Why Minneapolis Needs to Balance the DFL’s Checks with a GOP Balance

The DFL is still stinging over its recent losses in the 2016 election. But if you are a Republican (supporting the man in charge or not), this reversal of fortune gives us hope that Conservative concerns will be heard at the state level. The GOP is finally able to hold the Governor and his appointees (minions) accountable. But in the Twin Cities and Hennepin County, the DFL still dominates at all levels with 100% of elected positions and 75% of the vote in any given race. Wouldn’t it be great to have even one Republican on our City Council to create a debate and break the mandate? Imagine if there was one city council member that presented a different point of view? At the recent Mayoral Debate – the candidates are all slightly different varietals from the same vineyard, making things like more bike lanes a foregone conclusion.

If you have any doubt that we need to continue to “Hold our Gains” and make more progress in 2017/18, here are some examples of what has happened recently under unchecked DFL power:

Activism vs Leadership

DFL legislators become more interested in forcing undebated social agendas rather than demonstrating fiscal competence (spending restraint that keeps taxes reasonable and focuses on efficiencies). When this happens, the city does not run well. Bike lanes sparkle while crosswalks are badly in need of paint. Criminals are empowered while police are scrutinized. Dollars pour into programs supporting “equity,” yet outcomes seem never never improve. Park Board infrastructure “needs” $20M annually for 20 years to keep Rec Centers from falling down, then once taxes go up “land bridges” between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles are right back on the table.

Many legislators in the twin cities are not representatives of the wishes of the whole of their constituents, who support the latter positions above. They have “listening sessions” but then listen to whom they want, and then push their activist agenda. One needs not look further than the $15/hour minimum wage. Listening sessions were held, and small business owner pleas were ignored. The ordinance is coming. Every DFL mayoral candidate supports it.

DFL Leaders dehumanize Conservatives

DFL legislators, when unchallenged, become arrogant and have no fear of showing disdain for their conservative constituents. “Our” Congressman Keith Ellison gloated on January 17th, 2017 “There’s no Republicans in (Minnesota’s) Fifth Congressional District at all. We have chased them all out.” This is from the party of “inclusiveness.” How exactly does this rhetoric help the DFL? Liberals perceive Republicans as sexist, racist, ist, ist, ist. And unfortunately some are. But the “ists” aren’t getting 80% of the vote in Minneapolis, Ellison is. You all know Republicans that are reasonable people. They are your friends and family. How does it make you feel when “our” Congressman has this attitude that your family and friends should be/have been chased out of our district?

The DFL never met a tax they didn’t like, and reach beyond the top 1%.

The DFL controlled legislature said in 2010 “make the wealthy pay their fair share,” and then passes tax after tax on everyone via our overall tax burden: state/county/city income/property/sales tax. All while there is a $3.6B overcharged surplus. The GOP is trying to return the surplus to the taxpayers, and the DFL not only wants to spend it but also wants to raise the gas and sales tax on top of it. The surplus is not the government’s money, it is our money that we were overcharged, and it should be returned to us. Rather, Governor Dayton is calling for a $46B budget. When he took office 8 years ago, the budget was $34B. Are we 35% better off than we were? I do not see the return on my increased investment. All I know is our taxes are much higher. When Mayor Hodges is submitting a city budget, she says we haven’t improved outcomes enough and must tax and spend more. But when facing her opponents, she says we’ve made significant progress. Which is it?

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

An unchecked DFL over-reaches and flexes its power, because it can. It made sure that the most powerful authorities in Minnesota are appointed with DFL insiders: The Met Council, CTIB, Sports Facilities Commission, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, and more. This has led to taxation without representation, runaway spending, corruption, arrogance, and a complete lack of accountability. It is the GOP that is now working to reform these groups to ensure bipartisan viewpoints. CTIB votes to dissolve so they can increase the sales tax above current limitations to fund light rail. The appointed MCWD rubber stamps the Met Councils SWLRT permit, despite their duty to protect the Creek against disturbing contaminated brown fields in our parks during construction. The MSFC chair doesn’t see a problem with letting friends, family, and DFL buddies into luxury suites, and then the Governor has her back saying the issue is “blown out of proportion.” It is GOP Rep Sarah Anderson that led the charge to restore accountability to MSFC.

