By Andrew Richter
OK here’s the long-awaited Champlin mayor’s debate analysis from me! Don’t worry folks I’ll be doing Crystal’s soon!
The debate was hosted by the League of Women Voters. Four candidates filed to run but two of them renounced their candidacy. So it’s really down to two people: Ryan Karasek and Bruce Miller who are both presently on the city council.
The first three questions were told to the candidates before the debate. Personally, I can’t stand that, mostly because I hate prepared answers or answers that are read. I prefer shooting from the hip. The moderator also kept calling Champlin “Shamplin” and man that was annoying. But anyhow, the first two questions were the typical ones: who are you and why are you running etc. The third question was more interesting where the question was about what issue you are most passionate about;
Bruce Miller had a great answer where he spoke about keeping Champlin a city with a small town feel and a good place to own a business and raise a family which I can tell you is a big issue with a lot of folks. Karasek fumbled the first part but he seemed to regain himself talk about the Riverfront/Mississipi Crossing development though he didn’t say anything specific about what he would do.
The next question was on providing free government space for non-profit groups to meet. Karasek answered that he “found it tough” to raise fees and he “sees the need” for space but provided no details on what he would do. Miller pointed out that there needs to be a set of standards as to who can and can’t get “free space.” Miller also pointed out that there are churches and others who provide meeting space as well. He commented that there is a cost to providing space and seemed open to changes.
Question number five was about police brutality and both candidates pretty much backed up the police department. Personally, I’m not their biggest fan. I’m going to skip the next two questions about programs for seniors and senior housing since it’s not an issue that concerns me, nor were the candidates answers anything unexpected.
The next question had to with what would you do differently than the current council. Karasek spoke first and pointed out rightly that it was an interesting question being that both he and Bruce Miller are members of the council. Karasek mentioned communication was an issue he’d like to improve on but again mentioned no specifics. Miller got some laughs when he praised the current council he’s a member of and then spoke about the fact that he isn’t happy with the budget process and that more time needs to be taken to digest all the numbers. He also said he wants some more joint meetings with the city commissions.
Public transportation was the topic for the next question. Miller pointed out that public transportation is being supplied by the county and the Met Council and they are being underutilized. Karasek agreed but said he’d look into fitting it in the budget but once again didn’t say how he’d do it.
The Mann Theater dominated the next question where as mentioned in a previous post is seeking financial assistance from the city. Karasek thinks the theater is amenity to the city and said he wanted to keep the theater and wouldn’t raise taxes to do it which to me is a tad head scratching. Miller is opposed to bailing out the theater and didn’t think your tax dollars should be used to remodel it. He also pointed out the flaws of the government partnering with business.
The final statement was rather interesting. Karasek told a story about where a resident called him and told him that he thinks Karasek listens and cares. He then teared up and spoke out advice from his late father. Basically he loves “Shamplin” and he cares. Miller talked about how his term is up and it’s all on the line for him and he’s out there knocking on every door.
Analysis: Bruce Miller did a good job of distinguishing himself from his opponent. He was more specific and more forthcoming in his answers. Karasek simply is a nice guy who wants to be mayor by saying as little as possible.
Bruce Miller: two thumbs up!
Ryan Karasek: played prevent defense
A link can be found HERE
By Andrew Richter
On her website, former mayor and now candidate ReNae Bowman took a cheap shot at me and my former colleagues by claiming Crystal’s City Code Task Force does nothing but “move periods and semi-colons around.”
As the former chair of this task force, I’m greatly offended by this insult and I’ve seldom seen someone so ignorant and condescending towards volunteers. Crystal’s 1,300 page city code is obsolete, contradictory, unenforceable, and virtually impossible to understand. This task force was a unique and forward-thinking way to reform the code and involve citizens in the process. To my knowledge, we are the only city to date in Minnesota to take on such a project.
This task force is all-volunteer and is painstakingly reviewing every line of this document. We’ve agreed and we’ve disagreed. We’ve made recommendations to the city council and they have decided what to change and what not to. Meetings have taken hours of reading and preparation yet Ms. Bowman refers to this on her website as “an empty attempt to look like work was being conducted.” Nice attitude! This from a person who did nothing to change the code in eight years as mayor and has never attended one meeting of our task force.
I think it’s absolutely terrible that a candidate for office would attack a group of volunteers and make fun of their work. This is unacceptable behavior and Crystal deserves better than her. Rest assured, Ms. Bowman will destroy this task force if she gets elected. Crystal citizens shouldn’t give her the chance.
