MTA Genius Transit Challenge logoThe winners are announced and the reviews are in for the MTA Genius Transit Challenge, a state-funded prize intended to spur innovation in the increasingly troubled NYC subways. Even at the time of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initial announcement, the prize was mocked as trite symbolism not especially relevant to the system’s short-term needs. Once the winners were known, the judgment of non-government experts like Alon Levy and Benjamin Kabak was little kinder. I have no reason to quarrel with the judgment of the Internet’s top transit commentators, and yet I feel that the Governor’s initiative still contains the kernel of an idea worth pursuing as an economic-development initiative, if not the most-direct path to improvement of subway operations.

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Word came recently, via one of those catch-up obituaries in The New York Times, of the passing of Bob Allen, who had been the chairman and CEO of AT&T during a time of merciless transition in the telecom industry during the 1980s and 1990s.

I have a reminiscence to offer, not as a criticism of Allen, who by all accounts was a decent man and strove mightily to reinvent AT&T in the wake of the forced 1984 divestiture of the regional operating companies, but to underline an example of “innovator’s dilemma” with which I had direct experience.

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The 2016 awards cycle has just opened for the Innovations in American Government Awards administered by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School. The purpose of this prestigious awards program is to recognize creative and innovative government programs that have significant impact and are replicable nationally.

Innovations in American Government ProgramAs in previous years, I am serving as an advisor/recruiter in the community and economic development section of the IAG awards. I am particularly eager to see excellent submissions from programs in innovation- or technology-based economic development, but I am also interested in anchor institution programs managed by state or local government. If you have a candidate to recommend, you may contact me or submit an application directly.

Only programs administered under the authority of one or more governmental units are eligible to apply, and the application must come from a governmental unit. If the program you want to nominate is operated by a nonprofit in a public/private partnership, please allow me to connect you directly to program staff to discuss eligiblility.

The application deadline is April 15, 2016.