Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to the CGMC’s Action Alert last week by contacting the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) with your comments about the proposed changes to the Corridors of Commerce project selection scoring process. It is your willingness to speak up and get involved that makes the CGMC an effective advocate for Greater Minnesota.
The CGMC submitted its comment letter to MnDOT on Dec. 20. The CGMC is particularly concerned about two aspects of the draft scoring system that could disadvantage some Greater Minnesota projects.
First, while MnDOT observed a 50-50 funding split between Greater Minnesota in the metro in 2013 and 2015, it is now considering moving away from the even funding split in response to pressure from metro-area interests. With the majority of the state’s lane miles located in Greater Minnesota and numerous projects awaiting funding, we strongly oppose any efforts that would lessen the amount of funding that goes to Greater Minnesota projects.
The CGMC’s second concern is a rubric under one of MnDOT’s scoring criteria that would give additional points to corridors that connect to the metro over those that connect Greater Minnesota cities to one another. The CGMC does not agree that highway projects should have a lower chance of being funded solely because they do not connect to the Twin Cities. There are numerous ways to distinguish between important highway projects, and MnDOT has included many of them in its draft scoring system. We believe these are sufficient without geography having to enter into the equation.
MnDOT’s public input period ended Wednesday. Here is the agency’s tentative timeline for the rest of the Corridors of Commerce process:
- Dec. 21 to Dec. 31, 2017 – Review and approve final process
- Jan. 15 to Feb. 2, 2018 – Public recommendation period
- February to March 2018 – Project evaluation and scoring
- End of March 2018 – Project award announcement and release of final scores for all projects
We will continue to update CGMC members on important dates and actions you can take to help vital Greater Minnesota transportation corridors compete for funding. If you have any questions, please contact CGMC transportation lobbyist Shane Zahrt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is currently designing the project selection process it will use to direct the spending of $400 million in bonding and cash that the 2017 Legislature appropriated to the Corridors of Commerce program.
Since it was created in 2013, Corridors of Commerce funding has been split 50-50 between Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area, and has funded vital expansion and safety projects in both regions. However, because of pressure from the metro area, MnDOT is considering lowering Greater Minnesota’s share of the funding. MnDOT is also proposing a scoring system that would favor corridors that lead through the metro over those that connect Greater Minnesota cities to one another.
MnDOT is taking public comment on the proposed process through this Wednesday, December 20th. CGMC will be submitting a formal comment letter, but it is important that individual city leaders weigh in as well.
Take action now!
As a Greater Minnesota city leader, it is important that you contact MnDOT as soon as possible and urge them to:
- Maintain the 50-50 split between Greater Minnesota and the metro area for Corridors of Commerce funding, as has been used in previous funding cycles and was understood throughout the 2017 legislative process would remain intact.
- Reject a scoring system that allows more points for corridors that run through the metro area over those that connect Greater Minnesota cities.
- Recognize that roads that connect Greater Minnesota communities to one another are just as important as those that connect to the Twin Cities.
More information on MnDOT’s draft scoring process can be found here: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/corridorsofcommerce/
Comments MUST be submitted to Patrick Weidemann of MnDOT at email@example.com by Wednesday, December 20.
If you have any questions about Corridors of Commerce or MnDOT’s draft scoring process, please contact CGMC transportation lobbyist Shane Zahrt at SAZahrt@flaherty-hood.com or (651) 295-1123.
The MPCA has opened the Draft Impaired Waters list for comment. Every two years, the MPCA updates this list which identifies the waters that do not meet Minnesota’s water quality standards. The list guides where the MPCA will be developing Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plans. If your wastewater facility discharges upstream of an impaired water, this increases the likelihood that a limit that addresses the impairment could be placed in your permit.
You can find the draft list and instructions on how to comment here. We encourage all cities to work with your wastewater operators and engineers to review the list and determine whether you are discharging into an impaired water. If you believe the impairment listing is erroneous, you may want to work with your engineer or operator to submit comments. Because these determinations are unique to each water body, the CGMC will not be submitting comments on this list.
If you have any questions on this issue, please contact Elizabeth Wefel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a Republican gubernatorial candidate forum held in Marshall on Monday, the four participating GOP candidates were asked whether, if elected Governor, they would propose cuts to the Local Government Aid (LGA) program. To the CGMC’s dismay, each of the candidates on the panel either said they would cut funding for LGA or perpetuated misconceptions about the program. You can see the video of the LGA question here. (We also encourage you to watch the full 90-minute forum.)
