City Leaders – Here’s Why the Better Buildings Summit Should Be on Your Calendar

More than 900 participants at the Department of Energy’s 2017 Better Buildings Summit will share proven approaches to cutting energy use in their buildings over the next 10 years.

Among other offerings, the Better Buildings Summit will provide city leaders a sneak peak of cutting edge and emerging clean technologies that will increase energy efficiency in buildings and infrastructure. (Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is hosting the Better Buildings Summit May 15–17 in Washington, D.C. The Better Buildings Summit is a national meeting where leading organizations across key sectors showcase solutions to cut energy intensity in their buildings portfolio-wide by 20 percent over the next ten years. As one of the premier events for energy and sustainability professionals, the summit is the forum to engage with peers, explore innovative organizational strategies, learn about financing and technology trends, and much more. Check out the agenda for a list of all the sessions and watch this video to learn more.

The summit features numerous sessions and workshops designed to give city leaders fresh insights, inspiration and practical advice. They include:

All-In: States, Localities, Utilities and Nonprofits Creating Solutions for Underserved Communities

DOE is partnering with states, localities, utilities, housing agencies and nonprofit organizations to support the planning and implementation of clean energy programs in disadvantaged communities as part of its Clean Energy for Low Income Communities Accelerator. Session attendees will gain a better understanding of the diverse opportunities to ensure equitable and affordable access to energy efficiency and solar energy in American communities.

An Electrifying Transition: Electrification Barriers and Opportunities

A shift toward greater electrification is needed to effectively reduce energy waste and costs, increase energy independence, strengthen industry, and create jobs. This three-hour workshop explores the opportunities and barriers for state and local governments to electrify their transportation sectors, building technologies and ports. Join the workshop to discuss the latest trends, success stories and innovative strategies in electrification.

Expect the Unexpected: Planning Energy-Resilient Communities

The nation’s energy sector is subject to an increasing number of threats from natural and human events. Greater resilience is required to confront these risks, including a comprehensive plan and infrastructure with the ability to avoid disruptions, minimize impacts, and recover from and adapt to a changing environment. Attend this three-hour workshop to learn about the technologies, planning and partnership approaches governments are pursuing to overcome these challenges.

Shedding Light on LED Street Lights

The Better Buildings Outdoor Lighting Accelerator dove deeply into the deployment barriers of LED street lights, a performance technology with evidence-based energy savings and other benefits for many cities. Partners will share advice for overcoming the challenges for successful LED street lighting conversion projects. Attendees will leave with actionable information and resources to plan their own projects.

Reimagining Cities! Achieving Efficient, Resilient and Sustainable Communities Through Zero Energy Buildings

Exemplary Zero Energy Buildings (ZEBs) are setting the standard for more sustainable communities. Over the last year, ZEB projects grew by 74 percent and have covered every climate zone in the U.S. This session will cover the planning, innovative technologies and processes that make Zero Energy Buildings a reality while highlighting ZEB projects in Denver and Washington, D.C.

Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus: The Next Wave of Challenges and Solutions

Our nation’s energy and water systems are inextricably linked. Solutions that address the interdependencies of these systems are growing in importance as concerns over water scarcity continue to rise. In this session, experts from the public and private sectors will share their perspectives on key technology, business and policy solutions that address the energy-water nexus.

There are also great opportunities to tour high-performance buildings, speak with technical experts from national labs, and network with public sector peers:

  • Monday, May 15: Local government meet-up and post-summit networking event
  • Tuesday and Wednesday, May 15 and 16: Ask-an-Expert between sessions to get technical advice on building technologies or reserve a meeting to get one-on-one assistance with your community’s energy performance data
  • Tuesday May 16: Meet & greet with attendees during an evening networking event

Register now and get an invite to join the summit app community!

Financial assistance is available. A limited number of travel stipends and registration scholarships are available upon request for representatives from state or local government energy/sustainability offices that do not have administrative funds available for such purposes through an existing federal funding agreement with DOE or another federal agency. Please submit financial assistance requests through the registration website.

The Better Buildings Summit is produced by the U.S Department of Energy.

About the author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation.

Racing to Be First: How Autonomous Vehicles Will Affect Our Communities

A new National League of Cities report addresses the most pressing questions that local officials might have concerning self-driving vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles are already on our city streets — and for the foreseeable future, a variety of vehicles will operate on our roads with varying levels of automation. (Getty Images)

The full version of this post can be found on Route Fifty

The race towards fully autonomous vehicles has shifted into overdrive. In the past year, major partnerships and acquisitions between tech firms and traditional automakers have signaled the race is heating up for the future of transportation — and the stakes are high.

