John Rennie Short, School of Public Policy, Discusses Cities’ Impact on Climate Change in The Conversation

In the wake of the visit of 65 mayors to the Vatican to discuss climate change, School of Public Policy Professor John Rennie Short wrote an article for The Conversation reflecting on the central role of cities in climate change discussions.

John Rennie Short“Cities house more than half the world’s population, consume 75% of its energy and emit 80% of all greenhouse gasses. But cities are not just sources of problems; they are innovative sites for policy solutions,” wrote Short, who is an expert on urban issues and environmental concerns.

In his article, he wrote that many cities are on the front lines of climate change impacts, which has spurred action to address environmental concerns and form urban networks to learn which policies are working.

“The brute facts of climate change vulnerability in cities are prompting a new and more pronounced urban environmental sensitivity. Cities are responding with both climate change mitigation and adaption. Mitigation focuses on reducing the concentrations of greenhouse gases by using alternative energy sources, encouraging greater energy efficiency and conservation, and through the promotion of carbon sinks by planting trees.

Separately, cities are adapting to the effects of climate change. Chicago has developed policies anticipating a hotter and wetter climate by repaving its roads with permeable materials, planting more trees and offering tax incentive to encourage green office roofs,” Short wrote.

Read “Why cities are a rare good news story in climate change” in The Conversation.

Donald Norris, School of Public Policy, Shares eGovernment Research with Citizen 2015

Donald Norris, professor and director of the School of Public Policy, recently shared insight into the future of eGovernment with Citizen 2015, a new blog that explores how citizens interact and engage with government. In the interview, Norris discussed how the local eGovernment revolution has yet to reach its stated claims of more open, efficient, and effective governments. According to Norris, a chief reason is limited citizen demand: “Citizen participation, under the best of circumstances, is very difficult to achieve.”

Norris was also recently in the news in the Washington Post and WJZ-TV commenting on Gov. Hogan’s political strategy in Baltimore and the potential head-to-head Baltimore mayoral race between current Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and former Mayor Sheila Dixon. To read and view complete coverage, see below.

EGovernment Revolution? Not Quite Yet. (Citizen 2015)
Gov. Hogan’s decisions cause rift with Baltimore leaders (Washington Post)
Former mayor Slams Rawlings-Blake after violence spike (WJZ-TV)

John Rennie Short, School of Public Policy, Warns about the Dangers of Digital Distractions in The Conversation

In an article published July 7 in The Conversation, School of Public Policy Professor John Rennie Short explained the value of unplugging during an age where technology is so prevalent in our daily lives. “The age of distraction is dangerous,” he wrote. “A recent report by the National Safety Council showed that walking while texting increases the risk of accidents. More than 11,000 people were injured last year while walking and talking on their phones…texting while driving resulted in 16,000 additional road fatalities from 2001 to 2007. More than 21% of vehicle accidents are now attributable to drivers talking on cellphones and another 5% were text messaging.”

John Rennie ShortBeyond the statistics showing the dangers of distracting driving, Short also outlined cognitive impairment that can result from being “plugged in” to technology. “We are more efficient users of information when we concentrate on one task at a time. When we try to do more than one thing, we suffer from inattention blindness, which is failing to recognize other things, such as people walking toward us or other road users.”

Short provided his thoughts on what can be done to further prevent negative impacts of digital distractions. “We are witnessing a cultural shift occurring with the banning of devices, cellphone usage being curtailed in certain public places and policies banning texting while driving. This is reactive. We also need a new proactive civic etiquette so that the distracted walker, driver and talker have to navigate new codes of public behaviors.”

Professor Short has written several articles for The Conversation on sustainability, climate change, and response to the recent unrest in Baltimore.

Justin Vélez-Hagan, School of Public Policy, Weighs in on Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Crisis

With Puerto Rico currently $72 billion in debt, School of Public Policy Ph.D. student Justin Vélez-Hagan has been in the news recently explaining the severity of the situation and its potential impact on the world economy.

JVHVélez-Hagan, who is executive director of the National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, shared his views on what has contributed to the debt crisis and what can be done to help get the economy back on track. “Not being able to have autonomous control over all of its policies puts Puerto Rico at a major disadvantage over other economies that it competes with for labor, business investment, and tourism,” he wrote in an op-ed for Fox News Latino.   

Vélez-Hagan was also a guest on “The Takeaway with John Hockenberry,” a co-production of WNYC Radio and Public Radio International, in collaboration with the New York Times and WGBH Boston, to discuss the debt crisis. “The best solution is really a court overseeing restructuring through Chapter 9 bankruptcy. I think would be the best way to start,” he said during the segment.

