Better later than not at all…

by Yule Heibel on April 10, 2007

I just discovered CEOs for Cities, an organization which, according to its about page, argues, “We must have strong cities to have a strong America.”

Cities incubate new businesses, connect people, ideas, money and markets and house most of our great universities. Their ports and airports connect us to the world. In our increasingly diverse society they are the crucibles for connecting cultures, generating opportunity and renewing the American dream. The metro areas they anchor generate 80 percent of our nation’s employment, 80+ percent of our GNP and produce 86 percent of our tax revenue. What is America without its cities? Only 20 percent of itself.

Yet, urban still equals “bad” in the minds of many Americans and in the stories of the American press. Urban crime is worse than crime. Urban poverty is worse than poverty. Even urban congestion is worse than congestion. We still act like it’s 1968, and our cities are burning. These old attitudes only hold us back. There is so much good and vital and positive about cities and so much potential for even more progress if we as a nation recognize and build on the assets we have in our cities.

CEOs for Cities exists, then, to argue for a “new urban agenda.” Their aim is to “help urban leaders understand how people want to live in cities today and translate that into action.” Their key points include:

The Talented City:
Developing, maximizing, attracting and retaining talent.

The Innovative City:
Fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Connected City:
Fostering connections that link people with ideas to talent, capital and markets; cities to regions; and regions to the global economy.

The Distinctive City:
Capitalizing on local differences to build local economic opportunity.

CEOs for Cities CEO is Carol Coletta, who is featured in this October 3, 2005 Culture, Commerce & Community: Creative Forces for a Vibrant City Center presentation (the link, above, takes you to a video — RealPlayer format — of this presentation on Seattle Channel).

Certainly there’s a lot of interest for us in Victoria in this presentation. It’s also of interest to me personally, since Coletta’s talk is introduced by a pre-Viaduct vote Seattle mayor (who wanted to have a tunnel to free Seattle’s waterfront) and it takes place in Seattle, which is a city I will probably be much more closely involved with soon enough. What Coletta has to say about free access to cultural venues; low wages for workers in tourism and the creative industries (and what that means for the urban fabric & housing affordability); and the need for young people in cities — and how tricky or difficult it can be to attract them: all these angles are most certainly relevant for Victoria. Our city council & mayor should watch Coletta’s presentation, which, despite its slightly slow start soon plunges into deeply thoughtful territory: “Cities are going to be in a real race for talent.” And: “Once something has been identified as a ‘best practice,’ it’s no longer a best practice.” I love that! Smash the cliche, smash the safe “best practice” which just hides lack of imagination.

CEOs for Cities is a fascinating resource: there’s a Smart City radio page and a page for CEOs for Cities blog.

The blog includes an interesting item on urban campuses: Universities & Cities: A Fresh Perspective. The entry includes a PDF link to an OpEd in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Campuses in Cities: Places Between Engagement and Retreat”.

[The OpEd] offers four strategies for effective planning when it comes to opening universities’ campuses to their urban surroundings:

“Stitch the edges. Counter to conventional wisdom, urban campuses must engage their edges with full gusto….

“Protect the core. Having reached out to the city, planners can create a campus core that embodies the ideals of a tranquil setting….

“Think inside the box. Good urban design is not just about physical guidelines, it is also about the designated use and function. Selecting the appropriate use is more critical to the urban fabric of a campus than the physical attributes….

“Adopt the tools of real-estate development. Campus planners must insist on a mix of uses for all urban edges, allowing a more seamless fusion with the city….”

Ok, I could go on and on. Lots to discover here. Check it out.

Lastly, two other links of interest (and I can’t remember how/ where I found these anymore…):
The 2006-1016 Knowledgeworks Foundation & The Institute for the Future’s Map of Future Forces Affecting Education, which includes this complex interactive map (have to explore this at greater length later…)
The Sightline Institute’s Map of Walkable King County, WA.

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