Tuesday, March 14 at 9:24 a.m. CT 


Our SXSW Takeaways as We Take Off

The Governing crew compares notes on the Mayor's Summit one last time as they make their way to the airport. We also hear from a couple of mayors en route. And David reminds us that, when emergency hits at home, a mayor is duty bound to leave the fun of SXSW and return home.

Listen below. You can also subscribe to the "Not Safe for Government Podcast," a product of our parent company, e.Republic, on iTunes or Stitcher if you want to take it with you.





Monday, March 13 at 2:34 p.m. CT 


To Attract New Residents, Denton, Texas, Offers Virtual Tours of the Town

(David Kidd)

After four days at South by Southwest (SXSW), I had seen my fair share of virtual reality. But I had to stop when I saw one Texas city using the technology to lure visitors and new businesses.

“This is the first time we’ve actually used this for economic development, to bring people into the city,” says Julie Glover, a program administrator for economic development in the city of Denton, Texas.

In the past two years, Denton -- a small suburban town about 40 miles northwest of Dallas -- brought businesses and residents to SXSW. But it was expensive to pay for their travel and hotel costs, says Glover. So this year, she and other city officials brainstormed other ways to show people in Austin what Denton is like.

“We thought, 'wouldn’t it be cool if we could make a video?'” she says. “And then it was like, 'wouldn’t it be cool if we could do virtual reality?'”

(David Kidd)

With the help of a local business, their vision became a reality.

Once I donned the goggles and headphones, I could visit different Denton rooftops and stand on stage with a conductor during an orchestra performance. The software didn’t let me move from my fixed position, but I had panoramic views of an animated cityscape that was only slightly lower resolution than real life.

“What we’re hoping to do," says Glover, "is show people Denton and make them curious, so that they want to come see us."

-- By J.B. Wogan




Monday, March 13 at 1:40 p.m. CT 


A Futurists' Advice (and Warning) for Mayors

If there's one thing Amy Webb, a futurist for the Future Today Institute, wants government leaders to know, it's that the future is in their control.

"The future hasn't been written," she says, so they should start actively planning for it now. Unfortunately, that's not something most mayors are doing.

"Mayors are busy managing their day-to-day operations, and I think they understand that certain technologies are looming, but they're not simultaneously thinking about today and 10 to 20 years from now," she warns. "So some of the technologies [such as artificial intelligence] that are on the horizon could significantly disrupt day-to-day life in our communities."

-- By Caroline Cournoyer





Monday, March 13 at 1:00 p.m. CT 


D.C. Announces 2 New 'Inclusive Innovation' Initiatives

At South by Southwest in Austin this weekend, representatives from Washington, D.C., unveiled two new initiatives they'll be undertaking back home.

The first is a new grant program for female entrepreneurs. The second is an "inclusive innovation incubator," which Brian Kenner, the district's deputy mayor, thinks will be the first of its kind in the nation.

The IN3, as he referred to it, is set to open April 20 and will be a physical space designed for "people who are perhaps less represented in the tech ecosystem to feel at home a little more."

In the Facebook Live video below, he talks to Governing's J.B. Wogan more about those projects and what "inclusive innovation" means -- in theory and practice.

-- By Caroline Cournoyer





Monday, March 13 at 11:23 a.m. CT 


When Tragedy Strikes, Mayors All Over Lend Their Support

When a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., last summer, almost 50 people were killed, and more than 50 were injured. Crises like that require good leadership.

Luckily, Mayor Buddy Dyer had the help of other mayors.

In the Facebook Live video below, he talks to Governing's J.B. Wogan about the staggering number of mayors -- including Rudy Giuliani, who led New York City through 9/11 -- who emailed or texted him after the shooting. They wanted to share their lessons from dealing with tragedies of their own.

-- By Caroline Cournoyer





Monday, March 13 at 10:43 a.m. CT 


The Rise of RideAlong and Becoming Your Own Mark Cuban

At SXSW, mayors played the role of sharks when they judged startups' ideas on Sunday. But instead of business ideas like the ones you see on the "Shark Tank" TV show, all of these aimed to solve a civic problem, such as fatal police interactions.

