Contagious disease defined as public nuisance – Minnetrista draft

Twice during my term on the Minnetrista City Council the matter of adopting a new nuisance ordinance (p.27) came up because of an unsightly property on Deer Creek Road. Both times the council was given the option of modifying the nuisance ordinance and chose not to do so. Why? Because it wasn’t necessary. Instead it was suggested the city write a demand letter to the property owner. It was also suggested the city file an abatement order against the property if the owner refused to cooperate. The city never did the latter.

Now the matter is before the current council once again. The city’s contract attorney from Kennedy & Graven has provided the council with a memorandum recommending all kinds of modifications and additions, justifying why each are needed. They get paid by the hour, by the way. They also state in their memo they “were not able to prepare a redline” showing the proposed changes, ostensibly because the new ordinance replaces the old one. Sorry but that is just plain irresponsible to omit a redlined version and shows a lack of respect for the council and city residents.

The section on “Additional Public Nuisances Defined” includes a total of 18 extra nuisances including:

Subd. 10. The public exposure of persons having a contagious disease or condition which
endangers public health, safety or welfare.

Subd. 12. Accumulations of animal waste, litter or manure which pose a risk of pollution of
ground or surface waters or which endanger public health, safety or welfare.

Many of these additions contain overly vague language (pose a risk?) that could conceivably make any Minnetrista residents with an animal a violator of the code.

Below is a letter I wrote to the Mayor and Council today on the matter. I suggest if you’re concerned about property rights in Minnetrista you may want to do the same or attend the next Work Session where it will be discussed on May 3. Download the Work Session Agenda when it’s posted next week and dial into the meeting. Email addresses for city council:;;;;

Dear Madam Mayor and Council Members,

As you know the previous council discussed the city’s nuisance code on two separate occasions (2018 and 2020) for the same reason it has come before the current council, the property on Deer Creek Road. The previous council did not agree to amend the city’s current nuisance code although it was given that option.

One of the suggestions I made in April 2020 was to take steps to abate the property, which was never done. I don’t know why it was never done. The matter just sort of went away but that question needs to be asked.  Attached is a model order for abatement from the League of Minnesota Cities. I would recommend asking the city why, instead of spending thousands of dollars on attorney’s fees to draft a new ordinance, they don’t just file an abatement order on the problem property.

The previous council did not feel it was responsible to incur the cost of drafting a new ordinance after discussing the matter at length. Chief Falls indicated there were only 2 properties, at the time, he was aware of that were problems.

There is no reason whatsoever to add the plethora of new nuisance definitions to the city code when the city could just file an abatement order. Why hasn’t that been done?

Shannon Bruce

Minnetrista opens applications for Planning and Parks Commissions

After a Monday night council meeting, where an issue was made of the fact that Minnetrista has historically reappointed commissioners when their terms expire without notifying the public and giving others the opportunity to serve, the city has posted a notice on their website announcing all open commission seats, expiring as well as vacated. The deadline to apply is December 21.

Below is the notice where an application appears at the bottom of their page:

Job Title: Parks Commission & Planning Commission
Department: Community Development
Hours: Volunteer
Start date: January 2021
Job Description:

Are you interested in getting more involved in your community?  If so, the City of Minnetrista is accepting applications for the volunteer positions of Parks Commissioner & Planning Commissioner.  There is currently one open seat and two open alternate seats on the Parks Commission and two open seats on the Planning Commission all for terms beginning in January of 2021.  Parks Commissioners serve a three (3) year term and meet on the second (2nd) Tuesday of each month, while Planning Commissioners serve a four (4) year term and meet on the fourth (4th) Monday of each month.

A Parks Commissioner works to ensure that the Parks, Trails and Open Space Plan is implemented by reviewing development applications on a case-by-case basis and the annual Parks Capital Improvement Plan.

A Planning Commissioner reviews all applications for development, variances, and other land use applications, while also reviewing proposed policy changes by making recommendations to the City Council for new or updated ordinances.

Alternate members for both the Parks Commission and the Planning Commission are treated the same as full time members in that they are sent the packet in advance of each scheduled meeting.  In the event a full time member cannot attend a meeting, an alternate member is selected to fill in for the absent full time member.

If you or someone you know are interested, please contact City Hall at 952-446-1660 or fill out the application below and send to 

Applications are due by Monday December 21, 2020 at 4:00 P.M.

