Friday, February 16, 2018

New Split Rock Collaborative Space and Workstations Now Available

Dear weary traveler,

If you ever find yourself in St. Paul and need a place to find refuge from the storm of meetings, legislative committee hearings, and networking events, we hope that the League building can serve as your beacon of calm.

The new Split Rock Collaborative Space, located on the second floor of the League building, can provide city officials and staff a place to plug in or take a breather when you would prefer to not spend yet another awkward hour sitting in your car.

Adjoining Split Rock we've also installed several individual workstations you can reserve if you need to tune out the proverbial howling winds and tune in to handling some city business.

Both of these spaces are available from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

A few more amenities available to city officials:*
  • As always, please feel free to use the League's parking lot, accessible by both University Avenue and Sherburne Avenue. Just sign in at the front desk when you arrive. Our building's central location is kitty-corner from the Capitol complex—i.e. walking distance from the House, Senate, executive branch, and several agencies.
  • WiFi! Save your data and ask for the password at the front desk. You'll be able to work remotely with our reliable connection.
To use any of these features, just call the front desk or stop by. Nautical puns are encouraged but not required.

*Bonus: Ask a League staffer for local restaurant recommendations. University and the downtown areas are a great place to get a variety of delicious cuisines!

The new Split Rock Collaborative Space is available to city officials when you have down time in St. Paul.
Feel free to think of it as a captain's log.
City officials can now reserve time at one of these workstations when visiting St. Paul. Framed photos of your dog not included.

Questions or comments about the new spaces? Please contact Luke Fischer, first mate deputy director.

Photo credit goes to League staffers Jeff Korte and Danielle Cabot

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Heartwarming Stories From City Hall—What's Yours?

For Valentine's Day this year, we asked LMC board members to share a heartwarming story from their time in city government. They were happy to share! See a few of their stories below.

What's your heartwarming story? Please share an anecdote in the comments that has made you proud, made you smile, made you and others feel good about the work that cities do or the community you serve.

Curt Boganey  
City manager, Brooklyn Center
As city manager, I attended an event last year where one of my employees along with several others was being recognized for their great work supervising summer Brooklynk interns. Brooklynk interns are young residents living in or attending school in Brooklyn Center or Brooklyn Park. Many of the youth come from households facing social and economic difficulties. When this “non-supervisory” employee came forth to receive his award for providing his interns with outstanding leadership, direction, and coaching throughout the summer he was allowed to say few words about the experience. During his response he shared his personal story of growing up in very difficult circumstances as a child and how he felt privileged to mentor the interns during the past several summers. It was apparent to all present that his work as an intern supervisor was nothing less than a labor of love. I was never so proud of an employee than when I heard his story. I am so pleased he is an employee for the city of Brooklyn Center!

Tina Rennemo
Clerk/treasurer, Baudette
One of the biggest impacts that I recall from my 25 years in city government work was a trip to Washington DC in 2016 lobbying as a member of the Minnesota Association of Small Cities Board of Directors. We had an agenda as a board, but I had a bit of a personal agenda as well. I had a very dear friend—a veteran and retired police officer—who was battling bladder cancer and continued to receive very disappointing news from the Department of Veterans Affairs offices that were reviewing his case. This had been going on for months. He and his wife were exhausted from the battle and had basically given up on our elected officials and lost faith in “government.” I suggested they contact their legislators, but both had a sharp reply to the tune of "it isn’t worth it—they don’t give a s***.” I really take these failures personally—it pains me to hear that constituents think they do not matter. Long story short, at the end of each meeting that day with our federal legislators I took the liberty of sharing his story. By the close of business the next day Amy Klobuchar’s office and Rick Nolan’s office had reached out to my friend and the Veterans Affairs office and the wheels were in motion to help him with his situation. ❤ I am thankful for the opportunities that my position allows me—to help people, to be a voice, to make people believe that they are being heard.

Mike Mornson

City manager, Hopkins
Hopkins Police Officer Rob Rebai responded to a burglary where suspects had stolen fishing equipment from the garage. The fishing equipment belonged to children who loved to fish. Officer Rebai took it upon himself to provide the family with new rods and additional fishing equipment the same day the equipment was stolen. Rebai never told the chief or me. He just did it. The resident sent us a letter telling us about it. The resident was very touched. 

