I’m a big fan of New York Mayor Bloomberg. Why? Because this is a man who despite being a billionaire who has the means to sail around the world in a yacht, play golf and eat caviar all day, he has chosen to take on one of the toughest jobs in the world – Mayor of the Big Apple. My Entrepreneurship Professor in undergrad, who was from NY and also a self-made millionaire, said being the Mayor of New York City was the 2nd toughest job in the world. For example, in an effort to tackle obesity, Bloomberg proposed a soda tax. Texas State Senator Eddie Lucio was actually the first politician to propose the soda tax idea to Texas legislature, but it did not pass. Not only would this tax in Texas have helped curb obesity, it could have helped raise as much as $2 billion a year or enough money to keep 20,000 Texas teachers on the payroll. But this post is not to talk about just one idea, but about the grand daddy of ideas – recognizing the value of Mayors and Cities working together and the necessity of borrowing ideas from one another.
Bloomberg has launched a competition called the Mayors Challenge which will award $9 million dollars of his own money to five cities that come up with ideas that can help solve major problems and improve city life for residents. Isn’t this awesome! First, there is the competitive aspect. Competition brings out the best in a team, or in this case, a city government. And the fact that only 5 winners will receive prize money (a lot of prize money), this will most likely ensure that cities will bring their A-game to the plate. Second, although not everyone can be a winner, the true winners are us! City residents. IF, and I do mean if, the Mayors who participate recognize the necessity of borrowing ideas from one another and foster a culture where collaboration is common.
Mayors have until July 16th to enter. All of the details can be found at MayorsChallengeBloomberg.org. If you are in City Hall and want to participate, and cannot think of ideas, here are a 7 ideas that you may benefit from:
1. Use humor and funny ads to get more people to take public transportation. The Los Angeles MTA launched humorous ads that helped woo commuters from their cars and increased citywide ridership to 29%, more than twice the national average.
2. Look at what the Orange Country Transportation Authority did to save $350,000 annually and still provide a convenient way to service customers.
3. See how city officials in Madrid made streets more safe for the blind.
4. What if you could report a broken traffic light, graffiti, or pothole by simply taking a photo with your mobile phone and sending it directly to all the city departments that are responsible and afterwards, check the progress of the issue being reported on the internet?
5. Plant global positioning systems on elementary school children in an effort to understand how their environment influences their activity levels. Research in Canada has revealed learnings that show why kids don’t use playgrounds, only walk down certain streets, and more.
6. Take a page from Dustin Haisler’s playbook. Haisler is the chief information officer of Manor Texas which is considered to be the first Web 2.0 City in America.
7. Install “Right to go Left” streets at congested intersections. Such intersection designs could save drivers time and reduce car accidents.
See the video about the Mayors Challenge below.