In this episode of the "Not Safe for Government" podcast, we document the rise of RideAlong, the winner of the competition, and how mayors remain in the long shadow of Mark Cuban.

Listen below. You can also subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher if you want to take it with you.





Monday, March 13 at 10:18 a.m. CT 


Albuquerque Mayor: Cities Can Be Immigrant-Friendly Without Being Sanctuaries

In polarizing times like these, most politicians choose a side and staunchly stick to it. Not Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry.

He's one of the few Republican mayors in the country and is walking the line between complying with the Trump administration's crackdown on immigrants and helping some of those same immigrants.

"Albuquerque is not a sanctuary for criminal activity," he says. "But we are welcoming to the immigrant community."

Proof of that is the fact that the city recently created an office of refugee and immigrant affairs.

In the Facebook Live video below, Governing's J.B. Wogan interviews him about that as well as the difference between racial equality and racial equity.

-- By Caroline Cournoyer





Monday, March 13 at 9:14 a.m. CT 


Tech Idea for Preventing Fatal Police Interactions Wins Competition

Meredith Hitchcock, a co-founder of RideAlong, standing with some of the judges. (David Kidd)

On the third day of Civic I/O, the government and policy sessions at South by Southwest (SXSW), mayors assumed the role of “Shark Tank” investors.

The mayors of Denver, Orlando, Fla.; and West Sacramento, Calif.; joined a panel of tech entrepreneurs to judge startups' proposals for business ideas that help solve a civic problem.

The first place prize of $10,000 went to RideAlong, a digital tool meant to facilitate safer interactions between police and people with mental illness. While about 3 percent of U.S. adults suffer from a severe mental illness, they make up a quarter to one-half of all fatal law enforcement encounters, according to the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center. The founders of RideAlong hope to prevent such tragic incidents by equipping police with information that will ultimately divert people experiencing a mental health crisis away from the criminal justice system and instead into treatment and other support services.

The RideAlong system is already being piloted in Seattle, where police can look up a name or address and view an easy-to-read profile of an individual. The tool automatically collects and organizes helpful information from family members, social service providers and other government agencies. Officers in Seattle already receive a PDF with similar information in their email while they’re driving, but they sometimes struggle to find and read it before they arrive on scene.

Meredith Hitchcock, a co-founder of RideAlong, began building the tool as a one-year Code for America fellow in Seattle. Before developing it, she and two other fellows spent a month studying police interactions with citizens who have a mental illness. They rode along with police, spoke to social service case managers and interviewed individuals with mental illness.

“We were seeing this was a problem across the nation,” she says.

And their research in the field paid off.

“RideAlong had such a clarity of understanding of how the day-to-day process works that they’re trying to solve,” says West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, one of the judges for the competition. “It was impressive in its fidelity to what the needs are. It was clear that it wasn’t a technology play first.”

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon (David Kidd)

All seven of the presenting startups received at least $1,000. RoadBotics, a smartphone app that turns cars, trucks and bikes into mobile sensors that detect road features, such as potholes, received $5,000. Smarter Sorting, a company that helps cities sort through household chemical waste and allows for the reuse of some chemicals currently being incinerated, won $2,500.

All of the presenters identified pressing problems in cities, from slow and inefficient paper-based government processes to the difficulty that low-income residents face communicating with their government. The judges probed them on the scalability of their products, how they planned to make money and whether their proposals would duplicate existing services in the public or private sector.

Amazon Web Services sponsored the competition and put up the prize money. In addition to the mayors, the panel of judges included Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, and Nicole Neditch, the senior director for community engagement at Code for America.

Hitchcock says pitching to mayors was slightly different than her earlier efforts to win over first responders and the tech startup community.

“First responders are interested in the operation, what’s going to be involved to get this set up, who’s going to manage content, what’s the benefit on the day-to-day basis,” she says. “The mayors were looking much more at, what’s the bigger-term vision, how do we use this to make smarter cities, how do we offer more strategic and smarter first responders?”

