Over 55 residents traveled to Anaheim representing the 38,000 residents of Lincoln during the competition June 9-12. During the three days, the team presented their case for being selected as an All-America City to a panel of judges representing government, business and civic organizations from throughout the United States.
Prior to being selected by the NCL as a finalist, a group of dedicated citizens spent almost 30-months preparing for the program. This is the second year that Lincoln was selected as a finalist, narrowly missing an opportunity to win the award in 2005 in Atlanta, Georgia. “We came close to winning last year,” said Roger Ueltzen the co-chair for the project. “We learned a lot about the application process and what the judges are looking for from presenting cities. We were much more confident we had a stronger application and presentation in 2006.”
Each city applying for the All-America Program must submit an extensive application which asks for a history of each community as well as how each City encourages and uses public participation in making community decisions. The application also requires each City to select three programs that address a community challenge and how each City addressed the challenge. At least one of the three challenges must be a youth-based challenge.
“We conducted community charrettes asking for citizen input on the programs in Lincoln that could be used in our application,” said Steve Art, Economic Development and Redevelopment Manager for the City of Lincoln and co-chair of the program. “I couldn’t believe how many great programs were being done in Lincoln. It was difficult for our group to narrow the selection down to three programs.”
Based on the charrettes, interviews and phone calls, the application team selected three worthy programs for the application. The first challenge explored a non-profit mental and physical health center called The Lighthouse Resource Center. The center provides free counseling and referrals to the community.
The second challenge involved the age-restricted community of Lincoln Hills. Over 150-members of the retirement community are part of a program assisting the local school district. Titled S.C.H.O.O.L.S., which stands for “Sun City Helping Our Outstanding Lincoln Schools,” this active group provides mentoring, one-on-one education, teacher support, and specialized education.
The third youth-based challenge dealt with providing vocational education for high school students while addressing the affordable housing issue in the community. The ‘Zebra Housing Project’-- named after the high school mascot -- used a Community Development Block Grant to help construct single family homes. When completed, the homes are sold as affordable units with a 45-year resale covenant. Proceeds from the sale were used to construct another home. To date, students have completed 5 homes. Besides providing affordable housing in the high priced California market, the program also provides ‘hands on’ vocational training for 400 students registered in the program.
With the application submitted, Lincoln was just one of 34 communities selected as a finalist. “We know we’re a great City and are doing a lot of things right” said Lincoln Mayor Ray Sprague. “But it’s quite an honor to have an outside organization such as the National Civic League recognize and confirm that we are moving in the right direction.” By the time the group arrived in Anaheim, six of the City’s had dropped out of the program leaving 28 to vie for the prestigious award.
Lincoln was the first city to present a 10-minute sketch before the judges on the programs submitted in their application. Using a take off on the American Idol television show, the group presented the reasons that Lincoln should be an All America Idol. The other 27 communities then presented their programs.
The 10 winners were announced on Sunday evening ceremony with the winners announced in no particular order. According to Council member Primo Santini, everyone’s nerves were on edge. “After nine winners were announced, and we still weren’t called, our group began to get edgy and there was plenty of hand holding and silent prayers being said,” said Santini. Finally, the 10th City was named and Lincoln was selected as the final All-America City.
After the program, the Lincoln delegation approached National Civic League President Chris Gates regarding the success of the program. Gates then relayed that each year when selecting the order they will announce the winners, they select the City that has shown they want the award the most is announced as the 10th and final winner. According to Gates, “We do this just so we can watch that City sweat.”
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 4,000 communities have competed and nearly 500 have been designated All-America Cities.
The winning communities for 2006 are (in alphabetical order by state):
Lincoln, California; Longmont, Colorado; Sarasota County, Florida; Marietta, Georgia; Kansas City, Missouri; Columbus, Ohio; Maumee, Ohio; Richland County, South Carolina; DeSoto, Texas; and Pharr, Texas.
City of Lincoln
600 Sixth Street
Lincoln, CA 95648
(916) 645-6152 fax
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