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Incubating Innovation: Bloomberg Mayors Challenge Profiles, Part 7

This is part seven of a series about the 34 cities that have advanced in the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge. This week we look at Ithaca, N.Y.; Los Angeles; Miami and Miami Beach, Fla.; and Phoenix.

by / April 20, 2018
Miami-Dade County, Fla., is experiencing a particularly large uptick in outward migration. (Shutterstock)

Miami Beach, Fla., has a somewhat unique project for the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge, in that they’re teaming with Miami, their neighbor across Biscayne Bay.

The two cities are working together on an integrated, user-friendly tool that would let them quickly and efficiently notify residents about flooding and other severe weather occurrences. This project was one of 320 applicants to the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge, and, along with 33 others, it has been selected as a Champion City, which means it now gets grant funding of $100,000 in the service of conducting public prototypes and a six-month testing phase, during which the cities will get individualized coaching from experts.

The project aims to create a shared data platform to be used by the cities, said Amy Knowles, the deputy resiliency officer for Miami Beach. Given its location in South Florida, the Miami area is often subject to potentially dire rainstorms and hurricanes. When rain comes to the area, it is not uncommon for its residents to drive out into it, go for walks, or even to evacuate, depending on the information that’s going around.

What the Miami area project essentially seeks to do, Knowles said, is to get out “any information we can give people to feel safe and to be safe.”

Miami-Dade County has many areas that experience flooding, from minor to more significant incidents, and this project aims to clear up any uncertainties that may negatively influence citizen behavior during those floods. As with all of the Mayors Challenge projects, officials are hopeful that this one can be scaled to other cities, potentially in the service of spreading information during other weather events outside of rain and flooding.

This article is the seventh and final in a series looking at the innovative ideas of 34 cities that are currently conducting testing with support from Bloomberg. In October, four of these cities will receive an additional $1 million in support, while one grand prize winner will get $5 million to support its idea.

Ithaca, N.Y.

Ithaca, N.Y., has a project aimed at determining whether a health services hub can help drug addicts.

As in much of the country, Ithaca has seen a massive increase of drug overdoses in the past decade related to the opioid epidemic. To combat this, Ithaca’s project aims to prototype and potentially develop a one-stop-shop sort of facility where drug addicts can have access to an array of services, ranging from supervised injections to job training to harm reduction treatments.

The idea behind the project is to help those most at-risk for opioid addiction find help with other services that can improve their lives as a whole, thereby making it easier for them to deal with their drug issues, too. During the next few months, developers with the project will study and implement prototype resources.

Should Ithaca advance in the competition, the money will go toward making this health services hub a reality.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles' project aims to help the roughly 28,000 — or more — residents of the city that experience homelessness on any given night.

To do this, the city is working to offer incentives that would make it easier for single-family homeowners to build accessory dwelling units that could be used to give homeless residents a place to stay. This project builds on work that Los Angeles has already done, dating back to 2015. The tech component is that the city is contemplating use of an online matching tool that would allow future tenants and landlords to identify whether they are a good fit with each other.

If Los Angeles advances to the next round and receives one of the $1 million grants, the project would then potentially develop a one-stop-shop portal where property owners can access plans, select vendors, place orders and track the progress of work being done.


Phoenix, as one of the hottest cities in the country, has a project concerned with addressing the increasing threat of urban heat, specifically as it applies to vulnerable residents.

Dubbed HeatReady, the program that Phoenix is developing as part of its participation in the Mayors Challenge is aimed at enabling local governments to holistically manage how they identify, prepare for, mitigate, track and respond to dangers posed by urban heat.

In discussing the project, city officials said that depending where one is in Phoenix on a given day, the temperature can differ by as much as 13 degrees, due to things like vegetation and shade cover. This can pose a danger to people in the city who need to be outdoors for work or to access public transit. The idea is to mitigate the risk of some areas being unexpectedly more dangerous than others, thereby improving quality of life for everyone who lives there.

On this work, the city has worked with experts at Arizona State University in an effort to set up weather stations and try to figure out the most relevant surface temperature and ambient air measurements that should be taken. The point is to find where the most pressing issues are and design subsequent interventions to measure how effective solutions can be.

This project can be scaled to other cities — such as Seattle or Chicago — that face extreme weather in other ways such as rain, snow or cold.

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Zack Quaintance Assistant News Editor

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news editor for Government Technology. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas. He is now based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached via email.

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