June – December

Intimidation 101

6/5/12

On May 24th all members of the Jordan City Council received the following e-mail.
“At the last city council meeting, Margaret Fink stated that “if it was a protest, she would have worn her gas mask.” (39:55 on city council video minutes) So if her husband was the one wearing the gas mask …that means it wasn’t a protest either?
 
(name withheld – tb)
Jordan resident for 21 years
(address withheld – tb)
Jordan, MN  55352”

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The e-mail included five attached photo files, one of which was named “council member and gas mask man.jpg”. That photo is shown at right.

The person who sent the e-mail misidentified the person wearing the safety equipment, which included a “gas mask”. Someone was so obsessed with a person sitting in a park, wearing a costume that she took at least three photos of him, which she sent to the Council. No mention of the several Earth Day signs. No mention of the sign offering cookies, coffee and punch. Alas, she seems to not know who the person in the costume was. The gentleman is not married to the woman named in the e-mail. Incidentally, the mask is not a gas mask. It’s a particulate matter filter mask, designed to filter airborne solids like dust and paint particles. A true gas mask provides full face coverage, and a separate, self-contained air supply. I don’t suppose it ever occurred to the person who sent us the e-mail that the man in the mask might suffer from allergies.

As you can see, the person who sent the e-mail identified herself as a “Jordan resident for 21 years”, and did not exhibit the simple courtesy to start her e-mail with a salutation.

The second photograph was taken by a person who has

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been a Jordan resident for 35 years. The photo file, as sent to me, was simply “029.JPG”. It shows this Council Member participating in an Earth Day event – up to his knees in brush, bagging trash.

No pussyfooting around. Nothing to hide. No mixed-up metaphors about elephants. I will not be intimidated by people who want to trample my constitutional rights.

I’m waiting for someone to send me photos of two Council Members, who are up for re-election, entering the place of business of a wealthy Jordan businessman. Since the businessman deals with what one would hardly describe as an everyday service, the implications of such a thing should be clear, don’t you think?

But What If It WAS a Protest?
So what? People who think the Constitution applies only to them, and not to anyone else are mistaken. I asked the person who sent me the e-mail what laws she had observed being broken. I’ve yet to receive a response. Regardless of whether the gathering in Log Cabin Park was a protest, an event, or a picnic, nothing illegal happened. Got that? People gathered there are entitled to equal protection under the law.

I don’t like some of the things I see in this town, but if they’re protected by The Constitution, I have to accept them.

People gathered to promote Earth Day, eat cookies, and drink coffee are not disrupting anything. Costumes and masks are a time-honored feature of public gatherings, which reasonable people recognize as not especially threatening. I call your attention to the former Mayor who used to wear a high hat and tails in Heimatfest Day parades, and the Mayor wannabe who wears rabbit ears at Easter Egg hunts. Jeeze Louise, have you ever been at the Metrodome during a Vikings game?

If anything, the former Council Member who drove by eleven times, and who shouted at the people gathered in the park, was doing the harassing.

People who would intimidate their neighbors into removing lawn signs, or who would intimidate family members of people they disagree with are just about the lowest form of life in a democratic society. People who would use intimidation to try to force others to yield their constitutional rights are nothing but would-be despots.

On A Side Note
It puzzles me that a businessman who espouses shopping local would go elsewhere to purchase a Cadillac and a Chrysler. It seems odd that he wouldn’t buy a Ford or Lincoln from the local dealer. Remember, this same businessman is not a member of the Commercial Club, or the Chamber of Commerce.

Readers Comment
Thom I am laughing so hard, think I got coffee on the keyboard!  Might have to call the Fire Dept. to rescue me. More laughter! Who would of thunk a simple celebrate Earth Day would turn into this!  And nary a mention of the beautiful, homemade cookies frosted to look like the earth.  A lot of effort was put into that day, sadly that and the whole point was missed.  Only in Jordan!!

All I can say about a couple council members is people who live in glass houses should not throw stones!!

We are painfully honest, you and I, but at least people know where we stand!

Soooo that was why the Editor of the local rag came up to my husband after the council meeting and said “So were you at the protest?” it all connects doesn’t it??  SWEET!

Please put this response in your underground if you so choose!  Regardless of the grammer!!!!

Thanks Thom for being our councilman and friend!!

Margaret Fink

  • – and –

Hi Thom!

Loved your article!  One of the things that amazes me about some of the residents of Jordan the last couple years is the issue of entitlement they seem to have.  I understand that long time residents can take pride in the fact they have spent many years in the same place, but I am disgusted that some think that since they lived in Jordan for a certain amount of time, they should have more rights or benefits than others. I have heard “we should take back our town” so many times I could vomit!  Just who do they think they are taking it from?  We are ALL residents of this town! It SHOULD’NT matter how long you have lived here and its DISGUSTING that some think it should.  I have lived here 16 yrs!  Not many short of the picture taking person.  So what!

Let’s not forget about our First Amendment Rights! I guess according to some they do not matter in this town.  Do some think that they are so entitled that they don’t have to follow the Constitution!  Apparently, since I am being sued because someone doesn’t like my signs!   As I have been told over and over again……”If you don’t like it  MOVE!” It’s that simple right?!!!! (enter distain here)

I knew I was getting my picture taken that day. I really wish I would’ve turned around and smiled. J

I stayed up until 2 am decorating those adorable and yummy cookies!  Too bad so many missed out on them and a great EARTH DAY because they couldn’t see beyond their noses or egos! L  Since when is picking up the towns trash a bad thing?  I seem to remember Officer Shultz thanking us for doing our part when we talked to him by the Mini Met!

If this whole situation wasn’t so unbelievably sad, it would almost be laughable! Who would have thought that people would be so trampled on for trying to protect their families!

Feel free to share!

Michelle Bisek

The Quote:
“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
Noam Chomsky

 

There Has To Be a Better Way To Say Some Things.

6/12/12

I’m just not sure how.

After the SCALE meeting on the 8th, a Jordan Council Member asked me “Do you have enough negatives for this week?” Then he went on to advise me that I needed to see the good in things, and not dwell on negatives. He said I should look at how things could be. And he said “You have 30 people in town who feed on that anger, and they love it.”

Oh. I guess it’s not a Gang of 10 any more.

Anyway, here we go, with the new, positive me.

The Maxfield Report
Those attending the meeting got a summary of the County-commissioned Maxfield Report. Maxfield Research compiled an update of an earlier residential/commercial market analysis. There was a lot of interesting information, but three little things jumped out at me.

First, the largest job growth area between now and 2020 is projected to be in education/health services/public works.

Second, Max Mullins, who presented the summary, showed us a list of new businesses desired, and new businesses deemed not desirable. Among the not desirable – landfills and mining. Interesting considering that mining in Scott County is growing at a positively explosive rate. And at least one landfill in the County is reaching for the sky. (Please, folks, I’m trying to stay positive here.) Are we all on the same page?

Third, I picked up a comment about developers being upside-down on their investments. That makes it hard for them to absorb things like costs for infrastructure needed to make a project desirable.

Shop ‘Til You Drop
We were given a presentation about the County’s efforts to create a First Stop Shop (they don’t like it if you call it a One Stop Shop – probably because the acronym sounds too much like a donkey or something). The FSS would be a managed on-line site where developers and commercial real estate agents could compare the various aspects of developing in the seven cities in Scott County. Users would get an at-a-glance comparison of taxes, available land, permit fees, incentive programs, water rates, and more.

From a developer’s standpoint, this is a marvelous idea. FSS would allow the developer to quickly focus on the city best suited to his needs. For example, let’s assume that BP, Shako, Prior Lake, Savage, Elko/NM, New Prague and Jordan are all pretty much equal in everything but water rates. The developer would be able to quickly eliminate the city with the highest water rate. The same applies to city taxes, and a host of other things.

On a positive note, once this site is up and running, it will be very easy for residents to compare the seven cities of Scott County. That should get interesting. For now, I predict that some cities will start jockeying for top ratings in some areas. The trick will be to avoid taxing homeowners more in order to make the cities attractive to developers.

Now, astute readers will note that the FSS program makes no mention of Scott County townships. I’m positive there are some. I’m positive they would like to participate in drawing new businesses. But only two representatives of townships attended the meeting, and I’m pretty sure (not positive) neither of them said anything about being left out. This, in spite of the fact that townships offer bigger development tracts than cities.

$190,000.00 Land Purchase = No Fiscal Impact
Meetings collide in this segment.

During the June 5, 2012 County Board Meeting, a consent agenda item for a land purchase was listed as having no fiscal impact. The land was being purchased for $190,000.00. My first reaction was Huh? It would seem that one Commissioner questioned “No fiscal impact” before the meeting. And one questioned it during the meeting.

After the SCALE meeting on June 8, Lezlie Vermillion explained this very patiently to me. The operative word here is Fiscal. There’s a pronounced financial impact, but the budget is set, and in that budget is a Road and Bridge Capital Fund. About two acronyms down, there’s a fund for purchasing land for future use. These purchases may be made years in advance of actual capital improvement projects such as widening roads. The funds allow the County to capitalize on unusual situations in which parcels of land become available now, but will not be used until later. Ms. Vermillion was patient, and explained this all very thoroughly, for which I thank her. I’m almost positive she would have loved to be elsewhere.

Still, there has to be a better way to express to the unwashed masses that a $190,000.00 land purchase, funded by levy, state aid, and federal aid creates something other than “no fiscal impact”. Maybe telling us the money is budgeted in the Road and Bridge Capital Fund would be a little clearer. What may be obvious to insiders can be positively puzzling to the rest of us.

So there you have it for this week. I’m positively pleased as punch with the positive approach, but I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to sustain it, since some fool (including me) is apt to stick a pin in the balloon.

Whatever.

The Quote:
“The positive heuristic of the programme saves the scientist from becoming confused by the ocean of anomalies.”
Imre Lakatos


Lucy

6/19/12

The cat is somewhat disgusted that we would bring a

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big, slobbering, panting animal into the house. She’s obviously appalled that my jeans smell like wet dog because a wet dog has been banging into my shins to get my attention. It’s unconscionable to the cat to think that the lap she naps on should smell like a wet dog. The dog is wet because she loves to lie in a kiddy pool of water. Other than fetching a tennis ball, that’s her favorite thing to do.

Lucy saw me in my boxers this morning, and she let out a bark. I didn’t have my ears on, so I’m not sure if the bark was a wow, or a woof.

The cat is Sienna, Princess Furball, heir to the throne of the lap. She’s royalty, and she expects royal treatment from her staff. Lucy is a psycho about fetching a tennis ball. She’ll play at it for an hour, or two, or three – and so far, the only time we’ve seen her tire of that game is in 90 degree heat, when she will sit in the kiddy pool for a couple of minutes to recharge. Did I mention she’s wet?

When I walked her this morning, I was prepared for the worst. I’d been told she was a puller, and not really a walking dog. Turns out she’s not that much of a puller. But she’s a circler, trying to run a continuous perimeter check. She does six-foot circles at the end of the leash, which require a little dancing from the person on the other end of the leash.

On the way Downtown, we walked on the creek side of Park Drive. On the way home, we walked on the Mill Pond side. That got her pulling. Lucy wanted to get wet, but I thought we would pass on the pond today. There’ll be a time though, when we’ll see what she does about a tennis ball in the water. Her two favorite things. Should be interesting.

She’s a handful.

 

It’s Not Easy Being Perfect

6/19/12

Now we’ve got a Council Member who wants to help the Mayor run City Council meetings. He doesn’t want to allow criticism from constituents during the Public Comment portion of the meeting. He wants to decide who can speak, and what can be said. He said, approximately, “If I’d been running this meeting, I’d have stopped that person immediately.” He is already on record as opposed to allowing public comment. He wants people to sit down and keep quiet.

All this arises from the critical comments delivered by a constituent at last night’s (June 18, 2012) meeting. Oddly, if you pay close attention to what the constituent’s words, nothing she said is untrue. No lies. No names mentioned. Her comments ran a bit over three minutes. She didn’t wave her arms, or raise her voice. To the best of my knowledge, she didn’t call anyone names. She didn’t use any obscenities. People (including Councilors) who value civil liberty should be thanking this woman. She did what so many others fear to do.

She stood up.

Now, the Council Member in question sits and says nothing when constituents are talking about some other Councilor. He interrupts other Councilors. He doesn’t want to have to wait his turn – a feature of Robert’s Rules, which states that a speaker gets the floor once, then must wait until everyone else has had an opportunity to speak before he is recognized again. Of course, when the Mayor tried to do that, my colleagues roared mightily about there being too much structure.

The Cats Still Need Herding
Do you remember this from my October 2011 “Herding Cats” JUG? It’s the eleventh protocol I suggested back then.
11. Members of the audience are to maintain a respectful demeanor towards the Council at all times during City Council meetings. To maintain that respectful demeanor, certain actions by the audience are prohibited. Those prohibitions are:
No criticism of the Council allowed
No sarcasm allowed
No facial expressions allowed
No fidgeting allowed
No noisy paper shuffling allowed
No snorting, coughing, sniffing, sneezing, giggling, stomach rumbling, note passing, laughing, burping or farting allowed.
In other words, come to the podium, offer your praise, and then sit down and be quiet.

Election time is coming. I think everyone in Jordan should be paying attention to exactly who on the Council is protecting the constitutional rights of the people of Jordan. To the Councilor who asked me, “Do you think I should run again?” I say, that’s your decision to make. The decision for me to make is, should I vote for you again?

 

The Quote:
Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth.
         Simone de Beauvoir

 

O-o-o-h! Slippery!

6/26/12

The Scott County Board Meeting Agenda Item 7.2 from the June 26, 2012 includes a section titled “ACTION REQUESTED”. The action requested is “Adopt Resolution No. 2012-116; Reporting Progress on the Standard Measures Program Developed by the Council on Local Results and Innovation.”

The presenter was Lezlie Vermillion, for Scott County staff.

Again, from the agenda item, “Participation in the standard measures program by a city or a county is voluntary. Cities and counties that choose to participate in the standards measure program are eligible for a reimbursement in Local Government Aid (LGA), and exemption from levy limits.”

