Joe, Do You Have Any Questions?


By Andrew Richter

Ya know, after years of doing this I thought I’d seen it all, but even I was miffed after listening to the March 19 city of Crystal work session.

The work session was to appoint members to serve on the Blue Line Extension groups (of course I hope the Blue Line never comes). One of the people applying was our old friend former council member John Budziezewski.

After answering a few questions from the council where Johnny B gave his standards answers of how much he loves the light rail and the great “need” we have for public transportation (laugh, laugh), he then turns to another former councilman Joe Selton who was in the audience and said to him “Joe, do you have any questions for me?”

Huh? Why does Mr. Selton, a member of the audience, get to ask a question? Selton mumbled something about how often Johnny B uses public transit. Who really cares?

Now clearly this was a set up. Selton was there specifically to ask Budziezewski a question. I wonder for what purpose? Are you telling me it’s just a coincidence that Selton was there, Johnny B asked him a question, and Selton just happened to have a question ready, and Johnny B had a ready-made answer?

Feel free to listen to the work session HERE. Budziezewski asks Selton a question a 1:15:10.

I have to say that I’m scratching my head. I don’t get what the point was of this. Does Budziezewski really think that having Selton ask him a prearranged question increases the chances of him being on this committee?

Budziezewski is doing what ever he can to stay relevant. He applied for the Charter Commission and didn’t get on it, then he applied for the Employee Review Board and didn’t get it. My guess is he won’t be chosen for this either. There is a new opening on the Charter Commission I bet he applies. I personally think he wants to run in 2016 in Ward 3. We’re going to have to start calling him Rasputin!

March 28, 2015 at 3:46 pm Leave a comment

Commissioners Needed in New Hope


By Andrew Richter

Lord knows New Hope needs some serious changes and you can help! Be a part of a commission!

The City of New Hope is seeking volunteer commissioners to fill vacant seats on the Planning Commission and Human Rights Commission.

The Planning Commission make recommendations to the council regarding zoning, platting, commercial or industrial expansions and redevelopment and other public improvements.

Meetings are 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month at city hall, 4401 Xylon Ave. N.

The Human Rights Commission advises the council on planning and operating city programs or services with a link to civil and human rights issues.

Adult members serve two years and student members serve one academic year.

Meetings are 7 p.m. the first Monday of each month at city hall.

Applications must be turned in to the city clerk by Wednesday, April 15.

Application forms can be found on ci.new-hope.mn.us_applicant or by calling 763-531-5117.

The council will appoint individuals following applicant interviews.

Article

March 28, 2015 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

More High Density Housing in Golden Valley


By Andrew Richter

Nice to see Golden Valley pushing the Agenda 21 inspired high density housing!

With an ever-growing population, Golden Valley continues to evolve. Whether it be new housing or businesses, it seems the city is always welcoming redevelopment.

Let me stop this article right here: Where is the population increase? Golden Valley had 24,246 people in 1970. In 2010 they had 20,371! Where is this “ever growing population?”

On March 10, Physical Development Director Marc Nevinski provided an update to city council on three large redevelopments.

Physical Development Director? What is this; gym class?

Golden Villas

In September 2014, the council reviewed a proposal for a seven-level market rate apartment building at 9130 and 9220 Olson Memorial Highway to be known as Golden Villas. The 162-unit facility would include six stories of living with one level of underground parking. The project would also include public improvements such as new sidewalks and street lighting.

The council was thrilled to see a new proposal on a property that had formerly been planned for another apartment complex but questioned the financial stability of the applicant.

Years ago the council approved the Tiburon Apartments at that site but the project fell through leaving the lot vacant. “We feel really good about our financing,” said William Stoddard, the applicant, at the Sept. 16 meeting. Due to a plan to create a tax increment financing district and Stoddard’s confidence in his financing, the council provided approval of the project. Councilmembers were hopeful that the new proposal would move forward smoothly.

Don’t worry, it will be a unanimous vote like everything else in Golden Valley.

At that meeting, Stoddard said he had a developer waiting to begin site plans and expected to break ground this summer. Currently, city staff is working with the developer to negotiate a development agreement that allows the public improvements to be funded first followed by assistance with the project. The developer has already received preliminary planned unit development approval and a tax increment financing district has been established but the developer must enter a development agreement with the Housing & Redevelopment Authority.

“I think it’s anybody’s guess whether it’s going to move forward,” Nevinski said. “They’re still trying to get their finances in line.” For now, staff awaits an application for final approval.

Yippy! Here is what DFL political insider Mayor Shep “Boy Wonder” Harris had to say:

“I feel like we’ve been patient with these (redevelopment projects),” said Mayor Shep Harris. “If this is a priority for us, and it has been for us, I’d like to see a greater result. Are we satisfied with the pace?”

That’s right, you’d like to see high density housing even faster!

City Manager Tom Burt responded saying the current speed of the project is pretty standard. “Redevelopment is incredibly slow,” he said. He encouraged the council to be patient for now as the city has seen several proposals for this property come and go.

