Photos: Lynne Young and Liz Wheeler retirement reception

Lynne Young, Scott Neal, Liz Wheeler20130430_162251DSC09625DSC09626
I went to last week’s retirement reception at Northfield City Hall for Lynne Young, Northfield Public Library Director, and Liz Wheeler, Director of Human Resources, IT and Risk. Former Northfield City Administrator and current Edina City Manager Scott Neal was among the dignitaries who attended.

DSC09628Griff Wigley and Liz WheelerDSC09629
I was pleased that City staff chose one of my photos of downtown Northfield to give to Liz. The photo is used on the City’s new website.

A new blog reflects a shift in my consulting business: Engage Citizens

I’ve been a bit of a laggard here on LoGro lately. For years, I’ve had something new on the blog everyday but in the last month, I’ve only had a few new posts/week and have not been very active in the comment threads.

What’s up?

Engage Citizens - Vertical - 185wI’ve created a new blog called Engage Citizens as I’m shifting more of my Wigley and Associates consulting work to helping local units of government (state, cities, counties, townships, school districts) use online tools and services to—you guessed it—engage citizens.

I’ve been doing online citizen engagement as a citizen since the early 90′s in my work with Northfield.org and continuing here on Locally Grown Northfield since 2006.

Grandview-Development-Framework-finalGriff Wigley, Scott NealBut it was my consulting contract with City Manager Scott Neal and the City of Edina back in April of 2011 when we created the Edina Citizen Engagement project that helped me see how other local units of government could benefit from something similar.

The Grandview District Development Framework project in particular was enlightening because of how the online tools complemented the face-to-face work of the steering committee, consultants, and city staff over the course of 9 months.

Griff Wigley at  League of MN Cities annual conference, 2012Tim Madigan at  League of MN Cities annual conference, 2012Last summer, I presented and facilitated a session for the League of MN Cities annual conference about my work with the City of Edina titled Government 2.0: New Strategies for Engaging the Public.

One of the people in the audience that day was Northfield City Administrator Tim Madigan who, a few months later as most of you LoGro readers are aware, hired me to manage the online engagement for a Developing a parking management plan for downtown.

Chris Richardson, Griff Wigley, Matt HillmanShortly thereafter, when I heard that the Northfield Public Schools District had a calendar project in the works, I approached Superintendent Chris Richardson and HR/Technology Director Matt Hillman about adding an online citizen engagement component. I just finished up the Transformational Technology project for them and last week started another online engagement project with them titled A school calendar conversation with the Northfield community.

I’ll continue to post client updates on my Wigley and Associates blog but most of my consulting-related blogging energy will be devoted to the Engage Citizens blog. I’ve also changed my Griff Wigley Twitter username to @EngageCitizens. I’ll tweet all my new Engage Citizens blog posts but you can also subscribe to Engage Citizens via email or RSS.

Now that I’ve got all this in place, I’ll get back to posting more regularly here on LoGro. I’m scheming on a new doodad for y’all.

Let’s consider a utility franchise fee to fund new sidewalk, trail and non-motorized transportation projects

At its Aug. 6 meeting, the Edina City Council:

…took the first step toward implementing utility franchise fees to create a new revenue stream. Funds would finance new sidewalk, trail and non-motorized transportation projects around the community. Currently, such projects are funded through the City’s annual Capital Improvement Plan or special assessments. The utility franchise fees are estimated to generate more than $1 million in new revenue per year.

Edina City Manager Scott Neal has the full rationale in his Aug. 17 blog post, What’s a franchise fee?

The new utility franchise fee is like a sales tax in that it will be a small charge listed on the monthly bill that customers receive from each utility, but its unlike a sales tax in that it is a flat amount each month that is tied to the type of customer you are, not how much electricity or natural gas you consume. For a typical residential customer of Xcel Energy, the new monthly franchise fee is $1.45 per month.  It’s exactly the same for the typical residential customer of CenterPoint Energy…

This goal will require resources to complete.  After looking at a number of different ways to fund this goal, the Council and I settled on the utility franchise fee as our best option.  Why?  It has a wide base.  Everyone in the community (including non-property tax paying properties) uses electricity and natural gas, so everyone will pay the franchise fee.  Because the base of people paying this fee is wide, the rate of the fee itself can be low.  That’s how a $2.90/month/residence franchise fee can generate over $1 million a year in revenues.

utility franchise feeWe really need a way to pay for new sidewalks that’s not so onerous for the residential property owners along streets where none exist, for example, Woodley.    And yes, bicycle-related infrastructure, too.

Having a tax that everyone would pay, including schools, colleges, churches, and non-profits, is especially appealing. 

Downsides?

What can Northfield learn at the League of MN Cities annual conference?

Griff Wigley, Ted Davis IMAG0115 IMAG0118League of MN Cities
I’m here in flood-ravaged Duluth this week for the League of Minnesota Cities annual conference.

I’m teaming up with Ted Davis, Davis Communications, and Scott Neal, Edina City Manager, to do a pre-conference workshop today on Networking and Communicating with New Media for Local Government Leaders.  On Friday, I’m moderating a discussion session on Government 2.0: New Strategies for Engaging the Public.

In between, I plan to attend as many sessions as I can and report back on some of them that I think might be of interest to Northfielders.

10:30 am update:  AARRGGHH. All pre-conference workshops cancelled today. Pretty much all roads in and out of Duluth are blocked, including I35. Eerie to see a completely empty I35 in the middle of the morning.

Ted Davis, CANCELLED! Griff Wigley, CANCELLED! I35 shutdown in Duluth, 6/20/2012 I35 shutdown in Duluth, 6/20/2012

Nov. 1 Webinar – Social media use by local government in the US: What are the hurdles to doing it well?

With my civic and business hat on, I’m hosting a free webinar on social media use by local government on Monday, Nov. 1, at 8 PM CDT. It will feature:

  • A tour of several local government websites (primarily cities in the US) to see some best practices of how social media tools (blogs, web forums, email lists, webinars, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.) are being used to enable more transparency and engagement.
  • A discussion about the hurdles that local government officials face when implementing the use of social media.

The panelists (all bloggers), all have some Northfield connections:

Betsey Buckheit Steven Clift Scott Neal

Some photos of Betsey, Steve and Scott in Northfield from 2004-05 with their blogger hats on:
UK delegation at the Cow 2004 UK delegation at the Cow 2004 - 2 Blogging panel at the Archer House 2005

Please register for the free webinar on social media use by local government for Monday, Nov. 1, at 8 PM CDT.

If you’re unable to attend, the webinar will be recorded and archived on the web.

Got questions or comments? Attach a comment here or contact me.

Nov. 2 update:

A Tale of Two Cities: former Northfield City Administrators are in the news

Al RoderI got an email tip this morning that former Northfield City Administrator Al Roder is in the news. 

In today’s Omaha World-Herald:

Norfolk city admin. out of a job?

Mayor Sue Fuchtman has called a special meeting of the City Council Thursday to consider terminating the employment of Al Roder, who was hired two years ago.

Former Northfield City Administrator Scott Neal was in the Sept. 1 Strib:

Continue reading A Tale of Two Cities: former Northfield City Administrators are in the news

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