Did you catch that?
Catch what, you say?

No? Well, neither did at least one Board Member I talked to. He was surprised to see that he had just voted to approve a staff request that rendered Scott County exempt from levy limits. This from a Board Member who is very anti-tax, and who has told me he won’t support any tax increases. I believe him, and I trust him to follow through on what he said. But, as long as Scott County participates in this Council on Local Results and Innovation program, County staff, and the rest of the County Board would seem to be free to raise tax levies as much as they think they can get away with. No one on the Board took issue with this little gem.

Those of you who have followed JUG for a while will realize that I’m not particularly trusting of government (staff or elected officials). When I see this kind of sneaky bleep happening, is it any wonder why my trust is thinner than a chicken’s lips?

Four little words – “exemption from levy limits”. Hidden in an innocuous agenda item that promises reimbursement for having bureaucrats fill out forms, hold meetings, and make plans to do their jobs well. The promised reimbursement is fourteen cents per capita, not to exceed $25,000.00. What would happen if someone told those bureaucrats that Scott County was not going to employ people to participate in a relatively useless program and receive reimbursement? Are we carrying people on County staff just because we can be reimbursed for all or part of their salaries? I’m perfectly willing to pay reasonable taxes for reasonable services. And Scott County provides many valuable services. But having people push paper so the County can be reimbursed for the paper pushing doesn’t strike me as particularly reasonable. Throwing in that business about “exemption from levy limits” is simply too much for me to swallow.

Sorry folks. I think Scott County staff is greasing the skids, and the County Board is (knowingly, or unknowingly) providing the grease. One of these days, someone’s going to start knocking out the stays. And when the ship of “exemption from levy limits” starts to slide down the ways, the only thing holding her back will be the trustworthiness and good intentions of our politicians and bureaucrats.

And we all know how effective that is.

The Quote:
“I repeat… that all power is a trust; that we are accountable for its exercise; that from the people and for the people all springs, and all must exist.”
           Benjamin Disraeli

 

 

Are Plans and Parameters Meaningless In Jordan?

7/3/12

When the Jordan City Council’s Personnel Committee decides on a salary range for a position, is the City Administrator justified in offering that position at a salary significantly beyond the specified range? Is anyone surprised that the Rice Street bridge project is already over budget, and behind schedule?

Was the Personnel Committee Duped?
The Mayor seems to think not, and he’s angry about it. He said, and another Council Member verified, that the Personnel Committee never discussed changing the salary range to be offered for the position of Senior Planner.

What’s the point in the Council (by way of the Personnel Committee) making plans and setting parameters if staff is going to ignore them?

What would have happened if the position of Senior Planner had been advertised with a salary range of $46,308.00 to $57,264.00 (plus benefits)? Would we have received 40 applications, instead of 20?

Who Gave The City Administrator the Power to Expand the Salary Range Without Approval of the Council?
Nobody. The City Administrator said he was making a recommendation, and the Council was not required to accept it. The Council rightly refused, for the first time in my memory, to accept the City Administrator’s recommendation. Call me cynical if you wish, but I wonder if this is not a case of some of my colleagues jockeying for votes in the coming election. Regardless, I applaud the council for taking a stand on this hire.

Flexibility?
The City Administrator said that he needed to have some flexibility in the hiring process. Of course he does! That’s why a range was set. The Council could have said, go find the best person you can for $46,308.00, and not a dime more. Instead, they established a salary range from $46,308.00 to $49,956.00.

Twenty people applied based on that range. Five applicants were forwarded to the Personnel Committee based on that range. The Committee selected one applicant based on that range. And then the Council was told the applicant selected would not accept the position based on that range. $7,308.00 beyond the top of the set range is not flexibility. I will leave it to the reader to arrive at his or her own conclusion as to what it might be.

Inflexibility?
At the last company I worked for all supervisors were told that the maximum salary increase would be 3% per year. The very best employees would get that. One supervisor told his boss the rate was unacceptable, that his engineers would leave, and that he would have to hire less experienced people to fill their places. His boss told him the rate was firm, and supervisors had two options. Apply the 3% rate, or quit. Incidentally, not too long afterward, the supervisor was laid off, and his position was consolidated with another.

In the real world, outside of government, people don’t always get what they want – and many are happy to accept what they do get.

Back To The Personnel Committee
It looks like that’s where the Senior Planner position is going. The Personnel Committee will have to choose whether accept the amended recommendation with the higher salary, offer the position at the originally established salary cap, or post the position again, at the higher salary range. The Committee could also come up with some other solution, such as offer the position to another candidate who may be willing to accept the original pay range.

I imagine the Committee could develop some other alternatives. And if they do another search, perhaps they should expand the scope a bit. I’m frankly surprised that only twenty people applied. I suspect this has something to do with a too narrow media reach for the ads.

Troubled Bridge Over Waters
Over the years, I’ve learned a few handyman truths. To whit:
You can never have too much duct tape.
Any job you start will take at least one third longer to complete than was planned.
Any job you start will cost at least one third more than you expected.

The Rice Street Bridge project hasn’t hit all those truths yet, but we have encountered some snags.

Only one vendor submitted a bid for the project, and that bid was $133,770.35 over the Engineer’s original estimated cost of $878,625.00.

The City Engineer felt that if we re-bid the project, and extend the completion date to mid-June of next year, we would get more bids. But he also said that he didn’t think the other bids would be significantly lower.

A representative of the bidding contractor said that if the project was being re-bid, the City should not have announced the contents of his company’s bid, as doing so gives future bidders the unfair advantage of knowing at least one competitor’s bid.

Anyway, the bridge is probably going to cost more than was projected, and if we don’t accept the single bid, it won’t be done this year.

The City Engineer believes we should get multiple bids, even if it means delaying the project five or six months. I agree.

I’m disappointed (but not surprised) that just a few short months ago, the City Engineer told us he was 90% certain the bridge would be done by the end of this November. The City Engineer has negotiated with Union Pacific Rail Road to keep the land crossing open until July of next year. The railroad has asked for monthly updates on the status of the project.

The good news is, we haven’t had to tap into our duct tape supply yet.

 

The Quote:
The reason that everybody likes planning is that nobody has to do anything.
        Jerry Brown

 

 

Dear School Board . . .

7/11/12

You have to review and decide upon a $19 million dollar budget now, in spite of the fact that you didn’t see it until 15 minutes ago. But don’t be alarmed; it’s just a guesstimate anyway.

Did I Read That Right?
If one can believe what appeared on the Jordan Independent web site on June 26, 2012, that’s the gist of what the Superintendent of Schools told the School Board.

According to the JI posting the Superintendent “ . . . said staff was working on the budget up until 15 minutes before the board meeting started, and said the budget is not fully known until the upcoming district audit.

“Until the audit’s complete, it’s a guesstimate,” Nelson said.”

Later in the article, the JI reported that three Board Members were absent from the meeting.

I thought things were going pretty smooth with the school district. Maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention.

One School Board member seems to have expressed concern that the Board was not given the budget the day before the meeting. Another seems to have expressed concern that the information the board was given was not complete.

In my opinion, those concerns, and perhaps a little anger, are justified.

If I sat on the Board. . .
I’d be livid that the 19 million dollar budget was not presented a month before the meeting.

I’d be upset that three colleagues didn’t think the budget issue was important enough to merit attending the meeting.

And I’d be over the moon that staff allowed the process to become such a “gotta sign it now” crisis.

The budget is the School Board’s first priority. Without a budget, education in Jordan doesn’t happen. Will the slapdash process that led to this year’s budget lead to slapdash education? I can understand that not everything in the budget can be ironed out before the audit is complete, but 19 mil is a dang big guesstimate, and 15 minutes is a mighty short time for the School Board to do 19 mil worth of due diligence.


Oh, By The Way . . .

7/17/12

Here are some little items from the Jordan City Council meeting last night (July 16, 2012).

Remember the Senior Planner Hire?
It’s not going quite like it was planned.

Thank Council Member Jeremy Goebel for asking about the status. The City Administrator didn’t think it was worth mentioning in his comments. The members of the personnel committee didn’t bring it up either. I guess the rest of us fumbled that one, and Council Member Goebel recovered the fumble.

Simply put, the Personnel Committee decided that the position of Senior Planner should be offered at no more than the original range. The candidate who had been selected, and offered the job at a much higher rate declined the position when it was offered at the originally posted rate.

So now the City will interview another candidate who apparently was not able to interview earlier. I’m a little confused because I thought several candidates were interviewed, who seemed like good choices. But if talking another person leads to finding the best fit, I can live with it. I applaud the Personnel Committee for standing firm on the salary issue.

Non-Resident Mental Health Care Facility Coming on Hope Avenue
The Council voted to amend the R-4 Multiple Family District Zoning Code to allow an outpatient mental health services facility. Let me say upfront, that I don’t oppose the facility. The people who are operating it have been very cooperative, and willing to work with the City. The Police Chief says that in two and a half years there has never been a call to the existing facility. And as Council Member Thill pointed out, they chose to keep their business in Jordan.

Now ask me about the zoning code change process. I guess I shouldn’t use a verb to describe a noun, but sucks was the first word that came to mind.

Why do I say this?

Because affected area residents received no notification, other than a little blurb in the fine print of the Jordan Independent. The acting Planner told us that individual notification is not required for code changes. I’m sure that’s legally accurate. But do you suppose that Hope Lutheran Church, which operates a day care facility, might be interested to know that their new next door neighbor is an outpatient mental health facility? One wonders what the reaction of the residents of the “multiple family district” would have said if they’d been told.

The law doesn’t say that Jordan shouldn’t tell residents about things that directly affect their neighborhood. Given our recent bad experiences with zoning amendments, wouldn’t it make sense to be a little more forthcoming than the law allows?

Part of Broadway Is To Be Zoned C-3 Highway Commercial
Highway Commercial is the same zoning as all the flashy new buildings in the area around the 282/169 intersection. Is that really an appropriate look for the north edge of our “main street”? To my mind, rezoning to C-2 Central Business makes much more sense. It would preserve the integrity of the “downtown” look. The code requirements would not be much different in most respects from C-3 Highway Commercial, except that they would accommodate the smaller lot sizes along Broadway. We should keep in mind that there are homes adjacent to the area being rezoned. Those homes will become the buffer between the newly zoned highway business district, and the rest of Jordan – something I’m sure the homeowners will love.

And how many more code changes will we have to make to ginny up a code that works for these two disparate areas?

Incidentally, everyone within 250 feet of the area being rezoned received a personalized notification. I guess the law requires notification for rezoning, but not for amending a zone. In other words, we can change the code on your property without telling you, but if we change the zone you’re in (which is effectively the same thing), we have to send you a notice. Which, in my opinion, is government gone nuts.

Mind Over Matter
Here’s my take on the time we wasted talking about RV codes. We have every code we need regarding them. Regardless of how we structure a new code, enforcement will still be based on someone filing a complaint.

If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter, as they say.

Knock, Knock, Who’s There?
I got gaveled. After one particularly long discussion, the Mayor asked if there were any other comments, and I made a comment asking if we could move things along. He laughed, and dinged me. That was fun.

The Quote:
“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
           Mark Twain

 

Fireworks In Shako? The County Board Gets Testy!

7/24/12

If you pay attention to County Board meetings, you’ll know they’re usually pretty cut-and-dried affairs, filled with a long consent agenda that always passes unanimously, and with various recognitions issued by a smiling Board. Today’s (July 24, 2012) meeting was a little different.

It ran pretty much according to script, except that for some reason the agenda items were not dealt with in the order on the published agenda.

Then came the Recognition of Interested Citizens – the Board’s version of public comment.

When the Chairman leads into this item he usually says something like “We’re moving on to item 4, Recognition of Interested Citizens. Anyone who wishes to address the Board about items not on the agenda may step to the microphone. Please state your name and address. Comments are limited to five minutes.” This week he added a sentence to the effect that from now until after the election no comments would be allowed that either endorse or denounce candidates for County Board. No one on the Board objected to the added sentence.  This is important.  You’ll see why as we go along.

One person, a resident of Prior Lake, I believe, stepped to the microphone, and stated his name and address. Then he said, “Good Morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Board. I have a letter I would like to read into the public record. It says, Dear Members of the County Board, Tom Wolf, Dave Menden and Joe Wagner are running for reelection to the County Bo . . .” Bing! Bang! Bing! – down came the gavel, and the Chairman told the speaker he was through. The speaker stood there looking puzzled, so the Chairman said, “We’re not allowing endorsements or denouncements. You’re done. Sit down.” The speaker, looking bemused, sat quietly for the rest of the meeting.

The Chairman then asked if there were any other comments, and hearing none, he closed the Recognition of Interested Citizens.

The Rockets’ Red Glare
S-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-pop! Up went the first bottle rocket. One Board Member said she didn’t think the Chairman had the authority to stop a speaker from commenting.

Poof! The Chairman said yes, he did have the authority, and that he had stated no endorsements or denunciations would be allowed. Then he pointed out that he’d heard no objection from the Board when he added the sentence about endorsements or denunciations.

Zing-crackle-crackle! Another Board Member said he believed stopping people from speaking at the podium was denying their right to free speech.

F-o-o-s-h-kaBOOM! Another Board Member jumped in and bellowed “When did you start waving around the Constitution? You didn’t mind limiting public comment a few months ago!”

To which Zing-crackle-crackle said he thought the Board should have a discussion about protocols. To which the Chairman shot back, “Do you want to have the discussion now? Does the Board want to discuss protocol now?” As near as I could tell, no one said anything one way or another, so the Chairman said “good. We’ll have the discussion now.”

Pop. A dud. The County Attorney said he thought the Chairman might not have a legally defensible position, or some such.

Z-z-z-z-zit! The County Administrator said something about it not being good form to allow people to name specific Board Members in their comments (unless somebody wants to say something nice, I suppose).

