Crystal Needs to Fight E-Cigarette Ban


By Andrew Richter

I wrote a few months ago about the dictatorship of Hennepin County’s ban on those evil e-cigarettes that are killing so many people according to jackasses like Mike Opat and Marion Greene who have no respect for individual or private property rights. Recently, at the May 5 work session the city council of Crystal considered action against the E-Cigarette ban. After the city attorney explained that the council couldn’t repeal the law the council discussed a symbolic resolution against the county.

Mayor Jim Adams was unwavering in believing that the county has infringed on the private property rights of the city. Councilman Jeff Kolb expressed his disgust with Hennepin County and feels they are out of control but wondered if a symbolic was worth it.

While I understand Kolb’s concern and I do wonder if a resolution against the ban would have much effect, I have to say one thing; what do the arrogant bastards at Hennepin County have to do before a city stands up to them? Hennepin County has pushed Complete Streets, Light Rail, a levy on County Road 81, and on and on and cities just sit here and grab their ankles. When does this stop?

Casey Peak put it well; “When is an infringement of your rights a proper time to fight?”

I couldn’t put it any better. What exactly does the county have to do?

Even Police Chief Stephanie Revering hinted that the city would not enforce the ban unless a private establishment complained. Wow! Maybe I’ll have to start really liking Stephanie!

And who knows; perhaps, just perhaps another city is sitting there thinking the same thing (don’t worry New Hope city council I’m not talking about you, we all know you’re patsies) and they might act if Crystal acts! Crystal can be the leader of leaders!

I know this; sitting on your ass and doing nothing will just ensure that Hennepin County will do this again.

Listen to the work session HERE

May 24, 2015 at 11:28 am Leave a comment

The Race to Keep Up With the Jones’s


By Andrew Richter

How many times do we see this. One city has a hockey rink and the next city wants one. Once city has a pool the next city wants one. One city has a community center the next city wants one. It’s called keeping up with the Jones’s.

Recently here in the Twin Cities, though, this brainless concept has reached a fever pitch to the point where even the Communist Star Tribune has written about it!

Mark Windschitl admits it took some convincing to bring him around. When he first heard the idea of creating a regional curling center, the mayor of Chaska recalls, “I thought, ‘What are we thinking about?’ ” A plan to put in new playground equipment, trails, picnic shelters and redo a beach at a city park had morphed into a much more ambitious venture that also encompassed a 40,000-square-foot complex with curling rinks, an event center and a city-supported ale house, at a cost capped at $20 million.

Curling rinks? Capped at $20 million????

Chaska is not the only place dreaming big when it comes to sports. Twin Cities suburbs are in the midst of a major boom in recreational facilities — an amenities arms race in which each is keenly conscious of what other cities are cooking up.

Yeah it gets worse;

Shakopee is weighing $32 million in projects. Eden Prairie is completing the first phase of a $21 million aquatic center whose cost billowed from a mere $3 million. Woodbury is struggling to complete the glitziest features of a $22 million sports center expansion. Driving the building boom are a number of factors, including a desire to attract young, more affluent families. Such amenities build civic pride and create community gathering places, city leaders say. “If you look across communities in the Twin Cities and you talk to mayors, residents, Realtors, you learn that a lot of communities have a strong point, a feature, something that makes them stand out,” said Eden Prairie Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens. “Those things are important for marketing your community.”

You have to be kidding me!

Critics say the projects are way over the top, especially considering the long-term costs to operate and maintain them. They worry that cities are vying for smaller shares of a shrinking market as suburban growth rates slow and the number of children dwindles. And they complain that community leaders are dodging the democratic process. Chaska is already studded with major city-owned recreational amenities, not all of them prospering. Its latest project was never subjected to a citywide referendum.

Well, of course why give people a vote on it!

May 14, 2015 at 11:31 pm Leave a comment

Crystal City Staff’s Agenda: No Parking Ban Repeal and Franchise Fees


By Andrew Richter

I’ve long maintained that city staffs have way too much influence over city councils. In many cities, the council seems to answer to the staff rather than the other way around. It’s reached a new level here in Crystal with the upcoming work session on May 14. The first item that shows tremendous city staff bias. The Council is considering removing the overnight parking ban in Crystal but city staff is trying hard to get in the way and protect the status quo. Here is what city staff prepared for the work session;

SUBJECT: On street parking restrictions (not including snow emergencies)

Summary 

Currently on-street parking is restricted on Crystal streets from 2am to 5am all year. The City Council has expressed the desire to discuss this restriction with staff.

They should discuss it among themselves, why does city staff get a vote?

