US Mayor Article

Gadsden Receives First Place in 2000 City Livability Awards Program
The Center for Cultural Arts Revives "American Dream" in Gadsden and Sparks Downtown Revitalization

July 31, 2000


In 1989, a Rand McNally article listed Gadsen, Alabama, as one of the "Seven Worst Cities to Live in the United States." Specifically, the article mentioned Gadsden's economy and lack of cultural opportunities. Earlier, a 30-minute documentary on CBS' "Our Times with Bill Moyer," depicted Gadsden as a dying city. Advanced publicity for the show stated, "The American dream is dying in Gadsden, Alabama."

Mayor Steve Means assembled a group of civic leaders in his office and told them, "This will never happen again." The mayor appointed a "Blue Ribbon Commission for Economic Development" and charged it with formulating a plan to address the city's most pressing problems. The commission spent almost a year meeting with all segments of the community and developed a plan of action.

The commission submitted a report to Mayor Means with three primary priorities, one of which was to establish an organization to create and promote cultural opportunities for city residents. The Gadsden Cultural Arts Foundation was born, and by 1990 the Foundation had given birth to the Center for Cultural Arts (CCA). The CCA, a nonprofit organization, serves as a visible and accessible hub for the arts with the mission of enriching lives, supporting artistic progress, affirming individual values and promoting a sense of well-being for all people.

Two buildings and a courtyard compose the 60,000 square foot cultural campus located in the heart of downtown Gadsden. More than 100,000 people participate annually in the following community-initiated programs: Gadsden Community School for the Arts; Etowah Youth Orchestras; Imagination Place Children's Museum; Courtyard Concert Series; Coosa Valley Model Railroad Club; YouthALIVE!; Centerstage Presents; Concert Series; and the Gadsden Metropolitan Arts Council.

For his outstanding leadership, Mayor Means was awarded top honors in the 2000 City Livability Awards Program, sponsored by The U.S. Conference of Mayors and Waste Management. The awards were announced in Seattle on June 10 at the 68th Annual Conference of Mayors.

The City Livability Awards were announced and presented at the Conference of Mayors' Annual Luncheon by Maury Myers, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Waste Management, Inc., the world's leading provider of comprehensive waste services. Waste Management's support makes the City Livability Awards Program possible.

City Livability Awards recognize and honor mayors for exemplary leadership in developing and implementing programs that improve the quality of life in America's cities. The winning cities were determined by an independent panel of judges, selected by The U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"Mayor Means went from zero to hero with this program," noted one City Livability judge. "The American dream, like Lazarus, has risen in Gadsden, Alabama," said another, adding, "Mayor Means is to be commended for his leadership for the arts that has resulted in a true downtown revitalization for the city."

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