Application Summary for the All-America City Awards:
Partnering with community groups, the City of Longmont makes it easier for residents to have a place at the table by meeting them where they are, whether it’s at the El Comité- a grassroots organization dedicated to providing advocacy and social services for Latinos, the local Peruvian festival, a teen mom support group, or various Chamber of Commerce events.
This inclusive engagement has led to several community successes, among them:
Other successes include a 2005 plan update, “Focus on Longmont,” that led to tremendous improvements in inclusion and support for minority populations and youth, and the newly completed comprehensive city plan, “Envision Longmont,” which featured 14 months of community input.
1.) Supporting Action for Mental Health
In response to local concerns about mental health care, 50 community members formed a coalition called Supporting Action for Mental Health (SAM). SAM is the collaborative effort of local community groups and organizations, faith communities, residents, and local government to raise awareness and address mental health issues in Longmont.
Since its inception, SAM has organized resource fairs and facilitated more than ten Community Conversations to identify, and take steps to remedy, mental health issues facing the community. After receiving a $200,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation, SAM became a formal project directed together by The City of Longmont, Mental Health Partners, and Longmont United Hospital. SAM has used these resources to establish:
With a Latino Outreach team of individuals from the youth center, senior center, family resource center, victim advocates, the school district, and an organization serving individuals with disabilities, SAM has actively worked to include monolingual Spanish-speaking members of the community. They are currently working on improving their programming to be more inclusive to LGBTQ+ members of the community as well.
2.) Connecting a Community
NextLight is a community-owned broadband service from Longmont Power & Communications that provides internet services to businesses and residents citywide. Most home users receive their internet without a contract or data cap at the cost of $49.95 per month. This rate is believed to be the best price for an un-bundled connection in the country.
Longmont has long provided its own core utilities and services. The city council had approved plans for a fiber-optic cable as early as 1997 but faced a number of restrictions from the state legislature. A caveat in the law stated that the restrictions could be set aside by a community vote. The proposal for NextLight promised to make the community more attractive to businesses, while also providing an invaluable resource for the school district. The vote passed easily with a flood of enthusiasm. In its first year, over 50% of the community signed up for service.
NextLight has become the nationwide standard of community broadband services. The school district is nationally recognized for excellence in technology and engagement, and Longmont was named as having the fastest internet speeds in the U.S. by PC Magazine in 2017. Going forward, the City and schools will continue to work together on technology through the Learning Technology Plan. This plan has given students the opportunity to work on projects such as app development, robotics, and design thinking.
More information: NextLight
3.) An Engaged Community Deals with Disaster
In 2013, the City of Longmont experienced “flooding of biblical proportions” when the average annual rainfall amount fell in just four days. A few years before the flood, city engineers learned of changes made to the local floodplain maps maintained by FEMA. Although at the time, flooding seemed highly unlikely, city officials decided to use this latest information to update their emergency plans. Special efforts were taken to reach vulnerable populations living in mobile home parks located near the creek, through a series of neighborhood meetings and door-to-door visits conducted in both English and Spanish.
The flooding of 2013 proved to be both a test and an opportunity. The flooding was devastating, but the city was prepared. The Emergency Operations Center distributed information to residents through websites, social media, and reverse 911 notifications. Emergency personnel and staff worked around the clock responding to phone calls and providing real-time updates on evacuation areas and shelter locations.
The city was fortunate to suffer no loss of life from the catastrophic event, although many residents were displaced. During cleanup, Longmont realized there was an opportunity to rebuild a more sustainable community by developing more economically diverse housing, increasing social capital for vulnerable populations, and modifying infrastructure.
Also during cleanup, Longmont worked together with other affected communities in the area to pool resources. This effort was the formation of the Boulder County Collaborative which led to the development of more affordable housing and the building of a culture of resilience.
More information: Resilient St. Vrain