All too often, young people in our country enter the job market without the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today’s workforce. By and large, today’s education system is simply not aligned with the needs of the workforce, and students are paying the price. Without the skills they need, many young people are struggling to find jobs. And it’s not only prospective employees that are reeling from the mismatch between educational skills and workforce needs; employers struggle to fill skilled and professional jobs given the dearth of qualified applicants.
The mismatch between the educational qualifications of the population and the educational requirements of current and future jobs is particularly dramatic in many of our nation’s metropolitan areas, including Philadelphia. In the introduction to Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs in Metropolitan America, I describe how, in Philadelphia, the share of the population qualified for unskilled jobs (jobs that require no post-secondary education) far exceeds the number of unskilled jobs in the city. At the same time, there are fewer skilled workers (those with some college education) and professional workers (those with at least a college degree) than there are skilled and professional jobs in the city. The result: too many unskilled workers without jobs, and too many skilled and professional jobs unfilled.
Addressing the mismatch between educational qualifications of workers and the knowledge requirements of jobs is not easy. Educational attainment is now lower in the U.S. than in several other developed nations. In fact, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. ranks 14th in the world in the percentage of 25-34 year-olds with higher education. (Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators 2012). Within the United States, educational attainment is particularly low in many of our nation’s central cities; this despite the seeming abundance of postsecondary educational options.
Educational attainment is also lower, on average, for students from lower-income families, and for Black and Hispanic students. When they do attend postsecondary institutions, students from these demographic groups tend to be relatively concentrated in less selective colleges and universities and for-profit postsecondary institutions— places that tend to have the lowest degree completion rates.
The task that our country faces is daunting. Creating meaningful improvements in educational attainment and workforce readiness is difficult, and is complicated by constraints on the availability of public and private financial resources.
In Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs in Metropolitan America, my colleagues and I tackle three essential questions:
1) How should workforce readiness be defined and measured?
2) What is the role of different educational sectors in providing the necessary education and training?
3) What are the most effective institutional programs and public policies for stimulating educational preparation for work?
Through a review of existing data and research, as well as some new analyses, the chapters point to the need for additional research, while also offering insights into what we do know about these issues. One of the central conclusions of the volume is that we— meaning school and college administrators and teachers, policymakers, business leaders, researchers, and others— do not have a shared or consistent definition of “workforce readiness.”
The book also recognizes the diversity of educational options and approaches that are available in the United States to promote students’ readiness for work. These approaches include career and technical education in high school; for-profit postsecondary educational institutions; community colleges; and adult education providers. In the chapter he contributes to the book, Harvard Professor Ronald Ferguson discusses the benefits of a “multiple pathways” approach, arguing that attention to the connection between education and careers should begin as early as the 5th grade and incorporate multiple stakeholders, including families, schools, churches, colleges, military, and employers.
Our country’s collective discussion about how to best align education skills and job requirements is not new, nor is it likely to end anytime soon. Over the course of many decades, various public policies have been created with the goal of improving this alignment; unfortunately, the available research calls into question the effectiveness of these strategies.
In Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs in Metropolitan America, my colleagues and I offer several concrete recommendations for addressing this mismatch: everything from fostering collaboration between education institutions and employers, to improving the quality of educational opportunities. As we move forward, institutional leaders and policy makers have the opportunity—and the mandate— to consider new strategies that address this critical issue.
Laura Perna, Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, is editor of Preparing Today's Students for Tomorrow's Jobs in Metropolitan America.
Saswati Sarkar is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering. Her research interests are in the science and economics of various classes of networks – communication, social, transportation, power, and economic. She is a Penn IUR Faculty Fellow who has worked closely with Penn IUR, in particular on the June 2011 expert roundtable (“America’s Sustainable Future: How U.S. Cities Are Making Energy Work”) Penn IUR held to explore the public-private partnership efforts from U.S. cities pursuing innovative energy management and smart grid initiatives. She also does research for the Energy Efficient Buildings (EEB) Hub, an organization with which Penn IUR is also working. She received the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award in 2003.
1. You research smart grids. Can you tell us what smart grids are and how they affect sustainability?
Rapid economic growth, development, and industrialization have steadily increased electricity consumption worldwide for several decades. The electricity demands have typically been satisfied through conventional generation techniques. Conventional generation techniques, however, have led to depletion of fossil fuel reserves and excessive emissions of greenhouse gas associated with detrimental environmental impacts like global warming and ozone layer attrition.
Ground-breaking advances in alternate generation techniques are therefore necessary. However, the environmental impact of alternate sources needs to be carefully investigated before being widely implemented. For example, in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan, nuclear generation techniques have been questioned. Some countries, such as Germany, have decided to terminate nuclear energy generation altogether. The emergence of environmentally friendly generation technology (solar energy, wind energy, etc.) promises to satisfy ever-increasing electricity demands while substantially reducing the detrimental impact of conventional and nuclear sources (emissions and fossil fuel consumption). It is estimated that restructuring electricity generation may reduce carbon emissions by 35 percent.
