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Leading by example: the community projects of 2011 All-America City Award finalists.

In 2011, the third year of a serious economic crisis, one might expect the All-America City Award finalist communities to be focused laserlike on job creation and economic development. Indeed, there were a large number of community projects in this year's competition related to jobs and the economy--there always are--but surprisingly the largest number of any category among the 2011 finalists was environmental sustainability, of which there were fourteen projects.

The next highest number of projects was in the area of neighborhood and commercial revitalization. This is always a popular area among All-America Cities. Revitalizing a once-neglected neighborhood or commercial area is a tangible way of improving the quality of life in communities, and it is something for which city councils and city managers are held accountable. There were eight of these projects. (Admittedly, the commercial revitalization projects in most instances could have fallen into the jobs and economic development area.)

There were seven community projects to improve educational outcomes, a number that probably reflects instructions from the National Civic League (NCL) instruction in the applications form to list at least one project that is youth led or youth serving. But it is also increasingly clear to local officials and civic activists that entire communities should take a more active role in improving educational outcomes, not just parents, students, teachers, and school districts.

There were six projects related to jobs and the economy or economic development. Again, our only surprise was that were not more of them. The surprise--or trend--that we see is that there were also six projects related to health and wellness, a growing area of activity by many communities.

Flood control and emergency preparedness comprised five projects, as did improving community facilities and services. Four projects focused on youth development, and four projects addressed civic engagement and strategic planning. There were three projects to improve services for seniors. Three other projects focused on recreation, and there were three projects to improve housing opportunities. There were two each for disabilities, diversity and inclusion, transportation, and at-risk youth and one project to address the problem of chronic homelessness.

Environmental Sustainability

Kenai, Alaska, a 2011 All-America City, focused all of its projects on the environment. Lakeview, Oregon, had two projects in the alternative energy area. NCL has been seeing an increase in environmental projects in recent years, a focus that may reflect the organization's emphasis on environmental sustainability as a community engagement goal, or it could reflect the fact that communities feel they may have more control over their local environments these days than over jobs and the economy, areas that are very much influenced these days by national and even global trends. The emphasis on environmental sustainability at the local levels seems to be a long-term trend that bodes well for the health of the planet.

Wildlife Conservation Community Program

A major salmon fishery, Kenai, Alaska, is home to hundreds of hungry bears, both the relatively innocuous black variety and the more frightening subspecies of brown bear, the grizzly. In frequent interactions between bears and humans, many bears end up being killed. Killing more than twenty Kenai bears a year, wildlife biologists say, could decimate the population. During the past decade, the number of bears killed by cars, citizens, or authorities in or around Kenai has doubled.

The main reason for these negative bear interactions is the careless storage or disposal of food. The city has what are known as bear highways, where bears know they can find garbage, bird seed, dog food, fish carcasses or fish in smokers, or livestock feed. Bears get into freezers and tear down fences. They break into garages and homes. Locals see them wandering through parks and golf courses or ambling past bedroom windows in the dead of night. Several years ago, the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Alaska Audubon Society, Waste Management, Inc., and the City of Kenai instituted a "Bear-Safe Neighborhood" program. The upshot was no negative bear reports for a period of two years.

Because of the program's success, Fish and Game and the city decided to expand it citywide. Kenai's Wildlife Conservation Community Program has become a model for other Alaskan cities seeking to deal humanely with their bear issues. The main feature of the program is subsidizing the use of bear-resistant garbage containers in residential areas and local parks, but funds were also used to purchase and distribute thousands of copies of the Audubon Society's "Living in Harmony with Bears," a publication well worth reading if you live in bear country. Volunteers go door to door handing out information on bear safety and answering questions from residents. The success of the program has attracted interest from communities as far away as Crested Butte, Colorado.

The Kenai River Working Group--Protecting the Health of the Kenai River

In 2008, the Kenai River was designated as a Category 5, or impaired water body, by the State of Alaska in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act. The Kenai River Working Group (KRWG) was formed to address the issue of water pollution. Tasked with finding agreement among diverse user groups, the KRWG united surrounding communities in an effort to protect the health of the river. The KRWG recognized that the group needed to recommend a solution that would be acceptable to all user groups. The result was a joint resolution of the communities surrounding the river to adopt a ban on the use of two-stroke motors on the Kenai River, thereby reducing hydrocarbon discharge into the river. A cash incentive to replace older outboards with models that would meet Environmental Protection Agency standards and other measures resulted in the replacement of 200 outboards in a single year. In July 26, 2010, the status of the Kenai River was changed to a Category 2, or "water that attains its designated uses."

