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Mike Bloomberg and Ambassador Susan E. Rice Address 323 City Leaders at Third Virtual Convening to Aid COVID-19 Social and Economy Recovery

Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Continue Virtual Convenings for Local Leaders  

New York, NY: Mike Bloomberg and Susan E. Rice, Former U.S. National Security Advisor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, today addressed more than 320 city leaders, including 128 mayors, from 208 cities around the world at the third session of the Leading Social and Economic Recovery Series, the latest offering for cities as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies COVID-19 Local Response Initiative.

The Leading Social and Economic Recovery Series virtually convenes global city leaders monthly through the end of the year. The sessions focus on equitable recovery, building and maintaining resident trust, crisis budgeting and fiscal recovery, and supporting the city workforce during a period of profound change and uncertainty.

“Though I’ve never been a mayor, I have enormous admiration for what goes into it, and I’m learning a bit more every day as to how vital your contributions are,” said Ambassador Rice. “It was my extraordinary privilege to be asked to co-chair here in Washington Mayor Bowser’s ReOpen DC initiative, which gave me valuable insights into all that you’re wrestling with in the context of COVID-19. So, I do think I know, at least to some extent, how hard your jobs are… and how much the job has changed dramatically from what you might have anticipated when you signed up for it. And despite how chaotic the day-to-day might seem in this moment, I do hope you know that around the country and around the world, the response of local leaders like yourselves has been an inspiration to people like me and to citizens everywhere.”

Commenting on how mayors can handle multiple competing crises, Ambassador Rice noted, “There are going to be some balls that are going to drop, and they’re going to crash to the ground, and you need to acknowledge that and prepare for that. The trick is knowing which balls you absolutely have to catch and continue to juggle and which ones you can afford to let hit the ground… Your time is probably best spent on those critical life and death crises like COVID that you cannot really afford to fully delegate.”

Ambassador Rice concluded with some advice for city leaders about the personal toll these crises can take, “You guys are human beings. Each of you, you need to take care of yourself. This is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. And it may seem trite, but sleeping enough, eating well, exercising, spending the rejuvenative time with your families and friends that you need to have that extra element of resilience is vitally important.”

“When we last met, things were in dire straits,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and three-term mayor of NYC, told city leaders at the top of the session. “The number of new COVID-19 cases was off the charts. Today, we are in a slightly better place – down to 55,000 new cases per day, and it tells you how bad it was before if that’s the good news that we can find. It’s still much too high. The economic costs have only gotten worse – and that’s probably true of your budget projections, as well.”

Bloomberg continued, highlighting that mayors have the opportunity to make a big difference in their cities, “Between managing new projects and managing back-to-school decisions and keeping people safe, this is going to be a very difficult period and you’re going to sit there and wonder, ‘Why did I want this job?’…But you do have a chance to make a big difference, and that’s why you’re lucky to have the job in a time of crisis.”

Bloomberg also discussed a new Bloomberg Philanthropies program that launched this week through its What Works Cities Initiative. The goal of the Fiscal and Health Equity Initiative is to provide critical support to mayors and city financial leaders as they navigate these challenging fiscal times. The Initiative, which will run in duration from October 2020 to December 2021, will bring together municipal finance expertise and data-driven solutions to support cities in implementing new and equity-centered interventions to help them recover financially from COVID-19.

Bloomberg and Rice were joined by Harvard Kennedy School Professor Jorrit de Jong, Faculty Director of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and Faculty Co-Chair of the program; Dr. Monica Schoch-Spana, a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Dutch Leonard, the George F. Baker Jr. Professor of Public Management at the Kennedy School and Eliot I. Snider and Family Professor of Business Administration and Cochair of the Social Enterprise Initiative at Harvard Business School; and Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, MD, Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative.

Professor Leonard explained how the complex nature of COVID-19 has changed the way city leaders must respond to the crisis.

“Unlike other significant emergencies mayors have had to confront, for the COVID-19 crisis there are no pre-existing, off the shelf answers – instead, there is a myriad of problems never before seen,” said Leonard. “This means that the answer to every COVID-19 question has to be a process of real-time problem-solving.  City leaders need to establish an inclusive team, communicate honestly about the situation while offering a basis for hope, and assemble the best public health, economic, and public policy minds in their communities to tackle the evolving problems as they arise.”

Since launching, hundreds of city leaders have joined the virtual convenings While the aim of the first series was to provide cities with the tools to understand, respond and manage a dynamic public health crisis, the second series addresses social and economic recovery.

The program has featured President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Chef José Andrés, Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, General Colin Powell, and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker.

Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the COVID-19 Local Response Initiative in March to help cities combat the devastating impact of coronavirus on the wellbeing of residents and local economies. Working with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the network provides mayors with the most up-to-date information on the virus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and leadership guidance from experts across Harvard.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in more than 570 cities and over 160 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3.3 billion. For more information, please visit or follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTubeTwitter, and TikTok.

About the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative
The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is a collaboration between Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School, and Bloomberg Philanthropies to equip mayors and senior city officials to tackle complex challenges in their cities and improve the quality of life of their citizens. Launched in 2017, the Initiative has worked with over 1000 mayors and senior city officials in 350 cities worldwide. The Initiative has also advanced research and developed new curriculum and teaching tools to help city leaders solve real-world problems. For more information, please visit the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative or visit us on LinkedIn and Twitter.