2016 Texas Municipal Excellence Award Winners
Less than ten years ago, the city’s downtown district suffered from high vacancy rates. Today, the district has transformed into a bustling center of economic and social activity through thoughtful design, vision, and investment.
To accomplish the transformation, the city hired experts to help rebrand the city and revive the downtown area. To encourage private investment, the city offered façade grants and installed three communal grease traps. In all, 31 new retailers and restaurants have located in the downtown district and more are on the way. At the heart of the new downtown district is Celebration Plaza which hosts approximately 200 events each year. The Sulphur Springs Celebration District redevelopment project has brought new life to the entire community-building community pride as well as attracting new residents and businesses.
In an effort to defuse the awkwardness of code enforcement and increase voluntary compliance, the city developed happy grams for various nuisance issues. The size of a postcard, happy grams are cute and illustrative notices to residents who are in violation of certain codes. They are less formal and authoritative than traditional violation letters and door hangers. Instead of being penalty focused, the happy grams simply and respectfully remind people to be a good neighbor.
The results of the new program have exceeded expectations. Voluntary compliance rates have soared, and most importantly, residents feel respected while going through the code enforcement process. The new program has proved to be a win for residents, their neighbors, and the community as a whole.
City leaders are taking a pro-active approach to addressing poverty, de-industrialization, and economic stratification in the City of Elsa, which is located in the heart of the Delta Region in the Rio Grande Valley. Beginning with a re-organization of city management and staff, Elsa city officials have launched the city’s reimaging campaign.
Key to the plan is expanding communications with residents, facilitating opportunities to increase community spirit and pride, enhancing public safety, and increasing the focus on infrastructure management. Recent projects include a school supply drive, a Christmas toy drive, a business and resource fair, and several public safety technology upgrades. These initiatives have positively impacted the quality of life for Elsa residents and are helping to shape a bright future for the city and region.
The Annual Cops and Kids Day event was organized by the Plainview Police Department as a way to encourage and build positive relationships with the city’s youth in a fun and relaxed environment. A major collaborative multi-agency event, the police department invited the sheriff’s department, the Department of Public Safety, the city fire department, Aerocare, the regional SWAT team, and many others to participate.
This allowed the kids and parents to see how many different agencies work together to protect the community. The 2016 Cops and Kids Day event attracted between 700 and 800 attendees, and included an obstacle course, a paintball gun shooting gallery, kickball, basketball, volleyball, and music. And, all that fun came at a zero cost to the city thanks to cash donations and sponsors.
The town partnered with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, the Collin County Extension Office, and the Collin County Master Gardeners Association to plant the first-of-its-kind Earth-Kind® dwarf shrub and ornamental grass research garden, as well as two demonstration gardens. In the research garden, multiple varieties of shrubs and ornamental grasses are being grown with minimal irrigation and no fertilizers.
The demonstration gardens are filled with annuals, perennials, and other plants that create beautiful, low-maintenance landscapes that greatly reduce the need for irrigation, fertilizers, and pesticides. The gardens serve as a visually attractive and tangible example for Prosper citizens to consider when addressing the challenges of water conservation and watershed protection.
Over 25,000 Population Categories
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department and Keep Tyler Beautiful developed a pilot beautification project named Beauty and the Box. The goal of the project was to take utilitarian traffic boxes and transform them into pieces of local art. With the assistance of the Solid Waste Department and Gallery Main Street, a city-owned fine-arts gallery, a contest was held and local artists were asked to submit artwork for a chance to be featured on a traffic box.
The ten winning art submissions were then turned into laminated vinyl wraps that were strategically placed at ten intersections in the Downtown Business and Arts Culture District. Because of the overwhelming support from the community, sponsorship opportunities are now available to expand the program to other parts of the City of Tyler.
When traditional methods of identifying lost animals with tags and microchips fail, the Leander Police Department’s Animal Services Unit uses social media to reunite lost pets with their owners. Photos and relevant information about lost pets are shared on the police department’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
To keep followers engaged, the Animal Services Unit takes a loving and humorous approach to the lost animal posts, which has proved very effective. This project, which was self-initiated by staff, not only returns lost animals, but has reduced sheltering costs and increased community engagement. Long gone are the days of the old-school dog catcher; the Leander Animal Service Unit provides an enhanced problem-solving and holistic approach to animal services.
During the course of the 2015 fiscal year, the City of McKinney made the commitment to take the next step as a leader in financial transparency. This resolve led to the launch of a fully interactive financial transparency tool that is searchable, cloud-based, public facing, and easy-to-understand.
The tool is a convenient way for city staff to provide ongoing updates on the city’s financial status to the city council and citizens. The interactive financial report has also quickly evolved into a valuable management tool for city departments. By taking steps to become a city that is fully transparent in a way that is easy-to-understand from a citizen’s perspective, staff has laid a foundation to build on for many areas within the City of McKinney.
Victims of family violence face many complex issues and often need guidance in identifying resources to help them emotionally and financially. In August of 2015, the Arlington Police Department initiated Project RAISE, which stands for Risk Assessment Intervention Safety Engagement.
The program consists of a multi-disciplinary team of social services and community and criminal justice agencies partnering together to focus on the needs of family violence victims. Affected families and the police department have all benefited from the program. Families are receiving needed support and resources, and the Arlington Police Department has seen a reduction in repeat police responses. Initially a temporary pilot program, the success of Project RAISE has resulted in the program being fully implemented and expanded.
The city hosted a career and education fair to inspire middle and high school students to pursue careers in math and science related fields. STEAM Day, which stands for science, technology, engineering, architecture, and mathematics, was organized by the Waco Public Works Department.
Six city departments participated in the 2015 event that attracted more than 1,500 students from 31 schools within a 60 mile radius of Waco. Students in attendance enjoyed city exhibits on engineering and surveying, operations, solid waste and storm water management, utilities, police, and library services. In total, there were 50 exhibitors that helped show students a variety of careers that have a math and science background in the Waco area.