Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Funding for climate, transportation and public safety announced today

Office of the Press Secretary
September 26, 2016

FACT SHEET: Announcing Over $80 million in New Federal Investment and a Doubling of Participating Communities in the White House Smart Cities Initiative

“If we can reconceive of our government so that the interactions and the interplay between private sector, nonprofits, and government are opened up, and we use technology, data, social media in order to join forces around problems, then there’s no problem that we face in this country that is not soluble.” – President Barack Obama

With nearly two-thirds of Americans living in urban settings, many of our fundamental challenges—from climate change to equitable growth to improved health—will require our cities to be laboratories for innovation. The rapid pace of technological change, from the rise of data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and ubiquitous sensor networks to autonomous vehicles, holds significant promise for addressing core local challenges.

That’s why last September the White House launched the Smart Cities Initiative to make it easier for cities, Federal agencies, universities, and the private sector to work together to research, develop, deploy, and testbed new technologies that can help make our cities more inhabitable, cleaner, and more equitable.

Today, to kick off Smart Cities Week, the Administration is expanding this initiative, with over $80 million in new Federal investments and a doubling of the number of participating cities and communities, exceeding 70 in total. These new investments and collaborations will help cities of all sizes, including in the following key areas:
·       Climate: The Administration is announcing nearly $15 million in new funding and two new coalitions to help cities and communities tackle energy and climate challenges. For example, one Department of Energy (DOE) campaign has already signed up 1,800 buildings representing 49 million square feet with data analytics tools that could reduce their energy footprint by 8 percent or more, on average.

·       Transportation: The Administration is announcing more than $15 million in new grants and planned funding to evolve the future of urban transportation, including National Science Foundation (NSF) funding for researchers in Chattanooga to test, for the first time, how an entire urban network of connected and autonomous vehicles can automatically cooperate to improve travel efficiency and operate safely during severe weather events.

·       Public safety: The Administration is announcing more than $10 million in new grants and planned funding for public safety, resilience, and disaster response. For example, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is funding the development of low-cost flood sensor-based tools in flood-prone areas of Texas, where predictive analytics will give first responders and local officials new capability to issue alerts and warnings, and the ability to respond more rapidly to save lives when a flood strikes.

·       Transforming city services: MetroLab Network is launching a new effort to help cities adopt promising innovations in social programs, like a collaboration between three counties surrounding Seattle and the University of Washington to use predictive analytics to identify precisely when city services succeed in helping homeless individuals transition into permanent housing, offering the promise of a future of personalized intervention.


The White House Smart Cities Initiative represents an example of how the Administration has worked over the past seven and a half years to develop a smarter, more collaborative approach to working with local communities—putting citizens, community groups, and local leaders at the center of its efforts. The Administration’s approach involves working together with communities to identify local needs and priorities, develop and build upon evidence-based and data-driven solutions, and strategically invest Federal funding and technical assistance.

The Smart Cities Initiative is informed by and builds on the work of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), including its Technology and the Future of Cities report. In the report, PCAST identified several actions that the Federal Government can take to help cities leverage technology, and which the initiative is already beginning to implement.

The initiative has supported a number of breakthrough activities in the last year. Two such examples are:

·       Smart City Challenge: In June, the Department of Transportation (DOT) selected Columbus, Ohio to receive $40 million to prototype the future of urban transportation, out of 78 cities that accepted its Smart City Challenge. The city’s plan, which will also leverage over $100 million in private resources, involves piloting new technologies, from connected vehicle technology that improves traffic flow and safety to data-driven efforts to improve public transportation access and health care outcomes to electric self-driving shuttles that will create new transportation options for underserved neighborhoods.

·       Fitness Tracker for Cities: With funding from NSF and Argonne National Laboratory, the City of Chicago and the University of Chicago last month began installing a “fitness tracker for the city”—500 outdoor sensor boxes called the “Array of Things” that will allow the city and public to instantly obtain block-by-block data on air quality, noise levels, and traffic. This real-time open data will help researchers and city officials reduce air pollution, improve traffic safety, and more. For example, a team is already working to build a mobile application that will alert asthma sufferers about poor air quality based on real-time measurements taken on their city block.

In addition to the initiative, the Administration has also taken several complementary steps that support local innovation, including the newly-announced Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, through which NSF is working with the private sector to invest nearly $100 million to develop four city-scale testing platforms for wireless technologies, including 5G and beyond. Additionally, the Administration’s Opportunity Project is spurring the creation of private sector digital tools based on Federal open data that help communities find information about resources needed to thrive, such as affordable housing, quality schools, and jobs. The Police Data Initiative andData-Driven Justice Initiative are helping local authorities use data to improve community policing and divert low-level offenders out of the criminal justice system, respectively.

