Friday, March 25, 2016

The City Spot Café: Organized Collection

Definition: Organized collection is a system for collecting garbage in which a named garbage collector, or a member of an organization of collectors, is OK'd to collect from a geographic service area or areas.

Plain-language explanation: Simply put, it’s the process that some cities use for residential and commercial garbage pick-up to coordinate which garbage companies will work where in the city, instead of allowing multiple services to overlap the city. The term may sound familiar since a number of city councils have been discussing going from a system that relies on residents to choose hauling services from private collectors to one that uses one or more designated collectors contracted by the city.

In the news: These discussions are currently taking place in the cities of Bloomington, Roseville, and Baxter, for example.

Pros: So why would cities want to be involved in coordinating the garbage hauling business? Well, perhaps for reasons related to reducing wear on infrastructure, minimizing the environmental impact of public services, reducing residential garbage costs, increasing the service options provided to residents, or better coordinating service delivery with another jurisdiction.

Cons: Critics, though, of such a practice might say that organized collection inhibits a citizen’s ability to choose a garbage provider—someone that they trust with entering their property and providing a service to their specifications. Critics have also claimed that this practice will harm local companies who cannot freely compete for business.

League position:  In 2014, the state Legislature clarified city authority to adopt solid waste service contracts that protect public safety, the environment, and public infrastructure. The League supports this current state policy and opposes efforts to effectively eliminate organized collection by making the liability too great. See the League’s policy here.

Resource: Want additional info on waste management? Check out the City Solid Waste Management information memo and these tools from the MPCA.

 This info has been served up by  League of Minnesota Cities staff. Contact: or (651) 281-1200.

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

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The March-April 2016 Issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine Has Arrived!

The March-April issue of Minnesota Cities magazine is now available online! In addition to the cover story, "City Hall Security: Prepare for the Unthinkable," here are some highlights you'll find inside:

See how a new approach to policing in Brooklyn Park based on an academic theory could help Minnesota cities set the curve in "The Future of Policing."

You know the LMC awards nomination window is now open, right? Need inspiration? This issue happens to showcase a City of Excellence Award-winning project—check out "Eden Prairie Takes Snow Removal Program from Good to Great" for just one example of city work recognized in 2015.

When a new gadget lights up your eyes and puts a spring in your step—ahhh, what a great feeling. See what your city can do to embrace innovation while staying on the right side of the law (which may not even have been written yet!) in "New Technology and the Law."
New Technology and the Law

And as always, catch up on the latest court decisions that could affect your city's operations in From the Bench, hear from Executive Director Dave Unmacht in St. Paul to City Hall, and check in with two city staffers on the topic of cell tower leases in Two-Way Street.

Friday, March 4, 2016

NEW! The City Spot Café Serves Up Primary Election Goodness

There's plenty of talk about primaries at the federal level
happening right now. But what about primaries for cities?
Definition: “Primary” means an election at which the voters choose by ballot the nominees for the offices to be filled at a general election.

Plain-language explanation: A city can choose whether it wants to establish a municipal primary and have their city races on the primary ballot. A city can establish a city primary and have their races on the primary ballot if the council adopts a resolution or ordinance by April 15 in the year when a city general election is held. (If you are a charter city, double-check with your city attorney on steps needed.)

The city clerk should notify the secretary of state (SOS) and the county auditor within 30 days after the adoption of the resolution or ordinance. Once adopted, the city will continue to hold a primary for all city elections into infinity—or, until it decides to stop. It should also be noted, for non-partisan offices, if no more than twice the number of individuals to be elected file for office (example: two council seats are open, and four or fewer candidates file) the names of the candidates go directly on the general election ballot, essentially skipping the primary.

In the news: Approximately 30 cities in Minnesota end up holding a municipal primary in any given year, according to SOS data. Cities with primaries include Buhl, Albert Lea, and Elk River. Alexandria recently adopted a municipal primary ordinance. Minneapolis and St. Paul have ranked choice voting instead of a primary.

Pros: So why would cities want to establish a municipal primary? If a city consistently has a large number of candidates running for office, a primary can narrow the field. A primary also provides more opportunities for voters to learn about candidates.

Cons: On the flipside, if a city consistently has few candidates running for office, a primary may not be necessary. A primary can also extend the length and cost of campaigns.

League position: The League doesn’t have a position on whether your city should or should not hold a primary. That one is up to your council to decide. The League has adopted several policies to strengthen the effectiveness of local election administration, including a policy to encourage the Legislature to seek the input of cities on any proposed changes to state election law. Specifically related to primaries, the League has an adopted position supporting the option for cities to certify primary election results within three days of the election instead of waiting until the third day as is required under current state law. See the League’s election policies here.

Resource: Want additional info on municipal primaries?  Check out Chapter 5, Election Procedures, in the Handbook for Minnesota Cities and the 2015-2016 City Calendar of Important Dates.

This info has been served up by Chelsea Helmer, a law clerk with the League of Minnesota Cities' Research and Information Service. Contact: or (651) 281-1226.

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