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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Star Tribune Says LMC is Tops!

It’s a hat trick! For the third year running, the Star Tribune has named the League of Minnesota Cities to its Top 150 Workplaces in the state, and we couldn’t be more honored.

What makes it perhaps most special is that Top Workplaces recognizes the most progressive companies in Minnesota based on employee opinions—measuring engagement, organizational health, and satisfaction. So what is it that our staff like best about working at LMC?

  • The League is a place where staff members are encouraged to prioritize health and wellness.

    The League has a HealthySteps program that employees can participate in. Every year, staff can earn points toward gift cards for engaging in healthy activities on their own (like walking a certain number of steps a day, eating well-balanced meals, or getting adequate sleep) and with their colleagues (by attending an annual health fair, contributing to salad bar potlucks, or biking to work).

  • The League is a place where staff are empowered to achieve results while striking a nice work-life balance. 

    LMC has a program for employees known as the League Empowerment and Performance Program (LEAPP), which allows employees to work when and where they prefer, as long as they are meeting their professional goals. Some days this might mean a staff member is in the office completing a project with colleagues in the morning and then out volunteering at one of their kids’ activities that afternoon.

  • The League is a place where staff know their work matters to members. 

    Whether it is one of the dozens of inquiries we receive from our member cities every day or the chances we get to talk with city officials at conferences throughout the year, LMC employees are reminded time and again why we do the work we do—to help Minnesota cities be as successful as they can be.

So thank you—to the Star Tribune for this recognition, to our leadership and board for creating a supportive culture in which staff can thrive, to our employees for showing up as engaged and committed as you do every day, and to our member cities for allowing us to work with you in making our communities great places to be!

Photos courtesy of LMC staffers

Friday, June 24, 2016

Spotted: TSO Training in Kentucky

Rob Boe, public safety project coordinator, traveled to Kentucky earlier this month to spread the word about the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust's Training Safety Officer program. The Training Safety Officer (TSO) Program is designed to reduce the injuries associated with police training while maintaining training intensity. Rob got a chance to train 60-65 officers, deputies, and instructors at the  Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training on TSO as well as the "Stretch 'N Bend" program.

"Now that I look at it, we all look a little tired at the end of the day," says Rob about this snapshot. Hey, that's the sign of a job well done, right?

Seen from left to right: Mark Filburn (Commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training), Rob Boe ( public safety project coordinator with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust), DeAnna Boling (Program Director for the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council) and Troy Pitcock (Law Enforcement Coordinator for the Kansas League of Cities).

Thanks to our Kentucky friends for being great hosts and attentive learners. Visit the On the Line blog to see more about Rob's adventures in public safety, and visit the League's website to learn more about the Training Safety Officer Program.

Photo credit goes to Kentucky DCJT staff

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The City Spot Café: Municipal Liability

What you need to know about coverage for municipal liability, served up by the LMC Research and Information Service team. 

Definition: “Municipal liability” means that in some instances, cities might have responsibility for injuries or losses to people or entities caused by an act of either the city or one of the city’s officers, employees, or agents while performing their duties for the city.

Plain-language explanation: Simply put—this means cities have claims or lawsuits brought against them for incidents related to car crashes, personal injuries, employment actions, damage to property, constitutional rights violations, and more.

In the news: Notable settlements or verdicts against municipalities demonstrate the range of potential financial exposure to cities. Examples include an award to a former job candidate for a botched hiring process; a jury verdict to a student for a head injury on a playground; and a $2.85 million settlement against a city for a police officer’s alleged use of unreasonable force. It quickly becomes clear that the potential financial burden of cities getting sued can boggle the mind.

On one hand: In many instances, statutory protections, called “immunities,” result in judges dismissing lawsuits against cities and city employees. Also, statutory caps on damages reduce potential financial exposure of cities. For example, for certain types of claims, a city’s total liability generally will not exceed $500,000 for any single claim, or $1,500,000 for all claims arising from the same incident. Also, the law specifically prohibits punitive damage awards against cities, which are additional money damages in excess of the loss amount intended just to punish.

On the other: Statutory immunities do not always apply. Even in those instances when statutory protections do apply, cities still can incur significant costs, fees, and loss of time in defending the lawsuit up until the time of dismissal. Many cities would find a jury verdict or settlement in an amount up to the cap financially daunting as well.

League position:  Cities maintain offices and facilities that the public visit every day. Cities employ a number of people who drive official cars and trucks. Cities hire and fire many types of people for a variety of jobs. Although no state statute requires a city to get casualty or property insurance, when considering all the moving parts in city government, and adding in general human fallibility, protecting against potential debilitating financial liability seems like a darn good idea. The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT), a self-insured membership cooperative formed in 1980 by Minnesota cities, exists solely to meet the risk management and coverage needs of Minnesota cities. LMCIT structures liability coverage differently than private insurance companies typically do to make it the best option for cities. For example, LMCIT uses a single coverage document, rather than issuing separate policies to cover general liability, errors and omissions, police liability, and so on. When a claim is justified, LMCIT can evaluate the claim and issue a payment, because it’s the right thing to do.

