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League of California Cities
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Cities recognized for extraordinary efforts to enhance local communities

October 14, 2020
Dozens of cities were honored with prestigious awards during the League of California Cities Annual Conference & Expo last week. 
The winning cities were recognized for implementing outstanding programs and innovative solutions to improve the quality of life in their communities, making great strides to address climate change, and improving employee health and wellness programs. The awards were presented in front of a virtual crowd of 1,600 conference attendees.
Helen Putnam Award for Excellence
The Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program was established in 1982 in honor of Helen Putnam, the League’s first woman president and dedicated public servant and mayor. The award recognizes outstanding achievements made in California’s communities in 12 categories and is presented each year at the League Annual Conference & Expo. The 2020 Helen Putnam Award winners are featured below with a link to a short video describing their initiatives.
The City of Alameda received the Planning and Environmental Quality Award for its “Climate Action and Resiliency Plan.” As an island city, Alameda created its “Climate Action and Resiliency Plan” to address the threat of rising sea levels due to climate change. The plan includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building resilience to increased flooding. Following community member engagement on climate action challenges and solutions, the city won support for a ballot measure that is now raising $2.9 million annually for flood protection and storm water projects.
The City of Colton received the Public Safety Award for "Colton’s At-Risk Teens Academy (CART)." After detecting an increase in juvenile-related issues, the city created the CART Academy to get Colton’s troubled youth back on the right track. The 16-week program provides students with a supportive environment to reduce truancies and negative external influences. The goal is to increase student graduation rates, encourage healthy life choices, and strengthen family relationships. CART has a success rate of 89 percent for the students who graduated from the program.
“The Colton At-Risk Teens or CART really embraces what it means for police officers to get involved in their community, and where better to start than with our youth. The CART program has helped many troubled teens get back on track with their lives and become very successful adults," said Colton Police Department Lieutenant Raymond Mendez. "We are proud to have been selected for this prestigious award and look forward to many more years of working with our community,” 
The City of Davis received the Economic Development through the Arts Award for the city’s “Light the Way: A Bike Safety Musical.” In 2018, the City of Davis commissioned the Bike City Theatre Company to create an original production promoting cycling and bike safety to young audiences. The project supported a small local business, while providing an innovative way to promote health and safety in the community. “Light the Way: A Bicycle Safety Musical” is performed in elementary schools throughout Davis, demonstrating that an investment in the arts reaps positive returns and contributes directly to a thriving community.
“The City of Davis is honored to receive this award for economic development through the arts,” said Davis Mayor Gloria Partida. “Our local artists and arts administrators were innovative in leveraging available funding to support future organizational growth, audience development, and long-term financial stability in addition to providing a fun, educational platform to promote active transportation, physical fitness, emotional well-being and environmental health.”
The City of Escondido received the Public Works, Infrastructure, and Transportation Award for the city’s graffiti eradication program. Removing graffiti was a slow and costly process in Escondido. In an effort to deter the vandalism, the city established the “Graffiti Eradication Program,” which incorporates a crowdsourcing reporting app, heat map-generating software to track and identify trends, and a dedicated crew to promptly remove graffiti when reported. With the new system, the city was able to lower the response time to remove graffiti within hours, if not minutes.
“On behalf of city leadership and staff from public works, information systems, and communications, we are so honored to have received the Helen Putnam Award for our Graffiti Eradication Program," said Escondido Deputy Director of Public Works Jake Nyberg. "This award acknowledges our innovative use of technology, staffing, and outreach to force multiply limited resources into a program that has had a significantly positive result on workflow efficiencies, response times, engagement, and community pride,” 
The City of Glendale received the Community Services and Economic Development Award for Glendale’s “Ecosystem for Tech Start-Ups (GETS).” GETS was created after a city study found there was no central place for local technology talent to innovate and inspire each other. Since 2016, GETS created networking opportunities for tech entrepreneurs and developed events like Tech Week, attracting more than 5,000 attendees. In just three years, 162 new tech businesses have set up in Glendale, invigorating not only the tech sector, but the overall community, as well.
“The City of Glendale has been working to establish itself as a comprehensive regional hub for technology and innovation," said Glendale Mayor Vrej Agajanian. "The Glendale Ecosystem for Tech Start-Ups Project has further cemented our position as such by attracting 162 tech firms to our community over a 3-year time period. We are honored to be recognized with a 2020 Helen Putnam Award,” 
The City of Moreno Valley received the CCS Partnership Intergovernmental Collaboration Award for its “After School Education and Safety — Expanded Learning Program.” Moreno Valley recognized a need in the community for an afterschool program to support low-income families and students struggling academically. Partnering with local school districts and community organizations, the city developed an afterschool program that is safe, fun, and provides students with academic support. Since 2007, “After School Education and Safety — Expanded Learning Program” has grown to serve more than 46,000 students, broadening their horizons through enrichment activities geared toward preparing them for college and career.
"The hours between the time when school lets out and parents get home from work are the riskiest time of day for children," said Moreno Valley Mayor Dr. Yxstian Gutierrez. "The city's Afterschool Expanded Learning Program provides students with a fun, safe learning and socializing environment that keeps them out of trouble and on the path to success. I can’t think of a better reason for earning a Helen Putnam Award than for helping the children of our community."
