John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Friday, August 28, 2009

SPACC Mayoral Forum

The St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting a forum for mayoral candidates on September 11th at Saint John's Hospital. Here are the details:

Make plans to join us for a Maplewood Mayoral Candidate Forum on Friday, Sept 11 at 7:30 am. Co-sponsored by St. John's Hospital, this event will provide a chance to get to know the candidates and their views on the issues before the September 15 primary election. Location: Cafeteria, St. John's Hospital, 1575 Beam Ave, Maplewood. Cost: Free, but please register here.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Mirror, Darkly

"What intensified the issue was that some in Maplewood City Hall, like those named in the suit, think they know better as to what is good for Maplewood citizens and press ahead doggedly, with their own personal or political agendas, creating a wake of destructions and hard feelings," Binko wrote.

She ended the e-mail with, "The divisiveness, I see in city hall, has motivated me to run for city council and change the way business is done."
— "Court rules against Binko," Maplewood Review, 8/26/09

Sometimes what people think they see in city hall, is their own reflection in the window glass.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wykoff Questions Cable Access Program Bias

At this past Monday's city council meeting, mayoral candidate John Wykoff questioned the impartiality of "The Citizens Reporter," a cable access TV program that hosted a mayoral candidate forum but apparently has not been willing to give it airtime or provide a copy to Mr. Wykoff.

Mr. Wykoff is right to question this cable access program's bias. Besides the links to the incumbent mayor that Mr. Wykoff describes in this visitor presentation, there's also the fact that Ms. Musgrave, the program's producer, shares a home with city council candidate Julie Binko.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dave Hafner Writes Letters

Over a two year period from mid-2006 to mid-2008, city council candidate Dave Hafner was a somewhat prolific writer of letters to the editor concerning Maplewood politics. A look at these letters may give us an unfiltered impression of his personality and political leanings.

For example, in a Pioneer Press letter published July 28, 2006, Hafner blamed "endless gridlock in Maplewood" government on councilmembers Juenemann and Rossbach. A couple months later, the September 27, 2006 Maplewood Review included Hafner's complaint that "the Lillie News has published 0 articles supporting the new Council members" (Cave, Hjelle, Longrie), thus doing a disservice to the "good, decent, honest citizens of Maplewood."

In another Pioneer Press letter to the editor, published January 1, 2007, Hafner attacked previous letter writers (including yours truly) who had criticized the 2 AM hiring of Greg Copeland. Hafner said that if Will Rossbach had wanted to be present for that vote, he could have had the agenda item held for a later meeting. Of course, that would have required Rossbach to know in advance that Erik Hjelle planned, under the agenda item "Selection of Firm to Coordinate the City Manager Hiring Process," to throw that process away and simply hire Copeland permanently.

In the February 4, 2007, Pioneer Press, Hafner accused the newspaper of publishing "slanted, unfounded propaganda," and complained of the paper's treatment of Mayor Longrie: "After giving our mayor the only truthful interview she's had in 14 months and giving us hope, you ripped her apart the very next day."

An April 4, 2007 letter from Hafner in the Maplewood Review defended Erik Hjelle from the "angry, hostile" letters of Christine M. Stone (a Maplewood senior citizen who Mr. Hafner has often singled out).

Hafner's efforts to support Mayor Longrie's coalition came to naught in the 2007 election results. After I joined the city council I can only think of one Hafner letter I've seen: In the April 8, 2008 Maplewood Review, Hafner suggested that the newspaper could increase its circulation by stopping its reporting on Maplewood politics, which he characterized as "inaccurate + irresponsible."

Besides his printed letters, you can also find Hafner's comments on various media stories around the internet. On one Maplewood Review story online in February 2008, for example, he defended former city manager Greg Copeland, and claimed that “Slick Willie” (as he called Councilmember Rossbach) "instigated" previous media coverage of the city and “incessantly contrived 'huge issues' over the last two years.”