Bottom line, LMCIT knows cities and municipal issues and, as a result, crafts programs with cities in mind. We know the importance of keeping our members informed, and we want to hear from you throughout the claim process, including resolution. 

Resource: Find out more information about LMCIT’s Property & Casualty program on LMC's website

This information has been compiled by Pamela Whitmore, staff 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.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Spotted: Around the 2016 LMC Annual Conference—Friday, June 17

Starting the day right! Fitness in the Parks Trainer Gregory Dodd
talked about fitness during an early morning walk along the Mississippi.

Another beautiful morning greeted everyone Friday in St. Paul!

What would you do if you were a city employee who was asked why park grass was green durin
g a drought? Julie Anderson, recreation supervisor at the City of Eagan, took part in Ordway President
and CEO Jamie Grant’s exercise that showed how leadership occurs at all levels of an organization.

Highly-visible confrontations between law enforcement and communities
of color are all too common, and overcoming barriers to creating better outcomes
for everyone can seem daunting. A panel of law enforcement officers and representatives
from the League, the City of St. Paul, and a diversity consultant discussed
how respect and trust can be fostered in all communities.

Are you writing new music, or playing notes that have already been played?
Violinist and inspirational speaker Kai Kight shared his experiences on how it’s easy
to get caught up trying to follow the “right formula,” but it’s important to keep in mind
that all the details we tend to focus on are just one vehicle we take on the road to
our greater goal: building our communities. In addition to speaking and sharing
inspirational stories, Kai also performed some of his own original compositions.

And that’s a wrap! Thank you to all attendees, presenters, and 
League and Alliance staff for a great 2016 Annual Conference!


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Spotted: Around the 2016 LMC Annual Conference—Thursday, June 16

It was a beautiful day in Minnesota’s capital city! Conference attendees got to enjoy
summer and sunshine in Minnesota today after a rainy start to the week.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, LMC Executive Director Dave Unmacht, and Alliance for Innovation
Executive Director Karen Thoreson opened today’s festivities by sharing their thoughts on
innovation in Minnesota, how the first-ever combined Annual Conference was going,
and their highlights from St. Paul and the conference.

Local government officials from across the country gathered together in the
largest-ever exhibit hall to meet with vendors and share ideas.

It’s been nearly a year since Jim Miller retired as the League’s executive director, but he
came back for this year's Annual Conference! Jim presented the first
James F. Miller Leadership Award to Terry Schwerm, city manager of Shoreview.

City officials from Coon Rapids showed how they inspire innovation in their community,
and listen to community members, during their presentation on their program that turned their
city’s aging housing stock into more desirable—and more functional—homes.

During the conference festival, attendees were transported back in time to an era of
prohibition and gangsters. Crime historian Paul Maccabee shared stories of St. Paul’s unique
relationship with some of the biggest criminals of the era, including John Dillinger and Ma Barker.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Spotted: Around the 2016 LMC Annual Conference—Wednesday, June 15

The 2016 Annual Conference marks the 102nd Annual Conference the League has hosted
since 1913! Today’s attendees were able to look into the past and see all the
participants from the first conference in this photo. 

Brooklyn Park was one of three cities that received a 2016 Alliance for Innovation award.
John Nerge accepted the award which recognized Brooklyn Park’s innovative GIS mapping
system that connects technology and the community.

Garry Golden kicked off the 2016 Annual Conference by looking into the future, encouraging
government officials to observe present trends and technologies, and then asking them to think
of how they can turn them into innovative ideas for the next ten years and beyond!

There was standing room only—and overflow out into the hall—during Peter Kageyama’s
educational session on building lovable communities for every age. Participants were encouraged to think about the things that make their communities unique and what inspires love for communities in their citizens, and write love notes to and about their communities.

Representatives from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross Blue Shield, Northpoint Clinic,
Hennepin County, and the Minneapolis Bike Coalition discuss health equity in Minnesota and how health outcomes are impacted by where people live and their access to transportation.

Who’s at this year’s conference? During the interactive GreenStep Cities panel,
participants shared what city they were representing.

GreenStep Cities participants attended a panel on climate change. The panelists, from left to right,
are Elizabeth Kautz, mayor of Burnsville, Anne Hunt, environmental policy director for St. Paul
Mayor Chris Coleman, Brendon Slotterback, McKnight Foundation program officer,
and moderator Jessica Hellmann from the Institute on the Environment-University of Minnesota.
Panelists discussed how climate change is impacting Minnesota cities, and what they
and other Minnesota city officials are doing to work toward a solution.

Local government officials took part in an activity presented by Durham County Soil and Water,
based in North Carolina, that let them play the roles of county managers, landowners,
and schools in an exercise highlighting energy and sustainability.

Karen Thoreson, executive director with the Alliance of Innovation, and Dave Unmacht,
League of Minnesota Cities executive director, spent some time meeting with local government
officials and testing official’s city knowledge at the League’s City Spot booth in the exhibit hall.

See a recap and photos from Day 2 of the conference
See a recap and photos from Day 3 of the conference