Monday, October 9, 2017

A Crystal Clear View of Water Infrastructure Data

The State Auditor Infrastructure Stress Transparency
Tool is ready for fall, and for your data needs.
A tech dispatch from Mel Reeder, chief information officer at the League:

Do you find data to be clear as mud? Actually, information about city water treatment is now clear as clean water! The Office of the State Auditor (OSA) recently released their interactive map tool. This quick tool was given a long name: “State Auditor Infrastructure Stress Transparency Tool Version 2.0.”

Don’t let that scare you—accessing enormous amounts of information is quicker than saying the tool’s name.

Here are just a small handful of the filters available
to hone in on just the info you need.
By using one click of your mouse (ok, maybe two clicks) you can display data onto a map of Minnesota and quickly gain insight about drinking water, water treatment, and the infrastructure within Minnesota cities, counties, water basins, or watersheds. It’s all there! The age of sewer systems is displayed in three colors for easy identification. By using color and graphics large amounts of data about Minnesota’s water becomes crystal clear.

In addition to infrastructure age, you can dig into other significant details and compare city systems side-by-side. Too much information? No problem, there is a filter for that too.

I encourage you to venture into the OSA tool. You will quickly get a clear picture of your city water and treatment infrastructure too.

City-specific data. Oh yeah.
The tool was launched about a year and a half ago and was developed with feedback collected by the State Auditor during statewide tours (one of the stops was here at the League!). The update was supported by a grant from the Bush Foundation.

Watch a video overview of the State Auditor's Infrastructure Stress Transparency Tool Version 2.0

Check out the Minnesota State Auditor's Infrastructure Stress Transparency Tool






Friday, October 6, 2017

Spotted: Bright Ideas Being Shared at the 2017 Regional Meetings

The 2017 Regional Meetings are officially underway! We've kicked off this first week in Thief River Falls, Ottertail, and Melrose. Here are a few scenes from the road:

League of Minnesota Cities staffers Gary Carlson (Intergovernmental Relations Director)
and Laura Harris (Training & Conferences Manager) arrive to a beautiful day in Thief River Falls.

Little Falls City Administrator Jon Radermacher shares
his key messages from a small-group communications activity.

LMC Communication Coordinator Danielle Cabot discusses
strategies for how best to communicate change to your community.

Thief River Falls City Administrator Rod Otterness and Bemidji Councilmember
Nancy Erickson talk about ways to identify and support future leaders in our communities.

Ottertail Mayor Myron Lueders welcomes attendees to his city.

Andrew Martin, Regional Director for Sen. Amy Klobuchar,
talks with city leaders during a break.

Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) Member Relations Coordinator
Heather Corcoran shares what is on deck for the 2018 Legislative Session.

Brian Fredrickson, Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota,
leads city officials in a discussion about how to build trust in our communities.

Thank you to our conference sponsors, Business Leadership Council
members Bolton & Menk and Ehlers, Inc.
The meetings are off to a great start! Will we see you at one of the remaining locations? We hope you'll join us to share bright ideas about how to propel Minnesota cities into a brighter tomorrow!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Building Trust, Building Community

Trust is vital to successful human relationships. So what does this have to do with Minnesota cities?

Christy Kallevig, Extension Educator with the Extension Center for Community Vitality, will be one of the presenters at the 2017 Regional Meetings who will facilitate the “Strengthening Trust in Communities” session. She was generous enough to share some thoughts in advance of our meetings:

What makes trust an important topic to focus on?
We all have different reasons as to why this topic is important. I feel that it is important to understand trust because it is a complicated topic that has more layers to it than many realize. The way that we build trust in our interactions with co-workers, neighbors, and citizens helps to shape the community in which we live, work, and play. If we don't work on building trust and caring for it, we stand to lose our partners who we are working with to build community, and our communities lose their vibrancy.

Why should city officials in particular put energy into building trust?
When you build trust at multiple levels in your community, you are building a strong base on which you can grow. When community members feel that there is trust between themselves and their elected and appointed officials, they are more willing to engage in conversations and work towards a common cause. You also create a more positive work culture between elected officials, city staff, and contractors when you pay attention to how trust is built and cared for in your community. All of these factors combine to make your community a more desirable place to be.

How can the presence of trust—or lack of it—manifest itself in a community?
We are never truly able to say that trust does or does not exist in our community. Because trust can look so different to each person and be felt differently by each individual, we must constantly be working on trust. We must be looking at our interactions, how we respond to regrettable incidents, and how we manage conflict. It is only by being mindful about these things that we can work to create trusting communities.

What will people who attend your upcoming training leave knowing how to do?
After our session, people will walk away with a tool that they can use to assess trust in situations, as well as a better understanding of what trust is and how it is built.

Christy and her colleagues will be presenting at each one of our 2017 Regional Meetings (which begin next week already!), and it's sure to be an informative session. We hope to see you there!


Friday, September 22, 2017

The Sep-Oct Issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine Is Now Online

Kick off the fall season with a great read—the Minnesota Cities magazine! The Sep-Oct issue covers stories on local leaders and city projects as well as relevant state and nationwide topics.

Here’s the scoop:

This issue’s cover story features two “city champions,” Minnetonka Mayor Terry Schneider and Spring Lake Park City Administrator and Clerk-Treasurer Daniel Buchholtz. Schneider’s respected character and leadership led him to being named the 2017 C.C. Ludwig Award winner, and Buchholtz’s work restoring trust in his community is just one reason he received this year’s James F. Miller Leadership Award. Slow clap.

