Bloomberg invests $42M in What Works Cities; decries 'alternative facts'
- Bloomberg Philanthropies founder Michael Bloomberg announced an additional $42 million investment in What Works Cities, a program dedicated to enhancing cities' use of data and evidence. The investment is aimed to help the program expand into new cities.
- In the organization's annual report, Bloomberg wrote an open letter on philanthropy, in which he decried "alternative facts," saying, "[T]he increasing disdain for facts is making it harder for America to address major challenges here and around the world, including those that our foundation focuses on."
- The letter praised cities and mayors for becoming more "dynamic" and for "leading where Washington won't." Bloomberg also touted the Bloomberg American Cities Initiative as a way "to advance innovative local policies and legislation on a broad range of issues."
Bloomberg Philanthropies' impact on the smart city landscape, largely influenced by Michael Bloomberg's leadership, has been important in giving mayors and city leaders the resources necessary to increase development and efficiency — especially as federal leadership veers away from the goals of many cities. The organization holds an annual U.S. Mayors Challenge to incentivize creative problem solving, has invested millions in arts programs to enhance diverse communities and has launched a What Works Cities certification to recognize how cities incorporate data into governance.
In his letter, Bloomberg noted that the recent spin on facts in the media and in the political sphere has made it harder for cities to address issues that are directly relevant to Bloomberg Philanthropies' objectives. He recognizes that, while there is not a simple way to stop alternative facts from spreading, the use of data has become a "counter-assault" to influence local change and present factual information and evidence from cities.
Bloomberg himself has extended beyond the reach of Bloomberg Philanthropies to contribute millions to climate action funding and to launch the "Cities of Service" independent nonprofit. Despite his tenure as New York's mayor having ended in 2013, Bloomberg continues to have significant influence among government leaders and uses his organization’s donating power to drive progress at the local level.
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