Thank you to the Sun Post for Publishing!
By Andrew Richter
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when did the government become a bank? An issue has arisen in my new home town of Champlin that once again calls into question the role of government.
At a Champlin City Council and Economic Development Authority (EDA) joint work session Monday, Sept. 26, city staff and the EDA board discussed the latest developments regarding the future of the Mann Cinema 14.
The Manns are looking into a $4 million renovation and have requested financial assistance from the city. The renovation would entail the removal of the existing seating and the installation of new seats, adding liquor sales and online ticketing options.
Originally, the Manns requested $750,000 from the city to assist with their project, but at a previous work session in August, the EDA determined it was not comfortable contributing $750,000. Instead, city staff began negotiating a deal that involved a 10-year, forgivable loan for 10 percent of the project cost capped at $400,000. The loan would carry an interest rate of 3 percent and be forgiven after 10 years with the stipulation it would operate as a first-run theater as opposed to a discount theater. The deal also stipulated that majority ownership must be maintained by the Manns.
OK wait a minute; A $400,000 forgivable loan if they become a first-run theater? What’s that mean? They don’t have to pay it back?
In past discussions staff had spoken with the EDA about abating the theater’s property taxes for up to 20 years. At the most recent work session, the EDA expressed it was not interested in abating the theater’s taxes. Staff believes the city can recoup those costs over a 10 year period in terms of additional taxes generated from the project including liquor licence fees.
Abating their property taxes? Good grief!
“In terms of recouping the investment, there are city taxes indicating that a new and improved theater consistent with what was done in Plymouth would generate $8,300 a year more in taxes,” said Deputy City Administrator John Cox. “If they, like Plymouth, opened up a bar that would generate another $6,700 a year. So that is $15,000 per year and applying a modest interest rate of 2 percent over 22 years, the city would be able to recoup that investment of $400,000.”
If it’s such a great deal why don’t they get a bank loan?
The property currently produces $105,000 annually in taxes.
Additionally, if the Manns sell a majority of that theater within 10 years or the term of the loan they would be responsible for paying back that loan with interest. This information is according to most recent city documents and may change as negotiations continue. Nothing has been agreed upon by both parties nor has it been approved by the council.
“Every dollar we spend on this, you have to keep in mind, those are dollars that we are not spending on other important priorities like the Mississippi Crossings,” Cox said.
The Manns recently renovated their Plymouth Theatre and have experienced a 189 percent increase in sales since completing the project. Other revenue figures, such as concessions, bar sales and commissions have increased similarly. However, staff said it is important to note that Manns Plymouth Theatre has limited competition with the nearest renovated theatres being in Eden Prairie and Burnsville. In Champlin, the landscape is more competitive with a recently renovated theatre in Coon Rapids, and soon to be re-seated theaters in Maple Grove and Andover. It is this competition that is dictating that the Champlin theater be either renovated or be closed.
According to city staff, the Manns have stated that the theater has never made a profit since opening in 2002.The EDA also discussed other options with staff in terms of what else the building could be used for. “Riverway Church has shown an interest in the facility as a church or community center,” Cox said. “This use would result in the property becoming tax-exempt.”
Well we can’t have that…..gotta grab every dollar LOL
The EDA also discussed if the property could be sold to another theatre operator, but the Manns do not believe that is likely given their conversations with other operators. A real estate broker with Wakefield Cushman believes the property’s best re-use is a tear down. The 9 acre theatre site could support a variety of uses including commercial and multi-family residential. The broker estimated that the property has a value of $2.35 million to $3.13 million minus demolition costs.
OK here’s what the EDA (which is the city council) had to say:
The question that circled the discussion table Monday night was, “How much is the theater worth to this community?”
The board shared these comments with staff:
“I hate to lose the theater,” said EDA member Kara Terry. “It’s an amenity — one of the few amenities that teenagers have here in our community. They employ many teens; it’s a very valuable experience. I would support keeping them in our community. I would prefer to go the 5 to 7 percent route with no burden to the tax payers.” EDA President ArMand Nelson asked what burden is put on the city if the Manns close. “It’s an association of which the Manns are a majority property owner,” said City Administrator Bret Heitkamp. “That’s an issue we’d have to deal with.”
Board member Bruce Miller said he is against providing financial assistance to the Manns for the project altogether. “Everybody that I’ve talked to, money or not, said the theater is an amenity to the community that could have significant economic impacts on our community if it were to close — not only for future businesses that come to the community but for residents that look to it as an amenity,” said EDA Board Treasurer Ryan Karasek. “I do not want to raise taxes for the residents — period. I’d be more inclined to make that investment and we collect that revenue back in our general fund from an increased property tax perspective.”
