Category archives
Fall Conference

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, jlliew@flaherty-hood.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.”

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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 jlliew@flaherty-hood.com.

Thank you to everyone who attended the CGMC Fall Conference last week at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center! Due to the forecast predicting a blizzard for much of the state, the CGMC Board made a last-minute decision to condense the two-day conference into one action-packed day on Thursday, Nov. 17. Despite the threatening weather, more than 85 city leaders representing 44 cities attended the conference. We appreciate everyone’s flexibility and patience as we juggled agenda items around to fit almost everything into less than eight hours!

Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle kicked off the conference Thursday afternoon with a presentation on the transportation needs facing our state and the ways city leaders can work together to help convince the Legislature to invest more money into transportation. You can watch video of his speech here and read his Power Point presentation here.

After Zelle’s presentation, CGMC lobbyist Bradley Peterson provided an in-depth analysis of the 2016 election and what it could mean for Greater Minnesota issues this legislative session. Peterson then moderated a panel discussion on the topic of legislative reform featuring legislators Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley), Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) and Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park). Later that afternoon, University of Minnesota educator Ryan Pesch gave a presentation on “Rewriting the Rural Narrative” and led small-group discussions on ways communities can welcome and attract newcomers.

In the evening, attendees were treated to an entertaining and informative presentation by Washington Post reporter Chris Ingraham. Ingraham is the reporter who got Minnesotans riled up last year when he wrote an article that named Red Lake County “America’s Worst Place to Live” (based on data from the “national amenities index”) and then further raised eyebrows when he decided to move to Red Lake Falls in May of this year. Ingraham talked about his transition from living in an urban area near Washington D.C. to small-town Minnesota and the challenges and opportunities it has afforded him and his family. He also shared ideas about how communities can attract more residents by promoting benefits such as short commutes, job openings, telecommuting options and low home prices. You can read more about Ingraham’s presentation in this article from the Alexandria Echo Press.

In addition to speakers and presentations, the conference also included a membership meeting in which members discussed and voted on the 2017 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 the conference – it was a great event despite the shortened time! Please check out the photo gallery on our Facebook page to see pictures from the conference.

A PDF version of this press release is available here.

For Immediate Release: Nov. 17, 2016
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

ALEXANDRIA, MINN.—With rural legislators now making up more than 60 percent of the Minnesota House and Senate Republican majorities, city leaders from across Greater Minnesota are calling for a renewed focus on the needs of rural communities.

A bipartisan mix of nearly 100 city officials from throughout Greater Minnesota attended the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities’ (CGMC) annual fall conference this week in Alexandria, where the group set its legislative priorities for the upcoming year. Much of the discussion centered on the notion that after two years of bipartisan gridlock, their communities cannot afford to go another year without an increase in Local Government (LGA) and key investments in infrastructure.

“The election results made it clear that voters in Greater Minnesota wanted to shake things up,” said Sara Carlson, mayor of Alexandria and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “With such a strong rural majority in the House and Senate, it’s time for our state leaders to make rural issues a top priority.”

The CGMC determined that passing two hold-overs from the 2016 legislative session — the failed tax and bonding bills — will be their top priority for the upcoming year.

The 2016 tax bill, which was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Dayton due to a drafting error, included a $20 million increase to the LGA program, which helps cities provide important services and keep property taxes in check. At the CGMC conference, city leaders expressed frustration that the modest increase in last year’s bill did not come into fruition. In 2017, they will advocate for $45.5 million increase in LGA funding, the amount needed to bring LGA back to its 2002 level.

“Cities continue to face rising costs. After three years without a significant LGA increase, city budgets and property-taxpayers are starting to feel the strain,” said Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski, who serves as vice-president of the CGMC.

In addition to fighting for more LGA, city leaders vowed to push for a bonding bill that addresses infrastructure needs in Greater Minnesota. Specifically, they are calling on the Legislature to pass a bonding bill that includes $167 million for grant and loan programs that provide funding for clean water infrastructure.