In response to the question on LGA, Hennepin County Commissioner and 2014 GOP candidate for governor Jeff Johnson indicated that he would change the formula, and would likely also support cuts. Keith Downey, who formerly served in the Legislature and as chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, pointed to an LGA reform he had proposed as a legislator, which would cut the program’s overall budget and allocate portions of the funding as grants. Current State Senator Dave Osmek said the formula is “screwed up” and “corrupt” in favor of Minnesota’s largest cities. Candidate Phil Parrish, a resident of Kenyon, said LGA is being exploited by specific communities at the expense of others.
As city leaders know best, LGA is a vital tool for holding down local property tax levies and building strong communities. The CGMC was involved in the 2013 reform of the LGA formula, and believes it reflects a fair compromise for all cities.
LGA has received broad, bipartisan support throughout the program’s history. Unfortunately, however, some lawmakers and candidates continue to perpetuate misconceptions. The CGMC created a handout to dispel some of these common myths about LGA, which we shared with all of the GOP candidates running for governor after some of them made inaccurate comments about the program at a candidate forum last summer.
The CGMC will continue to monitor and respond to statements and proposals regarding LGA and other important issues throughout the 2018 election cycle.
Gubernatorial candidates St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, State Rep. Tina Liebling and State Rep. Erin Murphy — all DFLers — met with the CGMC Board of Directors on Nov. 15 or Nov. 16 in Alexandria, the first in a series of planned meetings with candidates running for governor. Several other candidates are scheduled to meet with the board at upcoming meetings in December and January.
To help the candidates prepare, CGMC staff sent them our “Elections 2018” information packet about the issues important to CGMC members including LGA, economic development, transportation, environmental regulations and annexation. At the meetings, CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson asked the candidates a series of questions on these topics before turning it over to the board for additional questions.
Mayor Coleman touted his experience in local government, noting his 12 years as mayor of St. Paul and six years on the City Council, as well as his involvement with non-partisan organizations like the National League of Cities. He emphasized the importance of “investing in our communities” through things like LGA and funding for local roads and other infrastructure. He said he wants to “stand with [the CGMC] on LGA” and supports an inflationary increase. He also expressed support for raising the gas tax to fund transportation needs. When asked about environmental regulations, Coleman said the state should not impose regulations that are financially impossible for cities to meet and said the state needs to give cities more resources to comply with standards.
Rep. Liebling, a seven-term legislator from Rochester, said she is running for governor because she believes “politics should be about improving people’s lives” and wants to help “ordinary Minnesotans.” She noted that she has supported LGA as a legislator and appreciates its role in preventing extremes (in terms of wealthy vs. poor communities) in our state. She expressed frustration at the “dishonest” way Minnesota does its budget because the state does not currently factor in inflation, and said that she would do so if elected governor. Other priorities for Rep. Liebling included health care, education and economic development as a priority, particularly providing more resources for cities to upgrade their broadband infrastructure. When it comes to environmental regulations, she said she would like to see the state take the cost burden off the property taxpayers and also look for alternative ways to meet standards rather than a “one size fits all” approach.
Rep. Murphy, a six-term legislator from St. Paul, stressed her passion for public service and her desire to build our state’s future by developing long-term solutions. When discussing her budget priorities, Rep. Murphy said she would “fully fund LGA,” and that schools and health care are also at the top of her list. She expressed concern about the rising costs that cities face, particularly in regard to health insurance and water infrastructure. She said she would make water infrastructure a top bonding priority and that she supports raising the gas tax to fund transportation. Rep. Murphy also said that if elected, she would work closely with city leaders to develop to environmental regulations and other policies that affect cities.
You can learn more about the candidates and their priorities at their campaign websites:
Thank you to everyone who attended the CGMC Fall Conference last week at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center. More than 100 city leaders representing 50 cities attended the conference — a record attendance!
The conference kicked off Thursday afternoon with a presentation by Marnie Werner, acting director of the Center for Rural Policy, on their study titled “A Quiet Crisis: Minnesota’s Child Care Shortage.” You can watch video of her presentation here and read her Power Point presentation here.
