2018 Gubernatorial Preview- West Coast

By Brett Goldman and Danny Restivo

In less than a year, voters in 36 states will decide on their respective governors during the 2018 midterm elections. Many of these contests have already become competitive with a host of Republican and Democratic nominees announcing their candidacy. This month, we’re looking at races and key players out west in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon. Throughout 2018, DMGS will be looking at gubernatorial races across the U.S. with expert commentary and insight.


(Image source: National Governors Association)


Primary Election: May 15th, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

Governor Butch Otter (R), first elected in 2006, announced he won’t seek a fourth term in 2018 (Idaho does not term limit their governor). His decision sent shockwaves throughout political circles in the Gem State. As a result, a variety of candidates have emerged to fill the vacancy. For the past two decades, Idaho has enjoyed Republican majorities in both its legislature and governor’s mansion. The state has been solidly Republican in recent presidential elections.

Over a dozen individuals representing Republican, Democratic and third-parties have declared their candidacy. High profile Republicans including Lt. Governor Brad Little and Congressman Raul Labrador (ID-1) have thrown their hats into the ring, along with Boise developer and Physician Tommy Ahlquist.  With roughly six months until the May primary, Little, Labrador and Ahlquist have maintained close leads, while most registered Republicans still remain undecided.srx_republicans_002_tt_t810

While the GOP controls every statewide and federal seat, Democrats have confidence they can capture the Governor’s seat in 2018. In early December, State Rep. Paulette Jordan, a three-term legislator and member of the Couer d’Alene Native American tribe announced her candidacy. The 38-year-old will face A.J. Balukoff, a Boise businessman who lost to Otter in 2014.

The last time Idaho elected a Democrat was in 1990, when former Governor Cecil Andrus won a fourth term.



Primary Election: May 15th, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

In 2018, Oregon will have several major seats up for grabs, including the entire state legislature, senate, row offices, the congressional delegation and the governor’s seat. In 2016, Governor Kate Brown (D) was elected in a special election to finish Governor John Kitzhaber’s term. Kitzhaber had resigned amid a corruption scandal. Brown, the former Oregon Secretary of State, won the Democratic primary for the special election with more than 80 percent of the vote, before clearing the general election with over 50 percent. If re-elected in 2018, Brown will begin her first full term in office. 220px-kate_brown_in_2017

As of now, Brown does not have a Democratic challenger, but the field of Republican nominees continues to grow. State Rep. Knute Buehler of Bend became the first major candidate to officially announce in August 2017.  Brown and Buehler have deep electoral history together, having first squared off in 2012 when they sought the Secretary of State seat. Brown defeated Buehler with 51 percent of the vote.

With less than six months before the Oregon primary, and more than a year before the general election, the 2018 gubernatorial race is on track to become the most expensive in state history. Both Brown and Buehler have already raised a combined $5.3 million (this figure does not include the handful of other candidates in the Republican primary).

A crowded GOP primary against Buehler could materialize. Sam Carpenter, an entrepreneur and former candidate for U.S. Senate, announced his gubernatorial bid in late October 2017. In addition to Carpenter, Salem real estate broker Bruce Cuff has declared for the primary. Several other Republicans are expected to announce their plans, including the current Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, House Minority Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte and Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer.


Primary Election: June 5th, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

California Governor Jerry Brown (D) cannot seek reelection this year due to term limits. First elected in 2010, and subsequently reelected in 2014, Brown held California’s highest executive seat in a state where Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature.

California often has crowded gubernatorial primaries with eccentric “nontraditional” candidates interested in taking advantage of the media frenzy. Notable “outsider” candidates include adult film stars, a former child actor, several media personalities, and a professional athlete. The primary will be no different, with a number of candidates already having announced their intentions. Eleven Democrats, including the current Lt. Governor, a former state treasurer, and the former Mayor of Los Angeles, have announced their bids. Twelve Republicans, and over 20 independent and third-party candidates have announced their candidacy. The top two candidates in the primary from any party will advance to the general election.


Six major candidates–four Democrats and two Republicans–have emerged as probable successors. The Democrats include Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, State Treasurer John Chiang, and former California Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. The two favored Republicans are businessman John Cox and Assemblyman Travis Allen. A poll conducted by UC Berkeley in September 2017 found that Lt. Governor Newsom leads the field with 26 percent of likely voters, followed by John Cox with 11 percent. Behind Newsom and Cox are Villaraigosa with 10 percent, Allen at nine percent, Chiang at seven percent and Eastin at four percent.  Roughly a third of the poll’s participants were still undecided. Whatever the case, California will be a state to watch in 2018.

New Mexico

Primary Election: June 5th, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

Republican Governor Susana Martinez’s term limited position opens the door for a new governor in 2018. Martinez, who was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, leaves a Democratic-controlled house and senate to her successor. With a growing Hispanic population, New Mexico may appear bluer in 2018.

For the Democratic primary, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1) is the clear favorite to win the nomination. Although Jeff Apodaca, the son of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca, has begun running television advertisements across the state. State Sen. Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces and alcohol prevention specialist Peter DeBenedittis have also entered the race. 1200px-michelle_lujan_grisham_official_photo

In the GOP, Congressman Steve Pearce (NM-2), who last ran for statewide office in 2008 when he was defeated by Sen. Tom Udall (D), has announced his candidacy. Currently, Pearce is the only serious GOP contender to announce. However, Martinez’s dismal approval ratings coupled with Hillary Clinton success in New Mexico in 2016, makes winning the Land of Enchantment a challenge for any GOP contender.


Primary Election: June 12th, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

With Republican Governor Brian Sandoval leaving office due to term limits, the Silver State is expected to have both an active primary and a general election. First elected in 2010 and subsequently re-elected in 2014, Sandoval is leaving office with Democrats in control of both the state house and senate following the 2017 general election. Early projections for the 2018 general election, including the Cook Political Report, indicate that Nevada is a “toss up” state, meaning either party could gain control at this point.

A handful of Republican and Democratic candidates have already declared their danschwartzcandidacy. On the Republican ticket, State Treasurer Dan Schwartz (Pictured), Attorney General Adam Laxalt, and Tourism Entrepreneur Jared Fisher have sought the nomination. School reform, public lands and job creation have become key issues for the GOP candidates, but the Republican field has significant political differences: Schwartz is seen as a moderate who could work with Democrats if elected. Laxalt has been painted as an “alt-right” mouthpiece with limited legislative experience.

The Democratic primary may become equally dramatic. Steve Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission, is expected to face fellow Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.  chrisg_curvedGiunchigliani is the former president of the Nevada State Education Association and a former member of the Nevada legislature. Sisolak, a businessman and former member of the UNLV board of regents, and Giunchigliani share similar policy positions and political allies. Indeed, their primary has caused tension within the Nevada Democratic party, but several key party leaders have yet to back a candidate. However, Sisolak has received the endorsement of Las Vegas Congresswoman Dina Titus, a move that signals potential establishment support of the Clark County Commissioner. Polling data for this race is limited and most experts put this race in the category of a “tossup” with over six months to go before the primary.