Traditional automakers like GM, Ford, Daimler and Fiat are taking the competition posed by Google’s Waymo and Elon Musk’s Tesla seriously — partnering with car-sharing platforms like Uber and Lyft as well as acquiring their own autonomous capabilities in firms like Cruise Automation. Nearly every major auto manufacturer has set a target for full autonomous production by 2021 or before, while autonomous vehicles are already on the streets of Pittsburgh and Tempe, Arizona. If major investments by the sector’s most prominent firms are anything to go by, producers are betting that the future of mobility, especially urban mobility, will be in autonomous fleets of shared vehicles collecting reams of data as they drive through our city streets.

Read the full version on Route Fifty.

About the authors:

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.

Elias Stahl is the urban innovation intern in NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research.

How One Park District in Illinois Is Making Smarter Parks

In many cities, one of the most popular services utilized by the community is open space, including parks and playgrounds. Unfortunately, park use is also one of the hardest things for cities to measure.

Park visitation can be impacted by rentals, holidays, weather and construction, as well as the number of attendees at special events. Cities can use data on these impacts to improve park operations and drive project outcomes. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Bobbi Nance and Edward Krafcik. This post is the first in a series celebrating National Parks Week.

With the abundance of startup companies interested in partnering with local governments — and the variety of new technologies designed specifically for this purpose — there has emerged a decision paralysis which inhibits city leaders to act quickly and effectively on any one innovation project. This is only natural — after all, with so much available on the market in terms of technologies and ideas, and with little evidence to show what works and why, it is reasonably challenging for city leaders to decide where to invest when the upside and downside are not yet fully measurable.

In this sneak peek into a case study from the Park District of Oak Park, Illinois, we profile how Oak Park is collaborating with a startup company called Soofa from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. By working together in a highly collaborative and iterative manner, both organizations achieved their goals simultaneously while maximizing the value the new technology provides to the citizens of Oak Park. This case study provides a working example for how innovative public-private projects can succeed, and offers advice on what to look for in a partnership with a startup company and how best to manage the associated risks.

The Park District of Oak Park first contacted Soofa in March of 2016 looking for ways it could count the number of people who use its parks with sensor technology instead of counting manually by hand. Specifically, the district’s goals were to compare the pedestrian use of its parks to inform capital planning decisions, measure the success of event programming and marketing activities, and tell a more complete story of how its parks are used and how valuable they are to the community.

As Bobbi Nance, senior manager of strategy and innovation for the Park District of Oak Park, described, “at any parks and recreation agency, the most popular service utilized by the community is open space, including parks and playgrounds. Unfortunately, park use is also one of the hardest things for park providers to measure. The technology in Soofa products was appealing to us as a data-driven organization because it allowed us for the first time to have consistent data about how our parks are being used, all while providing the added benefit of free solar-powered charging stations to our park visitors.”

A Soofa Core station installed in Oak Park, Illinois. (Soofa)

Soofa makes smart outdoor furniture, like park benches that use solar power to provide phone charging for the public and sensor data collection for public agencies and local governments. Oak Park is one of Soofa’s first smarter parks beta partners, meaning it engaged in a pilot project with the intention of co-creating a technology product that would closely meet its needs.

The network of beta partners also includes agencies like NYC Parks, Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation, Prince George’s County, Maryland, Parks and Recreation, and dozens of other forward-thinking city departments and agencies. You can read more about Oak Park’s installation in this Chicago Tribune article and learn more about how they engaged their community with the new technology by designing a fun QR code scavenger hunt called SpotTheSoofa.

Nance further illustrated how being a beta partner has provided the district with critical data during the first stages of the project. “In the first six months, we’ve already been able to spot differences in usage patterns in the four parks where a Soofa Core station was installed, and we are starting to see how park visitation is impacted by rentals, holidays, weather and construction, as well as the number of attendees at a special event or the number of people that take advantage of temporary offerings like outdoor ice rinks or art installations.”

