Two California cities finalists in national contest for ideas on improving city life

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

Photo: Flickr/Galaga Gal

For many local governments, times are tough. Dwindling budgets have caused layoffs, reductions in city services and more. Confidence in government by those it represents has plummeted of late. What can be done to change all of that? That’s the challenge many municipalities face.

So, who’s up for the challenge? It appears 300 cities throughout the nation answered the call to the Mayor’s Challenge, a national competition spearheaded by Bloomberg Philanthropies (yes, that’s right Bloomberg as in Michael Bloomberg, the current mayor of New York).

The goal is to come up with the best idea to solve a major social or economic issue, or even improve customer service. That same idea should be one other cities can replicate. The winner will receive $5 million and $4 million will be dispersed among additional winners.

It’s now down to 20 finalists, with two California cities vying for the top spot: San Francisco and Santa Monica.

“The response to the Mayor’s Challenge was extraordinary: bold and innovative ideas were submitted from every corner of the country,” said James Anderson, director of the Government Innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies. 

San Francisco’s proposal from Mayor Ed Lee is City Jobs Works:

  • To promote workforce development and experience based training through opportunities to volunteer on City projects. The plan will reduce unemployment while increasing government capacity by matching jobs seekers with professional development opportunities through micro-volunteering on City government projects.

“San Francisco is honored to be among the finalists. The Mayors Challenge prize money could help our residents get back to work,” said Mayor Lee. “Across our country, unemployment is still too high, and our City Job Works initiative creates opportunities for unemployed residents by matching them with government projects that might have been left unfilled due to a lack of funding or human capital. It’s a win-win for our City.”

Santa Monica’s proposal from Mayor Richard Bloom is City of Wellbeing: 

  • The idea is to become the first U.S. city to establish a wellbeing index to spur improvements for the community. The “City of Wellbeing” concept was inspired by Santa Monica’s cradle to career initiative, a collaborative effort to create a system where every child thrives. 

“We’re thrilled to have the chance to work with Bloomberg Philanthropies on our wellbeing concept. The Mayors Challenge has been a welcome opportunity to explore big picture ideas that are too often not pursued given the demanding pace of day-to-day business. This award has already pushed us closer toward those goals,” said Mayor Bloom. 

Who has the best idea? That has yet to be determined. Finalists will head to New York to fine tune their proposals for the next round.

This much we know: Californians want a government they can trust, elected leaders who are accountable for results and a prosperous economy. If this competition allows those leaders to work together to come up with ideas to improve results, well then, this is the catalyst for change citizens are looking for.  

Good luck to the finalists.


Cheryl Getuiza

All stories by: Cheryl Getuiza