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 don’t watch much TV so I had no idea who Leslie Knope was when I saw this post on mayoral candidate Lisa Whalen’s Facebook page this morning. So a quick search turned up this Wikipedia page. Evidently she’s a fictional character on the NBC sitcom Parks & Recreation.
Some exerpts from the Wikipedia page show the personality type of the character:
Personality – Leslie Knope
Leslie Knope is extremely cheerful, ambitious, hard-working and optimistic.
Although somewhat naive, she is intelligent, well-read, and has good intentions, but is not always successful in executing her goals.
She has a crush on former Vice President Joe Biden, and harbors an irrational hatred of public libraries, salads, and the wealthy neighboring town of Eagleton—which Leslie found out, to her sheer horror, was actually her birthplace.
Leslie views herself as a budding political star in the style of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi..
Although she is shown to be running for the city council as an independent, she joins the Democratic Party at some point, as she is approached by “Janet from the DNC” about a potential gubernatorial bid in the final season.
Yes, I’m afraid we have a “real life” Leslie Knope in our midst.
I met with some very concerned residents this morning on West Highland Road just east of CR92 to look at a 38 acre parcel zoned Agricultural Preserve that is a proposed site of what appears to be a commercial-industrial, ground mounted solar farm. I reviewed the September 28 Planning Commission meeting packet where it was addressed starting on page 24 and where a detailed site map appears on page 39 (also below):
I was somewhat surprised at the City Planner’s recommendation that appeared on page 27: “Recommended Action: Motion to recommend the City Council approve the requested site plan for a ground-mounted solar energy system …” and even more surprised to find out the Planning Commission had voted unanimously to recommend its approval to the city council. There was enough concern at that meeting, however, to make another motion, which passed, to ask the council for clarification about the intent of a 2015 ordinance that apparently allows this. The matter should be coming before the council likely as soon as October 19.
Interestingly in 2015 the Minnetrista city council, at the time, adopted an ordinance making ground mounted solar energy systems a “Permitted Use” on properties zoned Agriculture Preserve. On most other rural properties however (other than Ag Preserve) a conditional use permit is required for ground mounted solar energy systems.
My concerns about this specific proposal are many as I’ve outlined below:
This appears to be a commercial or industrial use which directly conflicts with Ag Preserve zoning. Minnetrista’s history of granting properties the Ag Preserve status has always been to maintain the rural ambiance of our community and the preservation of agricultural land for farming, not to promote it’s use as an industrial or commercial eyesore.
A “Permitted Use” doesn’t require the notification of surrounding properties but the size of this particular plan has already made neighboring residents concerned about its aesthetics and the impact of this use on the market valuation of their properties within its site line. I believe the council should discuss amending the 2015 ordinance, rescind it entirely or at least make these systems require a conditional use permit so impacted properties can weigh in.
Other cities that have allowed ground mounted solar farms have experienced problems when the companies involved either dissolve or disappear leaving the city to dispose of out-dated systems that can’t be recycled or easily removed. It can end up being an expensive burden to the city. Requiring a deposit sufficient to pay for the complete removal of the system should be part of any systems the city allows.
Renewable energy production is something we all support but we also need to preserve our rural agricultural and farming communities and the beautiful landscapes we all so enjoy in Minnetrista.
Residents interested in being heard on this matter can send an email to Minnetrista’s City Administrator, Mike Barone: firstname.lastname@example.org requesting 3 minutes at the “Persons to be heard” part of the city council meeting when it is scheduled.
One of the broadband consultants I’ve been meeting with informed me of some GREAT news for Minnetrista today! I just checked and it’s available where I live and likely may be at your residence too.
No more slow DSL or cap-throttled satellite connections. From PC Magazine’s article Verizon Launches Unlimited 4G Home Internet for Rural Users: “Last week Verizon launched its own option across the US, and its prospect is more compelling because it’s much more widely available. Verizon’s rural home LTE is trulyunlimited, with speeds averaging 25Mbps, the carrier said. It costs $40/month for people with Verizon Wireless service, and $60/month for people without. You need to buy a $240 router.”
