- Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the "American Cities Initiative," a collection of investments that will "empower cities" and "advance policy" to generate innovation, according to a press release.
- The initiative focuses on three areas: promoting "bold" leadership in city halls, advancing policy and legislation in areas including climate change, education and the opioid epidemic, and empowering citizens.
- The first round of investments comes in the form of the 2017 Mayors Challenge. "Innovation experts" will visit and give one-day trainings to the first 300 cities that register. Up to 35 "Champion Cities" will then receive up to $100,000 to test and refine their ideas; one city will win a $5 million grand prize and four others will get $1 million implementation grants.
Bloomberg is trying to influence policy — and it's not the first time the former mayor has made his ideals and vision for the future clear. It's not even his first foray into thinking about cities: A new book that he co-authored deals with how cities and businesses can tackle climate change. Bloomberg Philanthropies recently unveiled a Smart City Certification, too.
But pledging to invest $200 million into cities is, by far, the most direct action Bloomberg has taken since he left the mayor's office in New York City. With a $5 million prize hanging over mayors' heads, the 2017 Mayors Challenge makes for an enticing possibility.
For the challenge, Bloomberg is looking for solutions to problems that cities face — and the selection criteria include the idea of "transferability," so that the solutions could have practical applications for other urban areas. The FAQ page for applicants says that the ideas might, for example, deal with how a city "delivers services, create efficiencies, or improve citizen engagement." It's a perfect fit for municipalities aiming to earn a reputation as a smart city.