Monday, August 22, 2016

Come on Down to the Cities Matter Game Show at the State Fair

Do you know how much a firefighter's gear weighs? Or which Minnesota city is named after the Ojibwe word for rice?

If you're going to the Minnesota State Fair this year (Aug. 25-Sept. 5) you can find out! Step right up to play the Cities Matter Game Show—we're located inside the Education Building and we're brighter and louder than ever before. Folks of all ages are invited to play for a chance to win a prize.

This is the Minnesota city trivia showdown. (Do you know of any others? Yeah, didn't think so.)

Minnesota students entering grades 4-6 will also have the chance this fall to compete in the League's annual Mayor For A Day essay contest. Pick up an entry form at the booth, or download a PDF of the 2016 essay form at

Cities Matter is a project of the League of Minnesota Cities dedicated to sharing information about city services with residents. Find out more at Also be sure to check out Twitter and Facebook for photos and dispatches from the booth. See you at the fair!

Friday, August 19, 2016

The City Spot Café: Drones and UAS

Definition: Drones are unmanned aircraft (UA) and all of their support equipment—control station, data links, telemetry, communications and navigation equipment, etc.—that you need to operate the unmanned aircraft i.e. the “system.”


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is in charge of figuring out how UAS will play nice with others in the national airspace.

Plain-language explanation: Drones or UAS are quickly becoming a common sight in the skies. From photographers to police; public works employees to online retail giants like Amazon, it seems everyone is getting involved in the UAS game. But what should cities do about it? And what do they need to know if they want to join the fray?

In the news: Discussions about drones are currently taking place in the cities of Andover, Perham, and Baxter, for example.

Pros: UAS can be an awesome tool for cities, helping with everything from search and rescue operations to helping inspections of water towers. A city may want to explore regulating UAS use because of privacy concerns, but also general peace and enjoyment—after all, it is hard to relax with countless drones buzzing overhead! (We have enough mosquitoes as it is).

Cons: As is common with new technology, the law has not caught up with UAS and there are still many questions. For example, if a city uses a UAS with video recording capabilities, there are many questions regarding how the video data would be classified from a data practices perspective, and how long the city would be required to keep the video footage. If a UAS is used for police operations, there are important legal questions regarding when a warrant may or may not be required. In regard to city regulation, it seems likely cities have little authority to regulate UAS, because the FAA holds jurisdiction in this area. 

League position: The League is closely monitoring any and all developments regarding UAS issues—both what cities might be able to regulate, but also how cities can take to the skies themselves. Cities presently are required to register with the FAA before using drones. If you’re thinking about it, or considering regulating UAS operations within your city, please contact the League for more information.

Resource: More information on city use of drones can be found in the Cities Bulletin. Want additional info on UAS? The FAA has some great resources. In terms of what local governments may be able to regulate, please see this great fact sheet. So you want to take to the sky with a city-owned UAS, eh? Be sure to follow all FAA requirements. And if citizens are interested in learning more about the requirements to fly UAS, the FAA is available to help

This information has been compiled by Quinn O'Reilly, staff attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1271.

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

Friday, August 5, 2016

Spotted: Clerks Attend 2016 Training

Forty clerks from across the state gathered this week at the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) offices. Together they beat the heat and learned the skills they need to serve their cities well!

From Open Meeting Law to data practices requirements, human resources issues and loss control basics, these municipal employees reviewed the most crucial aspects of their roles during the 2016 Clerks' Orientation Conference.

Many thanks to these dedicated public servants for taking time out to sharpen their skills and explore ways to get their jobs done well!

Photo credit goes to LMC staffer Jamie Oxley

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Spotted: Local Government Officials Discuss Civility and Effective Meetings

Local government officials from cities, counties, schools, and townships came together this July to discuss civility and how to make meetings as effective as possible. As part of the Big 4, the League partnered with the Association of Minnesota Counties, Minnesota School Boards Association, and the Minnesota Association of Townships to host this series of workshops.

Have you ever had unexpected disturbances at your council meetings? Eric Hedtke, 
from the Minnesota Association of Townships, caused some laughs as he posed as an 
unruly council meeting attendee speaking out about a proposed maintenance facility.

Inattentiveness can be an issue during city council meetings, particularly when 
it's a member of the council who isn't paying attention! Representatives from the 
Big 4 and local government officials teamed up to show how distractions 
impact meeting effectiveness.

What would your conflict assessment score be? Toni Smith, education director
 for the Association of Minnesota Counties, takes the group through a conflict assessment.

