New Year, New Technology, New (Smarter) Cities

Fully connected smart cities are coming. NLC’s latest report helps cities prepare for their arrival by providing local leaders with best practices in this arena.

As cities grapple with how to invest in smart city technologies, and how to ensure that their cities remain on the cutting edge of this technological revolution, there are several things they should consider. (Getty Images)

Technology is changing us – and our cities – in an unprecedented way. This is not news to most, and the influence of technological developments and advances certainly isn’t a new development. We’ve all likely reflected on the impact of the smartphone once or twice. However, over the last year, discussions about just how quickly technology has asserted control over our lives, our economies, and the places we call home have become more dominant, and sometimes, more anxiety inducing. If 2016 was the year we realized that autonomous vehicles are here and happening, 2017 might be the year we realize that this is about so much more than cars.

Indeed, technology is becoming the critical force that defines the way our cities are run, managed, and evolving. This has culminated in a movement often referred to as the ‘Smart Cities’ revolution. While cities are ever-changing with technology driving their evolution, today we are seeing it impact everything from the buildings we use, to the way we get around, to how we live, work, and play in the urban space.

Now, as we are on the cusp of increasingly rapid shifts in cities precipitated by technology, it is worth imagining what the fully connected smart city of the future will look like – and the associated impact it will have on our everyday lives. To that end, the National League of Cities (NLC) is pleased to release “Trends in Smart City Development,” which presents case studies and discusses how smart cities are growing nationwide and globally. Created with our partners at the American University Department of Public Administration and Policy, this guidebook is meant to be a resource for cities as they lead the way forward in this exciting and ever-evolving space.

Cities are beginning to, and will continue to integrate technological dynamism into municipal operations, from transportation to infrastructure repair and more. As the integration of smart cities technologies becomes more visible in our everyday lives, we could begin to see large scale changes in our cities.

Let’s imagine a future where autonomous vehicles on our roadways and the data that they provide change traffic patterns and mobility networks as we know them. Similarly, as we move toward greater usage of shared vehicles and trips, we might be able to move away from parking either below buildings or on streets, enabling cities to recapture that land for new uses and development. Energy sources could be completely renewable in the smart city of the future as well, with technology paving the way for better integration into our cities and thereby helping to create a cleaner environment for everyone. Smart energy systems will allow cities to collect information from sources such as smart water, electric, and gas meters.

At the same time, our future cities will be safer with streetlight networks that use embedded sensors to detect gunshots or flash their lights during emergencies. These are just some of the possibilities that loom on the horizon for cities, and more, improved applications are being developed daily.

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As cities grapple with how to invest in smart cities technology, and how to ensure that their cities remain on the cutting edge of this technological revolution, there are several things they should consider:

  • Rather than looking for solutions first, cities should consider the outcomes they want to achieve. They should find out what their residents and local businesses want to see happen, and turn those desires into clearly defined objectives before proceeding with smart initiatives. A city’s existing comprehensive, transportation, and sustainability planning documents can help guide the establishment of goals.
  • Partnerships may be the key to successfully deploying new smart cities systems. In an era when the first question is “how?” and the second question “how much?” cities need to get creative about how to deploy expensive, large scale projects like these. Partnerships provide many benefits to cities. They give cities access to funding and expertise that might not otherwise be available. Many public problems are complex and can be too diverse for any single organization to tackle. That makes collaboration advantageous, as cities and organizations are often able to do more together than they could alone.
  • Keep up with new developments and standards. The diversity in technology and the lack of agreed upon principles for redesigning the built environment presents a challenge for interested cities. The newness of smart development means that not much has been codified. Though this report provides a window into what some cities are doing now, smart development is a rapidly changing field. Cities interested in becoming smart should continue to look for best practices and frameworks for this type of development.

All of this is predicated on the premise that technologies can help make people’s lives better in cities. At the end of the day, technological developments will enhance our urban experience – but they also risk leaving more people behind. To this end, we must be deliberate in the development of smart cities and imbue equity as a primary goal so that the city of the future is a city for everyone.

Fully connected smart cities are coming, and NLC wants to help cities prepare for their arrival by providing local leaders with best practices in this arena. It is our hope that this report will spark conversation and action among local policymakers about how to incorporate these strategies into their own communities.

Read the full Smart City Development report.

Read the full Trends in Smart City Development report.

About the author: Nicole DuPuis is the Principal Associate for Urban Innovation in NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research. Follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicolemdupuis.