Cornerstone Creek

In close proximity to the Golden Villas project lies another future development location. Jewish Housing and Programming, a Minnetonka-based organization aiming to provide housing for adults with developmental disabilities, first approached the council with its plan February 2014.

Jewish housing!!! Doesn’t that discriminate against Muslims or gays or something?

The organization plans to construct a 45-unit apartment complex at 9300 and 9310 Golden Valley Road. The facility would give its residents independence while also providing a support system if needed. Additional programming will be made available for the Jewish community and common spaces may be utilized by the public.

Yet another apartment complex!

For the $12 million project, the organization planned to utilize roughly $6 million in donations by raising $3 million and receiving a $3 million match. The additional $6 million would come from tax credit equity proceeds, county funds, a $198,000 Community Development Block Grant and the potential funds from Golden Valley by utilizing tax increment financing.

In other words, this is partially subsidized by the taxpayers.

As anticipated, the organization plans to break ground this summer and hopes to open its doors fall 2016. “We’re just waiting for them to say they’re ready to go,” Nevinski said.

Oh my God this is so exciting! How can I get any sleep after reading this!

Liberty Crossing

In preparation of an upcoming proposal, city council approved the reguiding of several lots at the southeast corner of Medicine Lake Road and Winnetka Ave. The Golden Valley VFW, a restaurant, car wash and Sifco building were all reguided from commercial or light industrial to high density in December 2014.

All right! More high density!

Since then, the developer has acquired the Sifco building and has contracts on the other three properties. The proposal, known as Liberty Crossing, includes the construction of 60 rental townhomes and a 180-unit apartment complex. The site requires a great deal of storm water improvements as this area often floods from the nearby DeCola Ponds.

According to Nevinski, staff and the developer have been studying options for adding flood storage using underground holding tanks. Staff also hopes to complete some work on Rhode Island Ave. to help move flood water away from the site. “It seems to be a pretty good technology to deal with our storage issues,” Nevinski said.

Currently, a study is underway to determine if a tax increment financing district can be created to fund flood storage and move flood water away from the site. In addition, contaminated soils were discovered on site so staff is working with Hennepin County, Barr Engineering and the developer to address the problem.

No other details about the project have been publicized at this time. Although the council finds the planning phases of development to be a slow process, it looks forward to seeing the end products and enhancing the community.

Don’t you just want to move to Golden Valley?? If anything you should want to move there just to vote out this mayor and council

Article

March 23, 2015 at 7:03 pm Leave a comment

Cash Money Homey


By Andrew Richter

Again, what a difference a new council makes. It looks like Crystal is going to pay cash for their public works building!

Months after both construction and discussions began, the Crystal City Council passed a resolution that formalizes how the city will pay for its new public works facility on West Broadway Avenue. The council, the previous iteration of which had been leaning towards bonding for at least a portion of the $13.5 million project, voted 6-1 to pay for the city’s new public works building with cash the city has on hand.

Cash money homey!

According to documents supplied at the meeting, the approved plan would use $10.3 million from the city’s Major Building Replacement Fund, $1 million from three utility funds, $650,000 from its Economic Development Authority fund, and $600,000 transferred from the city’s general fund to the replacement fund.

The remaining $950,000 will be paid for from an “Internal Fund Transfer/Loan,” from another fund which has yet to be determined, explained Finance Director Charles Hansen, describing the transfer as a “stopgap” until money was raised or found in other city funds. Mayor Jim Adams said the council will “more than likely” take guidance on the issue from the city’s staff. “When and if other funds become available we will apply those funds first to the $950,000,” he said. “My concern for ‘borrowing’ from other funds is low because our council is interested in paying for the entire project as soon as possible and we believe it will be within a year of the project’s completion. My goal is to use as much of the citizens’ tax money for bricks, mortar, trucks, equipment, services as possible and as little as possible for financing and bonding.”

There was one dissent; that being Laura Libby and listen to her logic;

“I still think we should still be bonding,” said Councilmember Laura Libby, who was the sole ‘nay’ vote on the measure. “We’re really putting ourselves in the situation where there either have to be tax increases, or big cuts, or we just won’t have the money, or we’ll have to bond for something and the interest rates will go up.”

We’ve been hearing these interest rate scare tactics for years now.

Libby said believes the cash-only decision could leave the city in a vulnerable financial position when it plans its next major purchase or is beset by an unforeseen emergency, such as the recent failure of a water main underneath County Road 9.

So let me get this straight; we have a ton of cash so we should borrow anyway because of the next imaginary disaster or major building. Under that scenario we’ll never pay cash for anything. There’s always a “next project” or a “possible disaster.”

“The notion that the city is at risk by paying cash for this building is false, and not backed up by the data,” said Councilmember Jeff Kolb, who voted in favor of the all-cash option. “We were able to meet our obligation to pay for the new facility without raising taxes while still preserving an adequate amount of liquidity to respond to any unforeseen emergencies.”