Data Collection and Interpretation

Pedestrian count data is provided to the Park District of Oak Park in comma-separated value files which provide the district flexibility to study how park use is impacted by events, weather and more. Nance imports this data into her agency-wide dashboard, which is powered by iDashboards. The dashboard enables different types of correlations, including how temperature and events impact park use, and it can evaluate the success of different marketing strategies and tactics by revealing how many people visit the district’s parks based on a particular marketing initiative or advertised event.

While not every city or agency is using a dashboard as comprehensively as the Park District of Oak Park, the main lesson to be taken from this example is that being able to correlate data is crucial. When considering or comparing different technology products, services or companies, cities should ask tough questions about how data sets can be correlated with others, how open a particular data set is (meaning how easy it is to access and share), and how flexible and adaptive it is.

Data Usage Goals

A graph showing the impact of the 2017 Super Bowl game on park visitation. (Soofa)

The wealth of data gathered by Soofa’s sensors in the four parks across the Oak Park district is only beginning to be tapped into. The project has been live for nine months, with plans for expansion underway to increase the total number of sensors in the district’s parks. Further data use goals that will be explored in the coming months include:

  • Use pedestrian traffic data to improve park operations
  • Inform capital improvement schedules based on knowing how often different parks are actually being used — a goal which ultimately saves money on excessive improvements
  • Become more efficient in offering (and pricing) permits for events
  • Sync up with nearby business improvement districts and share the data to be able to quantify how public programming impacts park use and neighborhood activity in general
  • Measure the impact of park improvement projects by knowing how many more people visit the park after the improvements are complete

Accelerating the Process and Driving Outcomes

The original idea to bring Soofa benches to the Park District of Oak Park was presented in March 2016 by Bobbi Nance to her team via the district’s intranet, where district employees share innovative ideas. In just five months, Soofa technology was installed in four of the district’s parks. How did this happen so fast? Oak Park made a few recommendations on how to innovate efficiently:

  • Figure out early if you want to start with a pilot project or widespread deployment, and align all internal stakeholders accordingly
  • Insulate innovation projects from traditional processes and funding sources
  • Don’t overlook the value and the opportunity that comes from the innovation itself, like being able to co-develop a product that really meets your needs

To learn more and see data visualizations prepared by the Park District of Oak Park, read the full case study here.

About the authors:

Bobbi Nance is the senior manager of strategy and innovation at the Park District of Oak Park. Bobbi oversees the agency’s strategic plans and serves as a catalyst for innovation, moving ideas from concept to reality and accelerating the pace at which her agency implements improvements.

Ed Krafcik is the director of partnerships at Soofa and is an advisory board member for Parks and Recreation Magazine. He collaborates with cities and parks departments across the country to solve problems using new types of data.

NLC Announces 2017 SolSmart City Challenge

Cities can earn national recognition and prizes by showcasing their support for solar energy.

(SolSmart)

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, the SolSmart program helps cities remove regulatory barriers to solar deployment and implement best practices to harness economic opportunity. (SolSmart)

Solar energy experienced a record-setting year in 2016 as 14,762 megawatts of solar PV became operational across the U.S. For the first time ever, solar energy was the leading source of new electric generating capacity added to the U.S. energy mix, beating out wind and natural gas. Cities played a strong role in making that happen.

From coast to coast, there are examples of cities leading the way by installing solar panels on the rooftops of city halls, fire stations, libraries and old municipal landfills. Cities also realize they can promote solar in other ways, and are making it easier for local homes and businesses to install solar by streamlining their permitting processes or updating zoning codes.

Cities that embrace solar energy recognize the value it brings to the community: local, well-paying jobs. The National Solar Jobs Census 2016 from the Solar Foundation found that 1 out of every 50 new jobs added in the U.S. was in the solar industry. The report documented 260,077 solar workers in 2016 ­– just as many as in the natural gas industry.

The National League of Cities (NLC) supports local solar energy leadership and is a proud partner of SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. SolSmart recognizes leading solar communities and empowers additional communities to become solar leaders through customized technical assistance. NLC recently recognized the latest group of SolSmart designated communities at its 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C.

New SolSmart Communities:

  • SolSmart Gold: New York City and Louisville, Kentucky
  • SolSmart Bronze: Maricopa County, Arizona; Moab, Utah; Plano, Texas; Salt Lake City; and Summit County, Utah

SolSmart Communities Achieving a Higher Designation:

  • SolSmart Gold: Denver
  • SolSmart Silver: Charleston County, South Carolina, and Pinecrest, Florida

NLC wants to see more cities become SolSmart designees. To that end, we are launching the 2017 SolSmart City Challenge, a new national competition for cities to showcase their support for solar energy. The SolSmart City Challenge will run from Monday, April 3, until Friday, June 30. Cities can join the challenge by completing a SolSmart scorecard.

