Friday, November 30, 2012

League of Minnesota Cities statement on officer shooting

The League and all of the city community were saddened to learn of the death of Cold Spring police officer Tom Decker, who was killed in the line of duty on Nov. 29. Our sincere condolences go out to officer Decker's family, friends, and co-workers.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Clean water, libraries, police and fire lead the way among city bean counters
For the third year in a row, Minnesota State Fair attendees visiting the "Cities Matter" booth administered by the League of Minnesota Cities  had opportunities to be a “city bean counter.” Each person was given a six-bean budget with a goal of deciding how to “spend” their beans among eight different city services. They were permitted to allocate all of their beans to a single service, or to divide them any way they wished. Through playing the game, visitors quickly got a better understanding of the tough budgeting decisions that city officials are required to make. They also received "Mayor for the Day" buttons.  Here are the results from the 2012 State Fair.

Clean Water: 6,186
Libraries: 5,480
Police: 5,184
Fire: 4,768
Parks & Rec: 4,473
Streets & Sidewalks: 4,438
Senior Services: 4,159
Sewers & Garbage: 4,065

Visit the Cities Matter facebook page to see images from the Cities Matter booth.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Metro area cities must now allow the public to use gun ranges for safety training
by Anne Finn and Rob Boe, League of Minnesota Cities

A small provision in the Minnesota State Legislature's recent omnibus game and fish bill may cause headaches for some metro area cities. Chapter 277 (HF 2171) requires shooting ranges in the seven-county metro area that are owned or operated by a public entity to allow public access four times per year, twice in spring, twice in fall, for Department of Natural Resources firearm safety training.

The law provides two exceptions: Minneapolis and St. Paul are exempt, as are facilities that are on the same premises as a correctional or detention facility that holds or incarcerates offenders. The range operator may charge a fee to cover any costs directly incurred from use required under this section, but may not charge a fee to offset costs for general maintenance and operation of the facility.
Initially, the bill applied to all publicly funded ranges, even those in corrections facilities.

Police chiefs and the League of Minnesota Cities oppose the shooting range mandate, but made clear the objection is not to firearm safety training. Simply stated, many facilities were not built with the intent to make them open to the public. Many that are conducive to public use are already offering it.

While the new law was passed without an effective date, it is a policy provision. The default effective date for policy provisions was Aug. 1, 2012.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cities and Others Highlight Agriculture Impacts on Water Quality

by Craig Johnson, League of Minnesota Cities

On May 29, the League of Minnesota Cities joined conservation groups and farm and business representatives in calling upon the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to hold farm operators accountable for cleaning up their share of run-off pollution flowing into the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.

Standing in front of the MPCA offices in downtown St. Paul, the group dumped gallons of run-off sediment onto tarps to demonstrate the disproportionate 1 to 13 ratio of run-off pollution coming from urban landscapes compared to agricultural run-off that ultimately pollutes Lake Pepin and other downstream rivers and lakes.

Members of the League, Friends of the Mississippi River, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Minnesota Cities Stormwater Coalition (MCSC), and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy stood with a Red Wing businessman and Northfield area farmer to ask for the MPCA board to hold farm operators accountable for reducing field run-off pollution. The event occurred on the last day for public comment on the MPCA plans for cleaning up of the South Metro Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.

“Minnesotans value clean water,” said Steve Morse of Minnesota Environmental Partnership, citing a 2012 statewide poll showing that 84 percent of Minnesotans are concerned about pollution of the Mississippi River.

Cities near the rivers are required to devise systems and build infrastructure to effectively reduce pollution from wastewater and stormwater, said Dan Ness, mayor of the City of Alexandria and president of the League of Minnesota Cities. “Under the proposed MPCA clean-up plans, Minnesota city property taxpayers will be required to pay for more than $1 billion in initiatives to reduce pollution headed for our rivers while people with businesses and homes outside cities can choose whether they want to do more.”
“The MPCA goals for cleaning up our rivers are based on years of research and sound science,” added Whitney Clark of the Friends of the Mississippi River. “However, we all need to do our part to clean up our state’s rivers. City taxpayers are paying for their share. Yet there is no requirement for Minnesota farm operators to take action—and voluntary ag pollution control practices haven’t moved the needle.”
“The cities’ efforts will address just over 1 percent of the sediments flowing into the rivers,” said Randy Neprash of the Minnesota Cities Stormwater Coalition. ”The difference in water quality will be almost undetectable. The ag side of the problem really needs to be addressed in order to end up with cleaner water.”