The upcoming White House Frontiers Conference, held in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, October 13, will further advance the initiative by bringing together some of the world’s leading innovators to discuss how investing in science and technology frontiers—including smart and inclusive local communities—can help improve lives and keep America on the cutting edge of innovation.

Key Steps by the Administration Being Announced Today

NSF is announcing over $60 million in new smart cities-related grants in FY16 and planned new investments in FY17. NSF is bringing together academic researchers from an array of disciplines with community stakeholders to unlock transformational progress on important community challenges. Examples of this work include an effort by researchers in Chattanooga to test an entire urban network of automatically cooperating connected and autonomous vehicles; and a flood-warning pilot project in several Maryland cities that integrates sensor data and social media posts in a novel way to potentially save lives by providing advance notice of flash floods, which kill more people in the United States each year than tornadoes, hurricanes, or lightning. The investments include:

·       $24.5 million in planned investment in FY17 and $8.5 million in new awards under the Smart & Connected Communities program. The planned investment significantly expands NSF’s research focus in this area and builds on a number of high-risk, high-reward Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research awards supporting integrative research that enhances understanding and design of our future cities and communities.

·       $10 million in new awards to develop and scale next-generation Internet applications and technologies through the US Ignite program, supporting access to the gigabit-enabled networks and services that bring data and analytics to decision-makers in real time.

·       $7 million in new Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity projects that involve academic-industry collaborations to translate breakthrough discoveries into emerging technologies related to smart communities, ranging from smart buildings to sensor networks that improve transportation efficiency.

·       $4 million in new Cyber-Physical Systems awards focused on Smart & Connected Communities. Collectively, these awards help establish the technological foundation for smart cities and the Internet of Things, which enables connection of physical devices at enormous scale to the digital world through sensors and other IT infrastructure.

·       $2 million in new “Spokes” that extend the Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs and $1.4 million in new Big Data research, which will use data science to improve the smart electric grid, keep bridges safer, grow better crops through the use of drone technology, and allow students to conduct citizen science on air pollution.

·       $1.5 million in new Smart and Connected Health research awards with a focus on Smart & Connected Communities. The awards being announced today will support the development of next-generation health care solutions that leverage sensor technology, information and machine learning technology, decision support systems, and more.

·       $1 million for researchers to participate in the 2016 NIST Global City Teams Challenge, supporting high-risk, high-reward research on the effective integration of digital and physical systems to meet real-world community challenges.

·       $1 million in new research and capacity-building awards supporting lifelong learning that will be critical to cities and communities of the future.

DOE is announcing new coalitions to build cleaner, smarter communities, and more than $15 million in new and planned funding to support smart, energy-efficient urban transportation systems and to unlock distributed clean energy sources.

·       DOE is announcing the launch of the Better Communities Alliance (BCA), a new DOE-led network of cities and counties with the goal of creating cleaner, smarter, and more prosperous communities for all Americans. Through the BCA, which is part of the Better Buildings Initiative, DOE is creating a one-stop shop for cities and counties to plug into DOE resources and AmeriCorps resources from the Corporation for National and Community Service to support them in tackling energy and climate challenges. DOE will gather key stakeholders to promote knowledge exchange and collaboration, while streamlining access to community-focused DOE resources and funding through coordinated assistance across programs and a common digital portal. Initial member communities and affiliate organizations include:
§  Anchorage, Alaska
§  Atlanta, Georgia
§  Boston, Massachusetts
§  Boulder, Colorado
§  Broward County, Florida
§  Chattanooga, Tennessee
§  Chicago, Illinois
§  Chula Vista, California
§  Des Moines, Iowa
§  Dubuque, Iowa
§  Fort Worth, Texas
§  Huntington Beach, California
§  Kansas City, Missouri
§  King County, Washington
§  Knoxville, Tennessee
§  Los Angeles County, California
§  Miami-Dade County, Florida
§  Milwaukee, Wisconsin
§  New York, New York
§  Newark, New Jersey
§  Orlando, Florida
§  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
§  Phoenix, Arizona
§  Portland, Oregon
§  Richmond, Virginia
§  Roanoke, Virginia
§  Rochester, New York
§  Salt Lake City, Utah
§  San Francisco, California
§  Seattle, Washington
§  Sonoma County, California
§  West Palm Beach, Florida
§  Will County, Illinois
§  Alliance to Save Energy
§  American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
§  Arup
§  C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
§  Cityzenith
§  Emerald Cities Collaborative
§  Energy Foundation
§  Global Cool Cities Alliance
§  Governing Institute
§  Hatch
§  ICLEI USA - Local Governments for Sustainability
§  Institute for Market Transformation
§  Institute for Sustainable Communities
§  International City/County Management Association
§  Kresge Foundation
§  National Association of Counties
§  National Association of State Energy Officials
§  National League of Cities
§  Natural Resources Defense Council
§  Philips Lighting
§  Smart Cities Council
§  Solar Foundation
§  STAR Communities
§  Surdna Foundation
§  U.S. Green Building Council
§  Urban Sustainability Directors Network

