Minnesota’s infrastructure gets a ‘C’ from civil engineers group

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released a report card on Minnesota’s infrastructure this week, and it’s not one we’ll want to take home and display on the refrigerator. Overall, Minnesota’s infrastructure received a “C” grade from the group, with grades in the nine individual categories ranging from a “B” in aviation to a lowly “D+” in roads.

When comes to our roads, CGMC In Brief readers are familiar with the surprising statistic that despite ranking 22nd in population and 12th in land mass, Minnesota is home to the fifth-most road miles of any state. Maintaining that large of a system is a huge challenge, the ASCE notes, and Minnesota’s funding shortfall continues to grow with no clear or easy answers in sight.

Other grades in the report included a “C” in wastewater and “C-“ in drinking water, which further highlights one of the CGMC’s top goals in recent years — the need for more state investment in clean water infrastructure.

You can see all of the grades and the full report card here.

Lawsuit puts water infrastructure funding in jeopardy

During the last legislative session, the Legislature funded $98 million worth of projects in the bonding bill through a new type of revenue bond to be paid back using the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF). The projects funded using these bonds includes $38.3 million for the Point Source Implementation Grant Program (PSIG), $14.6 million for the Water Infrastructure Fund (WIF) for wastewater projects, and $6 million in matching funds for U.S. EPA funding — all programs that the CGMC supports and are widely used by our member cities.

Last week, a coalition of eight environmental groups served the State of Minnesota with a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the funding source for these projects. The environmental groups claim that financing these projects with bonds paid for out of the ENRTF violates the State Constitution. 

We are in the process of investigating this matter on behalf of the CGMC and its members. There is still some uncertainty, but we do know is that this lawsuit endangers the PSIG and WIF funding contained in the 2018 bonding bill and could impact several of our members who were slated to receive this funding. Sale of the bonds to fund these programs could be postponed or even cancelled as a result of the proposed lawsuit, delaying important wastewater and related projects for multiple CGMC members.

You can read more about the lawsuit in this Star Tribune article and this article from MPR.

We will continue to monitor this situation. If you have any questions, please contact Elizabeth Wefel at eawefel@flaherty-hood.com.

Register for the CGMC Fall Conference!

Registration is now open for the CGMC Fall Conference! The conference will be held Nov.15-16, 2018 at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria and will feature presentations, discussions and speakers on a number of important topics. The packed agenda includes:

  • Luncheon presentation by Myron Frans, commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget
  • Keynote dinner featuring Tom Hauser, chief political reporter for ABC5 Eyewitness News
  • Legislative panel discussion on child care
  • 2018 election recap and analysis
  • A discussion featuring Greater MN and metro-area elected officials who are working to bridge the rural/urban divide
  • Presentation on annexation and why could be a significant issue in the next legislative session
  • Full membership meeting to discuss and adopt the CGMC’s policy positions and priorities for the upcoming legislative (it’s critical that your city lend its voice to this discussion!)
  • …and more!


Please register online at greatermncities.org/FallConf18. The deadline to register is Nov. 7. 

* Please note that attendees are responsible for their own hotel reservations.*

Arrowwood has a block of rooms reserved for CGMC Fall Conference attendees at a discounted rate of $94 (plus tax). Call Arrowwood at 320-762-1124 by Nov. 1 to book a room under the CGMC’s block.

Note: There are plenty of rooms available at Arrowwood on the night of Nov. 15, but only a limited number of rooms are available on Nov. 14 (the night before the conference). In order to accommodate those who wish to come to Alexandria on Nov. 14 (and may be unable to stay at Arrowwood), we have reserved a small block of rooms for the CGMC at Hampton Inn & Suites in Alexandria. The cost is also $94. Call Hampton Inn at 320-763-3360 by Oct. 29 to make a reservation (rooms are available both Nov. 14 and Nov. 15).

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

CGMC members vie for title of Minnesota’s ‘Best Town’

Minnesota Monthly is on the hunt for the Best Minnesota Town of 2018. The magazine has narrowed the candidates down 10 finalists of various sizes, locations and claims to fame. We’d like to extend a special congratulations to the four CGMC members who are in the running – Little Falls, Wabasha, Fergus Falls and New Ulm!

