Random Access Mind 9/2/15

A recent news story about a sexual harassment charge against a city administrator in Northfield got me to thinking about some historical figures of Jordan’s recent past. That led me to look up Victoria, MN, where one of those figures was employed as City Manager from mid-July until mid-November of 2014. And for those of you who read things, then make fantastical mental leaps,NO! The historical figure I’m referring to was NOT the subject of any sexual harassment actions. Okay?

Googling led me to the fact that Victoria has a Finance Committee. To wit, and from the City of Victoria web site:
Greg Evansky, Appointed April 1, 2014
Term expires March 31, 2016
Susan Lovering, Appointed April 1, 2014
Term expires March 31, 2016
Laurie Hokkanen, City Manager
Kelly Grinnell, Finance Manager
Mayor, Tom O'Connor
Council Member, Tom Strigel

The Finance Committee reviews and makes budget suggestions to the Council, reviews and makes suggestions on the City's Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), as well as recommends other actions on city expenditures and revenue sources to the City Council.

Wow. Six members, two of whom are not Council Members or city staffers. Interesting. Do you suppose that might be part of the reason Victoria’s interim City Manager was replaced after four months? He certainly had no interest in having a citizens’ financial advisory committee when he was here.

But I digress.

Which I am wont to do, but this is JUG, and what do you expect?

Anyway, Wikipedia says as of the census, there were 7,345 people, 2,435 households, and 2,055 families residing in the city.

So, Victoria is a little bigger than Jordan. One would assume Victoria’s finances are about the same as Jordan’s. Not true.

Here’s something else I found on the Victoria web site, in the section on their 2015 budget:

Total Revenues $8,014,258, Total Expenditures $10,875,775

“Property Taxes

The State of Minnesota has granted local municipalities the authority to levy taxes to fund operations and debt payments. For the City of Victoria, the property tax levy accounts for about 73.4% of revenues in the General Fund and 15.2% of revenues for the Victoria Recreation Center Fund. In 2015, the City will levy $1,084,800 in property taxes for debt service payments. This is 27.8% higher than 2014 due to the 2013 and 2014 bond issues for the Aster Trail Street & Utility Improvement Project and the new City Hall/Library. The City also relies on special assessment revenue and reserves for debt service payments. For 2015, the City’s property tax levy will increase to $4,100,800, an increase of $139,800, or 3.5%.”

In other words, Victoria plans to spend $2,861,517.00 more than they will draw in revenue. Hmmmm.

They have a new City Hall/Library, sort of like us. They have a community recreation center too. It has an ice arena, a couple of basketball courts, exercise equipment, and a walking track.

Their Recreation Programs Department “strives to provide high quality programs, lessons, and leagues that meet the needs of the community. The department also provides a high quality preschool for the community.” Its budget is $55,759.00.

The city of Victoria operates the recreation center. Its’ budget is $1,025,858.

(A thought here – if you pull out a million dollars of rec center costs from Victoria’s budget, it gets a bit closer to Jordan’s)

So what’s all this telling me? Your interpretation may vary, but I’m seeing a few contradictory things here.

First, Jordan is not operating in a deficit mode, which is good.

Second, Victoria, even with its’ deficit and operating and capital burdens for the City Hall/Library and recreation center, still is raising its’ levy by 3.5% compared to Jordan’s proposed 4.56% levy increase.

Third, Victoria, which is not all that much bigger than Jordan, somehow manages to have a parks and recreation department.

Fourth, if the city of Jordan were solely responsible for the rec center and Recreational Programs Department, I’m betting Jordan’s budget would be within a hundred thousand dollars of Victoria’s.

Fifth, unlike Jordan, Victoria seems willing to actively involve citizens in the budget planning process. Of course, such involvement assumes that some people will sign on for the committee, and show up for the meetings.

An email to staff at Victoria produced the nugget that they have not received LGA in several years, and don’t expect to receive any in 2016.

If you pay attention to what’s going on at City Hall, you will often hear staff or the Council cite other cities as examples of how Jordan might do things. Generally, such citations are used to justify greater spending, as in “We need to pay comparable to other cities to attract and keep good workers” or, “Most cities and towns have some kind of rental housing registration program.”

By the way, although Victoria has an “Intergovernmental Transfers” account, I didn’t see anything in their budget that said anything about “Unallocated”.

Your results may vary. Please feel free to comment via email. Scroll all the way to the bottom for the email link.

The Almost Park
About three years ago, a double lot on East Street went into tax foreclosure. Jordan had a chance to purchase the land for public use. The (then) PRC recommended doing so, and even considered some possible scenarios for a park. The City Council decided to pass on buying the land, and it went up for public auction. So much for Willy Pauly Park. My fear at the time was that if the City didn’t acquire the land, a developer might buy it and put a crappy fourplex on it. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Julie and Tim Bischke bought the land, and did a beautiful job of reshaping it. It’s so park-like that they’ve had to put up signs advising people it’s private property. City staff, and some Council Members had argued the land was too steep, and too difficult to mow and maintain. I believe the Bischkes’ use a walk-behind mower. They have somehow managed to remove the impenetrable buckthorn, plant trees, create terraces, and produce a private park in a place some City Hall people deemed impossibly expensive to develop. I don’t think the Bischkes got any financial help from the City, either. No TIF, no grants. Imagine that.

