FAQs—Cities, Services & Funding: Community Conversations

Q: What happened during phase I of Community Conversations?
A: In 2010-11, League staff traveled the state to talk to Minnesotans about a range of issues related to the future of cities, including state aid, tax and fee preferences, and new options for service delivery. At each meeting, staff shared a brief presentation on cities in general. The presentation was an overview of the kinds of services cities deliver and the different revenue streams on which cities rely. The presentations were well-received, and Minnesotans used the objective and clear information as a foundation for meaningful conversations about key city issues. The League produced a report about the sessions. The League believes that an informed citizenry can lead to better decision-making processes and better policy choices. The new Community Conversations service aims to bring the presentation on cities and funding to more Minnesotans. The goal is to go to where people in the community are already gathering and become part of the agenda at a range of community events.

Q: What is phase II about?
A: The League will offer the Community Conversations service to cities to increase the public’s understanding of city services and how they are paid for. Two members of the League staff will travel to the host city and deliver presentations to the public at events convened by community organizations such as Rotary Clubs, neighborhood associations, senior citizen groups, and church groups, for example. League staff will lead as many sessions as needed within one community in a 1-3 day period. The goal is to create a base of informed residents with which the city can engage in meaningful dialogue about key decisions that the city faces. The participants will then be well-prepared for future commissions, focus groups, town-hall style discussions or other events.

Q: What’s in it for my city?
A: You’ll raise awareness of what cities do and the different revenue streams cities rely on, engage with community members on key issues facing the city, dispel potential myths about city finance, and initiate or strengthen relationships with community groups.

Q: What’s in it for our local community groups?
A: Groups such as Rotary Clubs, neighborhood associations, parent groups, and church groups will strengthen their relationships with both the city and their citizens. League staff will come to where they already are, prepare a tailored presentation for their group, and stick around to answer questions and facilitate a discussion.

Q: Why would residents get involved?
A: Residents will gather clear, objective information about cities and city finance and become more empowered and prepared to engage in meaningful dialogue on key city issues with local officials. They’ll also learn what fellow residents think about key issues and begin to understand the tradeoffs associated with key decisions facing the city.

Q: What will the League do?
A: For each community that chooses to take advantage of this service, the League will:

  • Offer guidance and support in working with community partners to set up events.
  • Provide document templates for reaching out to partners, promoting community events, and inviting the public.
  • Travel to the host city.
  • Give presentations at community events, and facilitate discussions.
  • Work with city staff to introduce some key issues or questions facing the city.
  • Supply meeting materials and set up the meeting space.

Q: What does my city have to do?
A: If you would like League staff to come to your community to lead some sessions, your city will:

  • Identify the community organizations that convene meetings of members of the public. Examples of groups to reach out to include: Rotary clubs, church groups, senior housing facilities, youth groups, commissions, local employers, and community nonprofits.
  • Ask community organizations to add an education session to their agendas and to invite their members via mail, email, or other means.
  • Help arrange and pay for logistics for meeting space and refreshments (as needed). Reimburse the League for staff travel costs (mileage) and lodging costs (if needed).

Q: What will the education sessions be like?
A: At each event, the League presentation will be about 20-30 minutes plus about 10-20 minutes for discussion. A slide presentation will be used and there will be a handout for participants. The presentation will describe services typically offered by cities, how they are most often delivered, and how they are typically paid for. The presentations will be fairly general for all cities but there will be some opportunity to call attention to issues specific to your city. Participants will be invited to share their contact information with the host city so that they can be kept informed about future opportunities to be part of discussions and decisions on city issues.

Q: What do I do next?
A: Contact Rachel Walker at LMC (see info at right) for additional information or to schedule community conversations in your city!