The restriction of on-street parking impacts many different people in different ways. While some may concern certain items as pros or cons, that categorization is generally very subjective depending on the individual.

Notice what was said; pros or cons! Then city staff lists a bunch reasons to keep the parking ban clearly in an effort for influence the council to keep things the way they are! Here they are;

Some residents feel that on street parking detracts from the image of the neighborhood.

And who is that exactly?

No on street parking could reduce the ease with which car prowlers could check out vehicles and break in.

Ha! So we shouldn’t park on the street for our own protection!

A vehicle parked on the street in violation of the ordinance could be checked by police. Criminals that park vehicles on the street during their criminal actions could be discovered or identified because of the vehicle on the street.

Oh yeah the police can peak in the window! They can’t do that otherwise! Those damn private property rights!

Vehicles parked on the street provide places to hide for individuals up to no good.

Huh?

For impaired drivers, vehicles parked on the street are just another thing to navigate  around or crash into.

So we’re protecting impaired drivers?

Unplanned large parties that may create a nuisance for neighbors may potentially be mitigated because the attendees cannot park vehicles on the street overnight without a  special permit.

We already have city codes that can prevent that such as noise ordinances.

As a result of very snowy winters, City streets can get a bit narrower due to the snow bank creep. Depending on how vehicles are parked on the street (assuming they were allowed to), larger emergency vehicles (fire trucks, ambulances) may not be able to fit between the parked vehicles. During the winter, plowing or de-icing trucks may be out addressing problem areas during the early morning hours. The parked vehicles reduce the truck’s ability to treat an entire area of concern. For snow events that start late in the evening or during the overnight hours, the parking restriction means that residents will not be surprised if a snow emergency is called during overnight hours.

Blah, blah! We already ave snow emergencies!

Now, do you see what I mean here? They talked about the “pros” and “cons” but clearly city staff has an agenda to keep things the way they are. Instead of opening up a “debate” on the issue, they are trying to influence the council. Talk about being bias! Personally, I continue to think that this is a revenue generator for the city and that is the real concern here.

Next the work session packet goes on to promote franchise fees which we’ve talked about extensively here. This is a city tax on utilities that is regressive in nature. It’s a tax no business, no church, no school, no household can avoid.

One revenue generating option that other cities have utilized are franchise fees. These fees are an additional charge put on customers monthly gas and electric bills. In these cases the utilities act as a pass-through for the fee which goes directly to the city.

In other words, it’s a hidden tax. You put it on there hoping nobody will notice.

Staff is not making any recommendation for or against franchise fees.

Oh yeah, you just happened to want the council to talk about it! I know I believe that. Here’s an idea; instead of “raising revenue and “how about we cut some city spending!  I know I believe that. Here’s an idea; instead of “raising revenue and “how about we cut some city spending instead of gauging us with another tax!!

Staff wants to main the parking ban and impose franchise fees. We need to contact our city council and tell them not to listen to them!

Work Session Packet

May 13, 2015 at 8:38 pm 1 comment

Throwdown At The Broadway Pizza


Community Solutions MN

by Jason Bradley

You know what I love? It’s when I take my family out to eat, and before you know it, the tables next to me are being knocked over by two lovely individuals who seem to be assaulting a third. Yeah, I get it. I’m picky. Can I ask just one question?

What is wrong with us?

You see, I’m watching the Baltimore riots all over TV, witnessing Friday night at the fights (on a Sunday afternoon) at my local pizza joint, and wondering what goes through people’s minds?

Let me back up a bit. My daughter had just completed her dance recital, and per tradition, we head out to eat. We used to hit the 50’s Grill, until everyone else decided to do the same thing. Then it was DQ. This year we decided to do something different and go to Broadway Pizza in Crystal. I asked for a Cherry Pepsi, and it hadn’t even gotten to me yet when I heard a crash and yelling. Oh goodie, it’s amateur hour at Broadway. I think it’s over almost as quick as it started, when a pile of bodies comes barreling into the tables our group was sitting at. A man and woman tackled another man. The first man was on top of all of them throwing punches at the guy on the bottom, and instead repeatedly hitting his girlfriend (or whatever) in the side. Some patron suplexes the guy on top in order to get him off the pile and away from the apparent victim. I helped a lady off the floor, that had been knocked over by the melee.

I look around in sudden terror, realizing all of the kids had split. I finally saw my wife and three year old had escaped to the party room with some of the women from our group, crashing a party that Mayor Adam’s wife was attending. I see the attacker and his girl trying to get to the other guy, so I place myself between the party room and the brawlers, thinking “there’s no way you’re getting through here”. Some of the other men had pushed the charming couple to the door, when he broke loose to attack the guy a third time. I’m still between the fight and the party room where folks are holed up for their safety, just closer to the bout, so I can keep them far away from the room if need be. The other patrons that were helping got the man and woman out the door just in time for the police to roll up.

