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NPR Cities

  • Around the world, cities like Rio de Janeiro are using new technologies to solve their problems. And while there's great promise in many of these "smart" city programs, urban planner Anthony Townsend is wary of putting so much power in the hands of tech companies.
  • Most people know to phone 911 in an emergency, but police departments are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of calls. Some cities use 311 lines to help divert non-emergency requests, while Miami dispatches a group of unarmed public servants to tackle many non-urgent situations.
  • A growing number of cities are using surveillance cameras in the hope of fighting crime, but all that video is almost useless without powerful search tools to sort the material. The municipal camera trend is proving to be big business for companies that design video analytics software.
  • On Spain's Atlantic coast, the city of Santander has installed 12,000 sensors that measure everything from when streetlights need to be dimmed to when trash dumpsters are full — saving millions for cash-strapped public coffers. It's becoming a model for cities worldwide.
  • Many cities spend millions on prisons annually, and often those moving in and out of jail come from the same neighborhoods. The Justice Mapping Center maps those costs, block by block, to help policymakers visualize where those public dollars are going — and determine if they could be better spent.
  • The city is surprisingly diverse, with more than 90 languages spoken in its public schools. Local officials and residents are working to turn that diversity into an economic advantage — but creating a sense of community among such diverse groups is no small challenge.
  • In Detroit, the predominantly black city and predominantly white suburbs have feuded for decades over finances and control of assets. A recent suburban vote to help a city institution offers hope for better cooperation. But old tensions are still roiling over a proposal to put a beloved city park under state oversight.
  • In Austin, Texas, Baldomero Frank Alvarez Cuellar of Rancho Alegre Radio, is working to bring Conjunto music back to the life of the city. He held a three-day Conjunto festival at the Moose Lodge. Conjunto has roots in German Polka as well as Mexican folk music. This City Life Snapshot comes from the Austin Music Map project at member station KUT in Austin. It's part of the Localore project, a nationwide effort from the Association of Independents in Radio.
  • In the nation's capital, park planners have drawn up an ambitious plan to transform an old bridge into an active recreation space. If realized, the park would offer a physical and symbolic link between two very different communities.
  • Miami may bring to mind images of the sea and palm trees, but according to park advocates, it also suffers from a lack of green space. That can make it difficult for downtown residents to find places to enjoy the outdoors. Advocates are trying to remedy that — in the face of ongoing downtown development.