Thank you Julie and Tim, for making your property such an asset to the East Street neighborhood.

A Reader Comments
Thanks, Thom for your nice story on our lots. Initially we wanted to build a garage there, as you know. Prior to us buying it there was a house (which burned) & garage there on terraced slopes which a developer & the city ruined by crude, failed landscaping. A four-plex was planned & started despite city prohibitions against slope development.
The city made it so impossible to build we decided to do the next best thing--develop it as a private garden/park. It took a lot of $$ to do what we did but more importantly a lot of plain old hard, dirty, sweaty work. We're not done yet--always more to plant & maintain. When we're around we always enjoy visitors & offer them "tours" if they care to climb the hill.
Maybe I missed something on your last JUG but you never revealed who this "mystery manager" from Victoria was? May I venture a guess? It's sad Jordan has become such an expensive place to live with its high taxes & scant amenities. We constantly drive to do the things we like & for reasonable shopping. With all the fancy new downtown improvements, at least half of the buildings are vacant or hardly used.

Tim Bischke

My Response
Truthfully, I had worries about those two lots falling into the wrong hands. That didn’t happen, and I’m greatly relieved.

Tim, on the other matter, you can guess all you want. All I’m going to say is that I was incensed when I read that Northfield’s separation agreement included a positive letter of reference. Northfield was forcing the man out over charges of sexual harassment, and they gave him a POSITIVE reference?

During my term on the Council, we made the same kind of a deal to obtain separation from a city employee. I wasn’t happy about the letter, but jeeze, at least our guy didn’t have unresolved harassment charges hanging over him.

The Quote:
“Deficits mean future tax increases, pure and simple. Deficit spending should be viewed as a tax on future generations, and politicians who create deficits should be exposed as tax hikers.”
  Ron Paul

Adventures In Packerland 9/23/15

They Breed Roundabouts.
Swee’pea and I went to Kewaunee, Two Rivers, Algoma, and various other parts of Wisconsin last weekend. To get there, you have to go through the city of Green Bay. We typically follow highway 29 through downtown Green Bay. The western approach to Green Bay on 29 has been under construction for about ten years, I guess. Every time we go through there, it’s something new. Apparently it’d done now.

As we got off the freeway portion of 29 (Swee’pea driving) we were confronted by five roundabouts in a row. The first roundabout fed directly into the second. The second fed directly into the third, and so on. Five roundabouts in the space of a half-mile or so.

And these were two-lane roundabouts – the kind where you’re supposed to drive in the middle lane until you reach your exit. Cars were entering, swapping lanes, yielding (and not yielding), merging, exiting, and doing the whole thing again about four car lengths down the road at the next promenade and do-si-do.

We passed through all five roundabouts successfully, but the transit had its stressful moments.

When we popped out the other side, Swee’pea said “Well, that was confusing.”

Spoken like a true Minasoda Scandanafyan.

I suspect some WisDOT engineers found a hidden case of Rahr’s someplace, drank it, and decided they needed to punish Green Bay for ever having allowed such vile stuff.

You Can Buy Moonshine at Gas Stations On Sunday In Wisconsin.
35-50 percent alcohol. In mason jars. With whole fruit thrown in as a nod to Yuppies.

Actually, about the only place in Wisconsin where you can’t buy liquor on Sunday is in church. It’s free there, but you have to wait in line. Wisconsinites are generally not good at planning and foresight.

They’re a fun group though.

Meanwhile, In Jordan . . .
Went to the Council meeting Monday night (9/21/15). It had its’ moments.

On the spur of the moment, during the public comment period, I asked when the expensive signs planned for along the sidewalk, across from the Middle School would be installed. This project has been in the works for over a year, school has been in session, and still the signs were not up.

I didn’t really expect a reply, but the City Engineer piped up and said that “for whatever reason” the contractor hadn’t been able to get the signs and install them. I’m sorry, but this is a lame excuse. The signs are not custom-made. They should have been ordered and delivered in timely fashion to complete the project before the start of the school year.

Today (Tuesday) I noticed that a crew is now installing the signs. I think what actually happened is that Jordan is not high on priority lists because people here don’t like to make waves.

There was some discussion about stop signs on First Street at the intersection with Rice Street. Apparently, some people in town feel that since there were no stop signs on First Street before, there shouldn’t be any now. Never mind that the intersection is inconsistent with its mate at Water Street. Also, apparently, there is some concern that people who are familiar with the way it was, will run the new stop signs. Seriously, are people in Jordan so unobservant? Is our eyesight that bad?

The following is a Public Service Announcement from JordanUnderGround. Hang up your phone and drive! Those big red things with white lettering on poles at intersections are STOP SIGNS. Obey them or you’ll end up with a town full of silly-assed roundabouts.

We now return to our regular programming.

There was a second reading of a rental housing resolution. Second readings are supposed to be pro forma actions taken to approve codes that were written and revised at earlier meetings. Your Jordan City Council operates a little differently. They made major changes to the rental housing resolution, adding things, deleting things, and redefining things. The focus of the resolution seems to have changed from improving safety in rental units to gathering information about renters and landlords, punishing non-compliant landlords, and adding more red tape to the work load at City Hall. One staff member said “It’s more administrative work, but this is information you guys think is important . . .” The information being who owns rental properties, who lives in them, whether the landlords do background checks, and I don’t know whatall else.