Long story short, the charming couple were ticketed and released. That’s right, violent individuals were sent back into your community on their own recognizance. I talked about this with a source at the City who said that officers have the freedom to decide who to haul in and who to release. This is not not the City Council’s doing (c’mon, how many times have you ever heard me say that?). This is policy set by the police department, who’s personnel is overseen by the City Manager.

I tried to call the restaurant about the incident the following day, and the GM was so horrified by the event that he decided to keep his day off intact. I left my name and number and am still waiting for a call back almost two weeks later. You lost the business of over 20 people that day, and some, possibly, forever. You’d think he might see some urgency.

You see, two drunkards knocked over tables where patrons were sitting with no regard for children. Blood was flying around. It was all over employees, the patrons who intervened, the floor, and who knows where else? Restaurant staff were traumatized, with one girl shaking and sobbing. Your customers should not be protecting your staff. Hire somebody to do it. How can Broadway not have someone there on staff that is big enough to handle this situation? Shouldn’t the bartender have known to cut off the aggressors before a problem arose? How are these safe people to send back out into the neighborhood? These are unanswered questions I still have. How am I supposed to feel safe bringing my family there again? … Or anywhere in that area, for that matter?

Between the recent incident at Perkins and the frequency of assaults and robberies, I’d like to see that we’re taking violent crime seriously in that area of town. This isn’t who we are in Crystal. We are being held hostage by a small percentage of the population that thinks it’s okay to act like a three year old. We need a charter change to allow our City Council greater influence over personnel decisions, including policy decisions made by our police department. Right now, there’s nothing they can do, outside of appointing another City Manager. I’m not sure that fixes this. It’s the same in Cooper and Armstrong high schools, where they refuse to suspend violent students, and then tell us that suspension rates are down, like that is some sort of achievement. This policy is dangerous, and it only rewards the violent offenders. The school board and administration should be held accountable.

If you are one of the offenders in this situation, or have been in other situations, and you are reading this, you should be ashamed of yourself. This is not how we act in this country. The people that you dress down verbally or come after physically are not the problem. You are the problem.

The only thing that will solve this is to fix ourselves. I look at this stuff, the riots in Baltimore, the officers shot in New York, and now the shooting in Garland, and the solution is not restricting knives, guns, or clubs. People will use their fists, if necessary (trust me, I just witnessed it). We need to change us. We need to resolve ourselves to use kindness and patience with others. We have to choose to be better. We lose freedoms when we choose to be violent (verbally or physically), because government will step in. That said, when someone is actually physically violent and violates someone else’s right to security, they need to go away. We can’t give our tacit approval by sending them back out into public. That does a great disservice to the innocent, and is terrible policy. You get violent, you go to jail. That should be our policy. That is how we protect our people.

 

Jason Bradley is an entrepreneur in the music industry (Jason Bradley Live and Paper Lanterns Intl) and owns a consulting/advocacy/education firm that specializes in non-partisan politics (Community Solutions MN). Jason Bradley helps others to reach their goals in music and reduce the size and influence of government.

Connect with Jason on Google+

Jason on Google+

May 9, 2015 at 5:55 pm Leave a comment

Crystal City Council to Give Commissions a Much Needed Makeover


By Andrew Richter

I have long been a critic of the Crystal Environmental Quality and Human Rights Commissions. I don’t see what the purpose is of either commission is and FINALLY we have a city council that seems to be open to changes.

As Crystal recruits citizens to review the city’s code, some city council members are considering ideas that could alter the city’s volunteer commissions.

As part of their Citizen Connection Initiative, Crystal City Council Members Olga Parsons, Elizabeth Dahl and Jeff Kolb hope to re-evaluate the structure and goals of city commissions and boards. “We just want to make sure we’re utilizing our commissions to their fullest potential,” Parsons said. Some ideas for possible changes include folding the city’s Environmental Quality Commission into its Parks and Recreation Commission.

“The EQC primarily does recycling. That’s what they do and were founded for in the beginning,” said Dahl. “My idea is that the environmental stuff really needs to happen under Parks and Rec because they know all about the environmental issues in our city.” Another thought is to change the direction of the city’s human rights commission, which Dahl said was originally founded to act as a mediator between the city and aggrieved citizens.

“The Human Rights Commission doesn’t have that function, so it’s purely educational,” she said. City commissions have often recommended that the council approve symbolic resolutions in favor or commemoration of a multitude of benign causes and occasions. Past councils have also approved symbolic resolutions for or against proposed school district levies and statewide votes on gay marriage, among other, more politically charged causes.

