The City of Columbus has been selected as a finalist for the 2014 All-America City Awards, the country's most prestigious award for outstanding, community-based civic accomplishments. Columbus is one of only 25 communities chosen as a finalist, and the only finalist community from Indiana.
The National Civic League, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes civic engagement and inclusive forms of community building and problem solving, presents the All-America City Award to a few select communities nationwide each year. The award recognizes communities that demonstrate innovation, inclusiveness, civic engagement, and cross-sector collaboration through successful efforts to address pressing local challenges.
“We are honored to be a finalist for the All-America City Award,” Mayor Kristen Brown said. “This reaffirms our community’s shared vision, shared plan and shared process to advance Columbus by solving our toughest challenges, leveraging our great strengths and capitalizing on our many opportunities.”
Columbus was named a finalist based on how it is addressing its pressing challenges and planning for its future through Advance Columbus and by highlighting its efforts to address obesity through Healthy Communities prevention initiatives.
Advance Columbus is a new kind of community collaboration with public and private organizations working together toward a common vision “to be the very best community of its size in the country.”
Led by Mayor Brown, Advance Columbus is a community-wide strategic plan and ongoing implementation process, created as a community for the community. The plan provides a roadmap to advance Columbus toward the future we envision in ways that are consistent with our values by defining our priorities and our goals.
Advance Columbus forms the community’s shared vision and shared values and defines its shared leadership, the backbone of which is coalitions of public and private organizations serving the community. These coalitions have formulated tangible shared measures of success and formulated shared initiatives to move the needle on those measures of success.
The core of Advance Columbus revolves around the top three priorities identified by the community: advance the safety and health of the community; advance economic prosperity and well-paying jobs; and advance opportunities for all.
All-America City winning communities will be announced in June. Columbus’ application focused on community collaboration through the Advance Columbus strategic plan and three successful efforts that demonstrate the effectiveness of local public-private partnerships:
- Obesity Prevention: Healthy Communities has focused on making policy, systems and environmental changes that make it easier to make healthy choices. As a result, initiatives were launched in schools, workplaces, day care centers and the larger community. Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. has the strongest wellness policy in the state, covering items such as eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages in vending machines, healthy foods in the cafeteria, not using candy as classroom rewards, and a myriad of other issues. The City of Columbus was the first municipality in Indiana to pass a Thoroughfare Policy that meets complete streets criteria, meaning anytime a street is touched in Columbus consideration has to be given not just to what is best for automobiles but also what will increase access and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. Workplace wellness programs were initiated or strengthened in over 100 workplaces, including pedometer challenges, stair prompts to encourage staff to skip the elevator and Healthy Meeting Guidelines (HMG) that addressed when and if food should be served at work meetings and, if it is, what should be included.
- Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015 (EcO15): A workforce development system led by the Community Education Coalition (CEC), EcO15 is creating a regional system of life-long learning by connecting the residents of 10 counties within rural Southeast Indiana to better economic opportunities through education by the year 2015 and beyond. EcO15 has invested $38 million in infrastructure and common support services with an overarching goal of helping each person in southeast Indiana move up at least one level in their education, training or job placement within the region’s three strongest economic clusters: advanced manufacturing, health care, and hospitality/tourism.
- Downtown Arts District Development: The vision of the Columbus Arts District is to be widely-considered the cultural and creative capital of the Midwest. The scope and overarching objective is to build upon the national and international reputation that Columbus has garnered for its architecture and design while expanding this distinction into the community’s other cultural assets and programs. The vision leverages the community’s arts and cultural strengths within the downtown and makes a strategic series of new investments.
Columbus’ selection as a finalist community comes 20 years after the city earned its first and only All-America City title. In 1994, Columbus was recognized by the National Civic League for three major city initiatives at the time, Project Self-Sufficiency, Diversity Task Force and Substance Abuse.
The community has applied for the All-America City Award at least three other times. It was named a finalist and received an honorable mention in 1963, and made at least two other attempts before receiving the honor in 1994. This year marks the first time the community has applied for the All-America City Award since earning the award 20 years ago.