Oh McDonald Had a Goal E-I-E-I-O


By Andrew Richter

You have to love the high standards and objectiveness of the New Hope City Council. Once again, just like last year, they have the greatest city bureaucrat in the history of Western Civilization! Their city manager Kirk McDonald has “revised” his 2015 goals! Don’t worry it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. Listen to these “hard-hitting goals”:

Coordinate on redevelopment projects as well as include commissioners and public in review of projects to earn their feedback. Projects include the completion of Compass Pointe apartments, Hy-Vee grocery store, infrastructure and streetscape improvements on Xylon and 45th avenues, pursue phase two of City Center redevelopment,  Centra Homes development, police department and city hall space needs, scattered site housing program. In addition, McDonald plans to accomplish more projects and coordinate business expansions.

All right! Give us that high density housing and spend as much money as possible!

Complete 2015 infrastructure improvements utilizing new pavement management strategy. Projects include coordinating Xylon and 45th avenues improvements, working with Hennepin County on resurfacing Winnetka Ave., installing a quiet zone along rail crossing, working with Joint Water Commission cities on emergency back-up water supply and determining solution to watermain repair, researching DeCola Ponds and Medicine Lake Road flooding, continuing coordination on 2016 projects such as Northwood Lake storm water improvements and Highway 169 noise 

Projects, projects, projects. Like I always say, there are too many projects going on at once!

Maintain police and public safety as a high priority. He hopes to fill vacant officer positions while also considering new hires before retirements occur. McDonald will proceed with introducing a community services and prevention analyst position at the department. Replacement of equipment is also expected for 2015.wall, continuing routine capital improvement plan projects.

Public safety as a high priority? Why wouldn’t it be? City government has two responsibilities; public safety and infrastructure. And it also looks like New Hope is about to do some hiring; “fill vacant officer positions and introducing a community services and prevention analyst position at the department.”

Continue close coordination with West Metro Fire-Rescue District. McDonald has a well-working partnership with Fire Chief Sarah Larson which will carry on for years to come. He also plans to address the fire board’s priorities.

As required by the West Metro Fire Board Joint Powers Agreement.

Remain with a four-year computer replacement program to improve technological resources, consider implementing iPads for management team to expand paperless agenda initiative and identify options for additional IT resources.

As always, government puts everything on a time schedule and replaces it whether it needs replacing or not.

Maintain communications and keep the council informed on issues and projects in addition to keeping communications open with Met Council, Hennepin County, Robbinsdale Area Schools, legislators and neighboring cities. Each year McDonald aims to provide a positive work environment and be a positive representative of the city.

Maintain communication? Shouldn’t you communicate with your boss?

There are of course a few others but you get the picture here; same old crap, nothing hard, nothing new. How about a goal to cut government spending? How about televising or recording work sessions? How about telling the Met Council to shove it?

Perhaps more disturbing is the complete sucking up to him by the council;

Before the council voted, McDonald made a few comments. “If the council has additional feedback I’m certainly open to revisions otherwise would recommend a motion approving the goals for 2015 so I can start working on them,” he said. Jokingly Mayor Kathi Hemken chimed in, “You haven’t started yet?” McDonald assured Hemken he had already begun. “Oh good,” Hemken said with a laugh. “We’re twelve days in. You should be”

Where’s my barf bucket?

Councilmember John Elder joined in saying he was surprised McDonald had not already finished all his goals.

I’m surprised he hasn’t walked on water or parted the Red Sea!

The council had no concerns regarding McDonald’s goals as he usually completes them or at minimum makes progress throughout the year. The council provided unanimous approval.

As they did last year and the year before and no doubt will next year.

Article

 

March 1, 2015 at 11:13 pm Leave a comment

Crystal City Councilman Jeff Kolb Takes On The Met Council


Met-Council-Testimony-Cropped

by Jason Bradley

Yesterday, the Minnesota House held a hearing in the new Subcommittee on Metropolitan Council Accountability and Transparency on House Bill (HF75) which is possibly the most important of the new Metropolitan Council-related bills. The others are fairly benign, but this one would make any Met Council plans and projections advisory in nature. Why is this a big deal? Because the Met Council has largely operated as a cabal of thugs, pushing City and County governments around, binding them to policies that are bad for their area, and projections that are consistently incorrect. Should this bill pass the house, it will most likely fail in the Senate, and most definitely fail at the Governor’s desk. Still, we need to start this move toward weakening (and eventually eliminating) the Met Council now, and never give up until we win.

