Posts by Author: Next City

Mixing Music and Marketing for a Successful Reno Recipe

Next City isn’t just a news website, we are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to the interesting people who are part of our Next City Network.

Next City’s annual Vanguard conference for urban leaders age 40 and under will be held in Reno this year, May 6-8. We’re pleased to be working with many talented locals to make the event a success, and for the next several weeks, we’ll be using the Network to introduce people from our great “on-the-ground supporters” in Nevada. Cecil McCumber will be performing at a conference event, and he’s the creator of the fantastic keepsake credentials that all Vanguards will get.

Name: Cecil McCumber

Current Occupation: Director of Marketing and Business Development at ACCESS Event Solutions; lead singer/songwriter for The Pretty Unknown

Hometown: Reno

Current City: Reno

Twitter Tag: @cecilmccumber

I drink: Coffee

I am an: Extrovert

I get to work by: Car

The area I grew up in is: Suburbs

What was your first job? Working event setup/merchandise for one of Reno’s largest events: Hot August Nights. It was a summer job, and we’d rack up 60- or 70-hour weeks, for about two weeks. Definitely a challenge, but it gave me a good sense of urgency and work ethic.

What is your favorite city and why? New York. There’s something invigorating about so many people packed into such a centralized location. I always have energy when I’m there. Culturally, it has so much to offer — so much history next to the cutting edge of brand new. I’ve seen some fantastic shows at Barclays and Madison Square Garden, but I’m just as happy walking the streets with music in my ear.

What do you do when you are not working? Write and perform music with my band, The Pretty Unknown. Might as well be a second job, especially if one aspires to “do it right.” It’s amazing how much a band is a brand, as much as an artistic expression. Additionally, I write a blog called Chuck’s Lamp (my middle name is Charles) — in which I examine our experience and try to make some sense of it (falling short of course).

Cecil recording vocals for The Pretty Unknown.

Did you always want to be in marketing? No. And that’s ok. After coming back from teaching English in Japan in my mid-20s, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I went back to school to get my MBA, and began gravitating toward marketing. The challenge of expressing a salient message about a worthwhile brand or product always seemed like more of a fun puzzle than work. I think it encourages career happiness when one focuses on finding a job or challenge that incorporates one’s skill sets and passions, and being less focused on the actual job itself. Enjoy what you do.

What do you like most about your current job? It’s a fast-paced but casual environment, where we work with the world’s biggest events, brands, sports teams and entertainers. As an entertainer myself, I enjoy getting to work for artists who I respect and sports teams for whom I root. Additionally, we’ve dived into software development, creating mobile apps that integrate with our passes to better manage live events — this is exciting and new and allows me to be very creative (working with our tech developers) to create solutions that haven’t been made before.

What is the coolest project you worked on? I helped design, deploy and document our RFID-enabled credential management system for a big EDM festival down in L.A. called HARD Summer 2014. Getting to be part of that — taking marketing photos on a stage, looking out at a crowd of 40,000 — was one of the most unique experiences in my life.

2015 Next City Vanguards will be getting these keepsake credentials.

What are the hard parts about your job? We’re a small company, so we all wear lots of hats. While it keeps life interesting, it’s difficult to make real progress on any one project sometimes, without major expenses to others. Additionally, we’re taking major strides toward implementing key management infrastructure tools that will help us grow our business more efficiently. However, implementing those tools for the first time requires a sharp learning curve. No complaints though — I’m learning every day!

What is the biggest challenge facing cities today? From how I see it, there’s difficulty in identifying measurable factors and indicators that truly lead to the creation of sustainable businesses, beneficial culture and the revitalization of key urban locations. Cities take big gambles on public projects and policy and give tax breaks to big businesses considering relocation, all in hopes that each decision will drive toward influencing those factors. However, politics and general disagreement about what’s “good” for a city can hamper progress in any one direction, and any progress often takes longer than the voters expect (or than their attention spans will allow). That said, a healthy, growing city is a wonderful thing, and I’ve seen some major improvements in Reno in the last 15 years, and I’m excited to better understand why, so that we can encourage more.

