Friday, May 11, 2018

Spotted: Happy Campers Ready for Camp #MnCities

Pictured L to R: Baudette City Clerk-Treasurer Tina Rennemo, Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson,
White Bear Lake Mayor Jo Emerson, and Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski
dream of summer camp after a recent LMC Board Meeting.

Roasting s’mores over a campfire. Paddling away the afternoon on a sun-drenched lake. Stopping by the canteen for snacks. These might be familiar (and hopefully fond!) memories for those of us who went away to summer camp as kids. Too bad there’s no such thing for adults, right? Think again!

The League is bringing back some of that same nostalgia at Camp #MnCities—the 2018 LMC Annual Conference in St. Cloud—this June 20-22. We’ve got a whole variety of activities planned and hope you join us to:

  • Enjoy fun and games at the camp kick-off in the exhibit hall 
  • Meet up with old friends (and new!) during longer networking breaks 
  • Find ideas and tools that will help you navigate challenging issues 
  • Celebrate cities and local leaders at an all-new awards show dinner 

Most of all, we want you to escape your routine and get re-energized for the important work you do in Minnesota cities every day. Learn more and register here—hope to see you next month!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Municipal Clerks Week Is Better Than Shark Week. And Here's 5 Reasons Why ...

This quill is much cooler than a shark fin.
Image courtesy International Institute of Municipal Clerks
Clerks, we love Municipal Clerks Week because it's a great time to sing your praises. We enjoy it so much, we even like it better than Shark Week, that pop culture phenomenon that gets all the "splash." Yeah, that's right. So to back up that bold statement, we've compiled the top five reasons why Municipal Clerks Week is better than Shark Week—you can add your own reasons to the list in the comments!

LMC's top five reasons why Municipal Clerks Week is better than Shark Week:
  1. Clerks are vital to our elections, i.e. democracy. Sharks are definitely not.
  2. Clerks keep our local governments operating on the right side of data practices and open meeting law to ensure legal compliance. Sharks don't seem to care about legal compliance.
  3. Clerks take care of a wide range of business ranging from management of city finances to human resources-related decisions. Sharks mostly swim and eat things, which is cool, but not as cool.
  4. Clerks are patient and knowledgeable when helping the public. Sharks lack the necessary customer service skills.
  5. While you have to wait 70+ more days for Shark Week, Municipal Clerks Week is happening now.
For all these reasons and more, we think that Municipal Clerks Week is better than Shark Week, because city clerks are the backbone of Minnesota's local government community and frankly, we'd be lost without you. So if there's a clerk in your professional city gov life, be sure to show them some appreciation today (and every day!). Sharks, we'll see you in July, but probably won't write a blog post. 
Thank you, clerks, for all that you do!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Spotted: The 2018 Legislative Conference for Cities

More than a hundred city officials from all over the state came to St. Paul for the 2018 Legislative Conference for Cities this March to talk with legislators about city priorities, meet with other city officials, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the current state of politics in Minnesota. 

Tip: If you were energized by the conference and the legislative topics discussed, there's more where that came from! Registration is open now for city officials that want to get involved in the policy development process this summer.

Ask me about #MnCities! City officials and League staff at the 2018 Legislative Conference wore buttons to encourage conversation about Minnesota cities and declare their local gov credentials. (Hashtags are a popular way to label conversation topics on social media.) Couldn't make the conference? Email to request your very own.

Just how do you advocate for city priorities? More than 70 city officials from across the state came to the League offices Wednesday afternoon for this preconference session. Are you curious about the ins-and-outs of city advocacy too? You can view the recording of this live webinar on the League's website.

Left to right: LMC Member Services Director Kevin Frazell moderated as Rep. Jerry Relph (former city attorney), Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (master's of public affairs), and Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (former mayor) talked about city-specific issues such as annexation and local control as well as how overall session priorities, such as federal tax conformity and bonding, will affect cities.

Left to right: Moderator Jay Kiedrowski from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Rep. Mike Freiberg (former city councilmember), Mayor Jo Emerson, and Sen. David Senjem (former city councilmember) discussed local decision-making authority and several pre-emption bills. The panel also shared ideas for how city and state officials can work together effectively. Senjem encouraged relationship-building with your legislators—"We’re people too, just like you."

LMC Executive Director Dave Unmacht (in his thinking pose) sits down with city officials during a break in the legislative conference action.

Shaunna Johnson, city administrator of Waite Park (left), visits with LMC General Counsel Pat Beety.

How do reporters feel about the political climate at the Capitol? Briana Bierschbach, political reporter with MinnPost (with mic); Patrick Coolican, politics and state government reporter from the Star Tribune (middle); and Brian Bakst, political correspondent at Minnesota Public Radio (right) joined LMC's Don Reeder (far left) to share their take on a wide variety of topics, including how the "urban-rural divide" is being used politically, social media's effect on civility, and how upcoming elections are influencing this session's activity.