Research, Innovation and Cities: The Year in Review

Throughout 2016, NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research presented and spoke on a wide range of city topics to audiences from San Francisco to Shanghai and everywhere in between – making sure that, wherever possible, city voices are elevated and heard.

Photo by Jason Dixson Photography. www.jasondixson.com

NLC continues to shape the national dialogue on cities, work with city leaders on the ground, and help local officials lead. Pictured here at City Summit 2016 discussing the future of autonomous vehicles in cities: Jon Shieber, senior editor at TechCrunch; Debra Lam, chief innovation & performance officer of Pittsburgh; Justin Holmes, director of corporate communications and public policy at Zipcar; Brooks Rainwater, senior executive and director of Center for City Solutions and Applied Research. (Jason Dixson)

This year has been one of growth and success for NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research (CSAR). Throughout 2016, we released impactful research across a range of focus areas – from the nuts and bolts of governing to future transportation and workforce shifts, innovation districts, and what cities need to know about drones.

We published familiar annual titles including our State of the Cities report, which analyzes the top issues for our nation’s mayors. We released the 31st edition of our City Fiscal Conditions report, which found that cities’ fiscal positions are strengthening as they continue to recover from the great recession. We finished out the year with our City of the Future research focusing on the critical role that automation and other disruptive changes are having on the workforce. At the core of each of these research products, our primary focus is analyzing how major, timely issues will impact cities.

Coinciding with our broad research agenda, CSAR experts have been on the ground in cities across the country working hand in hand with mayors, councilmembers, and city officials to build equitable, sustainable, financially sound communities that are prepared for future opportunities and challenges. And, in response to the growing opioid crisis, CSAR worked across NLC and together with the National Association of Counties (NACo) to convene the City-County Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic, which recently published recommendations to help local officials to put an end to the epidemic.

Our Rose Center for Public Leadership continued its leading work on local land use challenges with the 2016 class of Daniel Rose Fellows. Those cities included Denver, Rochester, N.Y., Long Beach, Calif., and Birmingham, Ala. The Rose Center also launched the first-ever Equitable Economic Development Fellowship, selecting six cities to participate in its inaugural year: Boston, Houston, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Charlotte, N.C. This fellowship builds the capacity of America’s cities to ensure that prosperity is shared across their communities.

CSAR’s Sustainable Cities Institute (SCI) launched new programs in 2016 that support and recognize NLC members’ efforts to preserve a clean environment, promote green jobs, and tackle climate change. The SolSmart program was launched in April to help cities make it easier for their residents and businesses to go solar. SCI also announced Leadership in Community Resilience, which is working with 10 cities from around the country to help local officials, city staff, and community partners share their experiences and advance local resilience efforts.

This year our team also incorporated NLC University into the Center, working to provide more focused programming and expanded capacity for city leaders. One example of this shift can be seen in this year’s City Summit attendance in Pittsburgh, where we had a 60 percent increase over last year. Additionally, with the hiring of new staff, we are looking to expand online learning and enhance the annual Leadership Summit.

NLC continues its work to end veteran homelessness, encouraging local leaders to make a permanent commitment to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. Through our leadership on the Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness, we facilitated on-the-ground engagement and assistance to city officials nationwide. We also continue to work together with the State Municipal Leagues on an annual research project focused on the critical intersections between city and state policy. This year we published Paying for Local Infrastructure in a new Era of Federalism, offering a state-by-state analysis of infrastructure financing tools.

CSAR also hosted a number of large events across the country. In the spring, we held the third annual Big Ideas for Cities event with a range of compelling stories from our nation’s mayors, expertly facilitated by the Atlantic’s James Fallows. In the fall we hosted the Big Ideas for Small Business Summit with economic development officials from 25 cities sharing strategies for building local small business and entrepreneurial ecosystems. Most recently, we hosted the second annual Resilient Cities Summit with the Urban Land Institute and U.S. Green Building Council, which brought together mayors from 15 cities across the country to focus on critical resilience strategies. These annual events allow NLC to elevate the voice of city leaders on issues that matter to communities across America.

Through our work on these important issues, we solidified partnerships with agencies across the federal government and worked with them on key programming, ensuring we are effectively communicating the voice of cities at every level. Some of these included: Small Business Administration for Startup in a Day, the Department of Veterans Affairs on veterans homelessness, the Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Prosperity Playbook, and Department of Energy on Net Zero Energy.