What makes a successful leader? Trust. A person’s word, and their ability to follow through on their promises is key to cultivating trust in others around a leader. Concurrently, balancing the confidence to make tough decisions with the humility to know when it may not be the leader’s decision to make, or even when to simply listen and communicate that no decision will be made at this time. Finally, showing one’s team that you care about them and value their contribution is tantamount. Being mid-level management, I try to remember that the appreciation I receive from above should be doubly displayed below. Being open to such improvement (and the struggles that go with it) helps remind one’s team that the leader is human too, and that’s an endearing quality.

What’s the best professional advice you have received? “If nothing else, hold on to your beliefs a little less.”

What do you look for when hiring someone? Humility balanced with confidence. Someone who sees the big picture but can dive into the details. Someone who has places to go, both career-wise and personally, and who sees the successful execution of their job as a key to getting there. Oh, and they should be qualified.

What career advice would you give an emerging urban leader? Pressing flesh is well and good, but be certain to cultivate authentic relationships as often as possible. It’s easy to be romanced by the status of a leadership position. Stay humble, care about people.


When Your Resume Includes a Parking Garage Worth Bragging About

Michael Kaufmann

Next City isn’t just a news website, we are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to the interesting people who are part of our Next City Network and holding an annual Vanguard conference bringing together top young urban leaders. This week’s profile is of Michael Kaufmann, a member of our 2014 Vanguard class.

Name: Michael Kaufmann

Current Occupation: Director of Special Projects and Civic Investment, Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County

Hometown: Escondido, California

Current City: Indianapolis

I drink: Green tea

I am an: Outgoing introvert

I get to work by: Bike and car

The area I grew up in is: Suburbs

What do you do when you are not working? I do more work, managing the musician/bands Son Lux, Oliver Blank, Hanna Benn and Olga Bell. But I also enjoy spending time with my beautiful family: my wife and two sons.

What do you like most about your current job? Hands down, I would have to say my two amazing bosses. I feel like I have learned a doctoral-level amount about leadership in my last four years of employment. They lead with incredible grace and humility, yet know when to exert their authority. One very concrete example of this was watching them walk down the long hallway of our previous public hospital facility, and each of them occasionally bending over to pick up a small article of trash. It left quite an impression on me as it both communicated that they demand excellence, and that no one is above helping maintain and keep our facility clean and welcoming.

What is the coolest project you worked on? This is a toss-up between our parking garage and our Sky Farm. I wouldn’t usually brag about a parking garage, but I had the opportunity to manage the installation of the largest piece of sculptural art in the state of Indiana. This was part of our larger public art program throughout our new public hospital campus. Our Sky Farm is on the roof of our six-story outpatient building and has 5,000 square feet of growing space, complete with a dedicated sky farmer, who not only grows food but also provides nutrition and gardening education.

The parking garage turned art installation at Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis

What are the hard parts about your job? In addition to my work with the hospital, I am also working on our city’s bicentennial planning, an effort called Plan 2020, as well as working with our chamber and our community foundation to develop and attract talent to our city. Unfortunately, the recent RFRA legislation has dramatically set us back as far as an attractive city and state for creatives and progressive citizens. However, I have not lost hope and am reminded that I choose to live in Indy because I wanted to make a difference, and being progressive is far more impactful in cities with something at stake.

What is the biggest challenge facing cities today? We need to find a common language and strategy around the issue of equity and inclusion so that we can actually begin the work of including people! Cities also need to embrace “local” and regionalism in much deeper and profound ways to reduce their dependency on overstretched food and energy infrastructures. In other words, we need to become more self-reliant in our ability to feed and power our individual geographies.

Eskenazi’s “Sky Farm”

What makes a successful leader? The ability to relate to those different than you through finding a common starting point and language. The ability to translate between various constituencies and understanding the difference between effective democratic decision-making versus trying to make everyone happy.