“There was bipartisan support for funding these programs in the bonding bill last year and we hope that support will continue,” Smiglewski said.

As the CGMC prepares for the start of the legislative session on Jan. 3, 2017, city leaders are hopeful that rural issues will be front and center now that the election gave new power to rural Republican legislators, who now hold key leadership positions in both houses.

“The Republicans won the majority by winning seats in Greater Minnesota,” Carlson said. “It should be a no-brainer that the Legislature will prioritize important programs for rural Minnesota this session.”

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The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 88 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to Greater Minnesota. Visit the CGMC online at greatermncities.org.

Thank you to everyone who has already registered for the CGMC Fall Conference. For those who haven’t, we hope you will join us for the conference Thursday, Nov. 17-Friday, Nov. 18 at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria. To register, fill out this registration form and email, mail or fax it to the listed contact.

We are anticipating a great conference this year. Agenda highlights include:

  • Washington Post reporter Chris Ingraham will provide the keynote address. Ingraham ignited a firestorm in Minnesota last year when he wrote an article that named Red Lake Falls “America’s Worst Place to Live” — then he made the surprising decision to move there! He will share his observations and experiences as an “outsider” who moved to a small town in Greater Minnesota, and also share ideas on how communities can be more welcoming to newcomers and draw in more residents and visitors.
  • MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle will discuss the state’s transportation needs and provide insight on how the state can move forward on a long-term comprehensive funding plan.
  • U of M Extension Educator Ryan Pesch will discuss research that shows many rural cities are actually experiencing a “brain gain” — an increase in adults ages 30-49 who move to Greater Minnesota to raise their families — and other positive trends for rural Minnesota that are occurring under the radar.
  • CGMC senior lobbyist Bradley Peterson will provide analysis of the Nov. 8 election and how the results could impact Greater Minnesota.
  • CGMC staff will provide information on ways city leaders can work together to promote and protect LGA in the upcoming year.
  • CGMC members will adopt the CGMC’s legislative policy positions and priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

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 me at 651-259-1917 or jlliew@flaherty-hood.com. We hope to see you there!

A lot of things are going well for Greater Minnesota right now — unemployment is low and many communities are experiencing business and population growth. However, concerns remain. Cities are feeling the financial squeeze caused by years of stagnant LGA funding, projects are at a standstill due to the lack of a bonding bill, and the state still has no real plan to address the millions of dollars in transportation needs in Greater Minnesota.

We will explore these and many other topics at the CGMC Fall Conference, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 17-Friday, Nov. 18 at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria. To register, fill out this registration form and email, mail or fax it to the listed contact. Please register by Nov. 9.

A few of the agenda highlights include:

  • Washington Post reporter Chris Ingraham will provide the keynote address. Ingraham ignited a firestorm in Minnesota last year when he wrote an article that named Red Lake Falls “America’s Worst Place to Live” — then he made the surprising decision to move there! He will share his observations and experiences as an “outsider” who moved to a small town in Greater Minnesota, and also share ideas on how communities can be more welcoming to newcomers and draw in more residents and visitors.
  • MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle will discuss the state’s transportation needs and provide insight on how the state can move forward on a long-term comprehensive funding plan.
  • U of M Extension Educator Ryan Pesch will discuss research that shows many rural cities are actually experiencing a “brain gain” — an increase in adults ages 30-49 who move to Greater Minnesota to raise their families — and other positive trends for rural Minnesota that are occurring under the radar.
  • CGMC senior lobbyist Bradley Peterson will provide analysis of the Nov. 8 election and how the results could impact Greater Minnesota.
  • CGMC staff will provide information on ways city leaders can work together to promote and protect LGA in the upcoming year.
  • CGMC members will adopt the CGMC’s legislative policy positions and priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

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 Julie Liew at 651-259-1917 or jlliew@flaherty-hood.com. We hope to see you there!

CGMC Fall Conference 2015

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More than 85 city leaders from across Greater Minnesota attended the CGMC Fall Conference Nov. 12-13 in Alexandria.

Below is a press release that was sent to media state-wide. A PDF version is available here.

