Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Stephen Goldsmith


Stephen Goldsmith is the Derek Bok Professor of the Practice of Urban Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and director of Data-Smart City Solutions at the Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University. The former deputy mayor for operations for New York City, he previously served two terms as mayor of Indianapolis.

Goldsmith served as the chief domestic policy advisor to the George W. Bush campaign in 2000, as chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and, from 1979 to 1990, as the district attorney for Marion County, Ind.

His most recent book is Growing Fairly: How to Build Opportunity and Equity in Workforce Development, co-authored with Kate Markin Coleman.  He also is the author or co-author of A New City O/S: The Power of Open, Collaborative, and Distributed Governance; The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance; The Power of Social Innovation; Governing by Network: the New Shape of the Public Sector; Putting Faith in Neighborhoods: Making Cities Work through Grassroots Citizenship; and The Twenty-First Century City: Resurrecting Urban America.

Goldsmith can be reached at

The pandemic forced local governments to activate their innovation skill sets. Now city leaders must grow that spirit of inventiveness beyond the tactical, building it into the day-to-day work of government.
Local-government officials are sometimes overwhelmed by new and improved digital tools. But they need to be open to technology that can help residents and public employees deliver critical services.
In bringing its technology functions together, the city is trying to deal with goals often at tension with each other, while finding better ways to serve its residents at an enterprise level. There will be much to learn from this effort.
A trash truck or a streetlight has a basic function, but in a digital age they can be so much more, adding value outside of their core purposes.
They disproportionately impact low-income residents. “Segmenting” them — setting prices based on ability to pay — can improve lives while actually increasing local-government revenues.
In distributing rental assistance funds to prevent evictions, Indianapolis found a creative alternative model, working across departments to get the money out to vulnerable families.
We’re too focused on job creation and too little on skilling. Mayors and county executives need to take on a new role in workforce development, coordinating regional efforts built around better use of data.
It’s too easy for a debate to degenerate to binary choices. In dealing with public safety issues, Dallas’ mayor embraced a range of solutions rather than simply picking a side.
Critics of the smart city movement raise some valid concerns that local officials should pay attention to, but it’s not a case for antiquated municipal systems and procedures.
The right kind of public-private partnerships could liberate billions of dollars for other infrastructure and to address critical urban needs. But it’s important to protect public values.