A century ago, as one immigrant population after another made its way to America in search of a better life, their destinations were our country’s burgeoning cities. This was where they could build their desired quality of life–they would make friends, educate their children in nearby schools and find good jobs there. Everything they needed to make their lives whole was there, beneath the steeples and spires and growing skylines.
Cities had their own individual identities which reflected the work that was done there. Connecticut alone had cities known as everything from the Insurance City to the Hat City, the Silk City to the Brass City, the Clock City to the Rubber City.
Slowly and steadily during the second half of the 20th century, those old cities lost people to growing suburbs, taking their jobs and personal investments with them. Evidence today, however, shows people have a desire to return to urban areas. But in order for that to happen, more of the old simply won’t do. Our 21st century cities must be modern, innovative, accessible, open and technologically advanced to attract people back.
They must be Cities of the Future, in every sense of the word. And the good news is we have a roadmap on how to build such places.
Transparency and Public Access
City and business leaders will have to collaborate to create a new definition of government transparency and openness. Citizens demand it, and true fiscal accountability requires it.
Lines of communication with the citizenry need reinvention–published minutes of public meetings and notices in the local newspaper are still necessary, but much more is required. Steady social network activity and mobile technology must be utilized. Cloud computing should be examined to allow for greater public access. On-demand availability of critical information will equip people with the transparency they need.
In terms of public access, the City of the Future needs an “outside-in” approach–in 2015 people want access to city services on their terms and on their schedule. Using emerging technologies with online capabilities, developing a full suite of online portal services, using password-protecting identification cards for external usage and keeping large, protected databases of information on file in digital form are critical components to state-of-the-art public access.
Advancements in energy and sustainability–energy that is renewable, cleaner and greener–will be critical drivers in building for a better tomorrow. Energy costs will decrease while cutting edge technologies, innovation and entrepreneurism will be encouraged and rewarded. No longer should we need to rely on the volatile, old-form energy sources–the City of the Future utilizes sustainable energy to reduce costs and preserve the environment.
Innovative Service Delivery
Regionalization, shared services and responsible privatization are all groundbreaking models to ensure the City of the Future has a government that is streamlined and efficient. People no longer want to guess where to go for the right services. The new service delivery model should be much more of a “one-stop shopping” experience, with integrated teams replacing the outmoded structure of overly compartmentalized government systems that were so prevalent in the past.
Modern Public Safety
Public safety is and always will be an indispensable element of urban living. The City of the Future will have detailed emergency plans in place to safeguard all citizens–preventive measures are much more useful than reactive ones. Advanced data analytics, which can anticipate potential threats, can enhance preventive capabilities to the point where crises can be avoided before they occur. And improved communications systems–utilizing the most advanced modern communications systems–can allow police, fire and emergency management systems to coordinate and collaborate much more rapidly.
Lastly, there is the most vital resource to ensure generation success–the children. In order to compete in an ever-changing economy, the City of the Future must respond to disruptive technologies and prepare for more interconnectivity with its educational systems. A greater technological connection between schools and homes ensure learning is a much more 24-7 endeavor. Students will be equipped with a more highly individualized course of study—traditional college preparation is teamed with trade schools and more specialized learning paths, all of which will allow graduates to compete with the best on broader levels across all industries.
This is city life re-imagined. And it is all possible–many urban areas have already begun to embrace components of this new model. Generations ago people saw cities as the best opportunities for prosperity. The City of the Future holds the same promise.
BlumShapiro is the largest regional accounting, tax and business consulting firm based in New England, with offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The firm, with over 400 professionals and staff, offers a diversity of services that includes auditing, accounting, tax and business advisory services. In addition, BlumShapiro provides a variety of specialized consulting services such as succession and estate planning, business technology services, employee benefit plan audits, litigation support and valuation. The firm serves a wide range of privately held companies, government and non-profit organizations and provides non-audit services for publicly traded companies.