CGMC Fall Conference sees record attendance!

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.

NEWS RELEASE – Greater Minn. city leaders to state lawmakers: Now is not the time to press the pause button

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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CGMC board to meet with gubernatorial candidates

As we gear up for the 2018 election, the CGMC has extended invitations to gubernatorial candidates to meet with the CGMC Board of Directors this fall and winter. The first of these meetings are scheduled to take place next week, with additional meetings to follow in December and January (other meetings will be added if more candidates join the race).

To help the candidates prepare for the meeting, CGMC staff sent them an information packet titled “Elections 2018: Greater Minnesota’s Top Issues”, which provides information about number of issues that are important to Greater Minnesota communities including LGA, economic development, transportation and environmental regulation.

Wild rice sulfate rulemaking hearings begin this week

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 eawefel@flaherty-hood.com.

Volunteers needed to help set CGMC policy positions

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.

Entry period now open for Local Government Innovation Awards

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is now accepting entries for its 11th annual Local Government Innovation Awards (LGIA) to recognize the creative and innovative ways that cities, counties, townships, schools and Native Nations are serving Minnesotans.
 
Submitted projects are evaluated on how they create greater accountability; use incentives, targeting and funding to meet those in need; orchestrate competitive contracting; manage collaboration or consolidation; deploy prevention strategies that eliminate the need for a service or divest current services to the community. The LGIA jury will consider innovation, impact and sustainability of projects when determining the award winners. Up to 20 local government entities will be recognized. The winner in each of the five categories will receive a $5,000 grant and a professional video highlighting their work.
 
Entries for the 2017 LGIA will be accepted until 4 p.m. Oct. 6. Award winners will be recognized at the LGIA Awards Celebration on Dec. 7. For more information, go to http://lgia.umn.edu/.

Register today for the CGMC Fall Conference!

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.

LCCMR to consider programs that benefit Greater Minnesota

The Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) is responsible for recommending how $45.7 million from the Environmental Trust Fund should be spent. The LCCMR received a total of 217 proposals requesting approximately $183 million in funding, and narrowed it down to 101 projects requesting $120.4 million for proposals to present over the next two weeks.

A number of the projects in the running for funding could benefit Greater Minnesota. Proposal 201-G would provide $3 million for local parks, trails and natural areas grants. These grant programs provide funding to projects that do not qualify for Legacy funds and they are a top priority for the Greater Minnesota Parks and Trails organization to which many CGMC cities belong. 

In another proposal, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is seeking funding for a wastewater treatment plant optimization pilot program (proposal 035-B) that would seek ways to help facilities perform better and meet stricter standards without costly facility upgrades. CGMC cities would be eligible to apply for the pilot if it is funded.

You can review these projects and others selected here (the projects that will present to the LCCMR are marked with an X).

Please consider reaching out to LCCMR members and ask them to support projects that benefit Greater Minnesota, particularly the two mentioned above. You can find the members’ contact information here.

LGA in the spotlight

In a Star Tribune editorial published last Sunday, columnist Lori Sturdevant wrote about the state’s failure over the past decade to fund Local Government Aid (LGA) on par with inflation and how this lagging investment in LGA has led to higher local property taxes.
 
The column highlights the recent announcement of proposed property tax increases in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minneapolis proposed a 5.5 percent increase, while St. Paul is looking into a 23.9 percent increase (the large increase is to make up for the city’s right-of-way assessment, which was ruled unconstitutional in court). Sturdevant notes that if LGA funding had kept pace with inflation, property taxpayers across the state would not be shouldering such a significant burden.
 
The CGMC is grateful that the LGA program has long received broad, bi-partisan support, but as Sturdevant’s column mentions, some GOP gubernatorial candidates recently made concerning statements about LGA. As we reported in a previous edition of the CGMC in Brief, at a Republican gubernatorial candidate forum in July, two candidates made comments that reflect common misconceptions or outright falsehoods about the program — while the other candidates chose not to answer the LGA question at all. In particular, Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) mischaracterized LGA as taking money out of the pockets of taxpayers and sending over half of it to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. Rep. Dean also said that the program is “not a fair deal” for middle-class Minnesotans.

A transcript of the forum discussion regarding LGA can be read here, while video of the entire forum can be streamed here (the LGA comments begin around 1:26:50).
 
In response to these comments, then-CGMC President Sara Carlson sent a letter to all of the candidates who participated in the forum to set the record straight. The CGMC has always been vigilant in protecting the LGA program and refuting false claims about it. As we head toward the 2018 election, the CGMC will continue to monitor political forums and other events. As a non-partisan organization, we strive to inform and educate all candidates about LGA and other issues that are important to Greater Minnesota communities.

Help ensure your city gets its fair share of funding in the decade ahead

In July, local and tribal governments throughout Minnesota received a formal invitation to participate in the 2020 Census Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) Program. The LUCA program provides state, local, and tribal governments with the opportunity to review and update the Census Bureau’s address list and formal boundaries. It is the only opportunity cities will get to ensure all housing units, roads and streets in their jurisdictions are accounted for prior to the 2020 Census.

In March 2020, the United States Census Bureau will mail the 2020 Census form to each housing unit for which they have an address. Since the Census is mailed to addresses, not people, Census 2020 results will only be accurate if the Census Bureau has a correct record.

The Minnesota Department of Administration’s State Demographic Center is Minnesota’s liaison with the Census Bureau. State Demographer Susan Brower stresses the importance of LUCA participation for local governments by pointing out that funding for many federal programs is based on population — a local jurisdiction stands to lose funding if every person isn’t counted. Even one missed person could mean as much as $1,530 in lost federal funding each year for programs in areas such as health, transportation, housing and education.

Some jurisdictions may lack the resources to do the LUCA review. In that case, they may arrange with a higher level of government, such as a county, to perform the review. Still, it is important for cities to review and send in their LUCA reservation materials to ensure that their area gets covered.

The deadline to register online to participate is Dec. 15, 2017. Address review materials will be mailed to registered participants in February 2018. Questions about the LUCA Program may be directed to the Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Census Bureau at 844-344-0169 or via e-mail at GEO.2020.LUCA@census.gov or at the Census Bureau website. You may also contact the State Demography Center at 651-201-2770 or demography.helpline@state.mn.us.