-- By J.B. Wogan




Sunday, March 12 at 6:36 p.m. CT 


NOLA's Mayor on What Cities Need From Washington to Reduce Crime

When the federal government started investing more in counterterrorism, it invested less in cities, says New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

"That's unfortunate," he says, "because in 1996, when the federal government invested in the cities, we actually reduced crime by half." He also points out that most violent crime is domestic -- not terrorism -- and that local law enforcement is part of the battle against terrorism.

Governing's J.B. Wogan interviewed Landrieu at SXSW after the mayor sat on a panel about the future of policing. In the Facebook Live video below, he discusses "Secure America," the document mayors sent to the White House laying out their federal funding requests.

He also calls for a significant investment in researching and treating violence as a public health threat. The money invested, he argues, would be miniscule compared to the money saved on incarcerating people.

"To stop violence from happening, it's just been the same old model," he says. "There's a lot to be learned out there that we don't know."

-- By Caroline Cournoyer





Sunday, March 12 at 5:45 p.m. CT 


3 Ways to Become a Change Agent in Your City

(Dustin Haisler)

Sunday is "Smart Cities Day" at SXSW. The sessions have been dedicated to unpacking the different components of a smart city and have brought together a diverse set of public-sector perspectives -- including the federal government's.

David Bray, the chief information officer for the Federal Communications Commission, shared three ways officials can become change agents in their city:

1. Have a diversity of expertise. Rather than relying on a single expert or group of experts with a shared view of issues, it’s important to have a diversity of opinions in your planning and operations.

2. Empower the edge. The best insights do not come from the top but rather the people closest to the action. It’s more important than ever to empower those on the edge of your city to share their insights and become change agents for how government services are delivered.

3. Develop ecosystem approaches. Cities are diverse ecosystems with many disparate parts -- such as academia, companies and business. Connecting these parts can better prepare cities for adapting to change.

For more on how to be a #changeagent, follow David Bray at @fcc_cio on Twitter.

-- By Dustin Haisler




Sunday, March 12 at 3:18 p.m. CT 


Electric Cars Play Second Fiddle to Futuristic Prototypes

(David Kidd)

I wish I could say the air was electric at the "C3 Smart Mobility Showcase" tent at SXSW. But the small number of electric cars on display -- a Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, among others -- played second fiddle to the free taco table and bar.

Fortunately, it was a different story altogether in a small building just a few blocks away.

A pair of vehicle prototypes made by NEO, a Chinese startup, were surrounded by attendees mugging for selfies. A blue race car, all low and swoopy, had recently set a record for the fastest lap by an electric car -- a feat it accomplished without a driver onboard. In an adjacent room was another NEO model, this one touted as a future electric car for the masses.

While cool, the NEO cars seemed futuristic and decades away. But maybe not. After all, the Nissan Leaf has been on the road for about eight years now.

-- By David Kidd




Sunday, March 12 at 11:30 a.m. CT 


Mayor Sports Shark-Like Socks for 'Shark Tank'-Style Event

Unlike most people, West Sacramento, Calif., Mayor Christopher Cabaldon thinks socks can serve more than one purpose. He likes to use them as conversation starters, and they usually match his mood or what he's doing that day.

That's why we've been tracking his footsteps (literally) this weekend at SXSW.

Today, he's wearing grey stripes, to mimic a shark, since he's attending a "Shark Tank"-style event. At the SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event, startups will present their business ideas for solving civic problems to a panel of mayors and industry experts. The event’s sponsor, Amazon Web Services, has put up $25,000 in prize money for the best ideas.

Stay tuned to see what he wears tomorrow.

-- By Caroline Cournoyer

(Dustin Haisler)




Sunday, March 12 at 8:53 a.m. CT 


See What New Technologies Mayors Are Learning About

Yesterday, mayors at SXSW got the chance to interact with emerging technologies from around the world. Here are a few snapshots. (Photos by Dustin Haisler.)

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton visualizing 311 calls in virtual reality using an HTC VIVE headset.


Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, center, learning about SST, which is an automated gunshot detection technology.