This (in my opinion) is useless information which no Council Member sought until staff brought up the idea of registering rental units. It seems the primary rationale for such a registry is that other towns do it.

Big double whoop.

Anyway, because of the extensive changes to the proposed program, the whole thing is going to have to go through another reading. And you know what? I suspect everyone is suddenly going to wake up recognize the rental housing registration program for what it is – an intrusive waste of time and money that solves a problem that doesn’t exist.

Moving on.

The Finance Manager made his report. From it, I’ve extracted a few nuggets.

First, the year is three quarters over, yet only four of eighteen department accounts are spent down at or below 25% of plan. For example, 75% of the Fire Department budget remains unspent, 64% of the building inspection budget remains unspent, and 45% of the streets budget remains unspent. Perhaps most surprising of all, 40% of the parks maintenance budget remains unspent. One would think most park maintenance happens in the summer, no?

I have a prediction. Third quarter spending is going to go through the roof as staff seeks to use up their budgets, and justify next year’s expenditure levels – with a 4.56% levy increase.

Oh, and by the way, that pesky Unallocated account has $35,000.00 in “contingency (unbudgeted) for Council discretionary use.”

I suppose it’s too much to hope the Council will use its discretion to lower my taxes. More likely, they’ll buy a new skid steer loader, or some such.

The Pit
Last item. Our local gravel magnate has requested another extension on his gravel mining conditional use permit. This pushes the permitting period out to March 31, 2016. I’m not sure if the proposer hopes the County’s unresolved issues will magically disappear, or if he’s trying to find an engineering firm to put lipstick on his pig.

Kinder, gentler be darned.

A Reader Comments
I finally found out why the roundabouts are such a darling for MnDOT, a little bird told me that they found a big stash of good weed and have been smoking it for years. After I heard that the 494 - 169 interchange made total sense to me, you just have to be stoned out of your mind to make it through the maze. : )

And when I asked for permission to post his comment, the reader responded: Yup go ahead, I hate those stupid roundabouts. I even contacted MnDOT when I heard they wanted to put one in down by Radamachers and the non elected bureaucrats just blew me off. They pretty much told me they didn’t care what I thought and that they knew better what was needed at that intersection.

Dan Brunes

My Response
The burrocrats at MnDOT and elsewhere claim there are fewer accidents at roundabouts. Well ya. There are fewer roundabouts. And when the newness of roundabouts wears off they will be just as dangerous as all way stop signs, but much more expensive to replace. It’s really too bad government agencies think the people they serve are too stupid to stop at a stop sign. Sadly, some people are that stupid, but those people are not going to be helped by roundabouts.

The Quote:
“You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”
  Frank Zappa

Triptych 9/16/15

Well folks, my relocated chain-link fence is up. The hardest part was digging up and relocating existing fence posts, since they have cement footings – some weighing sixty pounds or so. My family, and a next-door neighbor provided much-appreciated help. Lucy likes having more room to play and pee.

Everyone at City Hall was polite – cheerful, even – and helpful. I got my permit within three hours of the time I filed my applications (there were two forms to fill out for this particular project). From my standpoint, I have no complaints about the process, or the people involved. Indeed, kudos to staff for fine customer service.

The most expensive single item was not the bags of Quikrete, chain-link fabric, or new gate. Twenty percent of the cost of the project went to securing a building permit.

The estimated cost of the project was $400.00. The permit was $101.00.

Seems kinda high. I’m speculating, but I bet a lot of people don’t get permits because they’re put off by the cost. Not long ago an absentee landlord built a deck/fire escape near City Hall. He tried to do it without a permit, and got hit with a punitive charge. I’m guessing his project cost was at least triple mine, but his permit cost was $200.00 – doubled to $400.00.

Permit charges are based on complex formulae that God and Einstein may understand. The rest of us just pay.

Jordan In The News
And the news isn’t especially good.

As far as I know, the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper is only available at one outlet here in Jordan. This is unfortunate, since the PP carries regional news, and often prints things neglected by other papers. On Monday, September 14th the PP published part three of a series titled Troubled waters: Is Minnesota at a turning point for water quality?

The photos accompanying the article were shot in none other than our own Sand Creek In one those photos, according to the PP “part of a crew from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), gather fish after electroshocking on Sand Creek near Jordan, Minn. on Monday, July 27, 2015. Electrofishing uses electricity to stun the fish, allowing them to be easily collected.”

I feel sorry for those fish. They get shocked, netted, poked, tagged . . . and thrown back into the polluted creek. They’re probably too pollutant-laden to eat, but humane treatment would seem to dictate taking them to a cleaner place to live. Maybe if they were named Cecil . . .

Anyway, a skeptic might ask, why was the MPCA fiddling around in Sand Creek in August, instead of in May when the foam is on the falls? A skeptic might also observe that the MPCA must expect to find something in Sand Creek besides fish and water, else why would they be tasing fish in this particular impaired waterway? And, a skeptic might observe that maybe someone from the MPCA heard Scott County’s water quality guru comment that “We don’t actually know what’s in the creek”.