Caring for the Kenai

Caring for the Kenai (CFK) is an environmental awareness contest that is a partnership of industry, government, educators, students, and nonprofit organizations. High school students generate new and inventive ideas to address environmental challenges. CFK poses the question "What can I do, invent, create or improve to better care for the environment of the Kenai Peninsula or improve the area's preparedness for natural disaster?" Over five hundred participants research, experiment, and conduct interviews to learn as much as possible about an environmental issue they wish to solve. Working with community and business leaders, government agencies, and policy makers, CFK students learn about the practical application of their ideas and gain real-world experience implementing their projects. Parents learn about CFK when students discuss and work on their projects at home. Local media assist in getting the message out to the public. Industry, government, educators, regulators, and private citizens collaborate to promote both educational and environmental innovations.

Sustainability through History, Community, and Environment

To increase sustainability education, the City of Dublin, California, hosts a community volunteer event called Dublin Pride Week. As part of Dublin Pride Week, the city sponsors a Volunteer Day where residents engage the community in a variety of projects, including school beautification projects, clean water projects, and environmental program outreach. Last, the city promotes environmental sustainability through many programs and activities, including the creation of a division in the city dedicated to environmental efforts.

Promoting Civic Engagement by Greening Huntington Park

This campaign was developed as a way to create civic responsibility in the community through environmental stewardship. The program was developed by the city, bringing together its residential waste hauler, local organizations, and residents to determine the best way to address the problems of lack of civic engagement and lack of environmental responsibility--as gauged by very low rates of residential recycling and very high rates of contamination (residents putting things in both the recycling and green waste containers that didn't belong there). The campaign began with focus groups of residents with topics ranging from the environment to schools to trust in their city government. In Huntington Park, California, there has been a 14 percent increase in recycling, a 5.6 percent decrease in contamination of recycling, and a 29.1 percent decrease in contamination of green waste.

Alternatives "Fuel" Torrance

The efforts of Torrance, California, to support alternative fuels range from installation of a biodiesel fueling site in 2006 in cooperation with a ninety-member-strong biodiesel cooperative, to approval of a conditional use permit for a Shell Hydrogen Station in 2009 on Toyota-owned property (complete with an interactive learning center), to collaboration with Landi Renzo in 2010 to make Torrance its U.S. "home." In addition, the Electric Vehicle Demonstration Program, unveiled in July 2010, is Honda's innovative strategic collaboration with three major participants including Torrance. Honda's program has generated a big idea within Torrance: "One Mile, One Charger." The plan is straightforward: Never be farther than a mile away from a charger anywhere in Torrance. The long-range vision is comprehensive: Develop a regional charging network to enable Torrance and other cities to pool resources and apply for grant funding, facilitating expansion of alternative fuel projects. "One Mile, One Charger" represents a major effort by Torrance to be not only a better business supporter but a transformational leader in the environmental arena.

The Greening Lakewood Business Partnership

The Learning Source in Lakewood, Colorado, operates one of the largest adult literacy programs in the country. When it learned its utility costs for its one-story brick building were higher than that of a fifty-unit, multifamily complex, the organization sought energy-efficiency expertise from the community. This sparked the formation of the Greening Lakewood Business Partnership. Its mission is to bring energy efficiency to older, existing office and commercial buildings in Lakewood while providing job training, particularly for military veterans returning from the current overseas conflicts. The partnership helped the Learning Source reduce its monthly heating bills from $3,500 to $200. The partnership includes the City of Lakewood, which has worked with the utility company, banks, and the state to help fund energy-efficient retrofits; Red Rocks Community College, which created a program for students to train in energy auditing and provide free audits to businesses under the supervision of experts in the field; the Alameda Gateway Community Association, which continues the discussion with Lakewood businesses; Veterans Green Jobs, which mobilizes military veterans to enter the Red Rocks program; the Jefferson County Workforce Center, which coordinates funding for the students' paid internships; and the Better Business Bureau, which markets the partnership.