Heidi Omerza
City councilmember, Ely
"I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” (Andy from the last episode of The Office).  I was elected for the first time in 2006 and served with Gordon Sheddy and Warren Nikkola for eight years. At first, I was terrified of them both, then as the years passed—and as councils do—we started going through stuffs together. And I realized they were my friends.  Our last project together on the council was construction of our new library and remodeling city hall. The Ely Public Library has become an even better place for gathering, learning, and getting books. It truly is one of my happy places with warm memories of how it was built.  Gordon and Warren are now my mentors, and without them I would have not made it past my first term.

Mark Casey
City manager, St. Anthony Village
Last week I received a $50 gift card for pizza along with a note that said: “Mark Casey & Staff, Thank you for all of your hard work over the past year and a half. You have hard jobs. We want you to know that you are supported by many in the community. You don’t hear it enough. Thank you!” The photo is some of the staff enjoying the pizza.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Future City 2018—Building Quality Community Award Winner Reaches New Heights

Mobility, recreation, wellness—the future looks good in the 2018
Building Quality Communities Special Award-winning city of "Osoto."
You may not recognize them yet, but these youthful faces are already city innovation leaders!

Teams of middle-school students from all over the state gathered recently at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount for the annual Minnesota Regional Future City Competition.

Students work throughout the fall semester each year to develop a city of the future for the annual competition.

These cities and their student creators then vie for three general awards and over a dozen special awards. A special theme picked each year guides an emphasis on a particular design feature. This years’ theme was “The Age-Friendly City”—creating an environment that will allow senior citizens to be as active and independent as they want to be.

The Building Quality Communities Special Award
League staff attend this event every year to judge the "Building Quality Communities" special award. This award is given to the team that best demonstrates how a city government can improve the quality of life for its citizens. This may include the ways that city leaders include others in making decisions or the policies and services that make citizens' daily lives easier and more meaningful.

There were some great candidates for the 2018 Building Quality Communities award! This year's Building Quality Communities Award went to the city of “Osoto,” created by a team from Black Hawk Middle School in Eagan. Teacher David Herem is the team's advisor and Russ Matthys, director of public works for the city of Eagan, volunteers as their engineer mentor.

What made Osoto oh-so desirable? Osoto embraces and reflects the beauty of its natural mountainous setting. There is so much to do within the community that’s all within walking distance or accessible by their monorail transportation system—a great design feature that will benefit older residents as well as the young. An emphasis on recreation incorporates both public and private offerings: residents can spend time at the community center, shopping, catching a movie at the cinema, or relaxing at one of the many common spaces. There’s even a community garden. Health and wellness go hand-in-hand with Osoto's community values. In addition to providing important city services such as police and fire, all residents have the opportunity to wear a fitness tracker bracelet that assists them in living a healthy lifestyle.

Osoto's civically minded residents also put an emphasis on education. The schools hold a strong focus on “togetherness.” This motto helps build a strong sense of community from a young age.

Once again League staff walked away impressed and inspired by the creative thinking of tomorrow's leaders. Thanks to all the teams that competed, and congrats to Black Hawk Middle School!

Photo credit goes to League staffer Phil Trebatoski

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Jan-Feb 2018 Issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine Is Out—Includes Legislative Insert

Subscribers to Minnesota Cities magazine received their print issue last week and the digital version is now available online.

As per tradition, the January-February print edition features a legislative insert that will bring you up to speed on results of the last legislative session and what League intergovernmental relations staff are anticipating for the 2018 session, which begins Feb. 20. Get a rundown of topics to watch, including bonding, email retention, and urban forest management. See the full list of 10 priorities that League lobbyists will focus on during the 2018 session. 

Print or online, you can also read a deep-dive on the recent wave of pre-emption bills introduced last year that will carry over to the second year of the biennium—what they could mean for your city, how they harm the city-state partnership, and how you can stay involved in the conversation.

More highlights:
See what the leaders of the future have to say on the topic of promoting city careers in LMC’s Mayor for a Day Essay Contest Winners (an annual favorite!)

Big news for small cities! Resources that will benefit cities of every size are what the League is all about, and we have heard loud and clear that a dedicated space for small cities would really make your day. Check out our new department, “Focus on Small Cities,” for the first topic by and for small cities, “A Difficult Question: Local Policing or County Contracting?