One hopes the part of MPCA reviewing the gravel mining permit is aware of the results from the part of the MPCA studying Sand Creek’s water unquality.

The link to the PP story is here: http://www.twincities.com/news/state/ci_28797923/troubled-waters:-is-minnesota-at-a-turning-point-for-water-quality

Change of Heart
Last week I got an email from a regular reader. It was nicely written, so I asked for, and received permission to post it on JUG. I didn’t get the email posted quickly, and the reader approached me during the car cruise to ask why it wasn’t up. I told her things were in turmoil here at JUG, what with the new web host and all, and that I expected to have her email online the next day (Saturday). That would have put it out there until today. She withdrew her permission, so I will not post the email. But I will tell you a little bit about it.

The email complimented Council Member Jeremy Goebel for asking hard questions, to which he didn’t get substantive answers.

I agree. He asked questions, and didn’t get answers. So what? Did he push for answers? Or did he just let things slide?

Council Member Goebel is smart. He’s a dedicated family man, and a dedicated fireman. Seven years ago, when another Council Member asked me if I was using the public comment portion of the Council’s meeting as a means of forwarding my campaign, he supported me, saying he had no problem with a person building a body of work. I appreciate that.

He often says, to me and others, “I agree with everything you said.” And yet, whenit comes time to vote, he generally follows the herd.

He is the person who said that he wants future Councils to squirm when they try to raise his taxes, and yet he also said that increasing the City’s debt is not a problem – even though increasing debt increases my taxes. Last year his tax bill went down. Mine didn’t. He said everyone’s tax bills would go down in the future. This year, everyone’s tax bill looks to be going up.

He commiserated with those of us who opposed the land grab 282/21 intersection plan. Then, if I’m not mistaken, he voted for the plan.

Oh, and he was absent during the vote on the crematorium. So we have no idea where he stood on that issue. Sometimes it gets lonely on the Council – especially when a vote counters the majority.

Praise where it’s due, but look at the votes too.

The Quote:
“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”
  Robert Louis Stevenson

Where To Begin? 9/9/15

Hastings, Dakota County, Minnesota
Last Sunday (9/6/15) the Pioneer Press ran two stories about groundwater, one a front page headliner, and the other related story on page six. You know what water is, right? That stuff that makes up about sixty percent of your body. That stuff you can live without for about three days. Hydrogen, Oxygen, and maybe a few other things thrown in for good measure – or for making poison.

According to the headline story, a Dakota County resident who live near Hastings won’t let his grandchildren drink his well water when they visit Grampa and Gramma. In 2013 his water tested at ten milligrams of nitrates per liter – unsafe, according your U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That level was ten times higher than in 1988. So Grampa and Gramma (and a lot of other Dakota County well water users) put a reverse osmosis filter system on his water line. It cost him $700.00, not including regular maintenance.

Our U.S. EPA recommends that pregnant or lactating women, or children under six not use water from wells that have tested high for nitrates – even if a filter system has been installed.

Meanwhile, the City of Hastings saw its well water nitrate level go over 8 parts per million. So they spent 3.5 million dollars (about $410.00 per household) for a water treatment plant. The new facility brings the nitrate level down to 4.6 parts per million. For those of you with short memories, our U.S. EPA recommends that pregnant or lactating women, or children under six not use water from wells that have tested high for nitrates – even if a filter system has been installed.

Oh, and our Minnesota Department of Health considers anything over 3 milligrams per liter (3ppm) to be “elevated.”

The Pioneer Press articles also point out that “several communities with elevated nitrate levels draw their drinking water from the Prairie du Chien-Jordan Aquifer which lies under much of southern Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.” And “Cold Spring, Hastings, St. Peter and other Minnesota cities have had to drill new wells, upgrade treatment plants or install new transmission lines to blend water in order to address nitrates.”

Isn’t that remarkable? All the more when you consider that our Scott County government is seriously considering a proposal for a gravel mine that will add to groundwater pollution from Sand Creek.

Links to the Pioneer Press articles are here:

Waukesha, Wisconsin? Hastings, Minnesota? Where will the next story about polluted ground water come from?

Growth Will Reduce Taxes In Jordan?

At tonight’s (9/8/15) City Council meeting we heard that old line once again, this time in relation to the “need” for a new SouthWest Sewer Interceptor to encourage growth.

You know the song. The first verse is: “If we spend the money now, the resulting growth will reduce taxes in the future by expanding the tax base.”

The second verse is: “If we don’t spend the money now, the project will be more expensive in the future.”

The third verse is: “We’re just approving preliminary studies now. If we want, we can always postpone the project.”

The coda is: “Maybe we can get a grant to fund part of the cost.”

So, if we spend the money now, my taxes will go down when? Next year? Not likely. Five years from now? Maybe a little likely. But the growth is probably ten to twenty years down the road. By then a significant portion of the people who paid increased taxes to encourage the growth will be dead.

But let’s just assume that five million dollars spent on a sewer interceptor will indeed spur growth, and Jordan’s population will take off like a rocket. Who’s going to pay for the police, fire fighters, snow plows and staff needed to serve all that growth? And what about our schools? Will they be adequate, or will they have to be expanded?

