Protesters kneel June 14 along Evergreen Road during a Kneel to Heal event. Southfield is in the running for an award based, in part, on its response to the unrest created in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

Protesters kneel June 14 along Evergreen Road during a Kneel to Heal event. Southfield is in the running for an award based, in part, on its response to the unrest created in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Southfield named finalist for All-America City Award

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published April 7, 2021


SOUTHFIELD — The city of Southfield has often been one to put residents’ needs first, according to city officials, from encouraging community engagement in reimagining a park space to helping seniors without computer access sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The National Civic League — an American nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1894 to advance civic engagement to create equitable, thriving communities — has chosen to honor Southfield as an All-America City finalist for its work over the past year.

The All-America City Award recognizes communities that leverage civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues.

“The idea was to recognize these communities for tackling local problems with civic engagement at the heart of their method,” said Rebecca Trout, the program director of the All-America City Award program. “We change the theme each year. This year was focused on equity and resilience. But the backbone for the awards every year is engagement. How have you engaged the community to work on whatever that year’s theme was?”

In order to be considered for the award, Southfield had to submit an application to the National Civic League. Each city is required to submit three project areas that show off its compliance with the year’s theme.

Southfield Community Relations Director Michael Manion played an integral part in drafting the city’s application for the award.

The first of three project areas Manion submitted focused on how Southfield addressed systemic and institutional racism through the support of the Black Lives Matter movement, with new policies, resolutions, peaceful protests and banners.

Manion said the city’s Police Department developed a new policy as a result of George Floyd’s death. The “duty to intervene” policy states that officers also have a duty to intervene should they ever come into a situation like what happened to Floyd.

The second project area focused on protecting a community of color during the COVID-19 pandemic. Manion said African Americans are more susceptible to COVID-19, so it was even more important that the city protect residents while proactively addressing the issue. As a solution, the city implemented a public information campaign, created posts on its website describing the benefits of getting a vaccine and created a 24/7 hotline dedicated to helping anyone in Southfield without computer access sign up to receive a vaccine.

The third and final project area was creating affordable housing options through adaptive reuse. Part of the solution to this issue was the creation of subsidized senior housing through an extensive rehabilitation project.

“We are very pleased to be among the 20 national finalists,” Manion said. “We’re in very good company and certainly pleased to be a part of that esteemed group. I think we’ve worked very hard to get here and we have some very solid projects that we submitted. We’re anxiously looking forward to the ultimate competition in June.”

Among the 20 finalists for the award are Dallas, El Paso, Kansas City, Spokane and Fort Lauderdale. The next step for each of these communities is to create a final presentation for the Civic League by June 7. The 10-minute virtual presentation will be followed by a 10-minute question-and-answer segment from a jury. After each city has presented its case, the field will be whittled down to 10 winners. Southfield hopes to be on that list.

“When we’re in the trenches doing stuff, sometimes you don’t realize how much you’ve accomplished and how much good work has been done,” said Southfield Mayor Ken Siver. “Reading this award nomination gave me pause. We have really done a lot and have done it during a pandemic at that.”

Siver said he would be “ecstatic” if Southfield was named a winner, but he added that it’s still an honor to be a finalist.