Primary Election: August 28th, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey (R), first elected in 2014, will face reelection in the 2018 general election. Since taking over for former Governor Jan Brewer (R), the Republican party has maintained control over the Governor’s mansion, the legislature, and the Attorney General. With more than eight months before the primary, Ducey has not received a Republican challenger.

With a long history of conservative politicians, Ducey is anticipated to win the Arizona general election.

However, a tumultuous political cycle and the potential for a Democratic “wave” has forced many analysts to rethink Grand Canyon State politics. State Senator Steve Farley and Education Professor Dave Garcia are vying for the Democratic nomination. Farley, who served for 11 years in the Arizona legislature, has been a vocal opponent to Ducey’s agenda. Farley has been described by the Arizona Republic as someone who gives the “sense that he understands the inner workings of state government and politics.” Garcia, who previously ran unsuccessfully for the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, is running on a populist platform that seeks to resist the Republican agenda.

Election Preview: 2018 Gubernatorial Races

By Danny Restivo (Posted 12/1/17)

In less than a year, voters in 36 states will decide on their respective governors during the 2018 midterm elections. With just less than a year out from election day, many of these contests have already become competitive with a host of Republican and Democratic nominees announcing their candidacy. The Republican party will defend 26 governorships, while the Democratic party will defend 9 governorships (Alaska Governor Bill Walker is an Independent). However, 14 of these seats are considered to be relatively “safe” for the incumbent party. 11 of these “safe” seats are held by Republicans. On the Democratic side, New York, California and Hawaii will likely maintain a Democratic governor.

The Republicans currently have 33 governorships, compared to 16 for the Democrats, the widest margin for the GOP since 1922. In 24 states, they control the executive branch as well as the legislature. Although Democrats will have an opportunity to field winning gubernatorial candidates in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. They’ll also have the chance to unseat Republican Governors in traditionally blue states like Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont, while defending incumbent governors in Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

With gubernatorial wins in 2017 for Democrats Ralph Northam in Virginia and Phil Murphy in New Jersey, the political momentum has begun to shift. Yet if Democrats want to significantly increase their statehouse seats, they will also have to win over some Republican-dominated constituencies. Fourteen of 34 gubernatorial seats have a relatively safe path of the incumbent party. Fortunately for Republicans, eleven of those are held by GOP lawmakers.

Moreover, 2018 midterms will have added meaning with the 2020 census looming. In most states, governors and state legislatures determine district boundaries based on the census data. As a result, Republican and Democrats will want to position themselves so their interests are accounted for during the congressional mapping process.

2018 Gubernatorial Elections in the States and Territories in 2018


(source National Governor’s Association)

Throughout 2018, Duane Morris Government Strategies will provide updates and insight on gubernatorial election occurring throughout the country.

Update: Regulating Airbnb

By Danny Restivo (Published 11/29/17)

Editor’s note: Last year, we looked at how some states are working to regulate the sharing economy, specifically companies like Airbnb. This month, we are revisiting this subject to see how things have evolved from last year.

With the help of mobile applications, the sharing economy has reshaped the experience of both the consumer and the operator in a variety of industries. This disruption is most evident in the hotel and lodging industry where Airbnb has emerged as chief competitor to traditional hotels. As a result, city and state governments have tried to strike a delicate balance that allows residents to use Airbnb without infringing upon the market of the hotel industryairbnb

Airbnb is an online community marketplace valued at $30 billion. The application allows people in the United States–and over 200 countries—to list and book short-term housing accommodations. Founded in 2008 in San Francisco, it is now located in over 34,000 cities around the world, while remaining separate from well-established hotel chains and housing markets. Due to their slower moving nature, statutes and regulations have not been able to keep up with this new and innovative economy.

The epicenter of this evolution is most prevalent in New York City, where the fight between Airbnb and the hotel industry has the potential to lay the groundwork for future regulatory framework. With a high cost of living and a large tourism industry, Airbnb has become a popular application among New Yorkers seeking extra cash and tourists seeking affordable lodging. However, the debate in Albany may determine whether residence can use the platform in the future. The legislation that has been introduced both cracking down on and supporting Airbnb could set the tone for the rest of the US.

In the fall of 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law levying fines as much as $7,500 for illegally listing a property on a rental platform like Airbnb.  The rental application quickly filed suit against New York, but settled after the state agreed to pursue the hosts and not Airbnb. The ruling comes after Airbnb said it would began cracking down on multiple unit homes who use the service. Critics said some property owners have used the mobile platform to push long-term tenants out, while issuing short-term leases, further exacerbating the city’s affordable housing problem.

In July of 2017, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) introduced legislation that would force anyone advertising apartment units in New York City on home-sharing sites to include full location details. Currently, Airbnb typically withholds the hosts address information until a client finalizes a trip, making it difficult to crack down on a large number of Airbnb hosts. If approved, Rosenthal’s bill would allow regulators and enforcement agencies to easily identify illegal short-term leases.

In early August of 2017, the Hotel Association of New York City and a hotel worker’s union paid $500,000 to air a 10-day television advertisement that showed images of the Manchester bombing. The commercial also showed the bomber, who stayed at a short-term rental the night before. With ominous music and text-only, the advertisement claims Airbnb refuses to provide the addresses of the apartments and rooms to law enforcement, which endangers all New Yorkers.

Airbnb responded in a statement saying the Manchester bomber did not stay at an Airbnb, while the 9/11 and the Paris attackers stayed in hotels before committing their acts of terrorism. Airbnb responded with their own advertisement featuring a Brooklyn host explaining how the service offsets the cost of living in New York City.

Airbnb spokesperson Peter Schottenfels called Rosenthal’s legislation “a dangerous bill” that is “another favor for the hotel industry sponsored by their favorite taskmaster.” Schottenfels also noted the safety issues emerging from publicly releasing the addresses of thousands of people who are not home. “Forcing New Yorkers to publish their addresses online for anyone to see, especially while they are on vacation or visiting family will put thousands of lives at risk,” he said.

In an effort to counter Rosenthal’s bill, Assemblyman Jack Lentol (D-Brooklyn) introduced legislation that would allow short-term leases in New York City, while allowing Airbnb to collect and remit local and state taxes on behalf of hosts. His bill faces a number of hurdles before becoming law.

