Informing Policy, Procedure, and Matters of Municipal Interest
This is the fourth story in a series of eight, celebrating the Colorado Municipal League’s dedication to serving Colorado’s municipalities over the last century.
This month, we are focusing on one of the Colorado Municipal League’s foundational pillars: information. When its founding members came together in 1923, they determined that the League would be an information hub for municipalities across the state.
The League has become a resource for municipalities, and those seeking to understand them, by surveying municipal interests and challenges, responding to inquiries, researching, navigating municipal challenges and opportunities, and sharing these findings through collaboration and publications.
Colorado Municipal League Publications
While the League has spent a century serving municipalities, it has been in publication for 98 years. Its first publication, Colorado Municipalities, was sent to 107 municipalities with populations over 500 in April 1925. At the time, a subscription cost $1 per year and a single copy cost 25 cents.
The League’s president at the time, M.B. Gill, opened the magazine with a letter announcing that the magazine would highlight improved municipal practices, new projects, and statewide movements that municipalities needed to be aware of.
“The Colorado Municipal League is two years old this month. It is indicative of the health and vigor of our organization that on the second anniversary of its founding the league should undertake the publication of a magazine devoted to the improvement of municipal government in Colorado.”M.B. Gill, Fort Morgan
Until 1941, municipalities received the magazine every other month. For 30 years after that, the League published Colorado Municipalities monthly, covering topics including fire prevention, housing, legislation, municipal practices, and federal issues.
In 1945, soon after moving to a new magazine circulation schedule, the League began delivering hard-hitting or pressing information through a newsletter called the CML Special Bulletin. Primarily intended to deliver legislative news in a timelier manner than the magazine might, the Bulletin eventually evolved into the newsletter that CML members receive today.
Colorado Municipalities was recognized several times for communicating municipal issues. The League’s 1962 Annual Report noted that the magazine won first place in its class in the American Municipal Association’s – now known as the National League of Cities – annual magazine competition.
A little over a decade later, the League announced another award received for Colorado Municipalities.
“For the second time this year Colorado Municipalities was cited for excellence by the Colorado Association of Business Communicators (CABC). The personality sketch of Ruth Fountain and the feature story on Colorado’s urban frontier, which appeared in the November/December issue, were selected for commendation. Only the publications of the Central Bank of Denver, Ideal Basic Industries and the Public Service Company of Colorado in addition to the League’s magazine received two CABC awards during 1976.”CML Newsletter
Another publication CML members are familiar with today became available around when Colorado Municipalities was winning awards. The Colorado Information Bullet series was released in 1962 to investigate specific issues more thoroughly. This continued on into the future, eventually evolving into Knowledge Now.
January 1974 marked the first month of the Colorado Municipalities circulation we know today and the official beginning of the CML Newsletter. The newsletter started as a twice-monthly publication, supplementing Colorado Municipalities as it moved into a quarterly.
Because Colorado Municipalities is written by and for municipal officials, its pages for an archival history of municipal government in the state. The archive, which is housed at the League’s building chronicles the advances in every aspect of municipal government for nearly 100 years. While publishing regular magazines and newsletters, the League also provided one-off books to ensure municipalities were up to date on the most pressing issues. From operation and administration of municipal golf courses to procedures for adopting and revising home rule, the League’s information leg was deeply involved in helping maintain strong municipal governance across the state.
A few publications that were published in this category became ongoing information series after the League found that municipal officials used them to keep up with policy and procedure updates.
The home rule handbook has been a CML staple for decades, helping municipalities better understand the home rule landscape and how to navigate it. The book is regularly updated by the League’s legal team. It covers the history of home rule and how to work toward becoming a home rule municipality.
Laws Enacted dates back to the mid-1900’s. This publication comes out annually at the end of the Legislative Session. It outlines how legislation passed in the most recent session will impact municipalities and how they can work to align their codes and procedures with new state regulations.
The League regularly covered state salary and wage benefits by 1968. This would eventually become what’s known as the Salary Survey. The survey helps municipalities benchmark their salaries against others in the state, ensuring fairness and competitive compensation.
In 1999, former CML General Counsel David Broadwell penned TABOR: A Guide to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Passed in 1992, the TABOR Amendment vastly impacted the way Colorado municipalities approach taxes by requiring increases to go to the ballot before being implemented. This publication helped cities and towns navigate the complex new policy.
Over the course of a century, the League has found creative ways to tell Colorado cities’ and towns’ stories. Creating a publication for the press to use when analyzing the state’s issues, and a way to better communicate municipal challenges, was essential to helping address municipal issues.
About 15 years ago, the League began publishing State of Our Cities and Towns, a survey intended to better understand the challenges facing Colorado’s cities and towns and the innovative solutions municipal officials implement in response to them. The data stories developed from this survey have covered how municipalities addressed big and small challenges, including COVID-19 and inflation. To read the most recent State of Our Cities and Towns story, click here.
Each of the publications is written with education in mind. While serving as an information resource, the League was adamant that it provide cities and towns with the most accurate, up-to-date information possible.
Collaboration spans across disciplines, and it’s not surprising that it plays a key role in how the League shares information. While the League does its own research and develops educational materials, it goes to great lengths to help cities and towns learn from each other. This collaboration among municipalities helps ensure innovation and good governance practices.
Records dating back to 1942 indicate that the League answered inquires from municipalities across the state and likely engaging in similar discussions before then.
