Thursday, October 29, 2015

Research Q of the Week: Holiday Liquor Sales (10/29/15)

Question: What are the holidays when liquor off-sale isn't allowed in MN? I can never remember.

Answer: Holiday season is a brewin' and so is common confusion about when liquor stores are closed or not closed based on state law.

There are actually only a couple cases when liquor cannot be sold off-sale on a holiday. So if grandma's fruitcake is missing it's secret ingredient, remember these two simple "closed for business" rules before making a liquor run:
  • A liquor licensee may not sell off-sale on Thanksgiving Day.
  • A liquor licensee may not sell off-sale from 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, through Christmas Day. 
That's it. Simple to remember!

Apart from these holidays, no off-sale licensee may sell liquor on Sunday of course, whether it’s a holiday or not. (There are some exceptions to the general Sunday off-sale ban such as brewpub sales of growlers and farm winery sales.)

Also, cities can be more restrictive on hours of off-sale than state law, but in any case no off-sale liquor may be sold before 8 a.m. or after 10 p.m. on days other than Sunday.

If you have other questions related to liquor licenses, the League memo Liquor Licensing and Regulation is a great place to start.

Written by Edward Cadman, special counsel with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1229.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Spotted: Let's Get Together in Crookston, Battle Lake, and Becker

Paynesville's mayor, city council members, and city administrator
traveled to Becker for the 2015 Regional Meetings.
Last week, city officials from across the state got together to share ideas at this year's Regional Meetings. What were some of your highlights from Crookston, Battle Lake, or Becker? Let us know in the comments!

Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle traveled to Crookston
and Becker to talk about the future of transportation funding
and how state funding impacts all of Minnesota.

Dave Unmacht shared his ideas with city officials in Battle Lake. This is Unmacht's
first series of Regional Meetings as executive director of the League. 

Let's get communicating! Councilmember Harold Johnson of Osseo
was excited to bring new ideas back to his city after the meeting in Becker,
which included discovering ways to be a more effective communicator.

This week, League staff are traveling to Montevideo, Springfield, and Austin as the 2015 Regional Meetings wrap up in greater Minnesota.

Interested in attending the 2015 Regional Meetings? Registration is open now for the Metro Meeting in Minneapolis!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Research Q of the Week: Six Tips for Working with Your City Attorney (10/22)

Question: I'm a newer councilmember and I haven't quite figured out how to interact with the city's attorney. Do you have some advice for working with a city attorney? 

Answer: The relationship between the city and its attorney is important—and it's great that you want to know more. Here are some tips to help strengthen this relationship and protect the city from liability.

1.) Tell your city attorney what you are going to do before you do it.
If you wait until after the deed is done, it will be too late for your city attorney to advise you on the legal consequences of the city’s action. If possible, obtain your city attorney’s advice before taking action.       

2.) Be candid with your city attorney.
City attorneys cannot give you their best advice unless you are completely candid. The answer to almost every question depends upon the facts. Accurately tell your city attorney all the facts.

3.) Hold regular meetings with your city attorney.
If possible, have your city attorney attend all council meetings. If this is not possible, meet regularly with your city attorney and send the city attorney copies of your meeting minutes.

4.) Send your city attorney a copy of the council agenda before the meeting.
Let your city attorney review agenda items and staff reports before the council meeting. The city attorney should not learn about a potentially problematic action for the first time at a meeting.

5.) Don’t demand an opinion from your city attorney at a meeting.

A city attorney does not immediately have the answer to every question. Give your city attorney time to properly research and analyze an issue.

6.) Make sure you understand the city attorney’s advice.
You can’t make an informed decision if you don’t understand your city attorney’s advice. Ask questions if you don’t understand what your city attorney is telling you.

Written by Susan Naughton, research attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1232.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Let's Get Moving! Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle Discusses Funding and 2015 Regional Meetings

There’s been a lot of talk about the need for more investment in state and local transportation systems, but it's been hard to get things moving.

Ready to get moving? City officials from Ranier are excited
about transportation funding at the 2015 Regional Meeting
 in Mountain Iron.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle took time to answer some questions about the funding gridlock, and what Minnesota cities can do to go forward. He and his staff are on the road this fall engaging city officials in this funding discussion at the 2015 Regional Meetings.

What are the consequences of the gridlock over transportation funding?
Our transportation system is growing older. Within the next 10 years, half our pavements and more than a third of our bridges will be 50 years old. Our pavement conditions are worsening. We’ve seen congestion begin to grow in some areas. All of this has a direct impact on the economic vitality of the state: It costs motorists more to idle in congestion and repair vehicles damaged on bad roads, and businesses find it hard to attract employees to a region with poor transportation. The longer we wait to address these problems, the greater the cost will be.