Previously, Airbnb and other short-term housing accommodation organizations operated within their own black market because they fell within a gray area between the housing market for long-term use and the hotel industry. As a result, legal battles about Airbnb not paying “their fair share” of state and local taxes or not adhering to “appropriate” regulations began to occur all across the United States. The Federal Communications and Decency Act, enacted in 1996, protects internet platforms from liability if their consumers participate in illegal activities or in Airbnb’s case, hosts not adhering to state and local laws. As a result, state and local governments have had to go after Airbnb’s hosts in order to hurt the larger business.

Back in 2015, New York City accused Airbnb of facilitating “illegal hotel operations.” To accommodate the city, Airbnb examined its user base and unilaterally removed thousands of questionable hosts that appeared to be abusing the system. However, issues between New York and Airbnb remained because a law that prevents Airbnb from becoming a legitimate business that collects taxes. Airbnb has expressed a willingness to accommodate the tax issue in New York.

Similar issues with Airbnb have played out in San Diego, Nashville, New Orleans, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. Airbnb now offers a registration system that allows hosts to connect with the city’s licensing process within their respective city and state. Airbnb specifically reminds hosts that they may be required to pay certain taxes. However, Airbnb does not inform its users about every specific law and regulation that governs short-term housing accommodations.

DMGS will continue to monitor this issue as it evolves.

2017 Election Recap

By Danny Restivo and Brett Goldman (Posted 11/8/17)


Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie with 53.9% of the vote to win the Virginia Governor’s seat Tuesday night. The Virginia race remained tight until Election Day. Several polls showed Gillespie and the Lieutenant Governor tied or within the margin of error days before the election.


Northam led in a RealClearPolitics poll by six points less than a month ago; it dropped to two points a week before the election. While both candidates refrained from personal attacks for the majority of the race, television advertisements with race-baiting and fear-mongering messages flooded the airwaves weeks before the election. Gillespie, a former Republican Party Chairman, ran advertisements blaming Northam for an increase in violence from MS-13 street gangs. Another television advertisement insinuated Northam would pass legislation to help restore gun rights for pedophiles. Meanwhile, Northam’s team tried to connect Gillespie to white nationalists who turned violent in Charlottesville, Va., over the summer.

On the policy side, Northam pledged to make community college and apprenticeships free for high demand fields like cyber security and early childhood education if they commit to a year of paid public service. In addition, Northam said he would create a $15 minimum wage and create a tax credit for small businesses that offer paid family leave. Northam said he wants to reinvest in traditional public schools. As a former Army doctor and a pediatric neurologist, he made healthcare a critical part of his campaign. He wants to expand Medicaid coverage to 400,000, but doesn’t want a universal system. However, he’s made comments suggesting a public option in the Commonwealth.

Northam intends to allow state agencies to create plans that limit carbon emissions, as well as joining state alliances with others states. Gillespie said he would provide a 10-percent state income tax to help grow business. The Republican placed immigration and public safety at the center of his campaign. Republican state legislators pledged to provide Gillespie with $1.5 million to support the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force against gangs such as MS-13. Instead of expanding Medicaid in Virginia, Gillespie wanted to create interstate compacts that allow insurance companies to sell across state lines, a plan lobbied for by Republicans in Congress.

Both Northam and Gillespie said they would raise teacher pay, but Gillespie wanted to increase the number of publicly funded and privately-operated charter schools. Gillespie’s plan included an education savings account that allowed parents to transfer their children from public schools and receive 90-percent of the funding, something that did not appear to resonate with voters in VA.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won Virginia by five points in 2016, forcing Gillespie to distance himself from President Trump, who did not make campaign appearances in nearby Virginia. While Gillespie hinged his campaign on cultural issues like the preservation of Confederate monuments, Northam made the election a repudiation of Trump.

Governor-Elect Northam will now inherit a Republican-dominated state legislature.

In the Lieutenant Governor’s race, Democrat Justin Fairfax defeated Republican Jill Vogel. The Virginia’s Governor’s race overshadowed the Lt. Governor’s race, which runs on a separate ticket. Fairfax is a white collar attorney from Fairfax County, while Vogel has served as a lawyer from Fauquier County who’s worked on a number of GOP projects.

The lieutenant governor is a part-time office, which presides over the Senate and breaks ties when needed. The lieutenant governor also sits on various state boards and commissions, and can advocate for various causes.

New Jersey

Democrat Phil Murphy, a former ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive, defeated Republican Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno to win the 2017 New Jersey Gubernatorial election. 5114477740001_5638281926001_5638240949001-vs

Governor-Elect Murphy defeated Guadagno with 56% of the vote. This margin lined up with Murphy’s 14% lead a week prior to the election. Historically low approval ratings for Republican Governor Chris Christie hamstrung Guadagno’s campaign. Murphy tried to connect Guadagno to Christie while repeatedly characterizing the election as a repudiation of President Trump. Meanwhile, Guadagno tried to distance herself from the current Governor and the President. Guadagno tried to portray Murphy as an out-of-touch Wall Street liberal who only wants to tax middle income earners. The Lieutenant Governor said she would cut property taxes to help the middle class in New Jersey, who face some of the highest taxes in the country.

“Anybody who knows me, knows I’m not Chris Christie,” Guadagno said during an October debate. “I’m running on my own record.”

Murphy raised $13.3 million during the campaign, compared to Guadagno’s $3.9 million.

Governor-Elect Murphy seeks to increase taxes on wealthy individuals and companies to help pay for education programs, government retirement funds and transportation infrastructure. Governor-Elect Murphy’s progressive platform also included a public bank of New Jersey to help spark small business growth. He says his plan will not increase taxes on the middle class.

Serving as Murphy’s Lieutenant Governor is Sheila Oliver, the former Democratic Assembly Speaker. The Essex County native is the first African-American woman to ever hold the post in New Jersey and only the second African-American woman in America to become Speaker of a State House. In 2013, she ran in the Democratic primary to fill U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg’s seat. She finished fourth in a primary that ultimately went to Corey Booker.

Key Legislative Races in NJ

Republican Assemblyman Chris Brownousted Democratic incumbent Colin Bell, who had been appointed to fill the final few months of the late Senator Jim Whelan’s term after Whelan died unexpectedly.
The candidates and outside special interest groups spent more than $4.6 million on the race — the second-most of any legislative election this year.
Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D) retained his seat, and Democrat John Armato filled the open seat vacated by Brown.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney,considered to be the most powerful lawmaker in the state, stood up to non-stop attacks from the state’s largest teachers union to hold on to the seat he’s held in this rural south Jersey district since 2002. Senate President Sweeney defeated Challenger Republican Fran Grenier.
The New Jersey Education Association spent more than $5 million in an effort to unseat Sweeney, helping the race become the most expensive legislative contest in New Jersey history.
In the 7th district, Democratic Assemblyman Troy Singleton won the state Senate seat being vacated by Republican incumbent Diane Allen, who is retiring. Singleton was highly favored to win over Republican John Browne
Democrat Vin Gopal, the former Monmouth County Democratic Party chairman, ousted Republican Senator Jennifer Beck, a veteran lawmaker, to win the Senate seat in this Monmouth County district.
Republican Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon defeated Sean Byrnes in the race to replace retiring State Senator Joe Kyrillos. As O’Scanlon moves up to the Senate, Monmouth County Freeholder Serena DiMaso (R) will fill the open Assembly seat. Incumbent Assemblywoman Amy Handlin will also retain her seat in the coming term.
Incumbent Republican State Sen. Kip Bateman repelled Democratic challenger Laurie Poppe.
In the race for the district’s two Assembly seats, incumbent Democrat Andrew Zwicker and his running mate, Roy Freiman, defeated Republicans Donna Simon and Mark Caliguire in one of the most hotly contested races in New Jersey. Assemblyman Zwicker ended up with 27% of the vote with nearly all 182 precincts reporting in.


