Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne aims to make New York the “world’s top-ranked digital city” but she and her counterparts across the U.S. are still trying to figure out what that means.
No matter where you live, from Los Angeles to Boston, you can walk into a public meeting, sign your name on a piece of paper, and be given the opportunity to stand at a podium in front of your elected officials or civil servants and speak your mind for two or three minutes. This is called a public comment, and it’s allowed at pretty much any public meeting in any city in America. It’s the kind of open government that the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the Declaration of Independence. It’s also totally old school.
In two years the world’s biggest event on water will take place in San Francisco. But, like many other mega-sporting events, the 34th America’s Cup is expected to have no small impact on land.
With an expected draw of hundreds of thousands of spectators, San Francisco is already contemplating plans to capitalize on the crowds and prestige of the America’s Cup. While it’s no Olympics or World Cup in terms of scope, the event does present the city with an opportunity to bring about long-term changes. San Francisco was named as the host of the event on December 31, and its plans – both short- and long-term – are already unfolding.
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Cities are filled with spaces intended for the public -- but many of them are clearly owned and operated by the private sector. Though cities bend rules to get these spaces built, the public benefit is often outweighed by the cost. The challenge now is to make them better.
The difference between what is public and what is private is usually pretty clear. A city park is available to everyone. Your neighbor's living room is not. But the line dividing public and private can blur, and when it does, spaces get ambiguous, and questions arise. Who can use them? What are they for? Who's in charge of them?
Cars dominate cities, especially in America. But as many cities in other countries have found, removing cars can turn busy streets into lively public places. Now the U.S. is starting to catch on.
Public space has a loose definition. It can be sidewalks, government buildings, or even streets, which account for nearly a third of the land area in an average city. But in people's minds, "public space" is a park or a forest or a beach – places associated with recreation, the out-of-doors and that "nature" thing we tend to divorce ourselves from. Making a connection between the idea of public space and the mundane reality of potholes and rush hour can be difficult.