How Cities Balance COVID-19 Precautions with Economic Preservation

How Cities Balance COVID-19 Precautions with Economic Preservation Featured Image

Cities have absorbed the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and must now focus on how to manage the city during lockdown — all while lessening the economic impact.

To facilitate knowledge sharing — specifically about COVID-19 — between city leaders, Dr. David S. Ricketts, Innovation Fellow at Harvard TECH, hosts a weekly Zoom call to discuss the challenges cities are facing and how they are being addressed.

This week, participants from San Jose, Amsterdam, and other cities shared their unique approaches to the emergency situation and how these plans — from saving lives to saving livelihoods — are implemented.

San Jose, California: A Three-Pronged COVID-19 Approach

San Jose shared their COVID 19-plan which highlights the three concurrent challenges they are facing — public, economic, and fiscal.

Each of these challenges requires a distinct response, which the city has divided into three imperatives:

  • Imperative 1 – Save Lives
  • Imperative 2 – Save Livelihoods
      • Support individuals, families, and businesses while they shelter in place
  • Imperative 3 – Preserve Fiscal Health
    • Ensure that the city can continue to financially support imperatives one and two

San Jose also shared a look into how they organize recommended actions and assessments into time boxes:

A. Now: next 2 weeks

  • Emergency action plan

B. Next: 2 – 12 weeks

  • Roadmap through the epidemic

C. Later: 12 weeks

  • Budget and recovery planning

Amsterdam, The Netherlands: “The Doughnut Model”

The city of Amsterdam has adopted an experimental economic framework to aid its recovery called “The Doughnut Model,” developed by Oxford University Economist Kate Raworth. Amsterdam is the first city to formally announce they are going with this model, according to Amsterdam’s deputy mayor Marieke van Doorninck.

The Doughnut Model starts by asking the question, “How can our city be home to thriving people in a thriving place while respecting the wellbeing of all people and the health of the whole planet?”

Amsterdam is using this model to create a recovery plan that is balanced by the basic needs of their citizens, according to the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), and the environmental impact on the planet.

Image of Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Via Quartz

So named for its circular visualization, The Doughnut Method organizes priorities and policies between a city’s social foundation and the economic ceiling. The inside of the ring, “social foundation,” represents basic human needs like food, water, and income. The outside of the ring represents the environmental measures a city is judged on such as biodiversity loss and ozone layer depletion.

Other City Response and Recovery Plans

Wellington, New Zealand

Adapting existing strategies for a new emergency

City leaders from Wellington have found that existing response plans for earthquakes have translated well to the COVID-19 pandemic. A dedicated group has been established to formulate an exit strategy, which they are using to inform the response approach, understand how to transition to a recovery effort, and identify the trigger pivot points for demobilization. This approach is also helping Wellington to understand where they should concentrate innovation and identify uncertainties.

Carlsbad, California

Opportunities for the long-term

Carlsbad, a suburb of San Diego, California, is strategizing a long-term recovery and accelerating digital transformation plan. This includes a disaster recovery, no-cost loan program that would act as a revolving loan fund. In other words, repayments would be repurposed into a program for startups, industries with well-paying jobs, and women/minority-owned businesses.

The city is collecting a list of areas of opportunity and as leaders deploy or resolve issues, focusing on the long- rather than near-term. For example, virtual Council meetings are inspiring options such as VoIP, video testimony, email, and perhaps even remote community centers in the city. Data silo issues are being turned into collaboration opportunities, as many of the dashboards and visualizations will live beyond the crisis.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Working toward normal

The City of Brotherly Love is focusing on two modes of recovery:

  • 30 day plan: crisis mode 
  • 90 day outlook: finding a path to normal or the new normal and identifying what they might look like, i.e. long-term working from home

Hamilton, New Zealand

One recovery phase at a time

​​​​​​​​​​Hamilton City Council announced a 12-point recovery plan for COVID-19 that includes both short- and long-term concerns. Phase one, expected to cost $3.4M, includes short-term economic and social assistance. Phase two will involve govern​ment, city businesses, and potentially include a suite of multi-million-dollar capital projects.

Toronto, Canada

Bring on the Task Force

Toronto Mayor John Tory launched the Economic Support and Recovery Task Force, which is focused on determining the immediate and long-term financial needs of citizens and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Having a dedicated team to investigate and make recommendations will enable the city to respond to the pandemic’s evolving challenges.

How to Participate in the City Leader COVID-19 Discussion:

If you are a city leader, you can join the discussion by signing up for the forum here.

This will give you access to the:

    • Online Forum
    • City Leaders WhatsApp
    • Weekly Covid19 Zoom Call

Topics we’ve discussed so far include:

1.Online tools for Public Engagement

2. Homelessness / Elderly

3. Connectivity, Wifi, and Access to Computers in Community

4. International Cooperation

5. Self-reporting, Records of self-isolation and Use of Data

6. Search for Volunteers

7. Supports for Businesses

8. Tools for Signing Docs

9. Info on Ventilators and other PPE

10. How to do department by department lockdown

11. Guidelines for Protection in a Makerspace

12. Incentive-Based Pay for City Staff

13. Strategies for city recover post-pandemic

14. Contact Tracing

We hope to see you there!

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