You’d be hard pressed to find a city better equipped to boldly confront its tech future than Los Angeles. Originally a Government Technology Top 25 honoree in 2007 when he was first elected to the City Council, Eric Garcetti assumed office as mayor in July 2013.
Since then, he’s appointed the city’s first chief innovation technology officer, Peter Marx of Qualcomm Labs, as well as its first chief data officer, former Code for America co-executive director Abhi Nemani, to serve alongside IT Agency General Manager (and fellow past Top 25 award-winner) Steve Reneker.
Evidence of Garcetti’s commitment to technology as a powerful enabler of improved citizen services can also be seen in a number of initiatives he’s launched since becoming mayor. A new data portal features more than 800 sets of city data and performance-tracking metrics in several key program areas.
Fellow 2015 honoree, Controller Ron Galperin, made major contributions to the city’s transparency efforts too, with his launch of the Control Panel L.A. portal, which features user-friendly dashboards on all things financial. Other efforts championed by Galperin include the Civic Innovation Lab, an engagement effort aimed at using city data to solve city problems, and the Civic Innovation fellowship, which pairs enterprise city staff for short-term projects.
L.A.’s “cloud first” strategy, officially adopted last July, sizes up software and hardware purchases against their expected return on investment. This policy led to a decision to move 20 city websites, including the L.A. home page, to the open source Drupal content management system.
These bold initiatives vaulted Los Angeles to the top spot in the large cities category in the 2014 Digital Cities survey, conducted by the Center for Digital Government, the parent company of Government Technology.
One of Garcetti’s first moves upon assuming office was to line up veteran municipal administrator and former Pasadena Mayor Rick Cole to serve as deputy mayor for budget and innovation.
Among a host of efficiency measures, Cole has his sights set on implementing performance-based budgeting for the entire enterprise. His commitment to innovating included a study of the structure of other cities’ innovation offices, many of which are set up as autonomous entities.
In the end, Cole concluded that integrating innovation functions with the budget office would better promote a culture of innovation across city operations as a whole.
The city has gigabit aspirations as well, a goal made loftier by the area it hopes to cover — L.A.’s more than 500 square miles. Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, who chairs the Innovation, Technology and General Services Committee, authored the broadband legislation, which has been vocally supported by Garcetti.
Residents and businesses alike should reap the benefits of this modern infrastructure, leaders say, sweetening the RFP released late last year with $1 billion worth of incentives in return for making the super-fast connectivity available in low-income neighborhoods. Blumenfield wants gigabit speeds available to 90 percent of the city by 2020, according to the Los Angeles Times.