In Georgia’s of Representatives, Democrats gained three legislative seats following Tuesday’s special elections. 

Deborah Gonzalez beat Houston Gaines to represent the 117th Legislative District, representing the Athens area. Gonzalez replacing former Athens Republican Rep. Regina Quick, who resigned her post after being appointed to a judgeship in August.

In Georgia’s 119th Legislative District, also in the Athens area, a four-way race to replace retiring Republican Chuck Williams went to first-time Democratic candidate Jonathan Wallace. Wallace, a software engineer, fought off three Republicans to win the seat outright in the traditionally conservative district. Williams was appointed in August to head the Georgia Forestry Commission.

In Atlanta’s 6th Senate District, Democrats Jaha Howard and Jen Jordan topped a field of eight candidates in the race to replace former Sen. Hunter Hill. Hill, a Republican from Smyrna resigned from the Senate to run for governor. Democrats Jaha Howard and Jen Jordan will now face off in a runoff election on December 5th, 2017. Regardless of the outcome, the seat will fall into control of the Democrats, propping the party up for what will no doubt be an eventful 2018 in Georgia.

Philadelphia Municipal Elections

In 2017, Philadelphia saw some of the highest turnout for an off year municipal election in recent memory.

In a heavily contested race to replace disgraced former District Attorney R. Seth Williams, Progressive Democrat Larry Krasner came out as the victor against Republican Beth Grossman with nearly 75% of the vote. Krasner made headlines during the 2017 primary with his agenda focusing on reducing the prison population and focus on bail reform (among other issues). Couple with a large infusion of cash from Billionaire George Soros, Krasner managed to handily win the 7 way primary. Many political insiders believe that even with a mandate, Krasner will have an uphill battle moving his agenda forward especially with a currently adversarial relationship with the City’s police union.  

In addition to the Office of the District Attorney. Philadelphia saw a major change during the 2017 Democratic Primary when Rebecca Rhynhart ousted City Controller Alan Butkovitz. Rhynhart’s unprecedented and unexpected victory was seen as a major blow to the City’s already reeling democratic machine.  During the general election, Rhynhart, a former member of the City’s Finance Department, easily beat Republican Mike Tomlinson.

Ohio Ballot Measure Fails

79% of Ohio voters rejected a ballot measure that sought to curb prescription drug prices paid by the state for prisoners, injured workers and poor people. An estimated $70 million was spent by in opposition of Issue 2, the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act.

Opponents led by the Pharmaceutical industry said it would reduce access to medicines and raise prices for veterans and others. Supporters led by the California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, spent close to $17 million, arguing that it would save the state millions of dollars and could force the industry to reduce prices elsewhere.

Maine Medicaid Expansion Passes

59% of voters in Maine decided on Tuesday to expand access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, making the state the first in the nation to settle the issue by referendum.

Maine is among 19 states whose Republican governors or legislatures have refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. States such as Utah and Idaho that have been staunch hold outs are watching this initiative closely, as newly formed groups are working actively to get a Medicaid expansion question on next year’s ballot in both states. This outcome may offer insight about how this issue resonates for votes in next year’s midterm congressional elections.

Election Security at the State and Federal Level

 By Danny Restivo & Christopher Biermann (Posted 11/6/17)

 In late September, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified election officials in 21 states they were targeted by Russian hackers during the run-up to the 2016 election. While DHS officials previously said cybercriminals had attempted to breach state databases, they never identified the states. After contacting election offices in all 50 states, the Associated Press confirmed the states; they include swing states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Virginia.  Other states targeted were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

While the hackers did not manipulate voting machines, they did access voter registration files in two states. In Illinois, they breached a voter database and compromised the identities and personal information of 90,000 voters. In Arizona, hackers stole the username and password of a single election official. Nineteen other states reported they were targeted but no information was breached.

The DHS announcement raised the ire of elected officials charged with investigating claims of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“It’s unacceptable that it took almost a year after the election to notify states that their elections systems were targeted, but I’m relieved that DHS has acted upon our numerous requests and is finally informing the top elections officials in all 21 affected states that Russian hackers tried to breach their systems in the run up to the 2016 election,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In lieu of mounting public pressure, local and state officials, including the National Association of State Secretaries (NASS), have begun working with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to improve communications between local, state and federal entities. Since former President Barack Obama designated elections as critical infrastructure in 2016, states can now access federal cybersecurity tools and intelligence briefings from federal agencies.  On October 15, the DHS organized a meeting with top election officials from around the country. The 28-member group called the Government Coordinating Council hashed out communication lines between local, state and federal agencies.

In September, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission—the federal commission created by Congress following the 2000 election controversy—along with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, announced an overhaul of voluntary guidelines for states purchasing new voting equipment. The guidelines aim to create a trail for electronic votes, data interoperability among voting systems, logging of user access for election tools and limits on who gets access and under what circumstances. These measures tighten up physical security by making sure any attempt to tamper with voting gear leaves evidence. The goal is to improve security and reliability for non-government vendors involved in the election process, specifically the small number of companies that manufacture polling equipment. All these initiatives intend to support state governments overseeing the election process. Several state secretaries have voiced concern over perceived encroachment by the federal government but remain committed to securing the integrity of their elections.

“The DHS designation of our election systems as critical infrastructure was a controversial move that NASS opposed last February,” said NASS President Connie Lawson, who serves as Indiana’s Secretary of State. Her statements came after EAC guidelines were released and the Government Coordinating Council convened earlier this month. “However, we have worked hard with DHS and the EAC to set up this coordinating council and ensure that the designation does not have a negative impact, thereby helping to increase public confidence in our elections process,” Lawson said.

The U.S. does not have a federalized voting system—relying instead on 9,000 different voting jurisdictions and more than 185,000 individual precincts. Under these circumstances, some believe a successful hacker will have a limited effect on the vote, but questions regarding the vulnerability of voting records, registration and vote tallying-machines linger.