The City of Norwalk received the Health and Wellness Programs Award for the city’s “We Have Project.” After noticing a steady incline in the number of teens besieged with bullying, mental health issues, and other challenges, Norwalk Teen Center staff recognized a need to provide local youth with positive mentorship and access to resources. The “We Have Project” features teen center staff offering advice, a forum for dealing with issues, and professional resources for teenagers battling internal struggles. Since launching the project, the teen center has received an influx of visitors.
The City of Palmdale received the Housing Programs and Innovations Award for the city’s Courson Arts Colony (CAC). This newly developed affordable housing community in Palmdale consists of 160 units, 60 of which are dedicated to housing and providing supportive services to homeless veterans and homeless individuals who face health challenges. CAC also provides housing for artists, who use their artistic talents as a healing tool for residents. Apart from providing shelter for people in need, the project created 560 construction jobs, 10 permanent jobs, and continues to provide economic growth for the city.
“The CAC has been a project 20 years in the making that required strong commitment from city staff, city council, and the community,” said Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer. “I am proud to have worked with city council on this important project. It’s the latest piece of revitalization and housing innovation that also includes Legacy Commons for Active Seniors, two dedicated senior housing complexes, and the newly renovated Courson Park and Pool, Palmdale’s first park and pool and considered to be the heart of the neighborhood.”
The City of Salinas received the Enhancing Public Trust, Ethics, and Community Involvement Award for the “Alisal Vibrancy Plan.” Created with equity at its core, Salinas developed the “Alisal Vibrancy Plan,” a community-driven plan to improve the quality of life for people living in the Alisal neighborhood. The plan improved city outreach to Alisal neighborhood members, a part of the community which was underserved and neglected for decades, and removed barriers the neighborhood often faced when interacting with city government. As a result, community involvement, public dialogue, and trust between the city and Alisal residents has improved.
"The Alisal Vibrancy Plan is important because it comes from the voice of the East Salinas community. The plan developed trust and transparency with a historically underrepresented neighborhood and population, which will be further strengthened as we implement projects and solutions developed by residents,” said Salinas Community Development Director Megan Hunter. “The City of Salinas is honored to receive this Helen Putnam Award in recognition of its community involvement efforts, and is committed to continued inclusive and authentic engagement with the public.”
The City of Santa Clarita received two awards, the Ruth Vreeland Award for Engaging Youth in City Government for “I Found Sammy Clarita” and the Internal Administration Award for its college internship program.  In 2017, the city introduced the community to a new mascot, Sammy Clarita, who teaches young residents about the city’s history, projects, and events. Children learn to appreciate the importance of their city through scavenger hunts where the final prize is their own stuffed Sammy Clarita. Sammy was so well-liked, that the city also published a children’s book, filled with city stories told by Sammy, which is now available in local libraries. The second award recognized the Santa Clarita internship program to train new staff in the public sector before the aging workforce retired. The program was developed to provide students with experience in their career fields while exposing them to opportunities in local government. Since the program’s launch in 2018, the city hosted 33 interns, 11 of which are now working full-time in public service for the city or another public agency.
The City of Santa Maria received the League Partners Award for Excellence in City-Business Relations for the city’s innovative program “The Patch.” Agriculture is a big industry in Santa Maria with farms accounting for 30 percent of the jobs in the area. Santa Maria partnered with the private sector to provide a free hands-on, career-based education experience for high school students in the city. Students gain experience in leadership, crop production, and a chance to produce a popular fall attraction for the community, “The Patch”. The program has attracted over 20,000 visitors, raised $180,000, and awarded $30,000 in scholarships.
“This is another successful example of the community’s can-do spirit when challenged to find solutions,” Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino said. “Congratulations to the local students.”
Institute for Local Government Beacon Awards
The Beacon Program, which encompasses the Beacon Vanguard and Spotlight Awards, are presented each year by the Institute for Local Government (ILG). The Beacon Program provides a framework for local governments to share best practices that create healthier, more vibrant, and sustainable communities. More than 161 cities have joined the Beacon Program, and pledged to set targets and create policies and programs that exemplify those principles. ILG honored six cities that met the requirements to earn the Beacon Vanguard Award and 30 cities that earned Spotlight Awards at the Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels.
The Beacon Vanguard Award cities honored were Cupertino, Chula Vista, Sacramento, San Diego, Daly City, and Pacific Grove. The cities recognized with a Beacon Spotlight Award were Arcata, Artesia, Arvin, Bakersfield, Beverly Hills, Coronado, East Palo Alto, El Centro, Goleta, Half Moon Bay, Indio, Mammoth Lakes, Millbrae, Moorpark, Ojai, Palmdale, Paramount, Salinas, San Leandro, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, San Ramon, Seaside, Signal Hill, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Truckee, Twentynine Palms, Ventura, and Watsonville.
A complete list of city achievements for each award winner is available on the ILG website.
Cities for Workforce Health Grants
In collaboration with the League Partners, Kaiser Permanente, and Keenan and Associates, and in cooperation with the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, the League awarded $5,000 grants to five cities to improve their workforce health programs. These cities already have a basic workforce health program in place, and have demonstrated a readiness to initiate or further develop the program, a commitment to building the program’s infrastructure and capacity, and have requested assistance with program development efforts.
The cities who received grants this year are Burbank, Elk Grove, Pico Rivera, Temecula, and Upland. Learn more about the Cities for Workforce Health program.
Congratulations to all of the cities for their amazing achievements!

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