Hafner's letters display some recurrent themes (already familiar from his appearances before the city council and at the mayor's forum):
  • Attacks on Will Rossbach and Kathy Juenemann
  • Lavish praise for Diana Longrie, Erik Hjelle, Rebecca Cave, and Greg Copeland
  • Attacks on critics of the Copeland-Longrie regime, singling out individual residents by name
  • Complaints about what he sees as media bias
Given Hafner's record as an outspoken supporter of Mayor Longrie and former Councilmember Cave, it is striking that this year he is running as a slate with two different candidates, DelRay Rokke and Ken Smart. I have the impression he still seethes with hatred for Rossbach, Juenemann, and me, but I'm not really sure how his thinking evolved to apparently place Longrie and perhaps Cave on his enemies list as well.

In his candidate profile submitted to the Maplewood Review, Hafner states that "We have not been proud of our government for the last eighteen years," now suggesting his resentments go much further back in time. I leave it to the reader to decide if his profile reflects disingenuousness in his previous letters and public statements (if he was never really "proud" of Longrie and her regime, while he was vocally defending them), or simply an effort to rewrite history and hope voters don't associate him with the disastrous period of city governance that he so publicly supported.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

More Candidate Profiles

This past Wednesday's Maplewood Review contains more candidate profiles for the city council and mayor's races: Julie Binko, Mark Bradley, Rebecca Cave, Dave Hafner, Kathy Juenemann, Marv Koppen, James Llanas, Diana Longrie, Mary Mackey, Delray Rokke, Will Rossbach, Dick Seppala, Elizabeth Sletten, Ken Smart, and John Wykoff.

Remember that these profiles are provided by the candidates themselves, so their claims sometimes need to be taken with a grain of salt.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Julie Binko Supports "Restrictive Ordinances" to Limit Private Property Rights

The discussion of conservation in Fish Creek goes back a long time. In the more recent past, in early 2008, I suggested the "public ownership option" -- that one way out of the CoPar situation would be for the city to acquire their land for conservation, possibly through a bonding referendum or other means (such as the bills later introduced by our area legislators).

My discussion of public ownership garnered immediate opposition from Dr. Julie Binko, who was then a parks commissioner and is now a city council candidate. In an e-mail sent far and wide in March 2008*, she wrote,
... I was not aware the City of Maplewood was a real estate owner or developer. It is the city's responsibility to protect the municipality from developers. Creating restrictive ordinances addressing endangered watersheds should be adequate. Place set backs or buffers to these lands and developers will not be able to go there. There is no need to cause the citizens of Maplewood to spend money and raise taxes.
In other words, rather than support a plan whereby the city could choose to purchase land for conservation and fairly compensate the land's owners, Binko advocates the creation of "restrictive ordinances" that would simply prevent private landowners from using their own land as they see fit. Then the public could get the conservation benefits for free, she argues.

I can better understand why some people have anxieties about things like the wetland ordinance, if they worry that someone with Binko's perspective might get elected to city council.

(*Binko's e-mail quoted above was CC'd to city staff, including acting city manager Chuck Ahl, and so should be available to the public via data practices request. It was sent on Sunday, March 02, 2008 at 10:03 AM.)

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Marv Koppen and the East Wind

Mayoral candidate Marv Koppen has a long history of involvement in the community. Besides serving twelve years on the city council, he's well known as a business owner (Party Time Liquors) and member of the White Bear Avenue Business Association, an active participant in DFL politics, and much more.

Last year, Koppen was Prince of the East Wind, member of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival Royal Family. In that role, he and other doughty ambassadors from the Court of King Boreas paid a goodwill visit to the City Council on July 14, 2008. Here's video of the event:

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Commission Handbook

Another article in last week's Maplewood Review deserves notice, particularly as it appeared on one of the inside pages of the print edition and I don't think I ever even saw it listed on the front page of their website: "Council approves handbook for city commissions." As the article notes, we voted 4-1 (Hjelle dissenting) to approve the handbook and revised policies for city boards and commissions.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fran Grant: Invisible Candidate?

