Rustbelt Almanac is a new quarterly magazine that takes a look at “the industrious people of the Rust Belt.” While manufacturing may have left this region, the work ethic of its artists, craftsman, laborers and entrepreneurs have not and are building something brand new. What better person to take on the subject of the rebirth of the Rust Belt than the Mayor Elect of Pittsburgh: Bill Peduto. Below is an excerpt from his article in Rustbelt Almanac. You can read the entire piece here.
Join with PennFuture and their partners, the Sierra Club and SUNWPA, for the 2013 Pittsburgh Solar Tour — a look at Pittsburgh homes and businesses that use solar energy and other green technologies. This year’s tour is on Saturday, October 12th from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There are 22 different locations across Western PA, including the City of Pittsburgh, Mt. Lebanon, Millvale, Aspinwall, Moon Township, Fair Oaks, Saxonburg, Sarver, Rochester, Cheswick, and Bentleyville.
Advancements in technology have added convenience and availability to so many aspects of our lives with seemingly nearly everything being a mere mouse click or smartphone app away. One area which has lagged behind is local governments. For example, back in 2009, Councilman Peduto worked with two Carnegie Mellon University professors to create iBurgh — the nation’s first mobile app for city government. iBurgh made it possible for anyone with a smartphone to report neighborhood issues directly to our city’s 311 system. However, the current administration did not keep up the relationship with iBurgh and it is no longer available. But many cities are beginning to understand the value technology can bring to services for residents and to increased civic participation.
Do you have the skills and the passion to use technology to make cities work better? Are you a developer, designer, researcher, data enthusiast, urban planner, or entrepreneur or wants to give back? Do you think being called a “web geek” is a badge of honor? If you answered yes, Code for America is looking for you to be part of their 2014 fellowship program.
The nation has an obligation and commitment to our veterans. Two years ago, President Obama issued a challenge to the private sector to train or hire 100,000 veterans by the end of this year and unemployment rates for veterans have been dropping. One organization which is meeting this challenge is TechShop.
Code for America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 2009 to help cities modernize their operations and take advantage of new technology to increase transparency and accountability and provide new models of citizen engagement. Through the Code for America Fellows program, young programmers and developers are placed within city governments around the country to work directly with the Mayor’s office and the staff of city departments. In addition to the Fellows program, Code for America also provides seed funding to startup tech companies and runs the Code for America Brigade program, which places staff within community organizations to help build their capacity and increase their use of technology. Dozens of cities across the country have taken advantage of this unique program and it’s time for Pittsburgh to become the next Code for America city.
Pittsburgh’s startup economy has helped to build prosperity in the region and attract new jobs, new residents, and new investment. However, the growth of startup companies has slowed in recent years along with the venture capital dollars that fuel them. Pennsylvania as a whole, and the Pittsburgh region, are now lagging behind the rest of the country in new startup development. If we are to continue our growth as a city we must do better. We must find ways to jumpstart the development of new small businesses, especially those in emerging fields and new technology. Pittsburgh has the potential to be the Silicon Valley of our region. City government should be doing everything we can to nurture this development.
One of the most incredible technological advances of the past decade is the ability to simultaneously communicate with thousands of people via text message or a smart phone app. Agencies of the federal government, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service, utilize free smart phone apps to keep citizens informed about issues ranging natural disasters to the daily weather forecast. Smart phone apps provide easy, immediate access to information and can play an important role in alerting citizens to everything from traffic conditions to school closings. The City of Pittsburgh should offer a free smart phone app that will keep residents, commuters, and visitors informed. And we should go even further by enabling this app to provide two-way communication so residents can report neighborhood issues such as potholes, illegal parking, or graffiti.
Pittsburgh’s tech and start up universe is rich and diverse and has been a major driver of our economic stability and growth over the past decade. However, recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other agencies have shown Pittsburgh lagging in new job creation, especially in high-tech industries. The city has to be a strong partner with our emerging industries and work hand-in-hand to ensure that they are getting the public and private resources and opportunities they need to be successful. One of the best ways to do this is create new business incubators that provide the transitional space and resources for young firms in a collaborative, cooperative environment where they can learn from one another and from established firms in related fields. The idea is not to try to force innovation to happen where it is not already happening but to nurture organic startups and provide a bridge from start up to successful company.
In 2010 Boston Mayor Thomas Menino created an experiment in Boston city government. He pulled together a few civic-minded entrepreneurs and Boston residents and paired them with innovators within his office to create a new program of the mayor’s office called the Office of New Urban Mechanics. The purpose of this new program was to advance the speed of innovation within city government by working directly with constituents to find new ways to address the issues that matter to them through the use of new technologies. In 2012, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter reached out to Mayor Menino and asked to bring the Office of New Urban Mechanics to Philly via a franchise model where the two cities worked closely together to share ideas and data and pioneer new problem-solving technologies. I have been in touch with Mayor Menino’s office about the possibility of bringing the Office to Pittsburgh. As Mayor, I will create a Pittsburgh Office of New Urban Mechanics to engage our tech sector innovators to work directly with city government and residents to address the issues our neighborhoods care about.