Downey aiming for 'All-America City' label

DOWNEY - Just as nobody can be perfect, no city can lay claim to a condition of perfectibility. Downey can operate only with imposed constraints: among them, finite resources and limited budgets, with an ever-present assortment of risks thrown in.Even so, because of its proud history, a record of accomplishments that do honor to its far-seeing leadership, both past and present, and an outstanding array of character-driven institutions, confident Downey has never shied away from presenting its best side to the world. Four years ago, Councilman Mario Guerra, ever voluble but undeniably zealous and on the mark with his initiatives a good percentage of the time, had this idea: why not enter Downey in the nationwide All-America City competition? "The time has come to do just that," he says, adding: "It's never too late to do the right thing. We are overdue on this." The competition, involving thousands of aspiring cities across America, is based in Kansas City, Kansas and administered by the National Civic League, to celebrate innovation and the can-do spirit of cities. The applicants are asked to justify their entries on the following specific criteria: •Civic engagement and collaboration - comprehensive resident engagement and collaboration across jurisdictional boundaries among the public, private and nonprofit sectors and key constituencies. •Inclusiveness - recognition and involvement of diverse segments and perspectives (ethnic, racial, socio-economic, age, sexual orientation, gender expression, people with disabilities and others) in community decision-making. •Innovation - creative use and leveraging of community resources. •Impact - demonstrable significant and measurable achievements in the past five years (e.g., dollars raised, jobs created or lives impacted), particularly in projects that address the community's greatest challenges. Seeing how Downey's strengths fulfill the above criteria through such agencies, programs and projects as Character Counts, Keep Downey Beautiful, Neighborhood and Business Watch Programs, the Downey Unified School District, community organizations, Gangs Out of Downey and the hugely vital role the former NASA property has played in Downey's developmental renaissance (these last two getting the exhaustive treatment as the application's key selling points, including the latest welcome news - Raytheon's decision to locate a public safety research facility here), the triad of Guerra, assistant city manager Gilbert Livas, and community development director Brian Saeki, with the collaboration of the City Council, set about crafting the application, with Saeki acting as point man. He says it is submitting the application on Monday and the Patriot is getting a copy on Tuesday. The finalists will be announced in April, out of which 30 cities will be selected to make an oral presentation to the panel of judges sometime in May. Finally, the 10 winners will be determined at the end of June. According to one source, winners of the annual award get to "display the distinctive All-America City shield imprinted over the U.S. flag throughout their cities." "We're very optimistic about our chances," said Saeki. "Winning such a prestigious award will really be something." Said Guerra: "We'll be honored if all the hard work of our citizens, our great staff, and the leadership of the council - all pointing in the same direction - can be validated by such an award. Anyway, we deserve this recognition!" Downey was also one of six to 11 finalists two years running for the title of "Most Business-Friendly City" in L.A. County.

********** Published: March 10, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 47