Will Bloomington and Edina Follow Duluth's Lead on Franchise Fees, Taxes in Disguise?

An August 24 MN Supreme Court decision may, eventually, open the door for nonprofits to challenge the pass-through utility Franchise Fee schemes that have become popular ways for cities like Bloomington and Edina to fund road, sidewalk and trail repairs without constraining discretionary budgets or increasing property taxes.

road-703804__180.jpgWhile the cities of Bloomington and Edina have made no comment on the court decision, the City of Duluth is wisely not waiting for someone to file a separate lawsuit on their Franchise Fees that are directed towards general city services like road repair.  Instead Duluth is responsibly and proactively making plans to adjust tax levies and their budget priorities to ensure non-Franchise Fee funding for such core city services.

Here’s why:

The MN Supreme Court unanimously decided against the City of St. Paul and for two churches that appealed their right-of-way (ROW) fee assessments. The judgement stated that these fees were actually taxes and so must be administered as such.  Constitutional limits on taxes exempt churches and other nonprofits.  The case is now back In District Court for final resolution.

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Edina Council Rejects Proposed Braemar Ski Trail, Snowmaking

On September 7, the Edina City Council did not approve the current proposed project for Braemar Park – which included the addition of a 50-foot-wide Nordic Ski Trail and an11-lane tubing hill, with snowmaking for both. Most Council members based their rejection on the high cost of the proposal, the inherent noise and light pollution, the dangers to public safety that snow-making machines would introduce, and the incredibly rapid pace at which the project was moving forward. The Council asked the Parks and Recreation Department to instead refocus attention to resolution of the neglected 2015 list of priorities, which includes a “master plan” for redevelopment of the Braemar area.

This "mistake" cost taxpayers some $150k - 200k in "exploratory" (feasibility) studies that should not have been implemented prior to the completion and approval of a master plan for the golf course. We Edina residents need to put continued pressure on this Council and demand better stewardship of our tax dollars so that this type of waste doesn’t happen again. Indeed, the articulate and respectful outpouring of opposition to this proposal had an impact, something Mayor Jim Hovland acknowledged thoughtfully at the public hearing.

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SWLRT Key to Met Council’s Plan for Urban Densities in the Suburbs

Metro_Transit_Light_Rail.jpgThe Southwest Light Rail Transit plan is the latest power grab by the big government planners at the Metropolitan Council.  Accountable to no-one but the Governor, the Metropolitan Council is intent on re-imagining our lives through centralized planning.  The central feature of this centralized planning is ever increasing levels of light rail transit.  While some refer to the “dream” of light rail, the reality is more like a nightmare.

The so-called “Green Line Extension,” otherwise known as the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT), appeared to be in jeopardy when the Minnesota legislature did not approve $144.5 million in state funding for it.  However, in a calculated political move, Gov Dayton bypassed the legislature.  He got three metropolitan boards to come up with the funding instead.

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City Council to Vote Sept. 7 on Nordic Ski Proposal for Braemar

On Wednesday, September 7, at 7pm, the Edina City Council will essentially decide between good stewardship of our tax dollars and fiscal irresponsibility. Please mark your calendars for the public hearing on this issue at Edina City Hall, 4801 W. 50th St.   If you can attend to simply show support for fiscal responsibility, you are reminding the Council that it’s our money, not theirs. If you wish to speak at the public hearing, please do so. Writing emails and letters to the Edina City Council is making a difference, so if you cannot attend the hearing, that’s a powerful way to help.

SEH_Snowmaking_Hyland_Hills_sochi2.jpgRecently, we wrote about a proposal put forth to the Edina City Council to construct a winter “recreation facility” within Braemar Golf Course. LINK to article

 It includes plowing a 50-foot wide Nordic ski path that would run about 3 km (2 miles) around the perimeter of Braemar, along with an 11-lane “tubing hill.” The proposal would raise taxes, and cost visitors money to do what can be done today in the existing space, but for free.

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Gov Dayton Bypasses Legislature on Southwest Light Rail

A week ago, Governor Dayton and legislative Democrats walked away from special session negotiations and agreements on tax relief and bonding over their insistence on a funding mechanism for Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT).

On August 25, Governor Dayton hastily convened a meeting with Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck, local elected officials, legislators and other community representatives.  At the meeting, Governor Dayton unveiled a new proposal to go around the legislature and fund the state's share of the Southwest Light Rail project.

The Governor, Chair Duininck and Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) Chair/Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin made clear it is their intention to pursue this funding strategy even though it will commit taxpayers statewide to tens of millions in permanent operating losses, as well as likely property tax increases for Hennepin County.

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No Special Session so No Tax Relief

 Decision on Special Session about much more than Light Rail 

Metro_Transit_Light_Rail.jpgGovernor Dayton announced on August 18 that he would not call a special session of the legislature this year.  He said that his decision was based on Republican opposition to funding of the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT), but his plans for spending rather than tax relief likely factored in as well. 

A special session of the MN legislature was sought because the regular session ended without passage of several important funding measures, including:

  • A $600 million bonding bill, scuttled when the DFL Senate at the last moment tried to add SWLRT funding to a bill that had passed the House with strong bipartisan support.  Senate District 49 DFL Senator Melisa Franzen was one of seven DFL state senators who threatened to withhold their support from the 2016 bonding bill if $135 million in state funding for the SWLRT wasn’t approved.

  • The omnibus tax bill, with support of 89 percent of the legislature, was vetoed by Gov. Dayton due to a one-word drafting error.

The DFL governor held these bipartisan-supported funding initiatives hostage to his demand that $135 million more of state revenue be spent on SWLRT.  Is SWLRT really that critical to Gov. Dayton?  Or is he using it as a convenient excuse to delay, hoping that the House will again be in DFL control after the election? 

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Violent Protesters at Aug 19 Fundraiser Require Mayor Response

As published by The Hill, disturbing video of violent protesters at the August 19 Minneapolis Convention Center Fundraiser for Donald Trump contradicts the bland weekend report of the event published by the Star Tribune.

The Republican Party of Minnesota on 8/22 demanded a response from Democrat Chairman Ken Martin and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges regarding the physical confrontation perpetrated by Democrat protesters on attendees to the Donald Trump event at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Friday night.

In a letter to the Mayor, Chairman Keith Downey demanded answers to why City officials did nothing to protect attendees from the violent protest, and he called on Democrat Chairman Ken Martin to apologize for and denounce the violent behavior of Democrat supporters.  

As Co-Chairs of SD49, we ask all Republicans to not retaliate at DFL events or engage in outrageous actions such as those carried out by these protesters.  Our democracy and elections require that all sides are able to gather, speak and be heard, without fear of physical violence.  

Randy Sutter and Wayne Wenger


Primary Results

Congratulations to the Republican candidates who scored well enough in their primaries to go on to the general election in November!  In the southwest metro area, Republicans in Senate Districts 49 and 48 and in House District 49A, 49B, and 48B did not face primary challenges.  The primary races that did involve challenges were in House District 48A (Eden Prairie) and Hennepin County District 5 (Bloomington and Eden Prairie)

In House District 48A, Republican-endorsed Mary Shapiro was challenged by Kris Newcomer.  She garnered 80.6% of the Republican vote in the primary.

Maureen_Scallen_Failor_(8x10)_-_1.jpgIn a six-way race for Hennepin Country District 5 Commissioner, the top two vote recipients were DFL-endorsed Richfield mayor Debbie Goettel and Bloomington Chamber of Commerce President Maureen Scallen Failor (pictured at left), who received a recommendation from the Republican leadership of both Congressional Districts 3 and 5.

 

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Edina Proposes Costly Huge Ski Trail and Snow Making at Braemar

Edina Braemar Golf Course Ski Trail & Tubing : Your Tax Dollars May be Going Downhill, Fast

by Karen Hazel, 19th Precinct; Edina resident

The Edina City Council is speeding toward a September 7 vote on a proposed $3 million change to Braemar Golf Course that would significantly impact adjacent properties and roads, especially Gleason Road.

No, it’s not a “done deal,” and the Council hasn’t voted on it yet. But ski trails are marked off, and approximately $175,000 of tax money has already been spent in exploring this—the feasibility study. And the vote will happen weeks—not months—from now. 

On July 13, many residents of southwest Edina learned for the first time about a proposed re-development of a portion of the Braemar Golf Course to add Nordic ski trails and a tubing hill. If adopted by the Edina City Council on September 7, the proposed $3 million project would construct a  2.2 kilometer Nordic ski trail around the perimeter of the golf course. In addition, a 11-lane tubing hill would be created roughly where kids and families now informally (and at no cost) tube in winter months.

Rather than refine existing trails frugally and sensibly, the project represents a fundamental rework of the landscape at Braemar. To create the proposed 50-foot wide ski trail (yes, 50-feet wide), construction would begin as early as October 2016, so as to “take advantage of the fact that the [golf] course renovation is already underway.” 

Edina residents: to sign a petition urging the Edina City Council to reconsider this project, CLICK HERE 

 

 

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Did Bloomington Organized Trash Lawsuit Spur Early Rollout?

We reported earlier  that the Bloomington City Council voted on June 27, 2016,  to reject the citizens’ petition for a Charter Amendment as “manifestly unconstitutional.”  The petition, with over 2,500 signatures, had been recognized as sufficient by both the Bloomington Charter Commission and the City Clerk. 

On July 19, the citizens group behind the petition filed suit against the City of Bloomington, arguing essentially that the Mayor and City Council have incorrectly denied the citizens their right to amend the city charter.  Hennepin County District Court case number 27-CV-16-10786 has not been assigned a hearing schedule at this time.

In an apparent counter-move, the city has accelerated the start-date for the new hauler assignments to start 2 months early, the week of August 8 rather the first of October. There was no mention of this in the August newsletter mailed to residents which included an extensive feature regarding organized trash. The only notice: an August 4 posting on the city website “Starting August 8, garbage haulers will begin switching carts as part of the City's garbage and recycling program. This process will continue until the end of September. Residents must put all their carts at the curb on their regular trash day. This includes trash, recycling and yard waste. Please have your carts at the curb before 7 a.m. and leave them out until the end of the business day. Once your containers have been exchanged, your newly assigned hauler will serve as your “subcontractor” and will service your containers.”

 



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