The City of Charleston has been awarded with the 2009 City Livability Award by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, making it the most livable city in America. Much of the award was given to Mayor Joe Riley and the city for a program he used to turn a group of “aggressive” kids on the streets in to entrepreneurs.
“They had some kind of reputation for exhibiting negative behavior,” says Cochran.
U.S. Conference of Mayors Executive Director Tom Cochran describes the Palmetto Artisan Program that Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and the city of Charleston created to turn this group of kids’ negative behavior around. In the past, business owners, residents and visitors of Charleston complained about the children’s aggressive behavior in stealing palmetto fronds from yards, and making them into roses to sell on the streets. However, the city wanted to shine a light out of the situation.
“People came together and decided rather than stop the kids from doing this, they promoted it. They promoted their creativity and their entrepreneurial spirit and provided an opportunity for the children to sell while serving as a complementary activity to tourism,” says Cochran.
The kids go through a week long program called Biz Camp, that certifies them to become legitimate business vendors, allowing them to legally sell these palmetto tree roses. Last week, Mayor Riley received a prestigious award, the City Livability Award, for this program that focuses on youth entrepreneurship. The veteran mayor received a standing ovation at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting. Cochran says Charleston was deserving of the award.
“There are 200 applications and we have an independent group of mayors and archetects that come in from time to time to serve as judges. Mayor Riley won this year, and he was chosen because I think the program was an excellent example of mayoral leadership and innovation,” say Cochran.
Charleston also won this award in 2004.