In June, more than 100 cybersecurity professionals, election administration, bipartisan lawmakers, professors, tech and business experts, sent a letter to congress on behalf of the National Election Defense Coalition. The NEDC urged congress to take action to secure elections and maintain confidence in the democratic process. They offered three recommendations:

  1. Establish voter-verified paper ballots as the official record of voter intent.
  2. Safeguard against internet-related security vulnerabilities and assure the ability to detect attacks.
  3. Require robust statistical post-election audits before certification of final results in federal elections.

“While there has been encouraging progress to improve election security in recent years, too many polling stations across the nation are still equipped with electronic machines that do not produce voter-verified paper ballots. Many jurisdictions are also inadequately prepared to deal with rising cybersecurity risks,” the letter read. “We are writing to you as members of the computer science and cybersecurity communities, together with statisticians and election auditing experts, to convey our concern about these and other vulnerabilities in our voting system and to urge you to take the following simple, straightforward, and cost-effective actions to set meaningful standards to protect American elections.”

In early October, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote a letter to election technology manufacturers. Wyden asked the companies to detail their protocols, and whether they used outside experts who follow best practices. He sent letters to Dominion Voting, Election Systems & Software, Five Cedars Group, Hart InterCivic, MicroVote and Unisyn Voting Solutions. Wyden also sent letters to two voting system test laboratories accredited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

“As our election systems have come under unprecedented scrutiny, public faith in the security of our electoral process at every level is more important than ever before,” Wyden said in his letter. “Ensuring that Americans can trust that election systems and infrastructure are secure is necessary to protecting confidence in our electoral process and democratic government,”

In April, Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-D) reintroduced the Election Infrastructure and Security Promotion Act of 2017 (H.R. 1907).  The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to maintain a critical infrastructure designation for all voting systems, while also limiting the purchase of any new systems that do not provide voter-verified paper ballots. It would force compliance with standards developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology for operational security and ballot verification. Johnson’s bill, which has 34 Democratic co-sponsors, would also establish programs that promote research and innovation in voting technologies. While federal lawmakers and agencies provide assistance, several states have initiated their own programs to strengthen security.

West Virginia

 In September, Republican Secretary of State Mac Warner announced a partnership with the West Virginia Air National Guard to assess election systems and monitor cyber security. The State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has helped facilitate a partnership, which aims to “to anticipate, to prevent, and monitor criminal and terroristic activities in the state.”

“We will use every resource available to protect our democratic process, ensure voting accuracy, protect voter’s private information, and give the confidence that our state agencies are working together to combat every threat,” Warner said, West Virginia has a host of state and federal seats open in 2018, including a U.S. Senate seat.


 Illinois experienced the most serious voting records breach in September. As a result, the state legislature approved a law on October 26 requring notification of cybersecurity breaches to residents within five days. The bipartisan legislation also requires government organizations or agencies to report breaches to the Chief Information Security Officer in the state technology office within 72 hours. However, the CISO can withhold information regarding a breach if an investigation deems it necessary. Illinois has also passed laws mandating cybersecurity training for state employees while announcing a strategy designed to unify cybersecurity operations across 62 state agencies.


 The Commonwealth has a gubernatorial race in 2017 that could significantly impact the nation’s political landscape. Virginia was among those targeted by Russian hackers in 2016. While authorities say nothing was breached, election officials have begun taking steps to mitigate vulnerabilities. In September, the Virginia Board of Elections ordered 22 counties and towns (VA has 95 counties) to adopt paper-backed balloting machines before the November 2017 election because of outdated electronic machines.  The decision stems from a 2017 cybersecurity convention in Las Vegas when hackers breached the state’s voting system. Governor Terry McAuliffe had tried to replace the Commonwealth’s outdated voting machines in 2014, but the Republican-controlled legislature had cut funds from the state budget. Virginia has also provided cybersecurity training to detect phishing attacks and protect passwords. The state has also begun working with federal agencies, including the DHS.


 In mid-July, Colorado became the first state to enact a post-election auditing system that cyber security experts have long-supported. Known as a “risk-limiting” audit, the Colorado State legislature approved a law in 2009 mandating the procedure, but after several years of testing, it extended the deadline to 2017. The audit allows state officials to sample and compare paper ballots to electronically cataloged results of those ballots.

In a risk-limiting audit, state officials select a sample of paper ballots — usually the margin of the outcome — and compare them using statistical methods to ballots cast electronically. The audits aim to determine whether a comprehensive recount is justified. Digital security experts have applauded Colorado’s program for its accuracy, as well as its state-focused approach, which does not include federal oversight. Colorado will publish its auditing software under a free license so other states can download and modify for their own use.

Rhode Island

 Rhode Island has taken several steps to shore up election security. In April, the state hired its first cybersecurity officer. The new officer, Mike Steinmetz, will develop a comprehensive state strategy and serve as Governor Gina M. Raimondo’s cybersecurity advisor. In September, the Rhode Island state legislature approved a bill giving the Board of Elections power to conduct risk-limiting audits, similar to the initiative in Colorado. In mid-October, cybersecurity experts convened a forum to share tools and expertise on how to guard against cyberattacks.


 In late September, Washington director for elections said the state was embarking on a pilot program to improve the elections process. The program, which will partner with the DHS and the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center, aims to improve the assessment of vulnerabilities and identify mitigation plans; improve the sharing of information; improve the reliance on DHS for local in person support, and reporting of incidents or threats. Washington has employed a paper-based system which includes voter verifiable audit trials. There’s also an emphasis on having pre and post-election audits as well as independent testing.

Other Efforts

 While state and federal agencies work to improve security at the polls, President Donald Trump has launched a Voter Integrity Commission to investigate claims of voter fraud. However, a lack of evidence has sparked intense pushback from both Democrats and Republicans who want to keep the focus on foreign meddling in election process. The Commission also threatens to undermine state efforts by requesting sensitive voter information, further increasing vulnerabilities, as well as reallocating scarce resources. “As states try and create programs to enhance security, some cash-strapped governments may require federal assistance,” says Eric Martins, DMGS Managing Director.  Martins added “however, if the White House is focused on voter fraud allegations, states in desperate need of secure IT infrastructure could become incredibly vulnerable for future elections.”

The Rise of Cities in NJ: Part 1

By Danny Restivo (posted 10/30/17)

New York City’s cost of living is 120 percent higher than the rest of the country. With 8.3 million people and an average home price of $501,000 (average home price in United States is roughly $181,000), prices have begun to push city dwellers from Brooklyn and Manhattan into less-expensive areas that remain within close proximity to the city. As a result, portions of New Jersey—specifically North Jersey—have turned into prime real estate markets.