Update on Another rigged Minnetrista appointment

Ever notice how often chaos ensues when a subject comes up people don’t want to talk about? Claims that have absolutely no basis in fact or reality are made and no one questions anything. Monday night was one of those meetings.

The council had been presented with an application, filed on October 26, before there were any commission vacancies, for a resident to fill either a Parks Commission seat or a Planning Commission seat. There was also an agenda item that night for the council to reappoint 2 Planning Commission members and a Parks Commission member whose terms were expiring at year end. No public notice had been made to fill any of these vacated or expiring positions.

I made my concerns known to the city Administrator before our meeting and the result was the items were pulled from our agenda that evening. The following dialog between myself and Mayor Whalen took place at our work session as she insisted that it has been the city’s policy to advertise for all commission vacancies and expiring terms, despite the fact these agenda items for approving unadvertised commission appointments were on our agenda that very evening. Listen:

Minnetrista council worksession 12/7/2020

“That’s been our policy as well as our practice” Whalen stated as a bizarre dialog ensued claiming the terms “vacated” and “expired” have the same definition. They do not and I’m guessing most readers understand that but someone please tell our mayor. It will be interesting to see what kind of policy staff comes up with for advertising commission openings so they don’t have to advertise for all commission openings. Obfuscation is a specialty in Minnetrista local government.

Minnetrista votes themselves a raise

In the midst of extreme financial burdens in our community caused by “these challenging times” (a euphemism for tyrannical rule) where our neighbors have lost their businesses, lost their jobs and can’t pay their mortgages, our Mayor last night voted herself a 25% raise and the council a 33% increase in annual compensation.

It shouldn’t matter that surrounding cities like Orono, Medina and Wayzata all have compensation for their councils at, or lower than, Minnetrista’s level of $4,800 for mayor and $3,600 for council. A council member in Orono got wind of the proposed increase in Minnetrista and had this to say about it:

Orono Council meeting 12/7/2020

As with all increases in Minnetrista, whether they are fees, taxes, assessments, etc., we heard Mayor Whalen minimize it, as we always do, taking the increase and dividing it by either the number of people, parcels, households or whatever suits the desired outcome to portray the increase as inconsequential. I think someone needs to inform her about basic math and when you add a bunch of small numbers together the sum is always bigger than the parts.

When I consider the last four years of service on the city council, the amount I made probably works out to less than what I made on my first job babysitting. But serving on the council is just that. It is serving. It’s not a salaried job to supplement one’s income or to expect an equal exchange between what is given vs. gotten.

I guarantee my remarks last night will not make it into the council minutes so I will leave them here:

“I realize there is never a good time to increase our own council salaries but I also am sensitive to the very real financial difficulties people in our community are facing. I don’t think any of us do this for the money. It is a community service from my perspective and I trust it is for others. I can’t, in good conscience, increase council and the mayor’s compensation when I know my neighbors can’t pay their mortgage, have been laid off, or have had to close their businesses. I just can’t do that.”

As the last council meeting I attended I’m glad to have had the opportunity to vote No on this irresponsible and ill-timed proposal. The resolution to raise the compensation passed, however, 4-1.

Another rigged Minnetrista appointment

For those that haven’t followed Minnetrista’s political machine chicanery over the years this might come as a surprise but for those who have it will sound, disturbingly, familiar. Remember (here) in March 2018 when a Minnetrista council member announced she was moving and we discovered that two months prior to her announcement a replacement had already been chosen by the Our Minnetrista political committee?

They are at it again only this time it’s a bit more worrisome as the scheme highlights a pattern to shut out resident involvement in our local government.

On October 26, 2020, a full seven days prior to the Minnetrista election being decided, an application was filed by Minnetrista resident Hal Goldstein with the city to replace either Cathleen Reffkin on the city’s Parks Commission OR to replace Damian Young on the city’s Planning Commission. This application was filed a full week BEFORE the election. No notice of any commission vacancies had been made as of October 26 because there weren’t any vacancies as of October 26. Hmm..

Both Cathleen Reffkin, on the Parks Commission, and Damian Young, on the Planning Commission, were candidates in the election for city council. It was clear one of them would be elected and would vacate their commission appointment but the Minnetrista political machine was not going to take any chances that someone, not of their choosing, would apply for either one of the vacancies that could occur.

