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Bloomberg continues to reshape cities through philanthropy

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg helps cities such as New Orleans, Atlanta and Chicago tackle their toughest challenges with grants from Bloomberg Philanthropies. (World Bank Photo Collection/flickr/cc)

Michael Bloomberg casts a lengthy shadow over municipal government long after stepping down as mayor of New York in 2013. J. B. Wogan reports for Governing that grants from Bloomberg Philanthropies “are moving urban philanthropy in a new direction.”

New Orleans reflects the funding’s impact. Mayor Mitch Landrieu used the assistance his city received to assemble an “innovation team” focused on lowering the Big Easy’s homicide rate. The team determined that most murders were in a few neighborhoods, and gang-related. Law enforcement redeployed accordingly, and the results were dramatic: 2014 had the fewest murders since 1971.

Bloomberg launched the initiative in 2010 while he was still mayor. The following year, $24 million was awarded to five cities. They used the funds for goals such as reducing homelessness in Atlanta and cutting red tape for restaurant licenses in Chicago. A second round of funding, $45 million for a dozen cities, was announced last year.

Despite the successes, there are critics, such as Albert Ruesga, CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. “Cities have the power to levy taxes,” he tells Governing. Rusega cautions mayors against dependency on private funds and partnerships that might erode their decision-making.


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