The Super Bowl, a recent shooting and protests at City Hall are all over the news. A new computer system designed to give citizens greater access to the legislative goings-on at that same building is not. Yet the city’s new Legislative Information Management System (LIMS) may have a longer-lasting impact than the “Big Game.”
Seven years in the making, LIMS has been shepherded by City Clerk Casey Carl, the former clerk of Johnson County, Kansas, where he directed the building of a similar system. He was hired by Minneapolis specifically because of that experience.
“I’ve got the best job in the city,” Carl enthused. “I touch everything – elections, legislative data, records. I see how the city council operates from the highest level. My job is making government accessible to the people.”
As city clerk, Carl serves as Minneapolis’ chief election officer. He plans and administers every election that takes place in the city, from mayor to the school board. He’s also the custodian of all information assets created at City Hall, whether they date back to the city’s beginnings or are in digital format. That also means he’s in charge of protecting the city from data breaches.
His job as clerk of the City Council is probably the trickiest part of his work. City Council members in Minneapolis are full-time on the job, and members do much of their work through committees. There are 50 boards and commissions. The clerk’s office works with them all, coordinating and posting meeting agendas, gathering minutes and arranging video recordings of each meeting. Now, it’s all done online, and residents can access the information at any time of the day or night, thanks to LIMS.
Launched in September 2017, LIMS was designed to be intuitive to use. From a user’s perspective, it’s a website filled with information.
Click on the Calendar & Agendas tab at the top of the page, and you can see every meeting scheduled at City Hall for the current month. Click on the box in the calendar for Feb. 7, 2018 and you’ll find three meetings have been scheduled for that day: Committee of the Whole, Intergovernmental Relations and Charter Commission. You quickly learn that the City Council meets every other Friday at 9:30 a.m.
Click on the Boards & Commissions tab and you can determine the hot topic for Historic Preservation or read the minutes of the last meeting of the Police Conduct Oversight Commission.
If you really want to geek out on city government, you can read the Minneapolis City Charter, the governing document that Carl says is “like the U.S. Constitution.“ It’s available through the button on the bottom left of the screen. (It takes a little time for the app to initialize.)
Never heard of a “cadastre”? The LIMS glossary will tell you it’s “a public record of the surveyed dimensions and value of land parcels used to record ownership and calculate taxes.”
Go to the Latest Actions tab and you’ll find that the City Council, in Act 2018A-0009, approved an amendment to increase the bonding request for the Upper Harbor Terminal Redevelopment from $14 million to $15 million.
Couldn’t make the last council meeting? All council meetings are live streamed, and the videos are archived.
LIMS can also help you keep tabs on your council member. Six months down the road, you may want to see if newcomer Steve Fletcher has been attending council meetings regularly. Or maybe you want to find out how Kevin Reich voted on a certain issue. LIMS will provide session statistics every quarter detailing attendance, voting records and the ordinances passed. Carl said Minneapolis has the only city council that has made this type of information available to its constituents.
If you get stuck, hit the little question mark on the upper right corner of the screen. There’s a full-blown user manual in PDF form that you can download and print for future reference.
LIMS will work on a mobile phone. You can also download information to an Excel spreadsheet and create your own charts and graphs.
Perhaps one of the best features of LIMS won’t show up on your computer screen. The project has been funded primarily through cost savings achieved in the City Clerk’s office.
Carl says he’ll be attending neighborhood association meetings around the city to introduce LIMS to the public. (He made one such presentation in Audubon in November.) Contact the City Clerk’s office, 612-673-2216. LIMS.minneapolismn.gov.
Below: City Clerk Casey Carl (provided photo) and a screen shot of the LIMS home page.