Can changing the phrasing of a tax collection letter increase local government revenue? Can text messages from a health department encourage city residents to get a check-up? Can city school districts offering opt-out SAT testing during the school day (rather than opt-in on weekends) nudge more students toward applying for college?
The mechanics of government – the day-to-day processes, the behind the scenes work – are critical to a well-functioning city, but don’t usually make headlines unless something is wrong. However, one of the key components of a high road city is efficient, democratic government.
Cities can and should explore numerous ways to improve efficiency, support and improve their workforce, engage their citizens and work well with their neighbors. The policy ideas in this section range from voting to encouraging citizen input to sunshine laws, but all promote good governance.
Advances in smart sensors, data technology, and data analysis offer promising advantages to cities and city leaders who take the time to learn how to best use them and integrate them into the existing infrastructure and culture of their communities. With careful planning and smart implementation, cities can simultaneously work to improve civic life, government trust and transparency, and local government operations.
Climate change represents the single greatest long-term threat to our cities and citizens. The health, wealth, and infrastructure of cities will be degraded as our planet warms and weather worsens. Yet local governments are sharing in the profits made by the fossil fuel industry – investing in the very companies that are directly responsible for this threat. Divestment, a strategy pioneered in this country during the antiapartheid movement, is a powerful tool that we can use in this fight.