Innovative Cities Day 2021

April 16, 2021

The Rothschild Fund for Civic Innovation hosted nationally recognized leaders for an online conference to present the most successful and cutting-edge ideas and approaches for how urban communities can be stronger, safer and more connected. Former Mayor Jonathan Rothschild convened the best “thinkers and doers” from across the country for discussions about how to best re-group and re-imagine our post-pandemic city.

Tucson’s business, nonprofit, government and academic leaders united online to engage with some of the country’s most well respected former mayors and senior executives of top tier national organizations to discuss practical solutions and best practices for how we can continue to develop strategies and policies for the future.


The conference was held virtually on April 16 from 8:30am-2:45 pm. Recordings of the sessions are available here:

8:30 – 8:45 amWelcome with Regina RomeroWatch recording of this session
8:45 – 9:45The New Localism with Bruce Katz
Katz will share stories of cities on the vanguard of problem solving. Out of these stories emerge new norms of growth, governance, finance and a path toward a more prosperous, sustainable, and inclusive society. He will also address our post-pandemic challenges of Capital vs Capacity. For many cities the American Rescue Plan solves the capital problem for COVID related impacts but the capacity to design and deliver projects is another thing entirely. This session will offer ideas and strategies for effective, equitable implementation. Watch recording of this session
9:45 – 10:00Break
10:00 – 11:00Reimagining Cities in a Post Pandemic Era: Guidelines for Rising Cities with Sofia Song, Carlos Cubillos and Diana Vasquez
The pandemic has altered the landscape of our cities. Sofia will present outcomes of the Gensler Research Institute’s City Pulse Survey, which surveyed residents of four global cities, finding over two-thirds of respondents want to leave their global city for more low-cost, smaller cities that offer a high quality of life. What can those emerging cities do to become more livable and thriving centers, offering the culture and diversity of a larger global hub, but at a smaller scale? Carlos and Diana will round out the presentation sharing key strategies and attributes of resilient cities from a global to local perspective. Watch recording of this session
11:00 – 11: 15Break
11:15 – 12:15Building Innovative Cities – A discussion with Current and Former Mayors
A panel of current and former mayors from around the country “talk shop” about what it takes to build communities ready for a post-pandemic recovery. Facilitated by Mayor Rothschild, the panelists are:
  • Mick Cornett – Mayor of Oklahoma City (from 2004 – 2018)Levar Stoney – Mayor of Richmond (elected in 2016 & re-elected in 2020)Nan Whaley – Mayor of Dayton (elected in 2013 & re-elected in 2017)
Watch recording of this session
12:15 – 12:45Lunch Break 
12:45 – 1:45Transformative Placemaking with Jennifer Vey
As a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking at the Brookings Institution, Jennifer will present on how transformative placemaking—an integrated approach to place-led development—has helped communities meet the challenges wrought by the pandemic and can lead us toward a more equitable recovery. Watch recording of this session
1:45 – 2:00Break
2:00 – 2:45A Briefing on the Latest Developments in Development Incentives with Josh Goodman of Pew Charitable Trusts and Grady Gammage of Gammage and Burnham
Recent rulings by the Arizona Supreme Court regarding the legality of development incentives in Arizona have raised many new questions. These rulings affect future discussions about government incentives, including how they are structured and documented. This session will provide the latest insight and analysis on the impact of these rulings in Arizona as well as addressing the issue of how states should evaluate tax incentives and maintain budget discipline when implementing those incentives.

Watch recording of this session


Our current speaker line-up includes: 

2021 Host Committee

Keri Silvyn
Magdelena Verdugo
Nicole Barraza
Dillon Walker
Fletcher McCusker
Cristie Street
Amber Smith
Julie Katsel
Liz Pocock 
Dre Voelkel
Tim Kinney
Zach Yentzer
Barbi Reuter