By Andrew Richter
You know folks, watching cities go beg the state for money gets me madder than a dog in a barrel full of fleas. Watching them beg for non-essential things gets me ever madder!
Lawmakers are debating this week how Minnesota should invest millions of dollars into fixing and upgrading the state’s roads and bridges. A group of more than 40 mayors is urging the legislature to include dollars to make it safer for foot and bike traffic to get around Minnesota.
According to the Minnesota Mayoral Active Transportation Caucus, city and county leaders have a backlog of more than $1 billion in projects for sidewalks, curb ramps, safer intersections and bike routes.
Active Transportation Caucus??
Falcon Heights Mayor Peter Lindstrom says these upgrades are sorely needed in Greater Minnesota. “It’s certainly not just for big cities, it’s for cities of all sizes,” says Lindstrom. “I bike to work every single day. You know, when we look around, we see our infrastructure deteriorating. We have to have an all-of-the-above approach when it comes to transportation.”
On Tuesday, House Republicans offered up their own road plan, which includes $100 million in new car-tab fees. Meanwhile, Gov. Mark Dayton’s plan would rely on a car-tab increase of $400 million to pay for road upgrades.
Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht says her town’s tourist economy relies heavily on up-to-date bike and walking paths. But she says average family incomes for Bemidji are about $12,000 less a year than other state residents, which leaves some people unable to afford a car.
“We have a lot of people that walk and bike to work and to school,” says Albrecht. “And so, we want to make sure that they have a safe route to get where they’re going. We think our infrastructure needs to be available for everybody.”
Then build it yourself! Can’t people bike on a side street? Don’t you have any sidewalks in your town? If you want to build a bike path is it OK to demand the rest of us give you a handout? Ridiculous!
Here’s a blast from the past, just because you should remember who’s running for mayor of Crystal, and what she did when she held the office.
It appears that the 2012 Crystal Mayors Race has started. Read the two Letters to the Editor for the Sun Post below.
Letter: Bowman voices support for candidates in Crystal City Council races
Published: Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:45 AM CDT
Recent editorials calling for voters to “throw the bums out” during this year’s election are interesting, but without merit. I understand discontent with government, but getting rid of locally elected officials without cause seems un-American to me.
Since the main job of the city council is the budget, a voter’s criteria for selecting a candidate should be based on how the money is spent. Each year your council representative makes budget decisions that provide fire and police protection, snow plowing, water, sewer and street repair and maintenance and parks and recreation.
That’s not all. There are economic development dollars spent to maintain the value of our community and more…
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By Andrew Richter
Well last Monday I attended my first Champlin City Council meeting and came away with a few takeaways.
There were many positive things to say. The council chamber is small and cozy so it’s quite a nice and inviting atmosphere. It’s not some overbuilt nonsense like in Ramsey or Apple Valley. Everyone said hello to each other and staff and council members seemed friendly. The meeting was largely without fireworks. There were several presentations to grant winners who got their picture taken with Mayor Nelson. It’s interesting how different they run the meetings than Crystal ie: the announcements are at the beginning and the consent agenda is later. Oh well, I’ll just have to get used to it.
If there was a somewhat negative on the night, it was probably the presentation by the Champlin Police Chief David Kolb. I’ll say straight out that I had a very negative impression of Chief Kolb stemming back from 2012 where he testified (in my opinion borderline falsely) about an 2nd amendment bill. You can see more about the criticism of him HERE and HERE. As a resident of Champlin for 2 1/2 weeks I’m trying hard not to pre-judge things, but I have to say that the Champlin police are thought of very negatively by most residents I’ve talked to. Of course their opinion may be biased from one thing or another but the universal complaining is something I’ve never encountered before.
I have to say the Police Chief didn’t do or say much to change that impression. Kolb seems very sensitive to any criticism mentioning “social media” THIRTEEN times in about a 15 minute speech. His annoyance at constituent’s complaints was obvious. Mr. Kolb ought to remember that he is a public servant and we aren’t his subjects and like it or not if they have a bad experience social media is often a place to vent. And as citizens we have to remember that the police are carrying out city policy, not deciding what laws they are going to enforce or not. It’s a two-way street.
The city council seems to back their police officers but then again, what else can they publicly say? I have noticed a large police presence at Andrews Field where I play softball and on Dayton Road where the speed limit should be 45 or 50 but its 30 instead. I saw THREE cop cars there Saturday morning ALONE, so clearly that’s a speed trap. Once again, I’m not pro or anti law enforcement and I’m willing to reserve judgment for now. Either way, their chief didn’t make the best first impression.
I will say this; it was much better than the first Crystal city council meeting I attended!!! Tonight it’s the planning commission meeting!