The SolSmart City Challenge has two categories (one winner from each).

  1. SolSmart City MVP: This award will go to the city with the highest verified points total after the initial submission of a SolSmart scorecard.
  2. SolSmart Most Improved: This award will go to the city with the highest verified points improvement between initial submission of a scorecard and resubmission of a SolSmart scorecard. Cities in this category will work with SolSmart technical assistance providers to complete more actions and acquire more points. Resubmissions must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on June 30. Only one resubmission is allowed.

The prizes for the two winners of the SolSmart City Challenge include:

  • Travel reimbursement to attend the 2017 NLC City Summit, November 15-18 in Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Presentation opportunity at the City Summit during a workshop on Energy & Climate
  • Presentation opportunity during a future NLC webinar on SolSmart
  • Recognition in NLC communication platforms, including The Weekly, the official newsletter of the National League of Cities, as well as NLC’s official blog, CitiesSpeak, and our social media channels
  • SolSmart City Challenge Winning Certificate

Email Nick Kasza if you’d like to get started on the SolSmart scorecard or learn more about the SolSmart City Challenge. If you have a story or picture to share about solar energy impacting your community, send it to Nick and it may be featured in a future blog post.

Please note: the 2017 SolSmart City Challenge is open to new city submissions only. Cities that submitted a SolSmart scorecard prior to April 3, 2017, are not eligible. Previous submissions, SolSmart Early Adopter Communities, and communities with a SolSmart Advisor are also ineligible for the SolSmart City Challenge.

About the author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation.

Innovation Neighborhoods: An Inclusive Economic Development Parallel to Innovation Districts

When innovation districts and innovation neighborhoods are thoughtfully aligned, cities can expect more inclusiveness, educational opportunity and socioeconomic impact.

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In innovation neighborhoods, small businesses and tech startups mingle to create a unique sense of place and strong community. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by David Sandel.

In the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program report “The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America,” the authors describe an emerging urban model called “innovation districts.”

As described in the report, “these districts, by our definition, are geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with startups, business incubators and accelerators. They are also physically compact, transit-accessible and technically-wired, and offer mixed-use housing, office and retail.” These innovation districts also tend to be “where underutilized areas (particularly older industrial areas) are being re-imagined and remade.”

Because innovation districts generally appeal to people or organizations familiar with a university or institutional setting, they can be somewhat of an exclusive club utilized by persons of a higher educational or socioeconomic status.

Certainty, having institutionally-oriented innovation districts is of great value. They can create high-value jobs, accelerate the development of new companies, and attract public- and private-sector investment. However, given their cultural and socioeconomic dynamic, institutionally-led innovation districts can only capture a specific portion of a city’s innovation market capacity.

What is important for a city to understand about this dynamic?

For a city to maximize its socioeconomic output in the new economy, the city or region has to engage the greatest depth of its innovation market capacity. Implementing new forms of inclusion are central to achieving greater socioeconomic impact.

This leads us to a new vision for innovation neighborhoods.

Innovation neighborhoods function at the center of community life and are therefore organically inclusive in nature. They are neighborhoods that have a unique sense of place and are capable of attracting a diverse creative community that welcomes all comers, regardless of education level or socioeconomic class. Innovation neighborhoods thrive on talent without focusing on how it arrives.

For an innovation neighborhood to thrive, a deep understanding of the neighborhood – and its sense of place, socioeconomic potential, infrastructure and entrepreneurial ecosystem – is essential. When innovation districts and innovation neighborhoods are thoughtfully aligned, cities can expect more inclusiveness, educational opportunity and socioeconomic impact.

Want to learn more? Last year, NLC released a comprehensive report on innovation districts, highlighting the progress made in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and in this blog post, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke tells the story of how his city became a hotbed for entrepreneurship and innovation.

David_Sandel_125x150 About the author: David Sandel is the lead author for the St. Louis chapter in Smart Economy in Smart Cities, the president of Sandel & Associates and the founder of iNeighborhoods.

