Friday, June 26, 2015

Spotted: Day Three of the 2015 LMC Annual Conference—Friday, June 26

All good things must come to an end—including LMC’s 2015 Annual Conference! We ended things in Duluth on a positive note, hearing from two more fantastic keynote speakers and crowdsourcing topics for one last set of roundtables with our attendees.

Here are a few scenes of our last day:

Each year, past League board presidents gather for a breakfast on the final
day of the conference. Jim Miller was honored as a special part of this year's get-together.

Meteorologist and author Paul Douglas joined the GreenStep Cities celebration to talk about
how climate change is impacting Minnesota city infrastructure. When describing the changes
in weather in Minnesota, Paul said: "The weather is a symphony...and now it's playing out of tune."

Throughout the conference, attendees left suggestions for topics to be discussed during Friday's
Special Interest Roundtables. Here, city officials talk about the chosen subjects: housing,
economic development, infrastructure (water and sewer), and recreation/community assets.

Generational expert Hannah Ubl, from Bridgeworks in Minneapolis, closed this year's
conference with her keynote address "When Generations Connect: Communicating Across
Generational Divides." Hannah highlighted what defines the different generations,
what makes each group unique, and what everyone bring s to the table.

Thanks to everyone who helped make LMC's 2015 Annual Conference the success it was! We look forward to seeing you in St. Paul next summer.

Photo credits go to Todd Myra Photography

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Spotted: Day Two of the 2015 LMC Annual Conference—Thursday, June 25

Thursday was another busy and information-filled day at the conference! It began with an energizing presentation by opening keynote speaker Steve Gross, continued on into the annual awards luncheon and some special recognition for Jim Miller, rolled into a whole host of concurrent sessions, and then ended with a bang at the exhibit hall event.

Here are some photos from Day Two:

Steve Grossfounder and Chief Playmaker at the Life is Good Foundationkicked off Thursday
with plenty of positivity as he spoke about the importance of internal control, active engagement,
social connection, and the joyfulness play provides in living a fulfilled life.

Ed Belland, public safety director of Medina, received the 2015 Leadership Award, recognizing
his ethical management and dedication to public safety. He is pictured here with Judy Johnson,
councilmember/deputy mayor of Plymouth who received the C.C. Ludwig Award recognizing
her effective, respectful service and dedication.

Outgoing Executive Director Jim Miller was feted for his 22 years of service to the League
during this year's Annual Meeting. He was presented with this scrumptious cake and learned
that, beginning in 2016, the Leadership Award will be renamed the James F. Miller Award.

Jim Miller and incoming Executive Director Dave Unmacht spent some time
at the League's booths in the exhibit hall saying hello to city officials.

One more day to go—check back Friday evening for scenes from our last day in Duluth! 

                                               Photo credits go to Todd Myra Photography

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Spotted: Day One of the 2015 LMC Annual Conference—Wednesday, June 24

From the pre-conference workshop for newly elected officials that began the day to the legislative recap that ended the afternoon on an entertaining note, the first day of LMC's 2015 Annual Conference was a definitive success. Here are a few shots from Day One:

Forty city leaders arrived early in Duluth to be part of the Newly Elected Officials Advanced Training,
where they gained valuable tools to help them succeed in their new municipal roles.

City officials participated in nine special interest roundtables today, discussing everything from 
the benefits of cooperative housing to addressing mental illness in our communities.

Attendees begin the conference with a smile at the opening ceremony.

The League's Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) team played Let's Make a Deal to share
highlights from the 2015 Legislative Session and preview what's in store for 2016.

Be sure to check back for more pictures from Day 2 of the conference!

                                                    Photo credits go to Todd Myra

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Research Q of the Week: 5 Tips for More Readable Ordinances (6/18/15)

Question: Do you have any tips for writing ordinances that don't make my head hurt?

Answer: Trying to understand a city ordinance should NOT require a dose of aspirin. To avoid causing your citizens headaches, follow these five tips for writing city ordinances:

1. State the city’s reasons and authority for the ordinance.
Don’t leave people guessing. Always state the city’s reasons and authority for adopting the ordinance and describe its purpose. Keep in mind that cities can only adopt ordinances on topics for which state law gives them express or implied authority to regulate.

2. Use clear language.
The goal of the ordinance is to let the people or businesses being regulated understand what actions are required or prohibited. Use short sentences with language that is easy to understand. For example, instead of using “prior to” use “before.” Define key terms. Separate different topics into different sections and use descriptive headings.