The current iteration of the council has moved away from making those gestures, however, and declined to read a proclamation from the Human Rights Commission condemning child abuse. That decision incensed at least one commission member, who later resigned.

Nice volunteer! You don’t get your way so you quit!

Dahl said she wants to find specific people and organizations in Crystal to highlight, instead.

“For instance, if the human rights commission wanted to do a child abuse awareness day, instead of just having a proclamation … why don’t we do something like highlight the TreeHouse that actively works with teens in our area?” she said.

No that’s real work! The HRC would rather just sit and issue proclamations and pass resolutions than do real work.

More than one council member mentioned the city’s proclamation that May 8, 2015 is “Lynn Haney Day” in Crystal. Haney is a longtime organizer of the Crystal Frolics community festival. “The proclamations we want to read at the council meetings are things in our own community … and maybe not so much generic proclamations that don’t have much to do with city business,” said Council Member Julie Deshler.

I agree here! Lynn Haney is a great volunteer and her service should be honored!

As another example for possible reform, Kolb said the city’s Employee Review Board has a short annual meeting to elect officers, and not much more. Most issues the board originally was established to handle are now dealt with by other agencies, such as unions, law firms and city management, Deshler said.

“It’s a little tough to go and recruit for a job … and you say to somebody, ‘hey, do you want to be on this board? It doesn’t do anything,’” Kolb said with a laugh. One possible change to the review board he mentioned is constituting it with the chairs of others commissions. Kolb added he thought New Hope’s citizen advisory board was an interesting idea, but was unsure if it was right for Crystal.

I agree again! Kolb and Deshler are right, the Employee Review Board does practically nothing.

The council recently changed the interview process for its commissions, too. Applicants once were interviewed by a handful of city staff and officials, but more recent rounds of interviews have been changed to include the full council. Recent interviews for Crystal’s light rail advisory commissions were conducted in that manner.

As it should! Everyone should participate in this process!

Kolb said he and Mayor Jim Adams recently met with the mayor of Shakopee, whose city rejiggered its commissions a few years ago. “One of the things that Shakopee does that I like is they actually accept applications annually, once a year,” Kolb said. “It’s kind of a major community event to get applications for the commissions. We (Crystal) accept them throughout the year, and they kind of trickle in.”

Sun Post Article

The Environmental Quality Commission or EQC staged something of a protest at the May 5 council meeting no doubt led by former Mayor ReNae Bowman and former Councilman Dave Anderson who both happen to be on the commission. I have to say that I find it amusing that a commission had to come to a meeting to prove their relevance.

This commission seems to want to preach to citizens about rain gardens, solar panels, recycling, and tech dumping but when that’s where it stops. Nobody dares to do any action. Last month I went out on a Saturday morning and picked up trash for two hours along West Broadway with the Crystal Lions. I picked up wonderful things like a dirty diaper and a used condom. And how many members of the EQC were there? Yeah that’s right none! Where was the EQC? Where was Bowman and Anderson? They claim to care so much!

The Human Rights Commission or HRC is another commission that seems to want to issue proclamations and pass resolutions but again it stops there. How about some action?? Their claim to fame so far this year is to sponsor an even to “End Genocide” by a speaker who thinks that the way to end genocide is to reduce your carbon footprint. Last year they did nothing whatsoever.

The thing that perhaps drives me the most crazy about these commissions is that they think they can make their own agenda. When I was on the planning commission, I didn’t get to set the agenda so why should these commission members get to do that? In some ways, I don’t necessarily blame the commissions for this. There has been a lack of direction from the city council for a long time.

This is why I support the council review process. I want to commend the new council members especially Elizabeth Dahl who has done a tremendous amount of research on the history of these commissions. The new council is doing exactly what they said they would do; they are openly and deliberately trying to work to make changes and do things better . I also call on citizens to listen to the April 9 work session (you can do that HERE) and hear a good and lengthy discussion on the subject.

I’d like to see Mayor Adams and the council continue their work on this subject and make reforms if they feel that change is needed. I hope they don’t get intimidated by city dinosaurs like Bowman and Anderson who are trying hard to hold on to power and relevance.

Make the changes and don’t look back!