After Werner’s presentation, we delved further into the issues surrounding Greater Minnesota’s child care shortage with a panel discussion featuring Nancy Jost, early childhood coordinator for West Central Initiative; Tim Penny, president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation; Jessica Beyer, business development specialist for First Children’s Finance; and Amanda Benda, director of Little Huskies Daycare Center & Preschool in Jackson, Minn. The discussion was moderated by Dan Dorman, executive director of the Greater Minnesota Partnership. Each panelist provided a unique perspective on the issue and offered suggestions on ways city leaders can be more involved in developing solutions. You can watch the panel discussion here.
Broadband was also an important topic at the conference. Bill Coleman, president of Community Technology Advisors and a consultant for the Blandin Foundation, informed attendees about where broadband access stands in Greater Minnesota and outlined the economic impact of world-class broadband infrastructure. You can watch Coleman’s presentation here and read his Power Point Presentation here.
After Coleman’s presentation, CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson moderated a legislative panel discussion featuring Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), Rep. Ben Lien (DFL-Moorhead) and Rep. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville). The panelists discussed the impact of the 2017 legislative session and plans for 2018. The conversation touched on issues such as transportation, bonding and the ongoing lawsuit between the Legislature and Gov. Dayton.
The afternoon was capped by another panel discussion, this one on the role of elected officials in labor and employee relations. Brandon Fitzsimmons, an attorney with Flaherty & Hood, moderated a discussion featuring Waite Park City Administrator Shaunna Johnson, Alexandria City Administrator Marty Schultz and Moorhead City Manager Chris Volkers in which they talked about the “productive” and “unproductive” involvement of elected officials in dealing with unions and personnel issues.
In the evening, attendees enjoyed a cocktail reception and dinner followed by an entertaining and informative quiz show led by the award-winning Theater of Public Policy. During the show, three teams squared off against each other in a battle to see who knew the most about random Greater Minnesota trivia, the history of LGA and other various topics. To the audience’s surprise, Team Lobbyist (Flaherty & Hood lobbyists Tim Flaherty and Marty Seifert) ultimately bested Team Mayor (Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski and Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson) and Team Administrator (Slayton City Administrator Josh Malchow and Virginia City Administration Britt See-Benes) to take the quiz show crown.
In addition to speakers and presentations, the conference also included a membership meeting on Friday morning during which members discussed and adopted the CGMC’s 2018 legislative policy positions. To review the adopted positions, click on the following subject areas: Annexation & Land Use, Economic Development, Environment & Energy, LGA & Property Taxes and Transportation. You can also read more about the top priorities for the upcoming legislative in this CGMC Press Release that was sent to the media at the conclusion of the conference.
Thanks again to everyone who attended our 2017 Fall Conference! Please check out the photo gallery on our Facebook page to see pictures from the conference.
For Immediate Release
Nov. 17, 2017
Contact: Julie Liew, email@example.com
A PDF version of this press release is available here.
Greater Minnesota city leaders to state lawmakers: Now is not the time to press the pause button
ALEXANDRIA, MINN.— As the legal fight over funding for the Legislature drags on and the 2018 governor’s race heats up, Greater Minnesota city leaders are urging lawmakers to keep their focus on the upcoming legislative session and not fall prey to distractions.
More than 100 other city officials from throughout Greater Minnesota convened in Alexandria this week for the CGMC’s annual two-day fall conference. At the event, CGMC members adopted the organization’s policy positions and discussed legislative priorities for the 2018 legislative session. While a bonding bill, local government aid (LGA) and city streets were among the top issues, city leaders also stressed the importance of making sure legislators stay on task.
“Now is not the time to press the pause button,” said Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski, who serves as president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “Greater Minnesota still has a lot of unaddressed needs. We are counting on our legislators to stay focused on their jobs and their commitment to strengthening our communities.”
Bemidji City Councilor Ron Johnson voiced concern that with an election looming, legislators may be more interested in touting accomplishments from last session than passing new legislation in 2018.
“The Legislature may have passed tax, transportation and bonding bills last year, but that doesn’t mean their job is done for the biennium,” said Bemidji City Councilor Ron Johnson. “Truth is, the progress made in 2017 only scratches the surface when it comes to meeting all of the ongoing and growing needs in our city and others in Greater Minnesota.”
City officials who attended the conference agreed that a bonding bill likely poses the best hope for passing a piece of major legislation in 2018, noting that many legislators have voiced a desire for a large public works bill to make key investments in the state’s infrastructure. While each city has its own individual needs, a recurring theme throughout Greater Minnesota is the need for additional state bonding dollars to help repair or replace aging waste water treatment facilities.
