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No matter what the grade, their policy passed

UW-River Falls students attended a city council meeting last Tuesday as saw their group project become a new city policy. From left are Alex Saxe, Adam Sislo, Jon Washington. Not pictured are group members Mitch Brist, and Brandi Austrum. (Submitted photo)

They may not have been sure yet how they'd done in their Politics of American Cities class, but last Tuesday a group of UW-River Falls students did know their project had passed—at least as far as the City Council was concerned.

Professor Neil Kraus's Politics of American Cities Class was split into groups, and each was assigned to work with a different municipality.

One of those groups, lead by student Alex Saxe, worked with the city of River Falls to create a new policy.

The council approved the policy Tuesday with one amendment. That police provides guidelines for naming rights of city parks or such landmarks.

Saxe said no one in the group was really sure their policy would be adopted by the council.

"It was very exciting, our whole group felt confident that we had created a really well-written policy, but I don't think any of us actually expected it to be adopted."

Assistant City Administrator Julie Bergstrom said the naming right policy was something the city needed.

"And it was a good time because we don't' have a situation where someone does want to donate," Bergstrom said. "It's good to get that policy in place before the need arises."

The naming policy calls for landmarks to be easily identified and located, assure the quality of the title/name of the landmark, and encourage public participation.

The policy also calls for background research when landmarks are proposed to be named for an individual or family. The city council voted to amend that portion of the policy to omit specific descriptions of background checks that may be used.

The policy also states that the city retains the right to rename a landmark if the person or organization for which it is named "turns out to be disreputable or acts in a disreputable way."

The policy applies to donations of $25,000 or more that are made to the city.

According to the policy, landmark naming requests can be sent to the city administrator, in writing.

Requests for minor donations (below $25,0000) will be handled by the city administrator. Anything over $25,000 will be reviewed by the City Council.

Bergstrom said the college students did a great job crafting the policy. Saxe said it took the group months of research, and three drafts

"I thought it was a really great learning experience," Saxe said, "and the fact that the policy ended up being adopted was an extra bonus."

Saxe said he learned a lot from the project.

"I learned how to do research in the real world," he said, "...instead of writing in a paper format."

He said he also learned more about how a city government functions.

Kraus said he's given this assignment to students before, but it's been about eight years since he's given this assignment. But, he said he'd like to do this project more often in the future.

"They get experience in the kinds of work that local governments are doing every single day," Kraus said. "They're kind of learning about the nuts and bolts, the stuff that local governments do."

Kraus said he thought the students enjoyed creating policies that were to be immediately put into practical use. He also said they did a good job.

The UWRF group also included Adam Sislow, Mitch Brist, Jon Washington and Brandi Austrum. Saxe said the whole group really enjoyed the project.

"It was definitely a new experience, and it was a lot better than just writing a standard paper," Saxe said.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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