Life expectancy has been increasing for decades, and the world’s elderly population is expected to more than double – from 617 million to 1.6 billion – by 2050. Helping seniors thrive well into their golden years is one of the biggest challenges that cities face. That includes ensuring that older residents can remain connected to their communities.
Last February, San José, California, was hit with its worst flood in centuries. After five years of drought, record-breaking rain led the nearby Anderson Dam to overflow, causing severe flooding in areas along Coyote Creek and 14,000 residents to be evacuated from their homes. Mayor Sam Liccardo asked the entire city to come to their neighbors’ aid. “Today, we’re calling on the whole community to help us,” he said at the time. San José’s residents were more than willing to lend a hand. Over the course of two weeks, 4,000 volunteers hauled more than 2,000 tons of debris from flood-ravaged homes. “To paraphrase [basketball coach] John Wooden, crises do not build character, they reveal it,” said Liccardo, whose city partners with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities and Cities of Service programs.
By James Anderson, Bloomberg Philanthropies Government Innovation
Amidst numerous global crises and fractured national politics, many are looking with increased urgency to cities for hope and to drive human progress. That’s why, now more than ever, we need bold creativity from local leaders. Here are nine ideas – some funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, many that aren’t –that show that our cities, and their leaders, are more than up to the task.
To respond to this affordability challenge, Boston’s Innovation Team (i-team) hopes to turn to a trend more common in style magazines than in affordable housing strategies – the tiny house movement. The movement promotes living in spaces about 400 square feet or less for reasons of energy efficiency, cost, and simple living. But before the city undertook the costly process of building smaller units to address their affordable housing crisis, city leaders needed to know: would people like them?
Under the guidance of City Manager Rick Cole, Santa Monica, California has redefined what it means to look out for residents’ health and welfare. Through its Wellbeing Project, a 2013 Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge winner, the city has created a Wellbeing Index that not only provides a baseline understanding of all it takes for people to thrive, it also helps the city measure its residents’ wellbeing and apply that insight to city plans and policies.
Cities will be the main stage where this AV revolution plays out. Inexpensive, efficient, and flexible mobility made possible by AVs could transform urban economies, restructure the shape of neighborhoods and regions, and change the way cities respond to complex challenges, from aging populations to economic disenfranchisement. The impacts could be as far-reaching as those fostered by the automobile a century ago.
Santiago is already tackling this health issue head-on. The city created the Juntos Santiago program as part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge in 2016. As one of the Challenge’s four $1 million prize winners, Santiago Mayor Felipe Alessandri is developing a neighborhood-level competition in which “teams” of 10- to 12-year-olds will be encouraged to choose healthier food options and to exercise more.
Stephanie Miner is serious about finding inventive ways to tackle the challenges her city faces. In her two terms as mayor of Syracuse, New York, her bold leadership has helped the city gain the upper hand on its 500 miles of centuries-old water infrastructure. Through a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Innovation Teams (i-teams) program, Syracuse has analyzed data from as far back as the 1800s to predict water-main failures and, with that insight, preemptively – and more efficiently – fix rapidly failing pipes. By using a new approach, Syracuse has experienced an 18 percent decline in water-main breaks and is saving more than $430,000 in annual repairs.
In the seven years since he took office, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has proven the power of bold leadership, including an 18 percent drop in the murder rate, 16 percent decrease in unemployment among working-age African-American men, and numerous public-private partnerships that extended prosperity to new corners of the city. His city was also selected as one of five in the first cohort of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Innovation Teams program and is currently participating in What Works Cities.
Rolled out last November, “CapeConnect” allows residents to identify a specific piece of road – either by parcel, street or cross streets – that need immediate attention from city crews. Cape Coral officials outlined their initial success with the app at the second annual What Works Cities Summit in New York City on March 27-28. Residents can also call an information hotline in addition to using the app.