An important obstacle to the deployment of large-scale generation of renewable energy is the integration of the generation techniques in the existing nationwide power generation and distribution network, also known as the power grid. Overhauling power grids takes time, which has deterred the large-scale proliferation of renewable electricity generation. The emerging framework – consisting of a combination of a smart macrogrid and smart microgrids – may facilitate a gradual transition.
A smart macrogrid, also known as the smart grid, is the nationwide power generation and distribution network, equipped with smart control, resilience, and automated decision and distribution capabilities. A microgrid is a localized grouping of electricity generation, storage, and loads that seeks to satisfy the electricity and heat demands in local communities; a rural town, for example, may be served by one or two microgrids. The generation units in smart microgrids predominantly comprise renewable sources – such as micro-turbines, wind-turbines, fuel cells, photovoltaic cells, solar, thermal, and wind turbines – though they may be seamlessly expanded to include both renewable and non-renewable sources as necessary. Microgrids can also store electricity in limited capacity using storage devices such as batteries, flywheels, super-conducting magnetic energy storage, and super-capacitors. Storage in microgrids is less challenging than storage in the macrogrid due to the scale. While a microgrid normally operates connected to the macrogrid, it may also operate independently – particularly when it needs to protect itself from failure through isolation from the macrogrid during severe overloads.
Scientists envision that future electric networks will consist of a large ensemble of microgrids, either inter-connected through the macrogrid or directly connected to one another. Experimental and pilot installations of microgrids have already been initiated in the United States, Europe, Japan, and China. Market projections show that, by 2015, over 3 gigawatts (GW) of new microgrid capacity will come online globally, representing a cumulative investment of $7.8 billion and that the annual market for microgrid systems will be $2.1 billion. North America will likely constitute the largest market for microgrids in the near future, representing 74 percent of total worldwide capacity by 2015. Several research challenges, however, need to be addressed before the vision of widespread proliferation of microgrids may be transformed to reality. My group’s research seeks to contribute to this area of study.
2. As a systems engineer, how did you become involved in issues related to sustainable development? What is the intersection between systems engineering and sustainability?
As an Electrical Engineer, my research had in the past largely focused on wireless networks. This specialization led me to research in energy-related sustainable development issues, because the tools (e.g., optimal and stochastic controls, dynamic games, optimization, queuing theory) developed in the design of wireless networks have the potential to constitute the foundation of sustainable energy management strategies.
The wireless revolution has reduced the space-barrier and smart phones have realized the dream of ubiquitous computing and connectivity. But when first introduced, this wireless technology confronted seemingly insurmountable challenges, such as limitation of resources (spectrum, battery power, memory) and vulnerability to security threats. Fundamental advances in network control prevented these challenges from deterring the pervasive deployment of wireless technology: global performance goals have been met through computationally simple, local-information-based distributed transmission scheduling, power control, management and data routing strategies; smart phones have been protected from security threats through design of optimal malware control strategies; cooperation and spectrum trading have been incentivized and enabled through fundamental advances in dynamic pricing and wireless economics. Such diverse, ground-breaking progress has been accomplished by drawing from, and in the process contributing to, a wide variety of disciplines: stochastic processes, dynamic games, optimal and stochastic control, optimization, and queuing theory. Specifically, sustainable systems have resource constraints that exhibit certain core similarities as wireless networks (specific details differ between the two, of course) – so very similar design approaches often apply.
This is the space in which my research has contributed. Going forward, ideas that emerged in the context of wireless networks can inform nascent research in sustainable development. This connection is greatly important to both, seemingly disparate, fields, since wireless networks have been one of the most transformative technologies in human history and sustainable development will likely have a similar, or even larger, impact in the current millennium and this is exactly what I hope to accomplish in the context of sustainable development.
3. What are your current research projects?
Currently, I am participating in research projects directed towards sustainable development and wireless networks. The research projects in wireless networks are directed towards (i) control of malware propagation and (ii) design of an architecture of spectrum trade in wireless networks.
4. Can you tell us more about the research you have done with the Energy Efficient Buildings (EEB) Hub on promoting energy efficient technologies? What work are you planning to do with the Hub in the future?
Several research challenges need to be addressed before the vision of widespread proliferation of microgrids becomes reality – I am working to contribute to this field of research, working to design a holistic framework comprising of:
• Smart generation and distribution infrastructure (consisting of conventional and renewable energy resources) for microgrids
• Holistic generation systems, designed using statistical models and demand, that satisfy energy deficits while using conventional energy sources only minimally
• Energy distribution infrastructure that efficiently transmits energy with minimal energy loss by:
o Attaining an appropriate tradeoff between design of distribution and generation modules, should they operate in conjunction
o Smart management of consumption through an electronic sensing infrastructure
o Deploying power meters and sensors that monitor environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, wind-speed, etc.)
o Deploying a wireless network that is scalable, portable, and robust against failures and security breaches.