In closing, with power comes responsibility. And Power Divided is Power Checked (Thank you Congressman Jason Lewis). The next time elections roll around – all Minneapolitans should challenge themselves to send a Republican from Minneapolis to the Senate, the House, and City Council. How about just one just to see what happens! Or has the DFL done so well by us that they deserve to hold every elected office in Minneapolis? The above points would indicate they have not. Let’s balance that check.

Views and Opinions from SD61 Republicans

During the 2016 election cycle, we asked Republicans in our Minnesota senate district (roughly Southwest Minneapolis) for their views on a range of items via a survey.  We emailed people who attended the caucus in 2016 and shared their email address.  We had 140 people share their views with us – all individual responses were anonymous.

We conducted this survey to identify key issues and positions held by local party participants.  Our local Republican party and local candidates will be able to utilize this information to inform our approach to engaging with our base and to connecting with additional voters.  And we need to engage with additional voters!  Our local candidates hovered around 20% of the vote in 2016 which was well above the Presidential vote.  Losing is no fun – we would like to change that over time and impact statewide races too.

Based on the results of the 2016 caucus in our senate district (Rubio over 50%, Kasich in second), you may have suspected that our local Republicans may have different positions on some issues than the national or state party.  To appeal to a larger portion of our district (more than 20%!), we may need to stake out some positions out of sync with the national/state Republican positions.  The survey answers suggest that we can rally our shared core values and identify opportunities to broaden our appeal while representing our supporters.

You can see the survey results for yourself here.   We look forward to discussing as a group at upcoming local events.

A City that Works for Everyone

By Shawn Smith, of Kenwood

Our city’s elected officials reiterate often that Minneapolis should be a city that works for everyone. This is a worthy platform. All people that live here should have equal opportunity to live their lives in liberty and pursuit of their dreams. But, are city budgets constructed in a way that will not work for all of us after all?

In Mayor Hodges 2017 recently approved budget, there are line items intended to work for everyone. Increasing police enables foot patrols and engagement. Hiring small business navigators is a noble initiative to help small businesses navigate the perhaps too-complex city licensing and regulations. Providing resources to improve economic and educational outcomes is inspiring to many. Street paving programs will keep cars out of the tire shop. It is hard to argue against these.

But even within some of these priorities and others not mentioned, there are questionable expenditures. And it’s time to give a “woot woot” to those that make this possible, the taxpayers. Why can’t this group get a break so the city continues to work for them too…and be good shepherds of our money.

City leaders have imposed a steady march of increased property taxes over the years, with the only exception this century being 2014. Taxes for many in Minneapolis increased 50% or more from 2007 through 2012 due to a declining residential tax base and a sluggish commercial base. Residential homeowners were asked (#notasked) to shoulder the burden to keep the city afloat. For homeowners, these were painful years because monthly mortgage payments increased and put significant pressure on household budgets. We had to cut back, and the city government continued to grow and spend.

But now values are up. Hundreds of shiny new condos are online downtown. Office space is near capacity. Where is the relief and payback for shouldering the burden of those lean years? In a year where the city is flush with cash, the city is choosing to spend 7.6% more, adding 59 positions and an incremental annual spend of $90M for 2017.   Opinions will vary on whether each new spending item is outrageous (some are) or justified (some are). But while no one budget item is overtly outrageous to most taxpayers, it is the sum total that should be.

Property taxes are a real problem. Just talk to people. It is a problem regardless of whether the voter is a downtown Millennial or a Kenwood near-retiree; Democrat or Republican or Independent. Real estate agents talk about how the taxes are a reason not to buy in Minneapolis and drives buyers to Edina, Golden Valley.   Many of my neighbors look at the future and wonder if they will be able to live in their family homes even after the mortgage is paid. Cities that we model, such as Portland, Seattle, and Denver have tax rates less than ½ of what we pay.

