Newsbriefs January 23

by Laura Turner

Miami-Dade Public Library System Inaugurates Learning Centers

A grant from NLC Capstone Corporate Partner IBM is enabling the Miami-Dade (Fla.) Public Library System (MDPLS) to make KidSmart Early Learning Centers available in all 49 branches.
Each center is a computer housed in brightly colored, child friendly Little Tikes furniture that is equipped with educational software which will help preschool children learn.

"IBM is excited to partner with MDPLS by providing new opportunities for children to explore concepts in math, science and language," said Stanley Litow, vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs and president of the IBM International Foundation.

The KidSmart program also includes access to the KidSmart website and assists preschool teachers in using technology more effectively in their classrooms.

KidSmart was developed in 1998 to help reduce the digital divide, especially in urban areas, where children from less affluent backgrounds still needed access to technology tools and educational materials. Since its inception, IBM has donated more than 55,000 Young Explorer learning centers to schools and nonprofits in 60 countries, serving more than 10 million students and 100,000 teachers.

Details: Victoria Galan at (305) 375-5180 or

Allentown, Pa., Rings In 250th Anniversary

Allentown rang in 2012 and its 250th anniversary year with a family-friendly outdoor New Year's Eve celebration. Performers included the school district's orchestra. Other features included ice carving, carriage rides and fire performers.

The highlight of the evening was a midnight bell drop-similar to New York's Times Square countdown and ball drop--officially ringing in the anniversary year. A bell was chosen for the drop because of Allentown's historic connection to hiding and protecting the nation's Liberty Bell at Zion's United Church of Christ during the Revolutionary War.

The DaVinci Science Center worked with children to create and build the poster board and plaster bell throughout December. The children attached their wishes for the new year on the bell, which was lit all evening with fiber optics.
A ceremony for the lifting of the bell was held at 8:00 p.m. so that young children could participate. At that time, the current pastor of Zion's Church rang the town bell that was cast in 1769. At midnight churches throughout the city rang their bells.

"We have a whole year of wonderful events planned," said Mayor Ed Pawlowski. A parade and street fair will be held in September, and the city is cataloging and preserving its public art.

Details: Communications Coor-dinator Mike Moore at (610) 437-7653

Greensboro, N.C., Police Department Uses Billboards, Message Signs

Through a partnership with an outdoor advertising firm, the Greensboro, N.C., Police Department is using billboards to educate drivers and their passengers about a variety of public safety issues.

The messages are designed to remove crime opportunities by encouraging the public to adopt better self-protection measures, to warn offenders of increased police vigilance and to encourage citizens to report criminal activity.

"The messages on these billboards complement our on-going police initiatives by reinforcing existing programs and community outreach efforts," said Chief Ken Miller.

The outdoor advertising firm partner estimates that an average of 55,000 people per day will see the crime prevention messages posted on their new digital billboards throughout the city.

Two of Guilford County's Most Wanted persons will be featured each week rotating on various billboards in Greensboro through 2012.

Public safety messages focusing on specific crimes will appear on both digital and vinyl billboards each month.

Details: Public Information Officer Susan Danielsen at (336) 574-4002

Boston Launches Smoke-Free Homes Registry

Boston has launched a smoke-free housing registry and called on landlords to use the free service to list their properties and expand housing options available to residents who want to live in smoke-free buildings.

"Healthy homes are the foundation of a healthier Boston, and this initiative is a great example of how city government, working with developers and landlords, can come together to improve peoples' lives," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

The registry was created by the Boston Public Health Commission, which is providing technical assistance to property owners who need help transitioning their properties to smoke-free. 

"Smoke-free housing means fewer trips to the hospital for asthma attacks, and fewer residential fires," said health commission executive director Barbara Ferrer. "Smoke-free housing policies are good for the health of our city and will increasingly become the new norm in Boston."

The public awareness campaign includes a new website,; radio, television and print advertisements; outdoor banners and direct outreach to landlords.

Details: Mayor's Press Office at (617) 635-4461.