Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Only seven Mondays until the 2017 session begins

By Casey Fields, manager for municipal advocacy
The campaigns are over and the election dust has settled. We can breathe a sigh of relief that the campaign commercials are over, and the mailers will no longer clog up our mailboxes. Now the real work begins for local officials. 

We have 18 new members in the House of Representatives and eight new members of the Senate. This is the largest freshman class in the Senate in recent memory. It's not too early to let our legislators know what the priorities for cities and towns will be in the 2017 session.

In the December issue of Uptown, municipal officials get an in-depth look at the 2017 Advocacy Initiatives for cities and towns. The front page article goes through five major challenges facing cities and towns with action items that would result in changing state law to meet those challenges. 

Blog posts over the next four weeks will describe each of the individual initiatives. In the meantime and moving forward, here’s what else we need to do.

On the Municipal Association's website, there is a sample proclamation councils can adopt in support of the 2017 advocacy initiatives. This sends a message from your council to your legislators that these priorities are ones that are important to your city. Download the Word document of the proclamation and send a copy back to me after your council passes it.

If you have new legislators, call them now if you haven’t already. Introduce yourself and your city. Exchange cell phone numbers and email addresses. Start the relationship. Don’t ask for anything. Just provide them information about your city and its vision for the future. Take them a copy of the proclamation supporting the Advocacy Initiatives. Thank them for representing you and your city.

If your legislator was re-elected, call to say “congratulations” on serving another term. Renew that relationship that is already there. Exchange cell phone numbers. Thank them for everything they do for your city and point them to the Association’s website for more information on the Advocacy Initiatives. The Association staff has printed cards you can give to your legislators outlining the initiatives or you can get a copy from the website.

Building positive relationships with legislators is the most important thing mayors and councilmembers can do to advance good legislation to help cities and towns be the economic drivers and centers of commerce for South Carolina. These relationships help stop bad legislation and pass good legislation. These relationships establish local elected leaders as the go-to source of municipal information. These relationships provide valuable information to legislators in Columbia about cities and towns. These relationships are the backbone of our grassroots network across the state. 

There's a quick list of the newly elected House members and Senate below. We'll have contact info and committee assignments for them in a blog post after the December 7 reorganization sessions. Stay tuned. 


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Investment in social capital pays dividends

For some police officers, raising social capital is as simple as not ticketing a resident for a minor infraction. Educating the offender about the local ordinance can sometimes be more helpful in the long run than fining him. 

Walterboro residents have no doubt benefited from town officials who put social capital in the bank. But recently those same residents got to read about social capital, too.

That’s because an Uptown column written by Walterboro mayor and Municipal Association President Bill Young was picked up by his hometown paper. As Mayor Young described it, social capital is “the value created by the networks that connect similar people and build bridges between diverse people.

Clemson Police Chief Jimmy Dixon described some of the same ideas in another Uptown article, Accumulating social capital for a rainy day.”

"It’s only a matter of time before bad things happen. We don’t want it to happen. We are a safe community, but we’re not immune to it," he said. "You want support so when the hard times hit, people know you’ll do everything humanly possible to solve it.”

Social capital can have other, unexpected benefits. For instance, cities and towns may discover that banking some social capital even helps with public safety recruitment efforts. 

"The way a particular agency treats people in the community every day—if they take time to talk to people and treat them with empathy—it pays dividends in a lot of different ways," said Jack Ryan with the Public Agency Training Council during at session at this summer's Annual Meeting.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Professional photos with a cell phone? You bet!

Have you ever wondered why photos taken from your cell phone just don't work sometimes for print or website use? Are the photos often grainy? Does your subject look like he's got turkey feathers growing from his head? These challenges and some easy fixes were the topic of a session at this week's training for Main Street South Carolina managers.

"When you're a one-man shop, like many Main Street programs are, you might also be the photographer for your newsletters, websites or social media," said Beppie LeGrand, Main Street SC's manager. 

Meredith Houck, the Association's website and creative services manager, outlined several tricks of the trade for better photographs using only a cell phone and a little technical know-how of the phone and photography basics.

"You want your photos to tell a story. Even the dreaded "grip and grin" photos can be made interesting with just a few tweaks to your composition or lighting," Meredith said.

 *    Avoid placing the subject of your photo in the direct center of the photo.

 *    Most smartphones cameras have a grid view. Once you enable this, you'll see that the screen has four lines that divide the frame into nine equal parts. By using the rule of thirds, your subject should be on one of the lines, preferably where these lines intersect.

 *    Be aware of the background of the photo. If the photo includes people, make sure nothing appears to be sticking out of their head from the background.

 *    Make sure your resolution is set to the highest setting. A high-resolution image allows you to take quality photos that can be used in printed pieces and websites. A high-resolution image can always be compressed if the original is too large. Low-resolution image are usually grainy and pixelated. Pixels cannot be created to increase the size of a low-resolution image.

 *    When emailing or uploading an image, make sure to send the original size of the image. Do not compress the image.

Get Meredith's handout with the full list of tips from the session and take a look at her Power Point presentation.

The group ventured out in downtown Columbia to practice what they had learned.