The League works diligently to ensure municipalities across the state know what others are doing. When answering inquiries, the League often offers examples from other municipalities addressing similar challenges or implementing similar policies. Ensuring this information is available to cities and towns across the state helps foster municipal collaboration year-round and continues the conversation about municipal best practices.
The number of inquiries increased dramatically between 1942 and 1972, indicating that members might’ve become more involved with the League in this time. Tracking the number of inquiries ended in 1972; however, answering them is still a key function of the League.
Number of Inquiries Over the Years
As part of its collaboration effort, the League makes opportunities for municipalities to regularly communicate with each other year-round. Districts and Listservs are a key part of the League’s effort to keep cities and towns connected.
The League started districting in 1952 with 11 districts, eventually moving to 14. In 1973, the districts were reorganized into 12. The League’s executive board hoped the reorganization would improve member involvement.
“The boundaries of the League’s 14 districts have been modified to conform with the 12 planning and management districts established by the Governor in November, 1972. Because the executive order issued by then Governor Love for formation of regional government within these planning districts, the change should be beneficial. Municipalities will be able to meet at League district meetings to discuss issues of concern to their region and should be able to provide more input into their regional planning commission or council of governments.”
Districts Outlined in 1973
The districts have remained nearly the same since the change in 1973. Today, district meetings continue to foster collaboration among neighboring communities and help municipalities and the League better understand issues facing the varying geographic regions in the state.
While district meetings are an effective tool for collaboration, they don’t happen often enough to support cities’ and towns’ questions all year. With the emergence of the internet, consistent communication became available. The League took advantage of virtual collaboration by establishing listservs.
In 2009, discussions about Listserv templates began. These would be communication channels for specific groups under the umbrella of municipal government. Listservs provided a place for subject matter experts to ask others about policies within their departments, helping ensure municipalities had access to the wealth of knowledge the state’s cities and towns have to offer.
Now, the League has seven listservs for attorneys, clerks, finance officers, human resources, managers, public information offices, and public works and utilities directors. If you are one of these and do not belong to the listserv already, you can find more information here.
The League also moved into the virtual world by sending electronic communications through LINUS, this would evolve into the electronic communication League members receive today.
“CML has established a subnet of LINUS and LOGIN for Colorado municipalities. It can be used to send electronic messages to all the municipalities at once, instead of sending individual messages. CML is using this subnet primarily for Action Calls and other legislative matters.”
In addition to encouraging municipal collaboration across the state of Colorado, the League played a key role in creating the organization that facilitates nationwide municipal collaboration. In 1924, the League was one of the 10 charter league members of the Association of American Municipal Organizations. Eventually, the Association would become what we know as the National League of Cities. Read more about this in our upcoming story about collaboration.
CML Hists the Road for District Meetings
Training Municipal Officials
Collaboration and training go together at the League. The League has offered trainings on a wide variety of topics ranging from solid waste management to effective governance over the years, and while doing so, has brought municipal representatives together for even more collaboration.
An annual favorite began in 1952: the Legislative Conference, now known as the Annual Legislative Workshop. The League held the conference to engage members in the legislative session, planning a scholarly agenda that analyzed several pieces of pending legislation. One of the pieces of legislation was a highway bill being considered.
When it became known that highway legislation was being considered at the Capitol, conference attendees decided to “politick” rather than merely “study the issues.” Although there was no “march” of dramatic proportions, there was conversation and highway planning was a timely subject. After departing the legislative halls, almost 400 municipal officials, legislators, and spouses gathered in the dining room of the new Denver Chamber of Commerce building for a reception, courtesy of the Denver Chamber and the Denver Council. Unfortunately, League-supported highway legislation was not approved during the 38th General Assembly.
Two decades after the first Legislative Conference, another well-known favorite was hosted for the first time. The League hosted the first Attorney’s Seminar in 1975. The seminar brought together municipal attorneys to discuss legal matters of municipal concern. Each year, this training facilitates collaboration between thought leaders and the opportunity to explore new legal challenges facing municipalities as their landscapes evolve.
While the League has annual favorites, it’s no stranger to one-off events to cover unique topics. Topics over the years have focused on water, resolving conflict, effective governance for mayors and council members, and solid waste.
For instance, in 1962, the League hosted two events at the University of Colorado. The Annual Institute of Mayors and the Annual Institute of City Managers. These events gave municipal leaders the opportunity to share stories, ideas, and challenges with their colleagues from across the state. While the League no longer hosts these events, it does participate in similar collaborative efforts, hosting the Annual Mayors’ Summit each year and regularly attending Colorado City and County Management Association events.
Ensuring statewide access to trainings required more than just a few trainings a year. In 2014, the League began using its current online platform, GoToWebinar, to provide shorter and more specific trainings more frequently. The virtual platform made trainings more accessible for municipalities across the state. The first webinar focused on childcare in rural areas.
Since then, the League has put on hundreds of webinars, collaborating with experts from across the state to help municipal officials better understand the complex topics that cross their desks each day.
To encourage strong municipal governance, the League implemented a training program for municipal elected officials. Initially called the CML Municipal Elected Officials Leadership Training Program, the program was recognized through the state as a quality training opportunity for local government leaders.
While the name might not sound familiar, the program might. It’s now called MUNIversity. Since 1991, hundreds of municipal elected officials have enrolled in this program built to provide opportunities for education and training.
Information has been a part of the League’s effort to support its members since it began. From training programs to collaborative meetings to publications, the League’s role as an information hub has evolved but never wavered. Ensuring our members have access to the most up-to-date information and municipal best practices is essential to ensuring Colorado’s municipalities continue to thrive.