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.
It was very disappointing to see the preferential deal for the school district’s road assessment, masquerading as a “needed” policy change to the city’s special assessment policy, passed Monday night. Essentially Minnetrista’s special assessment policy has always carried an interest rate that has been the same for all assessed properties benefitting from an improvement. It never mattered, and shouldn’t have mattered, who or what entity owned the property. All property owners were assessed under the same rules.
Last January Westonka School District Superintendent Kevin Borg had asked for the school district to be treated differently in a letter to Mayor Whalen and the city council. Some may remember Mayor Whalen had advocated the city pick up 80% of the cost (policy has been 50%) for her buddies at the school district and to reduce their interest rate to 2% (Borg had asked for 0% interest on the 20 year assessment) but lost that battle with the city council on January 4, no doubt a disappointment to Kevin Borg and school board members that worked tirelessly to get Whalen reelected last November.
Mr. Borg was expected to attend the following council work session on the matter, presumably to plead his case, but never showed.
Amazingly, just days before the assessment hearing on the project, a proposal came forward that the city’s special assessment policy was old and needed updating. Yeah, that’s the ticket! Let’s update the city’s policy based on whether or not Minnesota State Aid (MSA) funds will be used, knowing that this school district project will use MSA funds. Nevermind that all other Minnetrista road projects in the past, that had used MSA funds, were assessed uniformly, under the same rules as all other benefitting property owners, as has always been the case for road improvements throughout the city.
And Borg gets his deal and no one can say it was a “deal” because they only followed policy.
I see on the city’s council agenda for June 7 under “consent agenda” (items that don’t get discussed) that the Westonka School District is going to get their special assessment “deal” at the expense of Minnetrista taxpayers.
Minnetrista’s special assessment policy has always been, regardless of how a road project is funded, to charge properties benefiting from the project, an interest rate that has averaged around 5% until the assessment is paid off. Well, not any more.
Why is the policy changing? Because the city is doing a road project along Sunnyfield Road and the only benefitting property is the Westonka School District. The school asked for a “deal” and the council wouldn’t give it to them, so Mayor Whalen came up with a brilliant idea to change the city’s policy so it couldn’t be called a “deal.” See page 26 of the council packet.
Westonka Schools, if the new policy is adopted Monday night, will only pay 2% interest on their special assessment for the road project. The school district is funded largely by communities outside of Minnetrista as the school district encompasses parts of Mound, Spring Park, Independence and Orono. Many Minnetrista residents are in the Watertown, Waconia, and Delano school districts. If I were a Minnetrista resident paying 5% on a special assessment…oh wait, I am!…I’d be pretty mad.
The school district could choose to pay no interest if it wanted to by paying off the assessment all at once when the project is completed. To be sure they are happier letting Minnetrista taxpayers shoulder the burden.
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.
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.
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 received an email from the Superintendent of Westonka Schools, Kevin Borg, regarding the invoice that showed Lisa Whalen’s campaign materials were invoiced to the school district. That invoice was found during the discovery process in the lawsuit against Mayor Whalen and her campaign committee and exposed over a year and a half ago. I have not, until today, received any correspondence or concern from Westonka Schools about the invoice.
The timing on this correspondence might be construed as politically motivated, if I didn’t know better, as it is, after all, two days before voting begins in the Minnetrista Mayoral election.
Mr. Borg’s email says “I am asking that your campaign immediately remove and post corrections toall false claims involving the Westonka School District.” and demands a response by Friday. Considering the fact no false claims have been made (by me), he didn’t have to wait that long for my response [emphasis added in bold]:
Mr. Borg also expressed his wish was to resolve this matter in private. However, when I asked if he had shared the email he admitted he had shared it with the school board. Well then, I guess this isn’t private after all. That might explain why one of our school board members is attempting to censor my social media accounts tonight.
This election is important. Minnetrista deserves better than this.
Last night’s council meeting was notable in that two “firsts” occurred. One, it was the first time since elected in 2016 that I voted to approve the city’s preliminary tax levy and the reason I did was it would actually result in a net decrease in most resident’s property taxes. Two, it was the first time Mayor Whalen voted for a preliminary tax levy that would result in a tax decrease since she was elected Mayor. I’d like to think it was because she knew it was in the best interests of Minnetrista property owners but something tells me this dichotomy with her past voting record won’t happen again for another four years if she’s re-elected.
