January 15, 2020 Columns

Chair’s Message

Martha H. Chumbler

“Holy Hannah!” (to borrow an exclamation from one of our panelists in St. Paul). Our Fall CLE Program and Meeting in St. Paul, MN, was a tremendous success. Despite a drop in temperatures from the 70s to the 30s while we were there and snow flurries—a shock to those like me who came from sunny temperatures in the 90s—we enjoyed wonderful Midwestern hospitality, as well as thought-provoking and informative programs.

Our CLE offerings ranged in subject matter from funding for infrastructure projects to enforcement of campaign finance laws; from methods for addressing vacant and dilapidated properties to local government responses to disasters; from the experiences and legal challenges of refugee and immigrant communities to approaches to doing business with tribes. Each panel included a variety of perspectives and approaches to the issues, with an opportunity for those in attendance to interact with questions and their own perspectives. In addition, continuing a practice begun at the Annual Meeting in August, two of the panels—“The Demise of Single Family Zoning and other Legal Strategies for Addressing Affordable Housing” and “Refugee & Immigrant Communities”—were live streamed, providing those unable to be in St. Paul in person to join the program virtually. Both of those panels are now available on demand, at https://www.americanbar.org/groups/state_local_government/events_cle. By the time this column is printed, the remainder of the CLE programs from St. Paul either will be scheduled for rebroadcast, with the original panelists on hand to answer questions, or be available on-demand through our CLE library.

Mayor Jacob Frey, the Minneapolis mayor, personally welcomed us to the Twin Cities over breakfast on Friday morning. Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul, who served as our featured speaker at the Friday luncheon, echoed that welcome. To cap off the day, the law firm of Fredrikson & Byron, PA, opened the doors of its Minneapolis office to us for a reception on Friday evening, an event that provided both spectacular views of downtown Minneapolis and a history and geography lesson from Jim Dorsey, a now “retired” partner with the firm. A special thank you to Howard Roston for setting that up.

The highlight of the meeting, for many, was our Saturday afternoon tour of Paisley Park Mansion, a full immersion experience into the music, artistry, and life of Prince. I won’t name names, but there were several in attendance who seemed to know every song by heart, as well as having a very detailed knowledge of everything Prince. Dwight Merriam even borrowed Marsha Boone’s purple wig, just to get into the mood of things.

With the St. Paul meeting behind us, the focus now turns to planning for the upcoming months. We will not hold a Section or Council meeting at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Austin, TX, but Erica Powers is organizing what promises to be an enlightening panel titled “Stolen Lands,” focusing on title fractionalization due to heirs’ property, and other land title issues. We are also co-sponsoring a program on implicit bias.

For spring 2020, we will be in Tampa, FL, with two full days of CLE programming and, as always, multiple opportunities to mingle with other Section members. The first day, April 23rd, will consist of the Land Use Institute, with its renowned faculty of experts in the area of land use law offering updates and instruction on a wide range of land use-related topics. The second day, April 24, will focus on government in the age of information technology and social media. Topics addressed will include cybersecurity, government transparency, monitoring and regulation of social media, and the ethical implications of electronic communications. Continuing our tradition of Saturday afternoon adventures, we have arranged for a historic tour of Ybor City, a hub of Cuban immigrants and cigar manufacturing established in the 19th century. Following the tour, we will gather for dinner and to watch flamenco dancing at the Columbia, an iconic Cuban restaurant first established in 1905.

If you haven’t already done so, register today at ambar.org/slgspring20. It promises to be another wonderful meeting (but I promise we won’t have snow flurries).


Martha H. Chumbler

Martha H. Chumbler is of counsel with Carlton Fields in Tallahassee, FL and Chair of the Section.