Phoenix, Arizona was selected as the 1993 winner of Germany's Carl Bertelsmann Prize for being the best run city-government in the world after a months-long search for models of modern, efficient municipal governments.
Sharing the award with Phoenix was Christchurch, New Zealand. The two cities split the award of $180,000.
The Bertelsmann Foundation of Germany is a non-profit organization. It gives financial support to future-oriented projects in culture, health and medicine, education, the media and international understanding.
The foundation is the research and philanthropic arm of Bertelsmann AG, the second largest media organization in the world with 50,000 employees in more than 40 countries. Bertelsmann owns RCA and Arista record companies; Doubleday, Dell and Bantam publishers; printing companies; magazines; newspapers; and cable TV services.
Based on the theme "Democracy and Efficiency in Municipalities," the judges looked for excellence in customer service, decentralized management, planning and financial controls, employee empowerment and administrative innovation.
The Carl Bertelsmann Prize is an international competition. The prize has been awarded each year since 1981 for "innovative approaches and outstanding ideas that help shape and further develop democratic societies." This was the first award to local governments.
Phoenix, the only U.S. city represented and the only city with a population of more than 500,000, competed against Braintree, England; Christchurch; Delft and Tilburg, Netherlands; Duisburg, Germany; Farum, Denmark; Hameenlinna, Finland; Neuchatel, Switzerland; and Quebec, Canada.
The international prize was awarded at a two-day symposium in Gutersloh, Germany, home of the Bertelsmann Foundation. At the ceremony, Phoenix was recognized as the "lone fighter," a city that recognizes and addresses the need for local government development without any special support or mandates from the state and federal level.
In March 1993, Phoenix was selected as the most efficiently-operated U.S. city by representatives of the country's major governmental associations, including the National League of Cities, the National Civic League and the International City/County Management Association.
Phoenix was highly praised for its efficient and customer-oriented system. According to the foundation, the key to the city's success is the direct participation of residents who are socially active in their neighborhoods.
International Selection Criteria
Seven criteria were adopted to evaluate nominees for this year's Bertelsmann Prize and outline an ideal performance-oriented management system for local government. The criteria include:
- Performance under Democratic Control - the image of local government is equally characterized by democracy and efficiency.
- Citizen and Customer Orientation - Local government sees itself as a service to the needs of citizens.
- Cooperation Between Politicians and the Administration - Elected representative set the targets. The administration supports the politicians in their efforts while working to achieve defined targets without detailed political oversight.
- Decentralized Management - Consistent application of delegating responsibility as well as monitoring the attainment of targets through efficient reporting systems.
- Controlling and Reporting - Decentralization and delegation of responsibilities require efficient planning, coordination and controlling tools.
- Employee Potential - Management must continuously dedicate its attention to employees and their development if employee potential is to be fully utilized.
- Capacity for Innovation and Evolution Secured by Competition - A performance comparison among local authorities and public accountability for results will trigger innovation and evolution.