Minnetrista hides 65% recycle fee increase from public

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 pick pocketWaste 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).

staff memo recycle

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.

Recycle resolution

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. 

www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com

Minnetrista emergency order

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

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

View author profile

 

 

Mayor Whalen’s blog on increasing your taxes

I think some clarification is in order here.

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%”

mayor's blogThat’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.

Shannon Bruce announces bid for Mayor of Minnetrista

I announced my bid for Mayor of Minnetrista today. Please visit www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com to learn how you can get involved in Minnetrista’s future. It’s in your hands. Here is the official announcement below:

Council member Shannon Bruce announces candidacy for Minnetrista Mayor
Bruce pledges to bring a customer service culture back to city hall and end Minneapolis-style top-down governance

Minnetrista Council Member Shannon Bruce announced her candidacy for Mayor on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, citing a need to restore trust in city leadership and refocus city hall on serving local residents.

“Far too often I see decisions being made at city hall without considering long term rubber stampconsequences to residents. Unelected officials from Minneapolis/St. Paul want to tell us how to run our city, and Minnetrista needs a mayor that puts Minnetrista first and won’t rubber stamp their agendas. Under my leadership, I will work with the council to protect our community from decisions that will lead to heavier traffic, more crime in our neighborhoods, higher fees and property taxes” said Bruce.

“I will refocus city government on its core responsibilities: public safety, roads, infrastructure, and zoning. Unfortunately, as a council member I’ve seen taxpayer dollars wasted and special treatment given to vendors and outside interests. As mayor, I pledge to put an end to special vendor relationships and will require open bidding for all significant city contracts, regardless of whether state statutes demand it.

“Minnetrista is a growing community, so we need to have an open dialogue with residents about their needs and adopt an attitude of customer service at city hall. Whether it’s responding to a 911 call, paving roads, or helping a property owner navigate a variance, Minnetrista residents deserve to have an excellent experience every time.”

Bruce also cited election integrity as a reason for running for mayor. The current Minnetrista mayor, Lisa Whalen, was sanctioned earlier this year for violating campaign finance laws. A three-judge panel ruled in June that Whalen’s arrangement with the Our Minnetrista political committee had “corrupted the political process,” in Minnetrista’s elections.

Website: www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com
Email: sbruce@ShannonBruceForMayor.com
###

 

Minnetrista’s Three Ring Circus – city/school/DFL

Exactly one year ago I wrote a post titled “Who is Our Minnetrista?” Little did I know what would be exposed over the course of the next 12 months. I only knew something dollar sign eyeswas amiss but had no idea of the corruption, deception, and stronghold this group of people holds on our community until I filed a civil suit last November and began the discovery process which culminated in a ruling that held they had “corrupted the political process” in both the 2014 and 2018 elections and their leaders and candidates were fined.

Here is what I know now. The corruption isn’t limited to our mayor and a couple of council members (who all still sit on the council, btw). There are school board members who have been actively supporting this group with financial contributions and helping them recruit public officials to maintain their school board bubblescurrent power structure and taxing authority. There are also political committees like “YesWestonka” comprised of virtually the same people as “Our Minnetrista” whose goal to pass a $22M school bond referendum was successful primarily because they held the election in May instead of the November general election knowing a low voter turnout would benefit the measure. Now they have another referendum up for a vote in November 2019, not a general election either. Hmm.

I’ve also learned that the DFL is involved in this group with the DFL Senate District Chair being a financial contributor to the rogue “Our Minnetrista” political committee as well as a contributor to the campaign of the spouse of Westonka school board member Heidi Marty in his bid for election to the MN House of Representatives (D-Todd Mikkelson). This is one close-knit, happy family.

Is it any wonder, then, when the Westonka School District was invoiced for the Minnetrista mayor’s campaign mailings (apparently to avoid paying sales tax like her opponent had to) that the Westonka school district said nothing?

This last year has exposed the fact that a small group of people with vested interests in controlling millions of dollars of public funds in our community are doing just that. They consist of DFL leadership, school board members, elected public officials, ex-city employees, and political committees backing their initiatives that somehow always end in tax increases.

