The inside story on Minnetrista local issues: This blog is to inform citizens and give them a perspective on matters of importance in Minnetrista, MN. Opinions posted here are my own and do not reflect official positions of any public body or official.
I learned a few days ago that both Minnetrista City Council incumbents, whose terms expire at year-end, Pam Mortenson and John Tschumperlin, will not be running again.
When I pulled out the city’s “Minnetrista Messenger” Summer Newsletter out of my mail box just now I expected to see an announcement of some sort. I would think that’s fairly newsworthy. Seeing none I decided to fire up the blog to let everyone know.
From serving on the city council I know how important it is to find good people, willing to do the work and to steward our tax dollars wisely. Local government affects you, your pocketbook, environment, schools and culture more than you know.
Interested in running? Stop by city hall (7701 County Road 110W) between August 2 and August 16 and register to be on the ballot in November. You must be a resident living in Minnetrista to run.
Minnetrista residents owe a big thank you to a resident that cares enough about his city to research and evaluate water infrastructure plans and speak into them with some clear thinking.
Should the city spend $20,000 to $30,000 on engineering analysis to determine if it should buy $5K-$7K worth of water from St. Bonifacius to deal with Minnetrista’s water shortfall for summer irrigation requirements? Mr. Dakolios thinks not. How about just paying St. Bonifacius for the water?
I haven’t blogged for quite a while; however, I just learned the building out of a gun range is once again on the Minnetrista city council’s worksession agenda Monday night, May 2 at 5:30pm. Meeting is at city hall so the public can attend.
There is no reason to incur hundreds of thousands of ongoing annual operational expenses over the years when there are plenty of gun ranges available for training our public safety officers at minimal expense. Other nearby gun ranges allow public safety officers to use them. This is just another excuse to expand facilities, budget and overhead that will lead to more property tax increases.
This issue was voted on in the community survey:
I’ve blogged about this issue a number of times here, here, and here. This is a bad idea that just keeps coming back. This is what happens when the government has a surplus of your money and desperately needs to spend it!
Powerline Blog’s John Hinderacker posted an excellent discussion this morning on Critical Race Theory (CRT) being the top issue in school board elections throughout the country. I encourage voters to read it here: CRT: IT DOESN’T EXIST…AND IT’S AWESOME! The local Westonka community has had it’s share of these discussions and the issue will hopefully drive a much higher turnout to the school board election tomorrow, November 2, than most.
CRT, as Hinderacker states, “is a racist and anti-American set of dogmas” and is a vehicle to influence our students’ perceptions of the world and indoctrinate them. We must ask current school board members why they don’t denounce it. To claim it doesn’t exist is nonsense but unfortunately that is all the incumbent school board members are willing to say and how they have evaded the issue that everyone else is aware of.
GET TO THE POLLS, WESTONKA, AND VOTE!
November 2, Polls open from 7am-8pm. Two locations:
Mount Olive Lutheran Church fellowship hall, 5218 Bartlett Blvd., Mound
School district offices, Educational Service Center community room, 5901 Sunnyfield Rd. E., Minnetrista
Westonka Schools established additional criteria for people to serve as election judges on their absentee ballot board for their 2021 school board election scheduled for November 2. One had to have served as an election judge in the 2020 general election in order to serve. At least that’s what this Republican applicant was told by the school administrator.
The school board then appointed five school employees, who had not served as election judges in the 2020 general election, to their absentee ballot board and appointed them election judges as well. When they realized that ruffled the community they called a few ‘real’ election judges and scheduled them for a few absentee ballot board duty shifts. The problem is these five school employees, who do not qualify to be election judges according to the school’s criteria, are, and have been, scheduled on the ballot board duty roster without ANY election judges present since the beginning of October.
This means employees of the school are accepting and rejecting ballots for the same candidates who will have authority over them and their livlihoods. This is the very reason the legislature mandates that election judges, and not government staff, must accept and reject absentee ballots. Elections should be fair and free of any appearance of conflicts of interest. No one is accusing anyone at Westonka Schools of mishandling ballots and that is not the point here. The point is the Westonka school board has shown contempt for Minnesota election law by violating statutes they have been made aware of:
I noticed last weekend the supposedly brand new “independent” political committee promoting the incumbent Westonka school board candidates had not filed a campaign finance report, despite seeing lots of signs around town. So, I sent an email to the address listed on their signs asking why. I got a response on Sunday that they had filed their report with the school district. Miraculously Sunday afternoon their report was uploaded to the school district’s campaign finance page. Guess that was an oversight. I can overlook oversights.
