West Allis - The West Allis entry in the nationwide Mayors Challenge to find inspiring ideas and solutions to community problems has ended out of the money.
Only 20 out of more than 300 cities' entries moved on toward the grand prize of $5 million from the Bloomberg Philanthropies. The challenge was organized by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City. Milwaukee was one of those 20.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't get to the next round," said Dan Devine, West Allis' mayor. "(The local idea) is a concept the community has talked about for at least four years."
The West Allis entry envisioned a building in which organizations that serve all kinds of social needs from helping veterans to aiding victims of domestic violence could be housed.
Those organizations are now spread around the city. By putting them together, it would create a kind of energy that would make the community more healthy.
"They would share the volunteer energy and develop a synergy," said Devine, who developed the plan with the help of the city's planning department.
As envisioned, the energy-efficient building would house not only those groups, but community meeting space along with a résumé library to help people find jobs. Companies could post openings there and people looking for work could apply or post their résumés, Devine said.
An optional idea was to even offer tool rentals for those who maybe don't own a chain saw or whose lawnmower broke, Devine said.
When the competition opened, Devine threw the doors open for community ideas and input. He wanted to see the visions and ideas people have, he said. But only one person responded, he said.
"I would like to have seen more input," he said.
The woman suggested a so-called green roofs project that would encourage growing plants on roofs to increase energy efficiency and reduce rainwater runoff.
The energy efficiency part of her suggestion was taken up in the city's suggestion of a building, although without a "green roof," Devine said.
Without the Bloomberg money, the project is unlikely to happen anytime soon, Devine said.
"It's really a question of resources," he said. "There's not a lot of extra money for new things."
Milwaukee officials are still hoping for Mayors Challenge dollars to follow its vision of transforming foreclosed properties into urban farms, community kitchens and distribution centers.
- Jane Ford-Stewart
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