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'Smart cities' tech is topic of first regional Impact Ohio conference

Participants in a policy and politics conference held at the Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel on Friday touched on the wave of technology turning regular cities into “smart cities.”

About 215 business and local government leaders registered for the sold-out half-day conference, the first of a series of regional Impact Ohio conferences on the model of an event that has been annually held in Columbus. Partners included The Success Group, the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, and The Blade.

In the panel "Emerging Smart Cities & Opportunities for the Region," four participants discussed how some cities, including Columbus, have become early participants in forms of technology that can speed up traffic, increase security with cameras, make it easier to detect flaws in water lines, and enable people to find parking places faster.

A big part of smart cities will be self-driving cars, which also presents an economic opportunity to communities that already have an existing auto industry, said U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green). The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a bill regulating autonomous cars, which Mr. Latta portrayed as a benefit to reduce car accident injuries and fatalities and to give new freedom to the home-bound. Mr. Latta chairs the subcommittee that produced the legislation.

“It’s really going to change the dynamics of this country,” Mr. Latta said. He said he’s ridden in autonomous cars twice.

Jamie Sullivan, digital infrastructure specialist for AT&T, said “smart cities” starts in the mayor’s office - and with whoever owns the utility polls that carry electricity around town. And he said there’s no one model for how cities will adapt.

“Some smart cities will have driverless cars, some will have none,” Mr. Sullivan said.

State Rep. Ryan Smith, (R., Bidwell) who chairs the Ohio House Finance Committee, discussed a fiber-optics corridor being installed on U.S. Rt. 33 between Columbus and Marysville, where a Honda plant is located, for the testing of autonomous cars.

Also on the panel was Zack Huhn, president of Venture Smarter and director of Regional Smart Cities Initiative.

In a second panel, Toledo mayoral candidates Paula Hicks-Hudson and Wade Kapszukiewicz had their first face-to-face public debate of the 2017 general election.

With Jerry Anderson, anchor of WTOL-TV, Channel 11, moderating, Mr. Kapszukiewicz, the Lucas County treasurer, and Mayor Hicks-Hudson tangled over how effective the city’s inspection process is.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz claimed businesses are delayed by the city’s building inspection department and that most inspectors are not cross-trained in all skills, such as plumbing and electricity.

“We are the only city in the market that prevents our inspectors from being cross-certified,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.

“Not true,” interjected Ms. Hicks-Hudson. “We are hiring inspectors and looking for those inspectors that are cross trained.”

The two were the top vote-getters in the Tuesday mayoral primary and will face each other in the Nov. 7 general election. Ms. Hicks-Hudson is endorsed by the Democratic Party. Mr. Kapszukiewicz is an unendorsed Democrat.

Local journalists participated in a forum entitled “Observations from the Fourth Estate in the Age of ‘Fake News’.” During a lunch program, Joshua Hughes, chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, and Mark Wagoner, Republican state central committeeman for the 2nd District, debated “The State of the Parties in Lucas County.”

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com419-724-6058, or on Twitter @TomFTroy.

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