It is often helpful to look to other communities to find out how their local governments are functioning. How do other governments do things? Is our local gov’t doing the best job it could be doing?
Let’s take Blaine, Minnesota for example. It is a medium-sized city with a population of 57, 186 located close to the Twin Cities.
Here is their official government website. It is an amazing website. Crisp, clear, colorful, detailed, helpful, organized, etc. It has special stand alone sections for Biz and Parks and Events and Safety Services etc.
Why can’t the MSB’s website be a high quality production like Blaine’s website? We spend MILLIONS in our IT budget each year and our website is sub par. Plus we were hacked and had to spend millions to fix everything. And we conveniently lost (cough cough) all of the Manager and Dept head’s emails and lots of financial info. It is maddening really.
Blaine has a gov’t structure similar to the MSB.
Look at how they organize their meetings. Regular meetings are held twice per month and Workshops are held three times per month. All are held on weekday evenings. Makes sense to me. (The MSB’s “workshops” are our Special meetings which are just called on an ad hoc basis.)
They use the same software as the MSB – Legistar.
And they live stream and video record their meetings too but there is a huge difference here too in quality btw. Blaine & the MSB.
Blaine’s video recordings are crisp and clear; they have multiple cameras set up so you can see everyone who speaks – not just the elected officials; there are also close up views; and THE AUDIO SOUND QUALITY IS VERY GOOD. Go take a listen. So, the residents of Blaine, MN, can actually SEE AND HEAR their local gov’t meetings if they cannot attend in person.
GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY – Compare how Blaine, Minn operates versus the MSB’s utter lack of financial transparency.
Blaine, Minnesota, publishes online (and their City Council approves) EVERY SINGLE EXPENDITURE. Payroll/wire transfers and “Schedule of Bills” reports are presented at every single meeting. And they must be approved via the Consent Agenda. This is oversight at work!
And – LOOK AT THE QUALITY OF Blaine’s MEETING MINUTES – SO DETAILED! Here is an example from one of their Workshop meetings:
Blaine has an Economic Development Authority. The Mayor is on this one. This is what the MSB needs too (instead of the Port Commission.) And look – the BUDGET for their Econ Develop Authority has to be approved. Contrast this with how the MSB operates. Our Econ Development budget has “gone underground.” Seriously. It is hidden within the expenses for the Assembly and Administration. It is not separate. And good luck trying to get the MSB to release any records on how they specifically spent $ on econ development. (See my posts on NavNorth – the secret contract as an example.)
So, what Blaine, MN is doing here is a breath of fresh air and how the MSB should be operating too:
Back to Blaine’s website. Look at how they present their elected officials in the main section for the City Gov’t. Fabulously done. Contact info; background info etc.
Click on any bio for “more info.” Our website has very few details for our elected officials. Here is their Mayor’s page:
Note he is on various COMMITTEES! The MSB has no committees at all. (Oh sure sometimes we have an ad hoc committee such as the “Sneaky sales tax committee” or the upcoming “Police Powers committee,” but we don’t have regular, established gov’t sub committees.)
Now – this will blow you away – the MAYOR HOLDS OFFICE HOURS! No need to call or make an appointment. Visits are done on a drop-in basis.
THIS IS FROM Blaine’s most recent Report/Newsletter which is issued bimonthly. And look at this nice feature introducing the new council members.
Honest to God, I have no idea what the MSB Public Affairs office is doing besides (endless, repetitive) Economic Development presentations (i.e. give us $ for the Port and Rail Spur – they can just cut and paste the same paragraphs and re-mix the same Power Point presentations over and over again) and the occasional press release, because they sure as heck don’t produce fabulous glossy reports like Blaine, Minnesota. (And um, our Manager’s reports don’t even come close to this type of quality work. Plus our Manager’s reports are posted so late that all of the info in them is stale.)
More pages from a recent Blaine City Connect report:
Look – they have a regular photo contest:
Look – they list all sorts of events and opportunities:
AND LOOK AT THEIR WEBSITE SECTION ON LOCAL DEVELOPMENT/THE ECONOMY/Business News:
NOTE THE Amazing list of future and current development going on in Blaine. Why doesn’t the MSB do something like this? (Probably because the MSB is very secretive.)