You can vote for your favorite finalist at bestmntown.com from now through Oct. 12. The winning city will receive a multi-page feature story in Minnesota Monthly, a media campaign valued at more than $50,000 and a party thrown in its honor.

It should be noted that the reigning winner of the 2017 Best Town contest is also a CGMC member – the city of Bemidji! Read Minnesota Monthly’s feature story on Bemidji here.

CGMC President Ron Johnson featured in Prairie Business magazine

Newly elected CGMC President Ron Johnson was recently featured in an article in Prairie Business, a monthly magazine that focuses on business and economic development issues pertaining to Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

In an interview with editor/reporter Tom Dennis, Johnson discussed his nearly two decades of service on the Bemidji City Council, his long-time involvement with the CGMC (including the fact that he has only missed one CGMC conference in 18 years!) and the important role the CGMC plays in keeping Greater Minnesota strong. Johnson also spoke at length about how many of the issues that the CGMC works on – such as LGA, child care and transportation – have a major impact on economic development and business growth in Greater Minnesota.

Workshop will explore strategies to address permitting issues related to chloride & other salty parameters

The Minnesota Environmental Science and Economic Review Board (MESERB), a joint powers organization to which many CGMC cities belong, is hosting a free workshop on “Wastewater Permitting: Solutions to Address Chloride & Other Salty Parameters” on Sept. 27 in Hutchinson.

Public works directors, wastewater operators and other city officials are invited to this informational meeting and discussion to learn about some of the concerns MESERB has identified in regard to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) permit limits related to chloride and/or other salty parameters. The meeting will also provide information on ways in which cities and water districts can address these limits.

If you would like to attend, please register online at bit.ly/SaltyParameters by Monday, Sept. 24. We encourage you to share this meeting information with other public works and wastewater officials in your city.

Meeting Details:
11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 27
Hutchinson Event Center
1005 MN-15
Hutchinson, MN 55350
*Lunch will be provided*

Minnesota Brownfields to host free workshop on ‘Brownfield Basics’

Minnesota Brownfields, a non-profit organization that promotes cleanup and reuse of contaminated land as a means of generating economic growth, is putting on an event titled “Brownfield Basics – Duluth Workshop” in Duluth on Sept. 11 from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. The free workshop is designed for cities in northeast Minnesota to learn about redevelopment strategies for common brownfield properties that every city has: former gas stations, abandoned sites, dry cleaners, etc.

This workshop is ideal for cities who are hesitant about proceeding with contaminated properties. Representatives from state agencies and private industry professionals that will walk through the redevelopment process and the regulatory check marks that need to be met. Click this link to view more information about the workshop.

Walz, Johnson prevail in gubernatorial primaries

DFLer Tim Walz and Republican Jeff Johnson emerged from their respective primaries to earn a spot on the November ballot for Governor. On Tuesday, both the Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican parties held competitive primaries for the nomination for governor, with Congressman Tim Walz, State Rep. Erin Murphy and Attorney General Lori Swanson facing off on the DFL side, and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson taking on ex-Governor Tim Pawlenty for the GOP nomination.
The results were somewhat surprising. Although Walz was viewed as a strong candidate for the nomination, Swanson held a narrow lead in the few public polls that were released ahead of Tuesday’s primary, with Murphy trailing the others by 10 points or more. That said, polling in primaries is notoriously difficult and a large share of undecided voters were present in all of the polling conducted.
Walz was buoyed by his home district in southern Minnesota, but also achieved strong support in the metro area and central Minnesota. Murphy won the largest share of the vote within the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, but Walz’s strength in the suburbs led to him winning six of the seven counties in the metro area, with Murphy winning her home county of Ramsey by around 3,700 votes.
On the GOP side, many expected that Pawlenty’s high name recognition and deep campaign coffers would allow him to cruise to an easy primary win. But when the tallies started coming in, Johnson established an early lead which never dipped under 8 percentage points. This will be the second time Johnson appears on the general election ballot for governor after losing to Governor Mark Dayton in 2014.
Tuesday’s results set up a head-to-head general election matchup between Walz and Johnson. Attendees of the CGMC’s gubernatorial forum in Mankato got a live preview of this race. You can re-watch that event, and find out where the candidates stand on key issues like LGA, by clicking here.
Other notes from the primary:

