Ideas team aims to win grant, change the game for Gary
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent August 19, 2012 11:20PM
Updated: September 21, 2012 6:22AM
GARY — A group of young minds in City Hall are the only team in Northwest Indiana competing for a multimillion-dollar prize to improve city government and living.
Made up of young lawyers and department heads, Team Gary is competing against teams from 394 cities in 47 states in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayoral Challenge, named after founder and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
According to the philanthropy’s website, the challenge is “a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life.”
For Gary Public Works Director Cloteal LaBroi, it’s “an opportunity to work with a team of great minds to come up with ideas to push Gary and city government forward.”
LaBroi and assistant city attorney Richard Leverett came up with the idea to enter the competition and began building a team with Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s blessing. The team members are LaBroi; Leverett; corporation counsel Niquelle Allen; building commissioner Steven Marcus; zoning director Joe Van Dyk, Lori Peterson-Latham, head of the parks department; Green Urbanism Director Lauren Riga; assistant city attorney Schenelle McClendon and City Hall intern Chayra Eddie.
Leverett and LaBroi declined to share the idea the team will submit to the challenge, because of the competitive nature of the effort.
“We’re looking to redefine how our outside partners, like businesses and community groups, view Gary,” Leverett said.
The top prize in the competition is $5 million, with another $4 million spread among second, third and fourth places, which is expected by the philanthropy to be used to promote the winning idea, “but we can implement our idea for a million dollars,” Leverett said.
The first step is to win the first round and join 19 other finalists for a two-day “Idea Camp” sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The big winners will be named this spring.
Whatever the outcome for Team Gary, the journey is a benefit in itself, LaBroi said.
“We want to engage the community and show we’re working for them” she said.
“It’s not just about fixing a problem,” Leverett added. “It’s about transforming the whole paradigm about completely changing the game for Gary.”
According to the philanthropy, the winning ideas must meet four criteria: enhance accountability to or engagement with the public, address serious social or economic problems, improve customer service for residents or businesses, and create efficiencies that make government work better, faster and cheaper.