A groundbreaking initiative to halt the impact of global warming, one of the nation's most sophisticated information systems, and an anti-drug strategy that offers offenders help in finding employment have won top honors this year in the Innovations in American Government Awards program administered by Harvard University's Roy and Lila Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation.
Seattle's citywide Climate Protection Initiative, Chicago's Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR) system and High Point, North Carolina's Overt Drug Market Strategy received $100,000 grants to support the sharing of their best practices with other jurisdictions.
Florida's Automated Community Connection to Economic Self-Sufficiency (ACCESS) and King County, Washington's Electronic Court Records program round out this year's honorees.
The awards were presented at a gala 20th anniversary dinner sponsored by NLC Corporate Partner IBM. The event launched a year-long celebration that will include conferences, meetings and research activities.
Seattle has reigned in sprawl with smart growth policies, one of a number of programs that have reduced carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Public works department vehicles and regional buses now run on biodiesel fuels
The municipally owned electric utility has undertaken alternative energy investment programs and encouraged cruise ships to plug into the city's climate-neutral electric supply while docked in Elliott Bay.
By streamlining the administrative side of police work, thereby freeing Chicago officers to spend more time on the street, CLEAR has added the equivalent of 700 officers to the force, according to department estimates.
Built by department members, CLEAR is credited as the primary factor in the city's decreasing crime rates. The system encourages civic participation in deterring crime; citizens can submit crime tips on-line and access crime mapping information.
High Point community leaders publicly confront street-level drug dealers and offer viable lifestyle alternatives. Neighborhood support organizations then help them obtain jobs, transportation, food and shelter.
The law enforcement/community partnership has brought a 35 percent decrease in violent crime in neighborhoods formerly crippled by the drug trade. Businesses are returning to the area and residents can now safety walk the streets.
ACCESS Florida automates the process of applying for public assistance benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid. The Department of Children and Families reports $83 million in annual cost savings despite a 600,000 increase in benefit applicants over the last four years.
King County's Electronic Court Records program designates the electronic document as the official case record and offers 24-hour, simultaneous desktop access to judges, clerks, attorneys and the public.
"These programs demonstrate that government on all levels can achieve scalable solutions to pressing global issues," said Stephen Goldsmith, the former Indianapolis mayor who directs the Innovations program at Harvard's John E Kennedy School of Government.
The winning programs were chosen from nearly 1,000 applicants. Fifty semi-finalists were named in March. Eighteen finalists were chosen in April to make presentations before a selection committee chaired by Kennedy School Professor of Public Service David Gergen.
Federal, state, local, tribal and territorial programs in all policy areas are eligible to apply Applicants are judged on their novelty, effectiveness in achieving tangible results, success in addressing a problem of public concern, and transferability to other jurisdictions or policy areas.
The Innovations Awards were launched in 1985 by the Ford Foundation, which in 2001 endowed the program in perpetuity.