Wednesday, May 28, 2014

LMC Policy Committees: Sign Up Now for Grassroots Done Right

The legislative session is behind us, and it’s time to kick back and take a break from the policy process, amiright?

Nope.

In fact, now is the time for city officials and staff to start defining the legislative agenda for 2014 through the policy committee process. This is where the real grassroots action happens, and where you can make sure the day-to-day reality cities face is reflected in the League’s work at the Capitol.

(Top & bottom) The 2013 Improving Fiscal Futures Committee
uses tech to reach members from Greater MN.
To create the best policies possible, volunteers from cities (over 100 last year!) must reflect the range of diverse cities in our state. Big, small, north, south, east, and west—it takes everyone to get it right.

Jon Smith, the administrator of Frazee, would know. He’s served on the Improving Fiscal Futures Committee for about four years. (See the list of committees here)

While few city officials would call themselves “experts,” the wealth of knowledge brought by participants and the similarities between otherwise-dissimilar communities always impresses Smith.

“In a sense it’s reassuring that we’re all facing the same kinds of issues,” he said. Across all four policy committees topics can range from pool management rules to TIF districts.

While Smith faces a three-hour drive to attend the committees in person, he said that Greater Minnesota participants sometimes carpool, and the call-in option has worked well. “[League staff] do a really good job to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.”

Grateful to cities
Heidi Omerza of Ely is an elected official who has been involved with policy committees for about six years. She got involved as an extension of her interest in the legislative process.

“The meetings are wonderful,” said Omerza. “I really enjoy the social aspect of it—meeting people from other cities and seeing what they’re doing beyond the policy committee work.”

Because she lives over four hours away, Omerza attends in-person when she can and uses call-in options when she can’t. “You don’t quite get the social interaction [calling in], but obviously it shaves nine hours off my day!”

Omerza emphasized that the great people who volunteer are responsible for making better policy.
It takes time, effort, and lots of critical thinking to get it right, and each person is important to that process.

“The policies that are really true to us and our communities take a lot of time,” affirmed Smith.

Ultimately, it’s this spirit of volunteerism that makes LMC’s policy committees a robust, productive, and inclusive process.

“I’m very grateful that cities allow their staff and elected officials to come because that’s what makes us strong,” said Omerza.

Policy committee rosters start to close the first week of June, so learn more and apply today.


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