·       DOE is launching a new Better Buildings Accelerator to assist local governments in developing “Zero Energy Districts” within their communities. Through the Accelerator—which will help participants overcome deployment barriers by providing a framework for collaboration among participants as well as technical assistance—DOE will work with city leaders, district developers, planners, owners, and additional key stakeholders to develop the business case and energy master planning documents needed to replicate Zero Energy Districts, which aggregate buildings’ renewable energy sources so that the combined on-site renewable energy offsets the combined building energy usage from the buildings in the district.

·       DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative is launching a Smart Energy Analytics Campaign with an inaugural group of members committing to using smart building energy management technologies to unlock energy savings. Eighteen inaugural members representing 1,800 buildings and 49 million square feet have signed up to adopt data analytics tools—known as Energy Management and Information Systems (EMIS)—that could reduce their energy footprint by 8 percent or more, on average. Some of the campaign participants and their plans include:
o   The Wendy’s Company is piloting software to move all 300 of their company-owned restaurants onto EMIS analytics.
o   Macy’s will leverage its experience using fault detection and diagnostics across their portfolio of over 700 stores to share best practices.
o   University of California, San Francisco will expand its innovative program of “Connected Commissioning” to use fault detection and diagnostics based on a consistent flow of building data analytics to help commission major building renovations and ensure they operate efficiently from the start.
o   Rhode Island Office of Energy is starting a multi-year EMIS project with 18-buildings that will leverage lessons learned through the Campaign to help streamline the rollout of EMIS to a large portion of their portfolio.
The following organizations will also provide technical assistance to the campaign partners: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Building Owners Management Association, International Facility Managers Association, Commonwealth Edison, California Commissioning Collaborative, and the Building Commissioning Association.

·       DOE is announcing $10 million in current and planned investment to expand the DOE SMART Mobility consortium to support the emergence of smart, energy-efficient urban transportation systems and establish a “Technologist in Cities” pilot. In collaboration with the DOT Smart City Challenge, and with an initial focus on Columbus, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan, DOE’s “Technologist in Cities” pilot will pair national laboratory technologists with city leaders to help cities address critical mobility needs with new capacity, tools, and technologies that significantly improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. The DOE Systems and Modeling for Accelerated Research in Transportation Mobility consortium leverages the unique capabilities of DOE National Laboratories to examine the nexus of energy and mobility for future transportation systems, including through connected and automated vehicles, urban and decision sciences, multi-modal transport, and integrated vehicle-fueling infrastructure systems.

·       DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability is announcing approximately $7 million in funding to support the development of sensors and modeling that allow communities to more effectively integrate distributed clean energy sources into their power grids. Currently, integration of distributed clean energy sources—and the emissions, reliability and resilience benefits they provide—is a challenge for electric grids originally designed solely for distribution of electricity, not local generation. Funding will support research and development at utilities and technology providers to harness new sensor data and improved modeling to allow for integration of these resources with greater efficiency and reliability, while aiming to deliver new benefits, such as improved grid resilience against outages in emergency situations.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is continuing to expand the smart cities movement and support technical progress in the Internet of Things.

·       NIST and its collaborators are announcing a new international coalition dedicated to developing anInternet of Things-Enabled Smart City Framework, with an initial release planned for next summer. Through an open, technical working group studying real-world smart city applications and architectures, the coalition will identify pivotal points of interoperability, where emerging alignment on standards can enable landscape of diverse but interoperable smart city solutions. Coalition members include the American National Standards Institute, the U.S. Green Building Council, the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning, the Italian Energy and Innovation Agency, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, and the FIWARE Foundation.

·       NIST’s Global City Teams Challenge

Friday, September 9, 2016

President Obama Proclaims "National Days of Prayer" Commemorating 9/11

 Office of the Press Secretary 
For Immediate Release                          September 9, 2016    


 On September 11, 2001, a group of small and hateful minds conspired to threaten the very fiber of our country, seeking to break the American spirit and destroy our way of life.  From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Americans were struck with grief as devastation and senseless loss of innocent human life unfolded.  In the empty shadow of the World Trade Center, the remains of the Pentagon, and a charred Pennsylvania field where courageous passengers saved countless lives, what emerged from the ashes of that day was not defeat -- it was the heroism, compassion, and unity of the American people, which no act of terror or hate could ever take away.  On September 11, we recall the true spirit of our Nation following these heinous attacks, and we resolve to enshrine the enduring compassion and love of our people forever in the heart of America.