I can assure you that any new businesses drawn to Jordan will not be paying for much of anything. One of the first things businesses ask is “What TIF or tax abatement package does Jordan offer?” New businesses usually get sweetheart deals that eliminate city taxes for ten, fifteen or twenty years.

Guess who pays the taxes in the meantime.

Of course, if we don’t spend the money now, the project will be more expensive in the future. But it will be paid for by the people who use it. It’ll probably also be better built, with newer techniques and technologies. When was the last time you put a muffler on your car?

And about those preliminary studies . . . City staff knows damn well that once a project starts rolling, it’s hard to stop. Fifty or a hundred thousand dollars spent on studies and preliminary engineering is hard to justify to taxpayers if the project never gets done. The expression about not throwing good money after bad is meaningless in government.

Get a grant? Well, yeah. But often that results in a project growing out of control to be big enough to qualify for the grant, with the end result that the City saves little or nothing. And if the project actually does have merit, the grant process can stretch completion dates out by years because of typical grant cycles.

I ask those of you who have lived in town for a while, when was there a project that actually reduced your taxes? Did your taxes go down after the Bridle Creek or Sawmill subdivisions opened? Did your water bill go down after the new water tower was built?

In my opinion, it’s time for the City Council and staff to quit kidding themselves and the people of Jordan about growth lowering taxes. A more honest approach would be for the Council and staff to ask residents how much they’re willing to spend above and beyond normal operating expenses, to promote growth, and then react accordingly.

I suspect many people in Jordan don’t want to see their taxes go up for any reason, let alone the hope of growing the town.

Expanding the Intersection Will Make It Safer For Big Trucks

The City, in cooperation with MnDOT expanded the intersection at Second and Broadway Streets with concomitant land grabs required from homeowners and St. John’s Parish. The expansion happened over the objections of many people – as I recall, there were over 800 names on a petition seeking to block the expansion.

As nearly as I can tell, the only significant improvement was the removal of the decorative piazza in the middle of the intersection – a noisy nuisance for nearby residents.

Trucks still hop the curbs. Posts put in place to support crosswalk signal activation buttons (and hopefully, to protect pedestrians) have been knocked off at least five times. The problem has been mitigated (maybe) by moving the activation buttons to the light poles. When you look at the photos below, note the condition of the sidewalk in the traffic cone shot. Those cracks didn’t come from church-goers pushing the buttons too hard.

There are several lessons to be learned from that project, but I’ll pass on just two. Sometimes expensive projects aren’t needed, and offer no improvement. And, if you are waiting to cross in any direction at the intersection of Second and Broadway, stand well back from the street. And keep your kids well back too.

Rowan County, Kentucky

Kim Davis, Rowan County Clerk in Kentucky was elected (she’s not hired, thus can’t be fired) in 2012, as a Democrat, with 53.16% of the vote. 7,353 people voted for County Clerk.

The population of Rowan County, according to the 2010 census is 23,333 – a little smaller than Savage.

Some food for thought.

How many gay marriages do you figure take place in Rowan County? My guess is fewer than ten per year.

Assuming an informed electorate in Rowan County :) knows who they’re voting for, and what that person represents, would her election be a sign that a majority of voters agree with her stance on gay marriage?

If Ms. Davis runs for office again in 2016, and is re-elected, would that be a sign that a majority of voters agree with her stance on gay marriage?

Am I the only person in the world who believes there’s a difference between a civil contract (marriage license), and a religious rite (marriage)?

Regardless of our feeling on the subject of same-sex marriage, the solution to the problem in Rowan County is simple. It doesn’t involve judges or severance packages. The voters of Rowan County voted Kim Davis into office. They can vote her out, or they can vote her back in. Either way, the electorate decides. A difference of 465 votes got Ms. Davis elected.

The Quote:
“Thosands have lived without love, not one without water.”
  W. H. Auden

Mining, Mitigating, and Murder 9/2/15

Let’s start with mining and mitigating. I call your attention to an article that appeared in the Star/Tribune on August 25th. The link is here: http://www.startribune.com/demand-for-great-lakes-water-raises-new-concerns/322900521/

The story relates to the efforts of the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin to draw water from Lake Michigan, to replace their current water source – groundwater from the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer (which, incidentally, underlays a substantial part of Minnesota, including Jordan). I figure the folks in government at Waukesha think a few things:
a. a two hundred million dollar pipeline from Lake Michigan will be cheaper than the cost of removing pollution from groundwater.
b. groundwater pollution will get worse, and more expensive to deal with over time.
c. going deeper for water presents its own problems.

Their alternative to using Lake Michigan is to treat and remove the contaminants from well water drawn from the aquifer. This is expensive ($200,000/year) and requires drawdown of additional water to complete the process. They would use 20% more water than they recover and it has its own problematic environmental impacts.

What’s more, Waukesha’s wells are 2200 feet deep. Shallower aquifers in the area around Waukesha are being drawn down faster than they can replenish themselves.

At that depth they’ve gone through shallower aquifers, and they’re experiencing problems with naturally occurring carcinogens. Their main contaminant is Radium, which occurs naturally in the ground but is a carcinogen. Strontium, also a carcinogen is an emerging contaminant.

