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Beloit falls short in bid for 'All-America' status

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
June 18, 2011
— Beloit was a finalist but fell short in a bid to earn top honors in the National Civic League’s All-America City Award competition.

A delegation of Beloit city officials and residents traveled this week to Kansas City, Mo., to make a pitch to judges for the honor, but the city was not one of 10 communities named as All-America Cities at the awards ceremony Friday.


The award, which is the oldest community recognition program in the country, is considered a top honor for civic achievement. It’s awarded annually to communities based on a city’s record of innovations and for surmounting challenges through plans between residents, city officials and local business groups.


Beloit was named a finalist in the contest this spring after judges selected it as one of 23 cities whose programs and initiatives were worthy of special honor.


Beloit was named an All-America city in 1971 and had hoped to garner the distinction again this year by presenting three local initiatives to judges at the contest. One was a multi-year project by a Beloit-area youth coalition, Rock County Youth 2 Youth, to curb youth smoking and create a smoke-free Beloit.


Angelica Schwartz, a member of Rock County Youth 2 Youth and a delegate at the All-America City contest, said she wasn’t disappointed the city lost in a bid for top honors.


In an address streaming live from Kansas City, Schwartz told a room of delegates from other cities in the competition that she enjoyed camaraderie with them.


Even though Beloit wasn’t an All-America City this year, the city won through knowledge gained, she said.


“This is much less of a competition and much more of a learning experience and much more about embracing each other,” Schwartz said. “We feel like we’ve learned a lot. We’re going to bring it back to our community.”


Beloit City Manager Larry Arft said earlier this week that winning the competition would be nice, but that as a finalist, the city had already garnered a lot of attention. He said the honor would only help Beloit to present itself as a positive place for people and businesses to locate.


How did Beloit become a finalist?


Beloit was selected as an “All America City” finalist for the following local initiatives:


- Rock County Youth 2 Youth—The group of 200 teens received educational training on the dangers of tobacco use and pitched anti-smoking presentations to school and city leaders, pushing forward an eight-year campaign that reduced the number of high school smokers 38 percent countywide. The initiative led to public places in Beloit becoming smoke-free in 2007, three years prior to the statewide smoking ban.


- Beloit 2020, Riverside Park—The 20-year public-private plan between Beloit 2020 and the city pushed forward improvements along the city’s downtown riverfront, transforming idled factories and other properties into a vibrant city center. The revitalization included a river walk and Riverside Park improvements such as the Big Lawn, where coal piles, creosote logs and an aging hardware store once stood.


- Fairbanks Flats—The city, state and local citizen groups partnered with developer Gorman and Company, using tax credits and grants over the a span of five years to transform the former World War II-era segregated housing apartment from a boarded-up wreck into low-to-moderate income housing.



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