Philadelphia launches office of new urban mechanics

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has signed Executive Order No. 5-12, formally creating the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. The new office is meant to become an innovation hub for the city and build on a number of technology driven innovations that the city has ushered in over Mayor Nutter’s tenure. Philadelphia is a two time Code for America city and has adopted a tech-focused approach to city management. The new office will connect City departments and agencies with outside entities to create, support or pilot small-scale projects to work towards solutions for civic problems.

The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics will be co-directed by Jeff Friedman and Story Bellows. Jeff Friedman has been with the Nutter Administration since 2008, previously working as the Philly 311 Project Manager, Chief of Staff to the Chief Technology Officer and Manager of Civic Innovation and Participation. Story Bellows, who joined the Administration in April 2012, served previously as the Director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design in Washington, D.C.

The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics is modeled after the office of the same name in Boston, Massachusetts and is only the second of its kind in the country. Both cities will now be models for municipalities that want to drive innovation and go beyond open government in name only. Many cities have released data or made calls for developers resulting in projects that mostly clean up low hanging fruit – mass transit times, ride sharing, pothole repairs – creating the illusion of openness. The offices in Boston and Philadelphia aim to dig in and solve bigger problems.

“Philadelphia is an innovation city with immense talent and a great start-up environment. It is the right blend of forward-thinking and entrepreneurial idealism to establish the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics,” said Mayor Nutter. “New Urban Mechanics will have the flexibility to experiment, the ability to re-invent public-private partnerships and the strategic vision to create real change for Philadelphia. I am excited to establish the Office of New Urban Mechanics as a civic innovation tool for urban transformation.”