Bellevue was among 10 cities nationwide to be honored with this year’s prestigious All-America City Award. Cities, counties, tribes, neighborhoods, villages, towns, and regions that engage residents in innovative, inclusive and effective efforts to tackle critical local challenges are eligible for consideration.
Doug Linkhart, the National Civic League’s president, said this year’s 20 finalists managed the compounding difficulties of the past year, all while building equity and resilience. “Their accomplishments are a testament to what can be achieved when government, residents, businesses and other stakeholders collaborate.”
This year’s theme focused on building equitable and resilient communities. The celebration was held virtually in June with workshops, panel discussions, receptions, networking opportunities, and presentations by civic leaders and national thought-leaders.
“We are honored to receive this award on behalf of a city that addresses community needs together with resilience and equity, even in the midst of new and unprecedented challenges, said Mayor Lynne Robinson.
In its application, Bellevue outlined some of the city’s strategic initiatives to become a more equitable community and to meet the profound needs during the pandemic. Applicants acknowledged struggles with the pains of tremendous growth, including a lack of affordable housing, increasing homelessness, and the struggle seniors to afford “aging in place.” Also noted were concerns about environmental sustainability and a diminished sense of community.
Bellevue highlighted projects that aligned with the theme of using inclusive civic engagement to address issues and reflect collaborative efforts to mitigate the growing pains. Three initiatives cited were:
- Inspirational Playground, a concept proposed by the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club to create an inclusive playground designed for children of all abilities. Led by Rotarians, a multi-year community-wide fundraising campaign involving 25 organizations and numerous individual donors enabled the $4.5 million project.
- Diversity Advantage Initiative, a city-community collaboration to create specific recommendations around the areas of cultural competence within both groups.
- Jubilee REACH and the community’s redirected efforts during the pandemic to become an essential service in support of the most vulnerable segments of the population.
Joining Bellevue as a 2021 All-America City Award recipient were Carlisle, Pennsylvania; El Paso, Texas; Evanston, Illinois, Fort Wayne, Indiana; Kansas City, Missouri; Livermore, California; Miramar, Florida; Morrisville, North Carolina; and Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
The award, first presented in 1949, recognizes communities that leverage civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues and create stronger connections among residents, businesses, and nonprofit and government leaders.
This year marked the second time Bellevue, the state’s fifth largest city, has been honored. The first year dates to 1955, two years after Bellevue incorporated with a population of 5,950, and the same year voters approved bonds to build schools, parks, and a water system.
According to past recipients and the National Civic League, the benefits of winning the award include economic stimulus (attracting and retaining job-generating businesses), community pride, community collaboration (in part through the application process itself), and national recognition. Once a community wins, it retains its status as an All-America City.
The 2022 All-America City Awards, scheduled for July 18-22, will focus on “Housing as a Platform for Equitable Learning Recovery.”