Close but no cigar - Elk Grove's Innovation Department misses outs on $1 million Bloomberg Mayor's challenge

Elk Grove Innovation Czar Christopher Jordan (left) and Sarah Bontrager (center), Elk Grove's housing manager, working
on the city's entry in the Bloomberg 2018 Mayor Challenge. |  

December 31, 2018 |  

Even though a new city hall bureaucracy was established because of the competition, the City of Elk Grove's efforts to win a $1 million grant came up short. That prize money was being offered by the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2018 Mayor's Challenge that invited Elk Grove and 34 other cities from across the country an opportunity to compete by developing solutions to urban problems.

The nine winning cities were announced on October 29 in Detroit. The winners included Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Durhan, North Carolina, Fort Collins, Colorado, Georgetown, Texas, Huntington, West Virginia, New Rochelle, New York,  and South Bend, Indiana. In February 2018 Elk Grove was named one of 35 finalists out of 320 applicant cities.

Elk  Grove's idea was to create a standardized rental application aimed at reducing the cost for lower-income applicants. If implemented, the process was thought to reduce costs for renters by not having to pay for multiple rental application fees.

As one of the 35 finalists, Elk Grove received a $100,000 grant following the February 2018 announcement. At the time of the grant, then assistant to the city manager Christopher Jordan was assigned to the task force to formulate the program which also included Sarah Bontrager, the city's housing and public services manager.

According to information provided to Bloomberg, as the process proceeded it became evident their initial goal would need to change and they learned what was realistic. "The team is focusing more on their core proposition: making a positive introduction between the landlord and the applicant, and ensuring the application process does this well," Bloomberg was told.  

Through their research, Bloomberg noted that Jordan's team discovered things like eviction insurance or double deposits were not as important as human factors when it came to securing a lease. Bloomberg reported Jordan's team learned "Landlords placed importance on how people behaved when they came to the property - noticing, for example, whether they wiped their feet. It has emerged that the project may benefit by incorporating support for tenants on how to present themselves."

Among similarly-sized cities in the competition that won a $1 million was Fort Collins, Colorado which has a population of 164,000. While they too were looking to assist low-income renters, their winning idea offered incentives to property owners for improving energy efficiency that could help address economic and health disparities that often affect tenants.  

Following the May 2018 dismissal of Laura Gill as Elk Grove's city manager, interim city manager Jason Behrmann sought and got city council approval to create the additional city hall bureaucracy, the so-called Office of Strategic Planning and Innovation headed by Jordan. Behrmann justified Jordan's salary grade increase of $44,000 annually by the city's participation in the Bloomberg contest and said the department could save taxpayers money beyond the salary increases.   

"The idea started as this big, hairy thing, but it’s on a leash now and it’s tamed a little bit," Jordan told Bloomberg during their studies. "Next we get it to walk, then run, then do some tricks."






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2 comments

D.J. Blutarsky said...

"The idea started as this big, hairy thing, but it’s on a leash now and it’s tamed a little bit," Jordan told Bloomberg during their studies. "Next we get it to walk, then run, then do some tricks."

Did he bring the wrong notes to the meeting? Wasn't that supposed to be for the new animal shelter!

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

Mr. Jordan's endeavor was doomed before it ever set sail. Recall that the California Apartment Association gave donations to several of the council members as a hedge against last November's Proposition 10.

It is hard to imagine the CAA being supportive of anything that might impede with their business model. Besides, what sort of incentives could the city realistically offer landlords to vary their practices?

The key line is "as the process proceeded it became evident their initial goal would need to change and they learned what was realistic." How true.

http://www.elkgrovenews.net/2018/10/even-if-proposition-10-rent-control.html

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