LBJ School hosts symposium on factors contributing to success of cities


Ethan Oblak

Stephen Elkins, Chief Information Officer for the City of Austin, discusses the importance of open sourcing city resources at a symposium in the LBJ School on Friday. The symposium featured discussions by municipal leaders and public policy experts about the impact of innovation in art, culture, and technology on the success of cities.

Christina Breitbeil

A symposium on improving city life and management hosted by the LBJ School of Public Affairs on Friday featured several regional mayors who discussed the future of urban planning and development with primary focus on its relation to citizens.

The all day event, Reimagining Cities: Building Resiliency, explored the various aspects that contribute to creating a thriving city, by focusing on four topics: arts and culture, economic resiliency and the role of technology.  Each topic featured a panel of speakers, including several mayors and stakeholders, in the issues presented. Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell spoke as a panelist at the event, which allowed for interaction between the panelists and audience, comprised of primarily graduate students and non-students — including local businesses — interested in urban issues. 

The discussion of cities spanned from the uses of art and culture in the evolution of a strong inner city to the opportunities for expansion of economic development and the role that is played by technology in stimulating major change in cities.

Stephen Elkins, chief information officer for the city of Austin, spoke at the event about the digital aspect of running the city of Austin and the importance of establishing public access to the government by means of technology.

“The platform for change is that we need to embrace open source,” Elkins said. “We can’t expect to solve all of our problems internally — we have to reach out to the public. There needs to be an evolution on how we respond to technology, as today it’s no longer acceptable to be three years behind.”

Sherri Greenberg, director of the Center for Politics and Governance at LBJ School, moderated and was on the planning committee for the event. 

“Reimagining Cities is part of an ongoing initiative at the School of Public Affairs to look at the challenges and solutions that we are seeing in our urban areas,” Greenberg said. “Cities are the places for this innovation.”

Sam Spahn, public affairs graduate student, attended the symposium and said the event touched on pressing issues regarding city expansion.

“I have a class with one of the speakers, and also because Reimagining Cities seemed like such an interesting topic, especially with Austin growing exponentially,” Spahn said. “My main question going into this was regarding transportation and how it will be improved within a space that’s already developed. I think they did a good job answering it.”