Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. 3.5 Summary of Reported Key Accomplishments


While the SC2 teams undertook a vast number of activities, not all activities were completed, and among completed activities only a subset were regarded as key accomplishments by stakeholders interviewed for this study. The evaluation team’s discussions with pilot city stakeholders and team members examined what the SC2 teams were able to accomplish during the timeframe of the evaluation—the first 18 months of pilot implementation (September 2011–March 2013). We asked stakeholders to describe what they perceived to be the SC2 teams’ key accomplishments in each city, focusing on accomplishments that addressed city priorities. Based on the study team’s data collection and analysis, we identified 40 key accomplishments during the evaluation period.

Key accomplishments most commonly arose from activities in which SC2 teams provided responsive, transactional assistance to address specific problems (activity type 1 above). The frequency of these accomplishments appears due to the large number of city priorities that fell into this category, as well as the relative ease with which a team member could address isolated problems simply by tapping into readily available resources or connecting with senior representatives at their home agency. The next most common activity type to lead to key accomplishments was activity type 3, brokering local or regional partnerships, followed by activity type 4, adding temporary technical capacity to city staff. The success of activities that brokered local partnerships may be related to the ability of federal stakeholders to inspire the formation of new partnerships in a way local stakeholders cannot; the success of activities that added technical capacity is likely due to the significant time team members dedicated to those activities. The activities that less often led to key accomplishments were program and plan development (activity type 5) and building relationships between local stakeholders and state and federal employees (activity type 2). The relatively few accomplishments that arose from these activity types seems due, respectively, to the length of time required for program and plan development to be completed and the small number of city requests for assistance in developing partnerships with state or federal  representatives.

In terms of content areas, activities that produced key accomplishments most commonly related to economic and business development, transportation, health, land use, and public safety. The frequency of these accomplishments appears related to the activity types, with most economic and business development and transportation projects involving responsive, transactional assistance. A smaller number of activities related to housing, neighborhood revitalization, and the environment led to key accomplishments . The infrequency of accomplishments in these content areas appears to simply reflect little emphasis on these areas by pilot cities.

Exhibit 7 summarizes the 40 key accomplishments. This is not an exhaustive list of what the SC2 teams achieved, especially given the limited timeframe of the study, but presents those accomplishments that stakeholders most frequently cited during conversations with the evaluation team. For an expanded list of accomplishments, see the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative’s First Annual Report. 21