Want to Close the Digital Divide? For Cities, Partnerships Are Key

In New York, the Bronx city government was able to provide 5,000 families living in public housing with tablets and internet service. Here’s how they did it.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (center), along with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro (left) and Terry Hayes, Senior Vice President, Northeast Region, T-Mobile, gather in December 2016 to celebrate the work to connect 5,000 families living in public housing in the Bronx with tablets and internet service. (photo: EveryoneOn)

This is a guest post by Chike Aguh.

In New York City, approximately 20 percent of households currently don’t have the internet at home and have no mobile internet options. In the Bronx, it is a staggering 26 percent of households. The majority of the unconnected are minority and poor.

At EveryoneOn, we have seen this time and time again: low-income individuals yearning for a connection to the digital world but not being able to find a way to afford it. Luckily, cities are meeting this call and implementing public-private partnership solutions.

For example, in 2016, the Bronx city government worked with T-Mobile to provide 5,000 families living in public housing with tablets and internet service. It was a $2 million investment, and part of a larger $10 million commitment by the New York City government to bring affordable internet access to all of New York City by 2025.

“Increasing internet access across the city is not just a noble goal – it’s a necessary one. These days, the internet is virtually a requirement for people searching for jobs or students doing homework,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Along with free Wi-Fi internet through T-Mobile networks, the 5,000 residents were given tablets loaded with applications and links to city services. In addition, residents were offered information sessions on how to use the tablets. By combining these efforts with digital literacy training from the New York Public Library’s Bronx branches, residents now have access to the three-legged stool of digital inclusion: affordable internet access, a device on which to access the internet, and training on how to use both.

During the launch, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro highlighted HUD’s innovative ConnectHome program, which connects residents in HUD-assisted housing, and praised New York City’s commitment to digital inclusion efforts.

“The ConnectHome program is providing children and families with the tools they need to stay competitive in this 21st century global economy,” said Castro in a news release. “With this new commitment to ConnectHome, T-Mobile and the city of New York are making a meaningful impact to close the digital divide for thousands of New York public housing residents.”

While the Bronx and New York City – along with other cities such as Seattle, Kansas City, Missouri, and Charlotte, North Carolina – have helped close the digital divide, the United States as a whole still has a long way to go in making sure that all people have access to the life-altering power of the internet. According to the American Community Survey, more than 60 million people are currently living on the wrong side of the digital divide. This divide affects both rural and urban residents, but disproportionately those that are poor and minority.

This lack of access and use of the internet impacts almost every aspect of daily lives. For example, Pew Research has found that approximately 80 percent of students need the internet to complete their homework, and that the vast majority of people have used the internet to research and apply for jobs. If you have the internet at home, high school graduation is more likely, which can lead to $2 million more in lifetime earnings.

These are just a few of the numbers that can be improved if we work together to connect people to the internet at home. At EveryoneOn, we have worked since 2012 to help connect people to the social and economic opportunities provided by the internet. So far, we have connected more than 400,000 people in the United States, with the goal of connecting one million people by 2020.

We believe that partnerships are a way for all cities to meet the digital needs of their residents. For cities and communities, support of digital inclusion efforts through community planning, public-private partnerships and monetary investments are substantial ways to help the unconnected enter the digital on-ramp. By working together, the goal of ending this digital divide is attainable. The digital inclusion needle can be moved with just a little push.

About the author: Chike Aguh is the chief executive officer of EveryoneOn, a national nonprofit that creates social and economic opportunity by connecting everyone to the internet. EveryoneOn serves as the nonprofit lead of HUD’s ConnectHome program. Follow Chike on Twitter @CRAguh or EveryoneOn @Everyone_On.

Meet Your City Technology and Communications Advocate

“It can seem tempting to default on the side of industry in the hopes of spurring innovation, but obviously you cannot prioritize the needs of one entity or company over those of all the other actors in the room – namely, local governments.”

Every week leading up to the Congressional City Conference, we will continue to feature “Meet Your City Advocate” spotlights as part of a series introducing you to NLC’s Federal Advocacy team. This week, I sat down with Angelina Panettieri, principal associate for technology and communications advocacy at NLC.

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Angelina Panettieri is the principal associate for technology and communications at NLC (Brian Egan/NLC).

Name: Angelina Panettieri
Area of expertise: Technology and Communications
Hometown: near Winchester, Virginia
Federal Advocacy Committee: Information Technology & Communications (ITC)

Angelina, thanks for your time today. To start off, can you tell us about your background?

