A Happy Struggle – Part Two
March 14, 2021 – Today was declared a day of remembrance in New York City. It was on this date one year ago that the first person in the Big Apple died from COVID19.
We posted as best we could the early weeks of this shock – an emotional and civic trauma unlike any other in my lifetime – in our “No Place BUT Home” series.
Words were not of much use as this city was hollowed out and whipsawed in a perfect storm; one where all of its cultural jewels and unique assets – bound together for generations like a Sicilian family – were unraveled so spectacularly that religious people proclaimed this novel corona virus the author of a “biblical epic.” It had its own exodus as 300,000 people fled the terror of ending up in a crowded or non-existent ICU. While some relied on religious analogies, readers of Sartre, author of The Plague (copies of the 1947 novel sold out in weeks), noted that life is tenuous, viruses have unimaginable power and that communities and societies can be overturned, transformed or even eviscerated in the time it takes to cough, lose your breath and die. In a few weeks, it appeared that our public health networks, our technology and our sophisticated rituals could not sustain us.Read more
“A Happy Struggle” – Part One
When Sgt. Dominic Zacharilla and his armored group crashed through the gates of a Nazi death camp in 1945, they were followed by my Uncle Pete and his team of U.S. Army medics. While neither saw each other during the horrific campaign both were similarly shaken. Even General George Patton, leader of the American Third Army, threw up at the sight of the death camp.
Both of my uncles came home from war decorated and honored. They settled into unremarkable but decent lives in their hometown. Uncle Dominic went to a trade school and learned to become a barber, where he opened his own shop. Uncle Pete, a big brawny guy, worked in a family lumber business. Both loved fishing in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York. Both raised families. Their children were educated, competent, successfully solid members of their communities. Two left the village and settled in other states.Read more
Is Innovation Essential – or Just a “Nonsense Word?”
Innovation. It’s a popular, misunderstood and kind of squishy term that nonetheless plays a big role in today’s world. A Google search on it will earn you 1.65 billion hits.
There’s a reason for that. Economist Robert Solow won the Nobel Prize more than 30 years ago for proving, for the first time, that 80% of all growth in the economy comes from the introduction or use of new technology. So, if you are engaged in creating or putting to use a new way of doing things, you have a shot at your share of 80% of growth. If you are devoted to doing the same old things, you can hope for a share of the 20%. Which would you rather have?Read more
Small Rural Colleges as Talent Magnets: A Strategy for Survival
Owing to a quirk of history, many of the nation’s liberal arts colleges are located in small towns and rural areas. Many of these schools were founded in the nineteenth century as denominational colleges, when a college education was as much about teaching religious devotion, morality and good character. The belief among their founders was that this education could not happen if the college were located in proximity to the vices and temptations of the city.
By the 1920s, the United States was a majority urban-dwelling nation. At the same time, early twentieth century philanthropies, as a condition for their support, insisted that institutions be ecumenical and open to science, rather than denominational in outlook. The Rockefeller and Carnegie organizations, especially, worked to secularize American higher education. Thus by the early twentieth century, many of these denominational schools were losing enrollment, as well as their reason-for-being. To survive, these small rural colleges were forced to reinvent themselves.Read more
Have the ‘Magnet Cities’ Lost their Magnetism?
For all the damage, frustration and sorrow that COVID19 has brought us, it has also taught us lessons we needed to learn.
Some are personal. It turns out that my health depends on your health. If you refuse to wear a mask, you are expressing – not your independence – but a willingness to infect me.
Some are political. It turns out that, when we allow working people to live in poverty with no medical insurance, we create reservoirs of infection that keep blazing up like wildfires – or perhaps the avenging fires of a just God – to engulf us.Read more
Told Ya So!
It was just Yesterday, or 25 years ago, as some people call it, that John, Robert and I produced an event in Toronto called “Smart95.” Most of you attending or downloading the video from this year’s ICF Summit were not there. But there were two features of that event that have withstood the test of time because their arrival was inevitable.
ICF produced the world’s first “smart” conference in the world in 1995 in Toronto.
Above image of Toronto is used under Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.
The event in Toronto (a city that went on to become the Intelligent Community of the Year in 2014) was the first event in history to use the word “Smart.” You can look it up. John Jung named it and a search revealed it was not in use anywhere. It gives us bragging rights for life, I guess. Most important, it triggered a movement and a way of thinking that has spread out far and wide, from East to West.Read more
A More Sober Seven
“Mommy, I can’t breathe!!” he shouted. It was more a petulant shriek than a genuine plea for help.
The mother of the 8-year old boy jostled him in that motherly way, pulled him toward her and adjusted his small mask as they continued walking along the CVS parking lot to the store. He had her attention. Mission accomplished.
2020 is the year when we started to really look at one another in our communities and found new heroes and beauty within our chaos. And broadband boosted the conversations.
Attribution: “Zoe” by Yung Jake, Courtesy of Tripoli Gallery, Long Island
One year ago, those words had a way different context when they met your ears. While someone claiming lack of breath was never, medically, a good thing, it was never the trigger phrase for a cascade of events that have put cities and citizens in a dizzying spin of traumas. What we witness (mainly from our devices) are seismic cracks in the status quo, a form of grief and, as if we need proof that nothing is born without pain, genuine awakenings.
It is in this climate that we begin this year’s Top7 Site Visits around the world.Read more
COVID Shows What It Costs Your Community to Go Without Good Broadband
As a magic word, it puts “Shazam!” to shame.
Zoom. It is the only most visible of the many powerful broadband applications that are helping us get through COVID19. It stands for the transformation of broadband, almost overnight, from “nice to have” into “essential infrastructure,” as the pandemic spreads across nations and industries and keeps forcing changes in the way we live.Read more
Words Matter in Building Intelligent Communities
Many communities are by now familiar with the annual selection and awards process of ICF. Selecting the Smart21, then the Top7 and ultimately the most Intelligent Community of the Year occurs in several phases and in many ways. There are rigorous quantitative evaluations conducted by an outside consultancy, field trips, a review by an independent panel of leading experts/academic researchers and a vote by a larger group of experts.
Although communities like to focus on the #1 spot, the biggest distinctions are not between the #1 and the others in the Top7, but between the Smart21 and the Top7. An especially important part of the selection of the Top7 from the Smart21 is an independent panel’s assessment of the projects and initiatives that justify a community’s claim to being Intelligent.Read more
Sorry Smart Cities – You Completely Missed the Point
Maybe it’s just me, but I keep thinking I hear the sound of “Smart City fatigue” setting in.
Since IBM coined the term and Cisco quickly followed its lead, there have been, according to the web, three generations of smart cities. There have been academic papers and workshops and massive conferences. Multinational, national and local programs have poured billions into projects. Technologies have been developed to improve how cities manage everything from energy, water, public safety and pollution to transportation, healthcare and tax collection. Consultants have prospered, IT systems sales have grown and CIOs have earned new respect. Now, after more than two decades of smart cities adoption, what do we have to show for all that investment?
Frankly, not much.Read more