An Innovative Exchange with Syracuse’s i-Team

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 Syracuse’s i-team Continues Efforts Seeking Public Engagement on Infrastructure Issues 

F.O.C.U.S. Forum Held Friday, August 21 in the Atrium at City Hall Commons

 SYRACUSE, N.Y. –  Members of the City of Syracuse Office of Innovation, known as the i-team, will meet with members of the public, discuss their work on infrastructure, and seek input from the community at the next F.O.C.U.S. Greater Syracuse Forum this upcoming Friday, August 21, 2015 at 7:30 a.m. The forum will take place in the Atrium at City Hall Commons, 201 East Washington Street in Syracuse.

“This is a great opportunity for members of the public to have their voices heard as we work to solve infrastructure problems in our City,” said Andrew M. Maxwell, Director of Policy and Innovation for the City of Syracuse and leader of the Office of Innovation. “We are better served when citizens are engaged in generating new ideas. The more information we have, the more effective we can be in helping solve the challenges facing the City of Syracuse.”

The F.O.C.U.S. Greater Syracuse forum will be interactive, with members of the public discussing ideas with Office of Innovation staff and F.O.C.U.S. board members. The i-team members will take the public comments back for review and analysis.

Since launching in February of this year, the City of Syracuse i-team has solicited public opinion about infrastructure issues throughout the community, presenting at Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today (TNT) meetings as well as before a number of community organizations.

The Office of Innovation, announced in December 2014, was made possible with a three year, $1.35 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Syracuse was one of fourteen cities selected in 2014 as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Innovation Teams (i-teams) program. The program aims to improve the capacity of City Halls to effectively design and implement new approaches that improve citizens’ lives. Grant funds allow mayors to hire and fund i-teams for up to three years. These teams function as in-house innovation consultants, moving from one mayoral priority to the next. Using Bloomberg Philanthropies’ tested Innovation Delivery approach, i-teams help agency leaders and staff utilize a data-driven process to assess problems, generate responsive new interventions, develop partnerships, and deliver measurable results.



Syracuse i-team

(Left to Right: Andrew Maxwell, Jonell Robinson, Addison Spears, Adria Finch, & Sam Edelstein)

Andrew M. Maxwell, MPA:

Andrew Maxwell serves as Director of Policy and Innovation for the City of Syracuse, NY. In this role he serves as a top policy advisor to Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner and is the founding director of the Mayor’s Office of Innovation at Syracuse City Hall.

Maxwell previously served as Director of the Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency (SOCPA) under Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, beginning in June of 2013. The Agency acts as a consolidated planning department for both the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County, and performs planning, zoning, Geographic Information Systems, sustainability, historic preservation, public art and urban design functions for the City and County. As Director, Maxwell worked to promote sound planning in Syracuse and Onondaga County that fosters greater economic vitality, environmental stewardship and improved quality of life. Maxwell reorganized SOCPA, emphasizing smart-growth planning and support services to Onondaga County’s 19 Towns and 15 Villages, as well as the City of Syracuse. He oversaw the completion of the City of Syracuse Comprehensive Plan: 2040, the most detailed and extensive municipal plan in the city’s history. This Plan has led to the initiation of the City’s first-ever effort to holistically rewrite its zoning ordinance in order to improve predictability in the development community and create better outcomes for neighborhoods.

Prior to his service at SOCPA, Maxwell was the founding Director of Syracuse’s Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, created by Mayor Miner in January 2010. In this role Maxwell worked with the City’s Department of Neighborhood & Business Development to integrate urban design principles into the business pre-development process and was an advocate for development sensitive to historic and neighborhood character. The Bureau of Planning & Sustainability coordinated the City’s efforts relative to the completion of the Onondaga Creekwalk and the Syracuse Connective Corridor. Collaborating with partners at Syracuse University and Onondaga County, the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability led the City’s efforts to successfully obtain $10 million in federal funding for the construction of the final phases of the Connective Corridor. Maxwell also spearheaded the City’s partnership with the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge program which brought experts from IBM to Syracuse to study the city’s vacant property problem in the fall of 2011.

Prior to his tenure as Planning Director, Maxwell served as Senior Neighborhood Planner for the City of Syracuse’s Department of Community Development under Mayor Matthew J. Driscoll, where he managed the City’s Comprehensive Plan, the City’s Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today (TNT) citizen participation program, Community Development Block Grant programming, and the AIA’s Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) program, as well as other housing, planning, and community development related initiatives.

Maxwell serves on the board of directors of the Downtown Committee of Syracuse, the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA), Leadership Greater Syracuse and serves on the Onondaga Lake Watershed Partnership, Onondaga County Agriculture Council, and the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council.

He received his bachelor’s degree in history and American studies from St. John Fisher College in Rochester and his Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Maxwell was born and raised in Syracuse and is a proud graduate of the Syracuse City School District.

Addison Spears

Addison Spears is a Syracuse native, he is excited to play a role in making the City of Syracuse more resilient. Addison is deeply passionate about innovation and its ability to improve quality of life. Syracuse’s commitment to the innovation process is one of the many reasons that Addison moved back to Syracuse, after pursuing his undergraduate, and graduate degrees at Oral Roberts University. Addison’s background is primarily in the Visual Arts, in addition to Marketing. Addison strongly believes that design thinking, coupled with practical application, can be used to transform Syracuse.

Adria Finch

Adria Finch serves as the Project Manager for the City of Syracuse Department of Innovation (i-team). In this role she identifies challenges that exist within the city and works with the other i-team members to generate new ideas and solutions that address those challenges.

Previously, Adria worked as an Economic Development Specialist for the Downtown Committee of Syracuse where she focused on downtown revitalization, community development and business attraction. She also served as the Director of the New York State Urban Council where she worked with statewide partners to facilitate and encourage the revitalization and development of downtown business districts.

She has a background in science and has conducted hockey equipment research at McGill University in Montreal and aging research for the National Institute of Health. She also worked for the Olympic Regional Development Authority in Lake Placid.

Adria received a BS in Physiology from Ithaca College, an MS in Biomechanics from East Carolina University, and an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Sam Edelstein

Sam Edelstein is the Analytics Coordinator for the Syracuse Innovation Team. His responsibilities include analyzing data from various departments within the city, conducting research about best practices around different issues, and making data-driven recommendations about potential solutions. Prior to the i-team, Sam worked as an Assistant Director in the Office of Alumni Engagement at Syracuse University where he focused on finding new ways to collect and use data to evaluate programs and keep alumni connected. Sam also worked in marketing and communications at Cultural Tourism DC, where he managed all digital communications and established data analysis processes to evaluate the effectiveness of messages. He was also a consultant at ICF international, where he worked with several federal government agencies on projects focused on human capital and training.

Sam received a BA in Policy Studies and Economics from Syracuse University, and is currently pursuing an MS in Information Management with a focus in Data Science, also from SU.

Jonnell Robinson

Jonnell is an Assistant Professor of Geography and has been the Director of the Syracuse Community Geography Program in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University since 2005. Her research and teaching interests include community-based and participatory action research, and specifically Participatory GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Robinson collaborates with community-based organizations to use geospatial technologies to better understand and address community concerns. She is a co-founder and advisory board member of Syracuse Grows, serves on the advisory board of Interfaith Works and has been active with 40 Below. She received a Ph.D. in Geography (2010) and a Master of Public Health (2003) from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her training is in public health surveillance and medical geography.