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MRSC Insight Blog


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Local Governments Pursue Zero-Waste Measures

Zero-waste measures for local governments run the gamut from multi-year materials management projects to consumer education on how to recycle or compost properly. The end goals are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and responsibly manage public resources.

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Unpopular but Necessary: What Exactly Is an Essential Public Facility?

What is an essential public facility under the Growth Management Act? An airport? A transit system? A homeless shelter? What facilities can be defined as essential for the public is at the heart of a recent Washington Court of Appeals case.

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Elected Officials and Benefits Programs

Are elected officials considered employees? If so, are they eligible for the various benefits programs provided for in state law? This simple question requires a case-by-case examination of eligible state-based benefits programs. 

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Are You Up-to-Date on the Open Public Meetings Act? Test Your Knowledge

Are You Up-to-Date on the Open Public Meetings Act? Test Your Knowledge

Since 2020, the Open Public Meetings Act has gone through significant changes, requiring local government staff and elected officials to stay abreast of the changes. How confident are you in your OPMA knowledge?

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Map of Washington State showing how frequency of days reaching a humidity index over 90 degrees might change from 2050-2079

A New Climate Planning Tool for Local Governments

The online tool, Climate Mapping for a Resilient Washington, is a compilation of the best existing climate projection information for the state and includes information on state-specific climate hazards such as reduced snowpack, sea level rise, flooding, and more. 

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New Legal Requirements for Job Postings

New Legal Requirements for Job Postings

Beginning January 1, 2023, public and private employers in Washington State with 15 or more employees are now required to include compensation and benefits information in job postings.

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Taking a Break – A Primer on Legal and Other Holidays

Taking a Break – A Primer on Legal and Other Holidays

People love holidays, but how do these impact government? Which holidays will an agency observe? Will offices be closed? Will it include paid time off for staff? To answer these questions, an agency should make its holiday schedule and policies around holidays readily available.

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New Technology, Same Old Open Government Challenges

New Technology, Same Old Open Government Challenges

Software such as Microsoft Teams can help to facilitate communication in a workplace, but the use of such tools is tricky for governing bodies whose meetings must be open to the public and whose communications should be easily searchable if a public records request arises.

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The Breakdown of Compost Product Purchasing

The Breakdown of Compost Product Purchasing

Any agency required to adopt a Compost Procurement Ordinance must also use compost for four specified types of projects and will need to report to the state on compost-related purchases. These agencies have some options in terms of where and how to purchase the product.

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Public Safety Tools — Is a Stay Out of Drug Area Ordinance the Right Tool for You?

Public Safety Tools — Is a Stay Out of Drug Area Ordinance the Right Tool for You?

A Stay Out of Drug Area (SODA) ordinance is one way a local government can restrict the sales or use of illegal drugs in public places. However, SODA ordinances must be well-designed to avoid legal scrutiny and to ensure they do not disproportionally affect certain populations.

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Funding for Broadband Expansion

Funding for Broadband Expansion

Is your local government looking to expand broadband access to un- or underserved communities? Fortunately, there are existing state and federal grant programs to tap for help as well as exciting new federal funding opportunities.

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Local Governments Prepare for Broadband Expansion

Local Governments Prepare for Broadband Expansion

With potential new sources of funding to support the expansion of reliable broadband services, local governments across Washington are busy building partnerships, identifying un- and underserved areas, and planning equitable deployment strategies to reach all communities.

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The Role of Cities and Counties in Keeping Winter Walking (and Driving) Safe

The Role of Cities and Counties in Keeping Winter Walking (and Driving) Safe

When winter approaches, a local government should encourage property owners to maintain sidewalks and keep them safe for pedestrians while also ensuring that it has a well-thought-out plan for keeping its municipal roadways safe and navigable.

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Privacy v. Security: Use of Security Cameras on Government Property

Privacy v. Security: Use of Security Cameras on Government Property

While governmental use of security cameras can be a useful tool, agencies should take care to adopt a policy that outlines the precise ways in which the cameras will be used and how the recordings will be managed. 

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Recapping the November 2022 Ballot Measure Results

Recapping the November 2022 Ballot Measure Results

As with many past elections, this past November brought voters over 100 local ballot measures across the state, from libraries to bond measures to levy lid lifts. New this year, however, were several measures involving ranked-choice voting and home rule charter propositions.

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A Gift? For Me? The Basics of Gifts for Municipal Officers and Employees

A Gift? For Me? The Basics of Gifts for Municipal Officers and Employees

Among many issues that municipal officials and employees should treat with caution is the acceptance of gifts — especially those given in connection with their position or duties. In addition to raising concerns about propriety, acceptance of such a gift may violate state law.