And then there is the issue of transparency. In the Truth and Taxation notice, the city chose to say, “Thanks to growth in the tax base, 1/3 of all residential properties may see a decrease or no increase in the city portion of their property taxes.” But this phrasing avoids the reality: 70% of residential property owners will bear an increase or see no decrease. Was relief ever a consideration at City Hall?

Even if we don’t get a tax cut, consider these points on how the city has set its priorities:

The city has millions when it comes to bicycling infrastructure, but our alleys are in disrepair and even unpaved.

The city is spending millions on outreach programming when our schools have to be funded by a special voter-approved levy.

The city is adding positions at City Hall when most mature companies require that head count be kept neutral.

The city is retrofitting our streets with pedestrian bump-outs but we are assessed to repair our sidewalks.

Hennepin County doesn’t fare much better on transparency. Their Truth In Taxation notifications, which are supposed to be our source of truth, are inaccurate. At first glance, total property taxes appear to be going down. But on closer inspection, the notices do not include the voter approved school levy. A Correct “Final Truth in Taxation notice is not going to come. This means that many homeowners will not know their true level of taxes until it is time to pay them.

Back to Minneapolis. We need a city that works for all of us. Many appreciate that the city is trying to work for those that need some help along the way. But that must be balanced with working for the people that own homes and make initiatives possible. And we hear all the time that we are not doing enough.

The city responds to citizens that take the time to engage. Join me in vocalizing the need for lower property tax levels and spending accountability. Study your Truth in Taxation statement so you know where your money is going. Vote with your voice before you vote with your feet, as some are doing by moving to neighboring Golden Valley. Then, we can truly accomplish a city that works for everyone.

Metropolitan Council Certification Review

By Shawn Smith, of Kenwood

Every four years, the FTA and Federal Department of Transportation recertify the Metropolitan Council. Certification is necessary in order for The Council to continue to receive federal funds. The FTA determines whether there will be certification, certification with a corrective action plan, or no certification. Some of the criteria used for the determination include transparency and public engagement in planning transit, good stewardship of limited federal dollars, and adherence to ethical standards. Since 2011, I have been an active and vocal participant in the process to plan Southwest Light Rail. When Senate Candidate Bob “Again” Carney learned that there would be an opportunity to testify directly to the FTA on this matter, I headed over to The Council’s headquarters with Bob, George Puzak, and Stuart Chazin.   Here is my testimony:

My name is Shawn Smith and I live in the Kenwood area of Minneapolis. I am a director on the Kenwood neighborhood board. I am not speaking on behalf of that organization. I mention it to demonstrate that via that role, I am familiar with the topic of Metropolitan Council’s planning process, and Southwest Light Rail is the best example I can provide.

I want to call attention to The Metropolitan Council’s unchecked power. Because I care about Kenwood and Southwest Minneapolis and what I’ve observed in the planning process for Southwest Light Rail and its impact on us.

The project is at $1.9B and climbing. I was glad to hear you say that your review is to ensure that limited federal funds are spent wisely – it sure doesn’t feel like the Council recognizes this. Although SWLRT is significantly over budget, expensive vs flexible modes of transit, it doesn’t serve transit dependent populations in Minneapolis, only a small number of cars are removed from the highways, and it doesn’t reduce carbon emissions, this train is still coming. What kind of process is this where so much public money can be spent and the results do not meet basic transit criteria?

The Met Council chair stated that this line would not be built without bipartisan legislative support, but the train is still coming. What kind of process is this when representatives elected by the people have said “no” and they are ignored?

The Met Council chair stated that certificates of participation or county funding would not be used to cover the state’s 10% share of the project cost, but the Governor doubled down and “over ruled him” and the train is still coming. What kind of process is this where one person can have so much influence? And since the state won’t pay – the most negatively impacted by this project might now have to pay for it via new taxes?

More Citizen Advisory Committee meetings have been cancelled than have been held (our neighborhood has a CAC representative). But this train is still coming. What kind of process is it when the Council doesn’t see the importance of regularly engaging the public at the frequency that was promised?

There is a viable lawsuit contending that other Minneapolis routes were not properly considered. It will not be heard in court until September 2017, but this train is still coming as though there were no lawsuit. What kind of process is this when hundreds of millions are already being spent but the whole project could be derailed a year from now?

