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Special report: Awards for Municipal Excellence Gold Winners.

Through grassroots efforts, public-private partnerships, volunteer participation, municipal cost savings and innovation, four cities made their communities better places to live and were rewarded with the Gold level of the Awards for Municipal Excellence.

These cities, along with the Silver Winners of the awards, were honored at the Congress of Cities in Reno, Nev., last month.

Detailed information about the Gold-winning programs is provided below along with contact information. The Silver winners will be featured in next week's Nation's Cities Weekly.

The Awards for Municipal Excellence are co-sponsored by the National League of Cities and CH2M HILL, in recognition of James C. Howland. For information about the Awards for Municipal Excellence, please visit the awards website at: for_cities/awards_recognition/7760.cfm

Population Under 50,000 Erlanger, Ky.

Tiered Advanced Life Support System for Emergency Medical Services

The City of Erlanger's Advanced Life Support (ALS) System is designed to provide supplemental advanced medical care to assist the Emergency Medical Services of the cities of Erlanger, Edgewood, Elsmere, Crescent Springs and Villa Hills as well as portions of unincorporated Boone County, Ky.

The five ambulances that provide emergency medical protection for the residents of these areas provide Basic Life Support (BLS) only. This means that the medical professionals are trained only to the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) level and can only provide basic cardiac defibrillation, oxygen therapy and basic airway protection procedures.

The Erlanger Advanced Life Support System automatically dispatches a trained and qualified paramedic in a staff car to respond with these ambulances. Should a patient need critical care that exceeds the training of the EMTS, the paramedics leave their vehicle and ride in the back of the ambulance with the patient as they are being transported to the hospital. In this way, the patient can receive advanced drug therapy, advanced cardiac defibrillation-pacing-monitoring, IV fluids and advanced airway protection from the more highly trained paramedics.

Operating Advanced Life Support ambulances is very expensive. The majority of the patients treated by ambulances do not need this level of care; they require BLS level care only. It is not cost-effective for any of the individual ambulance services to provide their own ALS ambulance service. The cooperating agreement of providing paramedics to respond with the ambulances makes it possible for these ambulances to achieve ALS service when the patient needs advanced care. In return, it exposes the ALS service to enough patients and call volume that the operating cost is able to be spread over a larger group of jurisdictions.

For additional information contact: Tim Koenig, fire chief; Erlanger Fire/EMS; (858) 727-7942;

Population 50,001-150,000 Asheville, N. C. Cultural Renaissance Arts Program

The Asheville Parks and Recreation Department's Cultural Renaissance Arts Program is an innovative summer and afterschool arts and humanities program focusing on youth ages 5-18 living in Asheville.

The flagship location for this program is the W.C. Reid Center for Creative Arts with emphasis on middle and high school students living in public housing and predominately low-income neighborhoods in Asheville.

Youth are given a platform to address social issues through the presentation of three theme-based theatrical productions, visual arts exhibits, and dance recitals facilitated by professional artists. These productions also tour to other southeastern cities. The Cultural Renaissance Program fills a void for structured, safe and supervised programs during summer months and after school hours when youth are most at risk to get involved in negative activities.

The project is important since it is the only cultural art outreach project of its kind in Asheville that reaches this demographic group. Youth develop the subject matter and write, produce and promote the productions and recitals that speak to their social concerns. In its pilot year, the program enrolled 125 youth, and the Cultural Renaissance Program was the recipient of the 2002 Arts and Humanities Award from the North Carolina Recreation and Parks Association for being the most innovative arts program in the state. The popularity and effectiveness of the program has resulted in an increased enrollment of 148 percent, exceeding capacity and requiring more resources to support the expansion of this program that reached a youth audience of 2,547 during the 2005-2006 season of performances and exhibit.

The City of Asheville collaborates with several key partners such as the Junior League of Asheville, Asheville City Schools, Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College, Community Foundation, Asheville Housing Authority, AmeriCorps, Wachovia Bank, Wal-Mart, Target and other public/private agencies and community-based organization that invest financial and volunteer resources.

The frequency of crime and other negative activities committed by the demographic group in the neighborhoods surrounding the Reid Center has significantly decreased as a result of this innovative program. Participating youth are empowered to be agents for positive change toward overall community-wide development and improved quality of life.

