Westonka Schools to decide on $91.5M November bond referendum

The Westonka School Board is meeting Monday night, June 5, 2023 at 6pm in the Performing Arts Center to discuss a facilities $91.5M bond referendum for the November 2023 ballot. The bond would ultimately cost school district taxpayers $170M according to the school’s financial analysis, more than doubling the district’s current debt load.

According to the MN Department of Education Score Card, Westonka schools have shown a continuous decline, since 2019, in the number of students meeting standards in math. Westonka’s students are also performing worse today than they were in 2018 in all three core areas of math, reading, and science.

This is not a facilities problem. However, the school district, nonetheless, is asking taxpayers to open their wallets, once again, to hand them an additional $91.5M to upgrade facilities. Their last successful facilities bond referendum was for $22M in 2016.  

In order to figure out how much taxpayers were willing to fork over for different kinds of “facility improvements” the school district conducted two, separate, community surveys within the past year. The latest was completed in May of 2023. Both surveys were very similar, focusing on voter perceptions of school performance, capacity, funding, etc. Although the questions were similar on both, the number of people surveyed and the amount of the proposed referendums were significantly different.

The first survey, completed in September 2022 asked 400 participants about their views on a proposed $65M bond referendum. The second, subsequent survey, asked 625 participants about a $93M bond referendum. The earlier September survey was discovered by this author only after a data practices request showed the school district had paid Morris Leatherman $16,000 for the first survey and then paid them an additional $9,000 for the second one.

Readers might wonder why the school district only publicized the results of the latter, second survey. The following could be why:

First Survey (400 participants/$65M referendum):

  • “lack of funding” was indicated by only 16% as a serious issue.
  • “facility needs” was indicated by only 3% as a serious issue.
  • 40% indicated they were “unsure” or “nothing” was a serious issue with the school district.
  • Job performance rating of teachers far exceeded ratings for school board members and administrator (question was dropped from 2nd survey)
  • 44% said property taxes were high
  • 59% said school is adequately funded
  • 84% said school facilities were Excellent or Good
  • 38% opposed “HS Stadium” referendum spending
  • Only 21% didn’t agree with the statement “Westonka School District currently provides for sufficient learning spaces”
  • Only 38% didn’t agree with the statement “Westonka has enough school space to accommodate enrollment”
  • Survey showed a large majority, 57%, were labeled “persuadables,” (i.e., not totally supportive) of a $65M referendum.

Some additional reasons could be:  

  • Survey #2 showed a smaller percentage of “persuadables” at 47% regarding a $93M referendum (total opposition went up from 22% to 26% with increased amount).
  • Both surveys showed that 40% of residents are unwilling to support any property tax increase over $8/mo, and the proposed $91.5M referendum is estimated to cost a $500K homeowner $244 per year for 25 years ($6,100 total). That’s on top of the $132 per year ($2,000 total) that homeowner is already paying for the last $22M facilities referendum in 2016.
  • The referendum amount of $65M on the first survey showed a smaller percentage thinking the proposal was a “bad idea” (21%) vs 29% thinking the $93M referendum was a “bad idea” on survey #2.
  • When asked if the referendum amount was a “Fair Price,” answers went from 35% saying “No” to the $65M referendum, to $40% saying “No” to the $93M referendum.

For those who would like to ask questions of the Westonka school board or examine the surveys and presentations regarding the proposed referendum, you can find all the information on the school’s website.

Ranked Choice Voting – The Left’s attack on competence

It’s easy to manipulate legislators and voters who are confused. And even our RCV loving Secretary of State is pumping the brakes, ever so softly, on this legislation because of RCV’s “complexity.” Most people, including state legislators, can’t even begin to explain how it works because RCV vote counting, despite the propaganda, is anything but simple.

We all know Left wing ideas don’t need to be understood before being embraced by the masses. If the right buzz words are attached and repeated often enough, via bankrolled advertising campaigns, that’s usually enough to pull in low information voters.

