Broadband Access Continues to Grow
About 69 percent of Minnesota households have access to broadband Internet service that meets minimum upload and download speed thresholds set by the State Broadband Initiative, according to data collected this year from high-speed Internet providers. The State Broadband Initiative’s goal, set by the state Legislature, is to provide at least 10 Mb per second upload and 5 Mb per second download speeds to all households by 2015.
The data was collected and reported by the nonprofit Connect Minnesota, whose mission is to expand access and use of high-speed Internet in the state to diversify and strengthen the economy. The data indicates positive growth since fall of 2012, when 62 percent of Minnesota households had access. Learn more at http://goo.gl/r5buvS.
Improving Police Response to Mental Health Crises
The City of Olathe, Kan., has developed a program to better serve residents with mental illness who would otherwise be dealt with by the criminal justice system. The Mental Health Co-Responder Program sends a licensed mental health professional on police calls involving citizens with mental illness. The mental health professional helps officers assess the situation, and can help intervene in the crisis to more effectively establish safety and stability in the person’s mental state. Follow-up care by the co-responder evaluates the outcome of the intervention. The program recently received an award from the Alliance for Innovation.
Buckthorn Faces a Cloven Enemy
Grazing goats are taking a chomp out of invasive buckthorn as part of a project the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) plans to continue this year. Most recently, the project used goats instead of chemical treatments in the Red Wing area last summer. The DNR has found that goats are particularly attracted to buckthorn and effectively kill the plant by stripping off the bark, according to a report by Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). In addition to its environmental benefits, the goats are cost effective, too. It takes about $300 to treat an acre of land with grazing goats, versus $2,800 for chemical treatment of an acre. Read the MPR story at http://goo.gl/aAyNgd.
Regulating Mobile Meals
A new report from the National League of Cities (NLC) spotlights the impact of the rapidly changing mobile vending industry on cities. The report, Food on Wheels: Mobile Vending Goes Mainstream, offers best practices for city leaders to take advantage of the benefits of food trucks while balancing the need to regulate growth and account for the concerns of other stakeholders such as brick-and-mortar restaurants.
All over the country—including in Minnesota—it is clear that food trucks have arrived and are here to stay. Mobile vending generates approximately $650 million in revenue annually, and is on pace to quadruple revenue over the next five years. Unfortunately, many cities are legally ill-equipped to harness this expansion.
This NLC report provides recommendations for ways to integrate modern food trucks into city life, particularly through policy tools related to economic activity, public space, public health, and public safety. It includes recommendations for proximity restrictions, geographic limitations, food safety, mobile vending on private property, distance from schools, and more. Access the report at www.nlc.org/foodtrucks.
Green Effort Transforms Community Center
The City of Milan, a small farming community in Chippewa County, has converted a drafty and underused community center into an energy-efficient space now used for numerous community activities and event rentals. Through a partnership with the Greater Milan Initiative nonprofit and the Otter Tail Power Company, stakeholders updated the windows, entrances, and insulation of the 1915 school building. The project also installed efficient and cooler lighting in the gymnasium, and replaced a commercial refrigerator and freezer unit. While use of the building has increased dramatically, the total energy use has increased by only 6 percent, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Most of the project was paid for through grants and donations. Learn more at http://goo.gl/hEtn2h.
A Good (Government) Read
Authors of The Metropolitan Revolution report what many in local government already know—local governments across the country are quickly adapting to find local solutions to national problems. The authors, Jennifer Bradley and Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, scoured the country for case studies and found success stories that paint a forward-thinking, innovative picture of what municipal government is capable of. The accompanying iPad app features a growing collection of video, animation, infographics, and interviews. Learn more and order the book at http://goo.gl/aAxbF6.
City Supplier Reviews
Did you know seven out of 10 people read reviews before buying a product? The City Supplier Directory on the National League of Cities’ website now allows for visitors to post reviews and read reviews from other customers, along with a star rating of 0-5. The directory spans services ranging from accounting to workflow and asset management systems. Directory visitors can search by a variety of criteria including service category, keyword, geography or by company name. Learn more at http://citysupplierdirectory.com.
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