Inglewood, Calif. [June 23, 2009] – Touting its economic revival, vision and enduring community spirit, the City of Inglewood was named a 2009 All-America City today by the National Civic League following a months-long nationwide competition. It’s the second time in 20 years that Inglewood has earned the distinction.
A jury of national experts selected Inglewood as one of 10 All-America cities for identifying City challenges and solutions and working in cooperation across jurisdictional boundaries between public, private and nonprofit sectors on three innovative projects in economic development, aircraft noise mitigation and job training. Projects included the Village at Century development, Residential Sound Insulation Program for homes on the LAX flight path, and the Auto Repair Apprenticeship with Los Angeles Opportunity Industrialization Center (LAOIC) and the City’s Fleet Management and Transit Services.
Inglewood is the only Southern California community honored as an All-American City this year.
“While hundreds of cities have developed magnificent buildings, community programs and public space, it’s unlikely that many will encounter a city that has successfully triumphed and overcome greater challenges than has the City of Inglewood,” said Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn. “We couldn’t be more proud to accept a second recognition as an All-America City – Inglewood has flourished through the teamwork and consistent dedication of our residents, grassroots groups, City workers, and political, religious and business leaders.”
When one of the most unpleasant areas in the state previously known as “The Bottoms” was envisioned as a retail destination, little chance was given for success. Today, Inglewood’s transformed commercial corridor – The Village at Century – boasts sales in the top 5 and10 percent for landmark retailers nationally. The Village was created to revitalize the community, redevelop economically stagnate properties, provide jobs, expand public/private sector investment and convert residential properties for commercial use. Approximately 50 percent of the project’s 600-person workforce is comprised of local residents and total crime in the surrounding area decreased by 43 percent. With a future tax increment revenue stream of approximately $10 million, the development will make whole on its investment in just four years.
“Developers, retailers and even local governments in other parts of the country were hard pressed to convince retailers to set up shop in urban communities – no one would fund it, no retailers would gamble on it, no local workers could be found, and no customers would support it,” said Councilman Eloy Morales, Jr. “Despite widespread doubt, the City maintained a strong sense and vision that a major economic project like this could survive. Not only did it survive – but it has become one of the most successful developments in the country.”
For more than 50 years, residents endured the constant impact of aircraft noise just above their rooftops. Just two miles from LAX – constant sound pollution made daily living in Inglewood difficult. Along with neighborhood communities, Inglewood filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) that resulted in a settlement that now provides sound insulation for area homes with a combined approximately $240 million to relieve affected communities with home insulation and air conditioning through the Residential Sound Installation Program. Today, as one of the top five national sound installation programs, the project is 48 percent complete, averaging more than 600 completed homes a year with a goal of more than 800 a year.
The City of Inglewood and Los Angeles Opportunities Industrialization Committee partnered with South Bay Workforce Investment Board, South Bay One-Stop Business and Career Centers, Inglewood Unified School District, County of Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services, and the County Department of Public Social Services to launch the Auto Repair Apprenticeship program, originally conceived to teach automotive skills that were no longer offered by public schools. The program, at no cost to the student, has trained more than 120 young adults. Graduates have the opportunity to become professionally certified in auto maintenance, resulting in an 82 percent job placement rate.
“Few cities are able to reinvent themselves, especially after 100 years of service to their residents, but that’s just what Inglewood has done,” said City Administrator Timothy E. Wanamaker. “Virtually every obstacle facing America’s most challenged cities was here – and becoming more entrenched each day. Drugs, gangs, unemployment and urban blight, all were threatening to consume a community once known as the City of Champions. Where others saw despair and hopelessness, our visionaries saw unmined gold in innovative and collaborative projects that improve our community.”
For the past four months, City officials, staff and residents collaborated to draft a comprehensive award entry and put together a winning presentation for June’s final competition. In March, Inglewood was named one of 32 finalists. It won the award following a rigorous three-day finals competition in Tampa, Fla. The City of Inglewood thanks Hollywood Park Casino, Hollywood Park Land Company, Partners for Progress, Waste Management, Los Angeles Opportunities Industrialization Center, South Bay Workforce Investment Board, EZ Lube, Inglewood High School, Inglewood Today and Hill & Knowlton.
The highly coveted award, which has honored distinguished U.S. communities since 1949, calls for participants to demonstrate excellence in areas of economic stimulus, commercial development and civic outreach.
In addition to Mayor Dorn and Councilman Morales, the delegation also included City staffers Sabrina Barnes, Rick Longobart, Bettye Griffith, Mawusi Watson, Moises Gadinez, Ed Maddox, Darryl Brown, Richard McNish, and Tunisia Johnson. The delegation was bolstered by additional team members from key “stakeholder” organizations: Chris Floyd, Los Angeles Opportunities Industrialization Center; Gerard McCallum, Hollywood Park Land Development; Caitlin Gadoua, Hill and Knowlton; and Keishawn Watts, EZ Lube.
In addition to the formal presentations, the Inglewood team surprised the other delegations during a civic fair with a carefully choreographed and costumed performance of the song “Home” which was popularized by the film and stage version of “The Wiz.” Parks and Recreation Director Sabrina Barnes, wearing bright red shoes, sang the lead role of Dorothy, and was accompanied by Human Resources staffer Moises Gadinez, Fleet Management Director Rick Longobart, and Administration Assistant Tunisia Johnson who played the roles of the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Lady respectively. Barnes modified the song’s lyrics to celebrate Inglewood, much to the delight of the audience.
About National Civic League
Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, the National Civic League (NCL) strengthens democracy by increasing the capacity of our nation’s people to fully participate in and build healthy and prosperous communities across America. Founded in 1894 by Theodore Roosevelt and other government reformers, NCL is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that accomplishes its mission through training, technical assistance, publishing, facilitating community-wide strategic planning and awards programs. It publishes research on government structures and reform and community building innovation. In addition to the All-America City Awards, NCL conducts the MetLife Foundation Ambassadors in Education Awards to be announced in April. For more information on NCL and its programs, visit www.ncl.org.