Bloomington Community Center Plans Progressing Slowly

Creekside_Center.jpgFor almost 20 years now, the city of Bloomington has been discussing the various issues of its Creekside Community Center at 98th and Penn Avenue. Nearly 60 years since it was constructed, it has gradually become more painfully obvious that something needs to be done to make it more user friendly to a much larger, older and more diverse population than the former elementary school was originally designed for. In 2014, with that in mind, the city hired HGA Architects & Engineers to evaluate the facility and propose solutions.

The study submitted by HGA in April of 2015 recommended that the old center could not be expanded or redesigned to fit the new population of users because the building was simply too old and the lot size was too small. The most economical course was to construct a new facility on a larger piece of land, specifically designed to accommodate the larger and more diverse population of user groups. The proposed new center could include a wide range of family oriented facilities such as walking/running tracks, gymnasium, swimming and soaking pools, meeting/conference rooms and offices, storage rooms, auditorium, library, weight training room, dance/aerobics studio, and child care facilities to name just a few.

With the engineering report in hand, the city formed a 17-member Community Center Task Force of user groups and residents and began to search for a site for the new facility. They very soon settled on the space across 90th Street from the baseball fields between Nicollet and Portland Avenues. Owned by the Bloomington School District, and with that property transfer yet to be approved, the space appears to provide an opportunity for the city to team up with the district to share the burdens and benefits of the facility. Soon afterward, in an effort to mitigate the burden on taxpayers, the city began to search for other partners as well, and settled on the YMCA.

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Edina Franchise Fees Going Up

analog_power_meter_reading-150x150.jpgIn March, the Edina City Council approved an increase in the utility franchise fee for Xcel Energy to raise money for the City’s Conservation and Sustainability Fund. The residential customer franchise fee will be 95 cents per meter per month in 2018 [$11.40 per year] and $1.45 in 2019 [$17.40]. That is a 52.6% increase in one year. Fees for non-residential customers will increase by a similar percentage. An increase for CenterPoint Energy customers was approved earlier this year.

Franchise fees are charges that show up on the monthly Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy bills with no explanation that the resulting funds are passed on directly to the city treasury. The state legislature enabled the local governments to levy these fees as a means of covering the cost of maintenance of the right of ways granted to energy companies. However, the funding generated was not constrained to that purpose, as can be seen in the way Edina proposes to use the additional money it intends to raise. Clearly, the city does not recognize any constraint in how much it plans to raise through this approach.

By linking the fee to the meter that measures energy consumption rather than the amount of energy consumed, citizens have no means of minimizing this “tax”. For a city as “progressive” as Edina, this type of fee is very regressive. The fee is the same no matter how large or small a house. It even hits organizations that would otherwise not be taxed. If a charity or a place of worship owns or occupies a building serviced by Xcel Energy or CenterPoint Energy, it will be billed for the franchise fees.


Republicans Should Stand for Cleaner and Cheaper Energy

Windmill_Generators.jpgMike Franklin, president of the Minnesota Conservative Energy Forum spoke to an attentive group of SD49 Republicans at our March 27 dinner meeting.

He spoke passionately, advocating that Republican candidates would have a winning message if they pushed for cleaner and cheaper energy.  It would also be an economic benefit for Minnesota households & businesses. 

The public utilities’ monopoly on energy production and the distribution grid can be compared with the telephone system of the 1960’s when if you wanted a telephone you leased it from the phone company, and you had no choices (other than call / don’t call) for the high long-distance calling rates.  Energy production and distribution has also been managed based on a sole-source, over-regulated, protected-pricing model.  MNCEF believes that technology has advanced to the point that it is possible to instead use a free-market model. "All of the Above" is both cost-effective and a winning message when it comes to energy sources.

For_Newsletter_Mike_Franklin.jpgClean energy has been a winning issue for progressives in Minnesota, because they trapped Republicans with a “false choice” of competing values (clean vs cheap, harm to the environment vs proven energy sources).  Only the government and large energy monopolies could successfully manage these choices.  Increasingly, younger Americans feel the priority should be to develop alternative energy sources, and they think that only conservative Republicans believe that the priority should go to expanding production of oil, coal, and natural gas.   

Franklin argues that, as Republicans, we should

  • Ask if a market-based model would deliver energy more efficiently than the sole-source model
  • Assume that those who stand to benefit should bear more of the risk that the tax-payers do now
  • Eliminate regulatory constraints that clash with the first two points
  • Be skeptical of those who believe that the Government should bear the risk of failure
  • Be open to alternative, clean, energy sources under acceptable circumstances, without subsidies

 

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SD49 Convention Endorses Anselmo, Hears State Candidates


For_Newsletter_Dario_Anselmo_from_Barb_Sutter.jpgThe hallmark of a truly great performance is making it look easy! Our March 17 Senate District 49 Republicans Convention was a joy to attend this year, thanks to the skill of our SD49 Co-Chairs Randy Sutter & Wayne Wenger, Convention Chairman Louis Tiggas, Convention Administrator Beth Beebe, our Executive Committee, and dozens of volunteers.