John Adams: “”Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
Last I checked it’s illegal for a school district to use taxpayer funded school resources to influence elections. That is exactly what has occurred. As I was door knocking on Sunday a resident disclosed she had received an email regarding the Minnetrista mayoral election from Westonka Public Schools discrediting my campaign. Below is the email Mr. Kevin Borg, Superintendent of Westonka Public Schools, sent on September 22, 2020 to “Key Communicators” in the Westonka community. The many false statements contained therein are highlighted and numbered with facts below.
Fact #1: Mr. Borg makes the claim the Shannon Bruce for Mayor committee stated the invoice in question was “sent to the district.” She never made a claim it was “sent” to the district, only that it was “invoiced” to the school’s account. In fact it never was sent to the school for payment. The printer created the Westonka School District invoice, showing campaign expenses on it for Lisa Whalen’s mayoral campaign but never sent it to the school district. Instead, the printer’s sales person, who incidentally was an active member of her campaign committee (according to subpoenaed emails) sent the invoice to the Treasurer of the YesWestonka political committee who arranged for it to be paid by Whalen’s campaign committee manager, David Kolb (ex-Minnetrista police chief). Emails subpoenaed from Whalen’s campaign finance violations trial support the facts above.
Fact #2:The statement “The Westonka School district received an invoice from Tandem Printing” isFALSE. See Fact #1. The school never received an invoice because payment on that invoice occurred outside of the school district with Whalen’s campaign committee (Our Minnetrista/Minnetrista411) paying it directly so it wouldn’t be discovered.
Fact #3: The contact person on the invoice, Bill Latour, was the Treasurer of the YesWestonka political committee which was tasked to promote the Westonka School District’s $22M bond referendum. He was not a school employee but was intimately involved in school district finances and worked closely with Mr. Borg. He was the person that placed the order with the printer instructing them to use the school’s account, but intending to pay for it with the Whalen campaign funds. Presumably this was done to evade paying sales tax and/or take advantage of the school’s discount or postage rates.
Fact #4: Mr. Borg’s claim “We contacted Tandem Printing to explain that the invoice was sent to Westonka Schools in error and would not be paid” is FALSE. See Fact #1 and Fact #3. The invoice was never sent to Westonka Schools. Subpoenaed emails show the printer’s sales person gave it to YesWestonka and it was subsequently paid by Whalen’s campaign committee (Our Minnetrista/Minnetrista411). Why would Mr. Borg claim to have contacted the printer in 2014 when the school district was unaware of the invoice until it was discovered in 2019 during the discovery phase of the lawsuit against Lisa Whalen and her campaign committee?
Fact #5: Mr. Borg claims his demand letter to the Shannon Bruce for Mayor Committee was prompted by a Youtube video released in August 2020. Mr. Borg was first made aware of the invoice in question in February of 2019. He was also aware of several social media posts that same year regarding the invoice subsequent to that date, all of which stated the same facts contained in the August video. After knowing about the invoice and ignoring it for over a year and a half he decided, two days before voting began for the Minnetrista mayoral election on September 16, 2020, to suddenly make claims of false statements by the Shannon Bruce for Mayor committee.
Fact #6: Mr. Borg claims his communication with Shannon Bruce was “private” when he had, in fact, copied the Westonka School Board on his email and one of them had subsequently provided it to Lisa Whalen’s campaign committee who used it, in addition to some of their own misrepresentations, in a post on social media, using the Westonka School logo, in an attempt to discredit the Shannon Bruce for Mayor campaign.
Fact #7: Mr. Borg attached his demand letter to Ms. Bruce to his “Key Communicators” email claiming it “outlines the facts” but, in fact it contains known false statements he knew at the time were untrue. He neglected to attach any of the email exchanges between himself and Shannon Bruce whereby she requested a meeting to share her evidence with him that would prove the video and prior social media posts were entirely factual. Mr. Borg refused the meeting and has never, on any occasion, contacted Shannon Bruce regarding these matters prior to his September 16 letter making false allegations against her campaign.
