Day 4. San Diego – Weak v Strong Leadership

All smart cities need a clear and consistent governance framework that aligns responsibly with accountability and meets the needs of citizens’ expectations in relation to transparency.

Today in San Diego conversations centred on the governance and leadership of smart cities stimulated by what Americans refer to as a ‘weak’ versus a ‘strong’ Mayor model. In the US context these terms are less about the character of the individual holding Office, and more about the form and delegated authority of the Office.

Meeting with San Diego’s Mayor, Kevin Faulconer, it quickly became apparent that he was not only strong in character but strong in authority, an all-round ‘Strong Mayor’. He had a vision for a unified, innovative and inclusive city and he has a clear mandate to deliver on that vision. By contrast to the typical Australian form of local governance, a Strong Mayor has the responsibility and accountability for day to day operations of the city.

For Mayor Faulconer this brings a clear and present focus to the task at hand to consciously and purposefully drive the city-wide innovation agenda. This agenda centres on updating the city’s digital infrastructure and recognising that “data is the new bacon” to reduce city operating costs, enhance services and minimise red tape. Collaborations with the start-up community are feeding new opportunities and partnerships with corporations such as GE who are creating one of the largest IoT networks in the country.

On the ground in San Diego the innovation initiatives are integrated with solving some of the cities most pressing challenges – housing, homelessness and economic inequality. The revitalisation of the East Village intermingles a range of new housing options with a recently opened modern public library and corporate offices, such as Sempra Energy, that showcase environmental leadership.

Maker spaces and not for profits such as Moniker Warehouse and Fab Lab provide places, tools, teams, and training for start-ups and entrepreneurs to foster invention and innovation. These are all glued together by a smart zippy free shuttle transport system called FRED, short for Free Ride Everywhere Downtown, that takes you well, everywhere downtown.

Changing a city takes strong leadership and in San Diego there is a buzz in the air that change is here, and technology and innovation are keys to the future.

We continue our exploration of San Diego tomorrow getting on the ground to hear from CyberTECH, leading smart Port of San Diego and local not-for-profit Cleantech.

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Level 23, 45 Clarence Street

Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia

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