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.
We all know Minnesota is a high taxed state. You’ll hear from city officials trying to pass their preliminary tax levy increases that your taxes paid to the city are just a small fraction of what goes to the county and school district. To that I say “So what?” They are ALL going up, ALL the time, EVERY year and those increases never go away. The compounded effect is driving people out of Minnesota to lower taxed states.
Remember this when the city of Minnetrista passes a 5.87% preliminary tax levy increase at the next council meeting on September 3.
A huge turnout at last night’s presentation on the Met Council and League of MN Cities’ backed program called “GreenStep Cities” indicates widespread concern over the program that bills itself as a voluntary, harmless program promoting sustainability. The problem is the steps in the program whittle away at a city’s autonomy and their residents’ property rights and open the doors to even more central planning and social engineering by the Met Council.
Thirty cities were represented at the meeting last night with mayors, council members, state representatives, and citizens coming together to learn about how to protect their cities from the lure of recognition and awards their public officials get when they sign on to the program. Awards and recognition eventually turn into promises of grants to entice cities to turn over their autonomy as they progress through the GreenStep steps.
Minnetrista has been considering the GreenStep Cities program and actually lists it as a goal in their strategic plan but so far has not signed the resolution the program requires for official enrollment. Hopefully seeing the concern around the region will make them aware that this “voluntary” program is more than what meets the eye.
Thank you CD3 Republicans and Northwest Metro Republican Woman for taking the initiative to bring awareness about this program and the harm that results from it.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume the city’s *preliminary tax levy is not the most riveting topic of conversation at your dinner table. But what if you knew that you and your fellow Minnetrista taxpayers had socked away hundreds of thousands of dollars in an account, money that has been sitting there for years without any liabilities against it and none foreseeable, that could lower your city property taxes? Would that get your attention? It got mine.
Every year we’re given options from staff to increase the city’s budget. We are a growing city and that’s fine but increasing the city’s budget doesn’t necessarily have to translate into raising YOUR taxes. Growth should be providing the necessary dollars to keep city services humming along. This year the preliminary tax levy options from staff are a 5.87% increase or a 4.22% increase. The growth in the city’s market valuation from new construction this past year has only been 2.5%
So why, one may ask, if we’ve only grown by 2.5%, do we need to increase the city’s budget by more than that? At our Work session Monday night all council members except one indicated support for the higher 5.87% increase.
If you ask why they’ll say roads are the reason. Keep in mind we increased our roads budget 36% last year and 40% the year before. If we adopt the higher preliminary tax levy it would increase the road budget another 26% in 2020. These are extraordinary increases when our growth is in the lower single digits.
Anyone that doesn’t go along with the highest increase is accused of “kicking the can down the road” and doesn’t care about Minnetrista’s infrastructure. That’s an interesting statement given the fact our own city engineer’s report, rating Minnetrista’s roads, shows the vast majority of them are in “good-excellent” condition.
I argued we could choose the lower, 4.2% increase, which would still increase our road fund by 10.5% and add another $75K to the road fund by taking $75,000 out of the “Tree Fund,” (referenced above) which has a balance of over $367K in it, to achieve the same results to our Road Fund as the higher levy increase without placing the burden on the taxpayer. The answer was a resounding No.
Council is poised to adopt the 5.87% increase at our September 3 council meeting.
*Preliminary tax levy is set by September 30 and taxpayers are sent notices estimating next year’s taxes based on this. The actual tax levy adopted for 2020 may be lower but cannot exceed the preliminary tax levy.
Wow. It just keeps getting more interesting. Just discovered the spouse of Minnetrista’s city engineer at the time, from WSB Engineering, works at the printing company that invoiced the Westonka School District for political campaign literature for Mayor Whalen. Also did some calculations from the newly filed disclosure reports and was shocked to see more than $12,000 was spent with this printer in that election. Were ALL those invoices billed to the school district? Just how much sales tax was evaded by those candidates? Why are these people still in office?!
Largest historical Minnetrista campaign donation ends with donor in top job – Just days after Mayor Whalen took office and was appointed as the Minnetrista council liaison to a government agency, her campaign donor, who had just made the largest campaign donation in Minnetrista history, was appointed to that agency’s top position which would soon have oversight of a proposed 80 acre development in Minnetrista.
The donation was discovered during the recent “Our Minnetrista” campaign finance violations case but what raised red flags, other than the fact the donation was three times the legal limit, was the donor failed to list his real employer and also completed the transaction using a PayPal account. Writing a check is the norm for large donations and checks are traceable. PayPal accounts can be used by anyone with a login and password to an account.
The land for this proposed development would need to be rezoned and a PUD approved by the council for it to begin. With “Our Minnetrista’s” candidates (Whalen, Mortenson & Thoele) elected to the council that path would be clear. The developer chosen for building the high-end homes had a previous relationship with the donor’s real employer evidenced on the developer’s website.
An interesting side note is Mayor Whalen had been the Minnetrista council liaison to the government agency for many years prior to her leaving the council in 2010 and was immediately reappointed upon taking office in January 2015.
So who is the mystery donor, government agency, developer and donor’s employer at the time of the donation? The donor and donation were listed in a trial exhibit and are public information as part of the recent OAH ruling (OAH#71-0325-35774):
The Westonka School District was invoiced for the Mayor’s campaign brochures as well as a hit piece on her opponent. But the cost of the brochures and hit piece wasn’t
disclosed by the Mayor or “Our Minnetrista,” the political committee backing her. A political committee named Minnetrista411 falsely reported the expenditure on its own disclosure report to the Campaign Finance Board. Yes, complex crimes are complicated but the invoice shown here is irrefutable proof that corruption in Minnetrista is not limited to city hall. It extends to the Westonka School District and who knows how much further.
In discussing this with the Hennepin County Attorney’s office I was asked if the Westonka school board was aware of this. My reply was, yes, but many of the school board members are also “Our Minnetrista” members and appear more eager to bury it than expose it. The contact person on the invoice was the Treasurer for the YesWestonka political committee responsible for pushing through the $22M Westonka Schools bond referendum. He is identified in subpoenaed “Our Minnetrista” emails as an active member involved in Our Minnetrista’s fundraising and campaign activities, specifically coordinating their printing.
The invoice and artwork associated with it was obtained during discovery in the Office of Administrative Hearings’ case involving campaign finance violations against Mayor Whalen, one former and two current Minnetrista city council members (OAH#71-0325-35774).
Last night I had the pleasure of cruising around Minnetrista in a squad car meeting neighbors hosting block parties for National Night Out. What a beautiful night! Was great to see so many come out to meet the public safety officers that serve this great community.
Was especially fun to watch the kids climbing in and around the squad car, high-fiving the officers and begging them to run the lights and sirens.