Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cities getting creative with engagement

Social media has completely changed the landscape for how city leaders are communicating with residents and business owners, as well as how they are promoting their city as a place to do business or visit.

The February issue of Uptown looks at several creative ways cities of all sizes are engaging people in new ways. 

Mount Pleasant successfully used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in December to promote a variety of holiday activities, including letting parade viewers vote for the “best in show” float using social media. 

Using the hashtag #MPHolidayMagic, the town aggregated all of its holiday activities resulting in dozens of tweets, retweets, photos and videos of the festivities.

Woodruff’s city manager is using Facebook for weekly online chats that have been successful in reaching people directly since the city no longer has a local newspaper. 

In Clinton, the city manager posts his weekly report on his blog, while Greenwood’s frequently humorous Minute with the Mayor has driven thousands of viewers to the city’s calendar page.

Learn more about best practices for local officials using Facebook and get tips on creating a responsive design website to make it more mobile-friendly in this month’s Uptown.

Monday, February 9, 2015

House bill threatens city services

It was a busy week for local officials last week with both the Municipal Elected Officials Institute and Hometown Legislative Action Day taking place in Columbia on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Rep. Rick Quinn (R-Lexington) introduced H3490, a bill to change how business license taxes are calculated and to cap the tax for any business at $100. This caused a firestorm of concern among the municipal leaders gathered in Columbia for Hometown Legislative Action Day. 

But the timing was great as officials were able to meet with dozens of legislators at the State House to explain the profound impact this proposed legislation would have on city services.

Officials had the chance to talk with their legislators about why businesses locate in a city and why city services such as police, fire, zoning, street lights, sidewalks and others can’t be paid for on an individual usage basis. Through a business license tax, businesses together help pay for the city services that all businesses benefit from receiving.

Business license revenue accounts for 25 to 50 percent of almost all cities’ budgets. In Mount Pleasant, for example, 34 percent of its budget would be affected by this change.

Lexington is similar with 41 percent of the town’s budget derived from business licensing. This equates to the budgets of the following services combined…parks, streets, transportation, sanitation, planning, building, zoning, information technology, finance, town council, municipal court and municipal clerk. 

“I don’t know of a government or private business that can make up for a 25 to 50 percent cut in its budget without cutting the products and services they provide,” Association Executive Director Miriam Hair told local officials. “Do we want the infrastructure of our cities in 10 years to look like our roads do today? I don’t think so, but cut 25 to 50 percent of a city’s budget, and that is what will happen.”

Get more background on this legislation and its effect on city services from the Association's website.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Busy week for local officials coming to Columbia

This week is one of the Association’s busiest of the year with 500+ local officials coming to Columbia for the Municipal Elected Officials Institute today and Hometown Legislative Action Day tomorrow.

For the second year, the Association is offering two classes for the Advanced Municipal Officials Institute for elected officials who have graduated from the Municipal Elected Officials Institute

More than 120 elected officials are at the Marriott today split between two Advanced Institute classes focusing on advanced advocacy and another focusing on utilities. And this is in addition to the 130 additional officials who are enrolled in the MEO Institute classes. More than 50 of these mayors and councilmembers will graduate tomorrow from the MEO Institute during the HLAD program

Also tomorrow at Hometown Legislative Action Day, more than 500 officials will gather at the Marriott in Columbia to hear from House and Senate leaders and learn more about the five advocacy initiatives for cities and towns. 

Speaker Jay Lucas and Senate President Pro Temp Hug Leatherman will address officials along with two panels of Senate and House members who will discuss transportation, Local Government Fund and other issues important to cities and towns.

Tomorrow afternoon, officials will visit the State House to meet with Senators in the State House lobby. Plus the timing is great for several officials to attend a meeting of the House Ways and Means subcommittee considering H3374, a bill that would change the calculation to determine the Local Government Fund.

After several afternoon sessions covering best practices in permitting, licensing and code enforcement, officials will have the chance to learn about the impact of new government reporting requirements related to reporting relating to OPEB or other post-employment benefits.

The day will wrap up with the traditional legislative reception at the Marriott at 5:30.

Throughout the day, Association staff will be tweeting from the meeting sessions and posting photos from the State House visit. Download the  meeting app and follow @MuniAssnSC and #15HLAD to stay on top of what’s happening all day.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Expanded approach for advocacy initiatives in the 2015 session

It’s just a few weeks until the General Assembly reconvenes for the beginning of a new session. With elections in the House and new leadership in both bodies, changes at the State House are inevitable.

And change is good. For the upcoming session, the Municipal Association has made some changes to expand how we approach our work with the legislature with the goal of helping local officials in cities and towns better solve problems common to them.

The Regional Advocacy Meetings each fall give the Association’s staff more insight into the challenges facing cities and towns. Typically we have tried to address many of those challenges through a change in state law by initiating new legislation or supporting changes to existing state law that would help solve a problem.

This year, however, we have expanded that approach. Our advocacy initiatives for 2015 include more than just changes to state law or new legislation. In many cases the problems raised by local officials made us realize more training may also be needed on a particular topic…or maybe there are “best practices” in other states we could research that could solve a problem…or maybe we could collaborate with other organizations that face similar challenges.

The 2015 advocacy initiatives are
So as you look at the 2015 advocacy initiatives you will see an expansion of efforts beyond only a legislative agenda listing of bills to support or oppose. This new, more comprehensive, approach will better serve our local officials. At the same time, this approach will give our staff more opportunities to collaborate internally and with other organizations to meet the challenges all cities and towns face.

Read last week’s From the Dome to Your Home to get the latest update on progress related to these initiatives over the past several months.