Waukesha knows it’s up to others to prevent or repair groundwater pollution. And Waukesha doesn’t have much faith in their neighbors’ willingness or ability to do so.

Who can blame them?

There is no mitigation for polluted aquifers – only alternate sourcing.

By the way, water from Jordan municipal wells is already being treated for Radium contamination.

A special thanks to JUG’s investigative reporter who contacted Waukesha’s Director of Water Utilities to provide information that didn’t appear in the Star/Tribune article.


According to various reports Harris County (Texas) Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth was shot dead Friday night in Houston. I’ve watched this story develop over a period of several days, and in my opinion two things stand out.

First, because it was captured on security cameras, details of the incident were known from the very beginning. But it took two days for authorities to release the fact that the shooter who emptied fifteen rounds into Deputy Goforth’s body was a black male.

Second, there has been absolutely no outcry from the “Black Lives Matter” contingent about the death of a man sworn to protect people of all races in Harris County.

Yes, absolutely Black lives matter. The stunning thing the “Black Lives Matter” contingent fails to talk about is how often Black-on-Black crimes result in the death of people of color. I’m thinking of little girls sitting on their sofas, doing homework, and dying because stray bullets from a gangbanging pass through the wall. Or young men shot outside nightclubs during drive-by shootings. Or the stabbings of spouses or girlfriends/boyfriends that seem to be almost a daily occurrence in the STRIB or Pioneer Press. Or the child beaten, duct-taped, and thrown in the river.

Maybe, just maybe, the “Black Lives Matter” contingent should start thinking about eliminating Black-on-Black violence, instead of chanting slogans about doing violence to police.

Oh, and Barack, nine or ten cops have been killed in the line of duty in the past ten days. Maybe it’s time for you to tell people you think Cop Lives Matter.

Readers Respond 9/2/15

One pointed out to me that abortionists kill many, many Black babies. Another pointed out a story running on the front page of today’s (9/2/15) STRIB, about how the groundwater modeling software used to predict how groundwater will behave is seriously flawed. The link to that story is here:

And Tim Bischke writes:
Good points to bring up about "black lives matter". That movement seems inspired by anarchists and followed blindly by [mostly] African Americans who think they've all been dealt a terrible injustice by a white supremacist society.The episode in St. Paul where they chant "Pigs in the blanket (dead cops); fry 'em like bacon" certainly should be seen as hate speech & prosecuted but that wouldn't be PC & will never happen no matter what. If whites had done similar the media would be all over it & demand justice. Obama is the most racist & divisive president ever.

My Reply

Thank you all, for writing. Tim, I think Abraham Lincoln was probably the most divisive president ever. But that chanting was beyond redemption. At least two comments I saw on Facebook indicated that many (perhaps even a majority) of the “Black Lives Matter” contingent were white. Personally, I wonder why those people thought they should be allowed in without buying a ticket. Everybody else, regardless of race, sexual preference or saggy pants had to pay to get in. If those protesters had a brain among them, they would have bought tickets individually, entered one-by-one through multiple gates, and gathered at some central point inside – like right in front of the “CCO booth. Some of us who lived through the sixties learned a thing or two about protests. And I wonder if some of those BLM protesters are former peaceniks trying to relive their radical past.

The Quote:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why Would Anyone Do That? 8/26/15

My recent travails with trying to re-create the JUG site got me to thinking about . . . reproduction.

More specifically, cloning.

Oh come on, what did you think I was going to say here on the kinder, gentler JUG?

Cloning got its first big publicity push with the birth of Dolly the sheep. She was the product of laboratory controlled cell division and artificial fertilization, rather than (ahem) sex.

In an attempt to allow Dolly to have as normal a life as possible she was allowed to breed. Scientists are quirky.

A small Welsh mountain ram was selected as her mate and between them they successfully produced 6 lambs. Their first, Bonny (in the photo with Dolly), was born in the spring of 1998. Twins followed the next year and triplets the year after that. At least Dolly knew how things normally work.

Dolly died in February of 2003, a victim of sheep pulmonary adenomatosis (SPA), which is a virus that causes lung tumors. Very little has been said about cloning since then.

But you can bet your pipette tube that research goes on. The question, in my mind is, why? I mean, is there a problem with sex? Things have been going along reasonably well for quite a while. People, sheep, and platypuses seem able to propagate just fine without the help of lab technicians. So what will cloning accomplish, that sex can’t?

Body parts?

Think about it. Someone’s liver is failing. If he can be kept alive long enough to harvest a liver from a cloned version of himself, it will be the perfect transplant. The liver will be perfectly compatible, so there’s little likelihood of rejection. And what civil rights would a clone, created for the express purpose of harvesting organs have?

Or maybe ego parts?

Imagine a scenario where Donald Trump creates cloned versions of himself to carry on his legacy – a dozen The Dons being boorish and inconsiderate. The guy thinks he’s perfect, so a dozen perfect Trumps should be even better, right?

At first, only wealthy individuals, corporations and governments will be able to afford to clone themselves. But eventually, WalMart will get into the business. You’ll pick up the Sunday ad supplement and see specials for flat screen TVs, ground beef, and genetic replicator kits. Some third world surrogate Mom will carry mini-you to term. You’ll get to feel good because you’ve given someone a, shall we say, productive job. You’ll get to reproduce yourself without messy emotional commitments to another co-parent. Heck, even Shakers who don’t believe in sex will have a means of reproduction.

But like I said earlier, why? The fact that we can do something doesn’t make it right or useful. In the case of cloning, I think researchers are looking for a way to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Nature doesn’t need a new form of reproduction. If someone is looking for a way to breed sheep, should just put a male and female together. And I’m guessing the ewe and ram would have a lot more fun together than the ewe would alone with a lab technician wielding a syringe or baster, or whatever they use.
The Quote:
“We need to take a leaf out of nature's book. Any species that clones itself will eventually be attacked by a parasite, leading to an inevitable population crash.”
  Daniel Suarez

Here Comes The Judge 8/19/15

“Hear ye, hear ye
This court is now in session

His Honor, Judge Pigmeat Markham presidin’

Hear ye, hear ye, the court of swing
It's just about ready to do that thing

I don't want no tears, I don't want no lies
Above all, I don't want no alibis

This Judge is hip, and that ain't all
He'll give you time if you're big or small

All in line for this court is neat
Peace brother, here comes the Judge”

Here comes the Judge
Everybody knows that he is the judge

Pigmeat Markham

Well, what brought that on, you ask? I’m about to tell you what’s going to happen with the gravel pit, and I thought ol’ Pigmeat Markham would be a good opening act.

Ultimately, the gravel pit situation is going to be resolved by a court – either through overt action, or implied threat. And that’s going to happen because neither Scott County, nor Jordan will stand their ground, and Sand Creek Township can’t win its’ fight without allies.

Let’s look at Scott County first. For years Scott County has dragged its feet on the issue of the gravel pit on Valley View. I think some people in Shakopee have been hoping the whole mess would go away. Others don’t want to create an adversarial situation between the proposer and the County, so they follow a policy of appeasement. At least some members of the County Board believe the County will be sued if it denies an interim use permit for the mining operation. My sense is they are willing to sacrifice clean water to avoid a potential lawsuit. In hindsight, maybe if the County had said five years ago that the gravel mine was a bad idea which the County wouldn’t support, the whole thing would have gone away.

Instead, the County let the process drag on, and every day that it dragged on meant stopping the proposal was that much harder. The County removed from consideration several issues that couldn’t be resolved easily – for example, noise, dust and odor issues in Holzer Park, or the impact of increased heavy truck traffic in Jordan.

Various people at the County level have told me that when a proposal is presented to them, they see it as their job to find a way to make the proposal work. Swell. But who’s going to look out for the County residents who rely on wells for clean drinking water?

The only group at the County level – or any level, for that matter – who’s come out smelling like a rose is the County Planning Advisory Commission. They said the gravel mining proposal was a bad idea, and they voted to not recommend it.

One last thought about the County Board. One member told me he thought the proposer was backing away from the proposal. Ummm, no. The proposer continues to persue all and sundry permits to mine gravel on the floodplain of Sand Creek. Any County Board Member who doesn’t know this is certainly not keeping informed about this issue that’s been in the hopper since at least 2008. And he also probably isn’t too concerned about those of us who are not residents of his district.

Then let’s look at The City of Jordan. For years Jordan has been sitting on its thumbs, unwilling to do anything that might actually affect the issue of gravel mining on Valley View. Positive action taken five years ago might well have been enough to protect the City from the deleterious effects of the traffic, at least. You will recall that one Council Member said we should wait. And when I asked him what his plan B was, he said “Wait.” Okay, waiting time is over. The MPCA is preparing to issue a waste water discharge permit, and the City doesn’t have a coherent response, other than to ask the County to help protect Jordan residents by preparing a petition for hearing or some such. The smart money would have been to close off Valley View Drive at the City Limits five years ago. But my colleagues then said, “Wait.”

And on Monday, when I made my little spiel to the Council, one staff member actually took the time to tell the Council the error of my thinking. Perhaps my thinking regarding wells and excavations is in error. But rebutting me is not helping the people of Jordan.

The City sent a hasty email to Scott County. It was presented to the County Board Tuesday. I don’t know precisely what the email said, but it landed with a thud.

County Administrator Shelton said he felt the Jordan City Council had been pressured by a vocal group of people to do something, and the email was meant to satisfy that pressure.

County Staff, in the person of Paul Nelson, found no questions of fact, only questions of procedure, and found no reason to address the issue.

County Commissioner Ulrich said he saw no reason to respond.

I imagine County Staff will send a polite “Thanks, but no thanks” response I asked Commissioner Wager if he would characterize the City’s letter as a request for help to protect the people of Jordan. He said yes. I asked him if he would categorize the County’s response as a refusal to help. He said yes.

Folks, I hope your City Government has some other cards up its sleeves, because it looks to me like Jordan has waited itself out of an opportunity to do anything to help its’ citizens.

Finally, let’s look at you. What have you done over the past couple of years to protect your water supply and your streets from the onslaught of pollution?

Are you one of the people who have written letters to editors, or to County Board Member, or to City Council people? Have you attended hearings or meetings. Or are you waiting to see what happens?