o Utilizing household electrical appliances that can be automated and synchronized with the sensing infrastructure to reduce overall consumption
• Energy trading and dynamic pricing that:
o Imposes smart management with users’ consent in lieu of service discounts and reductions of utility bills
o Introduces dynamic pricing of energy as well as trading among different concerned entities to make usage more efficient
o Compensates for energy deficits and excesses (an inevitable result of using microgrids) through electricity trades with other microgrids
• Fault tolerance and resiliency, specifically:
o Accounting for the impact of regulations on the design of each of the above components
In participating with the EEB, I have investigated energy trading. Specifically, I have considered energy markets comprising of both microgrids and the macrogrid, where microgrids actively trade energy units among each other and also with the macrogrid so as to satisfy their deficits and utilize their energy excesses (with a goal of maximizing their overall financial remuneration). With my colleagues, I have investigated dynamic pricing strategies for such trades, modeled the pricing problem as a non-cooperative game and characterized Nash equilibrium pricing strategies.
5. What unique aspects of Penn are enabling you to do the research that is most important to you?
The faculty at Penn consists of eminent engineers, computer scientists, and urban researchers. Penn’s work culture actively encourages cross-disciplinary research. For instance, while retaining a primary faculty position at the Electrical and Systems Engineering department, I have been designated as a Faculty Fellow at the Penn Institute for Urban Research (Penn IUR) and as a secondary faculty member in the Computer Science department. It is therefore relatively easy to assemble a multi-disciplinary team for pursuing a research agenda that calls for expertise in a wide range of fields. Indeed, the research agenda that I am pursuing – realizing a large-scale proliferation of microgrids – requires expertise across traditional academic departments and even schools; in particular my colleagues and I seek to investigate the interplay between engineering design of sustainable systems and governmental policy regulations. Pursuing the latter has been facilitated through my collaboration with faculty members at Penn IUR.
The newest title in Penn IUR's City in the 21st Century book series, "Making New York Dominican," by Christian Krohn-Hansen, offers an in-depth look at Dominican immigrants in New York City, in terms of economic and political practices and constructions of identity and belonging.
Visit the Penn Press website to read more about the book, or order a copy.
On January 17th, the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub and Penn Institute for Urban Research convened a gathering of industry experts to discuss the future of financing energy efficient buildings.
The convening began with a discussion of “Energy Efficiency and Commercial Mortgage Valuation,” a paper by Dwight Jaffee, Richard Stanton and Nancy Wallace from the University of California Berkeley. The paper was presented by Matthew Kwatinetz from the EEB Hub with Scott Muldavin as discussant.
Both acknowledged important contributions of the paper, specifically with regard to the geography of energy risk and work on electricity forwards and gas futures. They discussed several next steps, including: focusing on a simplified version of geographic energy risk (city or county disclosure, LEED or other rating system) and focusing on equity rather than debt.
A panel discussion followed on financing investment for energy efficient buildings focusing on barriers and how they can be overcome. The panel was moderated by Dr. Susan Wachter of the EEB Hub and Penn IUR. The panelists were:
The major barriers that were addressed by the panelists included:
In 2013, as cities around the world expand, and as urban populations grow, we will face new challenges, continue to grapple with long-standing problems, and have the opportunity embrace emerging and truly creative urban solutions.
We asked more than a dozen experts to weigh in on the question: What is the biggest urban issue, challenge or innovation that will affect our world in the upcoming year?
Read their responses below on topics ranging from anchor institutions to the meaning of urban innovation. Their answers point to the magnitude of work that needs to be done, as well as to the promise of urban innovations on the horizon.
Ira Harkavy, Associate Vice President and Director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania
The biggest urban challenge that will affect our world in the upcoming year is to effectively engage anchor institutions, particularly higher educational and medical institutions, as democratic partners dedicated to revitalizing their local communities and cities. Simply stated, what these institutions do (or fail to do) has enormous impact on the quality of life in urban areas and metropolitan regions. America’s colleges and universities, for example, represent immense concentrations of human and economic capital (with nearly four million employees, 20 million enrolled students, $400 billion in endowments, and $1 trillion in annual economic activity). As place-based institutions, they have the potential to be sources of stability, permanence, and ongoing progressive change.
Moreover, the future of higher educational institutions and their communities and cities are intertwined. As such, they have a strong economic and intellectual stake in the health of their surrounding communities, as well as the resources, particularly the human resources, to make a genuine difference. But colleges and universities will have to undergo significant organizational change before they can fully mobilize the powerful, untapped resources of their own institutions and of their communities, including those found among individual neighbors and in local institutions (such as businesses, social service agencies, faith-based organizations, and hospitals).
By focusing on solving universal problems that are manifested in their local communities (such as poverty, poor schooling, inadequate healthcare), institutions of higher education will generate knowledge that is both nationally and globally significant and be better able to realize what I view as their primary mission of contributing to a healthy democratic society. A higher educational institution's contributions to solving locally-manifested universal problems and to creating a just democratic society should count heavily both in assessing its institutional performance and in responding to its requests for renewed or increased resources and financial support.
