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Talk of our Towns 

2015 Playful City USA communities announced

KaBOOM! and The Humana Foundation are proud to recognize the 241 cities and towns from across the country making play a priority in their communities. Playful City USA communities utilize play as an innovative solution to address a number of challenges facing kids, families and communities. In turn, these communities retain a competitive advantage by creating healthier, more vibrant communities where families want to live and companies want to do business.

Fifteen North Carolina communities earned the designation. Charlotte, Madison and Mayodan are first-time Playful Cities while Creedmoor has been recognized 9 times – only 13 of the 241 honorees this year have been recognized as many times.

The other North Carolina honorees are: Albemarle (6-time honoree), Benson (2), Durham (7), Eden (2), Garner (2), Marion (3), Raleigh (4), Reidsville (2), Roanoke Rapids (2), Saluda (4) and Thomasville (2).

Cities are hotbeds of innovation, and this innovation has the potential to increase playability, the extent to which a city makes it easy for all kids to get balanced and active play.

Leading cities are taking comprehensive actions to bring play near all their residents. This innovative, play everywhere approach integrates play into routines and spaces where low-income families and kids spend time, turning moments of frustration into moments of joy. Thomasville is integrating hopscotch, balancing lines, shape hops and other simple activities at bus stops, waiting areas and sidewalks transforming them into kid-friendly spaces.

"In 2006 City Commissioner Tim Karan charted a path for us to invest in play to help create a healthier, happier community. We thought then, as we do now, that by embracing playability, we can improve life for all residents," Creedmoor Mayor Darryl Moss said. "We are very proud of this award and look forward to working with you all on solutions that move our communities and our county forward!"

Raleigh is first NC city to earn 4-STAR Community Rating

Raleigh received a 4-STAR Community Rating for national excellence in sustainability, the first community in North Carolina to achieve certification through the national STAR Community Rating System. STAR is a robust sustainability rating system for cities, towns, and counties, where communities evaluate themselves across seven goal areas related to sustainability. Ten additional communities achieved a 4-STAR rating including Austin, Texas, Tucson, Ariz., and Washington DC.

STAR Communities’ Executive Director Hilari Varnadore presented the community’s 4-STAR rating to Mayor Nancy McFarlane during the 2015 City of Raleigh Environmental Awards celebration. Raleigh’s annual Environmental Awards event recognizes individuals and organizations dedicated to being good stewards of the community’s environment.

"The City of Raleigh has a long commitment to sustainability with a focus not only on environmental stewardship but also on economic strength and social equity," said McFarlane. "The 4-STAR Community Rating for national excellence is a culmination of the hard work and innovative ideas of city staff and the community in not only promoting sustainable ideas but recognizing sustainable programs as a cornerstone of Raleigh’s future."

Communities pursuing STAR certification accumulate points for their achievements across seven goal areas: built environment; climate and energy; economy and jobs; education, arts and community; equity and empowerment; health and safety; and natural systems. There are three STAR certification levels: 3-STAR (200-399 points); 4-STAR (400-599 points); and 5-STAR (600+ points). Raleigh received a score of 437.5, which qualifies it as a 4-STAR Community, recognized for "national excellence" in sustainability. Only two cities, Seattle, Wash., and Northampton, Mass., have received a 5-STAR Community rating, the highest achievable.

"Sustainable cities provide a healthy environment, support a strong economy and continually improve the well-being of the community," said Varnadore. "The data and information that Raleigh gathered through the process should help the City and its partners continue to make improvements that benefit the whole community." Nearly 100 communities are actively using the STAR Community Rating System, with more than 60 engaged in the certification process.

Greenville mayor awarded Harvard fellowship

Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas was awarded the Harvard University Cahn Fellowship to attend the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program in July.

This program is designed for hands-on engagement with real world issues and case studies with other leaders and government executives. Participants will study and deploy best practices of communities to strengthen public officials’ abilities to exercise effective leadership in rapidly changing political and social environments. The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Cahn Foundation have partnered each year to identify leaders to select and provide full scholarship funding to participate in the program.

Key topics to be studied include growth strategies, negotiation, public-private partnerships, cooperative governance, behavioral decision making and microeconomics. The Harvard program employs interactive case study discussions to tackle modern issues facing communities and today’s government leaders.

While the Greenville City Council is on its annual July break Thomas was in session at the Harvard JFK School of Government in Cambridge, Mass.

"I am honored to be selected for this program," said Thomas. "It is a great opportunity to work together and develop with a diverse group of experienced leaders from across the country and world in a tremendous program. We will be gaining access to top-tier resources, a far-reaching network and effective strategies which can be taken back to our community in eastern North Carolina."