What kind of process is it when representatives of the Met Council arrogantly say they are confident this train will be built because “every light rail project dies 1000 deaths before the first rider?”

What kind of process is it when the best argument to build the line is that if we don’t, $900 million of federal funds will go to another city?

We need, and expect, greater accountability here. The Council no doubt has a ready talking point for all of the concerns I’ve mentioned. But when power is unchecked, and the end justifies the means, you don’t get accountability. And that’s why this train is still coming. Thank You

Please keep reading this paper for continued updates. I favor a vibrant, forward looking, transit system that serves Minneapolis. But this line is already becoming a bottomless pit of spending. And those that can hold them accountable need to know the full story. And you can still testify. Email me at ssmith288@me.com to find out how.

Also printed in the Hill Lake Press

2016 Convention results

Alternates are ranked by vote total, in the case of tie, the tellers drew lots to determine order.

State Vote Del/Alt rank
Mitch Rossow 58 Delegate
Christina Pierson 53 Delegate
Juliette Jordal 52 Delegate
Lea Westenan 52 Delegate
James Sorbel 48 Delegate
Andy Gildea 46 Delegate
Stephanie Anderson 42 Delegate
Dan Crowley 38 Delegate
Nicholas Conant 38 Delegate
Connor Wray 38 Delegate
Jennifer Breitinger 36 Delegate
Eric Chad 35 Delegate
Kaye Rakow 34 Delegate
Scott Peterson 33 Delegate
Theresa Murray 33 Delegate
Charlie Martin 32 Delegate
Willis Krumholz 32 Delegate
Jen Zielinski 30 Alternate – 1
Tommy Julsrud 30 Alternate – 2
Bill Mateikis 30 Alternate – 3
Mark Miller 29 Alternate – 4
Gregg Sougstad 28 Alternate – 5
Robert Nichols 27 Alternate – 6
Shawn Smith 27 Alternate – 7
Tim Lovestrand 26 Alternate – 8
Jeff Meyer 26 Alternate – 9
Lydia Tersteeg 24 Alternate – 10
Dan Cohen 23 Alternate – 11
Sarah Janacek 22 Alternate – 12
Jennifer Conrad 19 Alternate – 13
Lisa Pohlman 19 Alternate – 14
David Faville 16 Alternate – 15
Harvey Feldman 15 Alternate – 16
Bob Carney Jr. 15 Alternate – 17

 

CD5 Vote Del/Alt rank
Andy Rich 59 Delegate
Doug Daggett 54 Delegate
Mitch Rossow 46 Delegate
Eric Chad 44 Delegate
Juliette Jordal 41 Delegate
Andy Gildea 40 Delegate
Barbara Lunde 40 Delegate
Stephanie Anderson 40 Delegate
Christina Pierson 38 Delegate
James Sorbel 38 Delegate
Jennifer Breitinger 36 Delegate
Dan Crowley 34 Delegate
Willis Krumholz 34 Delegate
Bill Mateikis 31 Delegate
Theresa Murray 31 Delegate
Dan Cohen 28 Delegate
Naomi Tuura 28 Delegate
Michael Lindsay 26 Alternate – 1
Lydia TerSteeg 24 Alternate – 2
Mark Miller 23 Alternate – 3
Charlie Martin 23 Alternate – 4
Jay Silver 23 Alternate – 5
Douglas Groat 23 Alternate – 6
Jen Zielinski 22 Alternate – 7/8
Gregg Sougstad 22 Alternate – 7/8
Tommy Julsrud 21 Alternate – 9
Kaye Rakow 20 Alternate – 10
Melanie Broida Werl 20 Alternate – 11
Richard Olson 20 Alternate – 12
Robert Nicols 20 Alternate – 13
Tim Lovestrand 19 Alternate – 14
Jennifer Conrad 18 Alternate – 15
David Faville 18 Alternate – 16
Chris Tomlinson 17 Alternate – 17

