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Saturday, November 21, 2009

How 'smart' is your city?

I was talking to a friend last night about this report that Heidi Collins (with the CNN newsroom) had a few weeks ago on a list published online by thedailybeast.com, titled The Smartest Cities in America.
First I thought by “smart cities” they mean technologically advanced and environmentally friendly and sustainable, but they were actually referring to the citizens and their intellectual stimulation and scholarly achievement. A portion of the criteria was based on the number/percentage of people with a bachelor degree or higher, nonfiction book sales, higher education institutions, and participation in elections; which was quite interesting (even though the accuracy could be questionable). But I think the intellectual stimulation and scholarly achievements of a society has a very important impact on the community and economic development of a city.

Sherry Arnstein in her book A Ladder of Citizen Participation talks about citizen participation and citizen power, and says that it is the redistribution of power that enables the “have-not citizens” (excluded from the political and economic processes) to be involved and included in decision making of the authorities and “people in power”. But how did the “people in power” get to that point of being able to make such critical decisions and excluding others? With their intellectual stimulation and scholarly achievements. I think the more highly educated and knowledgeable people we have in a community, more citizens of that community would be part of the group of legislators, authorities, and overall “people in power”. Also, a higher percentage of the citizens can get involved and have their voice heard rather than being excluded in the “have-not” group. If people are knowledgeable and well-informed they cannot be taken advantage of as much, by the intellectuals in power. In the book Community Planning for the Few, Tom Angotti also talks about citizen power and how the “have-nots” are taken advantage of because they are not as educated and informed as the people in power: “But powerful New Yorkers, including the leading real estate and financial institutions, continue to rely on civic engagement when it supports their interests and are particularly skilled at engaging neighborhoods and the resources of the local state to legitimize their efforts”.

Did I mention that Denver was number 5 on the list?!

Here's the link to the report:

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