By Andrew Richter
Well, Crystal is not alone when it come to condescending and arrogant people on their city council. The city of Ramsey is closing the gap. When Ramsey citizen Wayne Buchholtz asked about a recent land deal he was the victim of a disgusting personal attack by council member Randy Backus.
Now first I must disclose that Buchholtz is running for a city council seat, however that is no reason to personally attack him. He is a property owner and a taxpaying citizen who regularly attends council meetings and work sessions. And, he like everyone else, has a right to come to open forum and voice his concerns, regardless of whether he is running for office or not.
Mr. Buchholtz had concerns regarding a current sale of a parcel of land owned by the Ramsey HRA. The details of the deal were only made public after the fact. Buchholtz asked several questions regarding the price of the sale which just over $3 a square foot. He pointed out that the city had recently sold other parcels of land for three times the price. Buchholtz did concede that every deal is different but the difference in price is significant. Also the city was going to assume the expenses of the utilities infrastructure and there was no price tag to that.
Buchholtz also pointed out who the owner of PSD LLC is a man named Jim Deal who is a big financier of DFL causes. He, in fact, financially back five of the seven council members including Mayor Sarah Strommen. To see his company receive a piece of land for such a low price after financially backing is at least questionable and it does raise your eyebrows. There is a such thing as an “appearance of impropriety.”
After he spoke Mr. Buchholtz was personally attacked by council member Randy Backus; “I know it’s the night before primary, I would ask candidates to go knock on doors instead of creating political issues where none exist.”
So, in other words, if you’re a candidate, stay home and shut up.
Backus then went on to blame previous councils for buying land and claimed Mr. Buchholtz has political signs on their property so he’s to blame! He then gave this ReNae Bowman like quote directed at Buchholtz;
Backus: “I wold ask our staff how much time this guy has cost us doing witch hunts and searching for things that don’t exist and secret deals with the boogeyman. Anybody want to venture a guess on how much time, how many calls, and e-mails we gotten from this one person looking for things that aren’t there…..I’d go knock on doors if I were you.”
Well, that’s nice; council members talk about how much they want to hear from citizens and how they want citizens involved in their community UNLESS they disagree with the council or question their actions.
Mr. Buchholtz tried to defend himself against Mr. Backus but Mayor Sarah Strommen wouldn’t allow that. In fact, someone was whispering in Mr. Backus’s ear to “not answer him.”
Mr. Buchholtz showed up at the next meeting as well on August 26. What happened there you ask? Tune in for part 2 next time!
Watch the VIDEO here
By Andrew Richter
I knew this was coming a few weeks ago but out of respect for my source, I decided not to reveal that but here it is;
After years of conflict with the city and a February pink slip, former Crystal Police Officer Alan Watt has filed suit against his former employers in Hennepin County District Court.
The suit names the City of Crystal, Police Chief Stephanie Revering and City Manager Anne Norris as defendants. It alleges that they retaliated against Watt after he spoke out against misconduct in the department, violated his constitutional rights by punishing him for affiliating with a citizens’ group as a private citizen, terminated him because they believed him to be suffering from a “mental impairment,” and retaliated against him for reporting discriminatory treatment.
Watt is seeking back pay, that he be reinstated to his job or be awarded front pay for the money and benefits he would have earned going forward, and $50,000 in compensatory damages.
The city’s response to the lawsuit denies those claims, and argues that the defendants’ actions were taken for “legitimate, nonretaliatory, and nondiscriminatory business reasons.”
League of Minnesota Cities Attorney Jana O’Leary Sullivan, who represents the city, Revering, and Norris, said Watt had a history of misconduct himself, including accessing police records for personal reasons, leaving his gun on a table prior to a meeting with a supervisor, violating the directives of his supervisor, disregarding the chain of command and violating Minnesota’s government data practices act.
Personally I think its’ scary if ANY ONE of those things are true.
Watt was formally fired on Feb. 28 after a years-long dispute with city and department officials. He alleges that he was retaliated against for speaking out against department misconduct, including an incident involving the West Metro Gang Strike Force, which resulted in the Ramirez family, who were Crystal residents at the time, having their belongings confiscated and never returned.
Word on the street is that the Ramirez family has moved back to Crystal……which seems like an odd development to me if the Crystal police are so bad.
“We actually have no record of him complaining or him sort of taking on that Ramirez incident,” said O’Leary Sullivan, who also said that an investigation did happen and that no wrongdoing was uncovered.
Watt also alleges that he was punished for attending events with Communities United Against Police Brutality, which he believes violates his freedom of association under state law.
“He was speaking out, not in his capacity as an officer, but in his capacity as a citizen,” said Joni Thome, Watt’s attorney. “Because the city is a political entity, it can’t tell him what he can’t say as a private citizen.”
I have no issue with Mr. Watt associating with the group CUAPB but I think it was a serious mistake. They were no help to Mr. Watt and if anything I think they hurt his case, not helped.
Watt also takes issue with the city’s requests for information regarding therapy sessions he was undergoing throughout the dispute, which he believes to have been excessive and constitute harassment. He also believes the city discriminated against him for the perceived disability, as well, explained Thome.
“All I can say is they’ve done everything humanly possible to ruin my reputation and make things difficult for me,” said Watt in an Aug. 20 phone message. “Of course, they said the same things about Sergeant Erkenbrack and settled with him.”
Erkenbrack, a former police sergeant, alleged that he was demoted and ultimately fired for similarly speaking out about department misconduct. The city maintained that it had just cause for his termination, and said as much in the settlement agreement.
Erkenbrack received $160,000 in his settlement, and was reinstated as a sergeant.
While Erkenbrack and Watt’s cases are decidedly different, Thome did not rule out the possibility of a settlement, and said she had made an offer, which the city rejected.
“The circumstances of the termination in Watt’s case are very different,” said O’Leary Sullivan, mentioning independent investigations into Watt’s misconduct, “progressive discipline” levied against him and the lack of a union grievance as differing circumstances.
Personally I hope there is NO settlement. I’d like to know what actually happened here and not have the case locked away in a box somewhere where nobody sees it. I was disappointed that the Erkenbrack case was settled.
Now, I have been quiet on my opinions in this case (even though I do have them) and I’ll hold back on that for now. We’ll see what happens…..
By Andrew Richter
You know, you’d think someone who got 26% of the vote in the primary and came within 8 votes of being ousted would show some humility. Then again, we’re talking about John Budziszewski.
Yesterday on his facebook page he took a cheap shot at the three victorious primary challengers for the city council seats;
Budziszewski: “4th Budget Meeting again no Dahl, no Kolb, no Parsons oh my.”
Nice! What a charmer you are. Why do they have to show up for these meetings? Jeff Kolb has been a regular at council meetings and work sessions for the past two years and has served on the Planning Commission. How can anyone question his dedication? Olga Parsons and Elizabeth Dahl are smart people who have been at many council meetings recently as well. They, unlike the current people running for re-election, will actually bring new ideas to the table and a fresh set of eyes.
This reminds me of former Mayor ReNae Bowman attacking Jim Adams and myself for not showing up to budget meetings back in 2012 (I was knocking on doors trying to talk to residents to take Mayor Bowman’s job for the record). Could this be a similar attack? It’s right out of the Bowman playbook. Anyone wonder who is advising Mr. Budziszewski?
Ward 3 Resident Lynn Haney made the following comment on his page: “My question is this, are residents allowed to speak at these meetings? If not, they may be listening to them online like I do.”
Good point, residents are not allowed to speak and you can listen to the audio but Mr. Budziszewski was having none of it and offered this smart ass response:
Budziszewski: “I’m sorry. I was mistaken. I thought they were seriously running for city counsel with an emphasis on the budget. My bad.”
Nice spelling……I guess nobody can run for the council unless they attend these boring meetings where no new ideas are discussed. Maybe they were out knocking on doors and listening to the audio tapes afterwards. What’s wrong with that?
I’m wondering what Mr. Budziszewski was doing at the budget meeting since he has nothing to offer. He’ll just want to bond the public works building and move money around from other funds to make it “look like” there’s no tax increase hoping we’re dumb enough to fall for it.
Here’s an idea Mr. Budziszewski: how about come up with just one idea, one budget cut, one positive things to say from this alleged “fiscal conservative.” Nah, I’m asking too much.
