LA’s ‘10 Across’ Summit Promises Civic Collaboration Among Cities Across the I-10 Corridor

Wellington Reiter

The I-10 freeway, which stretches from California to Florida, passes through the U.S. Sun Belt and, along its way, many of the United State’s largest and most impactful urban cities, among them Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, and New Orleans -- cities which are simultaneously facing record homelessness, unprecedented weather, and housing crises. VX News recently interviewed Wellington Reiter, founder of 10 Across, a thought network committed to fostering sun belt city collaborations along the Interstate-10. Reiter elaborates on: an upcoming Los Angeles 10 Across Summit (Dec 5-7th); as well as ASU in DTLA; and of the obvious need for civic minded people addressing the nation’s challenges: water, climate mitigation, energy transition, resilience, affordable housing and governance.

VX News: Wellington, it's a true pleasure to reconnect and to afford you an opportunity to invite our readers to the upcoming 10 Across Summit in LA Dec. 5-7th.  Share the Summit’s goals and aspirations.

Wellington Reiter: 10 Across is built on the geography roughly following the I-10 from California to Florida. We believe that if you follow that 2400 mile interstate, you will be able to see all the major issues of our time. 

The energy transition has to happen here, given that we've got, along the Interstate, the energy capital of the world, Permian Basin, you name it; water, we’ve got too little in the West and too much in the Gulf area; global trade in LA; migration and immigration in El Paso; governance in some of the largest states in the U.S… Our short story is, if you want to see the future of the United States, you couldn't do better than this cross section which covers these issues and these territories.

Share the objective of the LA 10 Across Summit and the like summits in cities along the I-10 interstate corridor?

We have our conversations and summits in some of the major cities along that path. We've been to Houston, Baton Rouge, Phoenix, and we're going to be in LA next. We were closed down a little bit during COVID times, but what we like to do is build networks. So, we bring all of the Chief Resilience Officers of these cities together, we bring the CEOs of community foundations together, we bring universities and other corporations together, and then we find the common denominator issues in each of those separate groups. We then hold meetings where they can exchange ideas and the number of partnerships, collaborations and projects that have resulted is a function of how we continue to pick the right people.

Given your affiliation with ASU, how have you engaged students and faculty in the Summits?

On our website,,  you can see the courses we’ve built, including access to a course where we take students on a virtual road trip into each of the 12 cities within our geography where they learn about different critical issues and something about each place. For example, if you're in Houston, you've got to be talking about energy. If you're in a place like Tucson, which requires water to be transported 100 miles across the desert to have the water it needs, what a great place to learn about hydrology and water policy. We have a curriculum that is real world based. Students can see themselves in it. They're starting to talk to each other all across the I-10. Maybe this is what inspires a high school student to go to college, or maybe it’s what a college student finds their major in. We are definitely all about education.

Given your position as a senior advisor to Arizona State University; share that University’s mission.

The hallmark of ASU, which is the largest university in the United States with about 85,000 students on the premises and almost that same number taking courses from us and/or majoring in the same issues with the same faculty online, is that we measure people by who we accept and how they succeed, not who we exclude. We believe that anybody who has the capacity to do the work should have a seat at their university, regardless of their income. Come to ASU and we'll figure out how to work it out. You'll be a different person when you leave.

ASU formally planted a flag some years ago in Los Angeles knowing that UCLA, USC, Caltech and the other colleges and universities had home court advantage. Why Los Angeles? Why a site in DTLA?

If you're Arizona State University, you know that the greater future is attached to Southern California. It's just the reality. A lot of our students come from there, as well as a lot of our corporate and research partners, so we wanted to be in Southern California. Frankly, that meant we wanted to be in downtown Los Angeles. 

I am an architect by training and I run something called the University City Exchange, which addresses common issues between cities and the university, whether it's Phoenix or whether it's LA or Washington DC. So, we wanted to have a building and I found the old Herald Examiner Building, which some have said is one of the most interesting and important buildings in Los Angeles. Arizona State University came into the city, worked with a developer to renovate that building and then opened the doors to the public.  I think it was the right way for us to introduce ourselves and now we hold public programs there all the time.

