Five U.S. cities received great news this week from the Citi Foundation and Living Cities. Albuquerque, Atlanta, Baltimore, New Orleans and Seattle have been chosen to join City Accelerator, a $3 million initiative to promote municipal innovation. Each city will receive up to $170,000 in funds and/or support services to improve citizen engagement in local issues like health care, urban planning and entrepreneurship.
According to a press release, here’s what the mayors had to say about the designation.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake: “In order to make our communities safer and effectively reduce recidivism, we need to be able to partner with people who are rejoining society and support them on their path to success.
The recent death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Baltimore exposed more than problems in the city’s police department. Those gathered for protests also talked about high unemployment, neighborhood investment and widespread inequality.
Rawlings-Blake intends to use the Accelerator opportunity to help people coming out of prison gain access to services they need to rebuild their lives.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu: “From murder reduction to blight, we’ve engaged residents to improve service delivery and achieve results. Now, with City Accelerator’s help, we will be able to engage our city’s most vulnerable populations, because every life matters.
Although 50,000 people in New Orleans qualify for free healthcare, many don’t take advantage of the services. Landrieu intends to engage residents to determine what the existing barriers are and increase access.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray: “Seattle is one of the fastest-growing cities in America. People come here every day in search of jobs, opportunity and a better quality-of-life. And as we plan for the next 20 years, we want to be sure Seattle works for everybody — and that’s why it’s important we continue to try new ways to ensure everyone is engaged in the conversation.
Murray is using the Accelerator nod to focus engagement around the city’s long-range Seattle 2035 plan on everything from affordable housing to transportation planning.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry: “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Albuquerque to bring our tremendous local leaders together with significant resources to address challenges and seek solutions right here at home.”
The New Mexico city is aiming to give a boost to immigrant entrepreneurs.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed: “This initiative gives us an incredible opportunity to build upon the philanthropic and corporate partnerships established with the Westside Future Fund, which supports improvements in the health, education and welfare of residents who live in the historic Westside communities.”
The public-private Westside Future Fund targets investment in several historic Atlanta neighborhoods.
This group is the second round for City Accelerator, and Ben Hecht, president and CEO of Living Cities, hopes they’ll learn from each other and the first group (Louisville, Philadelphia and Nashville). Each set gets a different challenge. The first looked to embed a culture and practice of innovation in local government. A third cohort and a new topic will be announced in the fall.
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.