What I first noticed, upon opening the We Are Westonka campaign finance report filed Sunday, October 17, was that the political committee’s expenditures far exceeded their reported contributions on this first (ever) report. In fact they only reported $100 in contributions while spending over $1,100 on signs and buttons. Hmm. A brand new committee isn’t going to have funds to carry over…unless they’re not brand new….I’m confused.
A campaign finance report is supposed to account for all contributions and all expenditures but this one clearly did not.
I noticed reports filed by Yes Westonka, the former political organization that pushed the school’s past bond referendums, and this is what I found:
The Yes Westonka Annual Report 19-20 showed a $1,200 contribution from the Teacher’s Union and showed cash on hand of $1,498.20. To-date no subsequent reports show expenditures of those funds.
The Yes Westonka Annual Report 20-21 shows $0 contributions, $0 expenditures but, interestingly, the “cash on hand” field was deleted entirely from the report. Was there a reason they didn’t want to show the $1,498.20 sitting in the account prior to the school board 2021 election? Did they think they could just delete a mandated field from a required report and no one would notice? What happened to the $1,498.20??
The signature at the bottom of both Yes Westonka reports is Lori Wollner, school board incumbent Gary Wollner’s spouse. Well, that explains why they couldn’t use Yes Westonka as an independent political committee now, doesn’t it.
This is the kind of thing one could file and win a campaign finance violation over, but why? The complainant would likely incur thousands in attorneys fees and the political committee would get a slap on the wrist without any meaningful consequences.
Better to just let the community know and ask the school district why they are overlooking these violations.
If you are a Minnetrista resident and want to get involved in your community consider filling outMinnetrista’s Application for Commissions and Committees and volunteer to be on the city’s Planning Commission or Parks Commission. Each commission has two seats to be appointed with terms beginning January 2022. There is one incumbent on each commission requesting to continue and one open seat on each commission as well. Applicants interview with the city council and are appointed by the council.
Planning Commission The Minnetrista Planning Commission consists of seven (7) members and two (2) alternate members who serve as a volunteer advisory commission appointed by the City Council. The Planning Commission is a recommending body to the City Council which reviews public and private development proposals for consistency with the Comprehensive Plan and the City Code. The commission meets the fourth Monday of each month. Each commissioner serves a four (4) year term.
Parks and Recreation Commission The Minnetrista Park and Recreation Commission consists of five (5) members and two (2) alternate members who serve as a volunteer advisory commission appointed by the City Council. The purpose of the commission is to advise the City Council in the providing of recreational areas and facilities in relation to land use and citizen requests within the community. In addition to the five (5) members, a council member designated by the council is an ex-officio nonvoting member of the commission. The commission meets the second Tuesday of each month. Each commissioner serves a three (3) year term.
This school board election is one of the most important votes you will ever cast and will determine the curriculum and values taught to our students for years to come.
There is literally NO EXCUSE not to vote. You can vote any weekday between now and the official “election day” of November 2 by going to the school district offices (doesn’t matter what precinct you’re in) at 5902 Sunnyfield Rd. E, Minnetrista. Bring an ID with you because technically this is absentee voting, but it’s “no excuse absentee voting”. Between Oct. 26 and election day the process is a bit more simple and voters can feed their ballot directly into the voting machine intead of putting it in a sealed envelope to be processed by the absentee ballot board.
The above challengers are focused on education, not politics, and making sure our students get the skills they need to become productive adults in our communities. In my opinion any of them would be preferrable to the incumbents below. GET OUT AND VOTE!
Current school board incumbent candidates (running again) are:
Brian Carlson: Unable to locate candidate FB page or website at time of publishing Loren Davis: Unable to locate candidate FB page or website at time of publishing Gary Wollner: Unable to locate candidate FB page or website at time of publishing
Approximately an hour after yesterday’s blog post was published regarding the school board’s improper resolution appointing school employees to its ballot board, the school sent a letter to election judges inviting them to serve on the absentee ballot board for the school board election.