Thursday, June 26, 2014

Research Q of the Week: Resources for a Rainy Day (6/24)

Question: Rain, rain go away, come again another day. What kind of resources does the League have to help us deal with the aftermath of all this rain? 

Answer: Minnesota cities have been dealing with a number of rain-related headaches, including closed roads, evacuation of people, and higher-than-ever water levels. On June 19, Governor Dayton even declared a State of Emergency in 35 counties. 

A city government can also declare a local emergency when it's time to take flood response to the next level. To do so, the mayor needs to issue a proclamation declaring an emergency. The emergency declaration cannot last longer than three days, unless continued by the city council. The declaration of an emergency will set in motion the city’s disaster plan.

The city’s designated emergency manager should contact the county emergency management coordinator. If additional resources are needed, the county coordinator will contact the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) division, which will assign a person to coordinate the city’s needs and available resources. 

Assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may also become available if requested by the governor and/or HSEM.

Lending a helping hand
Cities fortunate enough to not be directly affected by flooding need to be careful about how they work with cities that are/have experienced flooding. While it's very Minnesotan to lend a helping hand, cities should not self-deploy to other communities, but should instead coordinate their efforts through their county Emergency Operations Center or via a direct request from the State Emergency Operations Center.   

High water resources
The League has a number of resources related to floods and other emergencies on its website, including:

You can see a full list of documents dedicated to helping your city weather the storm on the Flooding Resources page.

Here to hoping for drier weather!

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Love Notes and Motorcycles: 2014 Keynote Speakers on Social Media

The 2014 Annual Conference keynote speakers created a buzz of energy and inspiration in St. Cloud last week—and many attendees took to Twitter to share the experience using the hashtag #MnCities.

Peter Kageyama, author of "For the Love of Cities," explained on Thursday how all people have a relationship with their places. He showed how cities—in both simple and grand ways—can create emotional experiences and build relationships between residents and their cities.

On Friday, Mark Scharenbroich, author of "Nice Bike," took to the stage with stories about everything from a successful box company to an Iron Range teacher he'll never forget. Scharenbroich's stories illustrated the importance of acknowledging and honoring the people around us.

Take a peek at the conversation on Twitter, and add your own comments about the keynotes in the comments below! Read more about Peter Kageyama and Mark Scharenbroich here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Spotted: Day Three of the 2014 LMC Annual Conference—Friday, June 20

Our final day of the LMC 2014 Annual Conference has already come and gone! Time flies when you're having fun, and that certainly held true this year.

Here are a few snapshots of our last day:

Paul Mandell of the Capital Area Architectural & Planning Board and the
Minnesota Design Team closed out Friday morning's GreenStep Cities Celebration
by sharing how cities can develop a sustainable vision for the future.

Tracy Worsley of MNSCU presented "City Hall Safety: Preparing for the Unthinkable" on Friday morning.

Panelists at the "The Next Generation: Here They Come—Why The Same
Old Ways Won't Be Enough" were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up.
The answers werefairly typical...sportscaster, attorney, doctor, and...farmer of goats!

Mark Scharenbroich illustrates his "Nice Bike" concept
by examing the philosophy of a packaging company.

Thanks to all of you for helping make our 2014 LMC Annual Conference the success it was! We look forward to seeing you in Duluth next summer.

Photo credits go to Todd Myra

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spotted: Day Two of the 2014 LMC Annual Conference—Thursday, June 19

Today saw the most jam-packed day of the conference! It began with opening keynote speaker Peter Kageyama, rolled on into the annual awards luncheon and annual meeting, continued with a whole host of concurrent sessions, and ended with the exhibit hall event.

Here are some photos from Day Two:

A packed house of conference attendees awaited the keynote speaker this morning.

Before the keynote, attendees had a chance to share what they love most
about their cities on a bulletin board in the lobby.

Opening keynote speaker Peter Kageyama gave examples of unique projects that have helped residents
connect to their cities—from poetry stamped into sidewalks in St. Paul to a giant blue bear statue peering
into the Denver Convention Center to an intricate group lip sync to “American Pie” in Grand Rapids, MI.

Conference attendees had a chance to connect with Peter during the book signing held after his speech.

Dave Osberg, city administrator for Eagan, was elected as the new president of the LMC Board of Directors for 2014-15.

More than 100 vendors had booths at this year's exhibit hall event.

Conference attendees and vendors networked and connected over ways
to help cities become stronger and achieve their goals.

Another successful day at the conference—and we’re not done yet!

Stay tuned for scenes from our final day in St. Cloud.

Photo credits go to Todd Myra

Research Q of the Week: Encouraging the Parks & Rec Tradition in MN Cities

Question: Spring has sprung, school is out, and people of all ages are enjoying city parks and rec programs. But what is the city’s liability exposure if someone is injured while using a city park or recreational program?

Answer: It should come as no surprise that people who use city parks and participate in city recreational programs—whether they be young children or weekend warriors—occasionally get injured. Fortunately, cities have statutorily granted immunity from lawsuits based upon the construction, operation, or maintenance of any property owned or leased by the city for park purposes, including trails and paths, ball fields, courts, and open recreation areas. The immunity also extends to lawsuits based upon the city’s provision of recreational services. This immunity is commonly referred to as park and recreational immunity.

There is an exception to park and recreational immunity—and a little common sense points directly to it. Cities still have a duty to warn of hidden, artificial conditions on park property that they know are likely to cause death or serious bodily injury and can be liable if a person is injured because the city failed to warn of the condition’s existence.