February News

2016 Caucus
Caucus is one of the most powerful and engaging political events you will ever see. Minnesota is part of an exclusive group of states that holds these grassroots neighborhood meetings where we get together with our friends every 2 years to plan a revolution.
What is it? Caucus is the ground floor of a Democratic Republic. Republicans that share your polling place (precinct) gather on this one night to elect representatives to attend party conventions on their behalf to endorse candidates and conduct party business. They also choose a leader for their precinct to help inform the community and get out the vote in November. And of course, they vote for whom they wish to be the Republican Candidate for President of the United States.
If you haven’t attended caucus before, you should, it’s real-world participatory civics, a great chance to meet your like-minded neighbors and an opportunity to have your voice heard. Plus, this year the ballot you cast for president is binding. What does that mean? You can find out March 1st!
All SD61 precincts will caucus at Burroughs Elementary, 
1601 W 50th St, Minneapolis, MN 55419
Take a moment to look up your precinct name & location here.

Please help by Convening or Volunteering
Your local Republican Party is entirely volunteer run. This event, the bedrock of Minnesota grassroots is put together by dedicated volunteers with real jobs in the real world; regular folks who contribute their time and energy for a better future. We would greatly appreciate having you join us in producing this unique event. Whether you would like to lead a meeting or help behind the scenes, we will find a role that suits you.
To volunteer, please simply email Mitch Rossow. Include your name, phone number and precinct name, which you can find here.


 

Annual Chili Contest & Dinner March 13th!
As winter settles upon the Great North Country, what could be better than gathering with friends for some good old home-made chili? Join SD61 Southwestern Minneapolis Republicans and Scot Johnson from Powerline for our Annual Chili Dinner at a newly renovated and amazingly beautiful location in City Bella at 66th & Lyndale.

Chili Contest! Yes, now is the time to show off your Chili Making Chops! We will have some great prizes and an adoring crowd, so if you would like to compete, please be sure to select that option on the application here.

Our Guest speaker Scot Johnson from Powerline — with Hollywood attempting to rewrite history with a new movie about Rathergate, SD61 has Minnesota’s own Scot Johnson who, along with John Hinderaker, broke the story wide open; exposing CBS’s attempted October surprise take-down of George Bush that ended up destroying the career of Dan Rather instead.

The event is $15, but advanced tickets are $12. Tickets & more information available here.

Thank you, I look forward to seeing you at caucus!
– Mitch Rossow, SD61 Chair  mitchrossow@sd61gop.org

Another Tax Increase for Minneapolis

By Cam Winton

Right now, Minneapolis City Hall is deciding how much of your paycheck to take in taxes in 2015.

The mayor proposed a tax levy increase of 2.4%. The proposal contained both good and bad elements, but setting priorities would have eliminated the need for the levy increase.
http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/271917861.html

On Monday, Dec. 1, the Minneapolis City Council weighed in. In a 7-6 vote, the Council voted for a tax increase of “only” 2.2%, rather than the mayor’s full requested increase of 2.4%.
http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/284414901.html

The following councilmembers voted for a lower tax increase than the Mayor proposed: Barb Johnson, Lisa Goodman, Blong Yang, Kevin Reich, Jacob Frey, Abdi Warsame, and Linea Palmisano. Although I still think there’s fat to cut, I thank them for their votes for a smaller increase.

These councilmembers voted for the Mayor’s full tax increase: Cam Gordon, Elizabeth Glidden, Alondra Cano, Lisa Bender, John Quincy, Andrew Johnson. Their votes are baffling when you consider how many of their constituents are working hard just to get by.

The City Council will take its final budget vote on Wednesday, Dec. 10. So, I encourage you to contact your City Councilperson this week to make your voice heard.
Email addresses and phone numbers are available here:
http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/engage/WCMS1Q-074472

Let’s politely remind our elected officials that making it more expensive to live in our city – by taking our money to pay for a $54 million-per-mile streetcar line, dryer lint recycling, and duplicative bureaucracy – is NOT the way to improve the quality of life for Minneapolitans!