I grew up out in the country near Winchester, Virginia. So, fun fact: I never lived in a real city until college. Undergrad was the first time I lived in a place with sidewalks. I earned a BA and an MPA from George Mason University. I always knew I wanted to work in policy, and have worked for several other organizations before joining NLC. One of my first jobs was with a group that represented smaller chemical companies. I later joined an association that works with pharmacists. Now I work in technology and communications policy for cities, so you can see that I’ve always been interested in wonky technical topics. I started at NLC a few years back, working in grassroots advocacy.

So what specifically attracted you to technology and communications policy? 

It always interested me. It’s an area that seems to be growing. Technology and communications are areas that will likely shape our lives the most over the immediate future — and that means a lot for cities. Technology is starting to determine how we move around, what our housing looks like, what are jobs are, how we treat our patients.

There’s something we often say — broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. I compare it to the rural electrification project. Like the families that remained off-the-grid in the first half of the 20th century, we’re rapidly moving toward a world where internet is a necessary ingredient to success. Many people don’t realize that a huge portion of NLC’s members are small cities, and these are the places that are still working to get online. It’s exciting for me to advocate for them.

What do you think 2017 has in store for technology and communication policy, as far as cities are concerned?

I think this year will be interesting. We haven’t heard a lot from the president about where he wants to take tech policy – other than outspoken support for infrastructure and manufacturing, which will inevitably involve technology. Congress has had a backlog of technology-focused bills that they were not able to pass last year; I expect they will have more success this year. These bills are largely noncontroversial: expanding available spectrum, incentivizing infrastructure that includes broadband, etcetera. There are two places, however, that I think we should focus on: the FCC and state legislatures.

The new FCC chair, Commissioner Ajit Pai, has already indicated that he will shake things up over there. Our goal is to maintain a dialogue with all the commissioners and ensure that major policy changes are only made after the needs of cities have been considered. It can seem tempting to default on the side of industry in the hopes of spurring innovation, but obviously you cannot prioritize the needs of one entity or company over those of all the other actors in the room, namely local governments.

On the state side of things, we are seeing telecom and other technology bills moving very quickly through state houses. NLC doesn’t lobby state legislatures, but in this policy area in particular, we are seeing states drive a lot of what’s happening on the ground. I think Congress will continue to watch what’s happening in states as inspiration for federal policy in the future. But I may be jumping ahead to a 2018 or 2019 prediction.

Did you want to touch upon the 5G comment period going on right now?

Yes, of course! We’re involved in a proceeding at the FCC that’s focused on the local government permitting process for small cell wireless infrastructure. This is all leading up to the deployment of a new 5G wireless standard. The wireless industry is working to provide faster service to its customers, which requires moving up the spectrum. As you go higher, you need smaller antennas to broadcast a signal, and you need many more of them located closer together.

It’s a competition to offer the best 5G first, which means every company has already started applying for permits to install hundreds of thousands of these “small cells.” Now, the FCC is looking into whether existing regulations and permitting processes – mostly at the local level – are slowing this deployment down. NLC is most concerned about maintaining cities’ rights to protect their residents’ rights of way, and ensuring that they continue to get proper compensation for its use. 5G needs to happen without overwhelming and ignoring the needs of local governments.

Fascinating! And now for the hardest question: what’s your spirit city?

I have had a lot of time to think about this, so I can say with certainty: Wildwood, New Jersey.

Get out! You know I’m a South Jersey kid, so shore trips to Wildwood define my childhood.

I did not know that!

I’m glad someone doesn’t hear my accent. Why Wildwood, is it all of that Googie architecture?

Yes, I love Googie architecture! Really, I love everything about Wildwood. They have such a great pride in their history and fully embrace how quirky it is. I could spend every summer of my life there. They’ve doubled down on the classic fifties beach image and they run with it.

Join us at the 2017 Congressional City Conference and meet Angelina and the rest of your City Advocates.

brian-headshotAbout the author: Brian Egan is the Public Affairs Associate for NLC. Follow him on Twitter @BeegleME.

 

The City of Wichita Leads the Way in Career and Technical Education

Competing in a global economy demands that we continue supporting manufacturing areas by providing skilled workers with certificates and degrees from qualified community and technical colleges.

(Getty Images)

A 2013 report by the Brookings Institution reported that the city of Wichita was one of three American cities which had the largest share of STEM jobs not requiring a four-year degree. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Mayor Jeff Longwell. This is the first post in a series about the Mayors’ Education Task Force.