3. Preserve the city’s discretion.
Generally it’s best to avoid using mandatory language like must or shall when referring to the actions of city employees or officers because a city might be found legally responsible if its employees or officials fail to perform actions that the ordinance states are mandatory.

4. Seek legal review.
Have your city attorney review the proposed ordinance. A legal review is especially important if the ordinance might raise constitutional issues, such as an ordinance that regulates private property or speech. Paying an attorney to review a proposed ordinance will be less expensive than paying an attorney to defend against a lawsuit that could have been avoided.

5. Comply with procedural requirements.
Finally, comply with the procedural requirements for the ordinance’s adoption. State law establishes the procedural requirements for statutory cities and provides that ordinances must be: approved by a majority of all members of the council (except where a larger number is required by law); signed by the mayor and attested by the clerk; and published once in the official newspaper. Home rule charter cities should refer to their charters for the procedural requirements for adopting ordinances.

Written by Susan Naughton, research attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1232.

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

Friday, June 12, 2015

Spotted: LMCIT Public Safety Project Coordinator Rob Boe Accepts a National Award

This week, League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) Public Safety Project Coordinator Rob Boe attended the Public Risk Management Association's (PRIMA's) annual conference in Houston, TX to accept an award.

The League's Training Safety Officer (TSO) program—which Rob helped to create—was selected as the first-place winner in the Outstanding Achievement for the Intergovernmental Risk Pool Program category.

Pictured above (L to R) are outgoing PRIMA president Ryan Rychetsky (from the Texas Department of Human Services), Rob, and incoming PRIMA president Dean Coughenour (from Flagstaff, Arizona).

To learn more about this award, read here. To learn more about the TSO program, click here.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Research Q of the Week: Are Cities Nonprofits? (6/11/15)

Question: A citizen wants to make a donation to the city, and we want to accept! But the donor is asking for our articles of incorporation or charter that proves we are a nonprofit so the donor may take a tax deduction. I’m pretty sure donations to the city are tax deductible, but what can we show the donor to prove it?

Answer: Most of us are used to giving donations to non-profits organized under section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code. They are referred to as 501 or 501(c) organizations, they have articles of incorporation showing they exist for charitable purposes and so a donation to one of those organizations is generally tax deductible. However, cities are not 501(c) organizations with articles of incorporation. So what do you show donors?

It turns out donations to cities are tax deductible under 26 U.S.C. 170(a), making them essentially “170 organizations.” Since an incorporated city doesn’t have articles of incorporation to show a potential donor, the Internal Revenue Service will provide a city a letter which the IRS states is sufficient proof for any donor to substantiate a tax deduction. Isn't that nice of them?

To obtain that letter, go to the IRS website, which will provide more information and direct you to call 1 (877) 829-5500.

Written by Edward Cadman, special counsel with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1229.

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

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Research Q of the Week: Feral Cats in Minnesota Cities (6/4/15)

Question: What is the best way to take care of feral cats?

Answer: First, let’s get on the same page about what we mean when we say “feral cats.” Feral cats are from the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats or cats who are not spayed or neutered. These cats were never pets and do not have owners. Feral cats are not tame like pet cats and can be difficult to handle.

The reason feral cats are a problem is because they can threaten the health, safety, and general welfare of the city. Some of the more common concerns include:

•    Noise from fighting or mating cats
•    Foul odors from cats marking their territory
•    Flea infestations
•    Multiplying numbers of feral cats
•    Visible suffering and death of kittens and cats

Cities have the authority to deal with feral cats. One thing cities can do is adopt a “Trap-Neuter-Return” program, which is what is recommended by the Humane Society of the United States. At a minimum, this program includes spaying or neutering, giving rabies vaccinations, and surgically ear-tipping. (Ear-tipping is the universally recognized sign of a cat that has gone through this sort of program).

Some cities have city employees trap cats. Other cities enlist the assistance of the residents in trapping cats. Cities can provide traps for residents and accept trapped feral cats at designated spots, such as the animal control authority.

Sometimes cities impose “feeding bans” to prohibit residents from feeding feral cats with the idea that if the cats are not fed, they will go away. While this seems like it would work, it often does not. Feeding of feral cats is not easily observed behavior so it is not easy to enforce a ban. Also, some people don’t like to see animals suffering and will feed the cats despite the ban.

For more information, see the League’s Animal Regulation in Cities memo.

Written by Irene Kao, research attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1224

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