Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Come on down! – fairgoers once again invited to visit the Cities Matter booth

For the fifth consecutive year, Minnesotans visiting the State Fair will have an opportunity to learn more about city services and the value of city government in our state by stopping-by the League of Minnesota Cities' “Cities Matter” booth, located in the Fair’s Education Building. At this year’s Great Get Together, held August 22 – September 2, fairgoers can step-up and test their knowledge of cities by playing the interactive “Cities Matter Game Show” (emceed by League staff) and answering quiz questions designed to be informative and entertaining.

Players of all ages will win Cities Matter wristbands. Additionally, children ages 7-12 who are residents of Minnesota can pick-up entry forms for the League’s “Mayor For A Day” essay contest at the booth. The essay contest is being held to commemorate the League’s Centennial year, and four prizes of $100 each will be awarded in two age categories. Winning “Mayor For A Day” entries will be published in a future edition of Minnesota Cities magazine.

Monday, July 1, 2013

New Hope mayor and Becker administrator receive honors from Minnesota Women in City Government

New Hope Mayor Kathy Hemken and Becker Assistant Administrator Kellie Neu were recognized on June 19 as the winners of the 2013 Minnesota Women in City Government (MWCG) Leadership Awards. The awards were given as part of the League’s 2013 Annual Conference and Marketplace in St. Paul.

Each year, nominations for the MWCG Leadership Awards are open to all women elected or appointed as Minnesota city officials. The award recipients are recognized for individual achievement in their cities as well as leadership and mentoring roles both inside and outside of their communities. MWCG officers presented Hemken and Neu with plaques recognizing their leadership.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Six Minnesota communities receive honors from League of Minnesota Cities
City-administered initiatives involving public safety education, service collaboration, emergency medical training, and promoting economic development through the arts were recognized today when the League of Minnesota Cities announced City of Excellence Award winners for 2013. The awards were presented today at the League’s Annual Conference in St. Paul. To compete for consideration as a City of Excellence, cities nominated a project, program, or initiative that was administered to achieve one or more of the following: improvement of the quality of a city service, development of an effective or innovative way to solve an old or common problem, modification of a program from another community or organization to fit city needs, discovery of a way to save the city money without compromising service results, and/or creative involvement of city staff or citizens in making a decision.Winning entries were chosen in three population categories and in a special topical category. A description of each winning nomination follows.
Population under 5,000
Cities of Centerville, Circle Pines, and Lexington (joint project) – Ticket Education Program
The Ticket Education program is a collaborative effort between the Centennial Lakes Police Department, its joint-powers cities of Centerville, Circle Pines, and Lexington, and its appointed prosecutors. The program promotes public safety education on the web. Low-level offenders go to class instead of court, and the offender’s citation is dismissed upon graduation from a web-based class. The program gives law enforcement officials a one-on-one opportunity to tailor education specific to the offense on the offender’s citation. The educational aspect of the program has proven to be a better enforcement mechanism than the traditional low-level ticket enforcement. Additionally, the program has the unexpected benefit of being a friendlier way to police low-level offenses. Officers found that once offenders learned of the option to take a class instead of going to court, their interaction with officers became more relaxed.
Population 5,000 to 19,999
City of St. Anthony Village  – Collaborating for a Strong Future
With a renewed emphasis on forging a network of collaboration with numerous government entities, the City of St. Anthony has been able to build relationships that enable the city to maintain and expand a variety of services throughout city departments that may have otherwise not existed. Examples of collaborations initiated in 2012 include providing complete financial services like payroll for the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and utility billing for the City of Birchwood Village, contracting human resources with the City of New Brighton, contracting planning and engineering services with certified professionals, providing a fueling station for the City of New Brighton’s fleet, and participating in mutual fire safety training with the cities of Columbia Heights and Fridley. This new emphasis on collaboration has proved to be fundamental to the city’s mission of providing existing and expanded services, particularly in an era of diminishing resources and increased demand.
Population 20,000+
City of Woodbury – “Take Heart” Woodbury
While the City of Woodbury’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team takes great pride in its fast response time, a single minute can be the determining factor between life and death for those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. With this in mind, the City of Woodbury’s Public Safety Department created an aggressive, proactive initiative with a lofty goal of training 7,000 city residents in the administration of CPR within a single year. That goal was reached in February of 2013 due, in part, to the commitment of community and staff leaders, including the City’s EMS commander and two paid, on-call firefighters. The success of the project ensures that at least 10 percent of Woodbury’s population can now perform “Hands Only” CPR before additional medical services responders arrive at the scene of a resident experiencing cardiac arrest. An additional benefit of the program is that the collaborative effort strengthened city relationships with other organizations and residents in the community.
Topical category – Promoting Economic Development
City of Chatfield – Center for the Arts
In early 2010, the Chatfield Economic Development Authority determined that one of the best economic development efforts it could pursue would be to acquire a set of buildings that had formerly been used as a school, repurpose them into an art/cultural center, and breathe new vitality into the downtown area. The primary purposes of the center were identified as retention of current city residents, attraction of new ones, and creation of a stronger social fabric and economic vitality within the community. City officials believed that a fully functioning center would cause supporting and complementary businesses to develop in the historic downtown area, and initiated the project with that goal in mind. The first phase of this project – which includes introduction of the concept to community residents, gaining public acceptance, building collaborations, and developing a funding base that indicates feasibility – was recently completed, and the project is currently proceeding on schedule.