Many of these locations have transformed from working class neighborhoods to destinations for young professionals. Economic realities and shifting demographics have fueled this migration. Millennials, with an interest in keeping their living space, work space, and social lives in close vicinity to one another, have rebooted places like Hoboken, Newark, and Jersey City. However, the conflict between urban pioneers moving-in, and long-time residence seeking affordability, has pushed affordable housing into the 2017 gubernatorial debate.

Democratic candidate Phil Murphy has proposed using hundreds of millions of dollars from the Department of Justice’s Residential Mortgage-backed Securities (a multi-billion dollar reparations account funded by Wall Street fines) to pay off the state’s housing loans, and then turning those newly paid-off homes into affordable housing. Republican candidate Kim Guadagno has pledged to cut property taxes in the Garden State, which has one of the highest in the country. Guadagno’s property tax ‘Circuit Breaker’ would cap the school portion of a homeowner’s tax bill at 5-percent of their household income.

It seems neither plan will stymie development in North Jersey. Although many have welcomed the change, some local officials have begun pushing back on plans to develop portions of North Jersey. Michael McPartland, the Mayor of Edgewater, a 3.5-mile stretch of land along the Hudson River, stopped a 2014 plan to develop 1,863 apartments in five high-rise buildings. McPartland said the proposal was far too big, and would increase congestion while also straining the community’s limited infrastructure. Since 1990, Edgewater’s population has nearly tripled from 5,000 to 13,000, with most residents coming from newly developed regions in Northern New Jersey, like Hoboken and Newark. The developers have now taken the city of Edgewater to court.

With prices in New York City continuing to rise, many Manhattan and Brooklyn residents continue to seek more for less in North Jersey. Here are some cities in New Jersey harnessing real estate interest to improve their respective communities, while also protecting middle and working class residents from increased property taxes and rents.

Jersey City

In early 2017, the New York real estate blog Curbed voted Jersey City as the best neighborhood of the year. From 2010 to 2014, Jersey City experienced a 6-percent population increase, reaching 262,000. Many of these newcomers include millennials.

Mayor Steve Fulop claims 650 small businesses have opened over the past three years (many of them include bars and restaurants); and it makes sense: It’s a 10-minute train ride to the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in Manhattan, fueling Jersey City’s appeal among city workers. In 2016 there were more than 7,000 units of housing under construction with more than 19,000 already approved, more than any other city in New Jersey.

According to Trulia, an online real estate website, median rent for one-bedroom apartments in the city’s four largest zip codes rose from $1,395 in October 2014, to $1,590 in September 2017. Jersey City’s housing affordability has emerged as a key issue in the 2017 mayoral race. Mayor Fulop has said the city will not support tax abatements for development projects that do not include affordable housing. Fulop had tried to include an ordinance requiring 20 percent affordable housing for any development receiving tax abatements, but many developers pushed back forcing the measure to stall.

Former City Attorney Bill Matsikoudis, Fulop’s mayoral challenger, has written a policy paper outlining affordable housing plans in Jersey City. His policy would require that all development plans include affordable housing, while also revising rent control laws for buildings with fewer than five units. Matsikoudis also wants to open a city office for affordable housing to help connect residents with vacant units.


Hoboken’s revitalization began in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the working class area used state funds to refurbish historic brownstone homes to improve housing options.  With one of the shortest commutes into Manhattan, and one of the smallest towns by area at 1.275 square miles, Hoboken has turned into a destination for Manhattan families seeking more space for their dollar. In 2016, the median value of a home cost more than $747,000, a 12-percent jump from 2015 to 2016.  Since 2000, Hoboken’s population has increased 28 percent with roughly 15,000 newcomers in the past 16 years. Hoboken’s growth stems from corporations like Goldman Sachs and Ernst Young moving across the Hudson River to take advantage of lucrative Garden State tax credits.


To keep Hoboken a mixed income community, city officials announced plans to create 115 affordable housing units in February 2017. Affordability requirements are based on income and household size. The announcement was born from an ordinance that requires 10 percent affordable housing for resident construction projects with over 10 units when an increase in density is provided. Hoboken has also adopted the Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing Plan and a guidebook for policies and procedures that placed eligible families into housings units.

“Dozens of new affordable housing units under construction throughout our city will help to ensure that Hoboken remains a vibrant mixed income community,” Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said after the affordability requirements were announced. “We have created procedures to make sure that these affordable housing units are available to those who need it most through a fair and open process.”


Once a symbol of urban decay, crime, and poverty throughout the 1980s and 1990s, New Jersey’s most populous city has turned into a vibrant metropolitan area.

In 2016, there were $2 billion in commercial and residential development with 1,500 units of housing under construction and another 4,000 in planning. After more than 60 years of population decline Newark finally had a 1.7 percent increase in population in 2010, with subsequent increases the following years (Newark’s peak hit 438,000 in 1950, but dipped significantly in 1970 and 1980). Part of the revitalization stems from business investments by Prudential Financial and Goldman Sachs, which have invested $368 million and $500 million into the city, respectively.

Vacant lots across the city have now turned into real estate projects, including a $94-million mixed use facility that houses a grocery store, retail shops and residential space. A large scale department store built in 1901, which sat vacant for nearly 30 years, became a 160-room-luxury apartment space and home to Newark’s first Whole Foods after a $174 million investment. A few blocks away, a developer has partnered with Prudential to restore a 20-story tower built in 1929 for the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company. The building will now serve as a 260-unit rental apartment building.

While some city leaders have lauded the turnaround and future potential, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has introduced policies to keep a city with one of the highest poverty rates in the country affordable.  Baraka’s plan, titled Newark 2020, aims to hire 2,020 unemployed residents at full-time jobs with living wages over the next three years. The city has partnered with Prudential, RWJBarnabas Health, United Airlines and Audible. In early October, The Newark City Council, with the Mayor’s support, approved an ordinance that ensures new projects with 30 or more residential units maintain 20 percent affordable housing.

“This is a groundbreaking step in housing development in Newark and a pioneering step for all of America’s cities,” Baraka said after the vote. “Once again, Newark is leading the way, defining to the nation how a city cares for its residents, and what a city should be.”


 At 1.4 square miles and bordering Hoboken to the North, Weehawken has experienced a 25 percent increase in median home values over the past year, the largest increase in the Garden State. Like many other North Jersey communities along the Hudson River, Weehawken’s growth stems from home buyers priced out of markets in New York City, as well as Jersey City and Hoboken. The explosive growth along the city’s waterfront includes construction of a 589-rental unit building, 177 condominiums and two apartment buildings with more than 500 units. Subsequently, home values have reached a median cost of $757,000, compared to $488,000 in 2012. Real estate website Zillow projects that number to reach $809,000 by 2018. Historically, Weehawken’s residential communities were atop the 180-foot high cliffs known as the palisades, but development below along the Hudson River waterfront has created a viable living space for those commuting into New York City via ferry or the Lincoln Tunnel.

