February 14, 2019

Texas on the Wall: Where discussion of the U.S.-Mexico border wall has been hot

On the cusp of a second government shutdown, President Trump’s border wall is a hot topic of discussion among Texas communities beelining the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

While national-level media outlets are expected to effectively communicate the current climate anywhere across America at anytime, the telephone-game structure of journalism — especially in recent weeks — sometimes falls short of telling the whole story the way we want to hear it:

Directly from the people who experience it.

Spotlighting the voice of local municipalities is what Curate does every week.

This week, during the most controversial federal fiscal decision of this congressional session, we dove into the local discussion records from municipalities across southern Texas.

Below is a heat map of local discussions in the last two years surrounding keywords related to the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, such as “border security”.

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Take, for example, citizens in Alamo, Texas who, in 2017, proposed and approved a resolution against the border wall when it was initially proposed:

“Mr. Ozuna read the Resolution … Whereas, the billions of dollars that have been requested for new border walls could be better spent on improved infrastructure and other needs in the City of Alamo and in the Rio Grande Valley ... Mayor Pro-tem Molly Gallegos motioned to approve the resolution opposing the Border Wall and especially along the boundaries of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.”

Some may say national media outlets tend to communicate a hot issue, like the border wall, as a metaphor for taking a stance on extremes: anti-immigration versus pro-immigration, a safe America versus an unsafe America.

But at Curate, our focus is to simply, and unbiasedly, find those hot issues important to local communities verbatim from their municipality meeting minutes and agendas.

And each community is different, with unique challenges, priorities, and opportunities that don't fit to print in the national media, or even some local media.

In a perfect world there’d be enough journalists to document every issue brought up in every town across America — but, in reality, not enough of us care to know about each one. 

The absence of the journalist, however, does not equate to the absence of an audience who does care, like associations.

By tapping into local discussion records of the communities themselves, Curate is able to provide the story to people who are directly impacted by the decisions these municipalities make on a daily basis.

January 11, 2019

Where construction was hot in Q4

DOWNLOAD HERE

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If you attend your local city council, you might get a complimentary agenda for showing up.

Do you read it word-for-word? Maybe not.

But, chances are you skim for anything that catches your eye to give you peace of mind for sticking it out for the next 59 minutes or more.

Whether it be land getting rezoned for new use, such as Agriculture to Manufacturing, or a certified survey map to combine a few parcels of land, certain keywords just scream CONSTRUCTION!

Worth the stay if you're a general contractor, banker, or engineer.

But, it's not humanly possible to attend every city council, and no one has the time to skim through every agenda or minutes document posted online by every municipality in every county you care about.

That's why we built Curate.

Curate mines hundreds of thousands of those minutes and agendas documents posted each week on municipality websites for specific keywords mentioned in discussion, just like you a human would.

Gathering this geographically-sensitive data over time, we're able to piece together the big picture of construction activity across an entire state.

See where construction was hot in Q4 throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois' Chicagoland in our latest heat maps:

DOWNLOAD HERE

December 13, 2018

Expert Take: Why chambers of commerce should be involved with their local municipality government

Q&A with Scott Manley, Vice President of Government Relations at
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce

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Tell us about your role at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
I’m the Senior Vice President of Government Relations. I oversee our team of lobbyists who communicate with legislators, their staff, and executive branch agency staff and explain to them our position on issues that impact businesses when they are attempting to change policies.

Why is it important for chambers of commerce to be involved in their local municipality governments?
The most important reason is that local governments make a lot of decisions that significantly impact businesses and impact whether or not their business will be profitable. One of the biggest taxes that a business pays every year is the property tax. The property tax is 100 percent a local-government tax and businesses pay almost $3 billion per year every year in property taxes to local governments. There are also a lot of other types of fees that local governments asses against businesses. For example, about 120 or so municipalities in Wisconsin have established what’s called a stormwater utility and they pay for it by enclosing fees on their property owners, which almost always fall the heaviest on businesses.

How much attention should chambers of commerce be paying to municipality governments?
I think they should be paying a lot of attention because municipal governments make a lot of decisions that significantly impact businesses. I would argue that there is less and less attention being paid in traditional-print media outlets to what is happening at the local-government level. So, it’s increasingly difficult for businesses to keep tabs on what is going on at the local government level and really know what’s happening. The local chamber of commerce could be watching that on behalf of their members, and communicating what is happening to their members. That would be a significant value to their membership. 

Who in the government should chambers of commerce be involved with?
I think certainly at the local-government level. If it’s a city, they should be involved with the mayor; if it’s a village, then the village president; if it’s a town, then the town board chair; and at a county level, then there is a county executive. Either way, they would want to have a relationship with those individuals because they are the top decision-makers at the local level. However, they also need to have a relationship with the actual members of the decision-making body. So, in the case of the city, we would be talking about the city council. In the case of a village, we would be talking about a village board of trustees; if it’s a township, then the town’s supervisors; and at the county level, it would be the county board of supervisors. 

Can you talk through actionable steps that associations can take when they see issues that impact businesses?
For chambers of commerce, I think that one of the most important things they can do is to make sure that their members are aware of what’s going on. If businesses don’t know that it’s happening, then they’re not going to be able to participate in the decision-making in any kind of meaningful way. So, I would say the first step is awareness — make sure businesses know what’s going on. I think it’s about being an advocate, communicating, and making sure that the people who are elected to make the decisions at the local-government level understand the perspectives of the businesses that are going to be impacted. 
 

Scott Manley joined WMC in 2005 after serving more than ten years as a policy advisor in the Wisconsin State Senate. He now serves as chief lobbyist for WMC, and oversees the government relations program by directing a team of lobbyists and policy experts. Manley also currently serves as Vice President of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council and serves as Vice Chairman of the Great Lakes Legal Foundation.

November 06, 2018

Election Day isn't just for Capitol Hill

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It's Election Day, and if you've made it to the polls on time, congrats! 

While voting in a non-presidential race may not be as exciting, we all know mayoral and gubernatorial elections have the most impact on our everyday life.

Here are three ways how:

  1. Non-federal government officials have a say in how millions of dollars of your taxes are spent in your own backyard.
  2. Policy decisions approved by your state or city legislative bodies can be vetoed by a mayor or governor.
  3. Ordinances passed by one city can get easily passed in neighboring cities, and even by the state if it reaches the Legislature.

On a weekly basis, Curate sees the direct impact mayors have on city councils reviewing proposed policy changes, such as minimum-wage or mining ordinances.

Our software scans hundreds of thousands of unique municipality meeting minutes and agendas, and we can testify that in cities from 2,000 in population to 200,000, mayors have an incredible amount of decision making power — and the same goes for governors as well.

Whether you're voting for mayor or governor (or both!) remember that all policy starts with the government leaders closer to your house than the White House.

The Curate team will always be proud to vote in our state and local elections!

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