West Sacramento, Calif., Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, left, learning about next-generation health-care platform HC1.


Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, right, learning about Simularity, a predictive maintenance application that uses artificial intelligence.


The NIO EVE is an autonomous electric family vehicle that was unveiled at SXSW.


The NIO EVE is an autonomous electric family vehicle that was unveiled at SXSW.


The Starship Technologies autonomous delivery robot spotted in Austin at SXSW.




Sunday, March 12 at 8:23 a.m. CT 


Race, Immigration and the World's Fastest Driverless Electric Car

The music, fun and tech at SXSW took a back seat on Saturday to a difficult discussion about race and immigration in America. On this third episode of the "Not Safe for Government" podcast, we talk to the mayors leading those conversations.

Plus, the mayors and the Governing crew spent some time with electric cars, including the world's fastest electric autonomous car, which its Chinese makers rolled out at SXSW. Forget 0 to 60; this car goes 1 to 124 mph in 7 seconds.

Listen below. You can also subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher so you can take it with you.

-- By Paul W. Taylor





Saturday, March 11 at 9:49 p.m. CT 


Is Virtual Reality the Future of Government?

Mayors love dashboards and visualizations. It allows them and their employees to make sense of the huge volumes of data that come through city customer relationship relationship (CRM) systems.

At SXSW on Saturday, mayors took turns exploring a virtual reality rendering of a city CRM system. It was a head-turning experience but didn't sell everyone just yet.

"It's a cool tool, but ... where's the value added in terms of applications?" said San Jose, Calif., Mayor Sam Riccardo. "I'm very interested in looking more at it, but I still need to be persuaded this is something we want to invest in."

Richard Berry, the mayor of Albuquerque, N.M., however, already has some ideas on how to apply VR to government. Watch the Facebook Live video below to find out.

-- By Paul W. Taylor





Saturday, March 11 at 5:49 p.m. CT 


Q&A With 'The Face of U.S. Sanctuary Cities'

Santa Fe, N.M., Mayor Javier Gonzales is the man Fox News called "the face of U.S. sanctuary cities." So it's fitting that he sat on a SXSW panel on Saturday to discuss ways that cities are trying to become more welcoming places for immigrants and to resist the White House's immigration policies.

J.B. Wogan caught up with him after the panel. What follows is a condensed, lightly edited version of that conversation.

How has the Trump administration's policies on immigration affected your work, and what are you doing in response to them?

Obviously, the president has sent out a very negative tone about immigrants and the presence of immigrants in American cities. What we’ve tried to do is reassure through policy that we’ll continue to be welcoming. We’re also taking proactive approaches in Washington, trying to reach out to the administration and saying, 'look, there is a way to achieve the objectives of protecting our country and making sure that we have an immigration system that works.'

We all as cities want to make sure that our communities remain safe. We do know that if we don’t have strong border security, that there could be bad people that make their way in, and we’re willing to work alongside the administration -- as long as they’re policies that will actually work. I don’t believe that the wall is an effective strategy for keeping people out. I’d rather work with law enforcement and intelligence agencies to identify those individuals.

Some cities have offices of immigrant affairs or an office for new Americans. Do you have one, and how has its work changed since January?

We have an immigration committee. The work has changed quite a bit in terms of trying to expand legal resources to make sure that undocumented individuals are able to sit down with lawyers and understand what their rights are. They’ve worked alongside many families who worry about going to work. They’re working with employers to make sure they understand what their rights are if ICE agents show up.

It’s really unfortunate that we’re all having to exert this kind of energy in protecting peaceful people who want to contribute to our country. Really, the president and the Congress could pass some immigration reform that would create easier access toward some kind of documentation and then all of that would go away. We would be able to focus on keeping our communities safe by going after bad people and growing our country’s economy by relying on skilled labor that is really participatory and adding to our economies.

One of the speakers from yesterday, Allegra Love of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, called upon U.S. mayors to fund the legal defense of immigrants. What have you specifically done in that regard?

There are city funds that do go into legal defense. We now are going to need to put more in. In the meantime, our community has stepped up through foundations and through businesses, and we’re seeing cities across the country do the same thing.