Fifteen years later, we pay tribute to the loss of nearly 3,000 lives, reflect on treasured memories of those we lost, and resolve to never forget that day, even as we look toward a brighter and more hopeful future.  We draw inspiration from the survivors who still bear the scars -- both seen and unseen -- of that tragic day.  We honor the valiance of our Nation's first responders, whose instinct was not to turn back to find safety for themselves, but to run toward untold danger.  We show our gratitude to those young Americans of the 9/11 Generation, who until that day lived knowing only peace, but who have answered our country's call to serve under our flag to meet the threats of our time with bravery and distinction.

In the years that have followed, with prayer and reflection, grace and faith, Americans have grieved together, held each other close, and looked out for one another.  Though the void felt by those who lost a loved one on that day can never be filled, we can continue to heal the wounds inflicted by hatred by honoring the notion that, no matter our differences, we are forever united as one American family.

As we mourn on this most solemn anniversary, let us also reflect on the freedom and tolerance that define this great Nation, and let us reaffirm our commitment to preserving those fundamental values for each generation of Americans to come.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Friday, September 9 through Sunday, September 11, 2016, as National Days of Prayer and Remembrance.

I ask that the people of the United States honor and remember the victims of September 11, 2001, and their loved ones through prayer, contemplation, memorial services, the visiting of memorials, the ringing of bells, evening candlelight remembrance vigils, and other appropriate ceremonies and activities.  I invite people around the world to participate in this commemoration.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.  


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FLOTUS Recognizes 2016 Class of National Student Poets, and Is Moved To Tears

You're a poet, and you know it.

You know you’re a bonafied poet when you’re invited to the White House to recite your work in front of the First Lady of the United States and your peers.

First Lady Michelle Obama recognizes the 2016 Class of National Student Poet with poetic snaps. (Photo/CD Brown).
The 2016 class of the National Student Poets Program (NSPP) bought their imagery of the world, culture and poetic stylings to the White House Thursday were they were recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama was noticeably brought to tears as she reflected on the brilliance of this year’s ‘Poetic Five’.

“If you ever wonder if what we do makes a difference, it does", she said. 

This year’s class consisted of a diverse group of tenth and eleven graders representing the mid, south, north, and western regions of the United States.

Maya Eashwaran of Georgia reflected in her poem, Linquistics, on what it means to be Indian in an American culture.

“I've started shedding ethnicity like hair, she read. "Mother, I fear I may go bald".

Eashwaran said she wrote her poem when she realized she was speaking more English than her mother tongue. “The thing that caught me was how much I was losing a part of my culture”, she said.

The ceremony was also graced by poet/rapper Q-Tip, who is  famously known for his 1990's song, Vivrant Thing. He read from a poem he had written for the occasion, reflective of poetic greats - past and present. 

Rapper/poet Q-Tip speaks during the
2016 Class of National Student Poets ceremony. (Photo/CD Brown.)
 “Hughes, Hurston, Giovanni, Poe, Rakim. Yes, your favorites [and] never-heard-of's soon to be loved and studied stood here in Recognition Hall; they danced and moved”, he read.

So ‘moved’ were the first lady and members of the audience that NBC News anchor Harry Smith called the event, “humbling.” 

Maryland poet Joey Reisberg couldn’t have imagined that his poetry would have landed him at the White House.

2016 NSP, Joey Reisberg (Photo/CD Brown.)
 “I think all poets have an inferiority complex, like I’m never going to amount to anything. So, being here really reading my work in front of Mrs. Obama was so surreal”, Reisberg said. “I was imaging myself, like wow, I’m going to be here inside reading work with my peers; work that I’ve created, work that I’m familiar with. That was just so special”, he said.

The NSPP, in partnership with the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, strives to inspire young people to achieve excellence in their own creative endeavors and promotes the essential role of writing and the arts in academic and personal success.

Poets are selected from a pool of National Medalists in Poetry through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. From this pool 35 semi-finalists are selected based on creativity, dedication to craft and promise.  Winners receive $5,000 in academic awards. The Class of 2016 was appointed by Mrs. Obama.

To learn more about this year's Class of the 'Poetic Five' click here.  Click on a photo to begin gallery.

NSP Alumni
2016 Class of NSP (L to R)
Stella Binion, Joey Reisberg, Maya Salameh,
Maya Eashwaran, and Gopal Raman
2016 NSP program attendees
First lady having fun with the 2016 Class of NSP

NOTE: 'Poetic Five' moniker and photos by CD Brown