Leading by Example: Dedham Municipal Building Energy/Water Conservation Retrofits

The Sustainability Advisory Committee of Dedham, Massachusetts, was established to advise the town's board of selectmen on strategies for advancing the town's commitment to renewable energy, at the municipal, business, and residential levels. By engaging the community in making smart energy choices, they are forging the path for a sustainable Dedham that will have a long-lasting, positive impact on future generations. The Cool Dedham Campaign is an initiative of the Dedham Sustainability Advisory Committee and the town's Environmental Department. This campaign is part of a larger, statewide campaign of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN). Dedham is one of nine communities in Massachusetts to be chosen to participate in this groundbreaking endeavor. The goal of the Cool Dedham campaign is to empower at least 25 percent of Dedham households, over the next three years, to reduce their annual carbon footprints by at least 25 percent. The strategy is team focused, with friends, neighbors, and work colleagues joining Eco Teams or small groups of individuals that will help to educate and inspire each other to reduce their carbon footprint.

Leveraging Technology for Improved Water Resource Management

Faced with finding a solution to the complex problems related to its limited raw water supply, Ann Arbor, Michigan, determined that managing demand on the system and living within existing capacity was the most prudent approach, especially since new water supply investments would be very costly for its customers. The first step in more effectively managing demand was implementing an automated meter reading (AMR) system in fall 2004. Once integrated with existing systems, AMR reduced operating expenses and increased analysis and decision-making capabilities. In 2006, Ann Arbor was among the first water utilities to provide customers with nearly real-time water consumption data via the city's Web site. Identification and prioritization of true customer needs and requirements were obtained using focus groups, interviews, and storyboards. The result was an innovative online consumption application that helps customers understand how they are using water, as they are using it, so that they can make informed decisions about that use. The resulting decreased trend in consumption, particularly during peak periods, has forestalled the need to go in search of additional raw water sources for the foreseeable future.

Massachusetts Avenue Project

Since its inception in 1992, the top priority of the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) in Buffalo, New York, has been providing alternative choices to youth. In 2002, MAPs leaders realized that there weren't enough opportunities for teenagers in the community. Teenagers wanted jobs; since jobs were scarce in the community, MAP created Growing Green. In this project, MAP employs and trains youth ages fourteen to twenty, teaching them about sustainable food production methods and composting on MAP's urban farm. Through the youth enterprise and the community outreach and education component of Growing Green, youth are actively learning how to run their own business and about public policy. MAP's youth programs are funded in part by New York State, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the New York State Office of Children & Family Services with some local funding from Erie County.

Lakeview, Oregon's Geothermal Energy Project

In south-central Oregon, hot springs are common and have been gathering places for people for centuries. Now the town of Lakeview is using that energy resource to help the environment and create economic opportunities. The town's first geothermal system was created oversized to allow for future additional growth, and the town has pursued this to capture the surplus energy that will be sold on the grid. This will produce additional revenue for the community and in turn support the expansion of new projects. Lakeview has made an application to U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development for a loan to build a larger district heating system. This system will provide 9 billion British thermal units (BTUs) of heat annually to the local hospital and health care facilities. It will provide 6.5 billion BTUs annually to five schools, which have just been retrofitted to accommodate geothermal heat. This new system is also expected to heat most of the commercial businesses in the central commercial district of town, with construction slated to start this summer.

Neighborhood and Commercial Revitalization

A few years ago, downtown Belleville, Illinois, was notable for vacant storefronts and empty buildings, having fallen prey like many older commercial districts to tough economic times. Local leaders hit on an improbable prescription for revitalizing the downtown--they started an art fair. From its humble beginnings in 2002, the art fair quickly established itself as one of the best in the country. In 2004, it was named "Best Small Town Art Fair in America," and by 2006, it was ranked in the top ten of all shows.