Throughout the year, our team presented and spoke on a wide range of city topics to audiences local, national, and global – from San Francisco to Shanghai and everything in between – making sure that, wherever possible, city voices are elevated and heard. We continue to help shape the national dialogue on cities, work with city leaders on the ground, and help mayors and councilmembers learn and lead – and we look forward to our work in 2017.

Read our 2016 publications:

About the author: Brooks Rainwater is Senior Executive and Director of the Center for City Solutions and Applied Research at the National League of Cities. Follow Brooks on Twitter @BrooksRainwater.

 

Top 5 Most Popular NLC Blog Posts of 2016

This year saw a number of posts that reached thousands of readers and were shared widely on social media. Here are the top five, in no particular order.

7 Ways City Leaders Can Address Racial Inequities
City leaders must step up to take the lead with their police departments and community members to address racial inequities in their respective cities and towns.

10 Innovative Ways to Attract Millennials to Your City
Philadelphia is a city that has implemented a set of successful policies aimed at attracting and retaining talent in the last decade. During that same period, the city’s population grew by 100,000.

Four Bad Habits to Avoid at City Council Meetings
Learning these principles and avoiding these bad habits will improve your meetings — and your decision-making.

5 Ways Parks Provide a Return on Investment
Parks and public spaces are an integral part of the atmosphere and culture of a city or town. More than that, though, they have a massive positive financial impact – one that is generally overlooked.

5 Things Mayors Can Do to Create Healthier Communities
NLC’s new report, Addressing Health Disparities in Cities: Lessons from the Field, provides lessons learned and examples of actions that mayors and other city leaders are taking to intentionally address childhood obesity-related health disparities.

Paul Konz headshotAbout the author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.

8 Ways Cities Can Prepare for the Future of Work

We know that automation and artificial intelligence will have a great impact on the future of work, play, and life – but we shouldn’t jump to the assumption that this will be a net negative.

(Getty Images)

Advocates from the tech world tout a basic income as a way to counteract the economic blow of automation replacing jobs currently occupied by humans. (Getty Images)

This post originally appeared on Business Insider. The post was republished with permission.

Fundamental shifts in society are upending the current nature of work. With automation and artificial intelligence already permeating nearly every sector of the economy, disruption is happening at an accelerated pace.

Our recent presidential election made clear that workforce shifts are felt by a broad swath of the American public. People are looking to elected officials at every level of government for a new response to these changes.

We have to move the policy discussion away from job retraining towards job rethinking.

NLC’s latest report, The Future of Work in Cities, examines the rapid changes occurring in today’s workforce. Here are eight suggestions from that report on how city leaders — the most responsive government leaders — can approach the rapidly shifting future of work.

Rethink education and workforce training programs.

The strength of cities comes from the people that live in them. As cities prepare for the future of work, they must address talent development by collaborating with business leaders, educational institutions, and community-based organizations to ensure education and training programs match workforce needs.

Update policies to reflect the changing composition of the workforce.

Tomorrow’s workforce will be significantly more diverse. Women will continue to make up a larger portion of the workforce, and the racial and ethnic makeup of the workforce will change. The workforce is also getting older, as many elderly workers delay retirement and younger people delay working. These changes shift the fundamental needs of employees and, subsequently, the way employers should respond. Flexibility will be critical.

Support entrepreneurs and startups as a core workforce development strategy.

Innovation is the lifeblood of city economic growth. Local leaders need to create a strong startup culture through low tax and regulatory barriers, and strong regional networks with access to capital that allow startups to scale. As cities continue to lower barriers of entry for small businesses and support local startups, innovation will flourish.

Build equitable business development programs.

Equity is critical to building a strong workforce. Policies that promote equity in areas such as health and education often have positive effects on economic growth. Likewise, policies that address marginalized groups reduce political conflict and strengthen public institutions and social organizations, feeding into a virtuous cycle of growth.

Invest in digital and physical infrastructure that supports the workforce of tomorrow.

Investment in reliable, high-speed internet and expanded broadband services is critical to supporting a competitive workforce. In addition to digital infrastructure, cities must also invest in roads, bridges and transit systems.

In cities, people like to walk, bike, and take public transit, while single occupancy vehicle use continues to decline. This preference, combined with a move toward autonomous vehicles, means that cities will need to rethink investment priorities while considering new uses for car-oriented infrastructure like parking garages.

Ensure access to paid leave for families.

