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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tacky Mayor Puts Out Unwelcome Mat

New Brighton Mayor Steve Larson has done it again. The Republican candidate for U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 4th District, Ed Matthews, came to meet people at the April 26th Town Hall meeting. He had already met dozens of people including the City Manager with no problem. But just before the program began, Mayor Larson shows up and stops Ed Mathews. He told Matthews, “… this is tacky, you shouldn’t be doing this!”

Matthews is a perfect gentleman, a clean-cut guy, a lawyer and CPA. I won’t say Larson’s occupation but he’s telling Matthews to get lost.

Funny though. Kate Knuth was there in campaign mode. So was Ramsey County Commissioner Jan Parker. State Senator Satveer Chaudhary addressed the crowd by city invitation. These are the people responsible for raising our taxes and increasing our misery index. But Ed Matthews with his tax reduction message is not allowed. Like I said. Funny.

The purpose of the program was for Dean Lotter, the City Manager, to explain the status of the troubled Northwest Quadrant. This time the whole tone was different, serious, almost apologetic. Whereas before at similar events, the Northwest Quadrant vision was sold as a sure thing, this time the possibility of failure and risk was admitted for the first time to the public.

Lotter showed a chart estimating the additional property tax to be assessed against households starting in 2011. This is assuming the project remains a failure. I didn’t get all of the figures, but I did notice that the additional tax for a $300,000 house would be nearly $1,000 in 2011, rising to more than $1,300 in 2015. That is additional tax to innocent taxpayers due to city bungling.

I hope people remember that this was a city plan that went bad, that many citizens warned against doing this in the first place, that eminent domain or the threat of it was unethical for this purpose (forcing a property owner to sell just to offer it to another entity). I hope people remember how the city put hardworking taxpayers at risk for basically no good reason except to boost the high-flying egos of a handful of city insiders.

Of course a lot of this will be solved if the city is able build and sell something or other buyers develop the property. But the clock is running and the bonds will soon come due.



Blogger Daria said...

Yep, Mayor Larson was his usual class act. So much for the Mayor's role as Good Will Ambassador for the city.

Larson was probably a little put off that Ed looked like the subject of a GQ cover shoot while his ill fitting sport coat would not stand out from the rest of the apparel at Savers. It may be a bit awkward if Mr. Matthews gets elected and Mayor Larson embarks on one of his trademark missions with extended hand to shill for a handout for the city.

After the presentation was over a very nice "free" lunch was served courtesy of the New Brighton taxpayers. Maybe at next year's meeting we will find out just how much this cost and where the large quantity of excess food ended up.

- D

4/26/2008 11:53 PM  
Blogger Mark Heuring said...

What an embarrassment. Larson ought to be ashamed of himself. But he's pretty clearly beyond shame.

4/27/2008 8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at that meeting and it seemed appropriate that our Representatives be invited to answer any questions about Legislative actions that would have an impact on New Brighton. It was certainly NOT a place to campaign. Senator Satveer Chaudhary and Kate Knuth made no effort to campaign for reelection. I would have been very offended if campaigning was allowed at the meeting and would have stood up and said so.
Wayne Sether
I am certainly not a “city insider” and do not have a high-flying ego. I thought the project made sense and could only improve the tacky, run down area. There seems to be a small vocal group (some of which may not be from New Brighton) that constantly criticize the actions of the City.
The City Manager did outstanding job of explaining why the project was started to improve the tax base. It made perfect sense to attempt to find new tax revenue for a city like New Brighton where we have no room for expansion. Those people who are now saying “I told you so” must have had a very accurate crystal ball to know that we would now be in the beginning of a recession.
It must be nice to have had inside information about the down turn of the housing market when the project was started.
I assume that this will not be posted because it must be approved. It makes me feel better to have responded to the one sided blog

4/29/2008 1:50 PM  
Blogger Force50 said...

I am responding to anonymous but I am not sure if anonymous is more than one person. So I will simply refer to "you."

First I need to say that you demonstrate exactly the kind of mentality we've been fighting all these years. No respect for anything but your own vision of what should be done, and then pursuing it at any cost to the taxpayer.

Dean Lotter did a good job, I did not say that he didn't. I'm glad the tone was different this time. He might have said, though, that we're about to pick your pockets big time to cover up my predecessors mistakes.

As far as campaigning goes, the insiders must have a selective memory. Similar events have had "meet the candidate" incorporated into them with the current Mayor fully participating.
Last fall, the Mayor made a Machiavellian move to drop the usual town hall meeting because he knew he'd face some flak about the NW Quadrant. Can't have that before the election, can we.

No one needed a crystal ball to see the risks involved in the NW Quadrant. No one with a straight face can blame a downturn. For the last five years any questioning was shouted down. Citizens and councilmembers alike were shunned. The city insiders practically laughed when businesses were shut down and dozens lost their jobs. You're telling me there were no high-flying egos? Maybe super arrogance is a better term.

