Mayors Across America Draft Urban Future Plans at Smart Cities Institute, a New Convening Hub Created by NYU Wagner and the US Conference of Mayors
Mayors of eight cities around the country convened at NYU Wagner for a three-day working conference devoted to informing how they can, in the most practical of terms, harness changing technologies to make their cities run smarter.
The event was run by the new Mayors Leadership Institute on Smart Cities, established at NYU Wagner in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM). The Institute works with city leaders to provide them with enhanced knowledge, skills, resources, and best practices. It aims to position mayors and their staffs not only to hone their respective approaches, but, in collaboration with one another, to develop models that cities across the country can use to enlist smart technologies to maintain streets, move toward 100% renewable energy sources, boost community safety, and increase citizens’ access to government services through open data portals, among many other potential uses.
“Cities are often overwhelmed with the vast number of possibilities and potential of new technologies to improve local services,” said Institute Research Director and NYU Wagner Professor of Urban Planning and Public Service Neil Kleiman. “The Institute creates a rare safe space to learn about new approaches, test them out, and draft an ambitious and realistic plan to take back home.”
The May 1-3 conference at NYU Wagner marked the second Smart Cities meetup, giving mayors—this time from Macon, GA; Bridgeport, CT; Fontana, CA; Henderson, NV; Pittsburgh, PA; Shreveport, LA; Spokane, WA; and Trenton, NJ—the chance to share their experiences and objectives in a peer-to-peer setting. What really sets the Institute apart from other conferences is the opportunity to work with urban technology experts who—in one-on-one and group consultations—help improve the mayors’ plans in real time. Gordon Campbell, the Institute’s Director and NYU Wagner Professor of Public Service, noted, “We assembled former chief technology officers from around the country who were not only steeped in key areas such as transportation and healthcare but all had a keen sense of ‘urban intelligence’—what it takes to use data effectively to truly address local challenges.”
To some, perhaps, the phrase “smart cities” sounds like waving a magic wand and bringing about cost savings and improved efficiency. But effective use of smart technology requires the management and implementation of thoughtful financing, operations, partnerships with nonprofit and private vendors, citizen engagement, and digital inclusion. So, for those attending, the Institute provides both vital assistance and connections to other city leaders committed to the same smart city goals.
Learnings and presentations from the May conference will be shared with mayors from other cities who attended the December inaugural conference.