  • Voter turnout was high, with nearly 23 percent of the state’s eligible voters casting a ballot. About 16 percent of the ballots were cast before Tuesday.
  • In the First Congressional District, Jim Hagedorn defeated State Sen. Carla Nelson to become the GOP’s nominee. Had Nelson won and been elected to Congress in November, it would have triggered a special election for her State Senate seat.
  • Of the seven incumbent state legislators who faced primary challenges from within their own parties this year, six won their primaries and will appear on the November ballot. Incumbent Rep. Bob Loonan (R–Shakopee) was the lone exception. He lost the GOP primary in District 55A to challenger Erick Mortensen.
  • The five-way DFL primary for attorney general proved less competitive than some expected, with Congressman Keith Ellison cruising to a victory with 49.8 percent of the vote. His closest challenger, State Rep. Deb Hilstrom, garnered just 19.1 percent. The race was rocked in the final days by domestic abuse allegations against Ellison, but with murky details surrounding the allegations and the large number of candidates in the race, he was still able to prevail.

CGMC honors lawmakers, city officials at annual Legislative Awards Dinner

The  CGMC honored 23 legislators and city leaders at our 2018 Legislative Awards Dinner, which was held July 26 in Mankato. A copy of the awards program handed out at the event can be found here. Click on the award recipients’ name to read a press release that outlines their accomplishments over the past year.

Legislator of Distinction- Economic Development

Legislator of Distinction- Environment

Legislator of Distinction- Transportation

Minnesota Legacy Award – Awarded—upon their retirement—to legislators who have demonstrated unfailing commitment and made extraordinary contributions to Greater Minnesota during their legislative careers.

Excellence in Service (elected officials) – Awarded to CGMC elected officials who demonstrated knowledge, leadership and active participation in CGMC program areas over the preceding session and/or an extended period of time.

Excellence in Service (city staff) – Awarded to CGMC city managers/administrators or city staff who demonstrated knowledge, leadership and active participation in CGMC program areas over the preceding session and/or an extended period of time.

Jack Murray Award for Distinguished Rural Leadership (retiring elected officials) – Awarded—upon their retirement from public service—to CGMC mayors and elected officials who have made special contributions to the CGMC over a multi-year career. The award is named after Jack Murray, former mayor of International Falls, who was instrumental in the CGMC’s formation.

Bob Filson Award for Distinguished Rural Leadership (retiring staff) – Awarded—upon their retirement from public service—to CGMC city managers/administrators or key staff members who made special contributions to the CGMC over a multi-year career. The award is named after Bob Filson, former city manager of Worthington, who showed consistent and relentless dedication to whatever mattered to the CGMC and its members.

Friend of the CGMC – Awarded to individuals (not legislators or CGMC city officials) or organizations who have helped advance CGMC priorities and/or made important contributions to Greater Minnesota.

President’s Award – Awarded to the outgoing CGMC president.

To see photos from the cocktail reception and awards dinner, click here.

Bemidji City Councilor Ron Johnson elected CGMC President

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

ST. PAUL—Bemidji City Councilor Ron Johnson was elected to serve as president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) July 27 at the Coalition’s three-day summer conference in Mankato. As president, Johnson will help direct efforts to inform state legislators on issues unique to Greater Minnesota, such as Local Government Aid (LGA), economic development, transportation and environmental policy.

Johnson was elected by fellow mayors and city officials from across the state to lead the CGMC, long considered one of the most active, high-profile organizations to represent rural communities at the State Capitol.  

“Ron is passionate about ensuring that Greater Minnesota communities continue to be a great place to live, work and raise a family,” said Bradley Peterson, executive director of the CGMC. “He has been an active member of the CGMC Board of Directors for many years and is a fixture at our lobby days, conferences and other events. With his knowledge and experience, I’m confident that he will be a strong leader for our organization.”

Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski, whom Johnson is replacing as president, echoed Peterson’s comments.

“I have gotten to know Ron well over the years and I’m impressed with his ability to advocate for important issues such as LGA, city-street funding and economic development needs,” Smiglewski said. “With a new governor and Legislature waiting in the wings, we will certainly have a lot of work to do this upcoming year. The Coalition is fortunate to have Ron leading the way.”

CGMC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 97 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to Greater Minnesota.

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