The United States is one of few developed countries that doesn’t offer some type of guaranteed paid leave for new parents. Yet companies that offer these policies retain more employees and avoid lengthy talent searches. Cities are leading in this space. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, for example, mandates six weeks of paid parental leave for workers. This long overdue policy benefits everyone, giving parents the opportunity to maintain their careers, helping organizations retain employees, and bringing stability to the city’s workforce and economy.

Consider offering portable benefit systems.

As workers change jobs more frequently and contract work becomes more common, the policy environment around benefits needs to shift. Benefits that once accompanied most employment situations are becoming more elusive, and portable benefits, which are tied to individuals rather than employers, represent one potential solution.

These typically wrap together some form of paid leave, health insurance, worker’s compensation/unemployment, and retirement fund matching. Proposals for this type of system vary.

Some suggest that it should be universal and administered by government or a public/private institution created for such a purpose. Others think it should be administered by non-governmental community-based groups. Either way, portable benefits have the potential to support those who work outside the realm of the traditional nine-to-five economy.

Explore basic income and other broad-based social support systems.

Basic income, which guarantees every citizen a regular, unconditional sum of money, is gaining support in policy conversations. This is intended to serve the same function as a living wage by bringing all individuals up to an economic baseline. In some ways, this proposal resembles existing welfare systems, with the major exception that the benefit goes to everyone, regardless of age, ability, class status, or participation in the workforce.

Advocates from the tech world tout it as a way to counteract the economic blow of automation replacing jobs currently occupied by humans. Other supporters argue that basic income is more streamlined, efficient, and transparent than current social welfare systems. Finally, there are others who argue that a basic income might allow individuals to pursue more creative, enjoyable interests. A full-scale of examination of the cultural and financial implications of basic income will be key to implementing such a system.

We know that automation and artificial intelligence will have a great impact on the future of work, play, and life. However, we shouldn’t jump to the assumption that this will be a net negative.

Despite the evolving nature of the economy, people are still working, the economy is still growing, and indicators show that life has gotten better for the majority of the world’s workers. To stay on that path, these and other such ideas should be higher on the agenda of policymakers. Cities are the place where new ideas and opportunities happen first, so we should prepare for the technological shifts to come and usher in a future that works for everyone.

About 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 @BrooksRainwater.

The Midwest is No Longer the Rust Belt – It’s the “Production Belt”

Mayors Bill Peduto and Virg Bernero explain why now is the time to invest in America’s infrastructure and make a national commitment to advanced manufacturing.

(Getty Images)

For every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.81 is added to our economy – the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Mayor Bill Peduto and Mayor Virg Bernero.

Advanced manufacturing is the engine powering our nation’s economy and driving today’s innovation, which is why it is time for a national blueprint for manufacturing. We implore President-elect Trump and the 115th Congress to make a Marshall Plan-style commitment to advanced manufacturing, starting with rebuilding the infrastructure that makes American manufacturing possible.

As mayors and as co-chairs of the National League of Cities’ new Manufacturing Initiative, we recognize that this must be a bipartisan mission, as the success of our manufacturing sector will benefit communities from Connecticut to California.

We also endeavor to dispel several myths about manufacturing. First and foremost: the Midwest is no longer the “Rust Belt” of shuttered factories, but rather the “Production Belt” of advanced manufacturing that accounts for 10 percent of our workforce. In 2015, the manufacturing sector contributed $2.17 trillion to the U.S. economy, representing a growth of nearly one half-trillion dollars since 2009.

Another myth is that manufacturing is a relic, that we’ve become a “service” economy. The truth is, the manufacturing sector is more advanced and growing stronger than it has in decades, and it’s re-invigorating technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

America is home to the world’s most productive workers, with manufacturers accounting for 75 percent of our nation’s R&D and 90 percent of our patents. The “magic of manufacturing” is the spinoff activity that supports transportation, supply chains and more. For every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.81 is added to our economy – the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. And, despite the myth that manufacturing jobs don’t pay well, the truth is that the compensation of the typical U.S. manufacturing worker is $81,289 annually, including pay and benefits.

Today’s manufacturing is a wholesale improvement over our grandparents’ dirty, monotonous production jobs. Today’s jobs offer a creative opportunity to innovate, using state-of-the-art equipment in diverse fields like aerospace, semi-conduction, robotics, biotechnology and engineering. Many manufacturers even offer a “learn and earn” model of apprenticeship training that pays workers to learn their trade. Yet these advanced jobs require a talent pipeline to connect them with skilled workers. Experts project that the U.S. will have over two million jobs go unfilled due to the skills gap.