In addition to bonding, the CGMC plans to advocate for an LGA increase to help cities make up for inflation and increasing costs, as well as funding to assist with much-needed repairs to city streets. There are also a number of issues on the horizon that the CGMC hopes the Legislature will keep on its radar, including the impact a national tax overhaul could have on local communities and the growing child care shortage in Greater Minnesota.
“Legislators and the Governor will have plenty of work to cram into a few short weeks,” Smiglewski said. “Residents of Greater Minnesota expect our state leaders to set their squabbles aside, buckle down and pass legislation that will invest in the future of our communities.”
The MPCA began hearings this week on the sulfate water quality standard which will apply to facilities that discharge into “wild rice waters.” Cities located within 25-60 miles upstream of such waters will be evaluated first by the MPCA to determine whether a limit is required. CGMC members on the list include Alexandria, Babbitt, Bagley, Bemidji, Biwabik, Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, Ely, Foley, Hinckley, Hoyt Lakes, Le Sueur (Minnesota River Valley Public Utilities Commission), Plainview, Princeton, Red Wing, Rushford, Sandstone, Staples, Wabasha, Wadena and Winona.
Our preliminary analysis demonstrates that future compliance with the sulfate standard could require expensive treatment upgrades such as reverse osmosis, membrane filtration, and/or crystallization and evaporation. These upgrades could cost individual cities $10-$20 million or more, depending upon site-specific information.
We recommend that affected cities participate in the rulemaking process by submitting comments and/or attending a public hearing. Hearings began Oct. 23 in St. Paul, and will be held around the state over the next few weeks. You can find a complete list of hearings here.
We are in the process of finalizing our talking points for affected cities and will be circulating those soon. If you would like a copy or have other questions, please email Elizabeth Wefel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each fall, CGMC members work together to shape the Coalition’s policy positions for the upcoming legislative session. Policy committees will be convening by conference call in October and early November to draft recommendations which will be discussed and voted on by the full membership at the Fall Conference Nov. 16-17. Serving on a policy committee is a great way to contribute to the work of the CGMC. Please contact the appropriate staff member listed below if you are interested in serving on one or more of the committees. The exact meeting dates and times will be determined soon.
- Economic Development will meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31. Contact Bradley Peterson at email@example.com.
- LGA/Property Taxes will meet at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1. Contact Bradley Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Transportation will meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2. Contact Shane Zahrt at email@example.com.
- Annexation and Land Use will meet at 9 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 3. Contact Elizabeth Wefel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Environment and Energy will meet at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Contact Elizabeth Wefel at email@example.com
Registration is now open!
The conference will be held Thursday, Nov. 16-Friday, Nov. 17 at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria. To register, fill out this online registration form. Attendees can either pay now via credit card or be invoiced later. (The original deadline to register was Nov. 8, but we are still accepting late registrations.)
CGMC members have been vocal about the needs and concerns affecting their communities. Based on your feedback, our conference agenda touches on a number of critical issues:
- Child care. Marnie Werner of the Center for Rural Policy will kick off the conference by sharing the findings of CPR’s study “A Quiet Crisis: Minnesota’s Child Care Shortage.” She will be followed by a panel discussion featuring economic development experts and child care professionals who will talk about the economic implications of the child care shortage and ways in which city leaders can play a role in developing solutions to this growing problem.
- Broadband. Bill Coleman, president of Community Technology Advisors, will provide a critical perspective on rural broadband challenges and public policy considerations.
- Transportation and the upcoming legislative session. A bipartisan group of legislators will discuss the pros and cons of the 2017 transportation bill and the Legislature’s future plans to address transportation and other key issues.
- Labor and employee relations. Attorney Brandon Fitzsimmons will summarize the legal framework for and moderate a panel discussion with Greater Minnesota city officials on the “productive” and “unproductive” involvement of elected officials in dealing with personnel issues in their city.
- Environmental regulations. CGMC staff will provide an update on the Environmental Action Fund, including legal and regulatory action relating to water quality regulations.
Attendees will also adopt the CGMC’s legislative policy positions and priorities for the 2018 legislative session. Your input helps set the CGMC’s legislative agenda, so it is vital that you attend the conference and share your ideas and opinions!
Please note that attendees are responsible for booking their own hotel rooms. A block of rooms is reserved for the CGMC at a rate of $94 a night. Call Arrowwood at 320-762-1124 to make a reservation.
If you have any questions about the conference, please contact CGMC Communications Director Julie Liew at 651-259-1917 or firstname.lastname@example.org.