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 HometownLegislative 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.