Kevin Johnson: Cities 3.0 - A New Era

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the new president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, spoke of a new era of cities in his address to open the organization's annual meeting.

by Kevin Johnson – Mayor of Sacramento / June 30, 2014

Note: This is an abridged version of the opening address given by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in Dallas on June 20 at the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s 82nd annual meeting. Johnson was recently inaugurated as the organization’s president. The full text of the address is available here: 

We are entering into a new era of cities that I call Cities 3.0. This new generation of cities looks very different than how cities have looked in the past.

The first generation of cities, or Cities 1.0, were built around ports, rivers and transportation routes. They served as centers of trade.

The second generation of cities, or Cities 2.0, came much later during the Industrial Revolution. These cities had factories and big industry smoke stacks. They had electricity, transportation and other modern services. They were destination points for immigrants from around the world pursuing the American Dream.

Today, we are entering the era of Cities 3.0. In this era, the city is a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology. It’s paperless, wireless and cashless. In 3.0 cities we have more cell phones than landlines, more tablets than desktops and more smart devices than toothbrushes. This truly represents a new era of the American city. And what is the role of the mayor in the 3.0 city?

The 3.0 city must be the “ultimate service provider.” Why? Because 3.0 citizens operate in a new paradigm. In this generation, the world’s largest music company has no record stores (Apple).The world’s largest bookseller has no bookstores (Amazon). The world’s largest taxi company has no cars (Uber). It’s only a matter of time before the world’s largest hotel will have no hotel rooms (AirBnB). And very soon, the world’s largest university will have no campus. That means we need to provide city services on new platforms too.

In Cities 2.0, city crews would drive around looking for reported potholes to fill them. It could take weeks or months for a response. In Cities 3.0 here’s what it would look like: That pothole on my street? I should be able to take a picture of it with my phone and upload it through a city app that will tag it with its GPS location. Providers throughout the city could instantaneously be dispatched to fill the pothole on the same day. It’s quicker, easier and more efficient. And active, connected citizens become part of the city’s network to solve problems

In addition to services, the other thing a city provides is infrastructure. In Cities 2.0 the infrastructure was things like roads, bridges and schools. But 3.0 Cities must provide a NEW kind of infrastructure, like citywide wifi networks and turnkey operations for start-up companies, from office space to high speed communication lines. The bottom line is cities must provide services and infrastructure that residents and businesses need and do it quicker, faster and cheaper

And last, 3.0 cities are focused on building “Next” Economies. We know that keeping up in the modern era demands innovation. If cities are going to drive the revitalization of this nation then we need to become the laboratories and incubators of change. We must be the engines driving the local and national economy. We need a resilient economy, able to weather the storms of recessions and depressions. But how do we do that?

The first is infrastructure. Investing in our infrastructure not only creates construction jobs in the short term — it lays the foundation for sustained economic growth in the long term. Key areas for infrastructure growth are transportation and water. In transportation we have to modernize our ports, freight rail and airports because they add to the economy and connect our cities. The mayors of Miami, Jacksonville, Chicago and Dallas have begun to do this work. And to do it, we’re not waiting for handouts. In cities like Los Angeles and Denver voters are putting up tax dollars for large-scale transit investments.

And that brings us to sustainability. Mayors have been leaders on climate protection, whether it’s cutting carbon emissions or preparing their communities for the effects of climate change. In the 3.0 era, mayors are innovating, working with the best and the brightest, to lead on climate change. Mayor Gregory Ballard from Indianapolis said his city was too dependent on oil so he developed a policy to convert his entire fleet of cars to electric vehicles.

Next, I want our pro-growth agenda to focus on trade. We live in a global economy. That means that in order to succeed locally, we must engage globally. Exports are a proven job creator, so in a Cities 3.0 era, we need advanced manufacturing to create products and services that other people can’t. After all, the global economy is simply a network of cities trading with one another because of natural links between their industries, products and services.

Finally, our obligation to provide children with a quality education looks very different in a 3.0 city. Because 3.0 kids live very different lives, there are things that they will never do. They’ll never check out a library book. They’ll never go to a video or record store. They’ll never subscribe to a newspaper. They’ll never have a landline in their house. And they’ll never get lost. They will glance at their cell phones 400 times a day and probably live to age 100.

Education will be the top priority during my term as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. We’ll look at education across the continuum, from early childhood education, to K-12, to college and career pathways. This is an issue where all mayors can take a leadership role.

The bottom line is, it truly is a great time to be a mayor in America. It used to be that the federal government and states set the agenda, and the cities were the children, waiting for their allowance. We’ve flipped that construct on its head, there’s been an inversion of power. Cities are now the leaders in the nation: experimenting, taking risks, making hard choices.



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