Wheat Ridge is proud to be named one of 20 finalists for the 2021 National Civic League (NCL) All-America City Award (AAC). Each year since 1949, the NCL presents the award to 10 communities to celebrate and recognize villages, towns, cities, counties, tribes and regions that engage residents in innovative, inclusive and effective efforts to tackle critical challenges.
Led by city council members Rachel Hultin and Val Nosler Beck, a small group of dedicated community members and city staff have been working hard to create the final presentation that will be given Wednesday, June 9.
The 2021 AAC Award highlights efforts focused on building equity and resilience. Finalist presentations will demonstrate the positive effects of using equitable engagement strategies to address issues such as promoting racial healing and equity, expanding the role of residents in disaster preparedness and recovery, and engaging the community in environmental sustainability.
The Wheat Ridge application focused on three areas including Wheaties Academy, Sustainability and Wheat Ridge Together.
Wheaties Academy is a grassroots leadership program developed to expand and diversify the civic voice by building a bench of community leaders and ensuring that the diversity of engaged civic voices reflects the actual diversity of the city. Wheaties Academy is structured with the following goals to ensure graduates gain both skills and civic experience: remove barriers to involvement; elevate diverse voices in community storytelling; and establish a network of actionable relationships. Of the 45 program graduates, 70 percent have gone on to serve the community in some civic capacity.
Sustainable Wheat Ridge
After environmental stewardship was prioritized in the 2035 Vision Statement in the Wheat Ridge City Council’s Strategic Plan, a resident-led advisory committee called Sustainable Wheat Ridge got to work, dedicating more than 550 hours of volunteer time to complete the action plan, which was approved with a budget of $25,500. With the help of city and external grant funds, the action plan from 2018 is now 51 percent complete.
Wheat Ridge Together
Wheat Ridge Together is the culmination of Wheat Ridge’s collaborative efforts to respond to the dual challenges of the pandemic and racial justice reckoning. Wheat Ridge was well positioned to face the challenges of the pandemic due to two new virtual public engagement tools: “What’s Up Wheat Ridge” to enhance online community engagement; and “Wheat Ridge Speaks” to provide official public comment on city council and planning commission items. Businesses were supported through an online application that resulted in the distribution of more than $750,000 in grants to assist with daily operations, the expansion of outdoor operations, and the purchase of PPE. The city also created signage in Spanish and English and distributed these along with free masks to local businesses to assist with the implementation of the mask mandate.
Last summer, Wheat Ridge community members created an organization called Wheat Ridge for Equity and began demonstrating six days a week to support black lives. Wheat Ridge for Equity members asked the city to take the following actions: start continuous equity training for all city staff and elected officials; create an equity task force to review all city departments and policies for racism and bigotry; and ensure the task force is composed of underrepresented community members.
On Sept. 21, with extensive community input, city council provided direction to staff to implement the suggested actions. The AAC application was truly a labor of love for our city and resulted in Wheat Ridge being selected as one of only 20 finalists. Our entire city can be proud of this accomplishment as we await the final awards selection following our presentation on June 9.
While I have only a small speaking role in the final production, I’d like to thank the following individuals for their hard work and creativity in developing the presentation, which was videotaped with the expertise of Jesse Johnson from iotk: council members Rachel Hultin and Val Nosler Beck (and her family), Morgan Richards, Diana Lopez, Jenny Snell, Kate Cooke, Kathleen Martell, Eugene Khang, Joy Opp, Adam Wylie and Terry Gale. In addition, many thanks to city staff members who worked diligently on the application and final presentation: City Manager Patrick Goff, Alli Scheck, Marianne Schilling, Sara Spaulding, Steve Art and Kayla Betzold.
We hope you’ll cheer us on during the final presentation and awards ceremony. Tune in June 9, 5:30 p.m., on the National Civic League Facebook page and YouTube.
Contact Wheat Ridge Mayor Bud Starker at 303-235-2800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.