What’s your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)? While this might not be game-changing, I have been working on a project to soundtrack our entire city through the commissioning of site-specific composition. The project, called Sound Expeditions, was recently launched in partnership with the Indianapolis Museum of Art and our first contribution was from Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw. You can listen to the track here.

What’s the best professional advice you have received? Not sure where or from whom I heard this, but my personal mantra as of late is “work smarter, not harder.” I also like the concept of doing three things well, as opposed to many things just OK.

Who do you most admire? Recently I have been very proud of our mayor, Greg Ballard, for his clear and bold stand on RFRA.


Nationally Recognized Urban Planner and Nonprofit Leader Tom Dallessio to Join Next City

The Philadelphia skyline. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

Next City announced today that Tom Dallessio, a nationally recognized urban planner, nonprofit leader and educator with more than three decades of experience in city and regional planning, public policy, and nonprofit management, has been named its new executive director. He will join Next City’s staff in Philadelphia on May 1, 2015.

Tom Dallessio (Photo by Paul Gargagliano)

Tom brings to Next City a rich perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing cities around the globe as they move into an era of unprecedented growth. He will strengthen the organization’s commitment to informing, connecting and nurturing the next generation of urban leaders.

“I am very excited to lead Next City in its next phase of growth,” says Dallessio. “For the first time in a half-century, all forces are moving in the direction of cities, and I look forward to working with the board and staff to ride this incredible wave.”

Tom comes to Next City from the Center for Resilient Design at New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he was the Center’s founder and director; he’ll continue to be an adjunct professor at NJIT, teaching land use and infrastructure planning. Established in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Center has engaged thousands of people affected by the storm, providing residents, business owners, design professionals and government officials with technical and design assistance as they recovered from the storm and rebuilt for a more resilient future.

Prior to establishing the Center for Resilient Design, Tom served as the executive director of Leadership New Jersey, a statewide program strengthening civic leadership through experiential learning. The experience is one that will help Next City further develop its successful Vanguard program.

Tom got his start in nonprofit management at Regional Plan Association, where he directed RPA’s New Jersey office and managed six New Jersey Mayors’ Institutes on Community Design, and promoted affordable housing and transportation finance and property tax reforms.


Tom also brings to Next City key experiences in local, state and regional government. He served as a senior policy adviser to New Jersey governors Christine Todd Whitman and Donald T. DiFrancesco, drafting environmental preservation law and serving as the governor’s representative to the state’s planning commission. For more than a decade, Tom held a number of positions at the N.J. Office of State Planning, working to develop and implement New Jersey’s first statewide plan. These experiences will help guide Tom as he continues the work of building Next City into the most trusted resource for urban advocates and planners and city-dwellers.

“We are thrilled to welcome Tom to Next City,” says Jess Zimbabwe, Next City board president. “His experience in urban planning, government, academia and the nonprofit sector will be a boon for the organization as it continues into a groundbreaking second decade.”

Learn more about Tom and read his letter to Next City members and readers here.


Risk-Taking Philanthropy Work Can Make a Big Urban Impact

“L.A. neighborhoods are so diverse, and have so much potential,” says Shauna Nep.

Next City isn’t just a news website, we are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to the interesting people who are part of our Next City Network.

Name: Shauna Nep

Current Occupation: Director of Community and Innovation, Goldhirsh Foundation and LA2050

Hometown: Vancouver, Canada

Current City: Los Angeles

Twitter Tag: @shaunanep @GoldhirshFdn @LA2050

I drink: Coffee

I am an: Extrovert

I get to work by: Biking when I’m in a rush, walking when I have time

The area I grew up in is: Suburbs

Shauna Nep bikes to work in Mid-City, which borders West Hollywood. The area has a walkscore of 95.

What was your first job? My first job was as a youth organizer in Los Angeles Unified School District. I worked directly with students to answer the question: How might we design a better lunchroom with the goal of encouraging healthier eating? Together with students, we used lessons in behavioral economics and human-centered design to increase the consumption of healthy foods — testing everything from ad campaigns to mobile applications that tell students the lunch menu ahead of time.