Pivoting back to ‘10 Across’- for all the cities along Interstate 10, the need for infrastructure investment is obviously a priority challenge. How have your Summits to date addressed their city’s infrastructure challenges?

Infrastructure, time and again, has made places that were almost uninhabitable livable cities. New Orleans is below sea level. Phoenix is out in the desert and needs infrastructure to capture water, the Hoover Dam, the Central Arizona Project, etc. Infrastructure has made building in these parts of the country possible. 

We all saw the fire that recently happened underneath the I-10. It's when your infrastructure suddenly isn't there that it’s fully appreciated, maybe for the first time. The investments we're going to have to make into infrastructure, especially in the face of climate change, need to be perfected and they're going to have to be done.

The need for bottom’s up Sun Belt civic collaboration is not new; decades ago California’s Irvine Foundation flagged the need. However, there’s little evidence that civic and political institutions based in Florida, Texas and California have aligned much on advocating and advancing public policy. What gives 10 Across hope?

Certainly California is different from Texas and Florida is different from Texas. When you ask: have we pulled them together? The people that are helping us do that are the Chief Resilience Officers. They don't care about state boundaries, they are interested in what they're witnessing and what they can do together to address what's clearly going to be confronting us in the future. We're looking for those people who can put politics aside and address the big issues.

10 Across is hosting a Summit in Los Angeles, December 5th to 7th. Who do you anticipate participating in this summit?

We’ve held several of these 10 Across summits and it's an unusual audience. It's not all people from one discipline, say water or power, nor is it a membership organization. It's divided up with civic leaders who are decision makers being influenced by thought leaders around particular disciplines, or private sector partners who are involved in these issues. There are some academics there who are helping to build an audience and, as I mentioned, Chief Resilience Officers, heads of community foundations… just overall civic minded people who are willing to take a hard look at the future and what we're going to have to do.

Have the city summit conversations to date resulted in the sharing of best practice and furthered collaborations?

An interesting example would be Houston, which has had better luck because of the way they've assembled their organizations to handle homelessness. When we were in Houston in January, we had a special series of panels on homelessness. We had all kinds of people telling us exactly how they were able to do it so well in that city.

So, we are bringing those people to LA. They're already in touch with Mayor Bass and we're going to have an additional conversation around the same topic. I think major cities at this scale can learn from each other and it's our job to find the best examples of problem solving and share that around. 

Finding and sharing cutting-edge examples of problem solving practices are not new for you. Indeed, you have presented in the past at VerdeXchange conferences. Share with our readers your background and professional experience.

I am an architect by training and that led me to work at a larger scale. I've worked a lot with cities on the issues confronting them. When I was in New Orleans, I worked on the last World’s Fair ever held in the United States, in 1984. I worked in disaster housing because I could see what was coming. I did my graduate work at Harvard on what will happen in New Orleans when the hurricane really comes, which it did in 2005. 

I'm really interested in, with regard to cities and places, the crises we can see out ahead of us, which are not just predicted, but inevitable. Do we have the capacity to prepare for that? I'm a real student of cities and the things that make them possible.

For those who read this interview and wish to participate in LA’s 10 Across Summit, what should they do to register? 

Anyone can participate. You can register for the event on our website. It's a relatively inexpensive conference and VerdeXchange readers can get 100$ off by using code: verdex100. It starts on the 5th of December and we will kick it off with Ron Brownstein of CNN and the Atlantic talking about democracy in the United States, particularly in this region, and why we've got to agree on some pretty fundamental principles if we're going to successfully address things like climate change. The next morning we’ll talk about the National Climate Assessment and then move through a series of panels on water, energy, down to what climate change based migration is all about. On the 7th we will really get into the topic of city building and housing. Then, we will end as we always do, with our panel with journalists from around the country talking about what they're writing about,  what's gaining traction and what's not.

We look forward to sharing information on the upcoming Summit as well as benefiting again from your participation in VX2024 in May.  

Thank you for all your support and helping us share this event.

“10 Across is built on the geography roughly following the I-10 from California to Florida … [The people involved with 10 Across] are interested in what they're witnessing and what they can do together to address what's clearly going to be confronting us in the future.” - Wellington Reiter