May 7, 2015 at 10:57 pm Leave a comment

New Hope’s Consent Agenda


By Andrew Richter

My friends, are you all aware of something called a Consent Agenda? Cities, Counties, and School Districts all have a consent agenda that is supposed to pass “routine and non-controversial” things in one quick motion. The definition of “routine and non-controversial” is another matter. Take New Hope Consent Agenda for April 27, 2015;

Here are the first two items;

Approval of business license(s)

Approval of financial claims through April 27, 2015

OK, I don’t see anything alarming here but check out the next one;

Resolution approving a joint powers agreement with the city of Crystal for street improvements to 60th Avenue North and Louisiana Avenue North (Crystal 2015 Lions Park street reconstruction project); improvement project no. 960

Now if you actually watch the meeting, you will come to find out that this resolution costs New Hope over $150,000! Spending $150,000 is “routine and non-controversial?”

Resolution authorizing the execution of a Towing Agreement with North Suburban Towing

Again, should contract agreements be in the consent agenda? Your spending tax dollars here so should the contract not be routine?

Resolution approving agreement with the New Hope/Crystal/Plymouth Swim Club for use of Milton C. Honsey Pool for summer practices and one weekend swim meet

Resolution approving agreement with Great Wolf Swim Club for use of Milton C. Honsey Pool for summer practices

Blah Blah

Resolution of support for Three Rivers Park District application to The Hennepin County 2015 Bikeway Participation Program for The Bassett Creek Regional Trail

Ha! Just as I predicted; New Hope rubber stamps the regional trail! Look at the differences between New Hope and Crystal. Crystal has picked this project apart, met with the Park District, and has been deliberate in their actions by twice delaying a vote, and of course New Hope puts it in the consent agenda!

Resolution authorizing the purchase of equipment and appropriation of funds for $6,997.80 for the purchase of shade umbrellas for the Milton C. Honsey Outdoor Pool

Again! $7000 in more spending!

And guess what? It passed 5-0 just like everything else in New Hope.

On a side note, I have to say that I’ve been quite disappointed in new council member Johnathan London. I was hoping he would at least shake things up in the city and not be a rubber stamp like all the other members, but so far I haven’t seen that at all. It’s still “5-0 New Hope.” I hope he changes.

Memo to New Hope citizens: Please DEMAND change!!!!

Meeting Agenda

May 6, 2015 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

Sicoli Leaves For Roseville


By Andrew Richter

Well it looks like Robbinsdale School Superintendent Aldo Sicoli has decided to take the same position in the Roseville District.

Here is a message from Dr. Sicoli

As you may know, I was a candidate and finalist for the Superintendent of Schools position at Roseville Area Schools. From a pool of well-qualified and well-respected candidates, I am deeply honored that the Roseville Area Schools board placed their faith in me and offered me the position last night, which I verbally accepted. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to go back home.  I have always had a connection to Roseville because of my time as a student, student teacher and coach in this district. I look forward to the new challenges.


I am proud of what we have accomplished since I joined Robbinsdale Area Schools nearly six years ago. We have been able to stabilize our finances, increase our enrollment and improve academic outcomes for our students. We adopted our forward-thinking Unified District Vision strategic plan that is working and delivering measurable, positive results for our students. This plan was implicitly developed to increase student achievement and will continue to yield positive results. This would not be possible without the committed work of all of our stakeholders. Robbinsdale Area Schools is a special place with excellent leadership from our school board and staff. I am confident that Robbinsdale Area Schools will remain focused on doing what is best for all learners.

 I will continue to serve as the superintendent of this district until the end of the school year, and I remain committed to my work every day. This is a busy and critical time of time of year. It is important that we keep our focus on closing this school year strong. Our school board works tirelessly to do what is best for all of our students. I know that they will begin the process of selecting a new leader and share those plans in upcoming weeks. Thank you for your ongoing support of this wonderful district.

Board Chair Sherry Tyrrell tried to calm all of our fears….

The Robbinsdale Area School board congratulates Dr. Aldo Sicoli on being named the superintendent for Roseville Area Schools. We are obviously saddened by his upcoming departure from our district. Dr. Sicoli has been a tremendous leader focused on student success. We appreciate the transparency he provided throughout his hiring process with Roseville. We know that the Roseville Area Schools board recognized the same leadership skills we have appreciated about Dr. Sicoli during his time at Robbinsdale Area Schools. We wish Dr. Sicoli the best as he pursues this new opportunity.

We know that there will be lots of questions about the timing and process to select a successor to Dr. Sicoli. The board will immediately begin the appropriate discussions to ensure there is a seamless leadership transition for our district. Robbinsdale Area Schools has excellent staff leadership focused on implementing our Unified District Vision. We are confident that our work will continue while we plan for this transition. 
I’m curious about Sicoli’s contract. He was inked at Robbinsdale through 2018 and I wonder what “escape hatches” were in it. We’ll keep you posted on who get hired. I know the anticipation is great out there!

May 4, 2015 at 10:53 pm Leave a comment

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