The fact is, American manufacturing is also a matter of national security. Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General John Adams wrote a report detailing the ways domestic manufacturing keeps us safe. A strong domestic manufacturing base supports the Arsenal of Democracy.

Advanced manufacturing can also pave the way for a “green” industrial revolution that reduces our carbon footprint – not only by producing alternative energy products like solar panels, wind turbines and fuel cells, but also by standardizing sustainable production methods for everyday commodities.

There are several national policies that can help shape a national blueprint, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s efforts to codify the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership – which has already invested $23 million to support 49 IMCP projects across 26 states. These projects will create or save more than 1,080 jobs, and generate nearly $855 million in private investment. We also support resurrecting the COMPETE Act (S. 2715) to incentivize more research and development, because R&D tax credits are really job credits. Another important win would be establishing a National Infrastructure Bank so we could fund economically-viable infrastructure projects nationwide and incentivize private investment.

The only way to reverse the overly-fragmented model of manufacturing is to establish “production ecosystems” that connect Main Street manufacturers, universities, and inventors into local networks. By strengthening these collaborations with coordinated local, state and federal policies, we can create a lasting national blueprint for advanced manufacturing.

In the international marketplace, we have an unprecedented opportunity to produce the most competitive brand of manufactured goods – those marked proudly as “Made in America.” Let’s get to work to make it happen.

About the authors: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mayor Bill Peduto and Lansing, Michigan, Mayor Virg Bernero are co-chairs of the National League of Cities Manufacturing Initiative.

Drones Will Have an Impact on Your City. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Cities across America will need to decide how they want to manage widespread commercial drone use, how they want to adopt drone technology for themselves, and how best they can encourage innovation in this exciting and growing field while still ensuring public safety.

(Getty Images)

Drones have the potential to revolutionize many industries and city services, particularly as their technology advances. Drones can be used for law enforcement and firefighting, as rural ambulances, and for inspections, environmental monitoring, and disaster management. (Getty Images)

We live in automated times. The technologies that for many represent the modern epoch – automobiles and airplanes – are maturing into a connected and automated future which will mark this century as much as Ford and the Wright brothers marked the previous one. While fully self-driving cars may still be a decade or so away, remotely piloted and even automated drones are already here.

Drones, like airplanes before them, are proving to be a versatile technology. Whether they are revolutionizing search and rescue capabilities or those of realtors showing off their homes, drones are lowering the cost and increasing the reach of airborne services. An individual can buy a drone for as little as a hundred dollars, sometimes less, and mount it with a low-cost high definition camera. While this technology puts the sky within reach for the layman, it also represents an opportunity for cities to augment their public services in new and innovative ways.

Drone sales have ballooned this decade, with around 700,00 recreational drones sold in 2015 alone. The retail research group NDP released a report in May announcing that drone sales tripled from the previous year. On June 21, the Federal Aviation Administration, which expects the number of drones to grow from 2.5 million in 2016 to 7 million by 2020, released new comprehensive regulations governing the use of drones in U.S. airspace.

While the new FAA regulations make strides towards strengthening drone registration and accountability infrastructure, they leave the bulk of enforcement and regulation to local and state government. As our skies become more crowded than ever, it is up to cities across America to decide how and when they want to see widespread commercial drone use, how they want to adopt drone technology for some of their own operations, and how best they can encourage innovation in this exciting and growing field while still ensuring public safety, accountability, and enforcement.

Drone technology promises to bring some exciting innovations that will help cities save revenue while increasing the effectiveness of the services they offer. Already, cities like Somerville, Massachusetts, and Tampa, Florida, are adopting drones for aerial inspections of city infrastructure. Arlington, Texas, and Grand Forks, North Dakota, are using drones to augment their local law enforcement capabilities. While drones offer a boon to municipalities looking to increase their effectiveness while lowering costs, this technology is quickly being adopted commercially as well. Drones are already used for precision farming and aerial photography, and are well on their way to being adopted for emergency medical services and commercial package delivery.

