Exposure to light affects growth

Exposure to light affects growth…in government and taxes. I was concerned when I heard the retirement of Mound’s annual bond payment of $282,000 on their city hall building, which was coming to an end in 2022, was referred to as a “windfall” and conversations ensued around how to spend that money after the building was paid off (see previous post “Windfall dilemma” here).

abstract beach bright clouds

As you may know Minnetrista pays approximately $75,000 annually toward Mound’s bond payment (Minnetrista contracts with Mound for fire services) and has done so since 2004 and will have paid over $1.3 million by the end of 2022.

I asked for this matter to be put on a Minnetrista city council agenda. My belief was, and is, that Minnetrista’s $75K annual payment should stop once the bond is retired. Period. Under no circumstances is it reasonable to support bundling this $75K payment into our annual contract for services or to let it continue being used past 2022 for anything other than what it was originally intended. If there are other things Mound Fire needs in the future, i.e., new fire trucks, apparatus, radios, or administrative costs, those items should be budgeted just like anything else, justified and allocated to the cities they contract with.

My request for the agenda item was granted and staff invited Mound’s Fire Chief to present to the council before our work session discussion.

Although it was a challenge to get the discussion focused on my primary concern it eventually was and I was pleased to find support from other council members that agreed conversations about what to do with this “windfall” shouldn’t be entertained.

 

 

 

 

Meet Minnetrista candidates Wed Jan 22 at 7pm Woodland Cove

PLEASE SHARE WITH MINNETRISTA NEIGHBORS! Candidates for the Minnetrista city council and mayoral race will be at the Woodland Cove Clubhouse, 3800 Woodland Cove Pkwy, Minnetrista, next Wednesday, January 22 at 7pm. Come join your neighbors for a cup of coffee and conversation about Minnetrista. Hope to see you there! Please RSVP to: cathleen.reffkin@outlook.com (Woodland Cove host) so there’s enough coffee!

Event is paid for by the Shannon Bruce for Mayor Committee.

 

 

 

Let’s be honest

The Laker article below was 100% blatantly false, yet after more than two weeks and requests for a correction The Laker hadn’t corrected it. Minnetrista, as we all know from examining our property tax bills, has had a tax levy increase every year since 2012 except one. This article states, no less than four times, that this is the first levy increase since 2012.

Laker Dec 21 Article

I wrote about the misinformation when it was discovered here on December 21 and learned that the reporter had been in contact with city staff as she developed the story. What the city put out to the public, and the reporter, was that this was the “first general fund levy increase since 2012,” which is a misleading statement designed to obfuscate the fact that, in reality, there has actually been a tax levy increase every year since 2012 except one.

Is it any wonder the reporter fell prey to the obfuscation?

What most people don’t know is there are several funds, other than the “general fund,” included in the tax levy. There is a debt fund, a road maintenance fund, and a CIP levy that, in addition to the general fund levy, comprise the taxable levy. This article leads readers to believe they are long overdue for higher taxes and takes advantage of their not understanding the complexities of the municipal tax levy.

Interestingly, the day after the January 6 council meeting above the Laker posted a story actually perpetuating the misinformation saying “Next year’s levy increase is the first increase to the general fund in eight years” without addressing the blatantly false statement made in their December headline above.

You can watch the entire January 6, 2020 Minnetrista council meeting here.

Correction: In the video clip above I misspoke saying “We have residents believing there was no levy increase this year” when I meant to say “We have residents believing there has been no levy increase for years.” My apologies.

Cities still wary and apparently weary of GreenStep Cities program

I’ve been a vocal advocate protecting private property rights in Minnetrista from the overreach of the Met Council’s GreenStep Cities program. Some good work today from our friends at the Center of the American Experiment:

american experiment

Communities Still Wary of GreenStep Cities Program at 10 Year Mark

This week the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) heralds the ten-year anniversary of the GreenStep Cities climate change program that presses local governments to factor environmental sustainability into everything from budgets to ordinances, land use and long-range planning.

The program offers more than two dozen so-called Best Management Practices with 175 actions and lots of paperwork for participating communities. The recommendations include options that could significantly alter daily life like limiting parking places, reducing salt use in winter, mandates and bans on consumer products and packaging,  monitoring wood burning in fireplaces, encouraging keeping chickens and bees, even phasing in “bike, foot or horseback modes for police, inspectors and other city staff.” And that’s just the beginning.

On the GreenStep website and Facebook page, state officials tout the 131 cities and three Native American tribes involved in the program aimed at reducing communities’ “carbon footprint.”

Yet an American Experiment analysis reveals that a decade into GreenStep only a handful—a total of 15 Minnesota cities–has completed all five levels of the program. All but two did so within the last year.

At the same time, several cities have postponed or rejected participation in the increasingly controversial GreenStep program. Pushback from a group of concerned citizens led to a contentious public meeting in Little Falls that convinced local elected officials turn down GreenStep last year.

“We went in with about a dozen people and made a big stink,” said Greg Smith, a Little Falls resident. “We did our homework, we knew what we were talking about. We brought up all these issues and they promptly shut it down.”

The East Grand Forks City Council also recently discussed GreenStep but ultimately had as many concerns as the last time they passed over the program in 2014.

“At this point, it’s not on our front burner,” said David Murphy, East Grand Forks City Administrator. “We’re way up here in the northwestern part of the state and we try to stay off their (MPCA) radar as much as possible. We don’t go out of our way to invite them up here.”