I love it! Oh and what about that $4 million bond last December;

The previous council approved up to $4 million in bonds to pay for the project at a December meeting. Most of the council members in support of that measure lost their re-election bids to those who voted in favor of the cash option in March.

Ain’t it great to have this council? A big thanks should go out to Mayor Jim Adams for this. He wanted cash, stuck to his guns, and in the end got what he wanted saving Crystal taxpayers millions of dollars in interest payments. Thank you Mr. Mayor!

Article

 

March 16, 2015 at 9:36 pm Leave a comment

New Rules For Our New Council


By Andrew Richter

What a difference a few months make! Instead of little petty political arguments, we have a council in Crystal that is doing positive things! For example, our new council passed new rules at the March 3 meeting. Here are some highlights;

Consent Agenda;

The consent agenda is for routine and non-controversial items. The items on the consent agenda will be considered in one motion. No items may be placed on the consent agenda that pertain to the direct expenditure of City funds. Any member may request that an item be removed from the consent agenda; this request is not subject to debate and does not require a vote. Items removed from the consent agenda are added to the regular agenda before the first regular agenda item.

I’ve very happy to see this change. I’ve always been uncomfortable with city expenses being passed in the consent agenda with no discussion. It is wrong to treat taxpayer dollars that way.

Resolutions;

A Resolution may be used to express City Council policy, direct administrative or legal action, or to make a public statement from the Council (symbolic resolution). Resolutions are passed by majority vote. All symbolic resolutions must directly relate to the business of the City of Crystal. The Council will not issue symbolic resolutions on pending legislation, ballot measures, or any items being discussed by other legislative bodies.

Yes! Finally a council that won’t have the arrogance to try to tell us how to vote on a ballot measure or pending legislation!

The Creation of Standing Work Sessions;

There will be a standing work session immediately following each regularly scheduled council meeting. If there are insufficient agenda items to require a standing work session, it may be cancelled at the discretion of the City Manager. At its standing work sessions the Council will receive from the City Manager an update on open constituent issues. This update will be provided in a format mutually agreed upon by the Council and the City Manager.

New Business

Any Council member may bring an item up for discussion during the New Business portion of the standing work session. Discussion on each item is limited to three minutes. Upon the agreement of a minimum of two council members the item may be added to the agenda for the next Regular Work Session for further discussion. Upon the agreement of a minimum of three council members the item may be added to the next council meeting agenda.

Adoption of the Rules

Rules shall be adopted by a resolution requiring an affirmative vote of 5 Council members at the second Regular Council Meeting of each year. If rules are not adopted at this meeting they will be presented at every subsequent meeting until they are adopted. Current rules remain in effect until new rules are adopted.

This is critical! One the rules are adopted, it will be very hard to change.

Suspension of the Rules

A rule may be temporarily suspended by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members present. The specific reason for suspending the rules must be stated in the motion to suspend, and no business may be transacted except the stated business.

Yes! No garbage like what happened last year! Yee haw!

Of course, I hate to be a downer here but there are two things I don’t like; the city manager can create the agendas which I vehemently oppose and I think we need to change a few things in the charter to make this a more permanent change that can’t be undone by a future council.

But, I don’t want to dash cold water on this. These changes are good and necessary! Thank you especially to Ward 3 Councilman Casey Peak and Ward 2 Councilman Jeff Kolb. But really I have to give credit to everyone here. I even have to give credit to the former council. They were so bad, they made these changes necessary!

 

March 12, 2015 at 10:05 pm Leave a comment

Can You Get Any More Arrogant?


By Andrew Richter

I’m almost speechless at this lady. Check out the video HERE. Listen to the “spokesperson” for the railroad talk about how an Environmental Impact Study shouldn’t be done.

In other words this lady is saying that the railroad is “for the greater good” and we should just shut up and grab our ankles. The railroads know best. This lady ought to get a job as a spokesperson for the Met Council.

Now, I have my doubts that and EIS will do little more than delay this project. The real fight should be to overturn the 1875 law that allows railroads to do this. We’ll see if our “brave” representatives in Washington have the guts to go that or not.

March 9, 2015 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

Northstar Continues to Fail


By Andrew Richter

Failure, failure, failure;

New numbers show that Northstar Commuter Rail Line ridership is down and, after five years of operation, an important goal has not yet been met. Metro Transit numbers show ridership in 2014 was down 8 percent for weekday rides.

What? I thought everyone loved trains?

In 2008, Metro Transit had a goal of removing 5,000 cars from the road by encouraging commuting on Northstar. However, only about 2,500 commuters ride during the week, which is well below the goal set seven years ago.

Removing 5,000 cars? I thought this was about transportation options?

Taxpayers paid $315 million to build the Northstar system. Approximately $15 million each of the five years it’s been running for operations and maintenance. It has cost nearly $15 million per year during the five years it’s been running to operate and maintain. The Northstar Commuter Rail Line offers service between Big Lake and Target Field stations in downtown Minneapolis.

It has failed in every aspect. Let’s not create more problems, vote NO against Bottineau Light rail.

Article

March 7, 2015 at 10:58 am Leave a comment

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