David Brownlee, Frances Shapiro-Weitzenhoffer Professor, Chair of the Graduate Group in the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania
The catastrophic weather events of 2012 in the United States and President Obama's recently announced intention to focus on global warming in his second term promise to add American energy to the worldwide discussion of climate change in 2013. The implications for our cities are many, but I hope that chief among them will be recognition that high urban population density makes possible many carbon-saving energy efficiencies.
Laura Perna, Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania
One of the biggest urban challenges facing our world in the upcoming year is the persisting stratification of educational outcomes across demographic groups. Educational attainment is critical to the economic and social well-being of individuals and society, as higher levels of education are associated with greater earnings, lower rates of unemployment and poverty, better health, and a host of other benefits for individuals and the communities in which they live. Yet, differences in educational attainment across income, racial/ethnic, and other demographic groups mean that these benefits are unequally distributed across the U.S. population. The need to improve attainment for Blacks and Hispanics in particular is underscored by demographic trends, as the non-White population in the United States is growing substantially; several U.S. states are already “majority-minority” and more will be soon.
Raising overall educational attainment and closing gaps in attainment across groups requires public policymakers and educational leaders to pay greater attention to the many structural forces that limit the ability of individuals of different groups to progress through the educational pipeline from elementary and secondary education, and into and through postsecondary education. Particular attention is required to improving the availability of academically rigorous curricula that adequately prepare students for college and careers, providing the supports that students require to succeed in rigorous courses, ensuring the availability of information about how to successfully navigate and persist through various educational pathways, and ensuring the availability of resources to pay educational costs. Improving the affordability of postsecondary education is especially important given the escalation of tuition and fees, substantial reliance on student loans, and questions about the future of federal Pell grants.
Lynn Hollen Lees, Professor of History, Vice-Provost for Faculty, University of Pennsylvania
Improving infrastructures is one of the biggest challenges facing cities today. In the U.S., urban bridges rust and crumble; our cities’ transportation systems are antiquated and underfinanced. Water mains leak and sidewalks crack. Hurricane Sandy revealed the need for underground power lines and flood control barriers to protect East Coast towns. In developing countries, urban immigrants crowd into mega-cities where the poor lack decent housing, sanitation, and access to clean water. Mike Davis describes a “Planet of Slums,” in which shanty towns multiply on waste land without paved roads, public transit, electricity, or sewers.
The exploding megacities of the world urgently require better social infrastructures —schools, hospitals, and recreation spaces. Urbanization has far outpaced social investment in a majority of the world’s cities. Although existing technologies can cleanse and modernize, free market systems direct capital expenditures to those who can pay for services, and too few governments have sufficient will, skill, and resources to upgrade the urban environment for the benefit of all residents. The stark differences in environments for rich and poor work against political integration and the inclusion of all citizens into an urban community. Cities as sites of research, development, and innovation should take the lead in developing affordable new technologies for the provision of clean power, water, and waste disposal, which could lengthen and improve the lives of urbanites around the world.
Catherine L. Ross, Deputy Director, National Center for Transportation Productivity and Management, Harry West Professor of City and Regional Planning, Director, Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development, Georgia Institute of Technology
Public institutions and governments are increasingly opening their files and sharing data. Along with this, communication networks, information systems and computing power are constantly improving and expanding. These developments make possible new evidenced based data sources and information to enhance innovations in planning and policies. Yet our methods, strategies, policies and practices have not evolved to take advantage of these new opportunities and technologies.
How do we implement innovation, not just in technology but in practice? This is a new mandate. We must not turn our backs or fall short in the responsibility to take advantage of this new frontier. Ultimately, it will allow us to create better places to live.
The New Year 2013 presents the opportunity for planners to integrate innovation, so often talked about in our profession, into practice. That would allow the application of new and innovative planning paradigms and technologies to solve the problems of our cities and regions. The challenge is to change and improve not just our operations, but also our practice. In the New Year, we must focus on improved innovative service delivery and enhanced stakeholder satisfaction.
The de-industrialization of cities
The de-industrialization of large and small cities provides opportunities to better contain and get rid of industrial pollution sources within residential and commercial areas. As a result, we can reconstruct those areas as healthier, more equitable economic centers-- providing sustainable travel options, more affordable mixed housing choices and enhanced revenue streams. Infill development is a lever to accommodate the burgeoning urban population in many cities and the redevelopment of surrounding areas. These opportunities allow changes in economic activity through the introduction of technologies, industries and products that tap the potential of cities to sell services and goods with a focus on the global economy. We now have more innovative ways to make better use of abandoned buildings and existing infrastructure and to create more green space, active pedestrian ways and enhanced social capital environments. Transportation investment strategies that facilitate economic rejuvenation reduce environmental degradation and create healthier, more accessible mobility options are no longer options but imperatives.
