The mayor of New York is offering big cash prizes to his colleagues in smaller cities. A nonprofit backed by Michael Bloomberg is holding a competition to find some of the most innovative ideas to improve the quality of life in cities.
Mayors from nearly 400 cities-including seven in Wisconsin-submitted their ideas last week. The Mayor's Challenge solicited proposals for ideas that can be easily replicated in cities. The challenge was limited to cities with populations of at least 30,000.
Green Bay mayor Jim Schmitt came up with a program called "Read to Feed." Schmitt says students in Kindergarten through eighth grade will work with adult mentors on reading. The students will get free books. In turn, they will donate canned goods to food pantries. "Our reading scores are not where they should be. We have a state average of proficient reading in the 80 percent range we lag behind that. It's always been a goal of mine to get our test scores up, and I think the best way to do that is have kids read more often."
Madison and Milwaukee also submitted ideas along with Racine whose mayor is John Dickert. Speaking on a Wisconsin Public Radio talk show, Dickert explained his proposal, which would improve access to the city's beachfront for people with disabilities. Dickert praised the idea of going directly to mayors for ideas, saying they have the best grasp on local needs. "The stimulus package went to the Governors and the Governors for the most part used it to balance their budgets. They should've had a mayor in charge of that. You would have seen a much greater turnaround in the economy because money would have come right to the local level."
The top prize in the national contest is $5 million. Four $1 million prizes will also be awarded. Both mayors say they will pursue their ideas even if their cities do not win.