The development has also lead to an increase in taxes for a community that has the highest bill in Hudson County. Moreover, a state judge ordered Weehawken to complete a new tax map in 2015. The suit says a failure to conduct a revaluation on older properties, while assessing new ones at market value has created an unfair tax burden on waterfront property owners.  With a judge’s order, older residents could see their property taxes increase starkly, making affordable housing in Weehawken a looming issue.

Future Housing Trends in New Jersey


According to a 2017 report released by research advocates New Jersey Future, while the Garden State’s millennial population is declining, the 22-34 old demographic has fueled much of the real estate growth in places like Hoboken, Newark, and Jersey City. However, due to the cost increases, the report has indicated a potential for those areas to lose more millennials in the future. The report, and many others like it, finds millennials are more inclined to live in walkable, compact urban areas, compared to previous generations that settled for more suburban, car-focused locations.  The NJ Future report urges the state to encourage more development of housing in compact or urban regions in an effort to retain younger people. Fortunately, The Garden State has many comparable locations that could support such housing. This shifting focus raises questions on what happens to regions with older residents where millennials aren’t interested in home buying. Some believe older residents could ultimately move into more compact areas with amenities or services. In any event, New Jersey’s urban and suburban landscapes could look drastically different in the coming years.

Note- This is the first in a multi-part series on the rise of Cities in NJ. Next time, we’re going to take a deep dive into Camden.

The Future of Smart Cities

By Danny Restivo (posted 9/18/17)

In 2015 a New Orleans home fire killed three children, a mother, and a grandmother. Because the family did not have a smoke detector, the New Orleans fire department wanted to create a program to accurately identify vulnerable neighborhoods with homes that may not have the devices. With the help of a New York-based tech firm, the New Orleans Office of Performance and Accountability began using analytics to identify vulnerable areas.

The team gathered information on neighborhoods with young children, elderly populations and dilapidated homes. While the fire department had issued smoke detectors previously, they were only offered to people who requested them. Under the old program, the fire department gave away 800 smoke detectors. The new analytics program helped install 18,000 smoke detectors since beginning in 2015. A few months after the program began, fire trucks arrived at a residence with 11 family members outside their burning home. They were awakened by a smoke detector recently installed by the outreach program.

Image result for city data

The New Orleans smoke detector program illustrates the benefits of using data to increase public safety. The advent of new technical applications has given municipal administrators access to information on public health, housing, transportation, crime, infrastructure and more. Additionally, the data provides administrators with the ability to increase efficiency and improve essential services. As population’s increase, and more citizens flock to larger urban areas, cities will need to ensure efficient allocation of resources for healthy and sustainable communities.

According to the United Nations, 54 percent of people lived in cities in 2014, but that’s projected to grow to 66 percent by 2050. Cities have turned to analytics and digital applications to streamline government services while reducing costs. With dramatic population increases, it’s estimated that cities around the globe will invest $40 trillion in infrastructure upgrades over the next 20 years, according to Smart America, an Obama-era initiative for solving regional problems with innovative solutions. Furthermore, spending on smart technology has grown from 0.7 percent of city IT budgets in 2005 to 4.1 percent in 2015. That percentage is expected to grow to 7.5 by 2025, according to Deltek, an information solutions provider for government contractors.

Smart City remains a broad term, but using data to improve operations constitutes a key ingredient. For the most part, cities with IoT (Internet of Things) applications like sensors, smart lights or other advanced technologies, offer insight into population patterns, infrastructure usage and public services. Moreover, the growth of cloud technology, digital information storage and other computing services has made it easier to compile and analyze data. As a result, administrators can better track pollution levels, gunshots, foot traffic and other pertinent statistics to help streamline resources.

In September 2015, President Obama announced a $160 million Smart Cities Challenge to help regional communities research and leverage new technology collaborations for tackling traffic congestion, crime, economic growth and improving the delivery of overall services. Roughly $115 million went towards unlocking new solutions in safety, energy, climate preparedness and transportation with grants coming from various federal agencies.

“Every community is different, with different needs and different approaches.  But communities that are making the most progress on these issues have some things in common.  They don’t look for a single silver bullet; instead they bring together local government and nonprofits and businesses and teachers and parents around a shared goal,” Obama said in a statement during the program’s announcement.

After receiving 78 applications from communities around the country, the Smart Cities initiative selected Columbus, Ohio, in June 2016 to receive $40 million to help prototype the future of urban transportation. Four months later, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced $65 million in grants for advanced transportation technologies, including $11 million in Pittsburgh for smart traffic lights, and $6 million in Denver to help alleviate traffic congestion during rush hour.

In addition to the federal government’s support, universities, private companies and nonprofits have played a large role in driving technology-enabled solutions. These entities have worked together to support Smart City initiatives around the country. Among the highest profile partnerships includes a collaboration among Microsoft, the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies, and World ENABLED, a nonprofit that advocates disabled people. The collaboration, which was announced in May, aims to help disabled and aging populations access Smart City technology throughout the country.

As more cities invest in smarter technology, funding growth will continue. In 2015, global investment in IoT applications grew by $14 billion from 2015 to $36 billion, according to Business Insider. Bank of America Merrill Lynch released a report in March that estimates a $1 trillion investment in Smart City technology by 2020, with infrastructure driving much of the increase.

As cities figure out the best way to leverage IoT applications in support of their needs, a number of communities have already invested in technology to help improve their respective cities. Here’s a snapshot of what some cities have done to improve sustainability.Map of the United States

Columbus, Ohio

After beating out 77 other cities, including Austin, Pittsburgh, Portland and San Francisco, Columbus received $50 million in grant funding from the federal government to help develop intelligent transportation systems. In addition to the grants, private companies and other organizations have pledged $277 million in matching funds. The Smart Cities Initiative in Columbus also gathered an additional $90 million in federal funding for a total of $417 million. Among the biggest contributors includes American Electric Power, which has pledged $181 million to help implement 894,000 smart meters that send readings electronically. With the funding, Columbus aims to bring more electric vehicle charging stations, street lights that act as wireless Internet hubs, emergency vehicles that interact with traffic signals, and driverless shuttles. The plan also calls for introducing 780 electric vehicles into the city’s public and private sectors by 2020. The Ohio State University will also provide $64 million in research initiatives. In July, the Columbus Transit Authority said it was going to update its fare boxes on buses to allow payments with a phone. Riders will also be able to update their fare cards online. Columbus also plans to market electric cars around the city, while also expanding power stations to 305 from 108 in the seven-county region. Columbus has until 2020 to use all the funds.