I think what mayors recognize is that we have to do everything we can -- not only from a humanity standpoint to protect people who are here and living peacefully but also to be able to support families so that kids will continue to go to school and parents will continue to go to work. They are critical to our economies and to the social fabric of our communities.




Saturday, March 11 at 10:39 a.m. CT 


The Socks of SXSW

(Paul W. Taylor)

In anticipation of discussions about immigration and racial equity, West Sacramento, Calif., Mayor Christopher Cabaldon -- who uses socks as a conversation starter -- is rocking zebra stripes today at SXSW's Civic I/O Mayors Summit.

Check out what he wore yesterday, too.

-- By Paul W. Taylor




Saturday, March 11 at 10:17 a.m. CT 


Even Techies Struggle With Technology

(David Kidd)

We can put a man on the moon, but we can't reliably run a PowerPoint presentation.

In front of an audience of mayors and municipal government geeks, a presenter experienced that paradox firsthand as the visual part of her presentation on transforming governance refused to leave the starting blocks. She represented something called the Future Today Institute.

I have seen the future and there are no PowerPoints in it.

-- By David Kidd




Saturday, March 11 at 9:38 a.m. CT 


Our Lessons From Day 1

In this second NSFG Extra from the Civic I/O Mayors Summit at SXSW, Reporter J.B. Wogan speaks with the long-serving executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Tom Cochran. They discuss the evolution and importance of technology in government and the wide reach that local leaders have in their citizens' lives.

"We deal with potholes; We also deal with civil rights," he said.

The Governing team -- J.B., Photographer David Kidd and Chief Innovation Officer Dustin Haisler -- also compare notes on what we learned during day one of the summit.

Listen below. You can also subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher so you can take it with you.

-- By Paul W. Taylor





Friday, March 10 at 10:45 p.m. CT 


Immigration a Big Concern Among Mayors

Tom Cochran, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (David Kidd)

During a Friday night cocktail reception at South by Southwest (SXSW), when public officials mingled with startup entrepreneurs, Tom Cochran slipped off to a side table to handwrite his latest missive to the nation’s mayors. Cochran is executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where he has worked for 48 years, spanning nine presidential administrations.

He's always written these notes by hand -- a staffer types them up afterward -- but they used to be less frequent. In 2017, he writes one a day. The Washington veteran says the election of President Donald Trump has “completely changed my job description,” making constant dialogue with his members a necessity.

“People can’t find their governor, they can’t find their congressman, but they can call their mayor, and their mayor calls me,” he says.

Cochran is on the frontlines of a new, more contentious relationship between the federal government and cities. In the young life of the Trump administration, the nation’s mayors have already challenged the White House, most notably on its plans to cut off funding to immigrant sanctuary cities and to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant.

On Friday evening, he announced that his group will meet with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on March 29 to discuss the president’s recent executive orders on immigration. Cochran says mayors hope to clarify how the White House plans to define a sanctuary city and which grants might be at risk for them. They also want federal immigration enforcement to let them know when they plan to conduct a raid, so city officials can be prepared for the impact it has on their community.

So far, immigration has figured prominently at SXSW's government and policy discussions. During a series of 10-minute presentations to mayors in the afternoon, leaders from the nonprofit and private sector urged urban leaders to protect their immigrant communities and reframe the public narrative around them.

Rich Andre, an associate director of state and local initiatives at the New American Economy, a Michael Bloomberg-backed organization that advocates for immigration reform, said mayors should use data to quantify the positive impact that immigrants can have on their city’s population and economy. He cited Dayton, Ohio, as an example: Its pro-immigrant strategy helped to reverse the city's decades-long decline in population. His organization provides free data and case studies to help local governments follow in Dayton’s footsteps.

Allegra Love, an attorney from the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, which defends immigrants, called on more mayors to fund the legal defense of immigrants in their communities -- something several big cities have already pledged to do.

“It’s been really bad for us lately. We’re heartbroken, and we’re exhausted, and the people I work with are terrified,” she said. “This pitch is now turning into a plea, a plea for moral courage ... fund the legal defense of immigrants in your city, and not only the defense but the promotion of them.”