In May 2011, about ninety thousand visitors thronged downtown for the three-day Art on the Square festival, named "Top Art Festival" in the country for the third time in four years. Event planners from as far away as Disney World and Sausalito, California, have been known to visit the all-volunteer effort to see how they manage to pull it off. The success of the art fair seems to have turned Belleville into a city of festivals and annual events. On any given week, you might stumble on a Downtown Diva Night, a Downtown Chili Cook-off, Downtown Classic Car Show, Oktoberfest, Law Day Run, Gingerbread Walk/Run, and the like.

A "Paint the Town" event, sponsored by syndicated radio host Delilah and Big Shoes Productions, mobilized more than a thousand volunteers from civic groups, churches, schools, and other organizations for a two-day marathon in which sixty buildings were painted, using an estimated fourteen thousand gallons of paint donated by area businesses. The city undertook a $7 million face-lift known as the Downtown Streetscape Project to widen sidewalks; plant trees; and install new light poles, decorative banners and hanging plants, some new park benches, bike racks, and new signs. Downtown business owners have taken to rehabbing their storefronts.

All of this has brought new nightlife to the downtown. Now instead of empty streets and darkened buildings, downtown Belleville at night is a well-lit public space where people come together to have dinner, shop, or stroll.

Transit-Base Planning: Lakewood, Colorado

Nearly one thousand residents volunteered their time over several years to turn around the negative effects of a dying commercial corridor and address issues from a light-rail transportation line set to begin operating through the most historic and eclectic neighborhoods of the City of Lakewood, Colorado, by 2013. The plans are for transit-oriented development centered on the light-rail stations. The approach will encourage urban-style residences, shops, and offices to be located around light-rail stations and increases the options for land uses close to the stations and includes pedestrian and bike links. The Colfax Avenue district plan is designed to help revitalize what was once a retail-only corridor focused solely on cars to one that fosters a mix of uses and densities for residences, commercial buildings, and offices.

Keep Downey Beautiful

Keep Downey Beautiful (KDB) is a volunteer program made up of residents, business, and government officials working together to improve, enhance, and maintain the environmental quality of life in Downey, California. Its main goal is to provide public education on a variety of issues including city beautification, graffiti, litter, recycling, water conservation, and storm drain pollution prevention. Its biggest accomplishment has been to increase volunteer participation among Downey's youth. This increase is a result of the monthly cleanups KDB offers on the third Saturday of each month. Initially, the site cleanups occurred biannually. KDB established the monthly cleanups in 2005 to enable volunteers to provide their services more often. Initially, ten to twenty-five volunteers participated in each cleanup; however, the numbers at the monthly cleanups last year increased to an average of fifty per month. Some of the cleanups generated as many as two hundred volunteers, with 90 percent of them being young people.

Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization

Neighborhood residents, the City of South Bend, Indiana, and institutions like the University of Notre Dame redeveloped the area near campus. Key partners formed the Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Organization, led equally by institutions and neighborhood residents. Components include a $215 million mixed-use development, new housing, a partnership between Indiana University and Notre Dame to develop a site for a medical school and cancer research center, a state-certified technology park, and the redevelopment of a former hospital site. While the physical and economic landscape of the Northeast Neighborhood has changed, the more significant result has been the transformed relationships among neighbors, the university, and private and public sectors.

Dedham Square Improvement Project

The Dedham Square Improvement Project is the result of a series of public meetings and participation over the past four years in a unique new type of public/private partnership with the Town of Dedham, Massachusetts, and Dedham Square Circle (DSC), a local nonprofit organization composed of merchants, property owners, and residents. DSC independently raised and contributed $25,000 to privately fund the start of the design process for the town. The purpose of this project is a timely and crucial investment in the infrastructure that makes up the very fabric of a well-loved, historic, and traditional New England square so that it can regain its leading role as a successful, attractive location for a diverse range of small businesses while recapturing the sense of place that is central to the identity and value of the entire community. The intent and goal of the project will be the immediate creation of jobs, small business growth, and increased tax revenues.