S-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-pop! Poof! Zing-crackle-crackle! *BANG!* Somebody (possibly the Chairman?) made a motion to bar comments endorsing or denouncing candidates for County Board seats until after the election. This grand finale passed 3 to 2, with Wolf, Wagner and Menden in favor, and Ulrich and Marschall opposed.

All quotes are paraphrases, and I doubt you’ll find much in the official minutes to convey how testy these exchanges were.

Opinions Are Like Navels, & I’ve Got One Too
It’s an outie.

We’ve had similar discussions in Jordan. Using Robert’s Rules as a guide, the Chairman of a meeting does have the right to limit discussion, and the Board does have the right to limit topics discussed at its’ meetings. If the Board votes to prohibit endorsing or denouncing candidates they can do so. The motion to prohibit endorsements or denunciations until after the elections seems reasonable to me. I would think the Board doesn’t want to see wave upon wave of supporters coming to the meetings to hype their candidate, or smear someone they don’t like.

The gentleman from Prior Lake who caused the fireworks could have worded his presentation better. Avoiding using specific names would have been a good start.

I have commented many times at County Board meetings. My comments are often critical of the Board or Staff. They don’t always sit well, but the Board accepts my right to speak within the rules they’ve laid down. I believe judicious use of the English language is usually all that’s needed in order to get a point across.

It was actually kind of fun to watch the fireworks in Shako. They were much more interesting than the typical over-orchestrated Board meeting.

 

The Quote:
You may be a redneck if . . . your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand.
         Jeff Foxworthy


Dances With Dopes

8/7/12

Members of the Jordan City Council are nothing if AirheadsSnot inconsistent.

Exhibit A
Last night (August 6, 2012) one of my colleagues pushed for more information and options for a remodeling of the Holzer Park bathrooms (which are in far worse shape that the ones at Lagoon Park). It was an estimated $52,000 project. Bathrooms are not cheap.

This little raisin in the trail mix wouldn’t mean much except that a few minutes earlier the same Councilor voted to spend $585,000 on a new pumper for the Fire Department. We were shown no competitive bids, no summary of repair versus replacement costs, no plan for replacing any of the other fire engines, no summary of usage (other than mine), and no need-based justification for the purchase. No nothing but a one-sheet agenda item for this half-million dollar purchase. I’m sick and tired of our professional management team bringing the Council half-million dollar requests with no time or information to review before making decisions.

I suspect that my writing this will anger some in this community, but frankly, I don’t care.

The fire engine purchase is ill planned, and ill conceived. We keep buying toys, more in order to preserve the Fire Department budget than to protect the town.  Engine 31, which is 39 years old, and worthless, should have been replaced nine years ago, before the Fire Department got the (mostly useless) ladder truck.

The skill and professionalism or our volunteer fire department is above reproach. I wish I could say the same for the Council and staff.

Exhibit B
Last night a couple of my colleagues were very quick to point out that I missed a budget workshop, and thus missed valuable information. True. I did miss the workshop, which was held on a date other than that of our regularly scheduled meetings and workshops.

Oddly enough, the Councilors, who pointed out my absence several times, both missed a regularly scheduled meeting during which the City Council took one of the most controversial actions in recent history. They would seem to have lacked the foresight to schedule their vacations for times other than the first and third Mondays of each month.

Exhibit C
At a previous meeting, one Councilor said he felt threatened by a speaker who was making negative comments about him – comments he felt the Mayor should have stopped.

Oh pish! Give me a break. This particular Councilor has been in his seat for something like 26 years. He has seen screaming and yelling from the Council and the audience. He has seen some of his former colleagues try to browbeat union representatives under the guise of negotiation. He has the option (as do all Councilors) to quit if he thinks he’s being dissed.

By the way, this particular Councilor had the gavel when one of his friends came to the podium and started scolding me, and saying I was biased (over an issue that arose before I was on the Council), and should step down.

Exhibit D
Remember all the stink about legal fees, and how my colleagues didn’t want me asking questions of the City Attorney?

Yeah, well . . . last night, in spite of having been told in the past by the Attorney that the EDA appointment process cannot be changed due to state law, my colleagues tabled the appointment of two people to the EDA, and asked the City Attorney if the Mayor could actually refuse to appoint them. The attorney has said in the past, and said again last night that the EDA appointment process is covered by a state law that allows the Mayor the power to appoint (or deny appointment) to the EDA. This is one of those “checks and balances” things because the EDA has the power to levy taxes. (Did you know that?)

I’m sure my colleagues are hoping the City Attorney will find some loophole to circumvent yet another law. In my opinion, the smart thing to do would have been to re-open the selection process, and see if anyone else is interested. But no-o-o-o-o! My colleagues go right straight to the attorney, and then whine about how the Mayor’s decisions cost the City money.

For Your Edification and Amusement . . .
I’ve recruited an actress to do her impression of the City Council, and politicians in general. The link is here.

I especially like her comment at the end of the clip.

The Quote:
The lawyer’s truth is not Truth, but consistency or a consistent expediency.
         Henry David Thoreau

 

 

Stalemate

8/22/12

EDA Appointments
Once again, I’m amazed.

The City of Jordan paid two attorneys to confirm what the Mayor told us. Staff couldn’t do it.

It wasn’t all wasted though, because the attorneys also told us that we have not been following our own procedures.

Someone here is lacking ept, and it isn’t me.

What The Law Says
“2011 Minnesota Statutes
469.095 COMMISSIONERS; APPOINTMENT, TERMS, VACANCIES, PAY, REMOVAL.
. . .
(c) Seven-member authority: the commissioners constituting a seven-member authority, two of whom must be members of the city council, shall be appointed by the mayor with the approval of the city council. (emphasis mine, TB) Those initially appointed shall be appointed for terms of one, two, three, four, and five years respectively and two members for six years. Thereafter all commissioners shall be appointed for six-year terms.”

Are you getting this? The Council, it seems, does not. “Appointed by the mayor” means exactly what it says. It doesn’t say anything about acting mayor, or mayor pro-tem, or chairman of the meeting. By state law, no one but the sitting mayor has the authority to appoint a member to the EDA. A simple reading of the law should have sufficed to clarify this. But the Jordan Council had to consult two legal firms to get the facts.

For those of you who doubt my veracity, the link to the law is here.

What the Council Says
Members of the Council more or less asked, is there some way we can get around this, and just add one year to everyone’s terms?

Ummmm, no. if members were not legally appointed in the first place, there’s no way their terms can be extended.

When they asked about getting around the law, Councilors didn’t even bother to try to hide the fact that what they’re doing isn’t legal. And our City Attorney seemed unable to provide an interpretation of the law, so the Council decided to spend more money to have her study it some more, and come back with a way to skirt Minnesota Statute 469.095. These are the same brain wizards who routinely accuse the Mayor of getting the City into expensive legal trouble.

When the Mayor suggested that he could write a letter to the State Attorney General – an action he, as an elected official can do at no cost – the Council said no. What the hey? Is the Council afraid to ask the SAG, who has no financial stake in the issue, for an opinion?   Are they afraid an impartial counsel might tell them they’re doing something illegal? Why would they rather spend money to ask the City Attorney for the same advice they can get from the SAG for free?

How Illegal Should Jordan Be?
The EDA enabling resolution was passed on July 21, 2003. It appears three sitting members of this Council were in office at that time. The Mayor’s signature on the enabling resolution is that of a current member of the EDA. It would seem that they enacted an enabling resolution they didn’t understand and follow. And staff, not having reviewed the enabling resolution, perpetuated the failure to follow proper legal procedure.

How does it happen that this Council doesn’t even know how long an EDA term is supposed to be? It’s just my opinion, but it would seem to me that staff, after years of going through the process of filling EDA seats, would at least know how long the terms are.

In recent months we have seen more or less the same type of situation regarding a refuse hauling contract. Then we found out that our legal and engineering services were being provided by contract employees who had no contract. Earlier on the agenda tonight we saw how trying to enforce an adult entertainment ordinance has led us to need to revise the ordinance. And now this? Who’s minding the store? What next is going to bite us in the tuckuss?

Why Are These Trees Costing So Much?
Months ago the Parks and Recreation Commission entertained a proposal to apply for a MnDOT grant to beautify 282 from 169 to Sand Creek. It seemed like we had a good chance of landing substantial grant funds to plant trees, shrubs and possibly perennial wildflowers on this stretch of road that is routinely described as barren, unappealing, or unattractive.

The PRC decided it would be appropriate to bring residents and business owners from the area into the discussion. Unfortunately, the PRC refused to bring the business owners and residents in at the same time, so they could hear what each other had to say.

Residents were generally for the grant plan. Business owners were very opposed, with one even threatening legal action. So the PRC caved, gave up the grant program idea, and essentially let the business owners decide what the City should do – which is far less than the orignal grant proposal would have done. Do we want to include local business people in decision-making? Can we afford to include them? I’ve heard a rumor, hopefully not true, that some local business people are laughing at the City because they got us to spend money for trees that would have been funded by a MnDOT grant in the original plan.

Is The PRC Part of the Team?
According to one Council Member, the PRC’s proposals are too expensive, and he sees no reason to involve them in anything.

So much for team.

In the past two weeks, one member of the PRC has quit, and another is more or less planning to boycott PRC meetings if the Holzer Park Bathrooms are on the agenda again. He says that if the Council is just going to let staff run the town, there’s no need for Commissions or a City Council. I agree.

I wonder if the rest of the PRC members are legally appointed?

The Quote
“No man is above the law and no man is below it: nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it.“
          Theodore Roosevelt


Frackin’ Awesome!

8/28/12

I’m feeling lazy this week. Or maybe the painkiller from my dental appointment hasn’t worn off yet. Either way, I’m just going to cut and paste my presentation to the Scott County Board from this morning (Tuesday, August 28, 2012).

Here’s What I Said
Good Morning Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Board.

I’m Thom Boncher, a resident of Jordan.

On Wednesday, August 15th, I was in St. Paul to attend a meeting of the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board.

One of the items on the agenda was for the Board to accept comments from the public about a petition requesting a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) regarding the statewide environmental impact of frac sand mining.

The audience consisted of 35 to 40 people. Among them were a State Senator, city planners, township officials and the MnDOT person responsible for the Great River Road corridor plan. The state directors of Trout Unlimited, and the Audubon Society were there. People came from Winona County, St. Croix County, Goodhue County, and Fillmore County. Among those who commented were lawyers, teachers, engineers, and just plain citizens, including a couple who drove over from Osceola, Wisconsin.

The gentleman from Osceola asked if he could speak, even though he is not a Minnesota resident. The Chairman replied “Absolutely, please come to the microphone.” I swear, that fellow ran from the back of the room to the front. I’ll paraphrase what he said.

“You have NO idea what you’re getting into. Get out of your comfort zone, and come to Osceola. Come see what’s in store for you. We heard the promises and saw the scant data. We accepted it, and now Osceola is dying. It’s too late for us. Don’t make the same mistake we made!”

To my mind at least, his comments were the most powerful of the whole meeting. More powerful than the expert engineering presentations or the slick videos. He was just an ordinary person who regretted the mess made in Osceola, and came to warn us about what could happen here.

There seems to be a lot of push in Southeastern counties for a statewide moratorium on frac sand mining. I learned since the EQB meeting that Fillmore, Houston, Wabasha, Winona, and Goodhue Counties have moratoria on frac sand mining. The Goodhue County Board chose last week to extend their moratorium for another year.

The petition that started the whole conversation is huge compared to what I’m used to seeing. There’s a ton of supporting information attached to it. I have a copy with me in case anyone wants to see it, and maybe sign on.

At that meeting it was suggested to me that I do a little online research about Hunt Global Resources. Hunt Global Resources appears to be a front company for Tombstone Technologies, a company that makes playing cards and bar mitzvah materials. As near as I can tell, on May 23rd four top Hunt Global executives, including the president, the CFO, and the VP of operations left the company. The VP of operations was hired specifically to manage the Hunt Global mining operation in Minnesota, and lasted all of one month on the job. As near as I can tell, no successors have been named. Thus, the company seems to have no senior management team. HGR seems to be a holding and speculation company with few assets, and what they have is leveraged on the “white Jordan sand” mining operation. One questions whether they have the means to meet current, let alone future commitments regarding mining in Scott County.

The County, in the interest of doing due diligence, may want to be proactive, and look deeper into Hunt Global Resources. Now would be a good time. After all, you’re about to commit to the largest frac sand mining operation in North America. But you knew that, didn’t you?

That’s all I have. Thank you.

And the Response Was?
One board member asked me what the problems were in Osceola. To which I replied, noise, truck traffic, property value loss, dust, water drawdown and pollution, and just about everything else you could think of. That board member then said he thought Hunt Global Resources had withdrawn from the Merriam Junction mining proposal. That’s news to me, and I’ve been following things pretty close.

Another board member said, “Thom, you have to understand, we have this mining business (Great Plains Sands) here, and I hope they’re very successful, and make a lot of money, so they pay a lot of taxes.” My response, more or less, what that Great Plains Sands was a done deal, and not the issue now. The issue is whether Scott County wants to be home of the biggest sand mine in North America, and whether Hunt Global Resources is a reliable partner in such a venture.

None of the board members asked to see the petition I mentioned – but one candidate for a board seat read, and signed the petition.

After the meeting, one county staff person said that in her experience, state standards tend to be more lax than local standards, and she questioned if that was what I wanted. All I can say is, to the best of my knowledge, local standards can be more strict than state standards. So if the state does a GEIS, and Scott County isn’t satisfied with the results, we can enact our own stiffer standards. Yes, it’s that simple. Scott County could say, for example, no mines of any type over 150 acres. Or Scott County could do like five other Minnesota counties, and enact a moratorium.

Two people from Scott County attended the EQB meeting – my wife and I. Not one member of the County Board, not one member of county staff thought frac sand mining is important enough to listen to what people from other places have to say about it. If that county staff person thought that a GEIS might be too loose for Scott County, why didn’t she (or someone from staff) attend the EQB meeting, and say so? Apparently the largest frac sand mine on the continent is no big deal for the folks in Shakopee.

Or maybe they have their heads stuck in the frac sand?

