Across the state of Minnesota, local governments are finding creative ways to deliver services to their residents with greater impact and at lower cost.
The Humphrey School of Public Affairs supports and celebrates those efforts through its annual Local Government Innovation Awards (Newly renamed the Government Innovation in Minnesota Awards), which is recognizing 17 local government entities this year.
This year’s winning projects include removing barriers to books by eliminating library late fees, facilitating healthy business ownership transitions so rural communities can continue to thrive, and combining public works facilities to reduce maintenance costs and infrastructure needs.
“The astounding fact about innovation is that it comes from what we know,” says Jay Kiedrowski, senior fellow at the Humphrey School and LGIA program lead. “Creating something innovative only takes place when there’s a pause to consider what we know, and set aside current beliefs to explore another better path or process. These awards are a reflection of that. They represent innovative ways to do the things that local government traditionally does, but in new models with new efficiencies and collaborations.”
The awards program is organized in partnership with the Bush Foundation and its Native Nation Building Initiative; and co-sponsored by the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, the Minnesota Association of Townships and the Minnesota School Boards Association.
The awards recognize projects in up to five different categories: cities, counties, schools, townships, and Native nations, which recognizes collaborations between tribes and a local government entity. One entry in each category is named Leading Innovator.
A panel of judges considered submissions for their creativity, sustainability, and collaboration. The five Leading Innovators for 2019 will receive a grant from the Bush Foundation to continue their work, and a professionally produced video to use for marketing and awareness. The Leading Innovators in the city, county, and school categories will receive a $5,000 grant. The Local Government and Native Nations Collaboration Award Leading Innovator will receive a $10,000 grant.
Leading Innovators of the 2019 Local Government Innovation Awards:
City Category: City of St. Paul, St. Paul Public Library—Your Library: Now Fine Free
St. Paul Public Library eliminated the traditional practice of administering daily late fines on overdue materials in 2019. This decision unblocked more than 42,000 cards of library users whose borrowing privileges had been suspended, many of whom live in areas of concentrated poverty. This change ensures that all people, regardless of ability to pay, can borrow library materials as long as they bring them back.
County Category: Sibley County, Minnesota State University, US Small Business Administration, and the USDA—BizLink North
BizLink North is an online venue supporting rural communities in the Upper Midwest through linking prospective entrepreneurs with established retiring business owners who lack succession planning. BizLink North acts as a facilitator for the transition of business ownership, enabling rural communities to sustain longtime businesses, their goods, services, jobs, and tax base.
School Category: Wayzata High School, Wayzata Public Schools—"The Hub" Web-Based Teacher Portal
"The Hub" is a user-friendly, student-focused online tool created for Wayzata High School staff and students. It helps communicate, manage, and collaborate on student intervention time, teachers' school-to-home communication, teacher/student academic referrals, academic resource center scheduling, after-school programming, college/university visits, teacher before/after school availability, digital hall passes, and student volunteer projects.
Township Category: Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board—City of Bemidji-Northern Township Cooperation
In an area punctuated by lakes, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and the great northern woods, the City of Bemidji and Northern Township cooperate on comprehensive joint planning, zoning, and administration to turn aside natural barriers and competition between municipalities and townships. Results include enhanced economic vitality and protection of natural resources.
Native Nations Category: Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) and the City of Prior Lake—South Area Water Treatment Plant
The City of Prior Lake and the SMSC determined that by collaborating on a joint facility, they could achieve maximum efficiency while also minimizing environmental impacts. The new facility, completed in 2019, coordinates production at two SMSC water plants and one city water plant, thereby minimizing the number of wells and infrastructure needed to meet water demand.
All 2019 Local Government Innovation Awardees:
- City of St. Paul, St. Paul Public Library—Your Library: Now Fine Free (Leading Innovator)
- Cities of Burnsville, Apple Valley, Farmington, Northfield, and Shakopee—A Multi-city Collaboration: Automating the Election Judge Hiring and Training Process
- City of Grand Rapids, Mobility Mania-Accessibility for All, Grand Rapids Rotary Club—Wheelchair-accessible Swing at Crystal Lake Park
- City of Shakopee/Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community—Shakopee Cultural Corridor *
- Sibley County, Minnesota State University, US Small Business Administration, USDA—BizLink North (Leading Innovator)
- Anoka County—Anoka County Human Services Leadership Mentorship Program
- Beltrami Service Area Collaboration (BSAC)—Students First
- Richard Bamattre, principal architect; Hennepin County Housing Stability Area; Hennepin County Information Technology and Records Management; Hennepin County Integrated Planning and Analysis—Eviction Dashboard
- Wayzata High School, Wayzata Public Schools—"The Hub" Web-Based Teacher Portal (Leading Innovator)
- Northfield Public Schools, Northfield Healthy Community Initiative, City of Northfield, other local nonprofits—Youth on Boards
- Bemidji School District #31, Bemidji High School, Lumberjack High School, Bemidji Alternative Learning Center, Red Lake Nation, Leech Lake Band, White Earth Nation, Greater Bemidji business and industry partners, City of Bemidji—Bemidji Career Academies*
- Roseville Public Schools, Hamline University—English Learner in the Mainstream (ELM) Coaching
- Wadena-Deer Creek School District, Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Wadena Development Authority—Community House 2020
- Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board—City of Bemidji-Northern Township Cooperation (Leading Innovator) *
- Linwood Recycling Center—Local Recycling, Broad Impact
NATIVE NATIONS CATEGORY
- Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the City of Prior Lake—South Area Water Treatment Plant (Leading Innovator)
- Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Division of Parks and Trails—Grand Portage Community Wellness Fair
- * Shakopee Cultural Corridor (a City Category award recipient)
- * Bemidji Career Academies (a School Category award recipient)