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Meet our Readiness Challenge Grant finalists

We received phenomenal interest in our Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge Grants and today I would like to introduce you to the 10 finalists. Each finalist demonstrated a comprehensive approach to smart cities implementation that will significantly advance their livability, workability, sustainability and resilience.

The program was open to American cities with a population of at least 100,000, but neighboring cities could pool together to meet the threshold. Winners will receive customized Readiness Workshops from the Council, plus an assortment of supporting technologies and services from many of our partners.

After submitting a comprehensive online application, each of the ten finalists underwent an extensive phone interview which several stakeholders from each city participated and explored their three key areas of focus for smart initiatives. As you’ll read below, the top leadership of many of our finalist cities was heavily involved in the process, a strong criteria for success in any smart cities initiative.

Don’t forget to come back next week to see who won. We’ll announce our five winners on February 8. — Jesse Berst


Austin, TX: Fourteen key city stakeholders in Austin participated in the grant proposal interview which focused on the areas of energy, telecommunications and transportation. Austin CityUP Founder and President Jay Boisseau and City of Austin’s Data Architect Ted Lehr were joined by Mayor Steve Adler, Council Member Ann Kitchen, Assistant City Manager Mark Washington, Chief Innovation Officer Kerry O’Connor, Chief Information Officer Stephen Elkins and several department heads.

Birmingham, AL: Along with the participation of Jefferson County, Birmingham applied for the grant with a focus on the built environment, energy and transportation. Several key stakeholders from Birmingham participated in the interview including Chief Information Officer Srikanth Karra and Urban Planning Administrator Christopher Hatcher, as well as Sherrie Nielson from the Mayor’s Office’s Capital and Special Projects division and representatives from Alabama Power and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center.

Chula Vista, CA: Focused on energy, telecommunications and transportation, the City of Chula Vista applied for the grant with the participation of the City of San Diego and the Unified Port of San Diego. Chula Vista City Manager Gary Halbert joined the phone interview, in addition to Director of Information Technology Ed Chew, Chief Sustainability Officer Dennis Gakunga, Director of Economic Development Eric Crockett, City Engineer William Valle, Police Captain Vern Sallee and Coordinator Cameron Celeste.

Indianapolis, IN: Marion County joined Indianapolis in the application process, focusing on the key areas of energy, transportation, water and wastewater. Interview participants included: Laura Riga, Department of Metropolitan Development, City of Indianapolis; Erik Hromadka, CEO, Global Water Technologies; and Teresa Bennett, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Office of Community Engagement, IUPUI.

Jersey City, NJ: Jersey City teamed up with Hoboken to submit a grant application focused on transportation, water and wastewater, and waste management. Jersey City Innovation Strategist Arjun Janakiram participated in the phone interview alongside the City of Hoboken’s Business Administrator Stephen Marks and Principal Planners Jennifer Gonzalez and Jessica Giorgianni.

Miami, FL: Chief Innovation Officer Mike Sarasti was joined by Deputy Chief Information Officer Otto Contreras and Chief Information Officer Kevin Burns to discuss Miami’s focus on the built environment, telecommunications and public safety.

Newport News, VA: Focused on transportation, water and wastewater, and public safety, key interview participants included Director of Information Technology Andy Stein and Information Technology Web Developer Pamela Jeter.

Orlando, FL: Orange County joined Orlando in the grant application which focused on the built environment, transportation and public safety. Chief Information Officer Redwan "Rosa" Akhtarkhavari, Director of Sustainability Chris Castro, Director of Special Projects Charles Ramdatt, and Director of Strategic Partnerships Kathleen Devault were joined by 25 other participants, many of which included department heads of transportation, public works, solid waste, homelessness and social services, facilities management and others.

Philadelphia, PA: The City of Philadelphia applied for the grant with a focus on the built environment, telecommunications, and water and wastewater. Interview participants included Steven Robertson, Chief of Staff for the Office of Innovation and Technology, along with Chief Information Officer Charles Brennan, Director of the Office of Sustainability Christine Knapp, Program Manager for Innovation Management Ellen Hwang, Energy Analyst Amanda Warwood and Philadelphia Water Department Operations Administration Manager Stephen Junod.

Providence, RI: In Providence, several key city stakeholders participated in the application interview, which focused on the built environment, transportation and basic public services. Participants included: Chief of Staff Nicole Pollock; Director of Economic Development Mark Huang; Director of Partnerships and Intergovernmental Affairs Peter Asen; Director of Sustainability Leah Bamberger; Director of Innovation Emmanuel Echevarria; and Martina Haggerty, the Associate Director for Special Projects with the Department of Planning and Development.