Back to the Jul-Aug 2021 issue

Bits & Briefs

Building Better Solutions to Fight Blight

college students in front of a house
These Minnesota West Community College students have gotten real-life
experience renovating this and other properties. Photo courtesy City of Pipestone.

The City of Pipestone has partnered with Minnesota West Community College to address blighted properties and build the job skills of local students in the school’s carpentry, plumbing, and HVAC programs. Through the partnership, students have been able to tear down to the studs and renovate four condemned and tax-forfeited properties. “They are perfect houses for students to work on because everything is wrong,” says Pipestone Building and Zoning Administrator Doug Fortune, who also teaches building code classes at Minnesota West.

Rehabbed homes are affordably priced and sold, with all proceeds going back into the Pipestone Economic Development Authority’s Blight Fund for acquisition of properties. The Blight Fund also covers other costs, including those for safety inspections, asbestos abatement, and subcontracting for electrical work.

The program is part of Pipestone’s broader initiative to address blight, which rolled out in 2017 with a new ordinance and Fortune’s position. The fund was seeded with $150,000 in donations from local businesses. Since launch, 67 properties have been flipped, repaired, or demolished, creating an additional $2.2 million in property tax value and some very appreciative neighbors.


New Investment Tool for Cities

There’s a new investment tool offering for cities: the 4M Limited Term Duration (LTD) Fund. This fund invests in high-quality, fixed-income investments with average maturities around one year that are compliant with Minnesota statutes.

4M Fund

What’s the 4M? The League’s “Minnesota Municipal Money Market” is a customized cash management and investment program for Minnesota public funds, sponsored and governed by the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) and administered by PMA Financial Network. Other products in the 4M are 4M Fund, 4M PLUS Fund, and the Term Series Pools.

The 4M LTD Fund is now available to all 4M Fund participants and offers a professionally managed, diversified portfolio where public entities can invest intermediate to long-term reserves and still have access to the funds on a monthly basis. “The 4M LTD offers a mix of investment strategies within one product,” says Marky Engler, LMC finance director. “It can produce stronger rates, and maintains sound investment practices.” Learn more at www.lmc.org/resources/4m-fund.


Moorhead Builds Community With Cruise Night

Moorhead Cruise Night logo

Moorhead is building a new communityunifying tradition with Moorhead Cruise Night on the first Thursday of the month, May-September. First debuting in May, the event has already expanded to four blocks of classic cars on display, a farmers market, food trucks, music, local business booths, and activitiesfor kids. Rather than a “cruise” with vehicles in motion and a rowdy atmosphere, Moorhead Traffic Engineer Jonathan Atkins says they want to build a family-friendly “cruise-in” with arts and entertainment that appeal to everyone, not just “the car guys” (among whom he includes himself).

“It ticks all the boxes for us,” says Atkins. “We want to highlight what the city has to offer, and what better way to do it than to partner with some of the players around us, like the business owners downtown? Especially as a post-pandemic hurrah.”

The pit crew responsible for coordinating the event includes reps from several regional car clubs, the Moorhead Business Association, and Downtown Moorhead Inc. The city sweeps the street before and after each event, provides insurance, and manages traffic and crowd control.


Bach’s Storied LMC Career Climb

Jenny Bach! Photo by Danielle Cabot.Behind every great information resource stands a disciplined mind who keeps that summit of knowledge up to date, organized, and relevant to its audience. For the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC), that conqueror of memo mountains has been Information Resources Manager Jeannette Bach, who will be stepping into her next adventure — retirement — at the end of July. She is currently the League’s longest tenured employee, and was hired as a research assistant/librarian in September of 1985 (almost 36 years ago!).

Bach has a wealth of stories and history to share about the League — and as many notable contributions to League operations and member services. Milestones of her career include the move from paper to digital resources, production of the Handbook for Minnesota Cities, receipt of the President’s Award in 2006 for her leadership of the Research and Information Service, and the transition of research staff from part-time law students to full-time attorneys.

“Jenny’s impact on the League is not just in her many impressive accomplishments,” says General Counsel Patricia Beety, “but also the dedication and professionalism she consistently models to others to keep the League’s resources relevant and our members’ needs paramount.”

Three fun municipal memories from Bach’s career are:

  • Being featured in cartoon form as part of a League-produced coloring book, “Molly Meets the City Clerk.” Bach also could be seen in various League videos shown at Regional Meetings.
  • Sporting paper horns at the Minnesota State Fair during the League’s “Outside the Ox” campaign.
  • Celebrating the League’s 75th anniversary in 1988 and 100th anniversary in 2013.

“Over the years, I learned about local government and had the chance to supervise one of the League’s most vibrant departments,” says Bach. “It’s been quite a journey! I leave with gratitude for the experiences and opportunities I’ve had at the League.”


Looking for a Good Book? Try City Hall Shelfie

We love a good local gov read, and now there’s a book club for that. City Hall Shelfie is the Emerging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) reading circle, dedicated to discussion of nonfiction related to leadership, business, and psychology in the public sector. The book club, available to ELGL members, launched in 2020 and meets virtually once a month. Recent reads have included Power to the Public: The Promise of Public Interest Technology, and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson. Learn more at https://elgl.org/book-club.


National State of the Cities Report

NLC State of the Cities report cover

The National League of Cities’ 2021 State of the Cities Report, released in June, is dedicated to the intersection of the pandemic and other critical issues facing cities. The report analyzes data from 600 communities across the country, as well as information from 57 state of the city addresses given by mayors. Data is organized into categories for urban core, suburbs, exurbs, and rural communities. The data identifies the top positive conditions, including availability of parks and recreation programs and green space, as well as negative conditions, like a lack of affordable housing. Download the full report at www.nlc.org/resource/state-of-the-cities-2021.