RELATED: Plymouth Steps Back From Controversial GreenStep City Program

MPCA dangles the prospect of recognition by the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC), grants and voluntary membership and compliance to entice city officials to join the program. Major funders and supporters include the Met Council and McKnight Foundation, along with leftist environmental organizations like the Great Plains Institute and Izaak Walton League.

But the program’s demands on city staff time, risk to taxpayers and threat to local control led the suburb of Minnetrista to avoid making the commitment.

“What many don’t understand is that the League of Minnesota Cities, the Met Council and the city engineering and law firms on LMC’s advisory boards all work together to promote these initiatives by unelected officials which are designed to grow government, increase taxes and give these organizations more control over private property,” said Minnetrista City Councilor Shannon Bruce.

The vast majority of cities and tribes that do join GreenStep—nearly 85 percent—remain at the program’s lower three levels with benchmarks often already met like tree planting and LED lighting for street lights and buildings.

The GreenStep Cities website indicates Nisswa has remained at the entry level since 2012. St. Cloud, one of six cities where the MCPA will celebrate GreenStep this week, has been on hold at step two since 2011. Hopkins and Newport have remained at step three since 2013.

Very few communities advance to the last two levels of GreenStep, where the program that bills itself as voluntary, imposes requirements to measure, report and show improvement on numerous “city performance metrics.”

“I think cities just find that it puts a lot of pressure on staff and they just abandon it once they realize that,” Bruce said. “That was one of my objections when they came to speak to us.”

A decade into GreenStep Cities, many Minnesota communities clearly remain wary of the program’s objectives and likely impact on their quality of life.

First levy increase since 2012?! I don’t think so

Laker Dec 21 ArticleI blogged about the misuse of statistics back in October and how omitting information, leaving out something significant that, if known, would lead the reader/listener to a different conclusion from what was presented, could manipulate residents. Well, today our favorite local newspaper, The Laker, has been manipulated. But don’t blame the reporter. She was only reporting what she had read on the city’s slide presented at the December 2 public hearing on the 2020 levy increase which said:

“General Fund levy has not been increased since 2012 and had decreased from 2010 before that”

Somehow the reporter got the idea, from the statement above, that the tax levy in Minnetrista hadn’t gone up in eight years. Hmm, I wonder if residents in Minnetrista think the same thing. Anyone familiar with Minnetrista’s tax levy history knows there has been a tax levy increase almost every year since 2012 and we got another whopper 5.66% increase this year.

The byline in the December 21 story on page 18 states “Final levy close to that submitted in September, first increase since 2012” (Emphasis added). Oops, someone actually printed what they were told, and in a very public way. It’s always been okay to mislead people as long as it was done quietly, but headlines advertising the deception are another matter. The reporter was quickly contacted by the city and told to correct the online story and reminded that she should have run the story by the city.

How would a regular citizen interpret this slide?General Fun levy has not increased

Note also how the slide says “Staff is proposing an option reducing the net preliminary tax levy increase….” instead of the reality of staff proposing a 5.66% increase, which, by the way, was adopted on a 4-1 vote (Bruce dissenting).

So what was missing from this slide and why did the reporter need to correct the story? First, there are several funds, other than the “general fund,” included in the tax levy. There is a debt fund, a road maintenance fund, and a CIP levy that, in addition to the general fund levy, comprise the taxable levy. Most people don’t know that and the only reason this statement was on this slide is to take advantage of the fact that most people don’t know that.

Bottom line is the city of Minnetrista wants more of your money but they want you to hand it over without complaining. To do that requires manipulation of the facts and they are very good at that.

 

“Windfall” dilemma?

Would you keep remitting payments to the bank once your mortgage is paid off? Of course not. This seems to be a dilemma, however, for the city of Minnetrista that has been making payments to the city of Mound for the bond taken out in 2004 to pay for their municipal building/fire station. Minnetrista contracts with Mound for fire services and, along with the other cities Mound fire supports, has been paying $68K annually to help them pay off the bond. The bond will be retired in 2022. Here’s the brief discussion from our meeting December 2:

 

Mound fire youtube discussion
Discussion of $68K “windfall” to city of Mound

 

Back of the fridge

Out of sight, out of mind. Most people don’t want to think about local government. They just want their roads plowed and their streets safe. As long as that gets done most people are happy. But when we ignore something it doesn’t usually get better.

dirty fridge
Leave it long enough and “out of sight-out of mind” will eventually get your attention in a very unpleasant way.

Think about your refrigerator. What happens to the food in there if you ignore it, push it to the back, and don’t take it out for examination? Bad stuff. Leave it long enough and “out of sight-out of mind” will eventually get your attention in a very unpleasant way. The city of Minnetrista has been operating in the “back of the fridge” for far too long.

In January 2017, the beginning of my council term, all seemed well. After several months, however, I realized it wasn’t. There were forces at play that were at odds with transparency, market competition, and election integrity. Secret meetings, illegal donations, rogue political committees, pay-to-play arrangements and even a school district involved in it all made me start to question everything.

I was only one vote and not able to make policy changes on my own but started the Minnetrista Governance Blog to at least shed some light on the “back of the fridge.” My candidacy for mayor needs your involvement. There will undoubtedly be rumors and secret post-card mailings full of unfounded allegations and falsehoods mailed to residents as we saw in the last contested mayoral election. But it won’t work because, this time, the lights are on.

Visit www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com and sign up to get involved.