The buzz words dropped Friday at the capitol during the Left’s rally for RCV included the usual “equity, inclusion, diversity” chants along with promising “marginalized” and “POC” candidates more opportunities to acheive public office. All of that sounds very virtuous. Who doesn’t want to encourage good candidates to run for office? Answer: The Left.

Ranked Choice Voting is the Left’s latest weapon against competence. First, RCV does not count every ranked choice vote. It elevates only the votes of those who vote for “fringe,” or losing, candidates. Fringe candidates are those who receive the fewest votes and are typically without much experience, competence or public trust/support. That’s why they end up on the bottom. But, get this, only the second choice votes from the bottom candidate get redistributed to the other candidates until a majority is won. RCV gives the least qualified candidates, and their supporters, proportionally more control over our election outcomes. How is this a good idea? One need only look at the Minneapolis City Council (elected using RCV) to answer that.

Individual attributes demonstrating excellence and competence are important when evaluating people for all sorts of critical jobs like surgeons, pilots, architects, teachers, and, I’d argue, elected leaders who vote on public policy.

Our current political process, as flawed and imperfect as it is, provides a means to compete with other candidates to determine the most qualified. Our current election process also allows for run-off elections where, if necessary, voters get to choose between two top candidates they know, rather than casting a blind “automatic” second choice having an unknown impact on the final outcome.

The word meritocracy has gotten a bad rap recently in our woke culture, seeing its meaning (i.e., Rule by merit or talent, established by competition) distorted and equated with “bias,” which, interestingly, shows up as an antonym for the word! If you look up antonyms of “meritocracy” you’ll find: discrimination, prejudice, inequity, bias, unfairness, partisanship, one-sidedness, etc.

Discrimination? Bias? Inequity? Unfairness? Aren’t these things we all abhor? Shouldn’t we embrace, then, the opposite? Shouldn’t we embrace, then, meritocracy and the competition among candidates which leads to the best ones being elected? The Left thinks not.

RCV makes it harder for candidates to win who are vetted, experienced, competent, intelligent and, most importantly, have broad public support. In addition, it benefits the Left and its splinter parties (Grassroots Legalize Cannabis party, Legal Marijuana Now party, Green Party) by giving their voters more influence (more votes) in our elections. Implementation of RCV would virtually guarantee the end of our ability to elect the best and brightest leaders, whether they be POC, women, marginalized or of different faiths. There’s nothing good about that.

The less qualified, inexperienced, and ignorant our elected leaders are, the easier they are to control and manipulate with propaganda. RCV delivers on that promise.

Minnetrista Planning & Parks Commission – Apply Here!

Looking for an opportunity to be involved in your community? How about serving as a Planning or Parks Commission member for the City of Minnetrista?

These are volunteer advisory positions to the City Council that meet once per month and are a great way to not only learn about all the development projects in our city but to give guidance to the council. Minnetrista is growing and it’s important how that growth occurs.

Deadline to apply is Wednesday, November 23, 2022

There is one open Planning Commission seat and two alternate seats to be filled on the Planning Commission. There are three Parks Commission seats and one alternate seat to be filled on the Parks Commission.

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 Planning 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 Parks Commission meets the second Tuesday of each month. Each commissioner serves a three (3) year term.

Applicants will be interviewed by the City Council prior to being appointed. For more information visit the City of Minnetrista website.

MGB Endorses Andrew Myers for House (SD45A)

I normally limit endorsements to Minnetrista city council candidates but our State House candidates are vying to represent Minnetrista in the legislature and one of them deserves your support. If you haven’t already met him door knocking, take a look at Andrew Myers’ “Your Backyard” website. You’ll see an experienced public official, attorney, small business owner, father and community leader who cares deeply about his district.

I met Andrew Myers several years ago when we were both city council members from neighboring cities, he from Minnetonka Beach and I from Minnetrista, both serving on the Mound fire board. What I observed there was a servant leader with a commitment to his community.