Mike McKay of the Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance and general manager of St. James Hotel in Red Wing, stressed that pollution in Minnesota’s rivers threatens local businesses, tourism, and the recreation economy. “No one wants to play in or around dirty water, and downstream hospitality and recreational businesses shouldn’t have to suffer because the MPCA won’t hold agriculture accountable for their share of the pollution,” McKay said.
Northfield area farmer Dave Legvold, who practices soil and water conservation methods on his land, said, “It’s time for agriculture to step up and take responsibility. But voluntary programs aren’t enough. Unless you make ag pollution reduction mandatory, we won’t make progress. Right now farmers who adopt conservation practices are put at a competitive disadvantage. We need to level the playing field. The MPCA should seize this opportunity to require ag operators to reduce farm runoff pollution.”

In addition to the event at MPCA headquarters, representatives for the cities, conservation groups, and affected businesses submitted written comments urging the MPCA to use its existing authority to require farm operators to reduce pollution and regularly report pollution reductions. The League and MCSC filed joint comments and also requested that the reports go before an administrative law judge through a contested case hearing process to resolve factual deficiencies and contradictions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

League of Cities releases findings from statewide conversations with city residents

Ideas and opinions from more than 700 Minnesotans about the future funding of city services in our state are featured in a recently-released report from the League of Minnesota Cities titled “Community Conversations: Minnesotans Talk About Cities Services and Funding.”
Among the key findings:
  • Conversation participants were reluctant to identify specific services to cut, and a majority favored changes in service delivery to avoid cuts.
  • An overwhelming majority (84 percent) agreed that the state has a role in ensuring that quality services are available in every community. Generally, participants supported some kind of revenue sharing between the state and cities.
  • Participants agreed (86 percent) that people other than city residents who use city services should also help pay for them.
  • Participants generally favored implementing a local sales tax as long as the tax was for a specific resource only (community center, athletic facility). They generally did not favor implementation of a local sales tax solely to pay for general city services.
The League is completing return visits this month to most of the 12 cities that participated in the conversations to formally present the results to participants and other interested community residents. The findings will be widely shared statewide throughout the summer and will be used by League policy committees to develop and refine city-related legislative policies for the 2013 State Legislative session.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Proposed legislation could diminish trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement officers
By Anne Finn
League of Minnesota Cities

A bill (HF 358) authored by Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Shafer) that would prohibit political subdivisions from restricting employees from inquiring about immigration status of individuals passed off the floor of the Minnesota House on Wednesday, April 18.

It provides that no government entity may prohibit, or in any way restrict, a public employee from sending immigration status data to the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security; maintaining immigration status data; or exchanging immigration status data with other federal, state or local government entity. It also contains a provision stating that any Minnesota resident can bring a private right of action by filing for a writ of mandamus to compel any non-cooperating government entity to comply.

If enacted, the new language would outlaw the common practice by city governments and chief law enforcement officers statewide of implementing policies that govern when employees can request immigration status documentation from the public. According to city officials, these policies are used across the state as a way to maintain good relationships between city employees and residents.  The policies have also served as a way to differentiate city operations from immigration enforcement, which is the responsibility of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency.

Proponents of this legislation have accused cities of circumventing federal law and taking away discretion from professional peace officers. They also said the policies and ordinances compromise national security because they allow undocumented immigrants, including terrorists, to move freely within communities.

Opponents of the bill, including the League of Minnesota Cities, have urged legislators to consider the likelihood that the legislation would diminish trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement officers. Law enforcement officials have testified that this trust is an essential part of community policing and that it enhances public safety and national security.  Relationships between police officers and community members are necessary for solving crimes and preventing acts of terror.

The League has also expressed concern that the legislation would give all city employees, not just law enforcement personnel, the right to request immigration status documentation and/or make reports to ICE. Advocates for immigrants anticipate that city officials, who by and large have tried to create welcoming atmospheres for new immigrants, may see an abrupt erosion of rapport between city employees and immigrant communities should this bill become law.

The Senate companion, SF 2433 (Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge), has not advanced through the committee process.