Trick or Trees?

If you want to adopt a policy in Minnetrista that creates future city liabilities and know there won’t be money available for those future liabilities what do you do? You do what Mayor Whalen suggested Monday night and that is, when the money runs out you just change the policy and declare the city won’t be responsible anymore.

tree fundWe are talking about the city’s tree fund that has a current balance of over $416,000, dollars contributed by developers that took out more trees than allowed and had to pay into the fund. That money has been sitting idle, not being used (Minnetrista has no shortage of trees) and the balance continues to grow, but once the city is developed the deposits to that fund will stop.

special funds2Knowing this tree fund has been sitting unused for years I’ve suggested we should look at using part of it for road maintenance since that seems to be the most challenging aspect of our finances and is the primary reason given each year for increasing the tax levy. There are other “special” funds with balances of hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been sitting relatively idle for years as well (see highlighted chart).

Interestingly, after these many years, staff recently decided it was time to discuss establishing a “tree replacement policy” to use these funds to replace trees planted in right-of-way areas on private property.

I have no issues with replacing diseased trees along rights-of-ways because our housing development HOAs and other property owners do not cause tree disease. That is a legitimate use of these funds to beautify our boulevards. But private property owners (or HOAs) are responsible for the care and maintenance of all trees and landscaping on private property, not the city. If the city assumes liability for replacing trees caused by neglect or any cause other than disease it is taking on more liability than it should, in my humble opinion.

The council work session discussion ended with staff being given direction to replace all dead trees in rights-of-way areas regardless of the cause. Votes are not taken at work sessions but had there been mine would have been a “No.” It was stated during our work session that we currently are not aware of any diseased trees at this time. I guess you never know when a tree pandemic will hit that requires using up the entire fund. Meanwhile residents are demanding better roads and being told their taxes will need to go up to get them.  www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com

 

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Monday’s nuisance property ordinance discussion update

Something to understand is the Minnetrista city council would not be having this discussion but for a single property that has been an annoyance to those that live on Deer Creek Road or drive by it regularly. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem but it should put the problem in perspective.

During our work session April 6 I asked how many properties had been the subject of this kind of complaint and our Director of Public Safety answered

nuisance prop
Example – not subject property

“very few” and that most of the issues with them had been resolved satisfactorily, with the exception of this one. When pressed about the number of properties and complaints I asked if it would be fair to say there have been approximately two properties that have been the subject of complaints in the rural areas, and the answer was affirmative, that it would be fair to say there had been approximately two.

Note that most housing developments are governed by their own homeowners associations’ rules regarding these matters. Rural areas, obviously, don’t have HOAs.

Modifying our current ordinance dealing with nuisance properties requires hiring an attorney (Minnetrista does not have its own staff attorney) and would likely cost Minnetrista taxpayers a tidy sum. My question is: If our current city code has been sufficient to resolve our issues with nuisance properties in the past and this is a relatively isolated instance (i.e., not a community-wide problem) should we be spending taxpayer dollars on it?

There is an abatement clause in our current nuisance ordinance that provides for the city to give notice to a property owner of its intention to abate (remove) the nuisance. My understanding is the city has not done that.

This matter was not resolved at the work session and staff was given direction to come back to the council with their ideas at a future work session.

 

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Minnetrista nuisance ordinance discussion April 6, 5:30pm

The Minnetrista city council will be discussing nuisance properties at it’s work session Monday evening, April 6, 2020 at 5:30pm. Work sessions do not provide for public comment but the public may “attend” the teleconference (council is meeting online during the pandemic) by dialing into the meeting at the number below. Here is the April 6 Work Session meeting packet to see what is being discussed.Work session Nuisance ordinanceND

 

Are you any different than Minnetrista’s current mayor?

ShannonBruce for mayorHow are you different than our current mayor? That’s a question I’ve been asked frequently and I’d like to answer it here so when Minnetrista residents vote they can do so fully informed. First I’ll speak to who I am not, then to who I am and what my priorities will be.

  • MinnetristagateFirst, I am not the mayoral candidate that lied on financial disclosure reports about who donors wrote their checks to. That was the current mayor.
  • Second, I am not the mayoral candidate that accepted illegal campaign contributions, one in excess of 10 times the legal limit. That was the current mayor. (Actually that was the reason for lying on the reports…so those illegal contributions wouldn’t be detected).
  • Third, I am not the candidate that invoiced the Westonka School District for mayoral campaign mailings. That was the current mayor.
  •  Fourth, I am not the candidate that was actively involved in an illegal political committee that “corrupted the political process” (judges’ words) in Minnetrista and was sanctioned for it. That was the current mayor.

