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Bloomberg CityLab 2023 Continues With More Than 500 Mayors, Urban Innovators and Policymakers Discussing How to Solve Significant Challenges Facing Communities

Featured Speakers Included Mayor Karen Bass, Mayor London Breed, Mayor Aftab Pureval, Vishaan Chakrabarti, and Keisha Lance Bottoms

Bloomberg Philanthropies Announces Eight New U.S. Cities to Receive Public Art Challenge Grants of Up to $1 Million

Photos from Bloomberg CityLab 2023 are available here (photo credit: Courtesy of Bloomberg Philanthropies)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Bloomberg CityLab 2023 continued its event programming, during which more than 500 mayors and leading urban and civic leaders, from policymakers to creatives, shared and explored new ideas and urban interventions that are being pressure-tested in the present and will impact the future of cities – where more than half of the world’s population lives.

Bloomberg Philanthropies CEO Patricia E. Harris announced eight winning cities for the third Public Art Challenge, and highlighted the power of the arts with attendees. In discussing the impact of previous winners’ projects, she said, “Their work has shown that no matter what challenges your cities are facing – from climate change and economic development to healthy food access – public art can play a powerful role in helping to address them.”

Highlights and commentary from featured speakers on Day 2, October 19:

  • Mayors and experts spoke on the urban housing crisis and the need for affordable housing.

    Speaking on the need to address urban housing crises, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said: “We have to be ready the minute someone shows up on the streets, to get them off the street as soon as possible… One of the things I have found the last few months is that service is woefully lacking, and there needs to be a fusion between housing, health care, basic primary care, and other forms of social services.”

    In addressing issues with cities’ ability to build more affordable housing, Emily Hamilton, Director of Urbanity Project at the Mercatus Center, said: that while there’s growing federal interest in housing policy, some of the most creative ideas are coming from the state and local level: “What I love about this topic is it is so nonpartisan. We’re seeing — at the state level — really great policy ideas coming from states that have a very different partisan makeup [than Congress], and so I worry about federal action “partisanizing” this issue.”