In our council work session packet for Monday night, December 7, 2020 at 5:30 pm, council members (or at least this council member) learned of the intention to not only interview Mr. Goldstein for this appointment but to appoint him officially at the council meeting following at 7pm. There have been no public notices made about any Minnetrista commission vacancies. I believe Minnetrista deserves to have these vacancies noticed publicly so anyone can apply for them to serve in their community.

As someone that does my homework on anything to do with council decisions I decided to look into Mr. Goldstein’s online presence to get a sense of who he is. I believe in researching candidates for public posts. His application is available to readers in the above work session packet link. Below are public posts made by Mr. Goldstein that anyone can see online:

If there is any question about what political party is in control of Minnetrista there shouldn’t be. Readers will no doubt hear cries of “hyper partisan conspiracy theories” from those involved because they don’t like it when they are exposed. Just remember, they’ve done it before, they are doing it now, and if you ignore it they will do it again.

Here is the information to attend the work session and council meeting Monday night:

Work Session meeting at 5:30pm, call +1 (872) 240-3412 and enter
meeting Access Code 903-087-973 #, or join the meeting from your computer, tablet or
smartphone by accessing the following:

City Council meeting, at 7:00 pm, call +1 (872) 240-3212 and enter meeting
Access Code 691-118-757 #, or join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone by
accessing the following:

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting

History of a bad idea

Every bad idea starts somewhere. Minnetrista passed an ordinance in 2015 making ground mounted solar energy systems a “Permitted Use” on Ag Preserve parcels in the city and is now navigating possible litigation because of it. The purpose of the Agriculture Preserve zoning designation is to, obviously, preserve parcels for agricultural use. One would think that would preclude covering Ag Preserve lands with industrial ground mounted solar energy systems that make it impossible to grow anything. But no.

I started asking myself: How did this bad idea happen? Did a council member come up with it? Staff? An over zealous resident? Or was it initiated by some outside interest? Could our contracted city engineering firm, WSB Engineering, be involved somehow?

I asked the city’s planning department to send me some background and minutes of the meetings regarding the ordinance and this is what I found: A perfect example of outside interests influencing city policy in Minnetrista.

Below is a video from April 2015, several months prior to the ordinance being passed, where a representative from the company SolarStone made a presentation to the city council. Note about 5 minutes into the video he points out the “unique relationship, alliance, partnership” his company has with the city’s contract city engineering firm, WSB Engineering, that does their engineering, planning, environmental and construction services.” Well now, that explain$ a lot.

Perfect example of outside interests influencing city policy

Also note how Whalen just can’t wait to have it brought up at a future work session and when she asks the council if they want to do so and gets absolutely no response she just makes the statement

Also note how Whalen just can’t wait to have it brought up at a future work session and when she asks the council if they want to do so and gets absolutely no response she just announces, unilaterally, that they will schedule a work session to explore it more. And they did. And they passed the ordinance a few months later in July.

What happened?

I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about my Minnetrista mayoral race from those surprised by the outcome so decided to post an explanation:

Going into September it seemed, based on feedback from social media and door knocking, that winning the mayoral race was not only possible but highly probable. Then, two days before voting began, the Superintendent of Westonka Schools, Kevin Borg, dropped a demand letter to me citing alleged false statements related to Lisa Whalen’s campaign having invoiced the Westonka School District for her campaign expenses in her last contested election. He had been aware of the invoice and the subsequent widely shared social media posts regarding it for over a year and a half and had never said anything about it.

Several Westonka school board members are and have been involved in Whalen’s campaign committees including the “Our Minnetrista” political committee that was sanctioned last year for violating campaign finance laws. Mr. Borg, while professing he had sent the demand letter to me “privately” admitted later he had shared it with school board members that supported Whalen’s campaign.

With only two days before voting would begin, this underhanded, politically motivated attack on my credibility went viral on Facebook and Nextdoor social media groups almost immediately. The school’s logo was used to lend credibility to the allegations online and Whalen published Borg’s demand letter on her campaign page. There was not a single false statement made in any of my campaign’s information on the topic and the Whalen campaign and her school board supporters knew that. The Westonka School District and Mr. Borg knew it as well and had no intention of following thru with the implied threat of legal action, should I refuse to retract everything, because they knew everything I had said was factual.

To make absolutely sure the allegations spread throughout Minnetrista Mr. Borg sent an email to all of Westonka School’s “Key Communicators” a few days later asking them to spread the allegations against my mayoral campaign. Confident I would never see his email message, it openly accused my campaign of spreading lies and claimed the evidence showing the illegal invoice from Whalen’s campaign was just a mistake. We all know it wasn’t a mistake and subpoenaed emails from Whalen’s trial last year prove it. And they know it.