By Andrew Richter
One would think that all this talk about reforming the Met Council would make me as happy and yes, it does make me smile. However, I think some critical things are missing from the debate here that I just can’t stay silent about.
Ideas for reform can be seen in a recent Sun Post article HERE and Crystal City Councilman Jeff Kolb does a terrific job summarizing a letter that five council members in Crystal recently signed (Read that HERE). Other cities and counties have adopted similar stances. Trouble is, what exactly are these resolutions or letters proposing to do?
Though it is nice to see all the criticism of the Met Council and while I greatly admire the members of the Crystal City Council, all of these reforms miss the ultimate problem; the Met Council doesn’t need to be reformed, it needs to be eliminated. At a minimum, its power needs to be reduced. As long as the Met Council holds the power that it does, it is pretty much useless to elect members.
Electing members or staggering their terms doesn’t do much to reform this body. Of course, appointing the Met Council amounts to total communism, but my fear is that an elected Met Council will go the way of the Park Board or Soil and Conservation. people will be voting for members and have no clue what they are actually voting for. If we elect a Met Council and they continue to have the power that they do, we may as well just eliminate city councils altogether.
I also vehemently object to elected members city councilmen and county commissioners sitting on the Met Council. These people take an oath to represent their constituents, not to go sit on some other board. You can’t serve two masters. It is not “representation” for a councilman or a county commissioner to get themselves appointed to another layer of government.
A great case in point is the Counties Transit Improvement Board, which is made up of five of the seven counties here in the Metro area. They get to divvy up the money from the 2008 gas tax in transit projects. Even though elected county commissioners sit on the board, voters have no control over who gets appointed to this board nor do they have any say in what projects they fund. We elect county commissioners to oversee their county, NOT to decide what transit gets funded in ANOTHER county.
If we want REAL reform how about we advocate to take away the Met Council’s power to implement a direct tax? Or maybe we advocate taking away their authority over housing, or transit, or comprehensive plans? How about our legislature demand reforms or refuse funding? These are the things that will bring REAL reform.
The conversation is a good starting point, but it is nowhere close to where we need to go. As Winston Churchill put it, it’s not the beginning of the end, it’s more like the end of the beginning.
By Andrew Richter
Well, things happen in life my friends and tomorrow brings another journey for me. I’ll be moving out of my home town of Crystal and invading Champlin. Honestly, I leave my heart and soul in Crystal and it’s tough to leave but things happen for a reason. I want to take some time to say goodbye and thank some people.
I have to start by thanking some people. I’ll start by thanking the people who got me involved in the first place; my tag team partner Jason Bradley and local activist Candace Oathout. They had the vision of a group that focused on local issues and began this journey long before I did. I wouldn’t be here without them for sure.
I’m extremely proud of our current mayor and City Council. A big thank you to my Ward 4 councilperson Julie Deshler. While we haven’t always seen eye to eye she is the most tireless volunteer anywhere, a friend, and a total asset to the city of Crystal. Mayor Jim Adams and I have become friends and I have the utmost respect for him as our mayor (for another 4 years!). I was also overjoyed to see Jeff Kolb, Casey Peak, Elizabeth Dahl, and Olga Parsons get elected and represent our great city. Seeing them all on the council together brought a tear to my eye I’m not ashamed to admit.
I have to say goodbye to some employees at Crystal as well. City Manager Ann Norris and I haven’t always agreed on issues but I have a new opinion of her since serving on the City Code Task Force. She’s been a pleasure to work with. City Planner and now Community Development Director John Sutter is a great example of a public servant. Working with him on the planning Commission was awesome.
I’m very proud of our Community Solutions group and how big of an impact we’ve had in this area. This all began with a dispute over a project on Highway 81 followed by a petition that was rejected by the old Crystal City Council (none of whom are there anymore) and over the past seven we’ve gained such a huge audience to the point we are the most watched and talked about blog in this area. We gained copy cats and even the people who hate us read what we are saying.
We’re not stopping, folks! In fact, we have plans to expand everywhere across the whole state! Look out Minnesota! I’ll be keeping my eye on Crystal and continuing to report what is going on so don’t worry I won’t be far away!
Tonight is the City Code Review Task Force meeting and that is my last act in Crystal. I bid you farewell!
By Andrew Richter
Generally speaking I am opposed to city councils doing resolutions on state and federal matters or on ballot measures so, despite mt feelings on the Met Council, I’m not sure what I think of this resolution brought before the Brooklyn Park city council;
The coalition of metro area counties and cities pushing for legislative reform of the Metropolitan Council has asked the Brooklyn Park City Council for the city’s support. Rhonda Sivarajah, chair of the Anoka County Board of Commissioners, presented the primary concerns of the coalition, which includes Anoka, Dakota, Carver and Scott counties and 25 cities that support the initiative, during the April 4 council work session.