For_Newsletter_Erik_Paulsen_from_Lonny_Leitner.jpg145 seated delegates and alternates plus a few dozen observers and guests gathered at Bethany Church in Bloomington to carry out the next step in our grass roots bottom-to-top process. The venue was a new one and the size and layout proved to be an ideal choice. The packed agenda was moved along in a brisk and business-like fashion by Convention Chairman Louis Tiggas (below right).

Delegates heard 11 candidates and candidate representatives throughout the day, starting with U.S. Representative Erik Paulsen (left) who spoke about successful passage of tax cuts, jobs acts and his campaign. The opportunity to hear early in the process from those who will eventually be on the Fall ballot is, for many of us, a key reason for attending our SD Convention.

 

For_Newsletter_Convention_2018_Stage.jpgThe business agenda of the convention proceeded, in between guest speakers, to endorsement of Senate District candidates. The convention was split into sub-conventions of House District 49A and House District 49B. Representative Dario Anselmo (above, right) gave a rousing speech to the delegates of House District 49A and was easily endorsed for a 2nd term as Representative for Minnesota House District 49A. The House District 49B sub-convention was adjourned to give more time for discussions with prospective candidates for the 49B seat. The HD49B sub-convention attendees may be contacted to reconvene for a brief endorsing session at a later date.

For_Newsletter_Louis_Tiggas.jpgAfter the sub-convention business was completed, selection of delegates and alternates to the upcoming Congressional District 3 convention, Congressional District 5 convention, and the Minnesota State Convention went smoothly as nominating committee slates were approved and augmented with nominations from the floor. SD49 will be able to seat 30 delegates at the June 1-2 State convention in Duluth to endorse U.S. Senate candidates, a candidate for governor, and other state office candidates.

  Keep reading for more photos, volunteer recognition and information about platform resolutions.

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Bloomington Taxpayer-Funded MOA Waterpark Proposed

Water_Park_Proposed.jpgThe Mall of America (MOA) wants to add a waterpark to its many attractions.

Not just any waterpark. At 225,000 square feet, it would be one of the largest indoor waterparks in North America.

KARE 11 News reported that on March 6 the MOA briefed the Bloomington City Council and the Port Authority on its proposal for a $150 million to $200 million waterpark across 24th Avenue from the mega mall on land that the MOA owns.
The MOA plan proposed that the waterpark be publicly owned and taxpayer financed. Representatives from Triple 5, the corporate owners of the Mall of America, told the Bloomington City Council that due to the changing climate of retail, and its struggles to keep up with Amazon, they are pushing new projects to have half of its makeup focused on entertainment.

The Mall of America is about 70 percent retail so adding another entertainment venue would help increase more traffic to the area, they claim. The indoor waterpark at the West Edmonton Mall in Canada attracts more than 500,000 guests annually.

At this point, the proposal to develop the MOA land across from MOA is just beginning to be considered. The Star Tribune  noted that that the city is nowhere close to approving the water park. Port Authority Administrator Schane Rudlang said that the project “is in the extremely early stages,” while [Mayor Gene] Winstead called the March 6 meeting a “very preliminary conversation.”

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Legislative Update from MN House Republicans

Speak_Daudt_and_Majority_Leader_Gaselka_Strib_photo.jpgThe Minnesota House Republicans provided this Legislative Update in March 2018.

Governor Dayton released his supplemental budget proposal on March 16. It included more than a billion dollars in proposed tax increases and fee increases on DMV visits to pay for fixes to the failed MNLARS system.

In a step in the right direction, the governor indicated he will join most other states in using Federal Adjusted Gross Income. In the coming weeks, Republicans will unveil our tax conformity proposal; rather than using tax conformity to raise taxes on Minnesotans, Republicans will focus on holding Minnesotans harmless and preventing headaches for filers next year.

Republicans have no plans to ask Minnesotans to pay more taxes when we have a budget surplus. We are pleased with some of the governor’s proposals like school safety and funding to help deputy registrars hurt by the MNLARS disaster. We will review his proposals in the coming days, and will come forward with proposals of our own in the coming weeks.

After balancing the budget with an emphasis on tax relief and roads and bridges last session, House Republicans are working this session to make government work better for Minnesotans.

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Republican Lawmakers Introduce Amendment To Downsize Legislature

nimble_government.jpgAs reported by the Associated Press, published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press last week, two Republicans, Rep. Nick Zerwas and Sen. Scott Jensen, introduced a constitutional amendment March 8 that would decrease the size of the Legislature.

If the bill to reduce the Legislature by 54 members (27%) is approved by the Legislature, the question would be on the November ballot. Voter approval would make the change effective starting in 2022, which aligns with the timing for redistricting.

With 201 members (67 state senators, 134 representatives), Minnesota’s Legislature is currently 4th largest in the country.


Edina Conservative Students settle Lawsuit with School Board

The Edina school board voted unanimously to settle a federal lawsuit filed by five Edina High School students and their parents. The lawsuit accused the district of violating the First Amendment rights of conservative students and wrongfully disbanding the Young Conservative Club.

The board voted unanimously to approve the settlement in a closed session during a special meeting Thursday evening, March 1.

united-states-of-america-flag-1462903818ek6.jpgA group of conservative students filed suit in early December against the school district claiming their organization, the Young Conservative Club, was terminated after club members took to social media to criticize a student-led protest of the U.S. flag and the National Anthem. (The district denies terminating the club.)

Erick Kaardal, an attorney representing the students, called the school’s action “a clear case of discrimination against students with conservative beliefs by a school whose policies have been documented as promoting an extreme ideological agenda.”

According to attorneys representing the students, Edina High School agreed to the following:
• U.S. flags will hang in every classroom.
• The Young Conservatives Club can be reinstated as a school-sponsored club, or a non-sponsored club…with the ability to exercise free speech without consequence.
• USA Day is restored to Spirit Week, and district administration cannot object to the theme.
• District Policy 628 (Education Programs, Student Activities Program) and the EHS Club Guidelines and Responsibilities policies were amended to include language that respects students’ right to free speech, and that revocation may not be based on the exercise of free speech or free association rights.

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SD49 Learns How Local Police are dealing with Community Mental Health Issues

Officer_Kevin_Rofidal_for_Newsletter.jpgSenate District 49 Republicans listened intently February 27 as two local police officers spoke of the growing role that they and their departments are playing in responding to people in our community suffering from mental health crises.

Officer_Scott_Marks_for_newsletter.jpgEdina Police Officer Kevin Rofidal (left) and Minnetonka Police Officer Scott Marks (right) spoke about the sharp growth in the mental health calls for service that their departments have been getting. Edina has seen such calls go from 49 in 2013 to 163 in 2016 and 154 in 2017. The trend in Minnetonka is similar, growing from 83 calls in 2005 to 391 calls in 2017, with only 6 of those resulting in an arrest.

The increase in calls is attributed to:
• people more willing to request help
• child protection calls due to parent drug use/mental health
• therapists calling 911 when a patient is a threat to self or others (handled as a medical emergency for hospitalization rather than an arrest).
• Perhaps, in part, the nonstop TV news, with 24 hours repetition of bad events.

The 1963 Community Mental Health Act was intended to base treatment in more community-oriented settings rather than inpatient / institutionalized care. Laws to protect civil rights were strengthened and 90% of psychiatric hospital beds were eliminated. But people ended up in jails instead. Currently 1/3 to 1/2 of all MN inmates are on medication for mental health.

Police officers aren’t mental health experts by trade. To deal with the growing number of mental health calls, our police forces are
• offering training courses to allow officers to hone the skills needed in mental health situations
• developing partnerships with metropolitan organizations better equipped to deal with the underlying issues

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Some Expectations of the 2018 Legislative Session

Legislative_Session_Starts_Press_Conf.jpgThe objective of the 2017 Minnesota legislature was to pass the biannual budget.  They almost completed it.  At the end of the last session, Gov. Dayton vetoed the operating budgets for the House and Senate.  It was an attempt to get the Republican majority to reverse their passage of some financial bills that the Governor originally accepted and then changed his mind.  So the start of the 2018 legislative session needed to redo what Gov Dayton has (again) indicated he’ll sign.

The legislature in 2018 would usually tackle capital expenditures and bonding bills.   However, as pointed out by Kyle Potter and Youssef Rddad in AP News  priority should be given to bring the Minnesota tax code into alignment with recently passed federal tax breaks.  If it is not, Minnesota tax payers will face increased tax complexity and possibly some tax increases.  The Department of Revenue has said that leaving the MN code as it is could trigger costly and time-consuming corrections – even audits – if files have to figure out how to meet different and potentially conflicting requirements.

The MN Department of Revenue provides its update on the state’s finances in March.  This report could make a critical difference, as the December estimate projected a small budget deficit for 2018.  The current thinking is there will actually be a sizeable surplus rather than a small deficit.

 

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