Democratic Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is not just a Michael Bloomberg supporters. Fischer is also a national co-chair on Bloomberg’s presidential campaign. And how did Bloomberg snag the support of Fischer? You will never guess how. Yeah, you will. Seems that Bloomberg Philanthopies provided a grant to the city of Louisville as part of a $42 million dollar program for “innovations” in city government.
During a recent visit to Louisville, Ky., I talked with Greg Fischer, the Democratic mayor of that city, about his role as a national co-chair of Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign. Now in his third term, Fischer was a successful entrepreneur and businessman before first running for office in 2010. After he won that race, Fischer “knew how to plan and execute strategies, but I was figuring out how to be a good mayor.” At about the same time, Bloomberg and his philanthropic arm, Bloomberg Philanthropies, were starting to focus on innovation in cities, particularly the ways in which use cities use data to solve problems. “That’s how I got to know Bloomberg,” Fischer says.
LouieStat, a program OPI runs to measure how well the city government executes its service. In 2015, Bloomberg Philanthropies chose Louisville as one of eight cities to participate in a $42 million plan that would pay for technical assistance to use data more effectively. (The number of participating cities would increase to 55 in 2016.) The partnership, Fischer says, has been a boon to Louisville that’s also helped him develop as a mayor. “I’ve never been around an organization that has such a breadth and depth of quality in everything they do,” Fischer says.”
And in case you think that is it just the largest most liberal part of a very red state that gained from Bloomberg’s largesse, you would be oh so wrong.
In the wake of the Democrats’ Iowa incompetence and the party’s increasing concerns about the strength of its candidates, Michael Bloomberg is gaining new media attention and voter interest. What hasn’t gotten much attention is his deep philanthropic and political connections with cities and their leaders nationwide. Some of this street cred is, of course, the result of Bloomberg’s three terms as mayor of New York. But much of Bloomberg’s urban network is the result of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ work with cities, and particularly its American Cities Initiative, which funds 21 programs in over 100 cities. Launched in June 2017 with a $200 million grant, the American Cities Initiative covers an enormous range of issues, from climate change to opioids to guns, health, college access, arts innovation and management and, of course, urban innovation. By all accounts, the work of Bloomberg Philanthropies has done a great deal of good in American cities. But it has also helped build a political network for Bloomberg; a 2018 American Mayors Survey, for example, connected Bloomberg Philanthropies with 156 mayors, in cities as small as 30,000 people, across the country. That same year, as part of its American Mayors Challenge, the American Cities Initiative donated $1 million to Pete Buttigieg’s South Bend, which now looks like the philanthropic equivalent of a grandfatherly pat on the head.
Emboldened is my doing.
It’s all about the money.
Now, there are going to be Bloomberg apologists who will say that Bloomberg is doing a lot of good with his money. Yes. He has also supported a lot of Republican assholes with his money. In other words, he has hedged his bets. And he has benefitted mightily from a system that made it possible for billionaires like Bloomberg to dominate our political system.
Ask yourself this. Wouldn’t it be nice if say the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT funded those programs to cities instead? In theory, the government works for all people. I know. Call me crazy. But know we are dependent upon the whims of a few wealthy men.