The good and the bad in Mayor Hodges’ first budget

Article by: Cam Winton
In her budget address on Thursday, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges gave cause for both cheer and alarm. Cheer, because the mayor proposed real investments in our residents and took steps to hack bureaucracy’s vines from the path of our city’s would-be job creators. Alarm, because we’re still wasting money on bells and whistles, missing opportunities for vital reforms and forgetting that not all of us can afford property tax increases.
First, the good. Too often, elected officials use the word “investment” to describe any new spending, but Hodges’ proposal to increase spending on public safety really is an investment that will yield a return over time. By increasing the number of sworn officers and community service officers on the Minneapolis Police Department, City Hall will enable the force to build stronger relationships in the community. Body cameras on officers will stop the hemorrhaging of cash to resolve incidents and allegations of police misconduct — and, more important, will foster citizens’ trust in the force. And adding approximately 30 firefighters will ensure our first responders have the personnel they need to keep our growing city safe.
Another true investment: The money Hodges proposes to spend on early childhood education. Her proposal reflects the consensus across the political spectrum that if we greet young children’s natural enthusiasm for learning with enriching instruction, we’ll ensure that the smallest among us are ready to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.
The budget address also noted that City Attorney Susan Segal is working to slash the red tape currently entangling entrepreneurs who want to employ tomorrow’s workers. That’s a good first step toward relieving the underemployment and unemployment afflicting too many of our fellow city residents.
So, there’s plenty to cheer, but also plenty of reason for alarm. First, the spending. The mayor’s budget address conspicuously omitted any reference to the proposed streetcar line, but nevertheless the city is still siphoning funds away from essentials to pay for engineering of the Nicollet Avenue line — an epic boondoggle with a price tag of $54 million per mile. The money would be better spent on building heated bus shelters along existing bus lines.
To those who prefer the streetcar: Are you willing to go to an unsheltered bus stop on a toe-numbing February morning and explain to a mother guarding her two children from the wind that you prioritize a shiny trolley over her children’s comfort? (And to those who argue that we should build both the streetcar and the bus shelters, I ask for some of the seeds from your money tree.)
Speaking of extravagances, the mayor used her address to propose an $8 million program to recycle organic materials like food scraps and dryer lint. Under the plan, every household in Minneapolis would have to pay $40 a year to fund the program regardless of whether they wanted to participate in it. Well-intentioned proponents note that diverting organic waste to recycling would obviate the need to burn it in the trash facility near Target Field.
True, but that statement ignores the negative impacts of driving another set of trucks through the city’s alleys and the positive potential for allowing organics to decompose in a modern landfill and capturing the resulting methane for energy. Furthermore, if the city required families to spend that $40 a year, what important thing would those families then cut to find the money? School supplies? A bike helmet for a budding bicyclist? Healthier food from the farmers market? Elected officials forget: Families in the real world have to make these kinds of choices.
After wasteful spending, the second cause for alarm: The city’s review of regulations barely scratches the surface of determining how our state, county and city should divide responsibility for governing in the 21st century. The current model is marred by duplicative back offices and is unsustainably expensive. To fix the problem, I encourage smart, dedicated public servants like the mayor, Hennepin County Board Member Marion Greene and newly appointed City Coordinator Spencer Cronk to combine procurement, IT and accounting functions and implement open-source, cloud-based software platforms for the benefit of both the city and county. The combination of certain functions by St. Paul and Ramsey County; the merger of city and county library functions, and the University of Minnesota’s use of Google Apps all provide instructive models.
The third cause for alarm: the proposed levy increase of 2.4 percent. No matter how well-intentioned the increase, if we keep making it more expensive to live in our city we’ll price out the socioeconomically diverse residents we claim to want as neighbors. The mayor acknowledges that part of the proposed levy increase is due to increased spending, which is irresponsible as long as we’re still buying duplicative bureaucracy and a streetcar we don’t need.
In summary, there are strengths and pitfalls in Hodges’ respectable first cut at the budget. The City Council now has the opportunity to partner with the mayor and Board of Estimate and Taxation to develop a final budget that empowers and respects all Minneapolitans. I wish them all well in the process.

Cam Winton, a Republican, is a resident of Minneapolis and an attorney in the power industry. He was a candidate for mayor as an independent in 2013.
© 2014 Star Tribune
http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/271917861.html