuse that is growing in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

Responding to record increases in prescription drug and heroin overdoses across America, the U.S. Communities Alliance made medications that can stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose available to the state and local government sector in October 2015. Now, a key medication is available to cities at a steep discount. (Photo: yanyong/Getty Images)

Deaths involving opium-based prescription pain-killers and heroin are increasing sharply, according to new data for all of 2014 recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Every day in the United States, 44 people die as a result of prescription opioid overdose. More Americans are dying every year from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes. Communities across America have seen steady rise in the cost and impact of treating opioid related overdose. In the community of Middleton, Ohio, for example, the cost of treating opioid overdoses has exceeded 10 percent of the Middleton Fire Division overall operating budget. In Indiana, the Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services saw a 58 percent jump in Narcan® applications in just one year, from 2013 to 2014.

Responses are coming from the federal, state and local levels. Here are three notable ways cities can curb the sharp increase in overdose deaths:

1. Funding from President Barack Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal

The proposal includes $1 billion in new funding for states to expand access to medication-assisted treatments for opioid use disorders. Also included is funding for more addiction treatment providers under the National Health Service Corps.

2. Tools and resources from state and local organizations

Organizations representing state and local elected and appointed leaders (such as the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the National Governor’s Association, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors) are educating their members and providing tools to turn back the tide of heroin addiction through strategies such as medication-assisted treatments.

Most notably, the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance (together with Adapt Phama and Premier, Inc., and acting in partnership with local and state associations) is now making available the life-saving Narcan® Nasal Spray (naloxone hydrochloride), which helps stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, at a steep discount.

3. The creation of local policy solutions

For their part, individual cities are also taking important action steps along the same lines. Naloxone access was cited by New York Mayor Bill De Blasio as a major component of his city’s comprehensive effort to reduce opioid misuse and overdoses.

“By issuing a standing order for Naloxone and building capacity in our health network’s ability to treat people most in need, we will save more lives,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Basset in her comments with the mayor.

A creative response from law enforcement is also an important step.

The City of Gloucester, Massachusetts, is helping change the nature of municipal policing in the face of heroin and opiate addiction. In Gloucester, any person seeking help for addiction from public safety personnel will be connected to an addiction recovery program through a network of local and regional providers. “Gloucester is changing the conversation. Police officers exist to help people,” said Police Chief Leonard Campanello. “Drug addiction is a disease, and drug addicts need help.”

The National League of Cities will engage elected and appointed municipal officials on the many questions and challenges of substance abuse and addiction at the upcoming Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., which takes place March 5-9, 2016. Additional details about that program will be posted in this space in late February. City leaders with stories to share on this issue should add comments to this post or contact the author directly.

Brooks, J.A. 2010About the Author: James Brooks is NLC’s Director for City Solutions. He specializes in local practice areas related to housing, neighborhoods, infrastructure, and community development and engagement. Follow Jim on Twitter @JamesABrooks.

 

To Be An Effective Leader, Be a Lifelong Learner

“It was clear to me that I could have great policy ideas and a keen grasp of budgeting, but if I didn’t develop key leadership skills, I would never be able to lead my colleagues, my constituents, or my city forward.”

Clarence Anthony welcomes city leaders from across the nation to NLC’s 2015 Congress of Cities in Washington, D.C. (photo: Jason Dixson)

This post originally appeared in the newsletter of the Colorado Municipal League.

When people hear that I was elected mayor of South Bay, Florida at age 24, they often comment that successfully running for office at such a young age must have been difficult.

“No,” I tell them. “Getting elected was the easy part. Governing was the hard part.”

I am fortunate that the skills it took to get elected came naturally to me. But governing required a different set of skills. Some skills were operational, such as budgeting and planning. Others skills were more policy-oriented. I have a master’s degree in public administration, and I specialized in city growth management, so my education provided me with many of the basic skills I would need to govern.

Once in office, however, I realized that it would take more than an understanding of policy, budgeting and planning to succeed. It would take leadership.

I quickly learned that the most important skills for an elected official – communication, vision, building trust, leading change and collaboration – were personal and organizational skills. It was clear to me that I could have great policy ideas and a keen grasp of budgeting, but if I didn’t develop those key leadership skills, I would never be able to lead my colleagues, my constituents, or my city forward.

Armed with this new realization, I immediately turned to my State League (the Florida League of Cities), the National League of Cities (NLC), and NLC University (NLCU, formerly known as the Leadership Training Institute). Then, as now, NLCU’s courses provided invaluable leadership development skills that I utilized and applied in my professional and personal life. I highly recommend these courses for all elected officials. They are offered online, as pre-conference sessions at both of our annual conferences, or at our Annual Leadership Summit.

One of the most important tenets of leadership I’ve learned in my career is that leadership is a mindset and practice that is applicable to all facets of life, not just one’s professional life. Other mayors and councilmembers have shared stories with me over the years about how they, too, have leveraged their leadership competencies and behaviors to achieve great outcomes in a variety of endeavors.

For so many of our members, the role of elected official is but one of several roles they play. Our members are also dentists, architects, farmers and small business owners, as well as parents, spouses and coaches. In each of these roles, they are expected to be leaders. NLCU educational sessions help them develop behaviors and skills that enable them be better leaders and achieve greater success in all of the roles they play.

I’ve also come to realize that being a leader means recognizing that the process of learning and development never ends. There is always new information to be gained, and there are always new insights to be discovered. As the great management theorist and author Peter Drucker once said, “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly – or it vanishes.”

As an elected official, I felt that it was my responsibility to my constituents to be a learner – constantly improving, challenging and increasing my knowledge so that it did not vanish. I trust you feel the same way.

Learning of course, takes many shapes; it encompasses more than just engaging in formal classroom education. In fact, most leadership researchers agree that the ratio of formal learning opportunities available (workshops, seminars, classes) to informal learning opportunities (self-study, mentorships, networking, on-the-job experiences, problem solving and feedback) is somewhere around 1:4.

This is not to say that formal learning opportunities are not important. In fact, a formal education is the essential building block of a larger education that is complimented by all types of informal learning opportunities. Informal learning involves applying what was learned in the formal learning setting. It also involves learning from one’s peers, and learning about and incorporating best practices and creative ideas. The National League of Cities and NLCU are essential partners in helping our members become lifelong learners ­– and thus, more effective local leaders – through both formal and informal learning.

Our members are exposed to the best in-depth research on cities, courtesy of our City Solutions and Applied Research department. In addition, when our members attend NLCU offerings, they take the formal knowledge they’ve acquired for an informal “test drive,” sharing it with their peers and discussing possible applications outside the classroom that can lead to best practices. Armed with a wealth of knowledge that has been acquired in many different ways, our members apply that knowledge to their roles in their professional and personal lives, leading to better outcomes for their communities and citizens.

The National League of Cities has a number of strategic goals, one of which is to “expand the capacity of city officials to serve as ethical, effective and engaged leaders.” It is a goal born of belief and experience – belief in the power of leadership to transform individuals, organizations and communities, and the experience that comes from constantly learning and consistently applying the mindset and practice of leadership to governing.

About the Author: Clarence E. Anthony is the CEO & Executive Director of the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter @ceanthony50.