What is your favorite city and why? Despite having lived in some of the greatest cities in the world, I would have to say Los Angeles. L.A. is really having a moment right now with so much positive change underway. And unlike other cities, L.A. still has a sense of possibility. I feel lucky to be working on a project that is so entrenched in the region and invested in its future.

Did you always want to do this work? I have always been passionate about creating impact, but I never thought of philanthropy as the approach. Truthfully, it wasn’t introduced to me as a career option. There is so much potential to create impact when you are able to be nimble, opportunistic and risk-taking in a small, private foundation like the Goldhirsh Foundation.

What do you like most about your current job? Finding smart, creative people doing incredible work to improve the region guarantees inspiration on the daily. And, there are always opportunities for learning, experimentation and growth. And of course, our small but mighty team.

What is the coolest project you worked on? I was brought on to the team at Goldhirsh Foundation to help launch LA2050 — which has continued to be the coolest project I’ve worked on. Through our crowdsourced grants challenges, we’ve awarded $2,000,000 to 20 incredible projects and more importantly, we’ve built a community of Angelenos who care about L.A.‘s future. I’m especially excited about the L.A. Street Vendors Campaign and Trust for Public Land’s network of Green Alleys.

What is the biggest challenge facing cities today? I think right now, the biggest challenge headed our way is keeping public transit competitive. Millennials are choosing transit over car ownership for a number of reasons, which is great, but Uber is already changing that. How will the autonomous vehicle change cities? Will we be ready? We are working with the Mayor’s Office and LADOT to help Los Angeles — and other cities — get ahead of and work alongside tech and innovation so we can embrace it and make sure emerging technologies also make our cities healthier, stronger and more equitable.

The L.A. Metro is breaking ground west, and “it’s an exciting time to be in L.A.,” says Nep.

What’s your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)? Other major cities like New York City and San Francisco seem to have such a clear brand and narrative. Despite being an incredibly diverse region with rich culture, a tech scene bursting at the seems, a robust transportation system, and just about every industry you can imagine — L.A. has a reputation that reduces it to Hollywood and car culture, and it’s hard to compete with that narrative. And for a city filled with the best storytellers the world has to offer, somehow, we suck at telling our own story. This is something we’re passionate about — challenging that narrative and pervasive myths — and transforming the external facing brand of L.A.

What’s the best professional advice you have received? Honestly? Ask permission before you make introductions. Always.

Who do you most admire? I am a big fan of leading by example, so I love how Alissa Walker has used social media to demonstrate that L.A. is walkable. When it comes to alternative transportation — policy changes and infrastructure are incredibly important — but so is changing the hearts and minds of Angelenos. Alissa has done an incredible job of telling an entirely different story of Los Angeles.

What do you look for when hiring someone? We look for someone who is passionate about refining his or her process and work. It’s always attractive to do something new, but there is also something really special about craftsmanship, and doing a few things really well.

What career advice would you give an emerging urban leader? When you are passionate about an issue area like many urban leaders are, it is easy to lose sight of what you’re good at, and focus only on what needs to be done. Tools like Imperative and Kolbe have helped me transition from doing what I thought I was supposed to do, to finding what will bring me joy. My advice: Take the time to analyze your unique, intrinsic strengths and skills — and find a position that really allows you to use them.


Parks Can Be Beautiful and Save Water

To save water, San Francisco’s parks department has shut off non-recirculating features in parks. (Photo © Dietmar Rabich, Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Sponsored content from City Parks Alliance. Sponsored content policy

We expect our parks to be beautiful — and that often translates into “green.”

In both arid climates and regions like California, which is experiencing a record drought, park management officials are feeling the pressure to meet water conservation efforts while also providing safe, aesthetically pleasing spaces to the public.

“We don’t have front lawns or lush back yards,” said Ana M. Alvarez, superintendent of parks and open space at San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department. “People utilize parks for their front lawns.”