Quite a few people from the Jordan area have done a lot to try to stop the madness. But many more people have done nothing more than complain. I’ve heard complaints from some surprising sources. Some of the complainers are absolutely outraged by what they’ve learned about the gravel mining issue. They say if the proposer wants to sue, let him – our water is more important than his profits. Sadly, most of these same people have done or said nothing to express their dissatisfaction to their elected officials. (One area resident who grilled me today about where Jordan stands on the gravel mine issue didn’t even know I am no longer on the Council.)

Some of us are trying to stop the gravel mine. More who are angry need to get involved. The full house at the Jordan Council meeting Monday was gratifying. Too bad some of the people who are so concerned about rehabilitating Downtown didn’t show up to say something about the traffic. Shopping Downtown Jordan isn’t going to be a fun experience with 200 more trucks per day passing through.

Maybe if we just wait for a while . . .

A Reader Writes Added 8/22/15

Hi Thom,

I believe that I was still the first to notify the town of Jordan, and many of Scott County, of not only the gravel pit going on by Ren Fest but also the one coming to Jordan a few years ago! (By the article I wrote and had published in the paper) Then there were certain people who wanted to know my ideas about the parks and any ideas I had for a new community center. Since they used quite a few of my ideas I do have one more for them that they can use.

My next idea for them is... Once everyone moves out of Jordan.... They can turn the community center into a truck stop to make their money!

Nikki Othoudt

My Response

Nikki, between now and the end of November the County Board will be deciding whether to grant an Interim Use Permit for the gravel mine on Valley View Drive. Specifically, this is the Jordan Gravel LLC mining proposal. Now would be a good time for you and some of your environmentally aware friends to contact County Board Members with your concerns. The more voices they hear, the harder it will be for the Board to approve the proposal. It wouldn’t hurt to remind them that their own Planning Advisory Commission recommended denial of the IUP.

Preventing water pollution from one ill-conceived gravel mine probably won’t make much of a dent in global climate change, but it could have a significant impact on local groundwater quality. You will find contact info for all Scott County Board Members here: http://www.co.scott.mn.us/CountyGov/countyboard/Pages/CountyBoard.aspx

The Quote:
“You may delay, but time will not.”
  Benjamin Franklin

Courage? 9/12/15

It doesn’t take much courage to be upset about a dead lion, a poached rhinoceros, or an abused dog. If you use Facebook, you will see posts daily about such issues. And your Facebook friends will ask you to share their concern by liking and sharing their posts. Often, you will see multiple posts of the same material from several friends. The level of concern about some issues is amazing.

The level of courage is another story.

Facebook has been used to stir up considerable anger about a dentist shooting a lion, and a host of other events. What it hasn’t been used for, in my experience, is for stirring up anger against radical Islamists who kill girls because they refuse to have sex with radical Islamist men. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a post about Boko Haram kidnapping hundreds of Christian girls. Radical Islamists kill hundreds of people every month, and they brag about it.

Meanwhile, we wring our hands and send our sons and daughters to the desert to fight the radical Islamists in a so-called asymmetric war.

Here’s a tip. If the peaceful practitioners of Islam see the violent practitioners of their religion being dissed on Facebook, maybe they’ll worry about the image of Islam, and start to do something about the radical Islamists.

Right now I suspect radical Islamists see our concern about Cecil as a sign that we’re shallow, and unwilling to face deep challenges. I think they’re looking at us and saying to themselves, “See? Those Americans are more worried about a few dead animals than about the girls we behead. They don’t even ask if the girls had names.”

ISIS, Hamas, Taliban, and al Queda all use social media to recruit followers and spread their messages. They’re well aware of the power of the internet, and they’re not afraid to use it.

Are you?

I reposted a picture on Facebook a couple of days ago. The photo showed girls dressed in white, locked in a cage on the back of a pickup truck, on their way to execution because they would not have sex with ISIS fighters. My post got two likes. And as near as I can tell, none of my friends reposted it.

Maybe I’m expecting too much from Facebook. Or maybe I’m expecting something most Facebook users don’t want to see on their feel-good medium.

By the way, in my opinion, those girls who refused to have sex with ISIS soldiers are Saints (with a capital S). God will receive them with open arms. I think the Catholic Church should conduct an investigation prior to canonizing them. Catholics have been investigating sinners a lot lately. How about let’s check out some Saints?

A Reader Writes Added 8/16/15

Hello Thom

Glad to see the site back up, I think you once again have linked two issues together that are very similar. The jug has always been about the content and not the look and I commend you for that. On the other hand Facebook is well all about the face. When I do look over my wife's shoulder to see what she is looking at 99.9 percent of the time it is complete self absorbed dribble. She enjoys it because she can stay connected to friends and family, but I on the other hand always walk away shaking my head. The reason your post only had two likes is probably because people in general do not want to take a hard look at issues, especially those that threaten to break their paradigm.

Dan Brunes

My Response

I post plenty of self-absorbed dribble on Facebook myself. But sometimes I try to put something thought-provoking out there. As for JUG, I always try to provoke some critical thinking here. I wish more people would respond – including those who don’t agree.

The Quote:
“I have the terrible feeling that, because I am wearing a white beard and am sitting in the back of the theatre, you expect me to tell you the truth about something. These are the cheap seats, not Mount Sinai.”
  Orson Welles

Jordan Underground