Friday, April 19, 2013

More than 75 Minnesota city councils pass resolutions supporting street improvement funding tool
League of Minnesota Cities-backed street improvement district legislation that would allow cities to collect fees from property owners to fund municipal street maintenance, construction, and reconstruction has received the endorsement of more than 75 city councils from all regions of the state that have passed resolutions of support over the past several weeks
If enacted, the bill—Senate File (SF) 607/House File (HF) 745—would provide cities in Minnesota with an additional tool to build and maintain city streets. The bill has bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate, with Republicans and Democrats signing-on as legislative co-authors. One version of the initiative has been included as a provision in the House’s omnibus tax bill, and another will be considered as part of the Senate’s omnibus transportation finance bill.
Supporters say that passage of the bill would allow property owners to fund expensive projects by paying relatively small fees over time, and provide for a reliable dedicated funding source other than the current volatile property tax system. Additionally, the tool could be used to minimize or eliminate the need for special assessments, which are often burdensome for property owners and difficult to implement for some cities.
City councils supporting the legislation have been asked by the League to approve and sign resolutions indicating that support. HF 745/SF 607 is also supported by the Association of Metropolitan Municipalities, Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, Minnesota Association of Small Cities, North Metro Mayors, Minnesota Transportation Alliance, City Engineers Association of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Chapter of the American Public Works Association.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Minnesota House subcommittee to consider e-mail address disclosure bill
At stake: Protecting the privacy of city residents

When most Minnesota residents contact city officials by e-mail, they typically don’t know or expect that their e-mail address could be requested by, and given to, another organization or person, for any reason.  Under current state law, though, when a citizen submits contact information to a city or government agency in order to receive newsletters or crime alerts, or to register a complaint, the citizen’s e-mail address and phone number become public data.  Any third party can request the e-mail address or phone number and use it for any purpose, and the city is required by law to comply with the request.

Later this week, the Minnesota House Data Practices Subcommittee will hear testimony on legislation that would change all of that. The House version of the bill, HF 20/SF 60, is authored by Representative Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley), and would make citizen e-mail addresses and phone numbers private data under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

 The e-mail privacy bill is supported by the League of Minnesota Cities, a municipal association that represents more than 830 city governments in the state. According to League lobbyist Patrick Hynes, “The new bill does not make content private; just the contact information of citizens. It strikes the right balance between government transparency and protecting citizen privacy.”

Over the past few months, several cities received requests for all citizen email addresses maintained by the city.  This has often resulted in unexpected email solicitations.  For example, during a previous legislative hearing on the bill, Assistant City Manager Chuck Ahl of Maplewood testified that his city was recently forced to turn over 6,000 email addresses of Maplewood citizens to a third party.  The email addresses had been collected to help implement Maplewood’s new trash collection system. 

 The House Data PracticesSubcommittee is scheduled to hear the bill on Wednesday, February 27 at 4 p.m.  The Subcommittee will hear a number of data practices bills, and consider which to include in a larger, omnibus bill.  The email privacy bill has received one hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Senate bill author Bev Scalze (DFL-Little Canada) expects a second hearing to be scheduled in the coming weeks.

Monday, February 11, 2013

TPT to rebroadcast arts documentary on February 23rd

 “Building Community: It’s an Art,” a co-production of Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) and the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) is scheduled for rebroadcast on TPT at four different times on Saturday, February 23. The 30-minute documentary explores the connection between the arts and community vitality, and uses a mix of interviews, history, and commentary to explore how a community can be strengthened and improved by having art in its many forms as part of daily life. “Building Community: It’s An Art” was first aired in the summer of 2012 features LMC member cities Rochester, Chatfield, New York Mills, St. Paul, Lanesboro, and St. Louis Park.