As regular readers have noticed, I've been doing a series of entries featuring each of the candidates in this year's municipal primary. In most cases, I had some knowledge of each candidate before they filed for office -- whether as characters in the city council public comment theater (such as Mark Bradley, Dave Hafner, Ken Smart, John Wykoff), current or former elected officials (Bob Cardinal, Rebecca Cave, Kathy Juenemann, Marv Koppen, Diana Longrie, Will Rossbach), previous candidates for the same office (Jim Lllanas, DelRay Rokke, Dick Seppala), current city commission volunteers (Robert Martin, Mary Mackey), or even as plaintiffs in lawsuits against the city (Julie Binko, Elizabeth Sletten).

On one candidate, however, I'm drawing a blank. I know practically nothing about Fran Grant, who is running for mayor. I know she ran for city council in the 2003 primary, and received 74 votes. I have not seen any literature from her campaign. On her Election Candidate Information Form, she indicates "none" for e-mail and website, and her personal statement reads: "For Change."

If you come across any information about this candidate and her campaign, feel free to send me an e-mail.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Panhandling and Free Speech

A couple of months ago, a resident wrote to ask me about the problem of panhandling in Maplewood. It's something I often see en route to city hall, at the intersection of White Bear and Highway 36, and I agree that it's a nuisance.

I shared the resident's concerns with our police chief. However, the First Amendment protects the right of people to stand at a corner with a sign, whether it contains a political slogan or declares "Family in Crisis" or "Will Work for Food." As Chief Thomalla explained by e-mail:
I wish there was more we could do about these folks. We have spoken with the City Attorney on several occasions and have been told there is a court case out of Mpls. where it was determined these folks can stand on the corner with their signs and if we attempt to stop this, we are violating their first amendment rights. Of course that doesn’t mean they can violate state traffic laws and when they step off the curb, they can be cited for obstructing traffic. As with many things, it is difficult to catch them doing this as they don’t do it when there is a squad car around. From time to time, we have issued citations for this.

We are aware they have “shifts” because we have been called in the past when they get into a dispute as to whose turn it is to work the corner. We will continue to do what we can. Please encourage those you know not to “feed” their habit. If the money were to dry up, they would move on. Unfortunately in this case, the people in Maplewood are too generous.
There may be a couple lessons in here, not only about the First Amendment protecting speech that may annoy or offend us. The other lesson would be about whether we want to "feed the habit" -- providing the feedback that actively rewards, enables and encourages nuisance behavior, whether that behavior is panhandling at street corners, distributing anonymous and misleading flyers, or using public comment in city meetings as a way to promote their cable access TV shows and websites. I think our current mayor has indeed been too "generous" in this last regard, especially.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Conciliation Court Judgment

One of the articles in last week's Maplewood Review, "City Council candidate suing Maplewood," described the frivolous small claims action brought against the City of Maplewood and the Friends of Maplewood Nature by current city council candidate Julie Binko.

According to the article, when asked for comment, Dr. Binko told the reporter by e-mail, "You sat in the courtroom -- you tell me what the case was about." I found this response comforting, since I think everyone present at the hearing was wondering what the case was about, as the referee struggled to nail down just what exactly Binko meant by her vague allegations.

In any case, the conciliation court ruling has been issued, entering judgment in favor of the City and Friends of Maplewood Nature.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Old and New at Johnny Appleseed

Yesterday was Johnny Appleseed Day, an annual event hosted by the Maplewood Area Historical Society at the Bruentrup Farm. MAHS events often bring some of the oldest and youngest residents of Maplewood together for fun in celebrating the community's heritage.

One tradition at Johnny Appleseed is the hayride across the Prairie Farm Preserve.

Hayride at 2009 Johnny Appleseed, Prairie Farm Preserve
Speaking of youngest and oldest, at one point the city's brand new electric GEM car was parked next to a collector's Model T Ford from nearly a century ago.