-- By J.B. Wogan




Friday, March 10 at 1:54 p.m. CT 


Talking Tinder and Civic Engagement With Mayor Cabaldon

How do you engage citizens when most of them don't have time or interest in attending local government meetings?

"When we make decisions in those kind of meetings based on who shows up ... we end up getting the wrong outcomes; we pick the wrong thing; we chose often the most inequitable things; we sometimes pick based on our most animal instincts," said West Sacramento, Calif., Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

That's why his city, along with Santa Monica, is testing a Tinder-like app that "meets citizens where they are." Like the dating app Tinder, it lets users swipe left or right to express their approval -- or dislike -- of something. But instead of potential dates, users would be rating possible city projects.

Watch Cabaldon discuss the app, and what he calls "the analog divide," in this Facebook Live video.

-- By Caroline Cournoyer





Friday, March 10 at 12:26 p.m. CT 


This Mayor Uses Cool Socks as a Conversation Starter

West Sacramento, Calif., Mayor Christopher Cabaldon uses socks as a conversation starter. At SXSW, he finds it particularly helpful for connecting with tech entrepreneurs and artists who otherwise wouldn't be inclined to talk to a mayor.

We'll be tracking his footsteps -- and his sartorial choices -- for the next few days.

His day 1 choice: blue dots on grey and white.

-- By Paul W. Taylor


(Dustin Haisler)




Friday, March 10 at 6:36 a.m. CT 


What the Mayors of Louisville and West Sacramento Want From SXSW

We caught up with two early-arriving mayors -- Greg Fischer of Louisville, Ky., and Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento, Calif. -- and talked to them about their expectations of the conference.

Fischer is most looking forward to meeting with the 23 mayors to discuss the challenges faced by blue cities in red states during the Trump era. Meanwhile, Cabaldon reveals why he thinks public engagement as currently practiced by cities is doing more harm than good.

Listen to this episode of the "Not Safe for Government" podcast, which is hosted by Governing's parent company, e.Republic, below. You can also subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher so you can take it with you.

-- By Paul W. Taylor





Wednesday, March 8 at 2:09 p.m. CT 


For Policy Nerds, Mayors Are the Real Headliner of This Year's SXSW

People usually go to the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin to learn about the latest in film, music and technology. But this year, Austin Mayor Steve Adler is adding urban innovation to the list of attractions.

The city of Austin and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors have planned a series of events this weekend to convene mayors, venture capitalists and startup owners. Adler wants the conference to spur partnerships between cities and private-sector innovators that aim to address social problems at the local level.

“Government does not have the ability to solve many of the municipal challenges that cities face,” says Adler. “We really do need the involvement of the innovation community.”

At least 20 mayors are expected to be in town from all over the country -- Albuquerque, N.M.; Cambridge, Mass.; Denver; Louisville, Ky.; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Oklahoma City; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Salt Lake City; San Jose, Calif.; Santa Fe, N.M.; Washington, D.C.; and West Sacramento, Calif.

The conference’s new "Government and Policy Track" includes a demonstration where mayors will interact with cutting-edge technology that could affect their cities, such as drones, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Also on the schedule is a “Shark Tank”-style competition where new companies will pitch their business ideas for solving civic problems to a panel of mayors and industry experts. The event’s sponsor, Amazon Web Services, has put up $25,000 in prize money for the best ideas. Mayors will also meet to discuss terrorism, police reform, racial inequity and immigration.

For people looking to launch a business, the government and policy sessions will expose them to the most pressing public policy problems facing cities today. In some cases, those problems could be opportunities for public funding if entrepreneurs find a way to monetize new solutions to municipal challenges. The conference is “an opportunity for people with really good ideas to interact with people who can capitalize on those good ideas,” says Adler.

Governing will be live-blogging every government and policy session from Friday morning to Monday night. You can keep up with the latest right here as we post news, interviews, videos and photos. You can also follow our coverage on Twitter and Facebook.

-- By J.B. Wogan