Winter 2024 Meeting Recap: Innovation Showcase

By: Katya Spear, Managing Director • Mayors Innovation Project

Our signature Innovation Showcase is an opportunity for attending mayors to showcase a project, initiative, or program they’ve successfully implemented in a quick 3-minute format designed to send attendees home with new ideas they can consider implementing in their communities. As always, this meeting’s session did not disappoint: mayors shared innovative strategies for reducing blight, supporting equitable development, creating community, saving energy, and more. Read on for a snapshot of each mayor’s presentation: 

  1. Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway (Madison, WI) highlighted the City’s efforts to increase community understanding and uptake of clean energy tax incentives. In partnership with local groups, the City deployed canvassers to share information door to door, producing more than 75,000 door knocks and nearly 10,000 conversations with city residents. 
  2. Mayor Timothy Keller (Albuquerque, NM) showcased the B.R.A.I.N (Balanced Resource Acquisition and Information Network), a platform that consolidates municipal building data in a centralized location. The B.R.A.I.N allows the city to track, analyze, and adjust building energy use in municipal buildings, and has resulted in more than $6 Million in energy savings since 2017. 
  3. Mayor Kim Norton (Rochester, MN) shared a success story at the intersection of community engagement and economic development. In 2013, the City requested and received $585M in funding from the state legislature to build and modernize downtown infrastructure. In Nov. 2023, that work was rewarded when business anchor Mayo Clinic announced that it was investing $5B in downtown Rochester. In response, the city is launching an 18-month “co-design” public engagement process (a robust engagement process the city has piloted in other ways – and which we’ve featured here) to center community priorities. 
  4. Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati (Moline, IL) showcased Moline’s new Level Up Economic Mobility Program, which directs cannabis tax revenue to fund a guaranteed income pilot that provides either monthly or one-time funding to individuals in need. We hope to share more information soon on this emerging program. 
  5. Mayor Cassie Franklin (Everett, WA) spoke about the City’s work to combat the fentanyl and methamphetamine crisis. The program embeds social workers in the police, library, and fire departments through an emergency mobile opioid team, offering medically assisted treatment in the field, and pairs this with referrals/access to services like substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and additional medical care. 
  6. Mayor Heidi Lueb (Tigard, OR) showcased two programs aimed at jumpstarting entrepreneurial activity with minimal city investment. The City’s Opportunity Cafe is a business incubator created by leasing a physical space in the public library to local small businesses. The program is intended to serve primarily minority owned businesses and is accompanied by a savings account program that gets matched by the City. Launch Pods are food trucks purchased by the City that are leased to local food entrepreneurs; the Pods are located in a public plaza in the City’s downtown, creating a fun and vibrant downtown experience for the community while helping to launch and grow new businesses. 
  7. Mayor Reed Gusiora (Trenton, NJ) shared updates on Fight the Blight, a City program that aims to holistically tackle urban blight while creating neighborhood cohesion and engagement opportunities and promoting city sustainability goals. The program targets city-owned properties and works to restore them back to minimum standards for auction, rehabilitation, redevelopment, or eventual demolition. 
  8. Mayor Martha Guerrero (West Sacramento, CA) spoke about four overarching themes that have helped drive transformation of the city’s formerly industrial riverfront in West Sacramento: 1 – doubling down on proven revitalization strategies; 2 – securing creative financing for housing that creates co-benefits for their climate and transportation goals; 3 – incentivizing public-private partnerships to drive a “robust and rapid deployment of housing” and; 4 – removing regulatory barriers for infill development. 
  9. Councilmember David Post (Salisbury, NC) shared the City’s Bell Tower Green project, a $13M project that created a beautiful community asset – and green community space – from the ashes of a former parking lot. The City maintains the publicly funded project that now hosts more than 30 public events per year, bringing economic and social cohesion benefits to the community and surrounding businesses. 

You can see more detail on many of these projects in the presentation slides used by these speakers (if used) here on our Winter Meeting Resources Page!