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 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?
MINNETRISTA HIDES 65% FEE INCREASE FROM PUBLIC – Anyone reading the Minnetrista city council agenda for June 15, 2020 would never have known the item titled “Res. No. 068-2020 Approving Recycling Services Contract with Waste Management of MN for September 1, 2020 – August 31, 2025″ called for the approval of an initial 41% increase over last year’s recycle fee and by the end of the five year contract would approve a whopping 65% increase over the 2020 fee.
This kind of deception is egregious and unacceptable but apparently not to the Mayor or other council members who voted to approve the increase that evening on a 4 to 1 vote. Below is the memo from staff to the council explaining to the council, and more importantly to the public, what the resolution proposed. The actual resolution itself, below as well, makes no mention of the increase. (Exhibit B referenced in the memo just listed the new rates but did not compare them to 2020’s).
City staff appears to think that “doing some research” on competitive rates excuses them from doing an actual Request for Proposal (RFP) from several companies to ensure rates Minnetrista residents pay are competitive. My recommendation for doing an RFP was not supported by staff or council at a previous work session.
Mayor Lisa Whalen, obviously not in agreement with my concerns about this deceptive tactic to avoid complaints from residents, asked me “Ms. Bruce, what are the dollar amounts?” knowing the monthly recycle fees are small compared to others. What she doesn’t get is that Minnetrista residents object to deception.
It’s been well over a month since Mayor Whalen issued the 3 day emergency order for Minnetrista that removed council oversight because of the COVID19 pandemic. The night it was declared it was also extended by the city council indefinitely on recommendation of the city’s legal counsel. Back then there were a lot of unknowns that are now known.
We know the projected death rate of COVID19 has fallen dramatically from what original models predicted. We know that the recovery rate is close to 99%. We know that the vast majority of deaths have been in long term care facilities (Minnetrista has none of these) and to date none of our first responders have been infected according to weekly reports the council receives (one is awaiting test results).
So I asked to add an agenda item to our 5/4 Monday council meeting to discuss rescinding the emergency order in Minnetrista. The order can only stay in force until the council votes to remove it. We are all still under the Governor’s stay-at-home order and I questioned the purpose of even having a local emergency order continue since it has essentially not been needed for anything so far.
The answer was that none of the other cities are rescinding their emergency orders and we don’t know what will happen in the future so it should stay in place. So it seems developing powers of clairvoyance is required. We will have another opportunity to discuss it at our next meeting. www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com
How 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.
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).
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
Mayor Whalen states on her new blog “When determining our levy one of the things we look at is growth. The County Assessor estimated that we saw a 2.0% – 2.5% overall new home growth. If you subtract that from the final levy increase (over 2019) of 5.66% it leaves an increase of approximately 3.2%-3.7%”
That’s assuming, incorrectly, that for every percent in growth the city needs a 1:1 ratio increasing the tax levy. That’s simply not true. First, the 2-2.5% referenced here is the increase in the city’s total market valuation from new homes, not the number of new homes built. That could be a very small number of expensive homes or a lot of inexpensive homes. There is no correlation between market valuation increases and a need for higher taxes.
The tax levy should only be increased because of increased costs (plus inflation) due to growth, not simply because of market valuation increases. Theoretically you could have one home built that accounts for the entire 2% growth…which wouldn’t justify any tax levy increase at all. I’m not implying that is the case, just using an example that makes the point.