In a familiar pattern, innovation has outpaced legislation, leaving some cities behind as new drone businesses and practices emerge. When cities and towns are slow to act, they face possible preemption by their state legislatures, as has occurred in Maryland, and are missing a meaningful opportunity to shape drone use in their communities. The National League of Cities (NLC) has just released its municipal guide, Cities and Drones, as the first comprehensive study of the landscape of municipal drone adoption and regulation. The objective of this report is to assist local policy and decision makers as they consider their own community’s embrace of this technology. The challenge for local officials will be crafting policy and regulations that enable this drone technology to serve their cities best, embracing innovation, while still considering the safety and privacy concerns of their residents.

To read more about this issue, check out our full report, Cities and Drones: What Cities Need to Know About Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or the shorter issue brief.

About the Author: Elias Stahl is the Urban Innovation Intern in the National League of Cities (NLC) Center for City Solutions and Applied Research.

What I Learned at the U.S.-China Low-Carbon Cities Summit in Beijing

As Pinecrest, Florida, Mayor Cindy Lerner notes, confronting climate issues and reducing carbon emissions requires global participation at the local level.

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Through the U.S. State Department, cities like Beijing have signed collaborative agreements with American NGOs to expand green business and trade opportunities and enhance cooperation in areas such as climate-smart buildings, solar tech, and low-emissions transport. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Pinecrest, Florida, Mayor Cindy Lerner.

Last year, I was invited to be a member of the U.S. Compact of Mayors delegation to the first U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit, held in Los Angeles. The invitation from the White House was based on my leadership in the National League of Cities as the Chair of the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee. The 2015 Summit hosted 30 U.S. mayors and dozens of city leaders from China, each of whom presented on local efforts to reduce carbon emissions by advancing energy efficiencies, investing in renewable energy, and expanding transit in our cities. And it was remarkable to learn of the dozens of projects going on in cities throughout China that relied on renewable energy and focused on significantly reducing carbon emissions.

This year, the Chinese reciprocated by hosting the 2016 U.S.-China Climate-Smart / Low-Carbon Cities Summit in Beijing. I attended as one of a dozen U.S. mayors, with Bloomberg Philanthropies underwriting the costs of our travel and participation. Also at the summit were leaders from 49 Chinese cities and provinces as well as Secretary of State John Kerry, Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood Randall, a number of representatives from the State Department, and many NGO groups from the United States whose main mission is to advance clean energy. The Summit was an opportunity for U.S. and Chinese city leaders to exchange best practices on climate issues and support public-private partnerships to develop climate solutions.

Deputy Secretary Randall was a keynote speaker, and she recognized that cities and local leaders are leading the way as incubators for developing solutions. She also noted that cities are responsible for 70 percent of carbon emissions, so city leaders feel a fierce urgency to address these challenges. She announced that the U.S. government has made a commitment to double the national investment in clean energy by $12.8 billion a year to develop clean technologies, and is partnering with private investment firms, led by Bill Gates, to mobilize private industry.

Mayors from China and the United States gather at the

City leaders gather at the U.S.-China Climate-Smart / Low-Carbon Cities Summit in Beijing.

Secretary of State Kerry spoke about the significant partnership he has built with the Chinese Minister in charge of climate change and the collaborative nature of their shared commitments to advance clean energy throughout both countries. And U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baccus concluded the Summit by sharing that climate change and carbon reduction has been a significant component of the work going on between the two countries.

Mayors from great cities like Phoenix, Berkley, California, Boston, New York and Portland are all making significant investments in transit and clean energy, and have established ambitious goals to be carbon neutral by 2050. We also heard from many Chinese mayors who are piloting new clean and renewable energy programs and setting goals to significantly reduce carbon emissions and promote flexibility to adapt to climate change. Through the U.S. State Department, many mega-cities in China have signed collaborative agreements with many of the NGOs currently working in U.S. to provide technical resources and help monitor progress.

I learned that these ambitious efforts to address carbon reduction exist at the highest levels of government on a global scale – and that, at the same time, all of these efforts rely on the most local levels of government to ensure that real change takes place from the ground up. I also learned that it is up to each one of us – elected officials, community leaders, and business executives alike – to make commitments to decarbonize our cities, counties, states and, ultimately, our nations.

About the Author: Mayor Cindy Lerner has been mayor of Pinecrest, Florida, since 2008, and previously served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000 to 2002, when her district was eliminated due to redistricting. She chaired the NLC Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee in 2015 and was President of the Miami-Dade County League of Cities in 2014.

7 Incredible Stories of Economic Recovery

What you don’t always hear during national news reports are the stories obscured by facts and figures — the journeys that city leaders have taken to bring their cities from recession to recovery.