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Complete Streets Flourishing in Washington

Complete Streets Flourishing in Washington

Many Washington cities, towns, and counties have implemented complete streets programs to encourage safe access for all users, regardless of mode of transit. These programs vary from place to place, each meeting the specialized needs of local communities. 

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New Law Requires Compost Procurement Ordinances by January 1

New Law Requires Compost Procurement Ordinances by January 1

A new state law covering organic materials management requires compost procurement ordinances for certain cities, towns, and counties by January 1, 2023. These ordinances must set forth how compost will be procured, purchased, and incorporated into applicable projects.

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Infill Housing Approaches: Targeting the Missing Middle and Accessory Dwellings

Infill Housing Approaches: Targeting the Missing Middle and Accessory Dwellings

As cities and counties look to expand housing supply in their communities, many are considering infill development, or developing vacant or under-utilized parcels within existing, developed areas. Missing middle housing and accessory dwelling units are two options to consider.

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Data as Records: PRA Disclosure of Database Information

Data as Records: PRA Disclosure of Database Information

Fulfilling a public records request that seeks information contained in a database can be challenging. Local government staff must understand they have an obligation to produce data within a database but must come up with a practical method to do so. 

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How Can Local Governments Celebrate the Holidays?

How Can Local Governments Celebrate the Holidays?

Celebrating the winter holidays can be fun, but local governments and their staff and elected officials must think carefully before pulling out decorations, planning parties, or accepting gifts. 

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Care and Feeding of Your Library Collection Policy

Care and Feeding of Your Library Collection Policy

All libraries, whether they are independent districts or part of a city or town, should have both a sound collection management policy and an understanding of how to implement that policy in a way that furthers the library’s mission while reducing legal risks.

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Governor Inslee Ends the COVID-19 Emergency

Governor Inslee Ends the COVID-19 Emergency

The governor officially terminated all remaining proclamations effective at 11:59 PM on October 31. The new documents confirm what we wrote previously, but this article provides a few small clarifications regarding vaccination requirements, face masks, and reporting/notification.

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Legal Publication Requirements and the Decline of the Local Newspaper

Legal Publication Requirements and the Decline of the Local Newspaper

Cities, towns, and counties must designate an “official newspaper” to meet certain publication requirements. Other statutes require notice or publication in a “newspaper of general circulation.” What happens when there are fewer qualified newspapers to choose from?

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Using Levy Lid Lifts to Finance Public Salaries and Services

Using Levy Lid Lifts to Finance Public Salaries and Services

Local governments looking to use levy lid lifts to help with increased costs should carefully consider several issues, such as type, duration, future fiscal need, capacity, and how to best frame the lid lift for a successful vote.

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Annexing Non-Contiguous Territory Outside City or Town Limits

Annexing Non-Contiguous Territory Outside City or Town Limits

The Municipal Purpose Method of annexation is the only method available for a city or town wishing to annex territory non-contiguous to its jurisdictional boundaries. 

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Parking Reform: Part 2

Parking Reform: Part 2

Increasingly, many local governments are shifting away from requiring too much off-street parking, citing social, economic, and/or environmental reasons. What tools can these communities use to better manage existing parking supply and to anticipate future needs?

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New Ninth Circuit Ruling Addresses Anti-Camping Ordinances

New Ninth Circuit Ruling Addresses Anti-Camping Ordinances

Last month, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision that provides clarification and guidance to local governments on camping bans and ordinances. 

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Parking Reform Advances Climate Action, Housing Affordability, and More: Part 1

Parking Reform Advances Climate Action, Housing Affordability, and More: Part 1

While parking is an important commodity for a community, too much parking can prevent the land from being used for another purpose, encourage excess car travel, and possibly make other forms of transportation, like biking or walking, both more complicated and dangerous.

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Managing Unexpected Elections Issues

Managing Unexpected Elections Issues

Sometimes unexpected and unusual situations can arise during the election process, such as a tie between candidates or the withdrawal or death of a candidate before the election takes place.

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Washington’s COVID-19 State of Emergency Ends October 31: What Does this Mean for Local Governments?

Washington’s COVID-19 State of Emergency Ends October 31: What Does this Mean for Local Governments?

Washington's state of emergency and remaining emergency proclamations related to the COVID-19 pandemic are scheduled to be lifted on October 31, 2022. What impact will this have on open public meetings, vaccine mandates, and requirements related to masking and disease tracking?  

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Elections Integrity and Security: Part 2

Elections Integrity and Security: Part 2

In the second part of our series on election security measures, we look at how elections offices verify and tabulate votes to ensure a complete result, and under what conditions and how a recount happens.

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Can the Mayor Take Part in Discussion?

Can the Mayor Take Part in Discussion?

In many cities, the mayor also acts as the meeting chair. While Robert's Rules directs the chair of large groups of 12 or more members to refrain from taking part in a discussion (and focus on facilitating), these rules do not automatically apply to smaller groups.

