Back to the Jul-Aug 2020 issue

Bits & Briefs

Race, Mental Health, and Community Trauma Resources

Four people have a conversation.

Many communities right now are immersed in unprecedented levels of stress related to high-profile cases of institutional racism and violence. If your city leaders are looking for ways to help residents heal, the Minnesota Department of Health has compiled resources that can be used to address trauma in a community following violence or tragedy. This roundup includes information about race and mental health as well as resources for children and families, community and organization leaders, those coping with grief and anger, and more. Access the resources at

Celebrating Farmers Market Week

Father and child looking at produce at a farmer's market.Farmers Market Week is Aug. 2-8, 2020. These local markets, usually open air, have demonstrated their flexibility in response to the pandemic and continue to bring fresh, healthy foods from farmers and food vendors to customers.

Changes you might see at your local farmers market include routing foot traffic in a one-way flow, handwashing stations, drive-through formats, separate bagging areas, and more. Some market organizers, like the team in the City of Richfield, are even able to offer pre-orders and contactless pickup for shoppers who can’t risk the crowd or prefer to shop from home.

NLC City Summit set for November

Stylized illustration of FloridaAnything could happen (literally, at this point, anything could happen!) but, as we go to print, the National League of Cities’ City Summit is on for Nov. 18-21 in the balmy sea breezes of Tampa, Florida. City Summit is an opportunity for all local officials — elected and staff — to learn about the issues affecting local governments and expand their professional network. The conference offers mobile workshops, professional development opportunities, and chances to connect with city officials from across the country about common challenges and solutions. For more information, visit the event website at

Library Gets Creative With Social Distancing

Library gets creative with social distancing.From hosting photo scavenger hunts on their Facebook page to doing virtual programming, New York Mills Public Library is showing off the creative thinking that libraries have to offer, even under public health-related restrictions. Library Director Julie Adams says directors in the Viking Library System, which New York Mills is in, are connecting weekly during the pandemic to get updates and exchange ideas.

One winning idea that is sure to stay long after the pandemic is over? Drive-in movie nights! Residents can cue up some nostalgia by pulling into the parking lot and watching movies projected onto a large outdoor screen. The drive-in movies and purchase of the projection equipment are sponsored by New York Mills Public Library and Viking Library System, and funding was provided by the Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Hotline? More like PUNCHLINE

Goofy mask and confettiParks & Recreation Department staff in Juneau, Alaska, launched a hotline for jokes last April to bring a smile to the faces of residents. A city hiking program was suspended due to COVID-19, so a hotline number for the program was repurposed for the task. Three volunteers work to record a new joke each morning, and callers can hear it by dialing (907) 586-0428. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the hotline went down on the second day due to high call volumes — but it was quickly restored.

“We thought, this is a perfect time to do this. People just need a laugh,” Dawn Welch, a recreation planner, told the Daily News, adding that “good, clean, corny jokes,” can be emailed to the city at

Utility Savings and Energy Use Education for Residents

Light bulbTake steps to banish utility bill frustrations for good in your community! You can help residents get informed about utility savings and energy use with classes and resources from the Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota (CUB). CUB is a statewide nonprofit dedicated to helping utility consumers find good information so they can make smart choices. CUB staff can partner with your city to offer customized webinars that make sense for your community’s needs and the programs available to them locally.

“It’s especially a nice fit for communities that might have specific climate or environmental goals,” said CUB Outreach Director Carmen Carruthers.

Options include sessions dedicated to multifamily or single-family households, reducing energy usage and saving money, electric cars, renewable energy, or even energy policy. Residents can also sign up for utility bill clinics and remodeling consultations. For more information, contact Carruthers at or visit

Activate Local Alerts on Facebook

Cell phone with Facebook message.If your city operates an active Facebook page, it’s time to get familiar with the Local Alerts tool. Local alerts allow local government, public health agencies, and first responder pages to communicate time-sensitive, urgent, local, and actionable information to your page followers on Facebook.

The alert types available include local alert, missing person alert, public safety alert, service interruption alert, transit alert, and weather alert. The feature was officially made available across the U.S. in March. Check out the best practices for posting alerts and request access at