Texas Municipal League Municipal Excellence Awards for 2011
(Over 25,000 population)
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Temple (City Spirit)
When many of the gateways into Temple became not as visibly appealing as they once were, the city identified ten strategic investment zones, or SIZs. These are neighborhoods, corridors, or specific properties that, because of their location, visibility, history, or condition, are likely to have a greater than normal impact on the city’s overall quality of life, vitality, or well-being. The city then implemented the Strategic Investment Zone Program to improve the appearance and vitality of these SIZ corridors. The program incorporates code enforcement efforts, code enhancements, and economic development incentives to encourage redevelopment and to improve the quality of life in these zones. The SIZ program, which was built on public and private partnerships with both individual property owners and private investors, relies heavily on personal relationships, requires relatively little public investment, and can be readily adopted by other cities.
Wylie (Communication Programs)
In 2010, the city decided to take a proactive approach to disaster awareness and preparation by equipping citizens and employees with more information and better training. To accomplish this goal, a project was established that would enable residents to manage and mitigate an imminent threat of disaster. The project consists of four ongoing components: first, to train 100 percent of city staff in the National Incident Management System; second, to become recognized as a StormReady Community by the National Weather Service, which required making several improvements; third, to use Nixle, an emergency communications network, to communicate with city staff and citizens through text messages and e-mail about any immediate danger; and fourth, to create and train a Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT. Through this project, the city has increased citizen involvement and emergency preparedness not only for the citizens, but for city employees, as well.
El Paso (Management Innovations)
In 2009, the city instituted an innovative solution to the challenge of budget constraints. The solution was a change to the traditional work week, moving from a Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. schedule, to a Monday through Thursday 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. schedule. The reduction to four working days resulted in a tremendous savings in energy costs. From October 2010 to January 2011 alone, the city saved $22,000, which was approximately a 12.5-percent cost reduction from the same time period the previous year. In addition, the revised work schedule improved customer service by providing more flexibility in the hours citizens could conduct business at city hall, and it increased employee morale because the staff could now enjoy three-day weekends. As a result of El Paso’s success, several government agencies have contacted the city to ask about the benefits of a condensed work week and to request guidance in implementing a similar program.
Midland (Public Safety)
In June 2010, the Midland police evaluated burglary numbers and realized there was room for improvement. With this in mind, the police department and the public information office got together and created the “Lock It or Lose It” campaign to educate the public. The message was simple: lock your vehicle, secure your items, and prevent yourself from becoming a burglary victim. The program included a video and a public service announcement, which featured local officers and civilian personnel. The public service announcement was aired on local TV stations, cable networks, and the city’s cable access channel, and it was printed in the local newspaper. The video was played on the city’s social networking sites, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The extensive coverage the campaign received did not cost the city a penny, and “Lock It or Lose It” proved to be highly successful—the burglary rate in Midland has decreased by 21.5 percent since the campaign’s inception.
San Marcos (Public Works)
The Wonder World Drive Extension project involved ten years of dedicated efforts by the City of San Marcos, its citizens, the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Historical Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Initially, the project’s goal was to relieve downtown and historic neighborhoods of heavy truck and through traffic in order to maintain the city’s quality of life. However, in time the project developed into a sustainable city amenity that could be enjoyed for generations. The project not only encompassed roads, but also incorporated parks, hike and bike trails, water quality measures, and preservation of the natural resources for which the city is known. The roadway features many aesthetic treatments that blend with the local landscape, including Texas limestone, native plants, intersection landscaping, and wildflower seeding to create a nicer landscape for the residents and for travelers of Wonder World Drive.
Additional information on the TML Municipal Excellence Awards Program can be obtained by calling the TML offices at 512-231-7400.