San Francisco

Although San Francisco lost out to Columbus, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the city with a $10 million grant to help alleviate traffic congestion. The funding supports six transportation projects with the help of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and the University of California Berkeley: more high-occupancy vehicle lanes for buses and carpools, more curb space for carpool pickups and drop offs, smart traffic signal systems to help improve flow and safety, connect corridors for pedestrians and bicyclists, create connected electronic toll systems, and deployed testing of autonomous electronic shuttles on Treasure Island.

As a hub for innovation, San Francisco has already begun leveraging tech applications to solve other metropolitan issues. San Francisco utility companies provide mobile access to near-time energy use data, as well as advice on how to save money. The city also began using sensors to help monitor parking spaces, while another application helps drivers find available parking spaces in city garages. As part of their Smart City application, San Francisco wants to phase out single occupancy vehicles by adopting ACES vehicles (Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared vehicles). Ultimately, the city wants to turn parking spaces into green spaces or locations for affordable housing.


The Windy City received a $3.1 million grant as part of the Smart Cities Challenge to fund the Array of Things Project, which helps the city monitor environmental and infrastructure activity. With the grant, Chicago installed more than 500 nodes throughout the city to capture data on air quality, climate, traffic and other urban features. The partnership with the Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Chicago and the city hopes to create an environment that improves public safety, decrease traffic congestion and the region’s carbon footprint. Chicago hopes to use the data to help create sustainable solutions.

While many cities have used high tech gadgetry as part of their Smart City initiatives, Chicago has used simple tools to create sustainable solutions. Chicago’s water department has spent $6 million over two years to give away 123,000 rain barrels to residents. The 55-gallon barrels, which attach to rain spouts, reduces the amount of water going into the sewer system and allows residents to use the water for gardening or other needs. With roughly 40 percent of Cook County impermeable due to concrete structures, the rain barrels are an asset in storm water management.


Like San Francisco, Pittsburgh was among the finalists for the Federal Government’s Smart City Challenge. In lieu of the grant, the Steel City received $11 million in funds from USDOT. Four months before the USDOT granted the funding, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation offered $11 million in support for the city’s traffic project. All told, local, state and federal sources have pledged $30 million to help support a traffic management center and create adaptive traffic signals that can read conditions at 126 intersections. These signals can use cameras and radar to read traffic on side roads, including bicyclists, and change according to the amount of traffic. The funds will also help city administrators gather information for future traffic decisions. When the program is finished, Pittsburgh will have the largest adaptive traffic signal system in the United States.

Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works has also announced plans to add nearly 1,200 smart trash cans throughout the city. The trash cans are equipped with sensors that self-monitor garbage levels and inform city workers if receptacles need to be emptied. According to the Department of Public Works, the smart trashcans will allow the department to reallocate 15,000 working hours towards other city projects.


Like Pittsburgh and San Francisco, Denver was among several finalists in the Smart City Challenge. The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Denver County with a $6 million grant to help implement traffic management technologies. Denver is working with the mobile application called Waze, a mobile navigation tool to help motorists identify road closures, congested traffic, construction and other traveler information. Denver hopes to build a communication network among 1,500 city vehicles which will alert each automobile of accidents in hopes of reducing crashes by 30 percent in certain locations.

Denver has also partnered with Panasonic, Xcel Energy and the Department of Energy to help create a mixed use facility with 1.5 million square feet of office space, 500,000 square feet of retail and 2,500 square feet of housings units. The community will also contain smart lighting and parking, electric vehicle charging stations, environmental sensors, high-speed WiFi and autonomous electronic vehicle shuttles.

Kansas City

Kansas City opened an online portal in early 2017 to help drivers find parking spots in downtown. The digital application also shows traffic speed and real time location of the city’s street car. As part of the initiative, Kansas City has installed sensors along the streetcar’s 2.2-mile light-rail line, allowing the portal to track the streetcar’s movements and gather information. The sensors will also capture foot traffic, giving nearby entrepreneurs and small business owners valuable information. Kansas City plans to invest $3.7 million in high-tech innovations, with another $12 million pledged from private companies, including Sprint Cisco Systems. Ultimately, the city wants increase the sensors from 2.2 miles to 10 miles.

Louisville, Ky.

In 2015, Louisville began working with a respiratory health startup and the Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil to help gather information on local air quality.  The coalition helped supply 1,000 inhalers to Louisville residents suffering from asthma. The inhalers had censors installed to help officials map where poor air quality had triggered usage. In one instance, the city was able to identify a portion of town that had three times as much use compared to other locations.  Further analysis revealed a significant level of congested traffic in the neighborhood. As a result, the city has planted a belt of trees separating the road from nearby neighborhoods to reduce particle matter in the area. Doctors were able to take the data from the censors and tailor treatment plans for individuals, with patients experiencing significant improvement.

Other Cities

A host of other cities has implemented a number of initiatives, giving citizens information and methods into critical matters. These municipalities have indirectly served as test labs for other local governments seeking improved services. Coupled with proof of success and budget limitations, public-private partnerships have emerged as a viable path toward innovative solutions. These private entities could provide a wide degree of expertise and flexibility in supporting such endeavors. Although ensuring improved services and increased efficiency while creating a profit-incentive can create challenges, IBM, Cisco and Microsoft, and a host of others, have begun working with municipalities across the country.

Smart City methods also raise a number of legal questions, especially concerns about government surveillance, personal privacy and cyber security. Because many Smart City initiatives and digital programs use complex algorithms, there’s a fear that programs based off analytic data could create unintended consequences. As civic leaders witness the benefits of Smart City initiatives, it will become paramount for other administrators aiming to improve their communities to responsibly implement IoT applications. Moreover, with a trove of data stored in cloud technology, critical data concerning infrastructure and citizens must remain secure from cyber threats.

In early August, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Corey Gardner (R-CO) introduced the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017. The bill would require IoT devices sold to government entities to meet certain requirements, including no fixed passwords and no known security software vulnerabilities.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) landscape continues to expand, with most experts expecting tens of billions of devices operating on our networks within the next several years,” said Gardner in a release. “As these devices continue to transform our society and add countless new entry points into our networks, we need to make sure they are secure from malicious cyber-attacks.”

Another question centers on the President’s agenda. Donald Trump pledged to reinvest in America’s infrastructure during his 2016 presidential campaign, but his domestic legislative agenda has stalled. However, if President Trump does get renewed investment in infrastructure approved in Congress, smart technology could help sustain bridges, roads, utility lines and other critical structures for the next several generations. Furthermore, if America wants to maintain its mantle as a leader in innovation and technology, it must keep pace with places like Barcelona, Berlin, Singapore and Hong Kong, all cities which have made significant investments in smart technology to improve infrastructure. In any event, if supporters believe that Smart Technology can transform our cities in healthy and sustainable communities, it will take a significant federal investment to ensure an equitable distribution benefits.