The Anesthetic Has Worn Of
Oh, by the way, a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission quit two weeks ago. He quit to protest what he perceives as rotten treatment of the PRC and other commissions by the City Council, and city staff. Apparently, this little item is less important to the local paper than a penny increase in the cost of gas. Maybe two weeks after the fact, news of another resignation by a disgruntled commission member, who is also a former Council Member, and who applied for two different commission seats will actually make it to the paper.

Or maybe not.

One frac sand info source is:
Houston Business Journal by Molly Ryan, Reporter

Date: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 6:31am CDT – Last Modified: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 8:34am CDT

The parties that resigned include: Joseph Compofelice, the company’s president and a director; Manfred Sternberg, an independent director; David Odorizzi, CFO; and Terry Casey, vice president of operations.

Another source is:
InvestorPoint.com

Source: Business Wire (April 10, 2012 – 12:21 PM EDT)

Hunt Global Announces Additions to Management Team and Progress on Minnesota Jordan White Sand Development

Hunt Global Resources, Inc. (OTCBB: HGCO) today announced the following additions to its management team:

Mr. David H. Odorizzi joined the Company as its Chief Financial Officer effective April, 2012. Mr. Odorizzi has over 30 years of energy industry experience, most recently in the development, financing, construction and management of large power generation projects. He has held executive positions in finance, operations and development including Executive Vice President and CFO of Enron Power Corp., President of International Business Ventures (an Enron subsidiary), and Executive Vice President in charge of development for TM Power Ventures. Mr. Odorizzi began his career in public accounting with the predecessor firm to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Mr. Terry Casey joined the Company as Vice President of Operations effective April, 2012 and will have overall responsibility for the development, construction and operation of our upcoming frac sand processing plant in Minnesota. Mr. Casey has over 30 years of environmental, safety, project and construction management experience. He was the senior environmental professional for Celanese Chemicals (f/k/a Hoechst Celanese) and NL Industries. In 1998, he formed his own company and managed the cleanup of approximately 70 hazardous waste sites across the U.S.The Hunt Global Northern White Jordan Sandstone development is expected to be the largest single location white frac sand processing plant in North America. The plant design, which is complete, calls for annual production of marketable frac sand of 2.4 million tons annually. Construction is scheduled to start in the fall 2012 with start up and first deliveries projected in the summer 2013. While the Company has not yet released full technical data and API grade mix on the deposit or trial processing/screening tests, the Company has stated that it believes it has, as high a concentration, of “coarse” Northern White Jordan, as any sand producer in the U.S. Commenting on the product mix, President Joe Compofelice said, “Market demand currently is very much in favor of coarse material. This is consistent with the shift in customer spending from dry gas basins to liquid gas/oil rich basins of the Bakken, Eagle Ford, Permian and Utica unconventional shale plays.”

 

 

It’s Time to Think! A Test For Jordan Voters

8/31/12

Can We Talk?
Which item do you suppose merits the most discussion by your City Council?
A: $585,000.00 fire engine
B: $47,000.00 park bathroom remodeling project
C: $8,500.00 boulevard tree project

Screw New Ideas, I Ain’t Votin’ for Anyone Who Ain’t My Friend
When your City Council rejected two nominees recommended by the Planning Commission, in order to put friends in the seats, what happened next?
A. Three Planning Commission members walked out of a Council meeting, and off the Planning Commission.
B. Rejected nominees were asked to re-apply, and one was seated.
C. When I asked one of the rejected nominees if he would fill an opening created by the walkout, he said “Why would I want to work with those icky people?”
D. A Councilor says, “We don’t have to ask the Planning Commission. We already know what they’re going to say.”
E. All of the above

How many commissioners have to quit in disgust before the Council realizes there’s a problem?
A. 1
B. 2
C. 4 (three from the Planning Commission, and one from Parks & Rec)
D. It doesn’t matter, since at least one Councilor thinks anyone who quits a commission is walking out on his or her civic responsibility.

A Letter From David Hanson
The letter below was received by Council Members on August 7, 2012. A copy was forwarded to the local newspaper that same day – within an hour or so, actually. To date, the local paper has not reported this resignation, so Jordan residents may not be aware of it. (the letter is reprinted unaltered, in its’ entirety, with the permission of the author)

Mr. Mayor, Members of the Council and PRC:

I am resigning my position with the Parks & Recreation Commission effective immediately.

To my fellow PRC members: You did not do this. Those who slough off your contribution to this community did.

To the people of Jordan: I consider my service to this City a privilege, and I have given my best to every project that crossed my desk. I have met many wonderful and talented people along the way. I’ve met dozens of business owners who give their livelihoods to make Jordan great and strive to make it better.

However–in the past six years I have been witness to in-fighting, arrogance, laziness and closed-mindedness beyond my capability to fathom. While it doesn’t describe everyone involved, it does reach to absolutely every level of staff and council. I’ve watched as our city leaders all but spit on our commission members and business owners on more occasions than I have fingers.

I refuse to be part of a network so badly broken by those who and pardon the parks related pun, can’t see the forest for the trees.

For the sake of my sanity and the health of my family, I surrender.

David E. Hanson

Sex and The City
What do you suppose the City of Jordan accomplished by its sting operation against Jack’s Bar?
A. Got part of a $300.00 fine
B. Spent thousands on attorney’s fees to research and prosecute the case
C. Spent hundreds to pay for an undercover operation involving out-of-town police officers
D. Gave Jack’s Bar a lot of free publicity
E. Tarnished the good name of Jordan (Yes, I know – that’s a laugh)
F. Satisfied a complaint about unseemly banners

An Insufficiency of Ept
What happened when the Council tried to reappoint two members of the EDA?
A. The Council learned that the Commissioners’ terms hadn’t expired
B. The Council paid two legal firms to confirm what the Mayor told them about EDA appointments
C. City staff didn’t know how long EDA terms are supposed to last
D. The Council refused the Mayor’s offer to ask the State Attorney General for free legal advice on the matter.
E. At least one, and possibly two EDA members may have been appointed by someone other than the sitting Mayor – which our legal eagles should know is ILLEGAL.
F. Two weeks after a Council meeting in which the legality of two appointments was raised, staff is still unable to say who signed the appointments.

Time’s Up
All the events described above have taken place over a period of how long?
A. Five years
B. Two years
C. The past three months

Toxic? Ya Think?
An anonymous blogger on the Jordan Independent web site says the City Council is the most toxic group he’s ever seen, and he hopes that by the 2014 election all the Councilors will be gone. His arguments are usually pretty well thought out, but this time I think he’s missing the mark.

If he thinks everyone on the Council should just suck it up, and go along with things that are stupid, illegal, offensive or unnecessarily expensive, in the interest of teamwork and harmony, he’s mistaken. Government isn’t football. Personally, I refuse to accept such unthinking performance.

And yes, anonymous blogger, it’s your City Council. They’ll keep sweeping dirt under the rug as long as you allow it. Lift the rug and you’ll find no-bid contracts, non-existent contracts, huge billing errors, a nasty little dunning letter sent to people who didn’t owe the City a dime, insults to commission candidates, and oh-so-much more. Toxic? Really? Maybe the smell is from all the crap accumulating under the rug.

A Reader’s Response
I received two e-mails from Jason Ehlers, with comments and questions regarding this week’s JUG. I’m reprinting the unedited text of those e-mails here, with Mr. Ehlers’ permission. I’ll answer his questions below.

Text of the first e-mail:
Thom,
I had a question in regards to your “Time to think” edition on your website.

In the ‘Sex and The City’ question, your multiple choice answers give me the feeling that the choices that were made were incorrect.  Am I correct that you were not in favor of the actions that were taken?  If you could please explain your take, or position, on that, I’d appreciate it.

The reason I was asking, was because later on in your site, you state, “If he thinks everyone on the Council should just suck it up, and go along with things that are stupid, illegal, offensive or unnecessarily expensive, in the interest of teamwork and harmony, he’s mistaken.”  Isn’t that contradicting some of the answers you provided?  (Well, obviously it is, but wanted to get a more clear and concise answer to your side of it.)

Thanks,
J.

Text of the second e-mail:
Also Thom, the actual violation at Jack’s was longer than 6 months ago.

My Response
Mr. Ehlers raises a couple of valid points. In regard to his comment about the violation at Jack’s bar, he is correct that the violation was more than six months ago. However, we are just now completing the process of changing our ordinance, and as recently as July 24th, and August 30th (according to Jordan Independent news stories) we were still dealing with the fallout from that case.

In the interest of accuracy, I should note that the members who resigned from the Planning Commission did so about a year ago – not in the last six months.

Regarding whether I favored, or did not favor the actions taken against Jack’s Bar, first of all, by the time the Council found out about the whole thing, there was little we could do to stem the tide. In my opinion, the events in Jack’s Bar were illegal, and stopping them was appropriate. My preference would have been for a uniformed officer to go into Jack’s, and tell them they were breaking the law, and had to stop. Possibly, that would have been enough to resolve the issue. If not, the City would have had to resort to stiffer means of enforcement. There’s more I would like to say, but I have been advised to hold my peace.

As a side note, I have been advised that the undercover officer was off-duty, and his participation cost Jordan nothing. My original post is amended.

I have also been advised that the cost to Jordan of prosecuting the case would have been the same regardless of the number of hours spent by the County on it. This, I’m not so sure about. Any prosecution costs taxpayers money, and it may divert legal services from other needs. Further, I’m pretty sure we will see some bills from the City Attorney before the whole case is disposed of.

Regarding whether I contradicted some of my statements, I’m not sure what Mr. Ehlers refers to. I support upholding all the laws of this town. The typical approach used by the Jordan Police Department is to knock on the door, advise the subject that he is violating a law, and must stop. This approach is usually effective, whether for loud parties, snow dumped in neighbors’ driveways, or barking dogs. I probably should have added an answer regarding ending adult entertainment in a bar.  That, after all, was the ultimate goal, and it seems to have been accomplished.  I simply feel the same goal could have been accomplished with a lot less drama.

If Mr. Ehlers is saying that my position on Jack’s Bar somehow contradicts my position on other things, I’m at a loss for what to say. Let’s try this
I think it’s stupid to let a public bathroom stand unimproved for forty years.
I think it’s borderline illegal, and likely unduly expensive to spend $585,000.00 on a product without getting any competitive bids.
I think it’s offensive to tell the Planning Commission that they are not capable of deciding which two among four candidates will be the best fit for the Commission.

But that’s just my opinion.

The Quote:
“Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation. “
           Henry A. Kissinger  


“We’re Better People Than You.”

9/10/12

The royal “we”? Who’s “we”? A City Council Member who aspires to be Mayor, and his wife approached a constituent during the car cruise Friday night. The Councilor/candidate asked the constituent, “Are you going to vote for me?” Which brought the reply, “Why would I do that?”

The Councilor/candidate said “It doesn’t matter anyway. I don’t need your vote.” Then his wife chimed in “We’re better people than you are.”

That exchange was related to me by the constituent. There was at least one other person present at the time. I have no reason to doubt that it happened as related.

Now, if I told you that I was a better person than you, what would you think of me? That I’m vain? Egotistical? Smug? Misguided?

True, the Councilor/candidate himself didn’t make the statement. Still, one would think that a person would be more or less on the same wave length as his spouse.

We should give the Councilor/candidate props though, for being willing to tell a voter his vote isn’t wanted, rather than doing the typical politician thing, and saying anything to please the voter.

What you’re reading here is not about performance. It’s about attitude. Like I wrote earlier, if I said I’m a better person than you are, you’d say I’m a snot.

You Don’t Matter to the State of Minnesota, Either.
A County Board Member told me about a meeting of the Metropolitan Energy Policy Committee he attended last Thursday. There was a speaker from the Minnesota Department of Health, who was supposed to deliver a presentation on frac sand mining. Apparently, the MDH guy was a substitute for someone else. I’m told he didn’t seem to know as much about the frac sand mining biz as the people in the audience. According to my source, the presenter did say that the MDH has no information on the health risks of frac sand mining. Further, the MDH knows that silica dust is a carcinogen. Your government department responsible for your health has nothing to work with, it would seem. So they want you to be a lab rat, to learn if there’s any health risk associated with silica dust.

We are not amused.

The Quote:
“Part of what makes you great as a young player can hurt you at the end of your career, in terms of you need a certain amount of ego, a certain amount of arrogance to be able to play well and to push yourself and trick yourself into thinking you’re better than you really are.”
           David Cone


“Goodness Gracious, Great Balls Of Fire”

9/19/12

Sometimes these weekly rants practically write themselves. Other times I have to struggle to find a topic. This week’s JUG falls into a third category – I know what I want to write about, but the subject is so mind-boggling to me that I can’t figure out how to put it down on paper (or in pixels, if you prefer).

Where To Begin?
Last night (Monday, September 17, 2012), the Jordan City Council voted to extend the contracts of the City Attorney, and the City Engineer. The original motion didn’t even specify a term for the contracts. The Council was being asked to approve an open-ended contract, and staff did nothing to point out the problem. I suppose it’s too much to ask of the City Attorney or the City Engineer that they point out a flaw like that in their contracts, but it’s not too much to ask of an experienced City Administrator.

No copies of existing contracts were provided. Not surprising since the Attorney’s contract apparently doesn’t exist, and the Engineer’s contract is seventeen years old. No copies of proposed contracts were provided. We were being asked by staff to “. . . to formalize services provided through individual contracts with DMSHB and Bolton and Menk.” Amazingly, no list of services was provided for either firm. No rate summary was provided. No contract was provided for us to review. Now, do you wonder why I’m so annoyed about not having Requests For Proposals generated for these services? I mean, man, c’mon, contracts to review? We don’t need to review no stinkin’ contracts. The City Administrator says it’s okay. The City Attorney says it’s okay. The City Engineer says it’s okay. So we should just sign on and shut up, huh?

Well here’s a news flash – not one of those three people pay taxes in Jordan. In my opinion, those of us who have some skin in the game should insist on open bidding for the City Attorney and City Engineer contracts, and may the best firm win. Only incompetent firms fear competition. DMSHB and Bolton and Menk know that. That’s why they both said they believe they could be competitive in open bidding. Why are my colleagues, and the City Administrator afraid of free-market competition?