Update: Watch an interview with Vélez-Hagan that aired July 13 on the Al Jazeera English world broadcast about his analysis on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. 

Donald Norris, School of Public Policy, Analyzes Martin O’Malley’s Presidential Campaign

In the days surrounding the official launch of Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign last month, Donald Norris, director of the School of Public Policy, was interviewed by several local and national news outlets to provide context and analysis for O’Malley’s bid for the White House.

Donald NorrisIn The Guardian, Norris discussed O’Malley’s chances for capturing the Democratic nomination. “He’s very smart. He’s very hard working. And he knows how to campaign,” said Norris. “And those three characteristics can overcome a lot of deficits.” He added: “I think he thinks that there is a shot. What that shot is, he’s got to understand, is a very, very long shot, and depends, really, on Hillary Clinton making mistakes, and making enough mistakes or a big enough mistake that it derails her.”

In the Washington Post, Norris commented on O’Malley’s policy position in recent weeks urging more spending and investment in America’s cities. “The problem is that it is politically unsalable,” Norris said, stating it could face a skeptical audience in a larger general election.

In Washington Jewish Week (subscription required), Norris said that O’Malley has a long road ahead to the nomination. “If you think about the possibilities out there in the Republican and Democratic parties, there just aren’t very many,” he said. “I think O’Malley is positioning himself to be the recipient of a movement away from Hillary from her supporters in case she does stumble.”

Norris was also interviewed by the Baltimore Sun about the impact of the recent unrest in Baltimore on Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s re-election bid. “The word on the street, as they say, is the mayor’s performance during and immediately after the riot in the city has really hurt her and that she is vulnerable should a credible candidate come forward,” he said.

John Rennie Short, School of Public Policy, Discusses Cities’ Impact on Climate Change in Citiscope

In a new article published in the journal Citiscope, School of Public Policy Professor John Rennie Short argued that “cities are a focal point for action on climate change — and in time, climate action will seem as compelling to urbanites as the introduction of clean water systems in the late 1800s.”

John Rennie ShortThe article was a combination of a recent talk Short gave at the Conference on Communities and Urban Sustainability hosted by the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. and a subsequent Citiscope interview. In the article, Short highlighted the importance of cities in an interconnected world.

“Cities are points in a network. The map shows the world divided into nation states. Actually a much more important way is to see the globe as a network of cities. Most flows of globalization move between city regions in different nations. So rather than think of a world of nation states, see it as a network of globally connected cities — for knowledge, for best practices,” Short said. “Cities are also key because nation states can be too big to connect with local communities and often too small to influence global events. Cities are a powerful point of leverage and connection to get things done.”

Short also commented on the growing need for better metrics of urban sustainability: “We need a system that’s comprehensive, reliable, and predictive. Because urban sustainability is the right, smart, only thing to do. Environmental issues are still like fighting the good fight. While economic measures — especially jobs — often seem more compelling. We need to bring sustainability to the same level as jobs, or saving money.”

To read the full article “The world’s cities: the “sweet spot” of climate change,” click here.

John Rennie Short, School of Public Policy, in The Conversation

John Rennie Short“Now that the dust has settled and the media have moved onto the next crisis, we can ponder what the Baltimore riots tell us about broader and deeper issues in the US,” School of Public Policy Professor John Rennie Short wrote in an article published in The Conversation on May 15. In his column, using his “stress test” approach, Short examined the forces at play in Baltimore that contributed to the recent events: “Among them are decades of biased economic policies, class differences as well as racism, structural problems in metropolitan America, the consequences of aggressive policing and the geography of multiple deprivations.”

The article provided an in-depth look at deindustrialization, the geo-economic disconnect, and policing in America. Short discussed the need to consider issues of class and a greater commitment to job training for people who have been displaced by the loss of manufacturing jobs. He also noted the challenges facing Baltimore are similar to other parts of the country.

“But there are other Baltimores outside of Maryland. They include Akron, Birmingham, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Toledo. It is not just an inner city problem. Along with Bernadette Hanlon and Tom Vicino, I have documented the problems of inner ring of suburbs,” Short wrote.

“Baltimores of economic neglect, massive job loss, aggressive policing and multiple deprivations are found throughout metropolitan regions across the country. They are the places of despair that house the voiceless of the US political system, the marginalized of the US economy and those left behind in the commodification of US society,” he added.

To read the full article titled “There are more Baltimores: America’s legacy of hollowed-out cities,” click here.