Thank you to all the city officials who came to St. Paul for this important day of information and advocacy. Stay connected with these issues and other city priorities throughout the year by subscribing to the Cities Bulletin and Capitol Updates.

Photo credit goes to LMC staffers Danielle Cabot and Laura Harris.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Responsibly Recycle Your City’s Old Equipment

Does your city have old electronic equipment gathering dust that you’d like to responsibly recycle? Whether you’ve got computers, printers, keyboards, or cables lying around—consider dropping them off at one of the e-recycling events the League is hosting with PCs for People, an organization that will wipe data from used equipment and refurbish it for reuse.

Below the League’s Chief Information Officer Mel Reeder answers a few questions about these drop-off events:

  • Why are we offering this opportunity for Minnesota cities?
    We all know it’s difficult to dispose of electronics. On top of that, cities are challenged to ensure that government data on their old equipment is properly destroyed. Many cities do not have the resources to do this. Rather than risk a data breach, old electronics end up in storage. In addition, many cities in greater Minnesota do not have enough equipment to draw a low-cost recycler on their own. By coordinating regional drop-off events, the combined volume allows for free pickup.

  • What is important about properly recycling e-waste?
    In Minnesota, by law you must recycle computer monitors. They cannot go into the trash. The same goes for components that contain mercury or rechargeable batteries. Local government can lead the way by choosing a responsible recycler for all their electronics, therefore achieving a zero-landfill goal.

  • Why should cities consider dropping off their old equipment to PCs for People?
    It’s easy and free*! PCs for People will pick up city equipment from League-designated locations this spring. They are the only recyclers in the state with both AAA NAID and R2 certification for data destruction. These certifications ensure that data is properly destroyed, usable equipment is refurbished, and unwanted equipment is recycled to safeguard human health and the environment. They are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides affordable computers to low-income families across Minnesota. Read more about PCs for People.

  • Anything else you’d like to add?
    Whether or not you are attending a workshop, someone from your city can drop off your zero-value, city-owned equipment for free. The League of Minnesota Cities wants to lower your risk of a data breach. If you have any questions about this event or other concerns about protecting your government data, please contact me at or (651) 281-1221.

For more information on these drop-off events (including dates, locations, FAQs, and forms), visit this webpage.

*Older, CRT tube monitors are $35.

Friday, February 16, 2018

New Split Rock Collaborative Space and Workstations Now Available

Dear weary traveler,

If you ever find yourself in St. Paul and need a place to find refuge from the storm of meetings, legislative committee hearings, and networking events, we hope that the League building can serve as your beacon of calm.

The new Split Rock Collaborative Space, located on the second floor of the League building, can provide city officials and staff a place to plug in or take a breather when you would prefer to not spend yet another awkward hour sitting in your car.

Adjoining Split Rock we've also installed several individual workstations if you need to tune out the proverbial howling winds and tune in to handling some city business.

Both of these spaces are available from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

A few more amenities available to city officials:*
  • As always, please feel free to use the League's parking lot, accessible by both University Avenue and Sherburne Avenue. Just sign in at the front desk when you arrive. Our building's central location is kitty-corner from the Capitol complex—i.e. walking distance from the House, Senate, executive branch, and several agencies.
  • WiFi! Save your data and ask for the password at the front desk. You'll be able to work remotely with our reliable connection.
To use any of these features, just call the front desk or stop by. Nautical puns are encouraged but not required.

*Bonus: Ask a League staffer for local restaurant recommendations. University and the downtown areas are a great place to get a variety of delicious cuisines!

The new Split Rock Collaborative Space is available to city officials when you have down time in St. Paul.
Feel free to think of it as a captain's log.
City officials can now use one of these workstations when visiting St. Paul. Framed photos of your dog not included.

Questions or comments about the new spaces? Please contact Luke Fischer, first mate deputy director.

Photo credit goes to League staffers Jeff Korte and Danielle Cabot

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Heartwarming Stories From City Hall—What's Yours?

For Valentine's Day this year, we asked LMC board members to share a heartwarming story from their time in city government. They were happy to share! See a few of their stories below.

What's your heartwarming story? Please share an anecdote in the comments that has made you proud, made you smile, made you and others feel good about the work that cities do or the community you serve.

Curt Boganey  
City manager, Brooklyn Center
As city manager, I attended an event last year where one of my employees along with several others was being recognized for their great work supervising summer Brooklynk interns. Brooklynk interns are young residents living in or attending school in Brooklyn Center or Brooklyn Park. Many of the youth come from households facing social and economic difficulties. When this “non-supervisory” employee came forth to receive his award for providing his interns with outstanding leadership, direction, and coaching throughout the summer he was allowed to say few words about the experience. During his response he shared his personal story of growing up in very difficult circumstances as a child and how he felt privileged to mentor the interns during the past several summers. It was apparent to all present that his work as an intern supervisor was nothing less than a labor of love. I was never so proud of an employee than when I heard his story. I am so pleased he is an employee for the city of Brooklyn Center!