Local government officials share their experiences dealing with conflicts, 
and their success in making meetings more effective.

What are some ways you've improved the effectiveness of your meetings and encourage civility? Share your stories in the comments below!

Photos courtesy of the National Joint Powers Association.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Spotted: Stronger Together With LMC Policy Committees

From Aurora to Windom, cities from across the state are represented in the annual Minnesota cities legislative policy committee process happening now. Four committees comprised of over 150 city officials are busy reviewing the 2016 City Policies and researching, discussing, and debating what positions cities will stand for next year. This is also when city officials can bring forward emerging issues to potentially be addressed.

 It's no easy task to span the breadth of interests and characteristics that make Minnesota cities special in these policies, but year after year the buy-in of these city officials makes the difference. The results of their work will guide and inform decisions made by League intergovernmental relations staff at the Capitol and beyond, and help shape the city-state partnership that is so important for the health of local government in Minnesota.

See the committee lineup:

Improving Service Delivery

Improving Local Economies

Improving Fiscal Futures

Human Resources & Data Practices

Intrigued? The League's legislative policies webpage has more info. IGR staff are always excited to hear from prospective new policy committee members. Current elected and appointed city officials are encouraged to email to participate next year.

Photo credit goes to LMC staffer Heather Corcoran

Saturday, July 30, 2016

See What's Inside the July-August 2016 Issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine

The July-August issue of Minnesota Cities magazine is online for your summer reading pleasure. The
top spot digs into how cities are responding to the local impact of global climate change, and how resilience can also mean stronger, connected, energy-efficient communities.

More highlights:

Move to a new country. Find a home. Learn a language. Make friends. Find a job. Yeah, that's a daunting to-do list. See how some recent efforts by Minnesota cities are helping immigrants make a successful transition to life in the land of Paul Bunyan and Babe in "Making Minnesota Cities Home for Immigrants."

See how Elk River and other cities have navigated the pitfalls of financing growing street repair costs by doing away with assessments and saying hello to a dedicated franchise fee program in "Ideas in Action: Elk River Finds Its Way to Smoother Roads."

Unfair labor practices, or "ULPs" to those in the know, are easy to define in law, but a little more difficult to identify in the real world. See why understanding these labor laws will become more important than ever next year in "Letter of the Law: Unfair Labor Practices—It's All in the Eye of the Beholder."

And as always, catch up on the latest court decisions that could affect your city's operations in From the Bench; learn about aging population, a tight labor market, and migration in Let's Talk with State Demographer Susan Brower; and check in with two city staffers on the topic of community gardens in Two-Way Street.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The City Spot Café: Pet Licenses

What you need to know about pet licensing right now, served up by the LMC Research and Information Service team.

Definition: A pet is usually a domestic or tamed animal kept for companionship or pleasure. A license is a permit from an authority to own a pet.

Plain-language translation: Cities have the authority to require that residents register their pets with the city. The licensing requirements are different in each city but usually require a small fee to cover the cost of administering licenses, proof of vaccination, and a tag to include on the pet’s collar to use as identification. Residents may need to obtain a new license every year or it may be good for the lifetime of the pet.

In the news: Traditional pet licensing of dogs and cats is pretty common and not usually so newsworthy. Many cities have recently applied some of the pet licensing principles to the keeping of backyard chickens in urban settings, which has attracted some attention. See Coon Rapids and Jordan for examples.

Pros: Local law enforcement often gets calls for dogs running loose, missing pets and the like. Having a licensing system often allows pets to be reunited with their owners sooner. Many cities that license require pets be vaccinated against diseases like rabies as a way to provide a healthier animal population. And, having an animal control ordinance often limits the number of pets allowed per residence as a way to control for health and safety of the community.

Cons: City staff time will need to be devoted to licensing pets, following up on complaints, as well as catching and boarding animals. Some cities have staff do all of these jobs while others have office staff issue pet licenses and contract with a third-party for the animal control operations.

League position: Cities should consider the pros and cons and make a decision that is best for the city with the available resources. If the city does not have a licensing ordinance, the county may have ordinances about licensing and regulating dogs running loose that apply to city residents. If there is an applicable county ordinance, the city clerk should be familiar with his or her responsibilities under that ordinance.

Resources: Want additional information on pet licensing? Check out the League’s memo on Animal Regulation in Cities.

*This blog post has been edited to reflect that Farmington, Minnesota has not discussed backyard chicken ordinances. We regret the error.

This information has been compiled by Amber Eisenschenk, staff attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1227.

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