Alvarez was speaking on a panel yesterday at the City Parks Alliance’s Greater & Greener Conference called “Deserts & Droughts: Working in Arid Regions.” Moderated by Landscape Architecture Magazine Editor Bradford McKee, the session featured innovative, practical and inspiring ideas for tackling the challenges of minimal water. Alvarez was joined by Mia Lehrer, president of Mia Lehrer and Associates, a Los Angeles-based landscape firm, and Rafael Payan, the general manager of the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District.

Water-Saving Innovation Can Beat Drought

In remote parklands, visitors miss snow on mountains. In cities, reduction of irrigation affects sports grounds. Decorative fountains sit dry. But according to Payan, an Arizona native who spent several years working at public parks in Tucson and Phoenix, history shows that this isn’t the last of the dry eras. He said we’d be wise to not only work toward conserving water now, but to plan for the future.

Though that might seem bleak, Payan’s work in the dry Southwestern region of the country makes him optimistic. He has no shortage of ideas on how to manage parks in arid climates. He pointed to turf-reduction programs like Las Vegas, Nevada’s “Cash for Grass” program, in which homeowners received cash rebates for replacing their green lawns with landscaping that doesn’t require a lot of watering.

Other solutions he offered include replacing planters with native, climate-appropriate plants, utilizing organic or inorganic mulch surfacing instead of turf, and installing water-saving, timed devices for irrigation. In Phoenix, Payan worked on a project that saw communities replace wasteful swimming pools with more shallow “splash parks” for family use.

“This wisdom is transferable to places that are not drought-stricken too,” Payan said.

Water Conservation Can and Does Bring Big Results

In the City of San Francisco, which has 21 microclimates, more than 220 parks, and 3,400 acres of recreation and open space, water management is complicated. Still, Ana Alvarez has seen major positive impacts with the city’s municipal footprint since 2008. Park officials shifted gears and began responding to the drought six years ago, when the mayor required a 10 percent reduction in citywide water use (increasing the 18 percent reduction that the parks department had already implemented).

Alvarez pointed to the department’s long-term and short-term conservation strategies in working with California’s limited water supply. Among these strategies are a 2012 Clean & Safe Park Bond Water Conservation Program, the San Francisco Public Utilities Company’s large landscape retrofit program, a water recycling program, and water infrastructure renovations.

In 2014, the parks department also implemented programs like “Water Free Wednesdays” in the city, cut back irrigation time by 10 percent, shut off all non-recirculating features in parks, and halted power-washing of hard-scape at facilities except where there were safety concerns.

Luckily, San Francisco, said Alvarez, already has a very strong environmental ethos so getting the public — and the parks department — to be water-conscious was easy. Still, the department also put a strong focus on a public education campaign dubbed “Brown Is the New Green.” The result so far has been an overall 22.6 percent reduction in water use.

Changing How We See Beauty in Public Parks

In Mia Lehrer’s home base of Los Angles, Mayor Eric Garcetti hopes to make a 20 percent dent in water use by 2017 and 50 percent by 2024. The Mayor’s requirements will be a challenge, but Lehrer pointed out, “Water is irreplaceable. We must change how we value it.”

While reducing water use can have an aesthetic impact, according to all the panelists, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Lehrer said we should change how we think about beauty in our natural environments. Large institutions with abundant outdoor space “roll lawns out like carpet because they can’t think of anything else to do,” she said. One way to address this is to rethink spaces and utilize native, low-water plants for smart landscape design to replace existing lawns. Urban forests, water towers and catchment systems on buildings are other creative approaches.

Fittingly — as parks are about communities coming together — Lehrer said cooperation among city departments is key to meeting water conservation challenges. When transportation and utilities and recreation build alliances, they can work together on solutions. Now that’s a beautiful scene.


Finding Inspiration in Medellín’s Library Parks

Sponsored content from City Parks Alliance. Sponsored content policy

When it comes to urban park design, Medellín, Colombia, is an inspiring model of innovation. The home of several exciting projects that have had a tremendously positive impact on the community, the South American city pioneered the “library park” or parque biblioteca.