That leads us back to yesterday. City Councilman Jeff Kolb testified in front of the House Committee on the abuses of the Met council upon Cities, and particularly ours (our City has sent the Met Council numerous letters in disagreement of certain policies, which have largely gone ignored). His testimony can be found here. I will not repeat what he said. You are capable of reading it for yourself. The real story is this. Folks like me have been pressing for limitations or expiration of the agency for a long time, and we are finally starting to see some traction.

The Met Council has threatened Cities with revoking grants and litigation for refusing to fall in line. I know I’ve told this story before, but I remember when the old regime was in power, and the Met Council ordered all of the Cities in the metro to do mandatory sump pump and footing drain inspections. I did my research and found existing Supreme Court jurisprudence about exact incidences like this, and that search warrants needed to be issued to do the inspections. The City Attorney (bless his heart) discounted my examples without ever reading the opinion of the justices, and ex-Mayor Bowman (who is on record as loving the Met council) said that 1) the Met Council would punish the City if they didn’t comply, and 2) if I didn’t allow the inspection, my water would be shut off and I could dig a well. Charming. She also said that issuing warrants was not feasible because it would be bad to arrest so many people over this (proving that she believed it’s just easier to violate people’s rights, and she didn’t understand basic public concepts like the difference between search and arrest warrants). That, however, is a whole ‘nuther story.

At any rate, it is refreshing to see the Crystal City Council take the lead on this issue. We have become a dumping ground for unsuitable projects, from light rail, to increased housing density, and smaller lot sizes. I applaud the new Council’s stand on the Met Council and the freight rail. It’s about time we had representatives in this city that are not afraid to show some teeth. They are taking a leadership role among the rest of the metro area. The old Council would have just found a way to make it work at our expense… and don’t you ever forget it.

 

Jason Bradley is an entrepreneur in the music industry (Jason Bradley Liveand 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+

February 26, 2015 at 9:53 am Leave a comment

There is No Reason to Have Ranked Choice Voting


By Andrew Richter

We should bury this “idea” for good;

Already in place in Minneapolis and St. Paul, ranked choice voting will wait at least two years to be implemented in Crystal. At it’s Jan. 22 meeting, the city’s charter commission voted to table the issue until after the 2016 election cycle. Ranked choice voting – as the name might suggest – is the process by which voters are able to rank the candidates in a single race instead of voting for just one candidate.

“Under the system, all ballots are tallied according to first-place choices. In a single-winner election, if one candidate wins a majority … among all first-place votes, that candidate is the winner,” reads literature provided by FairVote Minnesota, a ranked choice advocacy organization. “If not, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated and the ballots for this candidate are redistributed among the remaining candidates according to the second choices on those ballots. The process continues until one candidate has picked up a majority of votes.”

Advocates for the process claim it eliminates “wasted” votes, increases voter participation, allows candidates to appeal to a wide array of voters, and reduces the cost of elections by eliminating the need for primary and runoff votes. FairVote’s Jeanne Massey said her organization works with individual cities to help them pass and implement ranked choice voting. Minneapolis adopted the practice in 2006, she explained, and St. Paul did likewise in 2009. A “legislative option” has also been floated, which would allow cities without a charter to implement the practice through their city council.

Yeah we can turn every election into a circus like Minneapolis.

Nearby cities, such as Brooklyn Park and Saint Louis Park have discussed the idea, as well, Massey added. Crystal Charter Commission members’ concerns included the cost of the measure, how many of them would return after a fresh round of appointments to the commission itself, and what the objective of implementing such a measure would be, exactly.

“It is important to not do something because it’s the latest and greatest fancy, shiny toy. It’s also important not to do something because we’ve always done it this way,” said Jim Oathout, commission member. “Before I can support something like this, we have to define what it is we’re trying to achieve. What is the definition of improvement? What is the definition of better? What is the definition of working? Is that more voter turnout? Is that more diverse candidates? We don’t have that definition.”

Thank you Mr. Oathout! Now that is a fresh perspective that you almost never year!

The commission’s decision to table the measure until at least 2016 gives it the ability to wait and see how it works in cities in which it is already implemented.

Council opinions

Avowed Green Party member Laura Libby, who represents the city’s Section I, said she supports ranked choice voting and featured it on her campaign materials and website. “I think it allows people to have more choice, more so in bigger elections,” Libby said. “If you vote for something outside the main two party system, you can vote without feeling scared, like, ‘oh I’m throwing my vote away.’”

What? This is wrong on so many levels. First off, we are talking about Crystal city elections right? I thought these were non-partisan elections? What is this crap about the “two-party system.” Second there is no such thing as a wasted vote. If you do your research, follow elections, and vote for the person you think is the best candidate, then you’ve done your job as a voter. The only people who are a waste are the people who stay home on election day.

As with many things for Libby, this is all about her. Think about what she says here; “more choice, more so in bigger elections.” What do you mean by “bigger elections?” Are you representing section 1 Ms. Libby or are you advocating for the Green Party?

Libby said the benefits of ranked choice include avoiding primaries, which have notoriously low voter turnout numbers. Eliminating primaries could also make each election cycle less expensive for cities that adopt the practice. She cited the city’s most recent round of primary elections, held last August, which saw three separate candidates run for each available seat. The primary narrowed the field to six. “All three could have been on the ballot in November, then more people would have had that choice,” Libby said.

Now I agree that primary turnout is low but I’m literally laughing out loud at the idea that Libby is concerned about city expenses. This is the same councilperson that said at a council meeting last year that she “couldn’t think of anything to cut.” She has no interest is less government.

And what is this crap about having “more choice” in the 2014 elections? People had choice in all three council elections in both August and November. What are you talking about more choice?

Council members Jeff Kolb and Olga Parsons, who were elected in that same cycle, have their doubts about ranked choice voting. “It is a solution in search of a problem,” wrote Kolb. “2014 was a historic anomaly where we had contested primaries in all 3 races. If there aren’t 3 or more candidates, there is literally no benefit to the system.”

Kolb is 100% right. In 2012 Julie Deshler and Casey Peak both ran unopposed. In 2010 Mark Hoffman ran unopposed. It is rare to have so many candidates.

Kolb suggested that a “more realistic” election reform would be to move primary elections to June.

Let me ask a question: Can we just eliminate city primaries? Crystal is a Charter City. I’m not sure of the answer but that would be better than ranked choice voting or “waiting for the state to do something.”

Parsons described a potential change to ranked choice as “problematic.” “We would have to coordinate with state wide elections, launch an ongoing educational campaign, etc.,” she wrote, adding that spoiled ballots are “of particular concern.” Parsons added that a grassroots campaign would cause her to listen and consider a pro-ranked choice argument. “So far, I’ve only heard from the officials representing (ranked choice voting) professionally, and nothing from the members of our community,” she wrote.

My hope is that this idea goes in the garbage. People should have to WIN elections, not get the most 3rd place votes.

Article

February 18, 2015 at 10:47 pm Leave a comment

What a Wonderful County…..NOT!!!!!


By Andrew Richter

Freedom-haters at Hennepin County are at it again with their nanny-state policies;

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted to effectively ban the use of electronic cigarettes in any indoor space covered by the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act.

In a 6-1 vote, the board enacted a ban Feb. 10 that will be more restrictive than state law regarding “vaping” inside certain establishments. As such, use of e-cigarettes will be forbidden in places where conventional cigarettes are banned as well, such as restaurants, bars or places of work. The state Legislature had banned the use of these devices in public schools, government facilities and daycare centers, but the county’s action – which goes into effect Tuesday, March 10 – will prove far more limiting in its scope.

E-cigarettes are electronic devices that vaporize liquid combinations of nicotine, glycerin, flavoring and other ingredients via a heating element. The inhaled agent is not smoke but rather an aerosol, and tobacco is generally not present in the device. Many smokers use the device in lieu of actual cigarettes due to the belief that it aids in cessation of smoking, or that they’re much safer than regular tobacco products. Studies on these claims by public health officials have proven to be mostly inconclusive, as there is still not enough data to determine the claims’ veracity one way or another.

Since when do you people at Hennepin County care about facts or data? This isn’t about clean air, it’s about controlling us!

The vote on the ordinance, championed by Commissioner Marion Greene, was hailed as another victory by local anti-smoking advocates to reduce nicotine use in the metro area.

Oh Marion Greene you’re so great, how can I possibly live without your brilliance?

“The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners showed strong leadership in protecting the health and safety of its residents,” according to an Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota statement. “This ordinance change helps protect the general public from exposure to electronic cigarette emissions, which are known to contain ingredients that are harmful to human health.”

Oh I feel so good knowing I can go places and vaporized liquid won’t be in the air! I feel healthier already!

“This is a huge win for public health and the people of Minnesota,” said Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota Research Director Betsy Brock. “Hennepin County is our state’s most populated county and an economic engine for the region. This policy will protect many residents and workers. Our hope is other counties and cities – and eventually the state – will follow Hennepin’s lead.”

And I’m hoping you move to your own island!

A public hearing on changing Hennepin County Ordinance Number 24 was held before the Health and Human Services Committee on Jan. 13. Of the commissioners voting on the Feb. 10 resolution, only District 7 Commissioner Jeff Johnson voted against it, on the grounds of both a perceived lack of medical evidence of e-cigarettes’ danger and the effect it has on those who own private businesses.

“This is a big step, painted as a small, ‘common sense’ step,” said Johnson in a post-vote interview. “There is no scientific evidence for taking this step.”

Jeff Johnson as usual the only one on this Board who ever makes a drop of sense. He’s of course outnumbered by Mike Opat’s robots. Thanks Hennepin County for trying to control us and restrict our freedoms again. This county doesn’t want us to drive, smoke, or live in a single family home (among other things). How much control over us is enough???? Let’s stand up to these bastards!!!

Article

February 16, 2015 at 8:16 pm Leave a comment

The Dark Side Of Corporate And Government Collusion (An Update)


by Jason Bradley

As explained in Andrew’s recent article (https://communitysolutionsmn.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/crystal-getting-railroaded/), that the Canadian Pacific (CP) and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroads (BNSF) are looking to share some track to relieve congestion from the conjunction of the Northtown and University yards by joining the two companies’ tracks in Crystal and sending CP trains (running east and west north of 49th Ave and south of 52nd Ave) down the BNSF track (running north and south alongside Broadway Ave) toward Minneapolis. According to Crystal City documents, only one or two trains use the BNSF track per day, and several dozen use the CP track. The CP trains are up to 4,000 ft long, which according to the City “would simultaneously close all four of the Crystal crossings: Douglas Drive (CR 102), West Broadway (CR 8), Corvallis and again at West Broadway.” They go on to say, “Trains of up to 5,600 feet have been observed on the CP. If these are diverted to the BNSF, then the 45½ Avenue crossing in Robbinsdale also would be closed simultaneously with Crystal’s four crossings; meaning that all crossings between Winnetka Avenue in New Hope and Highway 100 in Robbinsdale, a track distance of 2¼ miles through a fully developed urban area, would be closed by a single train”. This will hamper police, fire, and ambulance. While we can pull other Cities’ resources away (if they are not already indisposed) for fire and police in case of a blocked crossing, I don’t see where medical back-up can come from in time. We’re talking about people’s lives here.

To build this connector track, they will need to take land from North Suburban Towing/ Thomas Auto Body, Red Rooster Autoparts, and Midwest Mastercraft. I’m sure you’ve already seen some of the markers on Broadway between the railroad tracks and Corvallis. The railroad already told North Suburban Towing to take their fair price, because they were going to take the property anyway.

You heard me right. The federal government gave eminent domain rights to the railroads in the 1875
General Railroad Right of Way Act. Now, whether you agree with it or not, when families acquired land in the Homestead Act, railroads were not even a figment of someone’s imagination. To build the railroad network, one might be able to make a case for using eminent domain, but now? The railroad system is built from coast to coast. It’s one thing to strike a deal for land; it’s another for a private business (which the railroads are) to be able to steal land away with the wave of a hand.

According to the State of MN and the railroads, there’s nothing we can do about this. City staff says, “The City’s legal counsel have advised that the proposed rail connection is not subject to any local, county or state permitting or review processes.” MNDOT did a grade crossing safety study last year, and did not include these plans in their report, that would allow for funding to correct any adverse effects of this project. MNDOT and the railroads are refusing to consult with Crystal. These robber barons are so sure of their place in the social pecking order, that they won’t even give the City the time of day. In the January 17, 2015 article “BNSF, Canadian Pacific to link Twin Cities rail lines” in Trains magazine, they are already talking like it’s a done deal. Quotes such as “A new connection will be built” don’t leave a lot of room for an alternate plan. The railroads repeatedly deny having plans or drawings, but are already working on purchasing the land. Why would you do that without a plan? Once the railroads decide to go, it will happen fast. Word on the street is that the project completion date is slated for end of this summer. Cities need to work quickly, and start now.

