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Brightest ideas 

A trio of innovative ways mayors have tackled common municipal problems.

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Livability Court (Charleston, South Carolina)

Neighbours are a fact of city life. And with neighbours, inevitably come some neighbourhood disputes. Unmowed lawns, unsupervised pets, loud parties you weren't invited to---councillors hear about these troubles all the time. "Very often people's first call is to their councillor, so the councillor can be the bad guy," explains Halifax councillor-turned-provincial MLA Andrew Younger. To give citizens someone useful to turn to without calling the police or bogging down the policymakers at city hall, in 2002 Charleston's popular mayor Joseph P. Riley created The Livability Court. It's a legitimate court system dedicated to quickly resolving small-scale rule violations, without all the lawyers, expense and prisons of the full-blown criminal justice system.

Ride the Wind (Calgary, Alberta)

At the international level, environmental issues are the stuff of protocol agreements, CO2 emission levels and reduction targets mapped out over decades. For cities, which deal with clean water, garbage pickup, public transit and commuter traffic, environmentalism is not abstract at all. While all cities are thinking green, the cities that are being green get the bragging rights. Enter Calgary Transit's award-winning Ride the Wind program, where wind turbines are dedicated to generating the electricity for the commuter rail system. The program started under then-mayor Al Duerr in 2001, but the city's still so excited, it hasn't taken time to proofread its Ride the Wind website: "This initiative made Calgary Transit is [sic] the first and only public light rail transit system in North America to power its train fleet with wind-generated electricity! Were [sic] not aware of any other program like this in the world!!!" Proof that actions speak louder than words.

This City is Going on a Diet (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)

Health care isn't a municipal responsibility, yet an unhealthily obese workforce can't help but drag city down. This realization, plus his own struggles to lose some weight, inspired Oklahoma City's mayor Mick Cornett to issue a New Year's challenge to his community in 2008: Let's lose a million pounds together. The annually repeated challenge has its own website for people to log their progress---and corporate sponsors---but at root is an example of the mayor getting something done with little more resources than an idea and some cheerleading ability.


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