Back to the May-Jun 2021 issue

Bits & Briefs

National City Network Seeks to Prevent Evictions

Eviction notice sign

The National League of Cities and the Stanford Legal Design Lab have launched the 2021 Eviction Prevention Learning Lab with 30 cities from across the country. The cities of Mankato and Minneapolis were selected for the peer network. Participating cities will be able to share strategies and receive technical assistance, with the intent that their lessons learned can benefit other communities working to reduce the disruption associated with evictions and the long-term disparities that a local eviction crisis can create. The model is building off the success of a pilot Eviction Prevention Cohort in 2020. A report providing highlights of the pilot is available at www.nlc.org/initiative/2020-eviction-prevention-cohort.


Pandemic Puzzle Exchange in Vadnais Heights

The puzzle exchange table and shelves full of puzzles.Vadnais Heights tried a City Hall Puzzle Exchange last fall and discovered a way to offer pandemic-friendly recreation. Staff set up a bookshelf in the City Hall lobby, seeded the shelves with a few puzzles to get started, and promoted the exchange on social media. The idea quickly caught on, and the puzzles multiplied.

“Some days, we have people waiting outside at 8 a.m. to come in and swap their puzzles!” says Recreation Supervisor Katie Everett. “Many stop by the front desk to express their appreciation, and then they think of another question they’ve had about the city.”

Everett offered a few tips for other fledgling puzzle exchanges: Provide a tape dispenser to help keep the boxes closed; keep a few bags handy for puzzlers that want to take a couple at a time; and set a basket aside for puzzles that are missing pieces.


Mark Your Calendars for Mental Health

Calendar May and June.Mental Health Awareness Month (May) + PTSD Awareness Month (June) = a great time to consider how your city can promote better mental health for public safety personnel. In addition to the human toll, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) disability claims are creating significant financial costs for cities. The good news is that these conditions are treatable. Prevention, early intervention, and professional treatment can restore good mental health and help great personnel get back to the jobs that they love.

Not sure where to begin? The League of Minnesota Cities’ PTSD and Mental Health Toolkit for Public Safety has new resources, including pocket mental health guides for both police and fire, tips for talking with employees about mental health concerns, and information on coping with loss. View the toolkit at www.lmc.org/mhtoolkit.


A Safe Meeting Space in Madelia

the Madelia Fire Department building.The City of Madelia, like many others, can’t use its City Council chambers while maintaining social distancing guidelines. So last year, the city transitioned operations to a basement meeting room that was bigger, but not accessible. Cue a bright idea to the rescue. After holding a successful swimming registration event in the city’s Fire Department bays, city staff realized that the space could hold socially distanced council meetings as well.

So, as the weather starts to get warmer, the city will take the firetrucks out of the station to allow the public to gather in a larger space with higher ceilings, open doors for good circulation, and no stairs. City Administrator Chris Fischer says that while everyone hopes to get back to their normal chambers soon, “COVID has shown us how to be creative with what we have.”


LMC Codification Services by the Numbers

Have you heard about the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) Codification Services? Here are a few facts:

1 The number of places you have to look for your city’s codes and ordinances once the League’s codification service is done with them. The service includes legal review and can even offer web hosting if you want online access.

150 The number of cities that have adopted an LMC customized code, making it easier to update and review your ordinances.

Under 500 The population size best suited for the Livable City Code. This complete, ready-to-go set of ordinances has all the basics a small city needs.

Under 2,000 The population size of cities that usually adopt the Minnesota Basic Code. This is a model code of ordinances designed for small cities that can be tailored to your community’s needs.

Learn more about LMC Codification Services at www.lmc.org/codification.


Age-Friendly Minnesota and Your City

Could your city benefit from support to fulfill Gov. Tim Walz’s priority directive to make Minnesota a better place to grow old? If so, one nonprofit, Little Brothers — Friends of the Elderly (LBFE), offers a smart solution your community can dial into right away.

Two people talking on phones.That solution is “Coffee Talk,” a free phone line that gives older adults the opportunity to connect with caring volunteers for friendly conversation. Prior to COVID-19, LBFE volunteers primarily connected with older adults in person. In response to COVID-19, Coffee Talk ensured a safe way for older people to connect socially with others. LBFE plans to continue the program after the pandemic ends.

According to the Governor’s Council for an Age-Friendly Minnesota, our older residents “deserve to live in towns and cities where they are respected and included … that are free of barriers based on a person’s age.”

Telling your older residents about Coffee Talk is one way to let them know your city hasn’t forgotten about them, even while you may have had to temporarily stop some of their activities. To learn more about LBFE and how to share Coffee Talk with your older residents, contact Georgia Afton at gafton@littlebrothersmn.org or (612) 746-0732, or visit www.littlebrothersmn.org.


A Mobile Watering Trailer in Scandia

Mobile watering trailer tank.Scandia’s residents have stepped up for beautification projects ranging from several public gardens to maintenance of landscaping at the Scandia Veterans Memorial. Now a resident has even coordinated the work needed to install habitat for early migrating birds in two city parks.

What do these projects have in common? They could all benefit from a mobile watering trailer. That’s where Public Works Director Adam Hawkinson has stepped in. In addition to coordinating with volunteers to complete projects, Hawkinson developed a simple plastic tank and trailer system last summer that is available for the public to check out. The trailer can be used for maintenance of planting projects that benefit the city, and for tasks such as watering flowers downtown. The watering trailer cost about $400 in parts, and includes a deep-cycle battery-powered pump.