“Why library parks? Why not only parks or libraries, or simply cultural centers?” says David Escobar-Arango, the director of the city’s library parks who will be talking about parks design at City Parks Alliance’s upcoming Greater & Greener conference in San Francisco. “It is important to consider Medellín’s context at the time. In the ‘۹۰s, our city suffered the direst urban violence known in the western hemisphere; more than 380 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. So we needed spaces for encounter, for coexistence and opportunity. We needed to combine education, culture and encounter, with a special space for our youth, and also a strong and clear message of how our city was going to rebirth.”

The 10 library parks built between 2008 and 2011 include large public library structures surrounded by green park space for public use. Strategically placed within the city’s most marginalized communities, Escobar-Arango says the project planning included a strong emphasis on the participatory process of the community and that members of the public gave input about the content, the books, the schedule and the governance system they hoped to see within the program. Even deciding the style of architecture for the structures included participation from the community; the organization held national contests for each library park.

“On average, between 1,000 and 2,000 [people] per day use the library parks, in any of their services — without counting the people that simply enjoy the public space around them,” says Escobar- Arango. “Another powerful idea, from my point of view, was the connections with the city, the library park as part of a system, of an integral urban project that transcended a mere building.”

The parks have received international attention and even sponsorship from the Spanish government. But the parks aren’t just popular — they have served as a community catalyst. Medellín has developed other examples of accessible, innovated uses of public space.

“The Community Theater in Santa Cruz, one of our neighborhoods, built a small theater where you pay your ticket with contributions to the NGO that leads and manages the space,” says Escobar-Arango.

Community members were even inspired to create a beach in the land-locked city.

“In Medellín we don’t actually have a beach but one of our main streets in downtown was built over a historic creek — it got completely covered by concrete and asphalt for car use,” Escobar-Arango explains. “Last year, a group of activists convinced the City Hall to close the street for a few weeks and created a space with sand, beach chairs, playgrounds, beach volleyball court — as an actual beach! It was a great experience.”

When it comes to transforming public spaces into safe, accessible and inclusive parks for everyone, one of the most crucial aspects to consider, according to Escobar-Arango is to draw on hope, coexistence, education and the culture of the people who will be most impacted.

“Understanding their past, their context, talking to them, listening to their traditions and stories,” is how he explains his philosophy of integrating the community into planning. “In a sentence, working with them, not only for them, and never despite of them.”

City Parks Alliance is the only independent, nationwide membership organization solely dedicated to urban parks. It unites and serves a growing network of hundreds of civic and community leaders, government agencies, parks and recreation authorities, funders and others. To join the global urban parks community at CPA’s biennial Greater & Greener conference in San Francisco in April, go here to register.


This Woman Wants You to Think About What’ll Happen to Your City When You Die

Katrina Spade

Next City isn’t just a news website, we are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to the interesting people who are part of our Next City Network.

Name: Katrina Spade

Current Occupation: Founder and director of the Urban Death Project, which advocates for creating a meaningful, equitable and ecological alternative to existing options for the care of the dead.

Hometown: Plainfield, NH

Current City: Seattle, WA

Twitter Tag: @urbandeathproj

I drink: Coffee!

I am an: Outgoing introvert

I get to work by: Walking (to my living room)

The area I grew up in is: Rural

What was your first job? I became a server at a fancy French restaurant in my small rural town in New Hampshire when I was 12. I’m an excellent waiter!

What is your favorite city and why? I love Seattle for its amazing views of mountain ranges, sound, lake, its down-to-earth people, and the best food, beer, and coffee ever.

What do you do when you are not working? I hang out with my kids (7 and 10), my girlfriend, and my friends, playing tennis or soccer and doing house projects.

What do you like most about your current job? The Urban Death Project has so many different angles. On any one day I might be strategizing outreach, trying to raise money, thinking about engineering or working on legal obstacles. It’s never boring — it’s like a big design project.

Rendering of an Urban Death Project building/compost facility, where people can visit to connect with the deceased and with the cycles of nature.