Different Strokes for Different Folks
We were presented with a comparison of legal and engineering fees for some comparable towns and cities, which led to a few interesting notes.

For example, why are Bolton and Menk’s rates different for different cities? Could it be they provide different services? Or maybe they provide fewer services, and so charge higher rates to make a profit.

As to our City Attorney’s firm, if I understood her response properly, the City Attorney said her firm doesn’t serve any of the cities or towns other than Jordan in the City Administrators comparison. Well gee, whom is DMSHB serving, and what are they charging? And does someone from DMSHB attend weekly staff meetings in other cities.

Sentimental Journey?
The City Administrator keeps saying he thinks some Council Members are thinking only of money. He presumably is referring to me, and he seems to have a hearing problem. I have said – repeatedly – that I’m perfectly willing to accept contracting with the incumbent firms if they can compete successfully for our contracts. Any firm submitting an RFP would be expected first and foremost, to be able to meet all our needs. I’m perfectly willing to see Jordan pay a reasonable premium to preserve continuity. But money does matter, and it’s simple good business to periodically re-evaluate vendors. We do this very thing with lawn care services. Why not legal and engineering services?

In my opinion, sentiment is not the primary value in awarding contracts to vendors. It’s a value, yes – but not the primary value.

If They’re So Good, Why Do They Need Help?
Council Member Shaw pointed out that the Council hired an additional engineering firm to help Bolton and Menk with the 2030 Comprehensive Plan. Really? Wow! Did the city use RFP’s to select the “helper” firm? Or was that another no-bid contract? (I think I know the answer, and I don’t think I like it much.) Bolton and Menk had to bring in another firm to design our new Rice Street Bridge, and these two firms together were caught by surprise by the environmental and historical restrictions associated with a relatively minor bridge over a relatively minor creek.

DMSHB has repeatedly turned to the League of Minnesota Cities for help on legal issues. Why is that?

It’s not unreasonable for professionals to call on specialists to provide specialized help. But if these two firms are going to need assistance to perform their jobs, their contracts should clearly state what services they are expected to provide, and what services will have to be subcontracted.

The Oddity of Who Made The Motion
In my opinion, when Council Members who are up for election voted to not require RFPs for engineering and legal services, they stepped into a political minefield, which astute challengers will make the most of. Strange that the motion was made and seconded by two Council Members who are not up for re-election. Strange that the Council Members who are up for re-election would actually allow this business to come to a vote. Do they really think voters are going to be sympathetic to a City Hall that awards no-bid contracts on two of the biggest items in the City budget?

Council Member Shaw said words to the effect that “four at this table” are up for re-election, and might not be here after the first of the year. My sense of what he was saying is that it might be smart to let the next Council deal with the whole mess.

Council Member Velishek said words to the effect that “we shouldn’t do this now, and then have to do it again next year.” I’m not sure what she meant, but it sounds like she either wanted to offer a long term contract, or she thought a future Council might want to renege on a contract created now.

The Strangest Thing I’ve Heard In a Long Time
The City Administrator told us that the City issued an RFP for legal services in 2004, and hired DMSHB on the basis of their response. Hmmmm. RFPs are not required by the state, but we used one in 2004, and now we don’t want to dust it off, and use it again? Oh, by the way, we know there’s an RFP for legal services somewhere, and a maybe a contract too, but neither DMSHB, nor the City seems to have a copy of the contract. And it would be a lot of work to pull out the RFP from the files.

Pole buildings and porta-potties almost make sense after listening to all this.

The Quote, With Apologies to Jerry Lee Lewis:
“You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain.
Too much thinkin’ drives a man insane.”

 

 

Now Some Things Are Starting to Make Sense

9/26/12

On Sunday, September 23rd, the Star Tribune published an article entitled Farmington’s pay raises met city standards. The article ran in the twin cities & region section of the South Metro edition. (Whew, that’s a mouthful.) Here’s the link to the on-line version of the article. I suggest you read the article, and then come back here for my thoughts and opinion.

http://www.startribune.com/local/south/170865271.html

Okay, did you read it? Are you as amazed as I am?

Legal? Yes. Ethical? Not So Much.
The article points out that an investigation showed no laws were broken when the Farmington City Administrator passed out raises and promotions without the City Council’s knowledge. The article also quoted a former Farmington Mayor as saying “How can somebody take a raise on his own . . .” It would seem that the Farmington City Administrator gave himself four raises in 22 months – in spite of the fact that Farmington’s own survey showed that he was making 3% more than his peers. The raises totaled more than $13,000.00 over those 22 months.

According to the Strib article, the report said, “The city’s past practice demonstrates that raises and changes to job titles were within the discretion of the acting City Administrator. … While it is arguably best practice for a City Administrator to keep the Council informed of personnel matters and issues … there is no requirement of notification in the ordinance.” (Emphasis mine, tvb)

In other words, it was all legal. Can you imagine a private business giving an employee 25 raises in 15 years? Me neither. Can you imagine a manager in a private business giving out raises without his bosses knowing? Me neither. There’s still no requirement to notify the Council of raises or promotions in Farmington, but their current City Administrator notifies the Council anyway.

Past City Councils in Farmington share a lot of responsibility for not exercising due control over their staff. Maybe the Jordan Council can learn something from Farmington’s mistakes. The City Administrator tried to hire a Senior Planner at a rate substantially above what the Council had approved. Fortunately, the Jordan City Council rebuffed his efforts, so maybe we’re doing a better job of managing than the Farmington Council does. Scary thought.

A Law Unto Himself
On the basis of his experience in Farmington, I can see why the City Administrator feels he should be allowed to do as he pleases, without interference from the Council. I can also see why he would want to maintain such a close relationship with the City Attorney. Consistently stretching the bounds of legality means there’s a need to have a hand-in-glove connection. And does it puzzle anyone that the City Administrator would seek to reward the City Attorney with a (legal) no-bid contract?

The City Administrator says he spends 60% of his time on water and sewer related issues. So 60% of his salary comes from those accounts – in spite of the fact that there’s an administrative account charged against them too. Ditto the Finance Manager, who is responsible for accounting for salaries. It would seem that neither of them wants to put a reasonable amount of their salaries in the general fund, but would rather bury them in the enterprise fund – legally, of course.

Oh, and remember the Unallocated Account? The one that staff uses to pay for unexpected expenses – including salary increases? Does that start to smell a little worse now?

Farmington paid over $8,400.00 for an “investigative report” on pay raise practices. Why? Because a newspaper, the Farmington Independent, raised questions, which led a current Farmington Council Member to ask for an investigation,

Doodoo Diligence?
One wonders how diligent the Jordan City Council, and staff were in 2006, when they screened candidates for City Administrator. Let’s see . . . this hire took place about six years ago. Hmmmm, who was on the Council then? Not I. Nor the current Mayor, nor Council Members Thill or Velishek. Think carefully – who does that leave?

A Farmington Council Member said he pushed for the City Administrator’s removal before a divided council. Sound familiar? Ultimately, according to the Council Member, the City Administrator “had a choice of resigning or being relieved of his duties. He chose to resign,” This is the same City Administrator whom Jordan City Council Member has described as well respected in town and elsewhere. One wonders what the folks in Farmington think – especially the ones who had to pay taxes for the raises so freely given.

Bad Press for Jordan?
I don’t imagine any of this will show up in the local newspaper. Still, after hearing some people harp about how this or that person is giving Jordan a bad rep, it’s interesting (and disheartening) to see our City Administrator’s name turn up in an article in a big-time paper like the Strib. And for this to surface at election time is – what? – a cosmic coincidence?

The Quote:
“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
         Peter Drucker


Nothing Controversial Ever Happens in Jordan, Right?

10/3/12

Or if it does, we should just avoid the unpleasantness, and concentrate on the beautiful Fall colors. There’s no need to get to know candidates for City offices. They’ll take care of everything just fine – just like they’ve been doing for the last 30 or so years. So why would any candidate come to a voter forum that’s not “sanctioned” by the City? How about, to talk to the opposition, and find out what they are doing or thinking?

In religion, it’s called “outreach” or “missionary work”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In politics it’s called “stumping”. Seems like some candidates in this town think talking to any but a select few is beneath their dignity. Many of the people who chose to attend the Voter’s Forum had to go to work the next day. Some had to leave early. Some came a little late. But they came. Now ask yourself, where were you? Did you ask any questions? Did you get any answers? Is it enough for you to know who showed up, and who didn’t? Personally, I’m satisfied with what I know of the candidates, and the Voter’s Forum served to confirm my opinions.

No candidate was required to attend. No candidate was willfully denied an invitation to attend. Some chose to stand “outside the fire”, as Garth Brooks would say. (The full text of Standing Outside the Fire is posted below. It’s one of the most powerful songs I know.)

After Monday’s Council Meeting, a voter told me “It amazes me. I can’t believe that candidates who hope to be elected at large, would not take an opportunity to meet the people they hope will vote for them.”

I agree. Any candidate who’s afraid of the minimal risk of controversy in a church basement doesn’t have the guts to stand in a funeral home surrounded by people on both sides of a flammable issue. And generally, a person who lacks guts also lacks integrity. Sometimes the course of least resistance is not the correct course.

Voters-r-Us
Among the voters were three members of the Jordaness Lions Club, a member of the St. John’s choir, who had to leave early for choir practice, a couple of local business people, a City employee, and probably a dozen others who came and went as the evening passed.

One County Board candidate also came, as did the Editor of the JI. I’m not sure exactly how to categorize these two, but I was pleased to see them.

The Novitiate
As near as I can tell, Dan Elke, Beth Fournier, Mike Griffin, Dave Murray, Nancy Murray, Terry Stier, and Jeff Will have never held elected public office. The presence of so many novices in the coming election is both encouraging, and worrisome. Encouraging because it means people are willing to take a stand. Worrisome because a handful of those people are not making an effort to tell us what their stand is.

Dan Elke blogs – a lot. He deserves credit for using his own name when he blogs. But he chose to avoid a voter’s forum because he read something controversial on a web site – this web site. He responded publicly to one question on the questionnaire I sent out earlier, so I know the address on his Affidavit of Candidacy is accurate. It’s the same address I used when I mailed him the invitation to the voter’s forum. The invitation he says he never got.

Terry Stier announced his candidacy to me at a JHS basketball game last season. When I asked what his platform was, he said, “I’m outspoken, and not afraid to say what I think.” Outspoken is fine, but how are we to know if he is informed on the issues about which he is outspoken? I’m sure Mr. Stier’s friends know where he stands on many things. But how are the rest of us to decide if he’s worth voting for?

Jeff Will told me he had other commitments related to his youth trap shooting work. When I asked him why he hadn’t responded to the JUG questionnaire, he said he was waiting until November 1st, because he wanted to see what other people were doing.

Beth Fournier, Mike Griffin, Dave Murray, and Nancy Murray came to the forum. I have no idea what they may have said to others in attendance. Beth and I did have a discussion with another voter on the subject of frac sand mining.

Incumbent
Only one showed up.

Mayor Ewals seemed to have a few interesting discussions, including a lengthy one with the Editor of the JI.

Council Members Shaw and Schultz didn’t attend or respond in any way.

Council Member Velishek sent a letter to the JI explaining that she was getting ready for a trip to Peru, to do missionary work.

It’s just my opinion, but it looks to me like there’s a fair amount of confidence among some of the no-shows. They seem pretty certain their connections will get them elected.

From Afield
Jerry Kucera came to chat with voters. When I asked how he found out about the forum, he said he happened to read about it on JUG. When I asked why he decided to attend, he said, more or less, everyone at the forum was a voter, and he wanted to know what was on their minds.

Cop Shop?
On another subject, at last night’s (October 1, 2012) City Council meeting I submitted an agenda item to begin planning to relieve the space problems facing our Police Department and staff. The lack of response from my colleagues was deafening.

After some prodding, one Council Member said words to the effect that the Council has been working on the problem for years. She questioned why I was bringing it up now.

Well gee whiz, we’ve been talking about the problem for years. Maybe now would be a good time to do something. After all, we have a soon-to-be-vacant building on Broadway (the Library), a crowded City Hall, and a pile of old plans. I thought it might be wise to get all the stakeholders together, review the information we have, review the changed economic situation in Jordan (and elsewhere), and decide what to do. Maybe they’re still angry because I put the library on the agenda at my first meeting in January of 2010. (or, I suppose it could be the way I pushed the bathroom restoration in Lagoon Park, or maybe the cannon wheel thing). Whatever.

Before the meeting, I was advised by several people to not make any concrete recommendations, but to involve and seek input from stakeholders.

Right.

The stone faces on Easter Island had more life than my colleagues after I read my agenda item. It took a fair amount of effort to get any input at all from the rest of the group. After the meeting, someone told me that if a suggestion doesn’t originate from staff, I shouldn’t expect much response from the Council.

I guess.

Silly me. I thought the Council was supposed to lead.

I’m beginning to think maybe I should just put my ideas out there, and if the others want to instantly oppose them, so be it. It seems, when I try to engage my colleagues, I accomplish nothing. Maybe I should start making perverse proposals to the Council, in hopes that the others will instantly oppose anything I say, and thus accept something else. Know what I mean? I want a cross walk, so I propose to prohibit crossing, the others get all cranked up, and put crosswalks everywhere.

This strategy has actually worked for me at times in the past, as when I . . . oh, maybe I better not say. The stone faces might not approve.

“Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict.”
Saul Alinsky

Standing Outside The Fire
Jenny Yates, and Garth Brooks

We call them cool
Those hearts that have no scars to show
The ones that never do let go
And risk it the tables being turned

We call them fools
Who have to dance within the flame
Who chance the sorrow and the shame
That always come with getting burned

But you got to be tough when consumed by desire
‘Cause it’s not enough just to stand outside the fire
We call them strong
Those who can face this world alone
Who seem to get by on their own
Those who will never take the fall

We call them weak
Who are unable to resist
The slightest chance love might exist
And for that forsake it all

They’re so hell bent on giving, walking a wire
Convinced it’s not living if you stand outside the fire

[Chorus:]
Standing outside the fire
Standing outside the fire
Life is not tried it is merely survived
If you’re standing outside the fire

There’s this love that is burning
Deep in my soul
Constantly yearning to get out of control
Wanting to fly higher and higher
I can’t abide standing outside the fire

 

Adam’s Second Sin . . .