Fairpark: Tupelo's Front Porch

Ten years ago, the Fairpark area was an unattractive, underutilized eyesore for the city--right at the point on Main Street where many visitors gained their first impression of Tupelo, Mississippi. Community leaders, through an open process with multiple opportunities for citizen engagement, turned a liability into an advantage. The Fairpark development has completely remade the face of downtown Tupelo. A former fairgrounds that once hosted a homecoming concert of native son Elvis Presley, the area adjacent to the established downtown was in decline when the city, in 1999, issued $22.6 million in bonds to purchase fifty acres for a mixed-use development, the most ambitious downtown development project the city had ever undertaken. Today Fairpark boasts a modern city hall, a state-of-the-art automobile museum, and the Renasant Center for IDEAs, the Tupelo/Lee County regional business incubator.

Fairbanks Flats: Beloit, Wisconsin

Constructed in 1920 by Fairbanks Morse, Fairbanks Flats in Beloit, Wisconsin, was facing demolition when a neighborhood group spoke up for a community-driven effort to restore the buildings. A community/city planning committee was soon formed to find potential developers. In 2006, Gorman & Company approached the city and agreed to restore Fairbanks Flats. Beloit donated Fairbanks Flats to Gorman and provided a $150,000 interest-free reconstruction grant. Additional support came from the state in the form of $2 million in low-income housing tax credits and advanced technology and services to assist tenants with hearing disabilities. Throughout the process, Gorman employed a 33 percent minority workforce from the neighborhood. Also, the rent-to-own feature implemented by Gorman provided low- to moderate-income tenants with counseling and support in home ownership and the eventual ability to purchase their units at a discounted price.


There was once a time when local governments and community members viewed education as a separate issue, the domain of professional educators and the local boards elected to oversee school district policy. But the persistent achievement gap between at-risk kids and other students and the recognition of the economic importance of well-educated workers has brought many local officials, community groups, and philanthropic organizations into closer connection with public schools and educational groups. In 2012, the All-America City Awards will have a single focus on grade-level reading proficiency. More than 150 communities have signed letters of intent to participate in an effort to draft realistic plans for addressing three issue areas: chronic school absence, school preparedness, and the need for summer programs. In the meantime, listed here are some of the educational projects from 2011 finalists.

The Alliance for Improved Educational Opportunities

The Alliance for Improved Educational Opportunities Program of the City of Huntington Park, California, represents a commitment from Huntington Park schools in partnership with the city to ensure that every student obtains the best education possible, to prepare students for college, and to be successful in their careers. Understanding that many social and economic challenges have hindered the access to quality education, the city has embarked on a campaign to improve education. The improved performance results have demonstrated that change is possible. The city is not only focusing on improving educational opportunities in public schools; efforts also are under way to increase educational opportunities to the city's workforce.

212[degrees] STARs

In South Bend, Indiana, a coalition of faith-based agencies, student volunteers, and others are working in the four main public high schools and an alternative high school to address the community's dropout rate through a peer-to-peer movement. Through a relational approach, teens are influencing their peers to stay in school and strive for excellence as they encourage one another. In an environment where many come from broken or dysfunctional families, they view their 212[degrees] STAR coaches and peers as an alternative family.

Marshalltown Educational Partnership

The Marshalltown Educational Partnership (MEP) program is presented to all eighth-grade students in the public school system in Marshalltown, Iowa. To be considered, students need to substantiate financial need and be a potential first-generation college student. The student and parents sign a Commitment to Excellence contract that promises they will achieve 95 percent attendance and a 2.75 GPA during their four years of high school. If participants meet these goals, they are awarded a half-tuition scholarship to Marshalltown Community College for up to sixty credit hours. Hundreds of students and parents have signed up for the program. While not everyone has gone on to college, many have been awarded the scholarship and earned an associate of arts degree. Others have gone on to complete four-year bachelor degrees at other colleges and universities.

Rockingham County Education Foundation: Bridging the Gap

The Rockingham County Education Foundation was created to encourage students in Eden and other parts of Rockingham County, North Carolina, to seek higher education opportunities. This was necessary due to the relatively low percentage of citizens who have earned degrees beyond high school, only 10.8 percent. The foundation's goal is to reverse a culture that had not valued education because of traditional job opportunities that did not require education beyond high school. The Education Foundation placed college advisors in the four county high schools to promote the value of a college education. Each year, College Application Week is held to encourage students to apply to colleges. Prior to the establishment of the Education Foundation, there was little interest in this opportunity among students. In 2006, no local students participated during that weeklong push. The following year, 22 students filed applications. In 2008, after the college access advisors were hired, 327 students filed applications. In 2009, that number increased to 583. In 2010, seniors from the four high schools earned more than $17 million in scholarships, a 44 percent increase over the previous year.