Andrew isn’t someone that goes along to get along. He’s someone who will stand up for his principles and values even in the face of controversy or conflict. I saw that firsthand when he stood up to pressures from other cities on the fire board and did the right thing for his constituents.

He’ll do the same in our State House dealing with tough issues on crime, inflation, education and more. I hope you’ll join me in voting for Andrew Myers for House District 45A.

Find your polling place and remember to vote on Election Day, November 8!

Minnetrista Council Candidates 2022 – Youngren and Lacy are MGB picks

The League of Women Voters city council candidate forum was Thursday, September 29 at city hall. I’m not a fan of the highly partisan LWV organization but they do seem to have a monopoly on local government candidate forums in Minnesota, so I went to listen. The video recording of the forum was just posted this afternoon.

Minnetrista city council candidates :
Heather Charles
Claudia Lacy (unable to attend forum)
Peter Vickery
Jake Youngren

In typical fashion many of the questions were leading. “How will you provide for Minnetrista’s affordable housing needs…” (which presumes a need) vs. a better phrased question: “What are your thoughts on developing affordable housing projects in Minnetrista?” which would leave a candidate the option of discussing the pros and cons of the issue. I encourage readers to watch the forum and listen for the premise bias in many of the questions.

The best one went something like this: “Would you support inviting bids for garbage services to reduce the costs of garbage collection for residents?” Who wouldn’t want that, right? What the question really meant was ‘Would you support putting all the garbage haulers presently doing business in Minnetrista out of business so the city would have a monopoly?’ Heather Charles supported this and was dropped from my list.

I was actually shocked to hear an honest question asked: “Would you support the city hiring it’s own professional engineer?” Come to find out, that question wasn’t one LWV came up with but was submitted by a concerned resident. In my years on the city council I had been a vocal advocate for hiring our own municipal engineer, so that WSB Engineering wouldn’t have total control over all the proposals, feasibility studies, design and contracting of all the city’s road and water projects.

Both Peter Vickery and Heather Charles dismissed what’s been called “the WSB problem” out of hand saying they thought the city wasn’t big enough to justify a staff engineer. Jack Youngren, took a more thoughtful approach, without dismissing the possibility, saying he would make the right fiscal decision after vetting the issue properly. Sounds like hope to me.

Youngren also demonstrated the same approach when asked about the controversial issue of affordable housing development in Minnetrista. Indicating it isn’t a foregone conclusion the matter has been resolved he said he would consider “when and if we want that…” The other candidates simply spoke of how and where to put affordable housing.

There was one council candidate missing last night because of an important family event. Claudia Lacy could not attend but I spoke to her by phone and found her to be very thoughtful in approaching city matters. She runs a local nonprofit (Langdon House) and would be an excellent steward of taxpayer dollars and has an impressive background in finance as well.

I encourage voters to watch the video of the forum and make up their own minds. I’ve made up mine. I’m voting for Jake Youngren and Claudia Lacy because they both appear to be candidates with a mind of their own, who take fiscal responsibility seriously, value competition and understand the role the council plays in holding vendors and the administration accountable.

The only candidate website that turned up today was the one below but watch The Laker for candidate surveys coming out soon:

Jack Youngren: https://voteyoungren.com/

Two open-seats on Minnetrista City Council in November election

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.

2022 Minnetrista City Council Meeting

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.

Some clear-headed thinking

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?

Sigh…gun range discussions again

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!

Let your city council members know what you think: lwhalen@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; amacgregor@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; creffkin@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; pmortenson@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; jtschumperlin@ci.minnetrista.mn.us

Critical Race Theory in Westonka Schools

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.


November 2, Polls open from 7am-8pm. Two locations:

  1. Mount Olive Lutheran Church fellowship hall, 5218 Bartlett Blvd., Mound
  2. School district offices, Educational Service Center community room, 5901 Sunnyfield Rd. E., Minnetrista

To determine your polling location, use the Secretary of State pollfinder, http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

Westonka Schools’ contempt for election law

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: