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

Emergency orders are for what now?

I thought emergency orders were for protecting the public from something. I was wrong. Listen to the city of Minnetrista’s attorney from Kennedy & Graven explain:

Got it? If you ask how Minnetrista’s “indefinite” emergency order makes anyone safer you will come up empty. But if you ask how it might help the city get it’s hands on federal taxpayer dollars, well…there’s still time to figure all that out as long as the order stays in place…indefinitely.

The Center of the American Experiment posted the story below asking “Could Cities Extended Emergency Orders for Coronavirus Undermine 2020 Elections?”

Could the municipal emergency order pave the way to position the city to receive federal funds to implement mail-in voting?

CAE Article

Asking questions is a good thing. Election integrity is a good thing. Making sure everyone who is legally entitled to vote can do so knowing their vote will be counted is a good thing. Using a pandemic for political purposes is not.

 

Head scratcher – not really – “Indefinite” emergency order in Minnetrista continues

Head scratcher? Not really. Are you wondering why, as we all are, Minnetrista has an “indefinite” emergency order (it never expires) when the city has had no staff or first responders test positive for COVID19, has taken no measures since implementing the order in March that would have required an emergency order, nor had any significant expenses for federal reimbursement related to COVID19? You can stop wondering.

fingers crossedAbsentee mail-in balloting is why. If the National League of Cities (a bastion of nonpartisanship) can help prolong the pandemic (i.e., flatten the curve) thru the fall, the opportunity to use the “crisis” to justify the mailing of absentee ballots to all registered voters is likely. Here is their “Cities Vote” program being promoted locally by each state chapter. Absentee ballots are filled out in private and the potential for fraud or coercion is much higher than voting in person where election judges are present, not to mention the millions of absentee ballots that have “gone missing” in past elections.

We’ve already seen attempts, one in Minnetrista I wrote about here, by cities to advocate for absentee mail-in ballots for the general election. Should they be successful, county and local offices will need to make sure they have the personnel, technology and time to process the volume of absentee voter registration applications and mail-in ballots. What better way to get money than to justify it with COVID-19 federal dollars tied to protecting public health. To get that funding requires local emergency orders stay in place beyond November to get reimbursed.

Cities around the country are being advised by legal counsel from their state’s municipal league to enact local emergency orders for an “indefinite period” as regional public safety teams meet weekly to ensure all cities stay on the same page and resist pressure to lift the orders.

Monday’s Minnetrista council work session heard justification for not rescinding the order come from the city’s Public Safety Director, the city’s contract attorney (whose legal firm is on  the League of Minnesota Cities advisory board), and Mayor Lisa Whalen, who published a blog on the topic yesterday. The “biggest risk factor” was stated by the Public Safety Director as being staffing, even though the city has yet to have a single employee, or first responder in the city test positive. One must ask why, absent any logical reasons, are cities keeping these orders in place indefinitely.

election integrityTo extend an emergency order requires consent of the city council which happened on March 23 in the midst of the wildly unfounded projections of the pandemic and the pandemonium that followed. We now know that 98-99% of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota have come from long term care facilities (Minnetrista has none of these) and people with serious underlying medical conditions. We now know the risk of long term health impacts to the vast majority of Minnesotans is low.

The risk factor to the integrity of our elections, however, is extreme.

www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com

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Minnetrista should have nothing to do with this partisan, deceptive program

MINNETRISTA SHOULD HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PARTISAN AGENDA of the GreenStep program designed to lure public officials with awards & recognition at the expense of their communities. I don’t like dealing with dishonest organizations, or people for that matter. How’s this for transparency? After the video posted yesterday exposed their funding deception the GreenStep Cities folks removed the Met Council’s logo from their site. They continue to deny the Met Council is a program funder despite the fact it appears on their own website.

GreenStep Switcheroo

GreenStep Cities Program Exposed

GREENSTEP CITIES EXPOSED – As I was about to publish this today I discovered that the GreenStep Cities program has removed the Metropolitan Council logo from their “About” page where this, below, was captured last month. Yep, it’s gone. Now they have it in small type in parentheses, to obscure it even more. Read on…

GreenStep Met Council

 

I was asked to speak last month at a Victoria city council meeting on concerns regarding the Met Council’s GreenStep Cities program. The program had recently been rejected by the city of Plymouth and had received less than glowing coverage in the press of late due to transparency issues and the Met Council’s agenda to extend control throughout the state by getting local governments to adopt their “model ordinances.” A GreenStep Cities representative presented as well.

The video below speaks for itself and highlights the deception and clearly partisan agenda of this program. For those that want to see the unedited version it is available on the city of Victoria’s website.

GreenStep Screenshot

The city of Minnetrista has not joined this program but the council has not voted not to either. The program is marketed as being voluntary but once adopted cities are pressured…or “encouraged” to progress through the steps as they compete with each other for awards at the League of Minnesota Cities annual meeting. Mayors are lured by recognition and awards and staff ends up spending their precious time measuring and reporting data to the Met Council instead of tending to city matters.

If you’d like to express your concerns about the program you may contact Minnetrista council members: lwhalen@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; mmolitor@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; pmortenson@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; jtschumperlin@ci.minnetrista.mn.us ; sbruce@ci.minnetrista.mn.us

 

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.

Exposure to light affects growth

Exposure to light affects growth…in government and taxes. I was concerned when I heard the retirement of Mound’s annual bond payment of $282,000 on their city hall building, which was coming to an end in 2022, was referred to as a “windfall” and conversations ensued around how to spend that money after the building was paid off (see previous post “Windfall dilemma” here).

abstract beach bright clouds

As you may know Minnetrista pays approximately $75,000 annually toward Mound’s bond payment (Minnetrista contracts with Mound for fire services) and has done so since 2004 and will have paid over $1.3 million by the end of 2022.

I asked for this matter to be put on a Minnetrista city council agenda. My belief was, and is, that Minnetrista’s $75K annual payment should stop once the bond is retired. Period. Under no circumstances is it reasonable to support bundling this $75K payment into our annual contract for services or to let it continue being used past 2022 for anything other than what it was originally intended. If there are other things Mound Fire needs in the future, i.e., new fire trucks, apparatus, radios, or administrative costs, those items should be budgeted just like anything else, justified and allocated to the cities they contract with.

My request for the agenda item was granted and staff invited Mound’s Fire Chief to present to the council before our work session discussion.

Although it was a challenge to get the discussion focused on my primary concern it eventually was and I was pleased to find support from other council members that agreed conversations about what to do with this “windfall” shouldn’t be entertained.

 

 

 

 

Let’s be honest

The Laker article below was 100% blatantly false, yet after more than two weeks and requests for a correction The Laker hadn’t corrected it. Minnetrista, as we all know from examining our property tax bills, has had a tax levy increase every year since 2012 except one. This article states, no less than four times, that this is the first levy increase since 2012.

Laker Dec 21 Article

I wrote about the misinformation when it was discovered here on December 21 and learned that the reporter had been in contact with city staff as she developed the story. What the city put out to the public, and the reporter, was that this was the “first general fund levy increase since 2012,” which is a misleading statement designed to obfuscate the fact that, in reality, there has actually been a tax levy increase every year since 2012 except one.

Is it any wonder the reporter fell prey to the obfuscation?

What most people don’t know is there are several funds, other than the “general fund,” included in the tax levy. There is a debt fund, a road maintenance fund, and a CIP levy that, in addition to the general fund levy, comprise the taxable levy. This article leads readers to believe they are long overdue for higher taxes and takes advantage of their not understanding the complexities of the municipal tax levy.

Interestingly, the day after the January 6 council meeting above the Laker posted a story actually perpetuating the misinformation saying “Next year’s levy increase is the first increase to the general fund in eight years” without addressing the blatantly false statement made in their December headline above.

You can watch the entire January 6, 2020 Minnetrista council meeting here.

Correction: In the video clip above I misspoke saying “We have residents believing there was no levy increase this year” when I meant to say “We have residents believing there has been no levy increase for years.” My apologies.