What is the coolest project you worked on? I’m a tad biased, but I think that the Urban Death Project is the coolest project ever. It’s exciting to see the cultural shift that’s happening, where people are thinking about the impact that their own physical bodies will have on the earth after they’ve died. It’s also amazing to hear inspiring stories about death and dying from people all over the world.

What are the hard parts about your job? I work alone, and so the days when I am doubting this, that or the other thing are kind of rough.

What is the biggest challenge facing cities today? Two of the biggest challenges facing cities today are the lack of burial space and the lack of meaningful ways to connect people to the cycles of life, (i.e. nature). The Urban Death Project is one solution to both of these problems.

What makes a successful leader? I am still working on figuring that out, but I know that listening plays a large part in it.

What’s your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)? To have Urban Death Project facilities — each designed for the community to which they belong — in every city in the world, and to make meaningful, beautiful death care available to all people regardless of their economic status.

In the core of Urban Death Project facilities, bodies are laid into woodchips at the top. Over a span of weeks, they turn into nutrient-rich soil. Each Urban Death Project building would be different, designed for the community in which it resides.

What’s the best professional advice you have received? Be yourself.

Who do you most admire? I admire my mother for being a really effective environmental activist. She was often almost working under the radar, but she got so much done!

What career advice would you give an emerging urban leader? Think broadly, don’t let go of the audacious goals, and try and look at your challenge like a puzzle. There are likely many pieces to figure out, and it’s handy if you know what they are early on.


From Pedestrian Campaigns to Pop-Ups, This “Civic Instigator” Makes His Mark

Matt Tomasulo

Next City isn’t just a news website, we are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to the interesting people who are part of our Next City Network.

Name: Matt Tomasulo

Current Occupation: Founder and Chief Instigator, Walk [Your City]

Hometown: Hartford, CT

Current City: Raleigh, NC

Twitter Tag: @cityfabric + @walkyourcity

I drink: Coffee in the morning, tea in the evening (latest favorite brew tool – the Impress!)

I am an: Extrovert, but covet my personal “Matt time”

I get to work by: Bike (~7 min), sometimes walk (~20 min), and my little Tacoma lives at the office for as-needed errands.

The area I grew up in is: Suburbs, but haven’t gone back for 10 years. I highly value my choice to walk/bike places!

What was your first job? In high school, I was a driving range “specialist,” but all through college I worked at the on-campus pub. Paying my way through school via food service definitely laid the foundation for my nomadic stability while in between undergrad and grad school. My service experience and lean living allowed me to experience a variety of different places, always able to pick up short-term jobs and make enough cash to discover each new city (Copenhagen, D.C., Wyoming, Prague, Richmond, Chapel Hill).

What is your favorite city and why? Raleigh. I wouldn’t live here if it weren’t! I’ll always have a soft spot for Richmond and Copenhagen as well — both dramatically influenced my outlook on how we live. My wife and I definitely kick around the idea of taking off for a year to live and explore a larger city like Paris or Bangkok.

Matt installs one of the original Walk Your City signs in Raleigh

What do you do when you are not working? There is a fine line between life and work in Raleigh. The community here is really collaborative and supportive of each other so there are always fun events, art openings, food tastings or mezcal sippings to be had with friends. (Typically associated with plotting the next community project!)

Riding the Raleigh greenways and playing bocce in the nearby park are definitely the most frequent weekend activities.

Did you always want to be an urban designer/civic instigator? I’ve always gravitated toward the design realm, but didn’t know “design” (much less “urban design”) was really even a thing until I went off-curriculum in undergrad, and explored architecture through a study program in Copenhagen. It was there that I discovered my interest in “the space between buildings” — and how we influence and shape it.

What is the coolest project you worked on? The Wanderbox was a three-week sprint “side project” last summer that was a pop-up shipping container beer garden at CAM, Raleigh’s contemporary art museum, where 7,000 people enjoyed a beer at this little 4,000-square-foot event over 11 days. Growing 27 illegal plastic signs into a respected business/organization has been pretty cool too. [The Walk Your City toolkit started in Raleigh and is being exported to other cities.]