I predicted here that this election year would prompt a political change of heart for a mayor facing a challenger in a community less than happy with the steady tax increases she’s supported every year.
One of the budgeting games played by administrative bureaucracies, since they’re always seeking to increase resources, is to under-estimate projected revenue and over-estimate projected expenditures in the budget. Doing so always ends up with a tax increase being the only way to “make ends meet.” We saw that in the council’s budget work sessions where, seeing that permit fee revenue was underestimated, I was successful in getting the city’s 2021 projections for permit fees increased to more accurately reflect a higher number based on past and anticipated growth. As a result we were able to add those dollars to the road budget without increasing anyone’s property taxes.
That’s a win-win. We don’t always need to increase taxes to pay for what we need.
It’s an election year and strange things happen in election years. Mayor Whalen has voted every year since she was elected to increase the city’s tax levy to the point of increasing your property taxes. Every. Single. Year. But this is an election year and even Whalen understands voters don’t like seeing their taxes go up year after year after year.
I predict this will be the first year Whalen votes in support of a tax levy that doesn’t increase your city property tax. But remember, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Rest assured that will hold true for the next four years.
Past city levy increases have far exceeded Minnetrista’s growth rate. Since elected I have voted against each and every one. The growth we are experiencing, and are told will continue, should generate more than enough revenue to support city services without increasing anyone’s city property taxes. The city also has several “special funds” not reflected in the general fund (where levied revenues and expenditures appear) with hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting idle. Some of these funds should be re-allocated to roads instead of using roads as an excuse to raise taxes every year.
Our council meeting Tuesday night will likely include a vote on the 2021 preliminary tax levy. Anyone willing to wager it will be the lowest since Whalen took office?
One thing everyone knows about me is everything I say or write is public, available for everyone to read and I don’t distribute campaign material secretly or selectively. That’s not been our incumbent Mayor’s pattern, however.
Door knocking this past weekend several people shared Whalen’s flyer with me and after asking around I found it had been selectively distributed. None of my neighbors received one and neither did many in other parts of Minnetrista that I contacted.
The flyer has the statement from Whalen saying “My leadership style is quite different from that of my opponent.” I couldn’t agree more.
If I have something to say I will say it directly and am not afraid to call out corruption, deceit, or pay-to-play politics…all too many of which have been documented with evidence on this blog. Whalen, on the other hand, pretends to be positive, civil and respectful on camera but then secretly distributes hit pieces like the one below on her last opponent. This was the artwork on her campaign’s invoice to the Westonka School district:
Old habits die hard and we see the pattern continuing with selective distribution of Whalen’s 2020 campaign flyers implying her opponent is “dismissive or divisive.” Anyone that disagrees with Mayor Whalen is labeled or discredited, but not openly. Secret postcards appear in mailboxes, mailing lists are scrubbed to eliminate those that might challenge misinformation and on and on the pattern repeats.
Someone once told me that people with nothing to hide, hide nothing. I’ve always believed that’s true. Selectively communicating to residents reveals a troubling pattern that’s not likely to change.
I believe every Minnetrista resident, whether they agree with me or not, deserves to know what I’m saying about Minnetrista or the election.
Minnetrista’s mayor surprised residents when she announced in July she would be running again. Most of us haven’t forgotten the judgment against her last summer for the illegal financial scheme she was involved in that birthed the term “Minnetrista-gate” and, in the judge’s words “corrupted the political process” in Minnetrista.
Calling the illegal financial scheme a “technical error” underscores the fact our current mayor doesn’t think she did anything wrong. She doesn’t agree with the three judges that do. Watch the video below to understand what really happened and why.
The illegal scheme concealed who her campaign donors wrote checks to as well as who paid for her campaign expenses. Her financial involvement with the illegal political committee “Our Minnetrista,” whose leaders were sanctioned as well, was kept secret, as was a donation to her campaign for over 10 times the legal limit from the committee (the reason for the illicit scheme). And on top of all that her campaign mailings were invoiced to the Westonka School District.
If she’ll blatantly lie and break the law campaigning, do you trust her to govern your city?