Fact #8:Mr. Borg claims his communication, timed two days before voting began in the Minnetrista mayoral election, was not politically motivated. What other conclusion can be drawn when he chose to ignore the matter for over a year and a half and then, suddenly, decided two days before voting begins that it was now time to address it? Why then, in his email to “Key Communicators” does he ask them to share this “news with others as appropriate” if not to discredit the Shannon Bruce for Mayor campaign?
There is a political machine at work here that has controlled Minnetrista for years and it not only includes the Mayor and her past campaign committee “Our Minnetrista/Minnetrista 411”, the YesWestonka political committee, several school board members, current and former council members, but sadly it now appears our own Westonka School Superintendent. I am saddened by that and what that means to our community.
It is illegal for a taxpayer funded public school to intentionally influence an election but that is exactly what has occurred in Mr. Borg’s communication to Westonka Schools “Key Communicators.” He has attempted to discredit a mayoral candidate with known falsehoods and unsubstantiated allegations designed to influence the Minnetrista mayoral election. Minnetrista has an opportunity to stop this abuse of power in our community.
Mayor Whalen appears to think she’s going to solve Minnetrista’s dismal state of high-speed internet access in the two months before the general election.
What she doesn’t realize is we should’ve begun our research, established a goal and made a plan to reach it several years ago when I pushed to include it in Minnetrista’s strategic plan. Nothing substantive has been done under her leadership charting the course of our work sessions and council meetings all these years.
This company she’s “in discussions with” is just another fixed wireless provider like others residents already have access to and have not met their needs for streaming movies and simultaneous multiple users.
We need to define what “high-speed” means because many of these companies use the term loosely in their marketing messages but don’t show consumers what their average upload and download speeds are.
There are three tiers and multiple spectrums used in transmitting wireless signals and providers can actually transmit 5G (most people think that’s fastest) in the lower tier and have speeds slower than 4G signals transmitted in the mid-tier.
Mayor Whalen is a little late to the table convincing voters she cares about their internet access. The next four years will look just like the past six if she’s reelected.
My recommendation has been to pull together a broadband working group with the expertise to understand the technology, define and set our goal and lay out a plan to get there. Attempts at a quick fix with one provider are not going to lead to success.
I have been a strong voice on the city council trying to bring attention to the dismal state of high speed internet access in Minnetrista. I asked for it to be added as a goal in the city’s strategic plan many years ago but absolutely nothing of any substance has been done.
In examining Mediacom’s non-exclusive contract with the city it was brought to my attention that Mediacom had agreed to extend it’s system by January 2019 to the Phase 2 map below:
Please don’t call city hall if you live in the Phase 2 circle, like I do, and don’t have service. Mediacom has not extended its system where contractually obligated and the city needs to hold them accountable with fines until they do. Those fines should have started in January 2019. If they had we likely would have service to these areas by now.
A special shout out to Mr. Reinholdz, a resident who spoke at our council meeting “Persons to be heard” session last Monday night. He had some great insights into this issue.
Minnetrista needs new leadership to restore public confidence in our city government. The negative attacks on my mayoral campaign are retaliation for winning this lawsuit against Lisa Whalen and her campaign committee last summer. She should have stepped down then when she was asked to. Now voters get to decide.
There are two candidates for mayor in Minnetrista in the general election, the incumbent and myself. If you’re like most people you probably don’t pay much attention to local government elections. I certainly didn’t until I was asked to run for the city council. What I’ve seen and experienced there is why I had to run. We need to restore trust in our leadership and transparency in our city government. Above is my video message to Minnetrista.
I have been a voice putting residents first:
Stopping Met Council restrictions from becoming city policy in our Comprehensive Plan
Adding the goal of reliable high-speed Internet to our strategic plan for all of Minnetrista
Pushing to end an unnecessary emergency order and for citizens to be able to speak before the council
Pressuring the city to appoint a party-balanced absentee ballot board – for the first time, bringing integrity to our elections
Exposing countless conflicts of interest in our city government.
