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City hopes creative thinking can garner $5 million prize

Henderson has a chance to win $5 million as it enters the Mayors Challenge sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

"Mayors and other local leaders have a ground-up understanding of the issues facing Americans today and are actively developing innovative ideas and solutions," said James Anderson, a spokesman for Bloomberg Philanthropies. "We started the Mayors Challenge to help provide cities with a powerful incentive to share their bold ideas and promote the spread of creative solutions from coast to coast."

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that 394 cities in 47 states will participate in the challenge. The invitation was sent to 1,300 cities.

According to Bloomberg, 77 of America's 100 largest cities are participating, with 58 percent of those cities having more than 100,000 residents. All the participating cities have more than 30,000 residents.

Created by philanthropist and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg Philanthropies works to advance the arts, education, the environment, public health and government innovation.

The Mayors Challenge, which falls under government innovation, was created to inspire American cities to generate ideas that solve challenges and improve city life.

Kathleen Richards, a spokeswoman for the city of Henderson, said the city is expected to submit a solution to a problem in the community. The solution should be able to be implemented in other communities.

To compete in the challenge, the idea must solve a major social or economic issue; improve the customer service experience for residents or businesses; enhance accountability, transparency and public engagement; or increase government efficiency.

"We have been brainstorming a bunch of ideas," Richards said. "We haven't narrowed it down."

The mayor can submit only one idea. Participating mayors must submit their ideas by Sept. 14.

"We define a great idea as one that shows bold and innovative thinking, a solid implementation plan, likelihood of creating measurable impact and high feasibility of working in other cities, too," Anderson said. "This is a prize that asks mayors to innovate, to try something new, to take something in a whole new direction. We expect to see a lot of diversity in terms of the ideas and the approaches mayors use to come up with those ideas."

A selection committee will look at each city's vision, the impact of the idea, the ability to implement the idea and whether it can be replicated.

The top 20 finalists are expected to be announced in the fall.

Afterward, teams from the finalist cities are expected to attend a two-day gathering called Bloomberg Ideas Camp where the teams will work collaboratively to improve the ideas. Experts with backgrounds in innovation, programming and implementation are supposed to help the teams .

Anderson said the committee is expected to be co-chaired by Shona Brown, senior vice president of Google Inc. , and Ron Daniel, Bloomberg Philanthropies board member.

Winners are expected to be announced in 2013. The grand prize is slated to be $5 million. Four cities are expected to get $1 million.

Richards said to help with budget shortfalls, the city has shelved ideas.

"With the opportunity to win $5 million, we might be able to pull a few ideas off the shelf," Richards said.

Richards added that if Henderson wins , the money has to go to directly to implementation of the idea, which might allow the city to free up other funds.

"This would truly be felt by our residents," Richards said.

Anderson said it is too early to determine whether the challenge will be repeated in the future.

"For now, we are looking forward to receiving cities' submissions," Anderson said.

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Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at or 387-5201.