Pekin, Peoria among Illinois cities chosen for Bloomberg project

Chronicle Media

Pekin is among nine central Illinois cities to participate in the 2017 Mayor’s Challenge.

Nine Central Illinois cities are among the among 23 in Illinois competing in the 2017 Mayor’s Challenge, a nationwide ideas competition sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The initiative is designed to help city leaders think big, be bold, and uncover inventive — and, ultimately, shareable — ideas that tackle today’s toughest problems.

Peoria, Pekin, Bloomington, Normal, Decatur, Quincy, Champaign, Urbana and Springfield are among other Central Illinois cities to sign on. Rockford, DeKalb and several suburban Chicago suburbs are also participating

The challenge is the first investment in the $200 million American Cities Initiative, a recently announced suite of new and expanded offerings from Bloomberg Philanthropies that will strengthen U.S. cities through bold leadership.

An estimated 555 cities from around the country have express interest in participating in the competition sponsored by the philanthropic organization, founded by Michael R. Bloomberg, the three-term mayor of New York City.

U.S. cities with populations of 30,000 or more were invited to participate.

This month, cities complete the initial application describing an urgent challenge and how they will tackle that challenge in an innovative way. In January 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies will award 35 “Champion Cities” $100,000 each to prioritize issues facing their cities, develop homegrown solutions, and bring these ideas to life. This funding will give each city the chance to test and refine its idea, creating a coast-to-coast laboratory for civic innovation.

In October 2018, five Mayors Challenge winners will be selected based on each idea’s vision for tackling an urgent challenge, promise for impact and successful implementation, and potential to spread to other cities. One city will win the $5 million grand prize; four others will receive $1 million implementation awards

The Tazewell County Historical Museum in Pekin. The city is among more than 550 cities across the country who will be participating in a Bloomberg Philanthropies. (Photo courtesy of city of Pekin)

As part of the application process, Bloomberg Philanthropies hosted an “Idea Accelerator” workshop in Aurora recently — one of 300 such workshops held throughout the country. To help spur actionable ideas, the full-day session provided participants with cutting-edge strategies and tools to identify and address the most pressing concerns in Aurora.

Trends emerging in the 2017 applications include:

  • Participating cities are split nearly evenly between Red and Blue states, based on the 2016 national elections, with 49.4 percent in states that voted Democratic in the presidential election and 48.8 percent in states that voted Republican.
  • More than 4 in 10 of eligible cities in the South chose to RSVP. While participating mayors represent cities from across all regions of the U.S., the South is the most robustly represented.
  • There was a 50 percent increase in RSVPs from smaller cities (defined as cities with between 30,000 and 100,000 residents) as compared to the number of small cities that applied in the 2013 U.S. Mayors Challenge.
  • Ninety of the 100 largest U.S. cities have entered the competition.
  • States with the highest rate of participation from eligible cities are: Vermont with 100 percent; Nevada with 83 percent; Maryland with 78 percent; West Virginia with 75 percent; and Mississippi and Maine, each with 67 percent.

“The incredible response to this year’s challenge really shows how cities are taking the reins to drive our nation forward — and how eager mayors from both parties are to collaborate and try new things,” said Bloomberg said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to seeing the great ideas that cities propose and develop through the challenge.”