Thursday, April 25, 2013

Centennial Keepsake Coming Your Way!


Ladies and gentlemen, watch your mailboxes! We’re excited to share a sneak peek of a special Centennial-year publication coming your way soon.

Here are five things you can expect to learn:

1. Fifty-one cities were represented at the first annual meeting in 1913, but only 35 of them stuck with the League through thick and thin. Was your city a founding member of the League?

2. The League’s Research & Inquiry service currently takes more than 4,000 questions a year from members and has been a core service of LMC since the beginning. Longtime staffer Jeannette Bach tells the story of how LMC helps cities help themselves.

3. In 1973, the League split from its longtime partner, the University of Minnesota. Though it presented a financial challenge for the League, cities rallied together and emerged stronger than ever. How did they do it?

4. The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) is now one of the most stable and respected municipal pools in the country, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Read about the founding of LMCIT as told by LMCIT administrator Pete Tritz, who has been there since day one.

5. What does the League’s executive director, Jim Miller, see on the horizon for the next 100 years?

This booklet will be bundled with the upcoming issue of Minnesota Cities magazine and should arrive around mid-May. Enjoy!

Monday, April 22, 2013

One Step at a Time—Going Green

Happy Earth Day! Is your city looking for a long-term way to make a positive impact on the environment? The League has been partnering with GreenStep Cities since 2010 to help members do just that, and run more efficiently as cities to boot.

GreenStep Cities emphasizes cost savings, reduction of energy use and smart solutions. The totally voluntary program includes 54 cities as small as Milan (pop. 326) and as large as Rochester (pop. 106,769). See the full list of GreenStep Cities here.
Minnesota Municipalities, 1931

In honor of Earth Day, here are a few more examples of cities and stewardship, then and now. Check our April 17 post for one of the first formal League actions regarding environmental protection.

1931: A feature in Minnesota Municipalities dedicates a whopping five pages to the subject of “idle lands,” described as “those that have been so completely wrecked that nature cannot restore them to usefulness without human assistance.” The author argues that the estimated 10 million acres of idle lands in the state has had a sizeable impact on taxable value and delinquencies, subsequently increasing tax rates.

1934: The League’s Year Book records that 115 municipal or large institutional sewage treatment plants are complete or under construction in the state. In 1933, 37 more municipalities and a sanitary district start planning for the infrastructure that will keep sewage out of open water, according to a report from the Northfield News.

2004: The League joins the “G-16,” a group of local government, business, agriculture, environmental, and state agency stakeholders. Their work leads to development of and passage of the Clean Water Legacy Act.

2006: The League co-produces a documentary with Twin Cities Public Television, “Great Waters Gone Bad," that is still in rotation today.

2008: The League works to establish ways for cities to use the Public Building Energy Efficiency Program and Property Assessed Clean Energy program to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How Does *Your* City Celebrate Earth Day?

The first Earth Day in the United States was recognized on April 22, 1970 as the result of a grassroots movement and the leadership of Sen. Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin.

But did you know that the League has been incorporating stewardship and conservation into our formal business since at least the 1920s?

In 1923, a League resolution stated the following:

That the League of Minnesota Municipalities is fully aware of the proper relation between the great natural wealth and beauty of  Minnesota and legitimate business and commercial considerations.

That it never intended that our forests should be denuded - our lands made waste and places of summer beauty and coolness made the special property of individuals without regard to the needs of humanity.

We deplore the policy of the past which has made lumber barons at the expense of our natural forests and reduced them to wanton waste.

We recommend that all projects for the preserving of natural forests - extension of parks - receive the encouragement of the League and especially that steps be taken to resecure to the public by condemnation or otherwise the shore lines of Minnesota lakes that all may enjoy them.

Pretty "tough guy" language—don't you think? But even way back then, the League recognized the link between conserving the state's natural resources and  healthy local economies, a reality that still holds true today.

How is *your* city's economy supported by the water, wind, trees, and minerals of our great state? And what does your city do to celebrate Earth Day? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dark Days Behind Us: Minnesota Cities Endure

Clockwise from top left: A residential neighborhood in Cloquet following the fire, a membership bulletin touting a convention that would never come to be, a plaque on the state Capitol grounds dedicated to WWI soldiers, headlines from the League magazine regarding the flu epidemic and rescheduling of the convention.
You know the saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going"? We're pretty sure they wrote that about Minnesota cities.

OK, maybe not, but in 1918, it certainly applied.

World War I had been taking its toll on the country's troops and resources since the U.S. entered the war in April of 1917. A League resolution prompted cities to forgo all construction considered "not vital to the municipality's well being," according to a Minnesota Municipalities dispatch that winter.

In mid-October, Cloquet, Moose Lake and surrounding areas were swept by wild fires that killed approximately 500 people and destroyed a swath of northern Minnesota.

Nearly simultaneously, the state's population found itself suddenly in the grips of the Spanish flu, which killed thousands. Oy vey.

It was the flu epidemic that prompted the State Board of Health to ban all statewide gatherings. And so the 1918 Annual Convention, scheduled for October 16-17 in Rochester, was scratched on short notice. No board president was elected. No luncheon speakers took to the podium. A resurgence of the flu in December ensured that a winter gathering would not come to be either.

It was the first time the annual conference had ever been canceled.

While the grave death toll of 1918 is a part of Minnesota history forever, we're relieved to report that cities like Cloquet pulled through. And in June of 1919, League staff dedicated themselves to getting everything back on track with a full convention program to be held in Rochester.

According to an update written in February of 1919, "Members may be assured that it will be a genuine League of Minnesota Municipalities Convention when it gets underway." League members deserved nothing less.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What You’ll See (and Won’t!) at the 2013 Annual Conference

Well, that was a moment in time! As we prepare for this year’s annual conference, we found this gem of a photo in our archives, capturing the registration table from the 1956 League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference.

(While we promise you’ll still find helpful LMC folks staffing this year’s registration table, we guarantee they won’t be smoking!)

That year the mid-century hot topics in the host city of Detroit Lakes included water fluoridation, zoning adjustments, and special permits. This year in St. Paul, we’ll focus on hot topics like “new to you” revenues for funding city services, implementing federal health care reform, and the latest information on municipal infrastructure.

And in addition to our regularly scheduled conference programming, we’re planning a lot of extras for our centennial year! Happening June 19-21, we really will be celebrating 100 years of Minnesota cities working together.

Be sure to arrive on Wednesday this year: we’ll kick off the conference that day with a special opening ceremony and legislative update at the historic Union Depot, followed by a Centennial Celebration featuring LMC Live! (a mock live radio show profiling the League and its member cities) and a special guest appearance by Garrison Keillor.

Maybe you need a little inspiration? Nationally celebrated author Wes Moore will provide that in this year’s keynote address. During “Transformational Leadership: Evolve, Adapt, Inspire,” he’ll share his personal story about beating the odds—and relate it to the need for visionary leaders in every community.

From start to finish, this year’s program really does build on the rich history of the last 100 years and focuses on new ideas that will help cities succeed well into the future.

You won’t want to miss this once-in-a-century celebration—let’s get together to create new memories and new history!