We measure economic recovery through a series of numbers: jobs that are coming back, property values recovering, and how many families on food stamps. What you don’t always hear during national news reports are the stories obscured by facts and figures — the journeys that city leaders have taken to bring their cities from recession to recovery.

Every day, local leaders are tasked with finding solutions to their communities’ economic challenges, but it never stops there. The greater challenge is the long-term maintenance of economic stability in order to keep the streets paved, water safe, and sidewalks walkable. These are the details you don’t hear in reports of post-recession data. You don’t always hear about what it takes to bring a city into prosperity: the development of a bold vision, the multi-sector strategizing, the coming together of multiple sectors, and the capitalization on what makes a city unique.

Take the story of Chattanooga, Tennessee. A once-flourishing industrial city with a bustling downtown, the fourth largest city in Tennessee took a downturn in the 90s when manufacturing jobs left. The iconic narrative resembled so many others: the bustling downtown emptied and crime increased. The City, along with public and private sectors, acted boldly and swiftly, capitalizing on waterfront revitalization efforts to transform Chattanooga into a lively, diverse, walkable hotbed of entrepreneurship.

The National League of Cities has actively been seeking out such stories of economic resilience to share with city leaders everywhere, emphasizing the message that “cities are where things get done.” We searched across the country for stories of city leaders who thought creatively, collaboratively, and quickly. They’re not just inspirational tales; these are real solutions from communities who are concrete successes.

On Friday April 15, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., NLC brought you seven of these short, powerful stories of economic resilience — including the story of Chattanooga – via the live stream of our Big Ideas for Cities event in Miami, Florida. Check out the video above; you can also share your thoughts on our Facebook and Twitter page. And if you’re not already, be sure to like and follow us!

Mari Andrew bio photoAbout the Author: Mari Andrew is the Senior Associate of Marketing at the National League of Cities.

Transportation Planning Is Stuck in the Past. Here’s What Needs to Be Done.

There are several critical limitations in municipal transportation planning, and in many ways, these limitations are worsening.

Atlanta-GA“Fixed-guideway systems will still be around, public streets and personal cars will still be around… Now transportation planners need to learn from the software industry and be more iterative. How can we accommodate different modes within the old networks?” (Getty Images)

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

Peter Torrellas has been working at the intersection of infrastructure and technology for almost twenty years, and currently serves as National Business Manager for State and Local Government at Siemens. Today, he believes there are several critical limitations in municipal transportation planning, and in many ways these limitations are worsening. “The window of opportunity to solve problems is moving faster than the planning process,” says Torrellas. “Planning, capital allocation, politics, even innovations like TIGER with the notion of ‘shovel-ready projects,’ are all built for a different time.”

So far, these limitations haven’t been too problematic. For all of the media buzz surrounding cities and the ‘disruption’ caused by transportation innovations, most people in most cities still only commute via car. But the true disruption may be right around the corner. “We’re going to have autonomous vehicles in 10-15 years. It isn’t a question.”

While denser cities like San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and New York will likely continue their trends toward multi-modalism, on-demand fleets of autonomous vehicles could be much more significant for the rest of the nation. Making trips to the store for bulk purchases, getting children to events or enabling seniors to live independently can all be accomplished without actually owning multiple personal vehicles.

Mr. Torrellas notes that “In the last 10 years, independent app developers taking advantage of public data was obvious and inevitable, but the next big thing will be centered around the automation and digitization of these systems.” Taking this step would be much more efficient and would remove significant amounts of traffic during peak hours. Particularly for freight and delivery services, “data centers will begin optimizing and directing the whole transportation network,” says Torrellas. “Algorithms make 60-70 percent of the trades on Wall St. and the same trend is happening in transportation.”

So how can cities prepare for the future and still be responsive to these unknown changes? For most cities, it will actually be important to think small. His advice: “You can’t just throw out the old way. Fixed-guideway systems will still be around, public streets and personal cars will still be around, but it will be one of many options. Now transportation planners need to learn from the software industry and be more iterative. How can we accommodate different modes, or driverless vehicles, within the old networks? San Francisco started with bike lanes and complete streets pilots, and they scaled. The city nailed pay-for-parking because they scaled and had vision.”

About the Author: Cooper Martin is the Program Director for the Sustainable Cities Institute at NLC. Follow the program on twitter @sustcitiesinst.

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.