Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Jul-Aug 2016 issue

Bits & Briefs

Illustration of a piggy bankModest Savings Bridge the Gap
Has your city considered taking on projects to promote financial literacy? A little could go a long way. Consider this: a recent study by the Urban Institute determined that a small savings cushion of $250-$749 was enough to significantly reduce the percent of households who missed a housing or utility payment following an “income disruption” like a job loss or serious injury. And while savings of $1-$249 didn’t help in the missed payment categories, even these modest rainy-day funds correlated with a drop in need for public benefits. When households have the ability to better ride out these bumps in the road, city governments can in turn expect a reduction in evictions, late utility bill payments, and other ripple effects of community members facing economic insecurity. Read the report at http://urbn.is/1plLQK2.

Neighborhood Beehive Tour
Here’s an idea for cities that have recently adopted a bee-friendly yard ordinance or a rule allowing residents to own a hive— show off your new pollinator friends with a tour like the North Oaks Garden Club organized last year, according to online newspaper presspubs.com. By setting a date to learn about and tour local beehives, cities and residents raise awareness of the role pollinators play in our landscapes. It may also be a good time to point out how a well-crafted ordinance can balance the interests of both budding apiarists and the neighbors. Need additional incentive? Here’s a chance to get a peek at the neighbor’s backyard without poking your nose over the fence.

Cities Join Fight Against Skin Cancer
picture of a woman putting sunscreen on a child's face ’Tis the season for fun in the sun, but if you’re not careful, it can lead to something not so fun—skin cancer. Some cities are now providing free sunscreen at parks, beaches, and other outdoor areas, according to Governing magazine. They see it as a public health issue. Skin cancer is preventable, but sunscreen is expensive, and some people simply can’t afford it. Boston and Miami Beach, Florida, installed dispensers of free sunscreen in 2015. Since then, a few other cities and counties have done the same. In most cases, the local governments are teaming up with nonprofit organizations, like the Melanoma Foundation or a local hospital, to help pay for the dispensers and sunscreen. Learn more at http://bit.ly/1TSIfRX.

Community-Based Research Grants
Making a data-driven decision is a little hard to do without, you know, data. But if all that stands between your city and a community-defined goal or project is some good research, a Community-Based Research (CBR) grant from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs may be the connection you need. How does it work? Apply before one of the three yearly deadlines—the next one is Oct. 30. Then, if selected, your project will be shopped out to prospective student research assistants from the University of Minnesota system and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. You can then interview applicants to find the right match, and a combo of resource-sharing and outside funding puts that dedicated researcher on your team. Recent examples of proposals that have received support include development of a process to collect community feedback on a new arts facility, a feasibility study of biomass energy, and an economic justice study of local businesses affected by transit development. Programs are available for Greater Minnesota and metro applicants. Learn more at www.cura.umn.edu/CBR.

LMC Research Attorney Hakeem OnafowokanA Rising Star in LMC Research
League of Minnesota Cities Research Attorney Hakeem Onafowokan was recently recognized by the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) as one of its 2016 Rising Alumni. After securing an undergrad degree in sports management with a minor in leadership, Onafowokan went on to earn his JD in 2015 with an emphasis on labor and employment law. Along the way, he’s also established a track record of leadership with organizations, including the CEHD Student Board and the Black Law Student Association. Onafowokan accepted his position with the League in March. Read a Q &A with Onafowokan at www.cehd.umn.edu/alumni/rising/2016/Onafowokan.html.

Summer Safety Camps
Photo of two kids canoeing Delivering important messages about safety and the folks who serve and protect gets a lot more fun when your city hosts summer safety camps for kids. For example, the City of Fridley’s Safety Camp invites 150 third- and fourth-graders to register for a two-day clinic in a local park. The camp’s activities are offered by the city’s police, fire, and recreation departments. The program has been coordinated by Crime Prevention Specialist Liz Chevalier for all of its 22-year existence—with zero budget. (She got the idea from the City of Eden Prairie.) The program is paid for by donations from businesses, organizations, and fraternal societies, as well as the camp’s registration fees, which are kept to $30 per child. Chevalier said two years ago, the program had its first “legacy” attendee, the child of a former camper, which reinforced how programs like this can build relationships with residents that last a lifetime. Learn more at http://fridleymn.gov/509/Safety-Camp.

Bushes shaped like city buildings to illustrate environmental sustainabilityGreenStep Cities Hits Its Stride
It has been an exciting year so far for Minnesota GreenStep Cities, a voluntary program for local governments used to provide a framework and resources for pursuing and measuring sustainability practices. The program exceeded 100 members early in the spring (and kept on growing!), and introduced a new Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience best practice category. The cities of Barnum and Inver Grove Heights tied to become the 100th GreenStep City on March 10. (Cue the recycled, compostable confetti!) Now over 40 percent of Minnesota’s population lives under a local government that has committed to pursuing and measuring progress toward sustainable practices. Learn more about GreenStep Cities at http://greenstep.pca.state.mn.us and read a related article on page 8.

2016 NLC City Summit in the New ’Burgh
The once industry-dominated city of Pittsburgh has diversified into a cultural hub, and city officials from across the country are invited to see the sights at the 2016 National League of Cities (NLC) City Summit this fall. Formerly called the NLC Congress of Cities, this year’s conference is set for Nov. 16-19. Show up for NLC University seminars, case studies presented by other city officials, nationally known speakers, and a side of networking with your cheesesteak. Early-bird registration ends July 15. Learn more and register at http://citysummit.nlc.org.

Read the July-August 2016 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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