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’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.
History is destined to repeat itself if we ignore it and it’s my hope Minnetrista is more aware now of our city’s political history. But I also know from door knocking that a good many residents have never paid much attention to our local government, so for those voters here is some history.
Minnetrista’s last contested mayoral election was in 2014 when council member Mark Vanderlinde ran against previous council member Lisa Whalen. Despite Whalen’s illegal political committee Our Minnetrista outspending Vanderlinde by 300% it appeared Vanderlinde, a well respected and well liked candidate, was going to win the election.
Knowing a fair fight wasn’t going to produce the desired outcome for Whalen, the Our Minnetrista political committee, which concealed their involvement in the election and didn’t report a single contribution, decided to drop a postcard full of false allegations against Vanderlinde just days before the election so he wouldn’t have time to respond to it. The postcard hit-piece is below and the bill for it was invoiced to the Westonka School District and paid by Whalen’s campaign.
Lisa Whalen, according to her latest 2020 disclosure report has raised over $15,000 and spent most of it on direct mail. Her campaign has already begun to post false allegations about illegal contributions by my campaign that never happened, has attempted to tie me to controversial actions I was never a part of and implying that the proven campaign violation charges for which she was sanctioned by the court were just my conspiracy theories. They know all they have to do is repeat things a few times and people will start believing even the most egregious lies.
Here’s a fun game for Minnetrista voters to play. Below is the donor list from Lisa Whalen’s pre-general mayoral campaign report totaling over $15,000. See if you can match up the highlighted individuals from Whalen’s trial exhibit, which shows those involved in setting up the illegal “Our Minnetrista” financial scheme, to her donor list. You’ll get bonus points for identifying other school board members, council members (or their spouses), and planning commission members (or spouses). Comment your results below and the winner with the most dots will be announced November 3.
A new housing development proposed in Minnetrista to be located north of CR110W and just west of Saunders Lake will be before the city’s planning commission tomorrow night, Monday, 10/25/2020, at 7pm (call in numbers below). The planning commission agenda shows the concept/sketch plan from Summergate Companies is the only item on the agenda.
I intend to call in and I encourage other residents that value our parks and open spaces to attend as well.
When a developer is forced to pay cash in lieu of providing land for parks the inevitable result is housing that is denser and of lesser quality in order to afford paying those fees.
I’m guessing Minnetrista residents would rather see the very generous allocation of lands in this development going to parks and open spaces than to see those spaces crammed with dense housing. It appears, however, the Parks Commission, at the direction of staff, is recommending cash in lieu:
“After review, the Parks Commission unanimously directed the Applicant to consider a hybrid, land dedication and cash-in-lieu, approach to the required park dedication as well as possible trail connections. If cash-in-lieu is considered, an appraisal should be required to determine fair market value.”
10/13/2020 Parks Commission meeting
If we are to preserve and protect the rural landscape and ambience of Minnetrista we must have policies that do just that and a mayor that values our parks and open spaces more than the cash balance in our parks fund which, btw, has over $1M balance at the moment.
The proposal for the ground mounted solar farm on the Ag Preserve parcel was soundly defeated last night at Minnetrista’s council meeting. At one point during the online meeting I counted 30 people on the call and the council received a steady stream of letters of opposition since the proposal appeared here on October 7.
The issue wasn’t around the pros or cons of solar energy production, it was about a 2015 ordinance, passed under the leadership of Lisa Whalen, that made ground mounted solar farms a “permitted use” on Minnetrista’s Ag Preserve parcels without requiring the notification of neighbors, establishing limits or defining other parameters around commercial/industrial uses and visual aesthetics.
The proposal came to the council with a recommendation from the Planning Commission to approve it. Minnetrista council candidate and planning commission member Damian Young voted, along with the entire planning commission to unanimously recommend it’s passage. It was clear from the contents of the council packet for Monday’s meeting that our city attorney had spent considerable time defending the proposal and justifying how it met all the requirements in order to be passed.
I have no doubt, absent resident involvement and their willingness to express their opposition, this proposal would likely have passed last night.
For now the council decided to place a moratorium on ground mounted solar farms on Ag Preserve parcels in order to have time to review the 2015 ordinance and either modify or rescind it.
Knowing what is coming before the council is necessary to protect residents’ interests. Citizen involvement in Minnetrista is important and makes a difference in how our city is governed. It’s not enough to merely post a 200 page council packet on the city’s website or put legal notices in small print in the local newspaper. Minnetrista needs to do a better job engaging and welcoming resident involvement instead of issuing veiled threats to council members that do.
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.
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!
When hiring a schill to spread lies about your Mayoral opponent it’s probably best to find one with some intelligence and a good memory for keeping track of all those pesky details in the web of deceptions being spun.
Take, for instance, this paragraph posted on Facebook by Mayor Whalen’s hired gun yesterday:
The backstory: The Lisa Whalen mayoral campaign in 2014 had campaign materials invoiced to the Westonka School District in an effort, presumably, to avoid paying sales tax and take advantage of the school’s discount with the printer, or perhaps their postal rates. It was all handled under the table, quietly paid by her campaign and no one thought anyone would ever know. Until four years later when Whalen was brought up before a judge for an illegal campaign financing scheme.
The three judge panel in that case, which she lost, said she and her campaign committee had “corrupted the political process.” Now she’s at it again.
Who really paid for all those Lisa Whalen for Mayor signs? I don’t think I need to explain much here as a picture is worth a thousand words. Minnetrista deserves a local government and mayor that don’t conceal things or hide anything from the public.
This city is an amazing place with wonderful people and with your vote we can all begin to rebuild trust in our city government. Thank you for your vote of confidence!