Carolyn C. Cannuscio, ScD, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health, Section on Public Health, University of Pennsylvania
Almost a billion people go to bed hungry every night. The World Food Programme has aptly named hunger “the world’s greatest solvable problem.” Across the life span, hunger devastates health. Hungry mothers give birth to more fragile children. Hungry children are more likely to miss school; they are less prepared to learn. Hungry adults are more susceptible to declines in the most basic functions, like walking. Hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
Beyond its health implications, hunger destroys human potential. Our cities need to harness and cultivate that human potential — the source of all innovation. As we were starkly reminded by hurricanes and horrific crimes in 2012, each year offers a new set of environmental, social and economic challenges. A hungry city is not a nimble city; it is an enervated and brittle one. Fundamentally, the resilience of cities demands a secure base, beginning with a well-nourished citizenry.
Hunger is a global problem, and it is a local problem. In the United States in 2012, requests for emergency food aid increased in almost all cities surveyed. Here in Philadelphia, the first Congressional District ranks as one of the “hungriest” in the nation, with over a third of households reporting food insecurity.
So as we close our holiday season of consumption, we can renew our focus on strategies for nourishing our cities and our world, including: supporting smallholder farmers, shoring up school feeding programs, and advocating for government support of nutrition programs. At home, we can contribute by reducing food waste, participating in meatless Monday (or any day), and giving to innovative urban agriculture projects like The Food Project.
For the future of cities, the best ideas will come on full bellies.
Shiriki Kumanyika, Professor of Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, and Associate Dean for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, School of Medicine
“Big” can have several meanings, for example, large number of people affected, many sectors involved, wide geographical spread, billions of dollars at stake, high impact in pain and suffering; major challenge to our presumed common moral principles, or extreme complexity of finding solutions. A BIG challenge that encompasses all angles is to establish a broadly-based commitment to a convergence of urban design and public health policies so that cities do not inevitably ruin the health of those who live within them. This will require reframing goals of urbanization and development to include health promotion as core to success (which also requires that the success of urbanization be seen as core to public health goals).
Urbanization, particularly when rapid, and the structural and lifestyle changes associated with urban living, have huge effects on health that are far too often in an unfavorable direction. Adverse health effects occur through numerous, interlinked, multi-sectoral pathways that end in intractable and often escalating poverty, unemployment, environmental injustice, food insecurity, interpersonal violence, mental health problems, and epidemic obesity and diet-related diseases. These pathways occur in cities in all types of societies and economies, although in different proportions and, in turn, compromise productivity, healthy living, and viability. Creating stronger links between the urban design and public health communities is essential to achieving greater critical mass, integration, and voice, as both the urban and the health issues are high on this year’s global policy agendas.
Janet Rothenberg Pack, Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy, Professor of Real Estate, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania
State and local funds support all the fundamental urban necessities: education, housing, public safety, infrastructure, employment, social services, and health care. Although most of these receive aid from the federal government, when all sources of funds (federal, state, and local) are simultaneously subject to setback — as they are now —these critical responsibilities suffer. Over the last several months, news articles and opinion pieces have flagged this issue as a critical one:
The challenge is: what will it take to restore public finances — local, state, and federal aid — and thus the public services they support? The obvious response is a substantial economic recovery. Although this is happening albeit at a slow pace, it is thus far and for the foreseeable future, too little to reverse the substantial cutbacks that have occurred. Moreover, demands for public services are increasing: demand on the health system and social services is increasing as the population ages; the need for employment assistance and special education is increasing as the immigrant population grows; the need to maintain and improve infrastructure is increasing as it continues to age and suffer from maintenance neglect; and the need to address unfunded pension liabilities will soon become unavoidable, to name just a few.
Anthony G.O. Yeh, Chair Professor and Head, Department of Urban Planning and Design, The University of Hong Kong
The biggest challenge is whether we can slow down or stop the number of cars that are growing in the cities in the world, especially those in the rapidly developing cities in Asia. These cars are not only causing air pollution and traffic congestion but also consuming a lot of gasoline, depleting our non-renewable energy, emitting carbon dioxide, and causing global warming. Take China for example, one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, the number of cars in Beijing has grown from 57 per 1,000 persons in 2002 to 193 in 2011, an increase of over 200 percent in the last ten years. For the same period of time, cars in Hong Kong have only grown by 14 percent. As a result of the rapid increase in cars, the proportion of transportation oil consumption in China has increased from 10 percent in 1980 to 33 percent in 2007.
It is not surprising that China is the world's second-largest consumer of oil behind the United States, and the second-largest net importer of oil in the world. The rapid increase in the number of cars is greatly influenced by the rapid growth of per capita income. Although cities in Asia are in general quite compact, it is difficult to reduce traffic congestion and develop more sustainable low carbon cities if there are no transport management policies to control car growth through road pricing and improvement in the public transport system. How to control the growth of cars and make the city moving will be a major challenge to the cities in the world, especially those with rapid economic growth.
