You may have mixed feelings about him, but New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a mayor who other mayors definitely love to love. “He’s not only an elected official with a lot of advice and counsel; he’s got a big pocketbook,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told New York Magazine. “Mayor Bloomberg is the mayor’s mayor,” noted Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. “Every big, medium, and smaller-size city — all the mayors look to spend time with Mike Bloomberg.”

The announcement of the Mayors Challenge can only help to cement that affection.

Through his charitable foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the mayor is offering $9 million in prizes for ideas that local governments can use to solve problems. The contest begins today as invitations to compete are sent to 1,300 mayors of cities with populations of 30,000 or more; the deadline for submission is Sept. 14.

The top 20 finalists will be flown to New York, compliments of the foundation, for an “ideas camp” — a two-day summit of sorts with experts to work out the final proposals on topics such as accessible housing, health, money and management. The winner will take home a $5 million prize; four runners-up will each receive $1 million.

It's true that soda bans, smoking restrictions, and trans-fat banishment haven’t been embraced by all. Regardless, Bloomberg, ranked 20th on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s wealthiest billionaires, puts his money where his mouth is. In 2011, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $330 million worldwide, according to its website. The Chronicle of Philanthropy listed Bloomberg as fifth among American charitable donors.

The mayor's foundation has created different areas to fund programs on health, including a major, global anti-tobacco campaign, and other programs like one to improve road safety in countries from Vietnam to Egypt. And here at home he’s helping to raise $150 million for the Sierra Club’s campaign to eradicate a third of the nations’s coal power plants.

For the Mayors Challenge, the winning ideas will be those that show bold thinking, a workable implementation plan, a likely chance of creating a measurable impact, and ease of replication in other cities.

“Our cities are uniquely positioned to inspire and foster the innovation, creativity and solutions needed to improve people’s lives,” Bloomberg said. “The Mayors Challenge creates an opportunity for mayors to champion their boldest ideas – and to have them take root locally and perhaps spread nationally.”

Also on MNN: