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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

New Brighton Needs Doffing and Bauman at City Hall

[THIS JUST IN: Be sure to see Right Hook’s new post “Do We Really Need Moore Government?” below.]

Next Tuesday, New Brighton votes to elect two city council members. If Eminent Domain concerns you, this election is critical.

If you live in New Brighton, Minnesota, I strongly recommend that you check out the tape of the December 14, 2004 New Brighton City Council meeting from the Arden Hills library. Watch your City Council in action. (If you have the bandwidth, you can watch it here.) This meeting will give you an enlightening view of your council in action and is bound to affect your vote.

The December 14 meeting shined the light of truth on various council members’ willingness to wield the strong arm of government upon its constituents via Eminent Domain. To recap, New Brighton has been redeveloping the Northwest Quadrant on the backs of private property owners such as the following:

  • An elderly couple was forced to sell their home of over 60 years.
  • Signation was forced to sell its land and move. With 125 employees, Signation was a growing New Brighton company. Still, some on the City Council exhibited little concern for the welfare of Signation’s employees. Regarding the potential loss of jobs, in the December 14 meeting, council member Kim Moore-Sykes said “…we all know that jobs come and go…these people may lose jobs for other reasons besides having the company needing to relocate to another facility or another site.” Further, while the city assessed the property at $4.6 million for the collection of property taxes, they only offered $4 million when they were forcing Signation to deal.
  • Midwest Asphalt, with its 30 employees was forced to sell under the threat of Eminent Domain. Midwest Asphalt was in an excellent location for the nature of their business. They provide materials for road construction. Located near the corner of 35W and 694, Midwest Asphalt was ideally positioned for metro-projects. But now, they have no where else to move and will likely close altogether. Road construction just got more expensive – remember this when there are talks of state-wide tax hikes.
  • Keys Restaurant and New Brighton Bowl both chose to sell rather than face the legal challenges and the expense of eminent domain.

Mayor Steve Larson and council member Kim Moore-Sykes have leaned on the Supreme Court’s recent “Kelo” ruling to excuse their use of Eminent Domain. “The Supreme Court said we can” is their mantra. However, Larson and Moore-Sykes voted to use Eminent Domain long BEFORE the Supreme Court heard the Kelo case.


Both have also argued that Eminent Domain is simply a “tool to bring the parties together and make a deal”. Think about this. The city wants your land. You don’t want to sell. To bring you to the table, the city files for eminent domain. While Larson and Moore-Sykes euphemistically call this a “tool to deal”, most would call it extortion.

But, why is Eminent Domain so critical to this year’s election?

  1. History can often foretell the future. Some candidates have a history of using government force to fulfill their vision of what should be. When push came to shove, Larson (who is unopposed in his bid for re-election as mayor) and Moore-Sykes were more than willing to force property owners into selling land that they wanted to keep. Having done it before and done so frequently, odds are high that they will do it again.
  2. Such abuse of Eminent Domain is ripe for corruption. Some time ago, Rottlund homes made a deal with New Brighton to develop the property north of 694 and west of Old Highway 8. For its part in the deal, New Brighton agreed to “acquire” the land -- land that it did not own. I want to be clear here: There are NO allegations of corruption involving Mayor Steve Larson and council member Kim Moore-Sykes. However, they have helped set the stage for future developers to “lobby” the city council to acquire land that it wants. It is a lot cheaper and easier for developers to deal with the city council than with the land owner. If the savings is high enough, so will be the temptation to “reward” influential city council members.
  3. One’s view of Eminent Domain is a clue of one’s view about the role of government. Arguably, certain members of the New Brighton’s city council have been adamant that using Eminent Domain to transfer land from one private owner to another is “just doing business.” It is just a “tool” that the Supreme Court recently blessed (after New Brighton exercised it). Anyone willing to wield the strong arm of government with such ease and frequency can be expected to do so in other matters as well.
Attention New Brighton, MN Voters: If you want YOUR INTERESTS to be represented on the city council, vote for Sharon Doffing and Gina Bauman. Both are willing to put your interests before that of outside special interest groups. Both believe that the quality of life of the governed out weigh that of the bureaucracy. And both understand that it is you, the New Brighton resident, to whom they will be accountable for their actions on the city council – not an outside private land developer, not future potential residents – but you, the current New Brighton resident.

Again, don’t take my word for it, watch the December 14, 2004 City Council meeting and decide for yourself.


For more details check out the following posts:
New Brighton's Eminent Domain Habit

New Brighton Eminent Domain Juggernaut Rolls On

Mayoral Misinformation

New Brighton Redevelopment - A Dismal Record

Welcome to New Blighton

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