John J. DiIulio, Jr., Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society, and Professor of Political Science, Political Science Department, University of Pennsylvania
Over the last few years, Detroit has cut city services and reduced its municipal workforce. Still, in 2013, the city’s budget deficit could exceed $100 million. About 40 percent of Detroit’s residents live below the poverty line. The city’s murder rate rose about 10 percent in 2012 and is higher today than it was in the mid-1970s. Maybe additional budget austerity measures can boost Detroit’s credit rating above “speculative grade,” but they would not cut its poverty or murder rates, and they could have other adverse civic consequences.
Detroit is not the only U.S. city, big or small, that begins 2013 in acute fiscal distress. Together, state and local governments spend about $3 trillion a year and are about $3 trillion in debt. Most states have reduced pension benefits and trimmed the aid that constituted a third of local revenues. But most states still face major fiscal challenges, not least with respect to financing health care for low-income urban citizens, from preschoolers to senior citizens, via the federal-state program Medicaid.
Over the last several years, numerous municipalities have gone bankrupt or explored bankruptcy proceedings. In a June 2012 report, the Pew Center on the States noted that “most localities have tackled budget pressures by reducing spending.” Among the results gave been “increased class sizes and shortened school days” plus cuts to services ranging from “trash collection to public safety.”
So, many cities begin 2013 bunched together near the edge of urban America’s fiscal cliff. How best to help Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Jefferson County, Philadelphia, San Bernardino, and other cities to find safe and sustainable fiscal ground while doing the least civic harm in the process? And how to ensure that the federal government and state governments do not pull themselves back from their respective fiscal cliffs by pushing local governments over theirs?
I have no answers, but a bipartisan, presidentially-empaneled “Simpson-Bowles” Commission that focuses on state and local government finances and reports before the next New Year just might.
Gilles Duranton, Professor of Real Estate, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania
As a society we have come to accept traffic jams as a fact of life and part of the price to pay to access our jobs, go shopping, and visit friends. It is true that we should not expect free-flow traffic on major arteries at 8:00 am on weekdays. Nonetheless, the extra car that, every morning, blocks a major intersection can bring hundreds if not thousands of drivers to a standstill. Since drivers only pay the average cost of travel and not the overall cost that they impose on others, there is too much driving and unnecessary congestion. With my co-authors Victor Couture and Matthew Turner we estimate that the value of the time lost by drivers because of congestion is in the order of $80 billion per year in urban America (Speed). Because this estimate ignores fuel costs, commercial trucks, and extra pollution caused by traffic jams, it is very conservative. The true cost of congestion may be twice that figure.
What can be done about this? Traditionally we have built more roads to accommodate growing traffic. While building roads may be necessary for many reasons, this does not cure congestion. As I have shown with Matthew Turner (The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US Cities), building more roads only elicits a proportional increase in travel. More recently it has become fashionable to argue that transit was the solution to our traffic woes. While transit will be necessary to accommodate travelers who have left their car, it cannot be a solution on its own. Every time a driver can be convinced to take public transportation, he or she frees up space on the roadway. This space then gets taken by another driver. Some cities in Europe have attempted to make life impossible to drivers by reducing the roadway. While this may reduce travel, this certainly does not reduce congestion. Some cities regulate traffic by using plate numbers to prevent access. This is not very effective either. The residents of those cities only keep more vehicles. These vehicles tend to be older and pollute more.
This leaves us with only one solution: urban roads should be priced. Implementing road pricing was, for a long time, a technically difficult proposition. Tolls could only be imposed around a cordon – a crude instrument that often led to long queues outside the cordon. However, technology is moving our way. Transponders are now widely available and the next generation of GPS-based technologies will make pricing roads even easier. The other obstacle to road pricing is political. This difficulty is unfortunately not going away. Drivers instinctively refuse to pay for something that has been hitherto free. The good news is that once they can see the benefits of road pricing, drivers like it. London re-elected Mayor Ken Livingston in an election that was a referendum on the London `congestion charge’. After a trial period of six months, the inhabitants of Stockholm voted in favor of road pricing. Unfortunately, the New York State Senate killed a road pricing proposal for New York City put forward by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Is there another city official somewhere in America willing to try road and demonstrate its benefits to the rest of the continent?
Dana Tomlin, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Co-director, Cartographic Modeling Laboratory, Landscape Architecture, University of Pennsylvania
One needn’t venture into metaphysics or even very far into biology in order to accept the notion that we, as humans, tend to form social organisms for which that term is entirely appropriate. Even without embracing any Gaian ideas of coevolution with the world around us, it is clear that our ability to interact with that world has evolved over time and has recently done so at a dramatically increasing rate.