    San Francisco Mayor London Breed
     also expressed optimism for the future of housing policy: “What I’m most excited about in California and in San Francisco is this new generation of housing advocates that are YIMBYs (Yes In My Backyard)… They’re not pushing for changes to neighborhood character. They’re pushing for an opportunity for future generations to have access to housing in places they grew up in.”
  • Former mayor of Atlanta and Member of the President’s Export Council at the White House Keisha Lance Bottoms, in response to a question about what advice she would give to the next generation, said:  “We exist because of the sacrifices that have been made, whether it’s from the civil rights movement or the generations before us, everybody did something that made it possible for us to exist and for us to live the lives that we live. And it’s incumbent upon our generation and generations not yet born to do the same. It’s not going to be easy. There are going to be a lot of rough days. But as my grandmother used to say, you know, ‘my good days outweigh my bad days and I won’t complain.’”
  • While discussing how city design has the power to connect and impact residents, Vishaan Chakrabarti, Founder/Creative Director of Practice Architecture and Urbanism, said: “We need to separate the idea of urbanity from the idea of big. A metropolis can be quite segregated or it could be urban, a village can be quite urban and that’s important because if we’re going to talk about cities and communities, we have to be inclusive of our smaller communities.”
  • In speaking to steps the city is taking to improve its robust bus system, which supports 800,000 trips each day, Mayor Carolina Cosse of Montevideo said: “We have a very strong open data policy and, thanks to the Bloomberg Philanthropies City Data Alliance, we’ve consolidated the data on our bus system into one platform, together with the data we have through an arrangement with Waze and the data we have collected from around 400 sensors in the city. We’re also taking measures with AI in the traffic lights, in order to manage congestion.”
  • City Council Leader of Glasgow Susan Aitken discussed the significant role local governments play in addressing extreme climate issues: “It is city leaders who are leading on the understanding of the impact of extreme heat or flooding on their citizens and their places because city leaders are closest to their citizens, their places, their neighborhoods, and their needs and the challenges that they face. The difference and perhaps the gap that we still have to cross is that city leaders don’t necessarily feel empowered or resourced enough to be able to respond to the knowledge, the understanding and the sense of urgency that they feel about what’s happening to their cities.
    Andrei Greenwalt, Head of Global Policy at Via
    , added: “If we want to advance economic mobility in this country, and if we want to reduce the number of unnecessary deaths that happen on our roads, we have to move more trips from the private car to public transit – and that includes the bus. Now, we have more advanced technology and tools to help us do that, not just in big cities like London and New York, but also in medium and smaller cities.”
  • Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama Randall Woodfin, highlighted the importance of collaboration: “It’s extremely important to borrow, steal, loan, go visit, and extract the best ideas,” he said. “I think it’s important for any of us that serve to always be in the business of literally pulling and getting best practices and ideas and solutions. The best way to find them is from other mayors that have been doing the work.” Woodfin continued, “When you can borrow, steal, or loan a best model from somewhere else it accelerates your ability to scale it for your community or your city.”
  • Mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio Aftab Pureval spoke about the importance of using data to combat narratives about public safety: “It’s not just about data defining the truth, obviously there’s violence in all American cities, so you have to demonstrate empathy for what’s going on without letting it turn into a doom loop where the perception becomes a reality and people are too afraid to come downtown. The economy relies on truth and data and gives us the tools to puncture through the misinformation and be the truth tellers of our cities. We are the moral voice of our city trying to take caring positions on tough issues to move forward.”
  • Mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania Paige Cognetti discussed how she overcame many of the obstacles she faced as Mayor: “Every single question that we answer, every data point we give, every time that we tell our residents something, we try to absolutely under-promise and overdeliver, because the folks that used to run the place are just waiting for that moment where we break that trust again.”
  • Eleni Myrivili, Global Chief Heat Officer at UN Habitat and Senior Advisor at Arsht Rockefeller Foundation, discussed the rise of extreme heat: “Last year, the World Health Organization said for the first time that heat is the number one health hazard for people, and in Europe there were 61,000 people whose deaths were linked to extreme heat in the summer of 2022.” She continued, “The kind of numbers a year from flooding, from earthquakes, from any other kind of disasters are minuscule in relation to the deaths that are related to heat.
  • Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi Chokwe Lumumba commented on the support he receives as mayor and the power of problem solving: “Bloomberg [Philanthropies] has been so important to me because of support they provided our city. As mayors, we are inherent problem solvers. I’m constantly thinking about how to solve a problem, seeing people who are in what I refer to as a cycle of humiliation, and how we end that suffering and restore dignity to people. Seeing the moment when that problem gets solved gets you through the difficult times that you experience.”
  • When asked how she works with mayors, Tracy Knuckles, Cultural Assets Management at Bloomberg Associates, replied: “Unless a mayor is able to prioritize just a few things, the administration can’t be successful in taking things forward. So while you may be doing long term plans for your city around sustainability or economic development, that could be four years, eight years, 30 years. Without a few key priorities that are translating to your staff to get things done, nothing gets done.”
  • Mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas Frank Scott Jr. shared his commitment to combating hate and extremism in his community: “We as mayors take an oath to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of our residents. We have to fight against hate. We have to combat it no matter what the race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or culture to ensure that we maintain peace and order, but also, to maintain understanding.”
  • Daniel Webster, Professor of American Health at Johns Hopkins University, discussed the importance of data in creating effective gun violence intervention programs: “What we have less of, is good data… Why, in Baltimore and D.C., is violence for youth going up dramatically and adults going down? You need systems that track that. We need a long term approach to this, to gather data for the individuals that they are engaged with so we understand the work better. You want better data so you can get results.”
  • Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology, UC Berkeley and author of Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life, made the case for looking to our cities for moments of awe: “A minute or two of awe a day makes us more altruistic, makes us feel more strongly connected to our communities and the natural world.”

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Photos: Bloomberg Philanthropies photos are available for download and use here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Bloomberg Philanthropies

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About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 700 cities and 150 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, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2022, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed US$ 1.7 billion. For more information, please visit, sign up for our newsletter,  or follow us on  Facebook, Instagram,  YouTube,  Twitter, and LinkedIn.

About the Aspen Institute:
The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization whose purpose is to ignite human potential to build understanding and create new possibilities for a better world. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve society’s greatest challenges. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, as well as an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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