Reading Rocks!

Reading Rocks! is an annual community initiative in Fayetteville, North Carolina, promoting the value of literacy and the joy of reading while raising funds to purchase books for students throughout the public school system. Since 2004, the Reading Rocks! Walk-A-Thon has served as a rallying point for the entire community to participate. In 2010, more than 20,000 teachers, students and parents, as well as thousands of other individual volunteers, came together to march with high school bands and mascots through the heart of Fayetteville's historic city center. From that most recent enthusiastic kick-off, more than $200,000 was raised to buy books for the public school system, bringing the total to more than $800,000 since the inception of Reading Rocks! The funds raised by Reading Rocks! benefit the classrooms and media centers serving those students. According to North Carolina Report Card data, the number of books available per student in Cumberland County school media centers has risen dramatically since 2008 (from 17.09 to 24.42), bringing the Cumberland County Schools to a point above the state average.

Passing on the Dream in Lakeview, Oregon

It began with endowment of a $500,000 in 1922, which has grown into a $5 million trust fund for scholarships and college tuition. The Bernard Daly Educational Fund is administered by twelve trustees, five of whom are local and usually former Daly Fund students and seven of whom are representatives from each of the universities in the Oregon University system. In the past five years, 127 students have been awarded the Daly Fund Scholarship, which pays tuition for four years. Over $300,000 has been paid from this fund to cover education costs for graduating students in the past five years. The Collins-McDonald Trust Fund created in the 1950s is modeled after the Daly Fund but allows students to attend private colleges, out-of-state schools and technical schools, as well as public colleges within Oregon. With these and other local scholarship funds, the fifty to sixty seniors graduating each year have a good chance of getting scholarships. The unusually high number of scholarships has proven to be a very powerful motivation for families to relocate to Lakeview or to delay moving until their children graduate from Lakeview High School. It is believed that Lakeview is one of the most highly educated rural communities in the country.

Jobs and Economic Development

Creating jobs and new economic opportunities at a time when the national unemployment rate seems to be stuck at 8 to 9 percent is a major challenge. Typically, cities build business parks and offer tax incentives to lure new employers, but some cities have found more innovative ways of boosting the local economy. The 2011 All-America City of Fayetteville, North Carolina, is one of them.

"History, Heroes and a Hometown Feeling"

The story goes back to the Vietnam War era, when Fort Bragg near Fayetteville was a major stopping-off point for soldiers bound for Southeast Asia. Being an Army town during those years was a mixed blessing. Most of the draftees who went through the town were not happy about being there. Nor were the townies always thrilled. Strip clubs, cheap bars, and tattoo parlors proliferated downtown, earning a new nickname that stuck for years, "Fayette-nam." Flash forward to the year 2001 when Fayetteville, like much of the industrial South, was languishing economically. Per capita income was stagnant. Few jobs were being created, and young people who grew up there had to look elsewhere for jobs.

A community improvement effort known as Greater Fayetteville Futures came up with an idea. Why not turn the community's Army town identity, once considered something of a liability, into a major cultural and economic asset? Members of the community actually voted online to adopt their new slogan, "History, Heroes and a Hometown Feeling." Fayette-nam rebranded itself as "the most patriotic town in America." This was in part a canny form of economic development. In 2005, Fayetteville opened its North Carolina Military Business Center, working with local businesses and individuals to garner defense industry contracts. They attracted high-tech companies and defense industry entrepreneurs. The results have been impressive--more than five thousand jobs and $586 million invested and a housing market that is booming. Per capita income growth is the second highest in the country. Tourism is also on the rise with a convention bureau that touts the military-friendly posture to vets planning Army reunions and other events and local attractions like the Airborne and Special Operations Museum and the soon-to-open Veteran's Park downtown.