An important part of this evolution can easily (and perhaps usefully) be compared to that of the human nervous system. Just as neurons evolved into nerve nets and nerve cords with ganglia and sensory organs that would eventually lead to the human brain, so has our information technology now evolved to the point where we can be so presumptuous as to draw reasonable analogies. What was once little more than an ability to sense stimuli (to record sights, sounds, and so on) has quickly been followed by an ability to retain those recorded sensations (to store the data), an ability to interpret them (analyze and synthesize those data), and an ability to communicate both (to transfer derived as well as raw data) to other parts of an interconnected system (the Internet) in ways that provide not only for self-adaption (reconfiguration of the system itself) but also for kinetic reaction (triggering an output device).
So, what’s the biggest urban innovation that will affect our world in the coming year? I suspect that your part of it is right there in your pocket, if not your hand, and that you have already made good use of it many times today. As for the rest of this innovation, we can safely assume that the coming year continues to bring dramatic advances on all fronts. My own current favorite is the personal drone.
Joan Hendricks, Gilbert S. Kahn Dean, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
One of the most important trends influencing the veterinary profession is continuing urbanization. Animals who produce food and fiber for humans, as well as wildlife, generally live in rural settings. The challenge of training professionals to work in urban settings when virtually all students have an urban/suburban background is severe. Further, the general public has virtually no experience with rearing animals in a farm setting, nor with the realities of food production. Thus, there are increasing societal concerns about farm animal health and welfare, food safety, and the environmental impact of intensive farming. These concerns have an impact on farmers and on veterinarians and the necessity of educating and responding to these concerns while continuing to be efficient and cost-effective in producing animal protein for the developed and developing world present enormous challenges. A related question is whether and how food production can be integrated into peri-urban and even urban regions in a fashion that preserves the wellbeing and health of both the humans and the animals.
Afaf Meleis, Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania
More recent dialogues continue to highlight what we have known for many prior decades – women’s situation and health are compromised because of societal and culturally imposed inequities. With the anticipation that the world is becoming more urbanized, 75 percent by 2030, it is apparent that in spite of many gains through urban living, women become more vulnerable to poverty, their health is more compromised, their safety is undermined and there are limited venues for their voices to be heard. Within this context of urban living for women, many questions about the future become imperative to address. Among these questions are the following: What will it take to create safe and healthy environments? What will it take to stop trafficking, violence and exploitation of women? What will it take to eliminate disparities and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which has appropriately focused on insuring women are educated, empowered, and that their voices are heard, valued and taken seriously? What will it take to ensure that women are able to reach their full potential and capacity to be productive members of society?
Addressing these questions will take much effort, systematic and deliberate planning, and strategic actions that are based on the partnerships of the different sectors of societies. It will take the development and implementation of a collaborative and coherent framework that is driven by the values and principles of justice and equity. There has been some progress made toward these goals and powerful examples of best practices that have resulted in outcomes that many thought leaders envisioned and articulated for many years. The creation of innovative partnerships from different parts of the world have led to progress in women’s situations. These partnerships and best practices have had an impact on bringing women’s issues to the forefront, raising consciousness of leaders or enhancing women’s opportunities to influence policies. Fast forward - by continued work toward a future of equity, safety, well-being, and productivity we may be able to make that future happen sooner for women world-wide.
Each year, Penn IUR hosts the Undergraduate Urban Research Colloquium (UURC), an innovative program that pairs faculty conducting urban-focused scholarship with exceptional undergraduates interested in developing research skills. Each UURC student-faculty team executes an original research project; collaborations have yielded publications in refereed journals, leveraged other research funding, and prepared undergraduates to pursue further original research.
This year, our student-faculty projects are:
Andrew Mondschein, PennDesign
Juan Visser, Urban Studies
Transit Oriented Development in the Washington Metro Area
Eugenie Birch, PennDesign
Alexandra Bendheim, Urban Studies
Smart City Initiatives
Bridgette Brawner, Nursing
Kelsey Liburd, Nursing
A Spatially-Based Approach To Understanding HIV/AIDS in Urban Environments
Domenic Vitiello, Penn Design
Jenny Chen, Economics
Urban Agriculture and Community Gardening in Chicago
Eric Schneider, Arts and Sciences
Taryn Williams, Urban Studies
Homicide in Philadelphia in 2012
Shahana Chattaraj, Wharton
Ellie Sun, Religious Studies
Informal Housing and Real Estate Markets in Mumbai
Carolyn Cannuscio, School of Medicine
Alyssa Bonnell, Public Health and Biology
Evaluation of the ArtWell Education Program.
On Monday, former Miami mayor and current Penn IUR board member Manny Diaz spoke to a packed room at the Inn at Penn about his childhood in Miami, his role in the Elian Gonzales case, and his experience leading Miami into the 21st century.
The Daily Pennsylvanian covered the event.
Miami Transformed: Rebuilding America One Neighborhood, One City at a Time is published by Penn Press.
Jean King, Richard Baron, and filmmaker Daniel Blake Smith recently sat down with Penn IUR Co-director Eugenie Birch, to discuss the world of public housing as portrayed in Smith's new documentary, Envisioning Home. King and Baron recall their experiences working in St. Louis and discuss how individuals can make a difference by building vibrant communities from distressed central cities.