If you are in Robbinsdale and Golden Valley, you will be the recipient of all this new rail traffic. Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, and New Hope, we will be calling your resources away any time there is an emergency and the CP trains are blocking emergency vehicles.  What are you going to do about it? I would ask that Robbinsdale, Golden Valley, Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, and New Hope all throw their support behind Crystal. I ask that you write a letter to the City (asap) telling them that you support not only their position, but any steps they deem necessary to maintain control of traffic within their City. Helping us will only help you. Several dozen trains a day blocking all of the crossings for extended periods of time will increase strain on your departments.

This antiquated law from 1875 is no longer necessary. Why is a government giving eminent domain powers to a private business? Why the favoritism? I’m pretty sure I can speak for many of the residents of northeastern Crystal when I say that we’re tired of the competition between Mike Opat, CP, BNSF, and the old Crystal Council, to make our corner of Crystal the dumping ground for every undesirable project they can imagine.

As Pink Floyd said (and I might be paraphrasing a bit here), “There is no dark side of corporate and government collusion, really… as a matter of fact, it’s all dark.

Jason Bradley is an entrepreneur in the music industry (Jason Bradley Liveand 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+

February 12, 2015 at 8:52 am 2 comments

Will the Real Jeff Lunde and Peter Crema Stand Up?


By Andrew Richter

Well Bottineau Light Rail continues to make the news especially among Brooklyn Park’s divided city council as Hennepin County dictator Mike Opat put pressure on the city council to continue to rubber stamp his demands. So that leads me to a question; where does the Brooklyn Park city council stand on this issue?

It seems as though there are two no votes; John Jordan and Bob Mata. There also are two strong yes votes; liberal lapdogs Rich Gates and Mike Trepanier. New councilman Terry Parks seems to be against it but I’m not sure how strongly he is. That leaves the majority in the hands of Peter Crema and Mayor Jeff Lunde.

Both men are Republicans. Both men have voted for light rail in the past. Both men seemed to walk back on that last year. Crema ran for a legislative seat last year and lost by the smallest of margins while Lunde was easily re-elected over Joy Marsh Stephens. Unfortunately, my guess is that both of these guys will wander back into the pro-light rail camp.

Personally, I thought Crema ran a good campaign and he seems to be a good guy. However, although, he is a Republican, he doesn’t seem to be a small government conservative. He also seems to be heavily influenced by Lunde. Crema is at-best wishy-washy on the light rail issue. Word on the street is that Crema is looking to run for House again and that’s where the pressure needs to come from. If he wants to be endorsed, the local Republicans need to make sure he is in the “no” camp.

I have no faith at all in Mayor Lunde. He is “allegedly” a Republican but he is no conservative. He’s voted for higher taxes, more spending, Mike Opat, and light rail. He’s pretty much useless. Still, like Crema, Lunde has higher political ambitions and that can be hung over his head and probably should have been last year.

Light rail is at best a 50/50 in Brooklyn Park as far a public approval is concerned. Opposition is strong and much more organized than the Lunde-Opat people will acknowledge or admit. This needs to grow and grow and grow!!!!! Keep up the pressure!

February 8, 2015 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment

There’s No Reason to Panic


By Andrew Richter

In light of the recent shooting at New Hope City Hall, a number of cities have taken up the issue of security at City Hall. I, however, am a bit wary on whether anything really needs to change.

One thing I can’t stand is when government uses a crisis or a horrible event to increase their power. We’ve seen government use school shootings, accidents, and terror attacks used as excuses to restrict our freedoms and grow the size of government.

What happened in New Hope was one lunatic shot up the hallway. The police acted according and the lunatic is dead. It seems as though New Hope had the right security measures in place so is there really a need for changes? I would appeal to city councils to discuss security measures, but not to put additional restrictions on citizens who have done nothing wrong. People should feel welcome at city hall, not intimidated.

February 8, 2015 at 12:29 pm Leave a comment

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