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Despite Critics, Inglewood Promotes Itself as ‘All-America City’

Times Staff Writer

City officials on St. George’s Island, Alaska, invited the whole town--all 190 residents--to a giant “All-America City” dance when they won the national award competition last year.

In Salina, Kan., a local bank is offering “All-America City” checking accounts to celebrate that city’s 1989 victory.

To the east, in New Bern, N.C., a barge carrying an “All-America City” sign drifted down the Trent River this week during an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration.

Tired of ‘Ingle-Watts’

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In Inglewood, one of the 10 All-America cities selected in May for 1989, officials hope to turn the honor into a long-term publicity drive that will foster civic pride among residents and promote Inglewood to skeptical outsiders as a clean and safe place.

“I’m tired of people calling us ‘Ingle-Watts,’ ” Mayor Edward Vincent, one of the prime promoters of the award, said at a recent council meeting.

But the prestigious award issued by the National Civic League has its critics. Some Inglewood residents have argued in council meetings that the city doesn’t deserve the award and that focusing on it takes time away from dealing with the city’s problems.

During the award competition, the city stressed three crime prevention efforts: an anti-drug program in the schools, a new tax assessment to increase the city’s police force and a reverse sting program that is designed to discourage people from coming to the city to buy drugs. The panel of judges praised Inglewood for its interracial harmony and programs to combat drug dealing and gang activity.

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“Inglewood has had some problems in recent years but it has done a lot to deal with those problems,” City Manager Paul Eckles said. “The city’s image has not caught up with the reality, and it’s time for us to deal with that problem.”

Already, signs advertising the “All-America City” honor have been installed at every major entrance to the city, at bus stops and around the Forum, the city’s biggest magnet for outsiders. But “All-America City” signs, stationery, business cards and stickers are just the beginning, according to city officials.

“Almost every All-America City has a big celebration,” said Betsy Housley, a program assistant with the Denver-based National Civic League. “But beyond that they all differ. They use it for signs, for civic pride, to sell their city to corporations.”

In Inglewood, the City Council last week launched a two-part “All-America City” campaign: a citizens group to consider new ideas for publicizing the award and a nonprofit corporation that will control a promotional budget, which city officials say could reach several hundred thousands of dollars. Next year’s city budget includes $150,000 for All-America City promotions.

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Corporate Representatives

“Some of those in the South Bay do not have a positive image of our city,” said Mildred McNair, a resident who proposed the citizens committee. “I want to move beyond Inglewood’s image to actuality. I think we’ve been talked down enough. It’s time we talked Inglewood up.”

The nonprofit group will include representatives from Inglewood’s large corporations and its projects might include advertising and All-America City promotional events targeted throughout Southern California, organizers say. The city is planning to match corporate donations.

Inglewood officials hope to attract as contributors the Hollywood Park Race Track, Inglewood Park Cemetery, Centinela Hospital Medical Center, Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital, Northrop University and the businesses at the Forum: California Sports Inc., the Mariani-Buss Associates real estate firm, Allied-Ogden Foods, the Lakers and Kings and Great Western Bank.

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Inglewood’s smaller businesses are being encouraged to get into the act by purchasing All-America City stickers, window signs, postage meters and rubber stamps.

The award “will have a profound effect on civic pride,” said Roger L. Scott, head of the Inglewood Chamber of Commerce. “I think the promotion will catch on like wildfire among businesses.”

But not everyone is joining in the hoopla.

Qualms About Award

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“I’m disappointed with the award,” said Terry L. Coleman, one of the more vocal critics of the All-America City award and head of Concerned Citizens of Inglewood. “I’m wondering if we really deserve it.”

“I feel, if this city had submitted more information, we wouldn’t have won it,” Coleman said in an interview. “How about all the prostitutes lined up on Imperial Highway? What about 102nd Street where that girl was shot? That stuff goes on all the time. What about the mayor’s illegal campaign funds and that illegal campaign. If we had submitted all the information and won, I would have been popping champaign with the rest of them. Inglewood is not paved in gold. We have a lot of work to do. A lot of work to do.”

The state attorney general filed suit against Vincent in March accusing him of illegally using more than $5,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses. The case is pending. A Superior Court judge annulled a 1987 City Council election between Ervin (Tony) Thomas and Garland Hardeman amid allegations that Vincent and other Thomas supporters had intimidated voters on Election Day. The state Supreme Court upheld the decision in May.

Coleman praised Pomona Councilman C. L. (Clay) Bryant, who sent a letter to the 11-judge contest panel in April urging them not to honor his city.

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Pomona Not Selected

“The image and reputation of Pomona have become a joke and a laughingstock in this county,” wrote Bryant, a longtime city government critic. “Your award is a dignified and coveted recognition. In plain truth, this city has done nothing to deserve that award.” Pomona was one of the 30 finalists in this year’s competition, but the city did not advance to the top honor. Angry Pomona civic leaders blamed Bryant.

Coleman said: “If I had known about the competition, I probably would have done the same thing” as Bryant.

Vincent, who spread the word of Inglewood’s honor during a recent trip to his hometown of Steubenville, Ohio, dismissed the award’s critics as constant complainers who will never be satisfied.

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“The award doesn’t mean you don’t have any problems,” the mayor said. “An ‘All-America City’ has problems. But it is working to solve them.”


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