When the Barnes on the Parkway opened on May 19, 2012, art lovers rejoiced that one of the world’s foremost collections of modern works was back on display after a brief hiatus. But art lovers weren't the only ones celebrating. The opening of the new Barnes Foundation was also applauded by urban planners, parks advocates, and museum administrators. Its opening marked the arrival of the first new cultural anchor on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in half a century, and brings new shape to Philadelphia’s grand boulevard as it approaches its centennial.
The history of the Barnes Foundation – originally located in Lower Merion, an affluent suburb just over Philadelphia’s city line – and of the Parkway – which runs diagonally from Fairmount Park to City Hall – have a common thread in the institution that geographically lies between them: the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Alfred C. Barnes (1872-1951) was a native Philadelphian and alumnus of the University who made his fortune from the invention of Argyrol, an antiseptic silver compound. By the early 1920s, Barnes had amassed a significant collection of modern art, including emerging talents like Picasso and Matisse, the established modern masters Renoir and Cezanne, as well as a growing array of African sculpture. Spurned by the cultural élite of Philadelphia who did not share his taste for new modern artists, Barnes set about building his own facility to implement his curatorial ideas, with intimate galleries at domestic scale and windows rather than overhead lighting. For the task, he hired Paul Philippe Cret (1876-1945), the French-born architect who signed off on some of America’s most significant buildings in the early 20th century while leading Penn’s architecture program.
Although the cantankerous Barnes proved a challenging client, the museum opened in 1925 with a simplified, twentieth-century version of the Italian Renaissance. African and Cubist themes permeated the exterior and interior details, overseen by Roy Larsen, a Penn graduate who trained under Cret. The building was situated at the end of a curving drive and surrounded by lush gardens, a bucolic setting designed to prepare visitors for the intense art experience within.
Maintaining that experience was a chief challenge for Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, the architectural team hired to design a new Barnes Foundation on the Parkway. In 2004, a judge ruled that the collection could move to Philadelphia because maintaining the existing facility had become untenable under the stringent financial conditions in Barnes’ will. Despite great controversy, a building committee began the search for an architect who would create a new home for the fabulous collection on the former site of a juvenile detention facility. This was just next door to the Rodin Museum, also designed by Cret and founded by Penn alumnus Jules Mastbaum. Guided by Martha Thorne, executive director of the Pritzker Prize, and advised by Gary Hack, former Dean of PennDesign, the committee selected Williams and Tsien, in large part on the strength of their design of Penn’s Skirkanich Hall, a narrow, modern ensemble wedged between two historic buildings.
While the architects had considerable room to work with on the new Barnes site, they had been specifically tasked to recreate the “implicit pairing between art and landscape” of the Merion location, according to the program analysis. For this critical aspect of the design they turned to Laurie Olin, Professor of Practice in Landscape Architecture at PennDesign. In a curious historic overlap, the Olin Partnership had recently restored the gardens of the neighboring Rodin Museum, designed initially by Jacques Gréber, whose inspirational designs for the Parkway in 1917-19 had shown similar small gardens all along its length, including the site assigned to the relocated Barnes.
The Barnes design team’s boldest move was to displace the entrance from its expected location, directly facing the Parkway, locating it instead on the northwest side of the building at the end of a zigzagging route through allées of trees, which gradually transported visitors away from the bustle of the city. We applaud this recreation of the “gallery in a garden” effect of the suburban site. However the initial reception by critics at the Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times was cool. Critics complained that the design did not offer a lively urban presence, and that the route to the galleries was circuitous. A redesign widened the pathways without changing the fundamental site plan, and construction raced ahead to allow the Barnes to debut in time for the summer tourism season this year, with the Rodin Museum also reopening in July. The results were astounding: the Barnes saw more visitors in its first two months than in all of 2009 at Lower Merion. Its membership has ballooned from 400 to 20,000 since groundbreaking.
The arrival of the Barnes on the Parkway is an important lynchpin of the continuing efforts to reshape that great avenue. Although still too heavy on automobiles and too light on flaneurs to be the Parisian boulevard that it aspires to be, the Parkway now boasts a chain of pedestrian-friendly features, from the just-opened café in Sister Cities Park to the new gardens of the Barnes and the refurbished Rodin Museum sculpture garden, with their lunchtime lingerers.
These bright spots hint at the potential for a series of smaller parklets to attract daytime visitors. That, at least, is the vision of Michael DiBerardinis, Commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation, who as part of the Green2015 plan, which aims to create 500 new acres of open space in Philadelphia, is leading the charge for the transformation of the Parkway. While tourists thronged the new Barnes last summer, Parks and Recreation joined the Penn Project for Civic Engagement and PennPraxis in a series of community meetings to create a vision for improvements that could be made to the Parkway in the next few years. Just as the “city beautiful” movement of the Progressive Era inspired the first iteration of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the early 20th century, a passion and drive for urban sustainability and participatory planning is remaking the Champs Élysées of Philadelphia for a 21st century city.