 

 

 

Why they hid “Our Minnetrista”

WHY THEY HID “OUR MINNETRISTA” – The June judgement handed down to the mayor and council members involved in the “Our Minnetrista” scandal ordered them to file accurate campaign finance reports and pay their fines by August 1. One need look no further to see why they hid the role of the political committee “Our Minnetrista” in their campaigns. They would’ve had to truthfully disclose this:Whalen Amended 2014 CFR

 

Mortenson Amended 2018 CFR

Keep in mind there were other, legitimate, candidates that spent money of their own in these elections. The mayoral candidate opposing Whalen in 2014 lost by less than 200 votes. These violations affected the outcome of these elections in both 2014 and 2018. The three judge panel called it corruption citing their actions “corrupted the political process” and gave the Our Minnetrista candidates “an unfair advantage.” Our mayor calls it an “administrative error.”

Center of the American Experiment reports: “Widespread Campaign Finance Violations in Suburb of Minnetrista”

Full story:  Written by Tom Steward, Center of the American Experiment, July 2, 2019

Campaign finance laws serve to regulate the amount of donations flowing to political candidates for office from groups and individuals. Media attention usually  focuses on the horse race for contributions between candidates for higher office.

But campaign finance limits also apply to candidates running for city council and mayor in local elections. Yet you’d never know it from numerous violations recently uncovered in the Twin Cities suburb of Minnetrista, where three of the five current city council members were found to have violated Minnesota’s Fair Campaign Practices Act.

A panel of Office of Administrative Law judges has ruled against the city’s mayor, two city councilors, a former city councilor and a shadowy political committee known as Our Minnetrista for campaign finance violations in either the 2014 and/or 2018 municipal elections. Their 21-page ruling includes this nugget:

Our Minnestrista’s failure to file campaign financial reports in 2018 was ill-advised, corrupted the political process, and created an unfair advantage for the candidates it supported for two elective offices. A $2,000 penalty is appropriate.

The Panel concludes that the candidates’ violation of the contribution limits was negligent and difficult to correct or counter.

The panel’s findings vindicate Minnetrista City Councilor Shannon Bruce, who first exposed the apparent violations and then vetted the verdict on her watchdog Minnetrista Governance  Blog.

Our Minnetrista” and its candidates accepted multiple contributions far exceeding statutory limits and then divided them up among their candidates, only reporting a fraction of the actual check amounts on each candidate’s disclosure reports. They accepted illegal corporate contributions and then reported them as coming from individuals. They had the Westonka School District invoiced for their campaign mailings*, and in the courtroom “I don’t know” was the most frequently heard phrase from Respondents that included Minnetrista Mayor Lisa Whalen, Councilmembers Pam Mortenson and John Tschumperlin, past Councilmember Patricia Thoele, and Our Minnetrista leaders David Kolb and Karen Danielson.

Erick Kaardal, Attorney for Complainant, Shannon Bruce, remarked in his opening statement “How candidates operate in the campaign environment with respect to law reflects on how our public officials act when they are in office. And so, this is a very important case regarding how our campaigns for public officials are going to be operated consistent with the law or in violation of the law.”

Moreover, Bruce believes the campaign and outcome of the election was not only undermined but likely determined by skirting the rules.

Campaigning is hard work and an unfair advantage is created when a rogue political committee does all the work instead of a candidate: organizing fundraisers, choosing vendors for printing/signs/mailings, writing content for literature, putting up a website, doing the bookkeeping and filing campaign disclosure reports, distributing flyers, door-knocking, etc… At some point it becomes the political committee and not the candidate that is being elected.

The 2014 Mayoral race was won by less than 200 votes. Without the unfair advantage of Our Minnetrista’s illegal activity it’s reasonable to conclude that Whalen’s opposition in that race, Mark Vanderlinde, would’ve won the mayoral election by a wide margin. It’s also likely, had there been a level field, the 2018 independent candidate, Elroy Balgaard, would’ve defeated one of the Our Minnetrista candidates.

The OAH panel levied the maximum total amount of fines allowed in this case–$5,000. But Bruce believes much more needs to be done to uncover and prevent more widespread violations of campaign violations in local elections statewide.

Private citizens don’t have the resources to litigate these violations. Corruption flourishes without enforcement. We need oversight and enforcement of campaign finance laws at the local level in MN.