NEW ORLEANS - Today, the New Orleans City Council's Smart and Sustainable Cities Committee (SSCC) heard from a panel of nationally recognized experts who discussed the emerging concept of harnessing a wide array of technology to make a city what is known as a "smart city."
There is a transformation happening in cities as they increasingly rely on smart devices and networks to reduce the cost and improve the delivery of the many services that make up urban life. Smart cities leverage technology to support infrastructure and to improve the quality of life of their residents and businesses. Smart cities are transformative and constantly evolving.
The Council set New Orleans on the path to becoming a smart city in January when a resolution authored by Council President and SSCC Chair, Jason Williams, opened a utility docket to explore fully the steps and strategies to accomplish a smart city initiative. The resolution was supported unanimously by the prior Council and had the support of then-mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell. The current Council has since reaffirmed this commitment, reinforcing it through the creation of this new aspirational committee.
Tuesday's meeting was held jointly with the Utility Committee, chaired by Council Vice President Helena Moreno, and the Public Works Committee, chaired by Councilmember Joe Giarrusso, in recognition of the multi-faceted benefits of the 'Smart Cities' initiative. The committee discussed the Council's intention to use modernization of the electrical grid and advanced telecommunications infrastructure as the platform on which to build a smart New Orleans.
"Not only will we will use technology to solve long-standing problems, from flooding and inaccurate bills to unemployment and public safety, but once we integrate technologies and initiatives to make city services more efficient, we will also be connecting citizens, improving quality of life, and fostering equity and sustainability," said Council President Jason Williams.
The expert panel was comprised of the former U.S. Secretary of Energy in the Obama administration, Dr. Ernest Moniz. As Secretary, Dr. Moniz advanced energy technology innovation, nuclear security, and strategic stability as touchstones for the American scientific research community, and for environmental stewardship. Dr. Moniz placed energy science and technology innovation at the center of the global response to climate change and negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement alongside the Secretary of State. He is also the MIT Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems emeritus and Special Advisor to the MIT President. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Humboldt Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Science. Dr. Moniz has received numerous awards recognizing his outstanding contribution to science and technology. Dr. Moniz has appeared before the Council previously to discuss the smart city concept.
Also participating was Ms. Debra Lam, who is the Managing Director of Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation for Georgia Tech. The Georgia Tech program was recently created to drive smart cities and urban innovation initiatives across the university and the country. Ms. Lam previously served as Pittsburgh's first-ever Chief of Innovation & Performance where she oversaw all technology, sustainability, performance and innovation functions of city government. She has received numerous awards, including being selected as one of the "Top 50 Women in Technology."
The third panel member was Mr. Pete Tseronis, the US Department of Energy's first Chief Technology Officer, a position he held for eight years. He also currently serves on the Google Innovation Advisory Board. Mr. Tseronis is actively connected to the National Labs and serves as the Chief Technology Officer tor the Strategic Advisors to Government Executives. He is also a Strategic Advisor to NexCubed, an organization that helps entrepreneurs bring new technologies to market. Mr. Tseronis has received numerous prestigious awards including the Government Innovator of the Year, Government Communicator of the Year, and twice-named to the Fed100.
The panel was moderated by longtime utility legal advisor Clint Vince of the Dentons firm. Mr. Vince and his colleagues are leaders and innovators in bringing the smart cities concept to municipal leaders, including, among others, San Antonio and New Orleans. All three committee chairs, Williams (SSCC), Helena Moreno (UCTTC) and Joseph Giarrusso (Public Works), expressed their appreciation for the excellent presentations and their enthusiasm for carrying out the smart city initiative.
Council Vice President and UCTTC Chair Moreno said, "I want to thank Secretary Moniz and all of the experts for visiting New Orleans and sharing their vision for the future. Smart Cities technologies have the opportunity to improve a variety of services for residents, but we need to continue to build a cohesive "Smart Cities" master plan that promotes equity and affordability. I also want to thank President Williams for bringing this discussion forward."
District "A" Councilmember and Public Works Committee Chair Giarrusso said, "These issues cannot be discussed in a vacuum. That's why our committees have joined together to explore ways to bring our infrastructure up to date. If we're going to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we need to use all tools possible. Doing this work means better results for everybody."
Council President and SSCC Chair Williams said, "The public comment of community stakeholders and hopeful private citizens is truly the genesis of the creation of this new committee. My hope is that we, can pivot and look towards the future and engage in the aspirational items that actually turn great cities into exceptional cities. The implementation of Smart Cities policies will put a rainbow over New Orleans for the next few decades."