Exhibit 7: SC2 PilotKey Accomplishments

SC2 city Key Accomplishments as Determined by SC2 Team Members, Pilot City Representatives, and Evaluation Team Content Area of Accomplishment
Chester EPA team members established a partnership between city leadership and faculty at Temple University. With the EPA as facilitator, a 15+ member graduate student team worked on regional planning and design projects within the city at no cost, developing a downtown revitalization plan. Land Use and Revitalization
A team member from HUD was able to determine how to repurpose grant money to demolish the Chester Arms Hotel building, an immediate safety hazard that had become unstable due to hurricane damage. Land Use and Revitalization
A team member from HHS worked with Keystone Mercy Health Plan (a major regional health-care provider) and Widener University to establish the Healthy Chester Coalition, a council of nonprofits and faith-based community institutions whose goal is to coordinate services to meet Chester's health care needs collaboratively and effectively. Health
The SC2 team facilitated a new relationship between the city and Widener University. Evidence of this relationship included bringing Widener into the Healthy Chester Coalition, starting discussions between the school district and Widener about Widener's charter school and Chester's education coalition, and helping establish a partnership with the
Chester Police Department.
The SC2 Team helped facilitate an investment by a Philadelphia-based food bank, Philabundance, to open a supermarket-style food bank. The $4.5 million project broke ground in late September 2012 and will provide the first new grocery store in the City in over a decade. Financing from two Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs)—the Nonprofit Finance Fund and The Reinvestment Fund (TRF)—was critical to helping Philabundance move forward. Economic and Business Development
DOT team members negotiated agreements with regional transit authorities (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority/Amtrak) to allow a business to rent out retail space at their Chester station, and began conversations with Amtrak about opening an Amtrak train line to Chester. Economic and Business Development
General Services Administration (GSA) team members introduced the city to the GSA's acquisition program, allowing it to acquire new school equipment for Chester schools (including 60 low-cost computers for students) and 4-wheel-drive vehicles for the city. Community Development
Cleveland Team members convened regional and local government stakeholders to form the Strategic Workforce Alignment Group (SWAG). SWAG developed a set of collaborative actions to improve the alignment of workforce employment, training, and education programs in the region with the needs of employers for skilled workers in key sectors. Workforce Development
HUD team members brokered an agreement between the city and DOT-Federal Highway Administration to allow construction work for Cleveland’s neighborhood development strategy to continue, developing work-arounds to deed restrictions on city-owned properties. Land Use and Revitalization
Team members provided indirect technical support as the city applied for EPA funding to clean up a 5-acre brownfields site called "Dike 14" and incorporate it into the Lake Front Nature Preserve. They also helped gather and address public comments, so that clean-up could commence. Environment
Through SC2, NASA and the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network created the Adopt a City program, which awarded nine small and medium-sized manufacturers 400 hours of NASA subject matter assistance and access to $450K in low-interest loans from the City of Cleveland or Cuyahoga County to solve technical challenges. Economic and Business Development
Detroit Team members provided indirect technical support as the city applied for $25 million in funding to expand Detroit’s public transit by building the "M-1" Woodward Avenue Light Rail line, a streetcar line connecting the Detroit People Mover network with Amtrak's Southeast Michigan Council of Governments’ commuter rail. Transportation
Team members helped establish a Regional Transit Authority, reviewing the region's transportation planning process, providing advice and expertise on ways to improve it (including how to conduct transit corridor planning studies), and serving as a knowledge base for advocates for Regional Transit Authority legislation. Transportation
Team members brought together the city and the Youth Violence Prevention Forum, who had previously not coordinated their efforts. As a result of meetings with the Forum, the city started concentrating its board-up and blight removal efforts in areas where students frequently travel to school, improving the safety of those routes. Public Safety
Team members identified a way to repurpose HUD funding in order to demolish Douglass Homes, a dilapidated former public housing project that was a major blight on the city's skyline. Public Safety
Team members from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), DOJ, and ED worked with Code for America and the Knight Foundation to launch Text My Bus, a service that provides real-time travel information so that Detroit Department of Transportation passengers will not have to wait at bus stops for long periods, where they might be exposed to crime. Team members identified a way to repurpose funding from another grant for Text My Bus, and identified other sources of funding, to make the project sustainable over the next two years. Public Safety
DOJ team members were able to determine a way to repurpose a COPS grant to retain 120 police officers, maintaining public safety as a top priority and preventing layoffs. Public Safety
Fresno The FTA and the EPA team members facilitated a conversation with local stakeholders that resulted in the re-routing of Fresno's Bus Rapid Transit line to better align with the location of Fresno’s planned high-speed rail stop and its downtown commercial district, fostering economic growth. Transportation
The FTA and the EPA team members convened local, state, and federal stakeholders working on various elements related to high-speed rail and downtown revitalization. As a result, the proposed high-speed rail stop was moved to a more strategic location in the downtown commercial district and the city applied for and received a grant to improve a pedestrian mall in the district. Transportation