Who I am is someone that believes the Mayor’s job is to represent Minnetrista residents and their interests above those of vendors, consultants, outside organizations or staff. As Mayor my priorities will be:

  • Restoring ethical, transparent leadership. We need a leader that respects our laws and isn’t afraid to call out conflicts of interest.
  • Eliminating wasteful spending & prioritizing basic services. We can’t do that if special interests are controlling Minnetrista.
  • Protecting residents’ private property rights. Liberty and property rights are a cornerstone of our Constitution.
  • Instilling a service oriented culture at city hall.

Minnetrista has been controlled for too long by a small group of very connected, powerful influences that put their interests above the taxpayers. It’s time to make a change. Volunteer or donate at www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com

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Minnetrista Governance Blog welcomes 11,000th visitor!

Minnetrista Governance Blog just welcomed it’s 11,000th visitor this week along with reaching a milestone of 20,000 total blog post views. That came as somewhat of a surprise only having started the blog less than three years ago with no real goal in mind except to reach Minnetrista residents with relevant news and opinion on current events in Minnetrista.

celebrationVisitors have been referred by Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Nextdoor, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and many other news aggregation sites with stories picked up by the Star Tribune, Center of the American Experiment, The Pioneer-Laker, Lakeshore Weekly News and other local publications.

Thank you Minnetrista for showing your interest in local government, community and for spreading the news and insights you won’t find anywhere else.

 

 

Glad to live in Minnetrista?

Looking at the CDC maps of where the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases are located it’s apparent that high density housing is a contributing factor to the virus’ spread. Factor in the reliance on mass transit systems in these areas and it’s no surprise we see the numbers we do.COVID map

 

 

Minnetrista residents are fortunate to live in an area where social distancing is not only possible but even a normal part of life in the more rural areas. We don’t have hundreds of people touching glad to live in Minnetristaour door knobs, pushing elevator buttons, or coughing in our stairways/elevators or vehicles as we travel where we need to go.

Give thanks for the wonderful neighbors and community organizations that have stepped up to help and for this very special place we call home. Minnetrista is a great place to live.

Minnetrista – Need help?

The Westonka Food Shelf is open for business operating a curbside pick up to those in need. Call 952-472-5599 to make an appointment. Regardless of your situation, if you are struggling due to job Westonka food shelfloss, illness, disability, etc. they are there to help.

They are also in need of volunteers since many of their normal volunteers are retired and in the vulnerable population themselves. They are also in need of donations ($ or food) if you can help. If you’ve been sitting around asking how you can help your neighbors, well…

Links to Westonka Food Shelf:
Need Help?
Make a DONATION
Volunteer

Contact the Westonka Food Shelf by phone: 952-472-5599 or email: westonkafoodshelf@frontier.com

Thank you Minnetrista!

 

 

Market drop benefits Minnetrista

Trust me I’m not celebrating the stock market decline and the impact it’s having on our 401Ks but the last few days and the timing of Minnetrista’s General Obligation (G.O.) bond issue for the water tower was nothing short of serendipitous for the city. When stocks decline investors run toward government bonds for stability and this week’s market drop spelled for a great bond deal for Minnetrista.

Last night the council approved $2,390,000 in G.O. bonds with $1,910,000 going toward the new water tower and $480,000 for capital equipment. With the cash incentives offered by investors we were able to lower the amount of the bond by $125,000 and got an excellent interest rate of 1.622%.

I had previously expressed concern about issuing G.O. bonds for building a water tower because they pledge the full faith and credit of the city when the intention is, and always has been, for water revenues (and only water revenues) to pay for 100% of the debt If you never changeservice on the water tower. G.O. bonds actually mandate that if city water revenues don’t keep pace sufficiently to pay the debt that the city must levy for it. That still concerns me and I would’ve preferred to have issued a revenue bond instead where the investor takes that risk instead of taxpayers. A revenue bond may have seen as good of an outcome as the G.O. bond did yesterday, but I was outvoted and accept that.

Given the great bonding deal we got yesterday I decided to vote to approve it. The reduction of $125K in the bond and the excellent rate we received mitigates, in my opinion, some of the risk factors involved in meeting the debt payments.

I abhor profiting from misfortunes but if a silver lining can be found in the recent stock market volatility I’m grateful that at least there is a benefit to Minnetrista, if not my 401K.

Fake Facebook accounts…hmm

I discovered 39 fake “Shannon Bruce” Facebook accounts today (that weren’t there last week) and reported them all to Facebook this morning. All were identical but set up with a different id#. If anyone sees any Facebook posts appearing to come from me that they suspect may be “fake” please let me know as we investigate who is behind this. Thank you!

fake shannon bruce fb accountsfake accounts