Have you ever thought about using a drone to capture images, videos, and information on your community? The cities of Red Wing and Champlin have done it! Both cities took advantage of drones to help craft their plans for upcoming city projects. Find out all the benefits drones have to offer in The Bird’s-Eye Advantage of Using Drones.

A revival of protests around the nation and here in Minnesota has many city officials asking, “How should I handle this?” This issue's Letter of the Law column can help clarify what local leaders need to know about preserving public safety as well as freedom of speech.

Other highlights include LMC Executive Director David Unmacht’s tips for acing interviews, a look at how city officials are advancing racial equity in their communities, and how Hutchinson is addressing a skilled workforce shortage.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A League Intern Rides Along with the West St. Paul PD


In June, Khongpheng Vang joined the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust as an intern through the City of St. Paul’s Right Track Program. Vang is a senior at Johnson High School and takes advanced classes toward college credit in the areas of algebra, history, chemistry, and writing. Recently, he got the opportunity to ride along with the West St. Paul Police Department and writes about it below.

On August 17, I had the opportunity through my internship at the League of Minnesota Cities to visit the West St. Paul Police Department and ride along with Officer Baumeister. I got to experience and understand more of what happens during the daily life of a police officer. I saw many new things like the different rooms that make up a police department—including jail cells and interrogation and evidence rooms. I even experienced what it was like to pull over two vehicles during this ride-along. My time with Officer Baumeister was great and allowed me to explore another possible government career.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Q&A with Mental Health First Aid Instructor Akmed Khalifa

City employees have opportunities to create connections with many members of the community. Through these connections, city employees are in unique positions to provide help when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. But how can city employees get the tools needed to provide that assistance?

Akmed Khalifa is an instructor for Mental Health First Aid, a program that gives people tools to provide aid during a mental health crisis, and he took some time to talk about the upcoming eight-hour workshops that the League will be hosting around the state.

How does Mental Health First Aid prepare people to provide help in a crisis?
First, the concept of Mental Health First Aid is to provide help to someone developing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis, so we prepare people to offer first aid in a crisis until appropriate help can be reached. The goal is to give you the skills to recognize warning signs of a mental illnesses crisis and the ability to say “I know what’s happening, I recognize these signs, now I know what to do.” The purpose isn’t to teach people to diagnose mental illnesses, but instead to provide them with a variety of skill and tools, to help someone who may be experiencing a crisis. Not only are you given the tools to connect to appropriate professional help, you’re given tools to offer help and what can be done. There is detailed information on how to de-escalate a crisis, and what words to use in many different situations.

Why do you feel this training is important for city employees?

Mental illness is an everyday situation and affects everyone, which is why this audience is so great. This was made for everyone, not just people who are already first-responders. People in these roles connect with many community members, it’s likely that they’ll connect with someone who can be helped with the skills they’ll get in these workshops.

What sort of need have you seen for this training in Minnesota cities, and what impact have you seen it have as more people are trained?
There is a high demand for the class across the state. Part of what we do is to help people understand that mental illness is much more common than we think and that we all experience anxiety or depression, but there’s a difference between that and having depression. A big part of these workshops is to recognize that difference, and to understand what next steps you can take. You’ll develop active intelligence—you’ll be able to act on the information you get in this eight-hour training, plus you’ll have materials to refer to so you can provide the best help.

What sort of impact have you seen Mental Health First Aid having in the community?

Shortly after my co-teacher started instructing these workshops, one student put this knowledge to use to help someone at her church who was thinking about suicide. She used the words in the manual, understood the needs the person in crisis had, connected the person with appropriate professional support, and that person then got treatment. The great thing about Mental Health First Aid is that you can put it into action to make a difference in the community.

Want to know more about Mental Health First Aid? Visit the League’s website to find out about workshops scheduled this fall.

Akmed Khalifa is a Fairview Health Services, Youth Grief Services Camp coordinator focusing on expanding the program into North Minneapolis. Akmed has spent the past 40 years counseling and mentoring young adults in both community and educational settings. Akmed is an educator and trainer with experience ranging from serving as adjunct faculty at Metro State University to being a certified diversity trainer who has taught City of Minneapolis employees, Bloomington Public Schools staff and others.



Friday, September 8, 2017

Attention Students: Share How You Would Spotlight City Careers by Oct. 13!

Charity, one of the essay contest winners from 2015, stopped
by the Cities Matter booth this year! Charity got her
essay form  in 2015 from the state fair, but you can also
find it online at www.lmc.org/MFAD17.
Students can find reminders of the value of local government careers everywhere—when riding the bus, walking on sidewalks to a friend’s house, checking out books at their local library, or drinking clean water at a park drinking fountain. Without city employees, these everyday activities would not be possible.

For the 2017 Mayor for a Day Essay Contest, the League wants to hear how fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders who live in Minnesota answer this question: If you were mayor for a day, what would you do to show people that local governments are good places to work?

Three winners will be awarded $100, and their essays will be published in Minnesota Cities magazine.

To find out more about local government careers and why city employees love what they do, essay writers can visit the careers section of the Cities Matter webpage. There students will find what real people have to say about their jobs working in cities, and can see how visitors to the Minnesota State Fair learned more about which city careers need their “superpowers."

Essay submissions must be sent to the League by Oct. 13, so download an entry form for a child you know today!