10/14/12

. . . was not accepting responsibility for what he did in the first place.

Not nakedness.  Not hubris.  And not lying.

When God asked Adam why he’d eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam said, “it’s not my fault.  Eve told me it was okay.”

So he got kicked out of the Garden.  Now we have big problems like religions fighting to prove they are God’s chosen people.  We have nations fighting for God knows what.  And we have silly little problems like people arguing about whether the Vikings or the Packers are the better team.  Maybe Adam should have said, “Yes, I ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  It was a stupid thing to do.  Will you forgive me?”

I’m guessing an all-forgiving God would have said, “Yes, I forgive you.  But don’t make that mistake again unless you want to relo to a much less desirable address.”

I’ve had enough of the lack of personal responsibility.  I’ve had enough of a local businessman blaming bad publicity on the Mayor – all the while conveniently overlooking the fact that it was his own illegal activities that touched off all the bad headlines.  I’ve had enough of Council Members who do things because the City Administrator says it’ll be okay.  I’ve had enough of the City Administrator saying, “It’s not my fault.  The Council approved the action.”

Now go look at www.thejordanfiles.com.  Listen to the clips from Council meetings.  Read the sidebar about the things that have happened because a majority of the Council, and staff allowed them to happen.  Then ask yourself, who is accepting responsibility for all those acts of idiocy?  It’s amazing how no one in City Hall is willing to say, the huge water billing errors happened on my watch, they’re my responsibility.  It’s amazing to hear a Councilor say, “I think we should just let staff do their job.”  It’s amazing to hear a Councilor say, “Can I make a motion that we follow our laws? ”  It’s amazing to hear a Councilor say, “I hope I didn’t vote for that. ”

You figure out for yourself what you want – responsible government, or more same old same old.  And remember this, you don’t have to vote for three Council candidates.  You can vote for just one if you wish.  Or two.  If you only believe in one or two candidates, don’t vote for a third just to fill your ballot.  That third spot represents a vote against the one or two you believe in.  Of course, if you believe in three, vote for them.

JordanUnderGround in Print
Yup.  Every JUG post from November 11, 2008 to May 22, 2012.  Hey, I had to stop somewhere.  There are copies on sale at Carasim Coffee Shop.  Or you can send me an e-mail order.  The cost is $20.00.  I realize I’m not Stephen Colbert or Bill O’Reilly, and this is no coffee table book.  But I do what I can with what I’ve got.  At least you’ll know who’s responsible for the book.  Drop me a line if you want a copy.

I got blistered when I inadvertently dropped this link last week.  I won’t make that mistake again.  This video gets more pertinent as time goes by – but that’s just my opinion.

The Quote:
“Man is fully responsible for his nature and his choices.”
Jean-Paul Sartre

Mark Ballard Responds to Kathy Lapic’s Comment
Thom,  I am responding to some mis-information that was on the Jordan underground.
Please include on your site.
Thanks
Mark R. Ballard
because I care

Yes many of the headlines involve me and many more don’t involve me.  But I am not running for Mayor.

A conditional use permit is not needed to operate a crematory.  The judge did not order us to quit operating.  She recommended that the city re word the code (which the city did). The city also appealed the case and  the judges decision was reversed. Incidentally the appellate court also said we didn’t need a conditional use permit, that is what we said from the start.

I was kind enough to drop the restraining order charges after the Mayor assured me it wouldn’t happen again and that he would stop the harassment.  Yes, Kathy Lapic was a witness and she apparently has forgot what she told the police investigators.  The following are statements from the police report. “Lapic stated that she heard Mayor Ewals with a raised voice saying something towards Ballard as he approached Ballard’s vehicle in the parking lot.”  “Lapic stated that as the vehicle was backing out and then driving forward out of the parking lot she observed Mayor Ewals touch or push off the vehicle.” “Lapic did indicate she witnessed Ewals in contact with Ballard’s vehicle as the vehicle was moving.” “Lapic indicated that she could not hear what Ewals was saying but describes Ewals having a raised voice while he was on the driver’s side of Ballard’s vehicle.”  From what I read in Lapics interview I think I was justified in getting a restraining order and I also think the County Attorney was justified in charging Mayor Ewals with disorderly conduct.  Also, I think the plea bargain agreement that Mayor Ewals made with the County Attorney was reasonable.

We are part of the commercial zone C1 (Neighborhood Business). Across the street from us is a residential district, a business could not locate there. There also are residential districts bordering the industrial area other commercial areas.  Most crematories in our state are located in funeral homes and most funeral homes are located in areas just like ours—on the edge of the downtown areas.  There are only two crematories in our state that I am aware of in industrial areas, I would not want my loved one taken to an industrial area for cremation. I would be comforted knowing they were at the funeral home.

The council vote of no confidence I believe was triggered by the mayor’s involvement with the vigilante group and his action of attacking me at 1:00 in the morning in my parking lot.  But there were other issues that led to the vote like: trying to fire the city administrator in the middle of a meeting, and not listening to the city’s legal council, not making appointments to commissions, and  representing HIS agenda as the city’s.

Mayor Ewals and the Jordan Community Action Group gives us bad press… not me.

I have included on my website FirePeteEwals.com the list including dates of all the headlines. I hope people will take a look at the stories behind the bad press. In one article there is even a link to the Jordan Underground.

Mark Ballard, because I care

My Reply

Mr. Ballard’s response, posted above, is edited to remove repetitious references to Ms. Lapic’s original post.

I would point out that at the time of the incident in Mr. Ballard’s business parking lot, he was operating in violation of the zoning code then in place for his property.  It was the City of Jordan who told him that a simple building permit was insufficient, and that he would need a Conditional Use Permit.  District Judge Hanson ruled the Conditional Use Permit illegal.  The City later changed its’ zoning code, but at the time of the parking lot incident the Conditional Use Permit was illegal, and any operation under it was illegal.

Mr. Ballard says he “was kind enough to drop” the temporary restraining order against Mr. Ewals.  It’s just speculation on my part, but I wonder if there would have been sufficient, compelling testimony to sustain a permanent restraining order.   Please keep in mind that anyone can place a temporary restraining order on anyone by merely paying a fee, and filing a form.  A temporary restraining order lapses if the person filing it can’t or won’t provide compelling evidence (such as eyewitness testimony) to support the accusations.

Mr. Ballard denies any part in the bad press surrounding these matters.  In other words, he says he’s not responsible for any of what happened.  Mr. Ballard says he is not running for Mayor.  Apparently the rumors about his write-in candidacy are untrue.  Yet from everything he has said here and elsewhere, he is not endorsing any other candidate.  One can only conclude that he considers the other two candidates interchangeable.

I suspect we have not read the last of this business yet.

A Reader Responds To Mark Ballard’s Comment
How ironic that Mr. Ballard cannot see that all the headlines he refers to involve him.

Mr. Ballard filed charges against the Mayor the day after Mr. Ballard operated his crematory in violation of a District Judge’s order determining that the City’s conditional use permit allowing the crematory to operate was not legal. Mr. Ballard dropped that charge, after successfully getting the Mayor’s name in the paper.

I was a witness that night and the charges were unfounded, as confirmed when the Court dismissed the other charge.   But Mr. Ballard neglects to mention these facts.

The ordinance signature issue also was a result of Mr. Ballard’s decision to place his crematory in a residential area rather than an industrial area where it belongs.

The vote of no confidence was instigated by certain members of the Council who were determined to allow Ballard to have his crematory regardless of the hazards to the citizens of Jordan.  I have an email from a Council member indicating the Council will do whatever is necessary to keep the crematory operating.

Mr. Ballard, YOUR actions are giving Jordan a bad reputation and causing the bad press.

And for those of you who believed the headlines without hearing the other side by talking to the Mayor  . . .

SHAME ON YOU!

Kathy Lapic

A Reader Responds
Thank you Mayor Pete Ewals.
Thank you Councilman Thom Boncher

When most of us faded back and watched from afar, you came forward. When some of us mindlessly checked a box for a voter sticker, you attempted to educate us on how impactful that one simple motion is. In assuming the Office of the Mayor and Councilman, you stand strong against special interests, strong against those who would spread the contamination of our broken government and profit driven industries into our and our children’s minds, hearts and lungs, fully prepared to take a bullet for us, and you have. Strong against a coven of five Council members, bent on presenting you as fools as opposed to representing those that put them there, costing citizens dearly during times of economic strife. Remained firm against the blinded opposition of hypnotized critics whose illogical fear of change, and the debate for it, has limited their responses to hand gestures. You fight hard for a more translucent government in an effort to stem the flow of good money after bad. As moral and ethical men, you recognize, admit, and take a path to correct your mis-steps when other’s egos of perfection block their way. When challenged with disrespect, you take the high road as opposed to lowering yourselves. When faced with legally and fiscally questionable or ambiguous resolutions and motions, you attempt to expose them, no matter the risk to yourselves, endeavoring in your commitment to honest methods of city management. You stood and volunteered to represent the common man, with full knowledge of the trials ahead, in an effort to make things better for the whole, and not the part. We are older than you, and considered wiser by this calendar, but now find ourselves standing in the shadow of your convictions, a lesson for those who thought themselves better, and for this are eternally grateful.

To the wives of you both, we also recognize, for the hopes you have, the tears we know you shed, the support you provide in the face of the unjust, and your enduring of the unfair.

To the Mayor’s daughter. When we are long of tooth with no bite left, you can be assured of the pride you will have in speaking of your father, one who stood tall when others chose to stoop.

Win or lose Mr. Mayor, you have brought a sleeping hamlet to its feet, and apathy to its knees. In the past we molded the council of seven, now reduced to the council of five, their inadvertent genesis of the group of ten, that will avalanche into a movement of thousands, restoring Jordan’s long absent reputation and the true meaning of our constitution, that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Thank you Mayor Pete Ewals,
Thank you Councilman Thom Boncher.

My Response
The above note is from Rob and Mara Mishica.  I appreciate it deeply.

A Reader Responds
Your website states that you welcome public comment. I have something to say and I have put my name on it. Please include the following on the JordanUnderGround.

I’m sick of seeing headlines like these:  Jordan Mayor Charged with Misdemeanor, Jordan Mayor Charged with Disorderly Conduct, Judge Orders Mayor to Sign Ordinance, Council Takes Vote of No Confidence in Mayor, Jordan A pretty town with ugly spats. Cast your vote and put an end to the bad press. Restore Jordan’s reputation.

Mark R. Ballard
…because I care.

My Reply
Mr. Ballard’s response, posted above, is unedited.  I keep my word.

Mr. Ballard has also asked me to publish a link to a web site he sponsors.  Mr. Ballard is unable or unwilling to publish links on his site.  Until that changes, I will not post his link here.

Whom Shall We Choose? Part I – Mayor
When you consider whom to elect for Mayor, you might want to ask yourself a few questions.

Who fought for St. John’s Church?
Who fought against St. John’s Church
Who didn’t bother to get involved?

Who acted to get a library built?
Who knew there were problems with the library, but sat on the Council for years, and did nothing to fix them?
Who didn’t bother to get involved?

Who acted to stop gravel trucks from coming into Jordan?
Who was willing to toss the Valley View neighborhood under the bus (or gravel truck, if you will)?
Who blogged that the unpaved portion of Valley View (outside Jordan City Limits) was a mess, and getting it paved would be a good thing?

Who acted to expand public input in City Council meetings?
Who said City Council meetings aren’t social events where just anyone can speak?
Who seldom gets involved in City Council meetings?

Who has consistently acted to reduce City spending?
Who has accepted every spending increase for over 20 years?
Who has a 9,500 word campaign web site that never once mentions tax, levy or spending?

I won’t tell you who to vote for. I don’t want a Mayor who just sits in the chair and does nothing unless staff says it’s okay. Nor do I want a Mayor who does nothing. I won’t vote for someone just because he’s a teacher or a lifetime resident of Jordan. I won’t vote for someone who thinks business people should run the town, or for someone who hopes to become part of a clique he denies exists.

You figure out for yourself what you want – meaningful direction, old boy network, or old boy wannabe.

The Quote:
This week’s quote is long.

Sometimes in my dreams, I hear a song – a song I remember incompletely, since back in the day poor hearing kept me from catching all the words. Last night the song in my dream was “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds. The song was based on the third chapter of the biblical Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes. The lyrics were easy to find on-line, but even as I read them, I sensed they were only part of the message.

Those of you who know me will be aware that I’m not a bible thumper. Still, I felt compelled to look up the whole chapter – not a difficult thing to do in the electronic age. I found dozens of versions of Ecclesiastes iii, including the New American Standard Bible version quoted below. I have highlighted two parts of the quote which I feel especially relate to me. Maybe they relate to you as well. Or maybe it’s not your time. I guess you have to decide that for yourself.

Time
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.

A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.

A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.

A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.”

God Set Us in Time, But Gave Us a Mind Capable of Seeing Eternity, Even Though We Cannot Fully Understand It.
“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.

Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness. I said to myself, “God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,” for a time for every matter and for every deed is there. I said to myself concerning the sons of men, “God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts.” For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth? I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?” 

Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter III (Attributed to Solomon), New American Standard Bible

 

Whom Shall We Choose? Part II – Council

With eight candidates running for three Council seats, we’re faced with a situation that’s perplexing, but has the potential for real change in how the City is run. Unlike the mayoral race, the choices for the three Council seats are not so clear cut. When you consider whom to elect for City Council, you might want to ask yourself a few questions.

I’ll assume you’ve been paying attention to the Council, and know what the incumbents have done. So the first question is, are you satisfied with where the incumbents have taken Jordan?

