Tag Archives: providence

After 15 weeks, a check-in on my Twitter experiment

As I mentioned in my last post, I set out at the end of the summer to attempt a new focus for my Twitter account. I liked the idea overall, but I altered it in two ways. First, I didn’t exclusively post about the three focal cities. There is far too much news of all types and content from across the country and beyond that I wanted to and did tweet about. So some of the tweeting that only scratched the surface of a place or an issue remains on my account, as it probably always will.  But I feel I supplemented that effectively with content on the three places I wanted to learn more about.

plannerthon on ABQSecond, and most importantly, I chose to keep the experiment running much longer than originally anticipated. There was one important reason for the latter decision: there’s a lot to learn and a lot to read and broadcast about even one major city, let alone three. So I spent the end of the summer and into the fall finding and sharing content about Albuquerque, Detroit, and Seattle.

plannerthon on DTWAnd I’ve learned a great deal, fulfilling one of my original objectives. I read about primary candidates for Albuquerque City Council. I followed the ups and downs of the General Motors boardroom as the company divested itself of the federal government’s “bailout” rescue funds, then named its first female CEO, then announced significant investments in existing plants all within two weeks. More closely related to Detroiters’ everyday life, I discovered how some of the most challenged neighborhoods, including Brightmoor, are leveraging philanthropic money to help attract new residents. I learned how many mega-developments can be supported by a strong (possibly overheated) real estate market like Seattle.

plannerthon on SEAThere’s a great deal more to be learned, too. While I haven’t yet found a large number of tweeters in those respective cities, I’ll continue looking.

For now, I’m choosing to move on. Starting in January, I will choose my next three geographic foci and continue the experiment. And while much of my approach will be the same as the first round, I also plan to approach this somewhat differently. I intend to find more locals in those places to interact with and ask questions of, and I hope to delve more deeply into the demographics, the infrastructure needs, and the governance of these places.

I hope you will continue to follow along.

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Mayors Speak on Their Victories and Challenges at the ULI Rose Center Forum

I hadn’t previously had the opportunity to blog about it, but in late October I was able to attend the Urban Land Institute’s Fall Meeting in Los Angeles. Now that I’ve had some time to process the fire hose of sessions that I attended and people I met there, one event is still in my mind. The Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership hosted a forum at the Los Angeles Central Library of mayors that have participated in its fellowship program for public officials in the last two years. The Rose Center is the primary unit of ULI that promotes sustainable land use practices among the public sector, especially for local governments.

The Los Angeles forum was the second time that I’ve been able to hear from big-city mayors at a ULI event. The first was a lecture in July in Washington, DC with Ed Lee, the mayor of San Francisco. At the time he spoke of the major planning initiatives he was shepherding along as a long-time municipal employee and recent ascendant to the mayor’s office, and more recently was elected to a full term.

This time around we heard from five mayors on the victories and challenges that are occurring in their respective cities in the Midwest, Northeast, and South (although we were in California, the West was not represented at this event because Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was scheduled but unable to attend the event). The panelists were Dave Bing of Detroit; Bob Buckhorn of Tampa; Karl Dean of Nashville; Sly James of Kansas City, Missouri; and Angel Taveras of Providence, Rhode Island.

In Nashville, Karl Dean focused his comments on two recent and relatively unique land use issues. A previously announced open space initiative for the city was kicked into high gear by severe flooding in 2010; part of the recovery effort focused on converting home sites destroyed by flood waters into permanent open space. In addition to improving community safety during future disasters, the open space initiative created a new amenity in the form of permanently preserved open space. Another focus was the Bell’s Bend property, a piece of open land west of downtown Nashville formed by a sharp bend in the Tennessee River. A developer proposed the conversion of the land into a new mixed-use community in the style of a “new downtown,” but Dean mentioned that it did not go forward in the interest of preventing sprawl and utilizing the extensive infrastructure that Nashville already has. As he put it, “we already have a downtown.”

Dave Bing

Sylvester James of Kansas City (Missouri) focused his comments on regional cooperation. This has been particularly important–and challenging–for his region because it spans two states. The recent selection by Google of Kansas City, Kansas (across the river from Mayor James’ KC) as its pilot city for the Google Fiber network made cooperation more attractive. The existing industry cluster in animal science and nutrition as well as newer industries are both helped by this, because a region that works together can enhance its competitive advantage in a way that others won’t; working across municipal boundaries pools all of the region’s strengths from freight facilities to transportation infrastructure into one attractive package.

In spite of the seemingly non-stop rhetoric that municipal governments are hamstrung by a lack of funds, the five Rose Center fellows showed that plenty is still being accomplished in their cities. Perhaps the lesson is that if you want to know what a city is doing and doing well, you should ask its government leaders directly.

Angel Taveras

Photo of Mayor Dave Bing courtesy of Flickr user Dave Hogg. Photo of Mayor Angel Taveras courtesy of Flickr user Jeff NickersonBoth are reposted here under Creative Commons licenses.