NASA Site Reuse Project in Downey, California

The former NASA Industrial Plant site was one of the first aircraft production facilities in the early 1900s, home to several space exploration programs including Apollo, Skylab, and the Space Shuttle, and a major employer in the southeast Los Angeles region (over twenty thousand jobs at its peak). When the facility closed in 1999, the City of Downey, California, was faced with two major challenges. First, how could the city facilitate reuse of the site in an economically feasible way? Second, how could the city coordinate the cleanup of the contaminated groundwater and soil at the site and ensure that it would not sit vacant, abandoned, and neglected for many years? Through innovative and collaborative partnerships among the city, federal government, the state of California, Kaiser Permanente, and the community, the NASA site was redeveloped into a vibrant commercial and retail center, the largest movie studio in the country, an eleven-acre Sports Park and Space Center, and a state-of-the-art 352-bed hospital.

Buy Belleville First

The Buy Belleville First Campaign is a twofold effort designed as a way to educate the citizens about the importance of buying goods within their own community and to increase patronage and revenues for local businesses. The two components are an educational campaign and the "Belleville First" discount program. Community volunteers hand-delivered letters to the seventeen thousand households within the corporate limits of Belleville, California, that described how the city's budget works in terms of sales tax revenues and that the more you buy in Belleville, the more sales tax comes to the city for projects such as police and fire protection, roadway repairs and construction, city services, and the like. Since its inception, the Buy Belleville First Campaign has gained momentum and has become more successful than originally anticipated. Belleville has been featured on CNN and other local and regional news outlets to describe the impact of the program on the community.

Health and Wellness

The farmers' market in the Kerrytown section of Ann Arbor its one of the largest producer-only farmers' markets in Michigan, an agglomeration of more than one hundred market vendors including farmers, growers, bakers, and artisans. It is also is one of the oldest, having existed for ninety-one years. The market operates year-round on Saturdays and also on Wednesdays from May through December. And since 2004, the Project FRESH program has made farmers' market produce available to low-income, "nutritionally at-risk consumers," specifically the 5,600 participants in Washtenaw County's Women, Infants & Children Program. Program participants receive a booklet of ten $2 coupons to be used at their local farmers' markets between June 1 and October 31. Only fresh fruit and vegetables may be purchased (no prepackaged foods or baked goods).

Getting the project started was not without its difficulties, however. When it was first launched, only five market vendors were willing to participate, preferring to sell on cash- or check-only basis; these days about 80 percent of vendors participate, with an approximate redemption amount of $5,088. The market has also joined forces with the state and federal low-income food assistance programs, better known as food stamp programs. Eligible participants receive food assistance benefits electronically on a state-issued "Bridge" card, which the Ann Arbor farmers' market began accepting as a form of payment in 2009.

In the past, vendors at the market accepted only cash and checks. As the food stamp program changed from paper vouchers to electronic swiping cards, a new process had to be developed. Participants were asked to swipe their Bridge card in the market office and request a dollar amount to use at the market. The amount is then deducted from their card in exchange for market tokens to use at participating market vendor stalls. To avoid a stigma being associated with using tokens, the market also began issuing tokens for other shoppers as well as any shoppers who wish to pay with a credit card.

Food assistance recipients can now use the Bridge card to purchase food at the farmers' market. In 2009, there were approximately twenty market vendors participating with a redemption rate of $4,750. By 2010, fifty-six market vendors were participating with an approximate redemption rate of $16,200. Farmers' markets in Portland, Oregon, and Detroit, Michigan, have similar programs. Ann Arbor market manager Molly Notarianni calls it a "win-win-win" solution, adding an extra "win" to the usual "win-win." It's good for the farmers, who have more potential customers. It's good for the government, which can get more nutritious food to nutritionally "underserved" communities. And it's good for the food assistance recipients, who get to eat healthier for less.

Mayor's Citizen Task Forces--Education, Youth, Health

The Mayor's Healthy Tupelo Task Force's goal is to make Tupelo the healthiest city in Mississippi. It has worked to bring together all the community's resources to launch projects aimed at getting Tupeloans of all ages moving toward healthier lifestyles and then to share what works with other cities around the state and nation. The Health on a Shelf! project provides guidelines for local convenience stores, highlighting how to incorporate a healthy food section in their stores. Specially designed stickers will be provided to stores that agree to participate. Billboards with healthy messages about good nutrition were unveiled in the spring of 2011 courtesy of the task force. The task force has also highlighted a number fitness programs: A Trim Down, Tone Up Tupelo challenge was launched in January 2010 with more than 150 teams of roughly 1,000 people. When the challenge ended in early March 2010, 86 teams with some 570 people completed the final weigh-in with a total weight loss of 4,130 pounds. The task force won a $25,000 Healthy Hometown award from Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Mississippi.

