Los Angeles recently unveiled the LA Business Portal, an open-source platform that assists businesses in the city and which is designed to be replicable by other cities. The portal helps small business owners navigate the complex bureaucratic processes that new businesses face on the federal, state, and local levels. The site boasts a startup assistance tool, for example, wherein a budding entrepreneur answers a series of questions about the type of business they want to start and the site generates a customized checklist to help get it off the ground. The site also includes reference information on managing and growing a startup. Because the portal is open source, it can enable other cities to build a similar solution for their local businesses at a fraction of typical costs.
Recognizing that not every expensive visit to an emergency room is for an actual emergency, some states are using community paramedics — seasoned health professionals — to intervene and address the root causes of the problems that are being reported. One of the largest health-care cost drivers is unnecessary emergency room visits, often by “super-utilizers” — those who use these services more than four times a year. Minnesota has partnered with its hospitals to identify those most frequent visitors, and then proactively sends community paramedics to their homes to address chronic health problems and safety issues. Since the program’s inception, emergency room use by these individuals has decreased by 60 to 70 percent. California has also launched a pilot covering nine cities that uses existing data to determine whether a community paramedic and not an ambulance should be dispatched when 911 has been called.
The city of Barcelona, Spain, is testing a new method of improving the city’s walkability through the creation of “superblocks.” The city will cordon off nine square blocks from traffic, freight, and buses, allowing only pedestrians and local vehicles traveling under 10 miles per hour, creating a mini neighborhood of citizen spaces where motor vehicles once held prominence. Planners hope that the move will reduce air pollution and provide a more pleasant environment of plazas, playgrounds, and gardens for those living in increasingly congested areas. Observers note that to gain widespread acceptance, a cultural shift in how people view and use the streets will be required. New York City is observing the Barcelona experiment closely.
Seattle wants to prepare its citizens for a large earthquake with an earthquake simulator. The Big Shaker is a 22-foot trailer that will be set up in the city, outfitted to look like a domestic dwelling, classroom, or office space. Residents will go inside and the whole room will start to rumble and shake in the manner of different magnitudes of earthquakes. Officials hope that the demonstration will get people focused on taking action to prepare for a massive earthquake, from putting together emergency kits to thinking about how to organize a neighborhood response to an emergency.
New York City wants to increase the resources available to crime victims by providing special advocates in every police precinct. Over the next three years, two or more of these advocates will be assigned to each station house, and will be tasked with reviewing police files and following up with victims who might be traumatized and confused on how to proceed after a crime has occurred or who could be in further danger. Officials hope that by offering these advocates to help victims deal with the personal issues they are navigating, these individuals will also become trusting enough to reveal what they know to help police solve crimes.