When it created park and recreational immunity, the state Legislature balanced preserving Minnesota’s bountiful outdoor recreational resources (an important part of what makes it so great to live here) and the need to compensate injured persons. The result was a law that encourages cities to provide parks and recreational services by limiting their liability exposure.

Now that warm weather has arrived, we can all get out and take advantage of the great parks our cities have to offer!

For more information about city park and recreational facilities see the League of Minnesota Cities Parks and Recreation Loss Control Guide.

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

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spotted: Day One of the 2014 LMC Annual Conference—Wednesday, June 18

From roundtable discussions that kicked off the day to the always-popular legislative recap capping off the afternoon, the first day of LMC's 2014 Annual Conference got off to a great start. Here are a few shots from Day One:

LMC communications staffer Danielle Cabot helped facilitate a roundtable discussion on social media. Other hot topics at the roundtables included e-cigarette regulation, public safety collaboration, community engagement, and more.

Attendees used this bulletin board to share with us what they love about their city, helping us prepare
for Thursday's "For the Love of Cities" opening keynote speech with Peter Kageyama

Current LMC President Shaunna Johnson kicks off the meeting at the opening ceremony.

LMC’s IGR (Intergovernmental Relations) staff dressed up to give attendees a glimpse
into the future—and also recalled the 2014 legislative session.

Stay tuned for more pictures of tomorrow’s action!

Photo credits go to Todd Myra

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Research Q of the Day: Do's and Don'ts of Prayer at City Council Meetings

Question: The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that opening a town council meeting with prayer does not violate the U.S. Constitution. Why?

Answer: Tradition. Four Supreme Court justices (a bare majority) harkened back more than 200 years ago, when meetings of the Boston City Council were opened with a short prayer from a local minister. (Even though the decision was about town councils, it generally applies to cities, too.)

According to the Court, prayer—even of a religious nature—has started government meetings at all levels for many years, including the first meetings of Congress, so it’s long been understood as compatible with the Constitution.

The Court calls this ‘legislative prayer.’ The purpose of acceptable legislative prayer is to set a serious tone for council meetings. If prayer is solemn and respectful, the Court finds it may invite elected officials to reflect before they start out on the “fractious business of governing.” (Sounds like the Court does understand the struggles of governing at the local level.)

Let’s look closer at the particulars:

•    Councils are not required to start meetings with prayer. City councils may also use other ceremonies to set a solemn tone for meetings, such as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

•    To pass muster under the Constitution, such prayer at council meetings must not “criticize nonbelievers, threaten damnation, or preach conversion.”

•    Timing of the prayer matters. History and tradition show that legislative prayer is offered at the beginning of meetings, during opening ceremonies. Prayer is not typically given during the decision-making or legislative portion of a meeting.

•    Who offers prayer also matters. Courts often look to see if governing bodies invite legislative prayer from representatives of various faiths. On the flip side, refusing to allow a particular faith or denomination is problematic.

Other Do's and Don'ts
Stick with tradition. If a council wishes to include legislative prayer at council meetings, don’t coerce others to participate. Do consider prayers from a variety of spiritual viewpoints, and do set a two- to three-minute time limit for it. Do consider this in the context of local community values and citizen responses to the practice, too.

You can find answers to more questions on the topic in this short memo: Prayer and City Council Meetings.

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

Monday, June 9, 2014

Spotted: Tech Connects Satellite PD in Jordan

How can a community create a culture of safety within a school building? A group of collaborators in the city of Jordan is championing satellite police offices on school grounds to answer that question. While safety is the name of the game, the partnership has resulted in better communication and better relationships among the student body, staff, and the department.

As for communication within the department, technology makes it possible. Seen here, Police Chief Bob Malz of Jordan talks with an officer stationed at another school via the internet.

Read more about this collaboration in "Ideas in Action," featured in the May-June issue of Minnesota Cities magazine.

Photo credit goes to Terry Gydesen of Terry Gydesen Studio

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Research Q of the Week: You've Got an Amicus in LMC (6/5)

Question: What is the Municipal Amicus Program?

Answer: The League uses several ways to promote the adoption of public policies favorable to cities. The most obvious method is through the legislative process.

The less obvious but equally important method is through the judicial process. Since 1987, the League has been advocating for city interests at state and federal appellate courts through its Municipal Amicus Program (MAP).

Through the MAP, the League submits about five to seven amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) briefs each year in appellate cases that address significant city issues.
The League’s amicus briefs provide appellate courts with information and legal analysis about the impacts that their decisions will have on Minnesota cities.

In recent years, for example, the League has focused its legislative efforts to advocate for refinements to the 60-Day Rule regarding state agency deadlines. At the same time, the League has filed several amicus briefs in appeals involving the 60-Day Rule which have resulted in court decisions favorable to cities. It's a one-two punch of good government advocacy.

How it works
The majority of requests the League receives for amicus assistance come from cities, but it also receives requests from other government entities including towns, counties, school districts, and state agencies. A board made up of city attorneys and city officials considers these requests. If the MAP Board approves a request, the League files a court document seeking permission to participate in the appeal. If the court grants the League permission to participate, League staff file an amicus brief according to court-provided deadlines.

To read summaries of  recent court decisions resulting from appeals in which the League filed an amicus brief, see the latest "From the Bench" columns in Minnesota Cities magazine.

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