About those gravel trucks . . .
When the issue of gravel mining first arose, six members of the Council were willing to roll over, and let the trucks run through Jordan on Valley View. One of the incumbents up for re-election was angry because residents attended a committee meeting with the developer. She felt those residents had no right to listen to what the City was doing in regard to an issue that intimately affected their homes and families.

Only after the election, when it was apparent that two Council Members lost their seats because of the anger in Brentwood, did the Council suddenly see the light. Then they became unanimous in passing resolutions and sending letters to the County Board. When I, or the Mayor presented them with the choice of acting against the gravel trucks, they realized that the anger would be aimed at them if they didn’t say “no trucks”.

Getting a Tummy Tuck Won’t Make Me Younger
Which leads us to, who among the non-incumbent candidates would be different than the incumbents – not just a new name following the same old path?

A trend I’ve noticed in town is that often lawn signs “cluster”. In my opinion, it’s safe to assume that if a challenger’s sign is in a cluster with incumbents, we can assume the challenger is okay with how the incumbents are running the town. Now why would a challenger ally himself with incumbents? Maybe it’s because he realizes there is a lot of anti-incumbent sentiment in this election, and if he wants to preserve the status quo, he needs to put a new face on it.

As near as I can see, none of the six challengers have ever held an elected office. Is that bad? In my opinion, no. Some of the challengers have the potential to bring new thinking, new approaches, and a new sense of representing the people of Jordan.

Name Recognition? What Does That Mean?
Mainly, in my opinion, it means someone has lived in this town for many years, watched it deteriorate, and never acted to stop the rot. And now? They’re clinging desperately to what they have, and not acting give Jordan a future.

Lawn Signs? What Do THEY Mean?
If you move around town these days, you’ll see lawn signs all over. Some candidates have a lot, some have a few, some have none. There’s a need for perspective here. A candidate who has deep pockets (or who has supporters with deep pockets) might put out 100 lawn signs. A candidate who is trying to not be beholden to anyone, might put out 20. While it may look like this or that candidate has a lot of support because he or she has a lot of lawn signs, the truth is, those signs only represent a small fraction of the voters in Jordan.

At least one lawn in town has signs for four candidates for just three open seats – two incumbents, and two challengers. This person is more or less telling us that any of the four candidates are interchangeable.

Oh, and by the way, lawn signs on boulevards and public rights of way are illegal. Every registered candidate knows this, but some choose to ignore the law. A sign on the shoulder of the road? C’mon, Mr. Candidate, you know better. Move it. Or are you telling us you don’t mind bending the law if it helps you get elected?

Too Controversial?
Jordan Dialog, of which I’m a co-founder, held a voter forum on October 26th. Eleven candidates were invited to participate. Pete Ewals, Dave Murray, Mike Griffin, Beth Fournier, and Nancy Murray showed up to rub elbows with voters. So did Jerry Kucera, a candidate for County Board.

Dan Elke, Mike Shaw, Sally Schultz, Jeff Will, Terry Stier and Tanya Velishek didn’t attend. One non-attendee was so upset with something I quoted from the Star/Tribune that he turned around and went home. Two candidates had previous commitments. And two just stayed home.

From what I know about the non-attendees, I think most of them simply lacked the courage to go into a place where they didn’t feel the deck would be stacked in their favor.

That act alone is enough in my mind to eliminate the non-attendees from consideration for seats on the Council. Controversy comes with the seat. People who would shy away from unpleasant situations probably don’t have the nerve to be on the Council. Council members don’t get to choose who they represent. It’s the other way around. Voters choose. You choose. Choose wisely.

Oh, and I can’t believe the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m up for re-election. The answer is no. Terms for Mayor and City Council are for four years. Because of the way elections are staggered, four seats are opening now – Mayor, and three Council Members. What that means is, this year is your best chance to make effective progress in how Jordan is run.

Whom Shall We Choose?
Again, I won’t tell you who to vote for. But I’m willing to tell you whom I support for Council. I think Mike Griffin and Nancy Murray are the two challengers most likely to make a difference on the Council. I’m on the fence about Dave Murray. He’s starting to campaign a little harder, as witnessed by his recent response the the JUG Candidate Questionnaire.

You figure out for yourself what you want – meaningful direction, or more same old same old. And remember this, you don’t have to vote for three Council candidates. You can vote for just one if you wish. Or two. If you only believe in one or two candidates, don’t vote for a third just to fill your ballot. That third spot represents a vote against the one or two you believe in. Of course, if you believe in three, vote for them.

The Quote:
“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”
        Eleanor Roosevelt


Mail Call

10/31/12Mail-Slot

Let’s start with an easy one.  Council Members received the following e-mail.  I forwarded it to the City Administrator, with an additional request that he send me the requested documents in advance of the next meeting so I can study them.

Subject: Fire Truck Purchase
Date: Friday, October 26, 2012 11:21 AM
From: (deleted by the editor)
To: ‘Thom Boncher’ <thom.boncher@gmail.com>, <bms218@aol.com>, <tivelishek@hotmail.com>, ‘Sally Schultz’ <csschultz84@comcast.net>, <jthill0000@aol.com>, <jthill@aol.com>, jrgoebel@gmail.com
Conversation: Fire Truck Purchase

Good Morning Councilmen:

Last night at the Commercial Club meeting I spoke to Councilman Goebel.

I asked him, was the new fire truck purchased on some State Contract?

He told me no,  there wasn’t any, but he thought there were requests for bid.

This Council passed a purchase of over $500,000 with less than five minutes of discussion. Why?

Please provide for public inspection from 6:00pm to 6:30pm the evening of the next council meeting the following documents:

  1. The actual official bid documents,
  2. The actual vendor bid responses.

Submitted by,
(deleted by the editor)
(deleted by the editor)

One Agenda Item and Related E-mails
From here on, it gets a little tougher.

On Monday, October 8th, I sent the City Administrator an agenda item for the City Council meeting to be held on the 15th.  The agenda item concerned getting information about legal expenses for the period 2002 to 2012, as requested by Councilor Thill.  I asked that additional information be provided about engineering expenses and salaries, so that we could see if legal expenses followed or varied from other expense trends.  Below is the string of e-mails exchanged between the City Administrator, the Finance Manager, and me.

The agenda item I submitted a week in advance of the meeting was never put on the agenda.  Now for the e-mails:

I sent
Subject: Agenda Item
Date: Sunday, October 7, 2012 11:31 PM
From: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
To: Edward Shukle eshukle@ci.jordan.mn.us
Conversation: Agenda Item

Hi Ed,

Attached is an agenda item for the October 15 Council meeting.

In conjunction with the agenda item, would you please provide a summary of the actual cost of engineering, legal, and salary expenses for the years 2002 to 2011, and projected 2012.

I’m looking for the final costs, not necessarily an itemized breakdown.

As always, thanks for your help.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Thom Boncher
City Council Member
Jordan, MN
E-mail: thom.boncher@gmail.com

The City Administrator replied:
Subject: Re: Agenda Item
Date: Monday, October 8, 2012 9:57 AM
From: Edward Shukle eshukle@ci.jordan.mn.us
To: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
Conversation: Agenda Item

Thom, I don’t understand what your objective is.  The information you are requesting involves research by staff that will cost time and effort to gather. Totals don’t describe the services or projects that the city has undertaken the past 10 years.  If the City Council wishes to have staff put this information together, then they need to direct this project to be done as a full Council.  We can put this item on the agenda for 10/15 (emphasis is mine – TB) but I’m not having any research done per your request until the Council directs me to do so.  Ed

Sent from my iPhone

I replied
Subject: Re: Agenda Item
Date: Monday, October 8, 2012 11:10 AM
From: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
To: Edward Shukle eshukle@ci.jordan.mn.us
Conversation: Agenda Item

As you wish.

Please have copies of the budgets for 2002 through 2010 available for me this afternoon.

TB

A little later, I sent
Subject: Re: Agenda Item
Date: Monday, October 8, 2012 11:19 AM
From: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
To: Edward Shukle eshukle@ci.jordan.mn.us
Conversation: Agenda Item

In my previous note, I should have asked for the annual reports for 2002 through 2011.  I will use the 2012 budget for the final year.

TB

The City Administrator replied
Subject: Re: Agenda Item
Date: Monday, October 8, 2012 11:29 AM
From: Edward Shukle eshukle@ci.jordan.mn.us
To: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
Conversation: Agenda Item

Do you mean annual audits or annual budget books?

Sent from my iPhone

At this point, the Finance Manager sent
Subject: Budget info
Date: Monday, October 8, 2012 11:35 AM
From: Thomas Nikunen TNikunen@ci.jordan.mn.us
To: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
Conversation: Budget info

Thom,

I received an email from Ed where you are requesting the budgets from 2002 thru 2010.  I don’t still have hard copies of the past budgets.  I have 2010 and 2009 but I recycle the older ones since I have it all on our server anyway.  So do you really want copies of the full budget books or just certain departments like legal or engineering?  Or I could burn all the excel files to a disk if you really want full copies of the budget book info.  Let me know.

Thanks,
Tom Nikunen
Finance Director
City of Jordan
210 East 1st Street
Jordan, MN  55352
ph(952)-492-2535, fax(952)-492-3861
http://www.jordan.govoffice.com/ <www.jordan.govoffice.com>

I replied
Subject: Re: Budget info
Date: Monday, October 8, 2012 11:43 AM
From: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
To: Tom Nikunen TNikunen@ci.jordan.mn.us
Conversation: Budget info

Tom, do you have hard copies of the audits?

The Finance Manager replied
Subject: Re: Budget info
Date: Monday, October 8, 2012 11:44 AM
From: Thomas Nikunen TNikunen@ci.jordan.mn.us
To: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
Conversation: Budget info

Yes I have those.

Sent from my iPad

The Finance Manager replied
Subject: Re: Budget info
Date: Monday, October 8, 2012 11:44 AM
From: Thomas Nikunen TNikunen@ci.jordan.mn.us
To: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
Conversation: Budget info

Yes I have those.

Sent from my iPad

The Finance Manager replied
Subject: Re: Budget info
Date: Monday, October 8, 2012 11:45 AM
From: Thomas Nikunen TNikunen@ci.jordan.mn.us
To: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
Conversation: Budget info

I will need to get them back though.

Sent from my iPad

I replied
Subject: Re: Budget info
Date: Monday, October 8, 2012 11:41 PM
From: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
To: Tom Nikunen TNikunen@ci.jordan.mn.us
Conversation: Budget info

Tom, I will be returning the annual reports tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon.  Not all the information I needed was available in the annual reports, so I’m going to ask for two more things.

First, can you give me the annual totals paid to Bolton & Menk from 2002 to 2012 ytd?

Second, can you put the Excel files of the budgets from 2002 to 2012 on a CD?  If the budgets are too big for a CD, I can bring in a thumb drive for them.

Thanks,
Thom

The Finance Manager replied
Subject: RE: Budget info
Date: Monday, October 8, 2012 11:53 AM
From: Thomas Nikunen TNikunen@ci.jordan.mn.us
To: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
Conversation: Budget info

Thom,

I already have them on the counter waiting for you.  Pick them up anytime.

Thanks,

Tom

The City Administrator sent
Subject: Re: Agenda Item
Date: Monday, October 8, 2012 12:11 PM
From: Edward Shukle eshukle@ci.jordan.mn.us
To: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
Conversation: Agenda Item

Thom, please see Tom Nikunen regarding these annual reports.  Ed

Sent from my iPhone

The Finance Manager sent
Subject: RE: Budget info
Date: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 4:39 PM
From: Thomas Nikunen TNikunen@ci.jordan.mn.us
To: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
Conversation: Budget info

Thom,

I got your numbers added up for engineering from 2002 to now.  This was really time consuming but I have all the costs together here.  We had a great amount of projects in some of these years. I have it added up per year below.

2012 – $142,067.50
2011 – $115,579.50
2010 – $163,716.51
2009 – $609,647.72
2008 – $928,812.83
2007 – $716,353.13
2006 – $541,134.87
2005 – $509,426.15
2004 – $1,071,627.81
2003 – $299,146.14
2002 – $183,950.55
Grand total is $5,281,462.71

So, a fairly straightforward request for information, originally mentioned by Councilor Thill during a Council meeting isn’t so simple after all.  I want people to see some of what goes on behind the scenes at City Hall.

But Wait!  There’s More!
Childish of me, I suppose, but after putting all the info into an Excel spreadsheet, making enough color copies for staff, Councilors and the audience, I thought I’d see what happened if I requested reimbursement for the bill from Office Max.  I’ll give you three guesses how that went.

I went to City Hall with my receipt, talked to the Administrative Assistant, and was told she would talk to the Finance Manager.

A little later, the City Administrator sent
Subject: Request for Reimbursement
Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 3:30 PM
From: Edward Shukle eshukle@ci.jordan.mn.us
To: thom.boncher@gmail.com
Conversation: Request for Reimbursement

Thom,

I am in receipt of your request to be reimbursed for office related expenses in conjunction with your preparation of a report provided to the city council and staff at the October 15, 2012 City Council meeting.

This was a report that no one requested from you.  You did this on your own without anyone directing you to do so.

Tom Nikunen provided you with a great deal of budget and audit information that took several hours to research and provide to you.  I see no reason that the city ought to reimburse you for these costs and therefore, I am not approving your request.  If you wish to make this request to the City Council, then make your request to them.

Ed

Edward J. Shukle, Jr.
City Administrator
City of Jordan
210 East First Street
Jordan, MN  55352
Office:  952-492-2535
Fax:  952-492-3861
E-mail:  eshukle@ci.jordan.mn.us <mailto:eshukle@ci.jordan.mn.us>

We’re talking about $10.47.  I knew darn well what would happen.

