The Republican candidate for Erie mayor wants current Mayor Joe Sinnott to accept a challenge.

John Persinger sent a letter to the mayor asking him to consider applying for the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2017 Mayor's Challenge. It's an opportunity for cities of 30-thousand residents or more to apply for big grant money through the American Cities Initiative.  Bloomberg will invest $200 million over the next three years to fund cities' innovative ideas to tackle their urban problems.

The top prize is 5-million-dollars, four runner up cities will receive 1-million-dollar grants and 35 champion cities will receive up to $100-thousand. There's even an opportunity for a day long visit by the Bloomberg Innovation experts.

Persinger can't apply, it has to be done by Mayor Sinnott, if he thinks the city should. "Under the rules, only the city hall can apply, so the first step is just for the mayor to submit our reservation," Persinger said, "it has to be done by August 18th, so we're within a month now."  Persinger went on to say, "If we are one of the earliest to reserve a spot we are potentially up for a day with the philanthropies innovators...they'll send people here to work with us, to brainstorm to see what our problems are and what potential solutions are."

While Persinger says Erie shouldn't miss the chance for outside funding and advice, his opponent Democratic mayoral candidate Joe Schember isn't so sure.  He thinks it may distract from the energy Erie need keep working on the comprehensive plan, and expressed concern about the need to innovate or take on an experimental idea. "One of the requirements of the Bloomberg city challenge is that this be a brand new program that's never been done anywhere else before, so it makes it kind of an experimental program," Schember said.  "So uh...this may be a good thing, I'm not saying it isn't, but the mayor obviously has limited resources he's going to have to figure out where he puts his money and bottom line, I'm going to respect the decision the mayor makes at this point," Schember concluded.

Bloomberg Philanthropies believes cities can't afford not to innovate as they address serious issues to try and make life better for their residents. The city's complete application for a shot at the money would not have to be submitted until October 20. 

Mayoral candidate Persinger believes that gives the city and community leaders time to collaborate on a "really good" application to address some of its most pressing issues, blight, gun violence, the opioid epidemic and the need to stimulate the economy...and he's willing to take the lead.  "It would be a shame for us to miss out on this money just because we, one didn't reserve our application and then, two didn't submit an application, so whatever the mayor needs me to do, I'm happy to do it," Persinger said.  Mayor Sinnott has not indicated yet whether he believes the city should reserve a spot in the challenge.