The council is expected to discuss the resolution of support at the April 25 regular meeting. Sivarajah also presented the reforms sought, including that the majority of the members of the Met Council be elected officials from the cities and counties impacted by the council’s planning and decisions. In the nearly 50 years since the Met Council was formed, the scope of its impact has expanded greatly, Sivarajah noted, while those sitting on the council remain appointed, and only accountable, to the governor. “We are the only metropolitan planning council in the nation where no elected officials sit on the council,” Sivarajah told the council.
With all due respect, an elected Met Council is a wrongheaded approach. This organization needs to be eliminated, not reformed. My fear is that if they are elected it will become the Park Board or Soil and Conservation where people have no idea what they are voting for,
The changes must be made by the State Legislature, and the coalition is asking cities to pass resolutions of support, to show there is broad-based support for changes, she said.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, are the sponsors of the Senate bill, and Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake, is the chief House author of the legislation during this session. The House bill has been referred to the state Government Finance committee and amended to include that a committee of elected officials would make nominations for the governor to consider in his appointments, and establishing a blue ribbon commission to study the Met Council, its powers and governance and its relationship with local governments.
A Blue Ribbon Commission? Why does government need a commission to study itself? Who’s going to be on this commission? The same people who fund the Met Council? Sounds like a delaying tactic.
Brooklyn Park Councilmember Mike Trepanier wondered aloud the purpose of the council. He also pondered the possibility that elected officials serving on the council would face difficult decisions where the impact of a decision would be negative for their city, but positive for the larger area. “What’s the purpose of a planning agency? It is the big look,” he said. “My concern is how we rebalance this power, and not put individuals in these situations.”
Well, don’t we have that situation at the state and federal level too, Maybe we should appoint them? LOL
Trepanier also questioned where the Met Council and the Twin Cities match up with other planning councils in terms of effectiveness and efficiency.
“We aren’t doing the best job,” Sivarajah said, noting the metro area’s disparities in affordable housing and minority poverty, issues that the council is supposed to address. The coalition is pushing for accountability, Sivarajah said, with the elected officials voted in by their citizens and then nominated to serve on the council.
Councilmember John Jordan said he supports the change, because the impact of Met Council decisions are very real, on housing, roads, transit and utility services. Those big decisions are made by people who aren’t part of the community, he said. “None of those people will ride our buses, flush our toilets or pay our taxes,” Jordan said.
As always, John Jordan makes sense but again I think elimination, not reform is the end game.
Mayor Jeff Lunde, citing the city’s complaint to the federal Housing and Urban Development department about the Met Council pushing the city for even more affordable housing developments, said he supports the change because the Met Council isn’t listening on housing. “I don’t think that everything that the Met Council does is bad, but I do think they could do better,” he said.
Oh wow Mr. Lunde! They could do better? What a tough statement!
Folks, as much as I oppose the existence of the Met Council, I’m not wild about municipal resolutions that quite frankly can simply be ignored. What say you?
By Andrew Richter
Former Mayor ReNae Bowman is running away from her past and is trying to repackage herself as a new candidate. She has now launched a “no labels” campaign where she plans to “campaign only on issues.”Really? Well, as usual, those rules don’t apply to her. When she “announced” she was running for mayor again she had these lovely things to say about people in “her city” that disagree with her:
The Crystal 20? What the hell is that? Sounds to me like a smart ass label but I thought you didn’t believe in labels ReNae? What are you and Joe Selton? The Crystal 2?
The council is dismantling government? Where exactly? What department has been gotten rid of you liar? And I love the praise of Laura Libby and her Green party with their .1% of the vote as “mainstream.”
Here’s some more examples of her views on “no labels,” no “personal attacks” and “keeping it focused on the issues” and how “she listens to the other side:”
Wow that’s funny! Call people stupid but you don’t believe in labels right? You keep it on the issues right? You don’t believe in personal attacks right? How about this:
Right wingers? Is that not a label? Shall we keep going?
So you call Sarah Palin stupid, then you claim non-Republican, Tea Party, and Evangelical women are subject to abuse? Wait a minute, aren’t those labels? I thought you didn’t believe in that? I’ll keep going….
Destroying America? Way to keep it on the issues!!! Bowman then claims there is an effort to stone women;
Ha! Way to keep it on the issues!! Here’s another:
Wait a minute; Republican, Tea Party, Libertarian, Evangelical, anti-government? Are those not labels? But you don’t believe in that right you liar?
We will continue to expose Bowman’s attempt to re-brand herself. we won’t fall for her garbage and neither will Crystal citizens.