Cedar Rapids Named a 2014 All-America City

By Rick Smith, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Cedar Rapids is an All-America City.

A panel of judges with the National Civic League in Denver Sunday night named Cedar Rapids and nine other cities All-America Cities for 2014.

It’s the first time that Cedar Rapids has won the award — and the national recognition as a quality city that comes with it.

“We were able to show how we’ve moved ahead after the flood, and we just got a tremendous response from the (contest) judges and from the (other communities in the competition),”City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said last night. “It was really a moment of pride to see Cedar Rapids come together to tell our story, and now to see this very significant acknowledgment.”

Cedar Rapids also was singled out for the League’s “social media outreach” award for the city’s use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to get the city’s story out.

The victory did not come without some drama. Seven other cities were already picked and only three spots remained when Cedar Rapids’ name finally was called.

A delegation of 39 Cedar Rapids community members, led by Mayor Ron Corbett, were on hand, having made the trip to Denver for the weekend event, which was part competition among the 25 finalist cities and part conference on how cities can improve.

The delegation worked hard for the recognition.

On six dates before leaving for the conference on Thursday, the Cedar Rapids delegation rehearsed its presentation of song, mural art and sales pitch to tell the story of Cedar Rapids to the National Civic League judges. Casey Prince, executive director of Theatre Cedar Rapids, directed the effort.

“Casey Prince is a genius,” Corbett said last night.

By happenstance, the award competition came on the sixth anniversary of Cedar Rapids’ historic June flood disaster, and the disaster and the city’s recovery from it were featured prominently in the story that the delegation conveyed to the All-America City competition’s panel of judges.

The delegation’s presentation began and ended with lyrics from the song, “A Place to Go Home to,” which was written by songwriter and Mount Vernon-native Dan Bern for an event in Cedar Rapids as the city’s flood recovery six years ago got underway.

The song’s chorus — “A place to go home to, a place which will stand” — captures the moment when the floodwaters were receding and people were venturing back to their homes.

“Many of the judges were speechless,” the mayor said. “It was a community that gave the presentation, and it’s so fitting to get this significant award.”

Being an All-America City does not come with a monetary award, but Pomeranz said the award is a coveted one that can raise a community’s profile.

“It’s a seal of approval that a city has a high quality of life, that a city is innovative,” he said as the delegation prepared leave for Denver last week.

The National Civic League has been picking All-America Cities annually since 1949.

In very recent years, other Iowa cities have achieved the status of All-America City. Dubuque won in 2013; Dubuque, Marshalltown and the Quad Cities won the award in 2012; and Des Moines won in 2010. Marshalltown was among the 25 finalists this year.

The other nine winners last night: Montgomery, Ala.; San Pablo, Calif.; Brush, Colo.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Chelsea, Mass.; Independence, Ore.; Brownsville, Texas; Hampton, Va.; and Eau Claire, Wis.

l Comments: (319) 398-8312; rick.smith@sourcemedia.net

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