How has this impacted Minnesota cities?
Local governments manage most of the miles in the state road system, and residents expect a certain level of service and quality of roads. Counties and cities are struggling now to keep their infrastructure in good condition, and as the system ages, cities will find it more and more difficult to meet these expectations.

Though there has been some gridlock, what opportunities do you see for the future of transportation funding, and what would that mean for cities throughout Minnesota?
In the last legislative session there was broad, bipartisan support for the idea of addressing transportation needs in the state. That was gratifying. And the administration has made it clear that it will listen and consider options that provide a long-term, dedicated, and sustainable way to fund transportation.

Looking at the state as a whole, what would you say are the goals for future transportation funding proposals?
Future goals are to provide funding that is long-term, dedicated to transportation, and sustainable.

You, along with members of your staff, will be meeting with city officials throughout the state at the League’s 2015 Regional Meetings. What do you hope to accomplish during these discussions?
We want to remind everyone that the transportation funding need continues to exist and is becoming more critical as time passes. We know that citiesas well as counties, townships, and the state systemare all in need of more revenue. We also will ask them to help spread the word and talk to their local legislators prior to the legislative session.

Commissioner Zelle will be at the Regional Meetings in Crookston, Becker, Springfield, and the Metro Meeting in Minneapolis. Representatives from the Department of Transportation will be at all of the 2015 Regional Meetings.

Have you registered for the Regional Meeting in your area? Register now for Regional Meetings in Montevideo, Springfield, and Austin, and the Metro Meeting in Minneapolis.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Spotted: NLC Executive Director at the League of Minnesota Cities

LMC had a special visitor today when Clarence Anthony, executive director of the National League of Cities, stopped by! He's seen here talking with LMC President Steve Nasby of Windom (left) and LMC Insurance Trust Administrator Pete Tritz (right).

Anthony was on his way to meet with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (former NLC president) but made some time to meet with the League board, who had their monthly meeting today. Talk about great timing.

In his comments to the board, Anthony stressed the value of city government’s ability to “get the job done” at the local level and the challenge of advancing legislation that's good for cities in the midst of federal gridlock. He talked about NLC’s advocacy efforts on federal issues that affect cities across the nation and encouraged Minnesota city leaders to get involved, including serving on NLC committees and the board.

Photo credit goes to LMC staffer Jeff Korte.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Spotted: Let's Get Together in Mountain Iron

The theme for the 2015 Regional Meetings is "Let's Get Together," so that's just what we did this past week in Mountain Iron! Dave Unmacht, the League's new executive director, is pictured above as he meets with city officials at his first Regional Meeting with the League. Check out the photos below for more highlights spotted at the Mountain Iron meeting:

City officials from the Iron Range and beyond gathered for a day of
sessions on transportation, communication, security, and more.

Heidi Omerza, city councilmember in Ely, gears up for the day's agenda.
This year's regional meetings include a 2016 legislative preview and tips on city advocacy.

LMC Insurance Trust loss control consultants Tracy Stille (left) and Troy
Walsh (right) talked to city officials gathered in Mountain Iron about how
they can keep their city halls safe.

League staff will continue to travel across Minnesota for the 2015 Regional Meetings. Visit the League's website to register for the meeting nearest you!

Photos taken by Don Reeder, assistant director of communications for public affairs.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Research Q of the Week: City Business on Columbus Day (10/2/15)

Question: Can city councils meet on Columbus Day?
Answer: Whether to set your sails for a three-day weekend or not depends on if the city has designed Columbus Day as a holiday. (I know, I was surprised when I first learned this too!) 

Generally, state law provides certain public holidays when no public business can be transacted, except to deal with emergencies. The transaction of public business includes conducting public meetings.

However, state law provides that cities have the option of deciding whether Columbus Day should be a holiday. If Columbus Day is not designated as a holiday, public business may be conducted on the day, including having a council meeting.  (Note: cities also have the same ability to designate or not designate the Friday after Thanksgiving as a holiday.)

If a city does designate Columbus Day as a holiday, then the council should set an alternate meeting day for any regular meeting days that falls on that day.

By the way, the public holidays are:

•    New Year’s Day (January 1)
•    Martin Luther King’s Birthday (the third Monday in January)
•    Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday (the third Monday in February)
•    Memorial Day (the last Monday in May)
•    Independence Day (July 4)
•    Labor Day (the first Monday in September)
•    Christopher Columbus Day (the second Monday in October)
•    Veterans Day (November 11)
•    Thanksgiving Day (the fourth Thursday in November)
•    Christmas Day (December 25)

Written by Irene Kao, research attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1224

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information.