For additional information contact: W. LaVone Griffin, Cultural Arts Center director III; (828) 350-2049;

Population 150,001-500,000 Oakland, Calif. Neighborhood Law Corps

Inspired by the Peace Corps and Legal Aid, Oakland's Neighborhood Law Corps is an innovative approach to community legal work funded by the private sector through a nonprofit foundation. Armed with the health, safety and welfare powers of the City of Oakland, this cadre of public service lawyers works with neighborhood leaders to prioritize and solve chronic problems of blight, drug activity, substandard housing, toxic pollution, and nuisance liquor stores that threaten public safety and undermine the economic stability essential for our communities to thrive.

Oakland's first elected City Attorney, John Russo, established the Neighborhood Law Corps in February 2002. The first program of its kind in the nation, it is funded by a nonprofit foundation that raises the necessary funds to provide "legal fellowships" for newly minted lawyers committed to public interest law.

This private funding source significantly augments the existing code enforcement activities in the Office of the City Attorney at no additional cost to the city.

Law Corps attorneys are offered a two-year fellowship at a salary commensurate to a first-year Oakland public school teacher (currently $40,000, plus benefits). They receive legal supervision from senior city attorneys and grassroots organizing/social work skills from the executive director.

Most of the Neighborhood Law Corps cases involve blight, public nuisances and substandard housing conditions. To prevail in court, the city needs substantial evidence. Through grass roots efforts, local residents document problems, keep logs, write letters and collect evidence so that when Law Corps lawyers go to court they have what they need to win the case.

Since the program's inception, Law Corps attorneys have handled 157 matters, including 48 actions to abate drug nuisances, 20 cases involving building code violations, 23 cases against liquor stores and 66 cases related to alcohol abatement, weapons and other health and safety issues. The unprecedented community cooperation, implementation of new legal strategies and, ultimately, systemic change in the way city government solves neighborhood problems have been significant achievements so far.

For more information contact: Alex Nguyen, executive director, Neighborhood Law Corps; (510) 238-6628;

Population Over 500,001 Chicago Troubled Buildings Initiative

Chicago's Troubled Buildings Initiative (TBI) works proactively to stem the deterioration and loss of viable housing stock through targeted enforcement efforts and direct interventions with building owners.

TBI effectively mobilizes the resources and expertise of eight city departments and two nonprofit organizations to ensure that structures are made safe and habitable and to help responsible owners gain financing to rehabilitate problem buildings. If owners fail to bring their properties into compliance with the Building Code, the city tries to find new owners through a variety of strategies, including court appointed receivers, foreclosure and purchasing of delinquent taxes.

By enabling a coordinated city response to deteriorating conditions, the program works proactively to prevent properties from deteriorating into non viability and abandonment. This targeted response also taps into the resources of lenders and mortgage holders who are working to bring these buildings under responsible ownership.

TBI employs a variety of techniques to save troubled buildings: buying notes and mortgages, then completing their foreclosure; persuading owners to sell troubled buildings to responsible developers; financing the acquisition and rehabilitation of troubled buildings by experienced owner operators, including a small per-unit subsidy when necessary to make rehabilitation feasible; buying delinquent property taxes; facilitating the inspection of troubled buildings; working with neighbors and tenants; petitioning for the appointment of general receivers to bring troubled buildings under control and up to code; monitoring the ongoing compliance of building owners with court orders; and arranging for the transfer of administrative cases against troubled buildings to municipal court.

The Troubled Buildings Initiative was launched in July 2003 with the goal of improving 3,000 units of multi-family housing in its first three yearn As awareness of the program has grown, rundown buildings have been referred to TBI by city departments, aldermen, community organizations and concerned citizens. Through these efforts, TBI succeeded in preserving almost 2,900 multi-family units by the end of 2005.

As a result of these early successes, TBI's focus has now been broadened from its original target of multi-family buildings to address the problem of single-family homes facing the same threat of disinvestment, abandonment and deterioration. In the first year of the single-family program, 133 units were prevented from being lost.

For more information contact: Angie Marks, assistant commissioner, Department of Housing; (312) 742-0469;
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Article Details
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Author:Kelly, Ann Swing
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 8, 2007
Previous Article:Cities report progress on high school reform, link education to economic development goals.
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