By "city insider" I mean those long-time pushers of eminent domain inside city hall and those that believe any project is better than no project, and those that believe any cost overrun can be solved by Tax Increment Financing and who cares anyway because it is not your money but the poor chump taxpayers who must foot the bill. "City Insider" also goes for any Svengali character working behind the scenes to push all of the above. Can anyone think of any ... hmmm?

4/29/2008 5:22 PM  
Blogger Right Hook said...

Mr. Sether -

Your assumption that your comment would not be posted was incorrect. We heartily encourage dissent (or agreement, for that matter) as part of healthy debate and discussion of an issue.

The "must be approved" policy was reluctantly instituted when some people (you know who you are) abused the privilege and posted replies that infringed on the privileges of others or contained material not suitable for our family-friendly policy.

I have no problem that Chaudhary (who was, incidentally, handing out self-promting literature) and Knuth were present. They were circulating in politician "meet and greet" mode as was Ed Matthews. Ed had literature, but was not aggressively pushing it and only handed it out to people who were interested in it after talking to him. Mr. Lotter had no problem with it and was perfectly cordial to Matthews and reflected the hospitality of the city. Mayor Larson was out of line and one of us called him on it.

This blog is generally "one sided" with a unapologetic Conservative slant. It is not intended to be an unbiased reporting of news, but more of a collection of opinion pieces. There are plenty of liberal blogs (and one can easily start their own blog for free if they are so inclined), so if you do not like what you read here there are plenty of other sites you can visit.

We are confident that the Conservative perspective is generally better at shaping a society closer to the ideals this country was founded on than the liberal-to-socialist views that many in political power hold. We often criticize the city because city government has been controlled by central-command-and-control liberals who more often than not make decisions those of us in the Conservative camp feel are not in the best interests of the citizens. We also praise members of the city when they pursue what we feel are the correct policies.

Those of us who have opposed the NWQ boondoggle from the start did not have a crystal ball; rather we apparently did our homework better than some who run the city. I agree with you that Mr. Lotter did do a pretty good job of explaining why the project was started without too much exculpatory spin, but he could not, and did not attempt to, justify the assumptions that were made. I have some issue with the validity of some of the figures he presented, but overall I thought it was a pretty good presentation.

As far as the project making sense, that is the key issue. I, and others on this blog, maintain that it did not taking the economics, property rights issues, known environmental problems, and the reluctance of the private sector to get involved into account. In our view this project was doomed from the start because it violated some fundamental tenants of basic market-driven economics. It also violated some of the fundamental Conservative principles of property rights in the shameful way the concept of eminent domain was abused in acquiring the property (which also ultimately contributed to the negative outcome).

The onset of a recession complicates things, but is not the reason the project has been such a dismal failure - it was doomed to failure from the beginning and the current state of the economy will impact the time-frame of the collapse but not the ultimate result. Eventually the situation will be resolved, but the cost will almost certainly far exceed the benefits the promoters of the project intended.

Thanks for checking out our blog. We encourage your comments, agree or disagree, and will promptly let them through if they are not obscene, abusive, or infringe on the privileges of others. Comments will never be blocked because of a position the author has taken as long as it is expressed in a civil manner.

4/29/2008 6:08 PM  
Blogger G-Man said...

Mr. Sether,

I, too, appreciate your visit to our blog.

Your implication that it made perfect sense to find new tax revenue by taking private land through eminent domain is exactly the mindset that frightens me.

I assume that you understand that the Northwest Quadrant land was purchased under the threat of eminent domain. Our criticism of the city's actions was based squarely on the misuse and abuse of this law. And, as Right Hook points out, the price we face for this abuse has NOTHING to do with the economic downturn.

First, we oppose the very concept of using eminent domain to "better the tax base" of the city because it grossly violates the right to own property. I, for one, want our city council to respect and protect the rights of existing property owners. I do NOT think it wise to grant the council the right to decide who can own land in the city and who cannot. Remember, if you happen to live in a single dwelling home, the city can easily come after your land "to improve the tax base" by selling it a multi-dwelling builder.

Second, it didn't take a crystal ball to predict the economic disaster that we faced by the city's eagerness to take this land. All over the country, similar efforts have failed. The reason is very simple. When city officials gamble with other people's money and other people's land, they most often lose. Correction, taxpayers and land owners most often lose.

The city circumvented the free market process by not allowing the land owner to freely negotiate a fair price (assuming a desire to sell) with the developer. Further, by using our future tax dollars as collateral, the city council eliminated the developer's element of risk in this venture. If the developer had to risk its own money on this project, taxpayers would not be faced with picking up the tab.

Finally, the practice of dealing with the city to procure private land invites corruption. Let me be clear. I make NO claim nor know of any evidence suggesting that current or past city council members personally benefited by offering private property to a third party developer. But, this practice certainly encourages land owners and potential developers to cozy up to future city council members who might be enticed by such risky schemes.

Call it "I told you so" if you wish. I call it an effort ward against future mismanagement of New Brighton.

4/29/2008 10:16 PM  

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