I replied
Subject: Re: Request for Reimbursement
Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 3:37 PM
From: Thom Boncher thom.boncher@gmail.com
To: Edward Shukle eshukle@ci.jordan.mn.us
Conversation: Request for Reimbursement

Thanks Ed.
TB

Now go look at www.thejordanfiles.com.  Listen to the clips from Council meetings.  Read the sidebar about the things that have happened because a majority of the Council, and staff allowed them to happen.  Then ask yourself, who is accepting responsibility for all those acts of idiocy?  It’s amazing how no one in City Hall is willing to say, the huge water billing errors happened on my watch, they’re my responsibility.  It’s amazing to hear a Councilor say, “I think we should just let staff do their job.”  It’s amazing to hear a Councilor say, “Can I make a motion that we follow our laws? ”  It’s amazing to hear a Councilor say, “I hope I didn’t vote for that. ”

You figure out for yourself what you want – responsible government, or more same old same old.  And remember this, you don’t have to vote for three Council candidates.  You can vote for just one if you wish.  Or two.  If you only believe in one or two candidates, don’t vote for a third just to fill your ballot.  That third spot represents a vote against the one or two you believe in.  Of course, if you believe in three, vote for them.

I got blistered when I inadvertently dropped this link last week.  I won’t make that mistake again.  This video gets more pertinent as time goes by – but that’s just my opinion.

A Reader Asks Knotty Questions.  I Await Responses From JUG Readers.
Good morning Mr. Boncher,

Was pleasantly surprised on discovering a post in the JI by Mr. Uffda this Sunday morning over coffee and dioxin tarts. It directs the reader to a video on You Tube by a Bernice McGinn, with slightly but seemingly accurate edited content. The material is from a council session dated on the video as April 19, 2010, whereas Mayor Pete Ewals provides an opinion for the dismissal (interpreted replacement) of city administrator Ed Shukle. It was titled “Ewals out of Control!” I then was lead by curiosity to a related article in the Star Tribune reporting on Mr. Shukle’s last place of employment, and issues resulting in his resignation, but those issues defended up to that point by an unbalanced division of their city council. Seems to me I remember this happening somewhere … not sure where … thinking … thinking … oh well.

My questions are these, and please forgive my ignorance in asking.

Was Mr. Uffda being satirical? Or, was he being serious? Was he supporting Shaw, Elke or Ewals? Is he representative of the political moxie found within the Shaw and Elke demographic? I can’t for the life of me figure it out, and feel a little muddled, so a little help please.

Option 1 – “Serious” : The Shaw/Elke/Schultz/Goebel/Velishek/Thill camps still haven’t read the investigative report in the Star Tribune, and love the possibility of history repeating itself, because they didn’t get it all the first time? Or if the report is viewed by them as flawed, why Mr. Shukle’s silence? Accounting numbers speak volumes, right? Are they viewed as flawed too?

Option 2 – Satire” : Mr. Uffda is really an Ewals supporter. What else could he be. Knowing the results of the investigation, and posting a video of the Mayor’s prolific suspicions five months prior to their revelations was a genius move, much akin to Ballard/Sunders fire Ewal’s advertising, in aiding people to watch, read and research the facts more so than evidently the council is capable of.

So, regarding Mr. Uffda … should I slug ‘em or hug ‘em? (Unless Mr. Uffda is Ms. Uffda.)

Thanks for the memories,
Rob Mishica

Kathy Lapic Responds to Mr. Ballard’s Comments
I am sure, Thom, that you do not want to have your Underground turn into another JI blog with people making unfounded statements about others, but I could not let Mr. Ballard’s innuendos go unanswered.

Mr. Ballard, When it comes to bad press for the City of Jordan, it does not matter if you are running for Mayor or if you are a janitor.  Remember the headlines in the 1980’s?  And as the ones you mentioned here in the Underground DO all involve you, I believe you to be biased on this issue and to be the cause of them.

At the time that you began your crematory, the City Code did not even allow a funeral home as a permitted use in your zone.  It required a conditional use for a funeral home which means you have to apply for a conditional use permit.  That was never done for the funeral home. You could argue that even the funeral home is illegal in that zone.  If you contend that you were grandfathered in, you would not be able to expand your business.  So when you wanted to put in an incinerator, the City required that you get a CUP.

Changing the description of funeral home in the City Code was one of several options that Judge Hansen suggested, not recommended.  The majority of the Council chose to change their own law to accommodate your business.  And that brings the term “spot zoning” up in my mind.
By the time the Appellate Court reached their decision, the City Ordinance had been changed so it was a moot point.

In regards to my statements relating to the incident that night, you have entirely misconstrued what they meant.  I can say here what I thought happened, which I could not in my statement because it was supposition on my part.  It looked to me as though you were attempting to sideswipe the Mayor as he tried to ask you a question.  And that he was pushing himself off from your vehicle to prevent that from happening.  In my opinion, he should have sued you for intent to harm him.  

Most people don’t know where their loved ones are being cremated.  Those funeral homes that do not have crematories now all seem to say “cremation services provided”.  With signs like that, people assume they are being cremated onsite and don’t know the bodies are being sent elsewhere even to an industrial zone.

Did you read, Mr. Ballard, what you wrote for the description of your zone?  “Neighborhood Business” means a business that serves the neighborhood.  Such as a barber shop, corner grocery store, etc.  It does not mean a business that “serves all of Scott County”!  And you are not just adjacent to a residential area.  You neglect to mention that you have an apartment in your building that has a door and window that appear to be within feet of the top of the stack for your incinerator.

And since when does the fact that “everyone else does it” make it right?  Everyone thought lead paint and asbestos were great.  There was a time (and even now) that people saw nothing wrong with smoking.  I believe that soon your industry, Mr. Ballard, will be required to be tested (which it is not now) and safeguards put in to insure the health and safety of citizens everywhere.  It is already being done in Europe.  Mercury has been known to be a hazard for a century and it was known for decades that the coal industry was emitting mercury. And yet it is only now that they are really going after them.  Your turn will come.  A letter from the Environmental Protection Agency states that “The technology to remove Mercury from the air has not yet been invented

And back to the “bad press” . . . think of the bad press that the founders of our Country received when they had the audacity to speak against the suppression from England or that Martin Luther King received when he dared say that African American people should be treated equally.

And you keep saying that “you care”, but you don’t say what you care about.  Now be honest.

Kathy Lapic

Mark Ballard Responds to Kathy Lapic’s Comment
Thom,  I am responding to some mis-information that was on the Jordan underground.
Please include on your site.
Thanks
Mark R. Ballard
because I care

Yes many of the headlines involve me and many more don’t involve me.  But I am not running for Mayor.

A conditional use permit is not needed to operate a crematory.  The judge did not order us to quit operating.  She recommended that the city re word the code (which the city did). The city also appealed the case and  the judges decision was reversed. Incidentally the appellate court also said we didn’t need a conditional use permit, that is what we said from the start.

I was kind enough to drop the restraining order charges after the Mayor assured me it wouldn’t happen again and that he would stop the harassment.  Yes, Kathy Lapic was a witness and she apparently has forgot what she told the police investigators.  The following are statements from the police report. “Lapic stated that she heard Mayor Ewals with a raised voice saying something towards Ballard as he approached Ballard’s vehicle in the parking lot.”  “Lapic stated that as the vehicle was backing out and then driving forward out of the parking lot she observed Mayor Ewals touch or push off the vehicle.” “Lapic did indicate she witnessed Ewals in contact with Ballard’s vehicle as the vehicle was moving.” “Lapic indicated that she could not hear what Ewals was saying but describes Ewals having a raised voice while he was on the driver’s side of Ballard’s vehicle.”  From what I read in Lapics interview I think I was justified in getting a restraining order and I also think the County Attorney was justified in charging Mayor Ewals with disorderly conduct.  Also, I think the plea bargain agreement that Mayor Ewals made with the County Attorney was reasonable.

We are part of the commercial zone C1 (Neighborhood Business). Across the street from us is a residential district, a business could not locate there. There also are residential districts bordering the industrial area other commercial areas.  Most crematories in our state are located in funeral homes and most funeral homes are located in areas just like ours—on the edge of the downtown areas.  There are only two crematories in our state that I am aware of in industrial areas, I would not want my loved one taken to an industrial area for cremation. I would be comforted knowing they were at the funeral home

The council vote of no confidence I believe was triggered by the mayor’s involvement with the vigilante group and his action of attacking me at 1:00 in the morning in my parking lot.  But there were other issues that led to the vote like: trying to fire the city administrator in the middle of a meeting, and not listening to the city’s legal council, not making appointments to commissions, and  representing HIS agenda as the city’s

Mayor Ewals and the Jordan Community Action Group gives us bad press… not me.

I have included on my website FirePeteEwals.com the list including dates of all the headlines. I hope people will take a look at the stories behind the bad press. In one article there is even a link to the Jordan Underground.

Mark Ballard, because I care

My Reply
Mr. Ballard’s response, posted above, is edited to remove repetitious references to Ms. Lapic’s original post.

I would point out that at the time of the incident in Mr. Ballard’s business parking lot, he was operating in violation of the zoning code then in place for his property.  It was the City of Jordan who told him that a simple building permit was insufficient, and that he would need a Conditional Use Permit.  District Judge Hanson ruled the Conditional Use Permit illegal.  The City later changed its’ zoning code, but at the time of the parking lot incident the Conditional Use Permit was illegal, and in my opinion, any operation under it was illegal.

Mr. Ballard says he “was kind enough to drop” the temporary restraining order against Mr. Ewals.  It’s just speculation on my part, but I wonder if there would have been sufficient, compelling testimony to sustain a permanent restraining order.   Please keep in mind that anyone can place a temporary restraining order on anyone by merely paying a fee, and filing a form.  A temporary restraining order lapses if the person filing it can’t or won’t provide compelling evidence (such as eyewitness testimony) to support the accusations.

Mr. Ballard denies any part in the bad press surrounding these matters.  In other words, he says he’s not responsible for any of what happened.  Mr. Ballard says he is not running for Mayor.  Apparently the rumors about his write-in candidacy are untrue.  Yet from everything he has said here and elsewhere, he is not endorsing any other candidate.  One can only conclude that he considers the other two candidates interchangeable.

I suspect we have not read the last of this business yet.

A Reader Responds To Mark Ballard’s Comment
How ironic that Mr. Ballard cannot see that all the headlines he refers to involve him.

Mr. Ballard filed charges against the Mayor the day after Mr. Ballard operated his crematory in violation of a District Judge’s order determining that the City’s conditional use permit allowing the crematory to operate was not legal. Mr. Ballard dropped that charge, after successfully getting the Mayor’s name in the paper.

I was a witness that night and the charges were unfounded, as confirmed when the Court dismissed the other charge.   But Mr. Ballard neglects to mention these facts.

The ordinance signature issue also was a result of Mr. Ballard’s decision to place his crematory in a residential area rather than an industrial area where it belongs.

The vote of no confidence was instigated by certain members of the Council who were determined to allow Ballard to have his crematory regardless of the hazards to the citizens of Jordan.  I have an email from a Council member indicating the Council will do whatever is necessary to keep the crematory operating.

Mr. Ballard, YOUR actions are giving Jordan a bad reputation and causing the bad press.

And for those of you who believed the headlines without hearing the other side by talking to the Mayor  . . .

SHAME ON YOU!

Kathy Lapic

A Reader Responds
Thank you Mayor Pete Ewals.
Thank you Councilman Thom Boncher

When most of us faded back and watched from afar, you came forward. When some of us mindlessly checked a box for a voter sticker, you attempted to educate us on how impactful that one simple motion is. In assuming the Office of the Mayor and Councilman, you stand strong against special interests, strong against those who would spread the contamination of our broken government and profit driven industries into our and our children’s minds, hearts and lungs, fully prepared to take a bullet for us, and you have. Strong against a coven of five Council members, bent on presenting you as fools as opposed to representing those that put them there, costing citizens dearly during times of economic strife. Remained firm against the blinded opposition of hypnotized critics whose illogical fear of change, and the debate for it, has limited their responses to hand gestures. You fight hard for a more translucent government in an effort to stem the flow of good money after bad. As moral and ethical men, you recognize, admit, and take a path to correct your mis-steps when other’s egos of perfection block their way. When challenged with disrespect, you take the high road as opposed to lowering yourselves. When faced with legally and fiscally questionable or ambiguous resolutions and motions, you attempt to expose them, no matter the risk to yourselves, endeavoring in your commitment to honest methods of city management. You stood and volunteered to represent the common man, with full knowledge of the trials ahead, in an effort to make things better for the whole, and not the part. We are older than you, and considered wiser by this calendar, but now find ourselves standing in the shadow of your convictions, a lesson for those who thought themselves better, and for this are eternally grateful.

To the wives of you both, we also recognize, for the hopes you have, the tears we know you shed, the support you provide in the face of the unjust, and your enduring of the unfair.

To the Mayor’s daughter. When we are long of tooth with no bite left, you can be assured of the pride you will have in speaking of your father, one who stood tall when others chose to stoop.

Win or lose Mr. Mayor, you have brought a sleeping hamlet to its feet, and apathy to its knees. In the past we molded the council of seven, now reduced to the council of five, their inadvertent genesis of the group of ten, that will avalanche into a movement of thousands, restoring Jordan’s long absent reputation and the true meaning of our constitution, that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Thank you Mayor Pete Ewals,
Thank you Councilman Thom Boncher.

My Response
The above note is from Rob and Mara Mishica.  I appreciate it deeply.

A Reader Responds
Your website states that you welcome public comment. I have something to say and I have put my name on it. Please include the following on the JordanUnderGround.

I’m sick of seeing headlines like these:  Jordan Mayor Charged with Misdemeanor, Jordan Mayor Charged with Disorderly Conduct, Judge Orders Mayor to Sign Ordinance, Council Takes Vote of No Confidence in Mayor, Jordan A pretty town with ugly spats. Cast your vote and put an end to the bad press. Restore Jordan’s reputation.

Mark R. Ballard
…because I care.

My Reply
Mr. Ballard’s response, posted above, is unedited.  I keep my word.

Mr. Ballard has also asked me to publish a link to a web site he sponsors.  Mr. Ballard is unable or unwilling to publish links on his site.  Until that changes, I will not post his link here.

The Quote (finally):
“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.”
          Henry Wadsworth Longfellow