For Immediate Release
Nov. 13, 2015

Contact: Julie Liew
651-259-1917
jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

CGMC: Increasing LGA top priority for 2016 
Group calls on House Republicans to reverse course and support an increase

ALEXANDRIA, MINN.—With the state budget expected to show a $1 billion surplus, city leaders from across Greater Minnesota have set increasing funding for the Local Government Aid (LGA) program as their top priority for the 2016 legislative session.

A bipartisan mix of city officials from throughout Greater Minnesota attended the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities’ (CGMC) annual fall conference this week in Alexandria, where the group set its legislative priorities for the upcoming year. Much of the discussion centered on the importance of LGA and need for additional funding to help keep cities strong.

“LGA is absolutely vital to our communities,” said Robert Broeder, mayor of Le Sueur and president of the CGMC. “Many cities rely on LGA to help pay for basic services like police and fire protection and street repairs. Without it, we’d be forced to either cut staff and services or drastically raise property taxes.”

To many city leaders, it appears LGA is currently at a crossroads. Efforts to increase LGA during the last legislative session were ultimately unsuccessful when the Legislature failed to pass an omnibus tax bill. While the Senate passed a bill that included a $45.5 million increase (the amount sought by the CGMC), the Republican-led House passed a separate bill that actually cut $84 million from the program by targeting the amount of aid that goes to the “first class” cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.

“The bill that passed in the House last spring poses a fundamental threat to the LGA program,” said Hal Leland, mayor of Fergus Falls. “Arbitrarily cutting LGA from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth does nothing to help cities in Greater Minnesota and erodes the integrity of the entire program. I can’t stress enough how harmful that would be to cities, businesses and residents all across the state.”

With the House and Senate versions of the tax bill still languishing in conference committee, the members of the CGMC have vowed to ramp up their efforts to garner legislative support for an LGA increase. In addition to trying to persuade the House GOP to reverse course on the issue, city leaders plan to work with Senate Democrats and Gov. Mark Dayton to ensure that they prioritize an LGA increase when the Legislature reconvenes in March.

“With the large budget surplus, the state is fortunate to have an opportunity to truly invest in the health of our communities,” Broeder said. “If our legislators won’t support an LGA increase now, will they ever?”

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 85 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to Greater Minnesota. Visit the CGMC online at greatermncities.org.

 

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The CGMC Fall Conference is two weeks away, but there is still time to register! The conference will be held Nov. 12-13 at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria. To register, please fill out this form and email, mail or fax it to the listed contact.

We have a great program lined up! The afternoon of the first day will be devoted to an issue that is important to nearly all CGMC cities — LGA: why it matters and what we can all do to strengthen the program. Thursday’s lunch speaker is Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth), who will share his insights into the political dynamics of LGA at the legislature. He will be followed by a busy agenda of presentations and activities, including an analysis of why the Legislature failed to provide an LGA increase in 2015, presentations by city leaders on why LGA is important to their communities, and small group discussions that will help attendees be able to tell their own cities’ LGA stories. Former House Minority Leader and gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert will also do a presentation on tips and tactics for successfully dealing with legislators, and CGMC staff will lead discussions and exercises aimed at getting conference attendees to feel more comfortable and confident in their meetings with legislators and other key decision-makers.

Thursday evening, State Auditor Rebecca Otto will provide the dinner speech, titled “Our civil infrastructure needs statewide and how we will bring them into the light of day.” Otto will show off a new interactive infrastructure needs mapping tool that her office has been developing with the University of Minnesota and CGMC members will have the opportunity to try out the tool and provide feedback on it.
The next morning will focus on setting the CGMC’s policy positions and legislative strategies for the upcoming year. It is an excellent opportunity for city leaders and officials to have a say in the CGMC’s agenda and priorities.

Please note that attendees are responsible for booking their own hotel rooms. To make a room reservation, call Arrowwood at 320-762-1124.

If you have any questions about the conference, please contact Julie Liew at 651-259-1917 or jlliew@flaherty-hood.com.