The National Civic League (NCL) announced the finalists last week for the All-America City Awards, the annual competition for civic activists and community problem-solvers. "We're very excited about this year's participants, a very strong group of contenders with great civic projects to brag about," said NCL President Gloria Rubio-Corts. "These communities have tackled everything from tsunami preparedness to environmental sustainability, education, gang violence and economic development."
The list of 26 finalists includes large urban centers such as Cincinnati, Ohio to midsized cities like Ann Arbor, Michigan and smaller suburban and rural communities like Kenai, Alaska and Lakewood, Colorado.
Immediately recognizable for the "stars and bars" shield logo found on water towers and city limits signs across the country, the award is given to ten winners each year for community-based problem solving, grassroots civic engagement and joint efforts on the part of the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Kenai won the All-America City designation back in 1992 and according to assistant city manager Christine Cunningham, hopes to prevail once again in 2011. "After a period of time, many cities apply for the award again to show their continued commitment and new programs that fit the All-America City criteria. In '92 the City focused on its building projects that included the Women's Resource & Crisis Center, now known as LeeShore, the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center, and the Senior Center. This time around we're focused on environmental projects that include the improved health of the Kenai River, the city's work to co-exist with bear populations, and the Caring for the Kenai environmental competition for high school students," explained Cunningham.
To make it to the finalist round of competition, a written application was submitted that focused on the three projects. Members of Kenai's All-America City committee include Kenai Mayor Pat Porter, city manager Rick Koch, Councilman Bob Molloy, Mary Jo Joiner, Dorothy Gray, Mary Bondurant, Scott Hammon, Natasha Ala, Carol Bannock, KPD Chief Gus Sandahl, Jacqueline Van Hatten, Christine Cunningham, Merrill Sikorski, and Steve Hansen. "One of the great things about the All-America City award is that it's a chance to network with other places in the country and learn about what they are doing to meet their challenges and sharing what we are doing here," added Cunningham.
The 2011 awards event will be June 15-17 in Kansas City, Missouri. Members of the Kenai committee, yet to determined, will make a ten minute presentation before a panel of judges and answer questions about the three projects. "I think the All-America City designation has a huge economic benefit to the community. It's a great honor, and is widely recognized by businesses seeking to expand, visitors, as well as families who have lived in All-America cities and understand the work it takes to achieve the award and may be looking to re-locate," said Cunningham. Kenai is the only finalist city from Alaska this year, although other cities such as Anchorage and Fairbanks have received the award in the past.
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