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The National Civic League announced the ten winners of the 2006 All-America Cities Award at the end of a three-day event in Anaheim, California, in June. These communities were chosen from a group of thirty finalists after each delegation presented three innovative community programs to a nine-person jury. The communities addressed a range of social and community issues, with innovative strategies to improve health care, foster better housing opportunities, stimulate economic development, deal with demographic change, promote civic engagement among youth, and improve education programs.
The All-America City Award encourages and recognizes civic excellence, honoring communities in which citizens, government, business, and nonprofit organizations demonstrate successful resolution of critical community issues. Since 1949, more than four thousand communities have competed and nearly five hundred have been designated All-America Cities. What follows are written descriptions of the challenges faced by the 2006 AAC winners and their award-winning efforts to address those challenges. These descriptions have been adapted from the written answers to a list of questions NCL asked the communities during the application process.
Recognized by Money magazine in 2005 as one of the top one hundred cities in the United States to live, Lincoln, California, is located in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and northeast of Sacramento. During early 1990s, Lincoln was struggling to pay its bills and meet the needs of its citizens. When the Del Webb Corporation developed a sixty-five-hundred-home retirement community known as Sun City Lincoln Hills, a housing boom ensued with new subdivisions and a growing population of outsiders. The population of the city has grown an average of 26 percent annually since 2000.
With this new development and growth came new challenges. City government has had to balance the need for infrastructure to serve the new parts of the city with that of renovating decaying infrastructure serving the older business and residential districts, which means building new roads to alleviate traffic congestion, planning for future housing and commercial developments, providing police and fire services to developing areas, expanding recreational opportunities, and building schools.
The most recent census revealed another challenge: more than 10 percent of Lincoln families were living below the poverty level. Many families and individuals lack health insurance and can barely afford to pay for the basic necessities in life. As with any other community in the state, the cost of housing can make it difficult for working people to afford single-family home ownership.
The Lighthouse Counseling and Family Resource Center
A "one stop" family resource center, Lighthouse offers a range of medical and mental health programs at no cost to members of the community, including counseling for students of the Lincoln schools and families, parenting groups, bilingual services, health clinics, and financial and legal referrals. The Lighthouse was originally funded by state and federal grants in a partnership with California State University Sacramento (CSUS). The CSUS partnership brought in graduate students to offer counseling services to the community. A Community Advisory Committee was created to give the community, schools, and county a quarterly forum to brainstorm solutions for unmet needs.
Named after the high school mascot, this affordable-housing project brings together the school district, city, and business community. The program combines housing needs with vocational education. Students build homes that are sold to families of limited financial means. More than two hundred students have been involved in the building process. The completed houses are sold to income-qualified families. The proceeds from the sale of these homes were used for the purchase of additional lots on which students are building more affordable units. Zebra Housing was recognized as an outstanding program by the League of California Cities at its 2005 conference with a Helen Putnam Award.
Sun City Helping Our Outstanding Lincoln Schools (SCHOOLS)
Founded by two former educators who lived in the Sun City retirement development, the SCHOOLS project is a volunteer tutoring partnership of the local school district, the Lincoln Volunteer Center, Lighthouse Resource Center, business and professional community, Del Webb executives, and Sun City Lincoln Hills Association. Volunteer tutors, mostly retirees from Sun City, set high standards for the students.
A farming community near the university town of Boulder, Longmont began to change in the late 1960s when high-technology firms such as IBM and Storage Technology moved to the area. From 1990 to 2000, the city's population grew by 38 percent. Today, Longmont is part of Colorado's "technology corridor." The …