As the mayor of Wichita, Kansas, I have seen the importance of investing in Career and Technical Education (CTE). At NLC’s recent Mayors’ Education Task Force meeting, I emphasized the role of local leaders in developing opportunities for youth and adults to gain meaningful employment in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines and technical industries. In Wichita, we have experienced the value of CTE as a conduit for rewarding careers in the fields of automotive maintenance and technology, advanced manufacturing, information technology, climate and energy control, and healthcare.

Wichita is known as the “Air Capital” of the world because of our expansive global aviation supply chain. Many of the early aviation pioneers came from, or have roots in, Kansas. This has enabled Wichita to also pioneer new technologies in advanced manufacturing, such as 3-D printing and robotics.

The specialized technical education required for these jobs often can be completed in a one- to two-year program. It is precisely these career technical education programs that are important to creating a successful and available workforce. Competing in a global economy demands that we continue supporting manufacturing areas by providing skilled workers with certificates and degrees from qualified community and technical colleges.

In 2013, the Brookings Institution reported that the cities of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Birmingham, Alabama, and Wichita had the largest share of STEM jobs not requiring a four-year degree. This report also found that half of STEM jobs do not require a four-year degree, although they pay 10 percent more on average than jobs with similar educational requirements. This knowledge has been a strength of our local economy for many decades, and it has helped build our industries and improve our citizens’ lives. Cities across our nation could benefit from increased access to quality credential programs and career pathways.

The state of Kansas recognized this several years ago and created scholarships that encourage people to obtain a variety of two-year technical certificates and degrees that help to grow our economy. The Kansas Department of Education prepares secondary students for this opportunity by using the National Career Cluster Model, grouping similar job skills into 16 fields of studies as Career Clusters. By developing structured career pathways, Kansas secondary students can access further education and employment opportunities right after high school graduation. The career pathways offered are developed in collaboration with business and industry leaders to ensure relevant and trade-worthy skills are embedded into the CTE secondary curriculum.

In Kansas, skilled automotive technicians who have completed a two-year education program can often earn six-figure salaries in the industry within the first few years of their career. Even with this reality, we see many industries and companies struggle to find people with the proper credentials and technical education to fill these jobs.

Here in Wichita, we are proud to have a leading example in our Wichita Area Technical College (WATC). This nationally-recognized technical college recently launched the Wichita Promise, a scholarship program that pays tuition and fees for training and certification for specific high-wage, high-demand jobs. Recently launched in 2016, the program works with local employers and provides personal career coaching and a guaranteed interview upon completion. WATC also works with our local high schools, providing students access to low-cost or free college and technical courses before students even graduate from high school.

In partnership with the new presidential administration and CTE advocates across the nation, I believe that adequate funding and marketing strategies can encourage education leaders, high school counselors, students and parents to explore a career and technical education pathway.

The critical requirement is that state and federal lawmakers support access to these opportunities and promote quality one- to two-year career technical education programs for adults and young people graduating high school. City leaders like myself have an important leadership role to play in guiding the momentum of our communities’ economic growth. With CTE, we can help employers find a ready and skilled workforce in our cities and improve citizens’ access to training and education, preparing them for quality, well-paying careers.

About the author: Mayor Jeff Longwell was elected to office in April 2015 and sits on NLC’s Mayors’ Education Task Force. He is a long-time resident of Wichita, having grown up in a west-side neighborhood and attended West High School and Wichita State University. Mayor Longwell began his community involvement as a member of the Board of Education at the Maize School, where his children attended school.

As Cities Become ‘Smart’, Public Safety Looks to FirstNet for Priority Broadband

“FirstNet is the first effort I know of where cross disciplines – police, fire, EMS, mayors, city councils – have all been united.” -Tom Sorley, Deputy Chief Information Officer, Houston, Texas

(FirstNet)

FirstNet is developing the first nationwide public safety broadband network to provide first responders the advanced communication and collaboration technologies they need to help them do their jobs safely and effectively. (FirstNet)

This is a guest post by Ed Parkinson.

The term “Smart Cities” is a popular topic in today’s urban jurisdictions – but what is a Smart City? A Smart City has technological infrastructure which collects, aggregates and analyzes real-time data which it uses to improve the lives of its residents according to the National League of Cities, report “Trends in Smart City Development”. But beyond that, a Smart City partners with universities and the federal and private sectors in using technology to enhance the quality and performance of urban services. Innovation can improve city services – from finding energy efficiencies and reducing traffic to fighting crime and fostering economic growth.

