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Michael Bloomberg’s $200M project to jump-start urban innovation

The American Cities Initiative will focus on climate change, gun violence, public health, and immigration

Climate change will be one one main policy focuses of the newly announced American Cities Initiative.
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New York’s former mayor Michael Bloomberg is set to announce a $200 million program to fund innovation and development in U.S. cities, according to the New York Times. His forthcoming American Cities Initiative, funded via his personal fortune, will support “innovative policies” at the municipal level, focusing on big issues—climate change, gun violence, public health and immigration—that have already been central to his existing philanthropic endeavors. He plans to outline the initiative today in Miami Beach at the meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors.

Bloomberg has increasingly been a thorn in President Trump’s side ever since deciding not to pursue a third-party bid for the presidency in 2016. Since the November election, for which he backed Hillary Clinton, Bloomberg has taken aggressive stands in favor of fighting climate change and promoting (and funding) urban innovation, positions that have put him at odds with the Trump administration’s positions and budget priorities.

After Trump announced the federal government was leaving the Paris Accords, Bloomberg showed his support for the state and local leaders pledging to battle climate change. He helped gather leaders around the #AmericasPledge plan to meet the country’s Paris Accord climate commitments despite the actions of the Trump administration, and even offered to pay the United States’ $15 million share of the operating budget of the United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN agency that coordinates the Paris pact.

The centerpiece of the new American Cities Initiative will be a competition for funding, the “Mayors Challenge,” which asks city leaders to devise bold and innovative solutions and policy ideas. According to ABC News, 35 cities will win $100,000, four will receive $1 million and one grand prize winner be awarded $5 million. Every city with more than 30,000 residents is eligible to compete, and applications will be due in October. Bloomberg Philanthropies has previously held similar competitions for innovative ideas in cities in Europe and Latin America.

Bloomberg told the Times that he believes it’s time for cities to collaborate on policy solutions, and to that effect, will launch the initiative with a “six-figure grant” to the Mayors’ Conference to help them coordinate mayoral advocacy in the national news media.

Bloomberg, as well as New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, current president of the mayors’ group, said that finding new means to support urban innovation and bring together local leaders comes out of a growing political divide: mostly liberal-leaning cities are facing “an absence of support, or outright meddling” from mostly Republican state and federal authorities.