Tina Rennemo
Clerk/treasurer, Baudette
One of the biggest impacts that I recall from my 25 years in city government work was a trip to Washington DC in 2016 lobbying as a member of the Minnesota Association of Small Cities Board of Directors. We had an agenda as a board, but I had a bit of a personal agenda as well. I had a very dear friend—a veteran and retired police officer—who was battling bladder cancer and continued to receive very disappointing news from the Department of Veterans Affairs offices that were reviewing his case. This had been going on for months. He and his wife were exhausted from the battle and had basically given up on our elected officials and lost faith in “government.” I suggested they contact their legislators, but both had a sharp reply to the tune of "it isn’t worth it—they don’t give a s***.” I really take these failures personally—it pains me to hear that constituents think they do not matter. Long story short, at the end of each meeting that day with our federal legislators I took the liberty of sharing his story. By the close of business the next day Amy Klobuchar’s office and Rick Nolan’s office had reached out to my friend and the Veterans Affairs office and the wheels were in motion to help him with his situation. ❤ I am thankful for the opportunities that my position allows me—to help people, to be a voice, to make people believe that they are being heard.

Mike Mornson

City manager, Hopkins
Hopkins Police Officer Rob Rebai responded to a burglary where suspects had stolen fishing equipment from the garage. The fishing equipment belonged to children who loved to fish. Officer Rebai took it upon himself to provide the family with new rods and additional fishing equipment the same day the equipment was stolen. Rebai never told the chief or me. He just did it. The resident sent us a letter telling us about it. The resident was very touched. 

Heidi Omerza
City councilmember, Ely
"I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” (Andy from the last episode of The Office).  I was elected for the first time in 2006 and served with Gordon Sheddy and Warren Nikkola for eight years. At first, I was terrified of them both, then as the years passed—and as councils do—we started going through stuffs together. And I realized they were my friends.  Our last project together on the council was construction of our new library and remodeling city hall. The Ely Public Library has become an even better place for gathering, learning, and getting books. It truly is one of my happy places with warm memories of how it was built.  Gordon and Warren are now my mentors, and without them I would have not made it past my first term.

Mark Casey
City manager, St. Anthony Village
Last week I received a $50 gift card for pizza along with a note that said: “Mark Casey & Staff, Thank you for all of your hard work over the past year and a half. You have hard jobs. We want you to know that you are supported by many in the community. You don’t hear it enough. Thank you!” The photo is some of the staff enjoying the pizza.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Future City 2018—Building Quality Community Award Winner Reaches New Heights

Mobility, recreation, wellness—the future looks good in the 2018
Building Quality Communities Special Award-winning city of "Osoto."
You may not recognize them yet, but these youthful faces are already city innovation leaders!

Teams of middle-school students from all over the state gathered recently at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount for the annual Minnesota Regional Future City Competition.

Students work throughout the fall semester each year to develop a city of the future for the annual competition.

These cities and their student creators then vie for three general awards and over a dozen special awards. A special theme picked each year guides an emphasis on a particular design feature. This years’ theme was “The Age-Friendly City”—creating an environment that will allow senior citizens to be as active and independent as they want to be.

The Building Quality Communities Special Award
League staff attend this event every year to judge the "Building Quality Communities" special award. This award is given to the team that best demonstrates how a city government can improve the quality of life for its citizens. This may include the ways that city leaders include others in making decisions or the policies and services that make citizens' daily lives easier and more meaningful.

There were some great candidates for the 2018 Building Quality Communities award! This year's Building Quality Communities Award went to the city of “Osoto,” created by a team from Black Hawk Middle School in Eagan. Teacher David Herem is the team's advisor and Russ Matthys, director of public works for the city of Eagan, volunteers as their engineer mentor.

What made Osoto oh-so desirable? Osoto embraces and reflects the beauty of its natural mountainous setting. There is so much to do within the community that’s all within walking distance or accessible by their monorail transportation system—a great design feature that will benefit older residents as well as the young. An emphasis on recreation incorporates both public and private offerings: residents can spend time at the community center, shopping, catching a movie at the cinema, or relaxing at one of the many common spaces. There’s even a community garden. Health and wellness go hand-in-hand with Osoto's community values. In addition to providing important city services such as police and fire, all residents have the opportunity to wear a fitness tracker bracelet that assists them in living a healthy lifestyle.

Osoto's civically minded residents also put an emphasis on education. The schools hold a strong focus on “togetherness.” This motto helps build a strong sense of community from a young age.

Once again League staff walked away impressed and inspired by the creative thinking of tomorrow's leaders. Thanks to all the teams that competed, and congrats to Black Hawk Middle School!

Photo credit goes to League staffer Phil Trebatoski