Karasek added that he would be in favor of providing financial assistance to the Manns at five to seven percent of the project cost and not to exceed $250,000.
Why does Karasek get so much ink here? And his opinion makes not a drop of sense. He wants to aid the theater but not raise taxes; well where does the $400,000 come from then? Is the Fed going to print you money?
Member Eric Johnson stated that, in his opinion, the city can no longer afford to contribute $400,000. “We have other projects we need to use those funds for,” Johnson said. “To me, it’s in that 5 to 7 percent of $4 million. To me, the max you go up to is $300,000. I agree with Kara, this is a unique amenity that the city absolutely needs because we don’t have a lot of things like this available to our residents.” The EDA Board directed staff to continue negotiations with the Manns stating that the city would contribute a percentage of the project cost to be determined in later negotiations.
Judging by the comments here I’m guess there will be a bailout…..oh excuse me an investment. Bruce Miller is probably the only dissenting vote at this point.
To say this is ridiculous is an understatement. If a business succeeds or fails out in the free market you can’t run to government to bail them all out; how do you pick and choose who to bail out and who not to? If you bail them out what message are you sending? If you pay enough in property taxes you can get taxpayer money? You’re too big fail? How about all the businesses that open and close, where is their money?
Stay tuned to this one……
By Andrew Richter
Ward 2 Councilman Jeff Kolb submitted this zinger to the Sun Post;
On her campaign website last week, former Crystal mayor and current candidate for mayor Renae Bowman made disparaging comments about the city’s all-volunteer code review task force – saying they were just “moving periods and semi-colons around in the code book.”
While I have a personal policy of not responding to the misinformation that the former mayor so frequently traffics in, I could not let her insult of these hard working volunteers go unanswered.
The code review task force was created last year in response to citizen concerns that our city code was too difficult to read and contained outdated provisions. Bowman herself notes that during her time as mayor she “knew (the city) had obsolete codes” but past practice was to just not deal with them, leading to the mess we have today.
The council advertised for citizens who wished to participate, and had so much interest we ended up increasing the size of the task force beyond the 10 people we had originally planned for.
Since its inception this group of volunteers – from across the political spectrum, and representing all areas of the city – has reviewed several thousand pages of city code and identified several deficiencies, contradictions and outright errors. In addition, the task force has had many spirited policy debates about potential policy changes in the code.
When their work concludes, the citizens of Crystal will have a city code that is modern, updated and much easier for an average citizen or business owner to understand.
I have attended almost all of the task force’s meetings, and I have watched them in action. I didn’t know how it would work to have 14 people pouring over a few thousand pages of extremely dry and technical material, but they have exceeded all expectations, and are moving along faster than we anticipated.
Crystal City Council, Ward 2
Thank Jeff, very much appreciated
I’d like to take a moment to reintroduce you to our challenger for Crystal mayor, ReNae Bowman. She’s got a long record to help us know exactly who she is. Here is one such article from 2012. It contrasts what she would say depending on her audience. It’s important to know the difference between who she says she is, and who she really is. This is an important election. Study well!
During the Crystal Mayor’s debate, Mayor Bowman made the assertion that she fully supported the Crystal Airport, going as far as coupling an active airport with a public amusement park (good luck getting the FAA on board with that…). This is a ridiculous statement.
Let’s not even go into the obvious; that the airport is still listed on the City’s redevelopment plan. Any local news outlet should have been able to look into that, but hasn’t bothered. Let’s take it a step further, and do some old fashioned investigative journalism. The Crystal Airport is held up only by the Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC), who owns the property. I happened upon the transcripts of MAC meetings from November 7 through December 17, 2007, where Mayor Bowman voices how she really feels about the Crystal Airport. While Community Solutions does not endorse candidates, we will report on newsworthy items we see happening…
View original post 1,383 more words
By Andrew Richter
I am happy to accept this appointment;
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Sept. 20, 2016
CITIZENS LEAGUE ANNOUNCES NEW TRANSIT STUDY COMMITTEE
Is there a better way to govern, plan, and fund a transit system to strengthen the region?
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Citizens League is convening a new study committee to look at transit in the region through the lens of governance, policy, and funding. The study committee will be chaired by Peter Bell, former Met Council chair. Ann Lenczewski, former legislator and chair of the Minnesota House Tax Committee, will serve as vice-chair.