Allegations related to sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond may seem a distant problem, but there are lessons for all types of employers to be gained from the discussion. Review six common themes drawn from the guidance of experts in “Sexual Harassment: National Coverage, Local Lessons.”

And as always, check out From the Bench for summaries of recent court cases, St. Paul to City Hall for Executive Director David Unmacht’s thoughts on recruiting the next generation of civic leaders, and Bits & Briefs for a roundup of city conversation-starters.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Looking Forward to 2018—A New Year's Greeting from LMC Board President Jo Emerson

 A message from Jo Emerson, LMC board president and mayor of White Bear Lake:

As 2017 draws to a close, I'm taking time to reflect on the ups and downs we have encountered at the League.

This past fall I was fortunate enough to attend all seven regional meetings around this great state. I got to meet new people and connect with old friends. Thanks to those that hosted and to all who attended. We had good conversations on how we can encourage and support the next generation of elected and appointed officials.

Personally, my thanks to League staff for all the assistance you've given me as I navigate my new role. My heart went out to those who continued to provide excellent service to members while dealing with their grief following the loss of two long time League staffers, Duke Addicks and Tom Grundhoefer in late 2016 and early 2017. While those of us on the board felt the loss, I want staff to know how appreciated their efforts on our behalf have been.

With the knowledge that there are more ups and downs to come, I look forward to 2018 and the opportunity to work on behalf of all Minnesota cities. To kick off the new year, I hope that many of you will consider joining me at the Leadership Conferences for newly elected or experienced officials in January—these are great opportunities to strengthen skills and connections with colleagues. Together we can ensure that cities continue to be the drivers of the economy, and the places where our citizens can reside in peace and harmony.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Spreading Some Cheer with 2017 Dividend Deliveries

When our member cities are happy, we're happy! So what better way to spread some cheer all around than to deliver good news to cities in person? That's exactly what several staffers got to do recently when dividend checks for League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust members needed to be delivered. Many more staffers pitched in to stuff envelopes (check out that teamwork!), which were sent off via mail. All told, $6 million will be returned to members of the property/casualty program as a result of your dedication to staying safe and reducing claims. Good job, Minnesota cities, and let's keep smilin' in 2018! Curious? Learn more about the dividend here.

League staff from all over the building pitch in every year to stuff dividend envelopes.

Brooklyn Park City Manager Jay Stroebel and Assistant Finance Director Jeanette Boit-Kania
(left and middle) show off their dividend smiles delivered by LMC's Pam Whitmore.

Hastings City Administrator Melanie Mesko Lee
(left) accepts her dividend from LMC staffer Kellie Sundheim.

Inver Grove Heights City Administrator Joe Lynch (left) receives a festive dividend
delivery from LMC's Donyelle Mikacevich.

Watertown City Administrator Shane Fineran (left) takes a moment to meet
with LMC's Deputy Director Luke Fischer, dividend deliverer extraordinaire.

Mendota Heights Finance Director Kristin Schabacker (right) is lookin’ cheery
and bright as LMC’s Laura Kushner delivers her city’s dividend.

Photo credit goes to several dividend helper elves.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Photos: Winter Carnival Fun and Fundraiser at LMC

League staff and board members gathered for an hour of fun prior to the last board meeting of the year. While several carnival-style games and some fierce department competition kept spirits high, the real lift came from the opportunity to support a neighborhood foodshelf and one of the League's charitable giving organizations. 

Through a canned good "admission ticket" as well as matching donations from Executive Director Dave Unmacht and department heads, carnival-goers were able to collect 10 boxes of food for Keystone Community Services and over $300 in donations for the United Way. And if anyone is wondering, it turns out tech services is really good at carnival games. Like, really good.

Loss Control Rep Liz Tadsse (blue) prepares for her next ping pong toss.

Executive Assistant Kellie Sundheim and Deputy Director Luke Fischer
face off in the water bottle flip competition.

Silence in the gallery as board member Sue Hilgert
watches her putt.
HR Director Laura Kushner announces competition results.

Time to box up the food for its journey to Keystone!

 Photo credit goes to LMC staffers Jeff Korte and Danielle Cabot