The HUD team member identified the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program grant opportunity for the city and helped assemble the partners needed to submit a successful application. The grant was received and is being used to support the city's expansion of its neighborhood revitalization efforts into two neighborhoods, Southwest and El Dorado Park. Land Use and Revitalization
By identifying a funding source, providing indirect technical support, input, and advice throughout the process of the city's grant application, and connecting the city to federal experts on historical preservation, team members helped Fresno secure a $16 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant to advance the city's vision for Fulton Mall, reconstructing the mall's 18-block area and revamping vehicle traffic lanes to increase its businesses' accessibility and visibility. Land Use and Revitalization
Team members identified grant funding from the Department of Agriculture and IBM Smarter Cities Challenge to substantially advance Fresno’s planning for bringing broadband to the downtown area and establishing technology for remote sensors tracking water and pesticide use on farms within Fresno. Economic and Business Development
Team members assessed the feasibility of expanding Fresno’s value-added food sector (including the development of a downtown "food hub," public market, or "kitchen incubator"), helped to develop the city's plan, exposed them to other Northern California innovative food organizations, and identified potential sources of funding for the effort. Economic and Business Development
The SC2 team helped Fresno and community stakeholders align the city’s current plan to end homelessness with the new federal Opening Doors policy to end all forms of homelessness through strategic provision of housing, job, and services for homeless individuals. Housing
Memphis DOT team members provided indirect technical support as the city successfully applied for a $14.9 million TIGER grant for its Main Street to Main Street Multi-Modal Connector Project, which will improve transportation in downtown Memphis and develop bike and pedestrian trails. Transportation
Team members from DOJ coordinated the multiple federal initiatives in Memphis working on youth violence prevention, including Shelby County’s Defending Childhood initiative, the work of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, and a federal civil rights investigation on unfair treatment of African American youth. Public Safety
Team members helped the city successfully present a case to the GSA chief of staff to have the GSA relax certain building regulations for the city, allowing federal offices to remain in, or move to, downtown Memphis. Land Use and Revitalization
HHS team members researched Memphis' current and future health needs, creating "A Profile of the Uninsured in Memphis" and a "Detailed Memphis Health Profile" to prepare the city for an increase in insured Memphians generated by Affordable Care Act in 2014. Health
Team members trained city officials and a local community development organization on how to set up and fund a Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI) to support small businesses, including identifying several relevant Treasury grant programs. As a result, the River City Capital Investment Corporation, a local CDFI, was formed. Economic and Business Development
DOT team members cut red tape to finalize the purchase of the American Queen Riverboat as part of an effort to develop the city's tourism industry. Economic and Business Development
Team members inventoried the city's strategic plans and reports, drafting a narrative around how these initiatives fit together and drafting a communication strategy for getting the word out about the city's development efforts. Economic and Business Development
Team members connected Community Lift with the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), leading to a $250,000 DRA grant to bring free broadband access to the South Memphis neighborhood of Frayser. Economic and Business Development
New Orleans Team members connected the city with leadership at DOT, which resulted in identifying a mechanism for pooling DOT and HUD grant money to enable the completion of a streetcar project. Transportation
Team members connected city officials with experts at HUD and the state to get the city's $52 million soft-second mortgage program off the ground, cutting red tape and solving lingering technical problems that had stymied the effort. Housing
Team members sought expert advice from HUD that allowed the city to release disaster relief funds in order to regularly maintain abandoned lots, instead of having to wait to do so only once a year. Housing
Team members brought together prison, drug court, city, and state officials to establish and coordinate the implementation of a permanent supportive housing voucher preference program for individuals returning from substance abuse treatment or prison. Housing
Team members help the city avoid recapture of $20 million in housing funds by reconciling poorly-kept records and clarifying the status of the funds. Housing
Team members identified and convened local stakeholders involved in providing mental health services to create a behavioral health council. The council then worked with the city to draft a comprehensive, regional plan for behavioral health, including a needsassessment and a regional guide to behavioral health resources. Health
A team member from DOJ helped identify a successful murder reduction strategy in Milwaukee that became a model for New Orleans, leading to the creation of the Mayor’s Strategic Command to Reduce Murder. The Command serves as a means for state and local law enforcement officials to share information and coordinate responses to murdersin the city. Public Safety
Team members facilitated conversations between city, state, and federal government representatives to extend the time frame for submission of reimbursement claims from community health clinics, avoiding reductions in health services to the community. Health

21  White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities, Strong Cities, Strong Communities First Annual Report, April 2013.

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