This focus on transit—defined broadly to include all modes—is the result of a more general study of the Met Council that the Citizens League completed earlier this spring with a 19-member task force of community members. In that final report, the task force reported that while experts maintained that the region’s system of transit governance, planning, operating, and funding worked well despite its seemingly fragmented and complex nature, there remained important questions related to accountability and transparency, efficiency and effectiveness, and equity. Given the limited time the previous group had to review these issues, it recommended that the Citizens League undertake a separate study.
“As our transit system continues to expand it is important to make sure that our funding structure is adequate, equitable, sustainable, and transparent,” said Peter Bell.
“Almost everyone agrees that we do not currently have a sustainable system for addressing long-term transit needs related to both workforce changes and aging,” said Sean Kershaw, Citizens League Executive Director. “In the last session, transit funding questions ultimately prevented a number of other funding and policy issues from being addressed. Instead of limping along, we want to study the current system to see if there could be a better way to plan for a stronger region now and in the future.”
Through recommendations and an open call to all Citizens League members, the new transit study committee will include the following members:
Chair and Vice-Chair
· Mr. Peter Bell, Former Metropolitan Council Chair (2003-2011) (Chair)
· Ms. Ann T. Lenczewski, State Government Relations, Lockridge Grindal Nauen and former Minnesota House of Representative, Chair of Tax Committee (Vice-Chair)
1. Mr. Abou Amara, Director of Public Policy, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change
2. Mr. Michael Beard, Scott County Commissioner, District 3 and former legislator
3. Mr. Bill Blazar, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Business Development, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
4. Mr. Patrick Born, former Regional Administrator, Metropolitan Council and current Citizens League Board Member
5. Mr. James Erkel, Attorney and Director of the Land Use and Transportation Program, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
6. Mr. Ethan Fawley, Executive Director, Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition and member of Transportation Advisory Board
7. Ms. Mary Giuliani Stephens, Mayor of Woodbury
8. Ms. Elizabeth Glidden, Vice President and Council Member (Ward 8), Minneapolis City Council.
9. Mr. Jason Grev, Director of Government Relations, Ecolab, Inc.
10. Ms. Mary Liz Holberg, Dakota County Commissioner, District 6 and former legislator
11. Ms. Nancy Tyra-Lukens, Mayor of Eden Prairie
12. Mr. Scott McBride, Transportation District Engineer, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT)
13. Mr. Jim McDonough, Ramsey County Commissioner, District 6
14. Mr. Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County Commissioner, District 4 and Chair, Counties Transit Improvement Board
15. Ms. Kenya McKnight, President, Black Women’s Wealth Alliance and member of the Transportation Advisory Board
16. Mr. Vayong Moua, Director, Health Equity Advocacy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
17. Mr. Andrew Richter, organizer for Community Solutions MN, former planning commission member for City of Crystal and former chair of the Crystal city code task force
18. Mr. William Schreiber, former legislator and retired lobbyist with Messerli and Kramer
19. Ms. Patty Thorsen, Member of the Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee, Metropolitan Council
The transit study committee will take on this effort this month with the goal to release a report by February 1st to inform the 2017 legislative session.
Well my friends I know some of you probably think I’m crazy for accepting this appointment but unless sceptics of transit get their feet wet at this level we will never change things. I want to thank the Citizens League for this appointment and for their willingness to bring in transit opponents. Look for my updates very soon!
By Andrew Richter
Now, I have to say that I’ve never seen the financing of a building get so much attention in an election but the Angry Bird/Sour Grapes candidates continue to advocate that borrowing should have been done to pay for the new Public Works Building in Crystal. None more so than former mayor ReNae Bowman. Here are the comments from her website:
I would have bonded for at least $10 million dollars to preserve other accounts and interest income.
OK everyone got that? Bonded for AT LEAST $10 million (meaning that would have been the minimum) with of course the interest payments for 15 or 20 years that go along with it that she doesn’t mention.
But, Bowman was singing a different tune back when she was the outgoing mayor in 2012. There were no worries then about our cash reserves, or bond rating, or interest income. In this Mayor’s Minutes from December 3, 2012, Bowman brags that she did such a great job, the public works building could mostly be paid for “upfront.”
So what’s changed? Why was it great to pay for the public works building upfront in 2012 and horrible to do it in 2015?
I think what changed was the political landscape. Bowman and her friends aren’t in charge anymore and she hates the current mayor and council so much that she simply HAS to criticize whatever they do. What else could it be?