The Wanderbox beer garden in Raleigh

What are the hard parts about your job? Persistence in the unknown, not knowing the answer — every day on the job. Capacity: addressing recognized opportunities with a lean team, finances and time.

What is the biggest challenge facing cities today? Human-scaled development — accommodating preference changes by providing more choices and more space for people, not cars. The critical components of human-scaled development are housing and transportation, two huge challenges with which rapidly growing cities like Raleigh are constantly wrestling. My utopic self is also pretty interested in cost-to-serve pricing models and funding for infrastructure. Uncovering new revenue streams will be critical for healthy growth.

What’s the best professional advice you have received? Stay curious and always ask “what if?”

Who do you most admire? Many folks, but a fairly new hero is Antanas Mockus, the former mayor of Bogotá who used seemingly simple yet surprising stunts and social projects to drastically lower the city’s crime and congestion problems.

What do you look for when hiring someone? Curiosity, passion and openness.

What career advice would you give an emerging urban leader? Take as many “risks” while you can! If you go back to grad school, take the biggest when under the academic umbrella. School work is only so important.


How a Fitness Pro Is Spreading the Word About Philly’s New Bike-Share

Kiera Smalls (Photo by Jasmine Hawkins)

Next City isn’t just a news website, we are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to the interesting people who are part of our Next City Network.

Name: Kiera Smalls

Current Occupation: Co-Founder of City Fit Girls and marketing specialist at Bicycle Transit Systems for Philly’s new bike-share program, Indego.

Hometown: Philadelphia

Current City: Philadelphia

Twitter Tag: @KieraSmalls

I drink: Coffee and tea

I am an: Extrovert

I get to work by: Bike and train

The area I grew up in is: City

What is your favorite city and why? Philadelphia! There’s so much happening here, and Philly is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Great public spaces, thriving communities, the Pope is coming, the DNC 2016 convention is coming, and of course Indego will be here to offer a convenient form of transportation!

What do you do when you are not working? I am working out.

Did you always want to be in marketing? No. I was actually studying to become a social worker during undergrad. I ended up landing a position as a recruitment and retention manager for a social service agency instead. During my employment I was asked to lead their social media and wellness efforts. Through these projects and while building City Fit Girls, I realized marketing was what I wanted to do.

Philly’s upcoming Indego Bike Share (Photo by Mitchell Leff)

What do you like most about your current job? I have great co-workers. We are all working extremely hard to make the Indego bike-share launch a success. I couldn’t think of a better team. Building relationships with community members and stakeholders regarding Indego has been a blast as well. With City Fit Girls, I really enjoy promoting fitness as something fun and adventurous for women of all fitness levels.

What is the coolest project you worked on? Creating FitRetreat, City Fit Girls’ annual fitness and wellness event here in Philly. We wanted to create a full day of workshops and sessions for women to learn about all of the awesome fitness classes and instructors in the city. This past August about 150 women joined us and chose between a fitness and wellness session each hour. For Indego, we are getting ready to launch our first social media campaign: “Where Will Indego Take You?” We’ll be encouraging people to ride Indego to their favorite spots in Philly and share stories via social media. We’ll be highlighting their responses on our new blog.

Kiera teaching City Fit Girls bootcamp (Photo by Jasmine Hawkins)

What is the biggest challenge facing cities today? Accessibility. While there has been great progress in and near Center City, there are still areas that are at a huge disadvantage, who do not get to enjoy the same level of walkability in their neighborhoods as other parts of the city. We need to continue to keep the entire city, including all of its neighborhoods, in mind in regards to expanding access to resources like healthy supermarkets, open green spaces and public safety.

What’s the best professional advice you have received? I had a coffee date with Desiree Peterkin Bell who leads communications and strategies for Mayor Michael Nutter. At the time we talked, I did not know what career path I wanted to pursue. She advised me to write down what I wanted to do and connect with people currently doing those things. And to pursue what I wanted to do for its purpose and not position. I think about our chat often. She’s very inspiring.


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Architect Mahmood Fallahian

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