Rockingham Student Health Centers: Caring for the Health of Our Young People

In communities beset by a deteriorating economy, rising poverty, and an increasing number of uninsured citizens, the health care needs of teens are often neglected. Two Eden (Rockingham County), North Carolina, physicians addressed this problem by promoting the idea of student health centers in area high schools to help combat a high rate of teenage pregnancy, obesity, and other high-risk behaviors, including drug and alcohol abuse. A collaboration including two county hospitals, the school system, county health and mental health agencies, and social services progressed from the idea of establishing one center in Eden to opening centers inside the four county high schools. The centers offer chronic disease monitoring, laboratory testing, acute care services, dental screening, gynecological services, pregnancy prevention education, nutrition education, social work, counseling, immunizations, sports physicals, anger management, smoking cessation, health education, and referrals. Although the centers file claims with private insurance providers and accept Medicaid, no one is turned away.

Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo

The nonprofit Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo, New York, is a social entrepreneurship agency that works collaboratively with intersector, interdisciplinary organizations and citizens to empower Buffalo to be a healthy city. Using the broader definition of a "healthy city" to encompass the city's social, environmental, human, and economic capital, the institute has developed facilitation and strategic planning skills to create, participate in, or influence a portfolio of initiatives that collectively address the city's key issues. In the past three years, the institute has facilitated "Visioning" processes in the city's Riverside, Flare, and Black Rock communities and a citywide "Shared Vision" process targeting childhood obesity. Through the process of developing the vision statements, the institute has fostered the community's look at current realities and crafted strategic plans to build a "healthy" community by networking with nonprofits, city/county government, civic groups, and private sector partners.

Mental Health Connection

An innovative and unique system to enhance access to mental health services in Fort Worth, Texas, Mental Health Connection's "no wrong door promise" is intended to open the gateways into the mental health care system. Twenty-nine local mental health organizations, from large public entities to specialized private providers, come together to address community needs and determine potential improvements. In the eleven years since its formation, Mental Health Connection has generated more than $45 million in funds and in-kind services to improve mental health care.

Rock County Youth2Youth

Rock County Youth2Youth is an initiative consisting of two hundred seventh- to twelfth-grade students who get training on the harmful effects of tobacco and go around to schools and city leaders to give presentations. According to the Beloit (Wisconsin) All-America City application, there was a 38 percent reduction in the number of Rock County high school smokers in eight years, a 53 percent reduction in middle school smokers, a 19 percent reduction in adult smokers, and a 12 percent drop in cigarette sales. The Smoke-Free Air project engaged four to five hundred young people who worked closely with Beloit over eight years to make the city smoke-free. They petitioned and talked to community and city council members about the advantages of being a smoke-free city. Four years ago, Beloit became one of thirty-seven cities in Wisconsin to go smoke-free, thanks to the partnership among Y2Y, city council, and the city staff of Beloit.

2011 All-America Cities

Kenai, Alaska

Dublin, California

Lakewood Colorado

Belleville, Illinois

South Bend, Indiana

Scott City, Kansas

Tupelo, Mississippi

Fayetteville, North Carolina

Eden, North Carolina

Fort Worth, Texas

2011 All-America City Finalists

Downey, California

Huntington Park, California

Torrance, California

Yucaipa, California

Marshalltown, Iowa

Dedham, Massachusetts

Ann Arbor, Michigan

South Sioux City, Nebraska

Buffalo, New York

Seaside, Oregon

Lakeview, Oregon

Taylor Landing, Texas

Cottonwood Heights, Utah

Beloit, Wisconsin

DOI: 10.1002/ncr.21066

Michael McGrath is editor of the National Civic Review.

Kristin Seavey is the former program associate for the All-America City Awards
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Author:McGrath, Michael; Seavey, Kristin
Publication:National Civic Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2012
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