You can see Mr. Budziszewski’s facebook post before he erases it HERE
He doesn’t allow people who disagree with him to comment on his page but perhaps you can email your disgust though he never responds;
Maybe you’d like to call him since his phone number is on his facebook page;
Tell him Pat Summerall sent you.
By Andrew Richter
OK this is an example of the sacrifices I make to the people who read this blog. I listened to the Crystal City Council’s four-hour August 21 work session, and honestly, my friends it was awful.
It was a horrible way to spend fours. I’d rather have had a root canal, a colonoscopy, watched Best Friends Wedding twice, or read childish rants by a certain former mayor in the paper. It was that bad.
I came away from the meeting with three conclusions;
*There will be no cuts at all
You have to trust me on this folks. There is NO appetite at all on the council for budget cuts. We will have the same amount of employees, they will all get a raise, and nothing will really change. The council is just trying to figure out how they can move money around to make it happen. Of everyone on the council on Ward 3 Councilman Casey Peak offered anything specific and he immediately pounced on. It’s almost as if everyone is just sitting around waiting for someone else to say something.
*The three incumbents running for re-election have no ideas at all
This is a fact; Mark Hoffman, Joe Selton, and John Budziszewski offered nothing. For all their alleged “experience” they offered to new ideas, no cuts, no vision for the future. Their strategy seems to be to sit back and hope someone else says something so they don’t have to. It proves me right again! They are the ones who pushed the 60/40 option for the Mill & Overlay and offered nothing for cuts to pay for the 40% that comes from the budget just like I said they would. Come on John Budziszewski, Mr. no tax raise under any circumstances, where are your ideas?
Of course, if they do come up with any idea, it won’t be for less government. No, it will be to move money around or bond for something (which of course will cost taxpayers even more), anything but cutting government.
*We are getting a tax increase
I don’t care what anyone has pledged the council is looking at a 2-4% tax increase. They have to pass a preliminary budget at the September 2 meeting and they haven’t agreed to one cut yet. We are going to have a tax hike; book it.
If you are to listen to this meeting you can click HERE but just trust me; you don’t want to.
By Andrew Richter
Now I know everything is political but we’ve reached a new level here in Crystal.
Crystal hasn’t had a council meeting in about a month and a lot has happened in that time. We had a debate, a primary election, and of course, my resignation from the Planning Commission. However, it wasn’t until the council meeting on August 19 that my resignation was to be accepted.
Now folks to be honest with you I had completely forgotten about it….that is until I watched the council meeting on August 19.
Mayor Jim Adams read out the Consent Agenda (which is a routine matter) and my resignation was number 4. Mark Hoffman made a motion to accept the agenda and Laura Libby seconded. Just then John Budziszewski made a motion to amend the Consent Agenda to remove number 4 (my resignation). The motion was immediately seconded by Joe Selton. Councilman Budziszewski offered no reasoning for doing this other than he wanted to “vote on it separately.”
The council did so and Budziszewski “abstained” from voting on my resignation. Interestingly, Selton voted to accept it. Why vote for a motion to vote on it separately and then accept it anyway? Perhaps this was coordinated?
OK maybe I’m getting a little paranoid here but, I don’t get it. What is controversial or what does someone hope to gain by “abstaining” from accepting a resignation? Oh well, I have to remember something; everything from here on out, every word said will be politicized, especially if it comes from me.
I just find it funny that they can’t even get through the Consent Agenda without politicizing it.
In this episode, we break down the 2014 primary for Crystal, MN. We take a look into the macro and micro data, and historical trends. Follow along and apply these same analysis processes to your own city!
I just re-read this post I wrote a while back that I think is very important and timely. This is the conversation we need to be having running up to November. Share it with your friends!
Originally posted on Community Solutions MN:
By Jason Bradley
We hear the term “servant” being thrown around a lot in the public sphere. Our elected officials are called “public servants” and the motto of all police departments seem to be “to protect and serve”. Are we seeing the great servants of our time in government… or are we taking for granted a word that should have a lot more meaning than it seems to?
A servant is someone that is in the service of another. Meaning he or she does the bidding of the person (or people) they are in service of. They look to do right by and make happy the person or people that employed them. For those of us not in government, it means that we help our elderly neighbors with clean-up after a storm or snow removal, being a volunteer coach, or working at a soup kitchen. It implies that we are…
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