The Department of Commerce recently recognized the potential of FirstNet to improve public safety services. In their January 2017 green paper, Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things, the Department said, “the FirstNet network will be an incubator and proving ground for public safety focused IoT solutions by linking more first responder data sources, such as their gear, emergency vehicles, fingerprint scanners, databases, and more.” Here are just a few innovations some cities are considering to enhance first responders’ ability to protect their communities:

  • Detailed surge maps to analyze patterns and display predictive outcomes for severe weather preparations;
  • Intelligent street lights to detect gunfire and alert authorities;
  • Subway platforms with embedded sensors to monitor and flag overcrowding;
  • Smart grids: embedded sensors for managing water, gas and electric services; and
  • Providing real-time information on traffic conditions to determine the fastest route to an emergency.

Some added benefits of these innovations include:

  • Directing the city’s first responders more precisely and efficiently to improve emergency response;
  • Managing technology and personnel more effectively by providing intelligent insight into areas where they’re needed most;
  • Increasing responders’ situational awareness and maintaining their safety during emergencies to speed up the decision-making process; and
  • Improve interagency communications and collaboration.

As urban planners and policymakers think about their cities becoming digitized and interconnected, a challenge will be ensuring investments are made to withstand the growth in Internet traffic. Increasingly, these technologies will depend on wireless broadband networks so cities can communicate securely, rapidly and with priority to their responders on the street.

Signed into law on February 22, 2012, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). The law gives FirstNet the mission to build, operate and maintain the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network with priority dedicated to public safety. FirstNet will provide a single interoperable platform for emergency and daily public safety communications.

As FirstNet progresses in its mission to deploy a nationwide public safety broadband network, there will be many opportunities for policy makers and city officials to get involved and to make FirstNet a part of every Smart City.

The Smart City concept has grown to include at least 70 cities throughout the nation. The initiative includes federal grants in areas such as public safety, transportation, and disaster response. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) authorized $35 million in new grants last fall and over $10 million in proposed investments to build a research infrastructure for Smart Cities.  The National Science Foundation (NSF) also announced over $35 million in Smart Cities grants. FirstNet is ideal for bringing together the technology of Smart Cities to advance public safety.

Tom Sorley, deputy chief information officer for Houston, Texas, said FirstNet is “the first effort I know of where cross disciplines – police, fire, EMS, mayors, city councils – have all been united. Everybody’s come together and said, ‘We have to have this.’”

FirstNet is necessary to allow first responders to use the digital tools available to them on a reliable network, Sorley said. “This reduces risk. It makes the first responders and the citizens they serve safer. Data, more and more, is becoming that critical lynchpin in the service provision for public safety.”

Reid Vaughn, fire chief in Cuba, Alabama, agrees. “It’s often a challenge to get broadband services,” he said. “FirstNet will for the first time give us a mission critical, proprietary system. This will be a significant improvement for our rural communities. When everything is going wrong, this system is designed to keep going.”

Another key element to the efficiency of Smart Cities is the Internet of Things, which will extend Internet connectivity to items we use every day, such as light, electric switches and vehicles. Many in the public safety sector are looking forward to the ‘Internet of Lifesaving Things’ that will extend connectivity to responder gear such as body cameras and vehicles.

Key to making this all come together is collaboration between public safety agencies at the federal, state and local level, as well as public-private partnerships. Advances such as open data initiatives and the collaboration of research and technology to tackle key challenges – from fighting crime to providing shelter during a disaster – are most effective when working together.  Smart mobile technology, constantly driven forward by the marketplace, holds great promise for public safety as first responders strive to make communities safer. The National League of Cities, in its extensive work to share best practices used by Smart Cities, is a leader in this work.

First responders across the country will benefit from using next generation tools with prioritized, wireless broadband.  As cities continue to think about getting “smarter,” FirstNet hopes to work with them to be part of the solution.

To learn more and get involved, please visit FirstNet.gov and reach out to your FirstNet State Point of Contact (SPOC). You can also help by writing to your professional associations and ask them to pass a resolution in support of FirstNet, Following FirstNet on social media, and by writing a guest blog for FirstNet by contacting us at socialmedia@firstnet.gov.

ed_parkinson_125x150About the author: Ed Parkinson is the Director of Government Affairs at FirstNet.