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Elections Integrity and Security: Part 1

Elections Integrity and Security: Part 1

Free, fair, and accurate elections are a hallmark of our democratic system. Washington State has enacted a number of measures to protect each person’s right to vote and to ensure that elections statewide are safe and secure.

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Equitable Community Engagement in Comprehensive Plan Updates

Equitable Community Engagement in Comprehensive Plan Updates

Many local governments are updating their comprehensive plans, and in doing so, some are looking at how to develop intentional strategies that actively engage underrepresented communities in order to build a more equitable plan update in the process. 

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2022 Court Legislation Impacting Local Governments

2022 Court Legislation Impacting Local Governments

A few bills from the 2022 Regular Legislative Session deal with courts in a manner that will impact local governments, including giving courts more flexibility to not impose certain legal financial obligations or to waive those obligations.  

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Increasing Local Housing Supply Through Missing Middle Housing

Increasing Local Housing Supply Through Missing Middle Housing

Local governments seeking to expand housing options may want to consider a missing middle program that champions use of housing types which may fly under the radar, such as cottage housing, duplexes, and triplexes, alongside more trendy approaches like live-work developments. 

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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Censuring Members of a Governing Body

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Censuring Members of a Governing Body

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling supports the ability of a governing body to censure one of its members if that person's action obstructs or hinders the body's ability to perform its day-to-day functions. 

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Beat the Heat with Heat Pumps

Beat the Heat with Heat Pumps

Some local governments are turning to high-efficiency, electric-powered heat pumps as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including developing programs that incentivize homeowners to install them in their place of residence. 

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Why Are There so Many Types of Cities and Counties? A Guide to Municipal Classifications and Forms of Government

Why Are There so Many Types of Cities and Counties? A Guide to Municipal Classifications and Forms of Government

Washington State has a broad array of local governments that vary in terms of classification as well as form, and these concepts highlight the parameters under which cities, towns, and counties operate and govern.

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New Resource Helps Local Government and Private Contractors Dig Into Public Works

New Resource Helps Local Government and Private Contractors Dig Into Public Works

In partnership with the Washington Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), MRSC is launching "Digging Into Public Works," an initiative that will connect, educate, and engage local government staff and private contractors in the field of public works.

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Budget Hearings: How Many Do You Need?

Budget Hearings: How Many Do You Need?

During budget season, many local government staff and elected officials often wonder how many public hearings are required to complete the budget process. The answer generally depends on type of government and the reason for the hearing. 

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Funding Local Affordable Housing Efforts

Funding Local Affordable Housing Efforts

It can be difficult for cities, towns, and counties to fund local affordable housing programs, but there are some options available, from taxing options to federal and state grant programs. 

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New Legislation, Guidance Targets a Green Energy Future in Washington

New Legislation, Guidance Targets a Green Energy Future in Washington

In a push to carbon neutrality, Washington State agencies and the legislature have put in place laws and mandates designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in buildings, invest in transportation alternatives, reduce waste, and expedite the approval of green energy projects.  

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Supporting/Opposing Ballot Measures and Candidates

Supporting/Opposing Ballot Measures and Candidates

Election season raises many questions for local government staff and elected officials, especially when it comes to ballot measures and candidates running for office. What are the rules for supporting or opposing an issue or a candidate and how do these apply?  

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Closed Captioning: A Language Access Tool

Closed Captioning: A Language Access Tool

SB 5027, which passed during the 2021 legislative session, requires closed captioning be used on televisions in public places, including in local government-owned facilities, when the technology is available.

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Natural Hazards Planning Expertise and Resources for Local Governments

Natural Hazards Planning Expertise and Resources for Local Governments

Because local governments focus on safety and welfare of their communities, they are the first to be called on when a natural hazard strikes. Fortunately state agencies and nonprofits can offer assistance and expertise to better mitigate risk of hazards when regulating land use.

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Responding to Sea Level Rise: A Multijurisdictional Approach to Protecting Downtown Olympia

Responding to Sea Level Rise: A Multijurisdictional Approach to Protecting Downtown Olympia

With a history of flooding and concerns about sea level rise due to climate change, Olympia has teamed up with other jurisdictions to address this potential challenge and safeguard vital services.

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A New Approach for Dealing with Conditional Uses in Your Zoning Code

A New Approach for Dealing with Conditional Uses in Your Zoning Code

Conditional use permits, most often used for certain land uses that might not normally fit into a zoning category but could work if the proposed use meets certain conditions, can be made into a more efficient and effective zoning tool with some modifications. 

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2023 Budget Suggestions is Here

2023 Budget Suggestions is Here

With legislative updates, state shared revenue projections, a preview of the implicit price deflator, and other budgetary and economic information, MRSC’s 2023 Budget Suggestions can help cities and counties develop their budgets for the coming year.

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