I have never voted for an annual tax levy that would result in an increase in your city property taxes. There is ample growth in our community to provide revenue for city services to our new residents.
I have been a vocal proponent for competitive bidding and have often been the sole dissenting vote on contracts because of it.
I believe in the rule of law and holding our elected representatives accountable. How someone runs their campaign is reflective of how they will lead. We need new leadership in Minnetrista. Please donate to the Shannon Bruce for Mayor Committee. Put Minnetrista back in your hands!
I will not be commenting on social media to the continued bombardment of lies Lisa Whalen’s campaign is fabricating against my mayoral campaign except to point people to this post:
I exposed the fact last year that Whalen’s campaign in 2014 had her campaign expenses invoiced to the Westonka school district. I have the invoice from 2014 that was sent to me in 2019 as I was investigating illegal campaign contributions to her campaign. A lawsuit was filed which I won.
Now, four years after the transaction and voting has begun for the mayoral election, Whalen’s campaign is claiming I’ve made false statements, along with the Superintendent of Westonka Schools who has chosen to refuse my request to meet with him to show the evidence.
This could all be cleared up if the printing company involved would produce a corrected invoice showing the transaction was corrected as Whalen’s campaign claims. I have asked for an electronic version of a corrected invoice to verify authenticity but it has not been provided. It doesn’t exist.
Subpoenaed emails during Whalen’s trial for participating in an illegal campaign financing scheme turned up an email showing the printer attached the invoice in question and sent it to the treasurer of YesWestonka (a political committee advocating for the $22M school bond referendum) and it was subsequently paid by Lisa Whalen’s campaign committee (Our Minnetrista/Minnetrista 411) on November 3, 2014. *Note: Many of the same individuals involved in YesWestonka were also active members of the Our Minnetrista political committee.
Minnetrista 411 was the same organization as Our Minnetrista with a different role in Whalen’s campaign. It was created to do the negative campaigning as the artwork shows below. The same leader of Our Minnetrista (David Kolb, the city’s ex-police chief) was the leader of Minnetrista 411 and his wife, court records show, was Minnetrista 411’s treasurer.
6. The artwork above is the piece associated with the Westonka School District invoice shown below.
I sent the following email to the Superintendent of Westonka Schools after he refused to meet with me:
I have been targeted by this group of people called “Our Minnetrista/Minnetrista 411” because I have exposed their illegal activities and they were all sanctioned in the lawsuit subsequently referred to as “Minnetristagate” by the Center of the American Experiment in their coverage of it. The three judge panel said in the final judgement that Lisa Whalen and her campaign committee had “corrupted the political process” in Minnetrista. She is at it again attempting to discredit the person that exposed her and her illegal activities for which she was fined.
Minnetrista voters will ultimately be the judge of allowing a corrupt political machine to control the millions of dollars that flow through our city each year or if they want accountability and integrity in our city government.
Over the last few weeks I’ve met with several broadband professionals in both Minnetrista and other parts of the twin cities to discuss how we can make reliable high speed internet available to everyone in Minnetrista.
It starts with engaging the right people that understand this rapidly changing technology and the political landscape where it is deployed. I am meeting with and interviewing individuals to establish, once elected Mayor, a Minnetrista broadband working group that will help us navigate the technological, legal and logistical challenges ahead. I am more confident than ever this is not an insurmountable challenge if the right stakeholders are at the table.
I have been an advocate since I’ve been on the city council to establish an advisory body on high speed internet. I was the council member to first suggest putting high speed internet access for Minnetrista as a strategic goal several years ago. At our strategy meeting last spring I pushed to change our stated objective from a passive statement of merely acknowledging the goal to proactively getting creative about solving the issue. But one council member has no authority on their own.
I’ve worked in technology companies my entire career and also understand the political landscape in which we work. Putting solutions together requires bringing the right players to the table and I am meeting, not only with industry professionals but also with other elected officials in nearby cities and counties to do just that.
Minnetrista needs a champion on this issue with a determination to make it happen.