2018 City of Excellence Award Winners

Cities of Clarkfield, Falcon Heights, Duluth, St. Louis Park, and Bloomington selected as 2018 City of Excellence Award winners

(June 21, 2018—St. Cloud, Minn.) City projects—from providing much-needed child care to innovative recruitment of police officers—were recognized today City of Excellence Awards. The 2018 awards were presented during a special awards show and dinner at the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference in St. Cloud.

Winning entries were chosen in three population categories and in a special topical category.

Population under 5,000
City of Clarkfield—“Community Child Care Initiative”
Clarkfield seized an opportunity to breathe economic vitality into its community by building a child care facility to win this year’s “Population under 5,000” category.

The availability and affordability of child care can be a determinant for families deciding where to live and work. In 2017, a study reported that Yellow Medicine County—where Clarkfield is located—had no child care centers and only 29 licensed homes, not all of which were providing child care. The study also identified some families were traveling up to 70 miles roundtrip to satisfy child care needs.

With an estimated 81 needed child care slots, Clarkfield partnered with its local charter school, area businesses and organizations, and residents to create a community child care center set to open on May 1, 2018. To meet this goal, the City committed $25,000 to begin construction, and acquired a land donation from the local school district. Other individuals and partnering groups contributed $140,000, and Yellow Medicine County contributed $25,000 to construction.

The City of Clarkfield is currently forming a non-profit entity to operate the center and to secure the necessary funding needed to cover additional start-up expenses.

The center will offer 58 child care spots including 24 infant and 14 toddler spots, and provide high quality care and education at an affordable rate. The City hopes the new center will make Clarkfield a more attractive place to reside, and help the community expand in new ways.

Population 5,000–19,999
City of Falcon Heights—“Policing & Inclusion Community Initiative”
In the aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castile, an African-American male motorist, the Falcon Heights City Council appointed a Task Force on Inclusion and Policing. A group of 11 residents and non-residents with diverse perspectives set out with a mission to “articulate, affirm and operationalize our values as a community to be an inclusive and welcoming environment for residents and guests of Falcon Heights, with an emphasis on policing values, policies and procedures.”

Beginning in December 2016, the Task Force embarked on 13 regular meetings to create sets of recommendations for inclusion and policing by deliberating with interested residents through five Community Conversations, and consulting with experts in four priority areas (policing, police-community relations, citizen oversight boards, and joint powers authorities). Individual dialogue sessions, attendance at Council meetings, and involvement in community events were other ways the Task Force remained visible and available to the Falcon Heights community.

Recognizing the need for community healing following the tragic shooting, the five Community Conversations consisted primarily of small group circles guided by restorative values fostering deep and self-reflective dialogue. More than 180 people participated in the conversations, and following the conversations participants identified the role they play in injustices and connecting with people in their community as valuable take-aways.

Input from the Community Conversations was considered by the Task Force and included in its final Policing and Inclusion recommendations to the Falcon Heights City Council, which were adopted unanimously.

The City of Falcon Heights reported the “Policing & Inclusion Community Initiative” has improved the quality of its policing, provided an innovative way to handle difficult societal issues such as race, and creatively involved citizens in the decision-making process.

Population 20,000+
City of Duluth—“Imagine Canal Park: Cold Front February Kick-Off Celebration”
The City of Duluth’s “Imagine Canal Park: Cold Front February Kick-Off Celebration” focused on bringing residents back to the Canal Park neighborhoods, largely known to residents as a tourist zone in the summer and a dormant space in the winter. To do so, Duluth collected data from residents and implemented their suggestions in a short time frame.

Duluth launched its “Imagine Canal Park” initiative last summer as part of the Imagine Duluth 2035 comprehensive plan update. The “Imagine Canal Park” initiative looked to create more equitable access and appeal among the neighborhood to invite residents back during underutilized times. The city strived for all residents regardless of background or income to recreate in and enjoy the Canal Park area.

To achieve this goal, the city was awarded a $201,400 Knight Cities Challenge grant to implement the initiative. Using the data collected from community engagement efforts, city staff took residents’ ideas and created a list of pop-up projects which could be completed on a condensed timeline giving residents the opportunity to see their suggestions in action. The “Cold Front February Kick-Off Celebration” was the first of the series of Imagine Duluth 2035 projects to be implemented toward the larger initiative.

From survey data collected in September 2017, the city identified the types of activities and events residents were looking for from Canal Park. The February 2018 event saw the collaboration of public and private project partners to transform a parking lot into a winter festival with several free or low-cost activities. A free ice rink, sledding hill, and heated tents with winter market, and live entertainment were just a few of the activities provided.

Throughout the February event, city staff surveyed attendees for demographic information, collected feedback, and explained the “Imagine Canal Park” initiative to guests. More than 1,800 guests flocked to Canal Park over the four days of the event, and 96 percent gave the event a positive rating.

Topical category: Promoting Leadership and Career Opportunities in City Government
Cities of St. Louis Park and Bloomington—“Pathways to Policing”
In early 2017, Bloomington and St. Louis Park were experiencing a reduced number of police officer applications and saw an opportunity to collaborate. The result was a program created to recruit more applicants, and attract more people of color and nontraditional candidates.

The program, called the “Suburban Law Enforcement Training Academy (SLETA)—Pathways to Policing,” was designed to remove barriers for non-traditional candidates who have at least a two-year associate degree from an accredited college or university, and who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement. The program focused on candidates without the means to pay for, or availability to attend a Law Enforcement academic program while in their current careers.

The Bloomington and St. Louis Park Police Departments developed the program with their cities’ Human Resource departments prior to inviting other agencies. Sponsoring departments provided trainees with mentors to keep them engaged, and support during training was provided through Hennepin Technical College.

The cities were intentional in marketing the program to a diverse pool of applicants. The program was promoted in many languages, in various communities, and on numerous job search websites. The cities also held information sessions for potential applicants to learn more about the program prior to applying.

More than 482 applications were received and over 380 candidates interviewed. After two rounds of interviews job offers were made to 12 candidates; the cities had a goal to have eight final candidates in early discussions of the program.

During the 2017 legislative session, the state appropriated money to help agencies offset program costs. There are plans to conduct another SLETA this fall.

About the judges
The 2018 City of Excellence award nominations were judged by a panel of former members of the League’s Board of Directors, including Carol Mueller, mayor of the City of Mounds View; Brian Scholin, councilmember for the City of Pine City; and Craig Waldron, interim administrator for the City of North St. Paul and professor at Hamline University.