Whalen spent over $15,000 to defeat my campaign but she knew she couldn’t do it honestly, so she did exactly as she had in her last contested election where her illegal “Our Minnetrista” political committee dropped a hit-piece against her opponent, just days before the election, spreading false information about him. You can read about that here. Interestingly, it was that hit-piece mailing that was invoiced to the school district. With just a few days till the election there wasn’t enough time for her opponent to address the lies and he lost by a mere 190 votes. History has indeed repeated itself.

Summergate, Ground mounted solar and Salary increases – Minnetrista 11/9/20

Summergate Housing Development: For the Minnetrista council to consider the concept plan for the Summergate housing development, proposed for North of County Road 110W and West of Saunders Lake, first it had to decide whether or not to amend the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan which has those parcels zoned as Urban Reserve (guided for future residential development). Part of the amendment process would be to rezone and extend utilities to the area. The Metropolitan Urban Service Area (MUSA line) abuts the SE corner of the area.

Several residents of the South Saunders neighborhood to the East of the proposed development expressed concerns about increased traffic, safety and demands on the city’s water and sewer infrastructure as well as the housing density in the current concept plan.

Amending the comprehensive plan would have indicated the council’s openness to rezoning and extending utilities and would give the developer an opportunity to submit a revised plan addressing all the concerns.

To amend the city’s comprehensive plan requires a super majority of 4 (out of 5) votes. The council did not vote on the matter as it became clear 3 of the 5 members were opposed to it. The audio of the discussion is available here and starts at about 10:21.

Ground mounted solar on Ag Preserve: There were two items on the council’s agenda regarding ground mounted solar on Ag Preserve properties Monday night. One was to deny the site plan submitted for the solar farm on the parcel located on the NE corner of Highland Road West and CR92 and the other was to impose a moratorium on ground mounted solar energy systems on Ag Preserve parcels.

The council went into a closed session prior to the council meeting regarding possible litigation related to these items.

At the council meeting the resolution to deny the site plan was postponed to the council’s December 7 meeting. The resolution authorizing a moratorium on ground mounted solar energy systems on Ag Preserve parcels was passed and the city will conduct a study for the purpose of determining whether and how to amend the 2015 zoning ordinance that made these systems a “permitted use” on Ag Preserve parcels.

9% wage increase over 3 years for Public Works: Minnetrista’s Public Works employees will receive a 9% wage increase spread out over the next 3 years. The council passed a resolution authorizing the labor agreement on a 4-0 vote with Bruce absent (I had dropped off the council meeting due to illness at approximately 9pm). My one vote wouldn’t have made a difference and I was too miserable to argue about union negotiations that exclude council members and are conducted solely by the city administrator.

Tonight’s council meeting – Listen live

Minnetrista’s city council will be reviewing the concept plan for the “Summergate” housing development proposed for North of County Road 110W and West of Saunders Lake along with a number of other agenda items readers can review in the November 9, 2020 council packet.

There will also be discussion on a resolution to authorize a study of ground mounted solar energy systems as they relate to Ag Preserve zoned properties (Ord. 461). The agenda lists it as simply imposing a moratorium on ground mounted systems but the resolution calls for a study, not just a moratorium, to evaluate whether and how to amend the 2015 ordinance that made them a “permitted use” on Ag Preserve parcels.

To listen live to the Minnetrista City Council meeting at 7pm tonight, November 9: call +1 (312) 757-3121 and enter meeting Access Code 498-912-997 #, or join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone by accessing the following:
New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting

To listen live to the Minnetrista Work Session meeting at 5:30pm tonight, call +1 (646) 749-3112 and enter meeting Access Code 138-217-013 #, or join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone by accessing the following:
New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting

Work Session packet for November 9 includes a discussion of the Park Dedication and Tree funds as well as a Recycling Fund budget discussion.

Minnetrista 2020 election results

Congratulations to all the Minnetrista candidates that won by working hard, door knocking and engaging with residents in person and on social media. It was a pleasure working with you and I wish you well! Minnetrista election results:

A sincere thank you to the voters that supported my mayoral campaign, the donors that invested in a vision for integrity in our local government and all the volunteers that door knocked, put up signs, made videos, and weren’t afraid to engage in conversations about things that matter. You are the best!