New GEM Car and Old Model T Ford

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dick Seppala Runs Again

City council candidate Dick Seppala has done this before -- besides serving on the school board, he was a candidate in the 2003 city council primary race. In a field of seven candidates, Seppala tied for fourth and then, as I understand it, lost a coin toss to determine who would appear on the general election ballot.

I haven't seen any of Mr. Seppala's campaign literature yet this year. I did, however, locate a copy of one of his 2003 mailers (click on images for larger versions):

This 2003 document should at least give readers an idea of his background and past platform. It's also worth noting that Seppala is one of the candidates who received a resolution of support from the local DFL party.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Profiles: Cardinal, Martin

The Maplewood Review gives candidates the opportunity to submit profiles of themselves, which are then published as the election approaches. This week's issue contains the profiles of mayoral candidate Bob Cardinal and city council candidate Robert Martin.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

"New Low"

Maplewood provided plenty of material for this week's Maplewood Review. Headlining above the fold is an article entitled “Maplewood politics reaches new low,” describing the shameless efforts of Councilmember Erik Hjelle to connect the tragic, accidental death of a Maplewood resident to mayoral candidate Will Rossbach.

Given this willingness to dishonor his firefighter's uniform (he was one of the emergency responders to the scene of the accident, and knows full well the story he's pushing is false) in order to defame a political rival, I guess it's not surprising that even some of Hjelle's long-time political allies seem to be hinting at backing away from him.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Twice More Before the Cock Crows?

I received an e-mail this morning from city council candidate DelRay Rokke. He writes, in apparent reference to my Monday entry:


I would like to know where I have ever done one thing publicly to support Diana as the Mayor of Maplewood. Also, I am certain that Erik Hjelle knew nothing about Ken Smart except through seeing the same Truth-in-Taxation meeting you attended until he saw the list of candidates. And I am absolutely certain that Erik knew noting of Dave's or my plans to run until he saw us registering the last day of filings. If you continue to print what I know to be pure guesses and speculation about Ken, Dave and me, it is hard to believe much of the rest of what you have to print about anyone else. That kind of political speculation and blogging is both an embarrassment to the City of Maplewood and the DFL Party. It may fit well in a fantasy RPG you are playing, but it does not now, nor will it serve Maplewood well when we have a new Mayor and two new Council Members about whom you've been lying.

Take Care,

I sent him the following reply.

Dear DelRay,

Remember that I ran against you in 2007. I spoke to a lot of Maplewood voters, and I think any reasonable observer could see that most people supporting you then did so understanding that you were running as part of Mayor Longrie's team. After you signed on to run with Rebecca Cave, you even adopted the mayor's conservation easements as a major campaign issue.

Mr. Hafner has numerous statements on the record since 2006 praising Mayor Longrie, Erik Hjelle and Rebecca Cave, and attacking their critics (in council meetings, letters to the editor, and at the mayor's forum).

Your campaign literature at the DFL meeting made it clear that you, Mr. Hafner, and Mr. Smart are running as a single team with a common perspective. It lists various qualifications and life experiences without stating which applied to whom. So if one of you is linked to Mr. Hjelle or Ms. Longrie, a reasonable person would link all of you -- after all, your own literature emphasizes how you all stand for the same things. Since Mr. Smart made the decision to run as a team with you and Mr. Hafner, I assume he knows of and accepts your past political associations and allegiances -- if not, that may itself raise questions about his political judgment.

If you are concerned by the public perception of your team's past support for the dysfunctional city council of 2006-2007, you are the one who needs to persuade people that now it's different -- and you need to take that message directly to the voters. I'd suggest that some very clear and public repudiations of Hjelle, Longrie, Cave, and their failed policies and leadership might do something to put some distance between you. Even then, people may not believe you. You'll need to provide a plausible narrative of how you and Mr. Hafner came to reexamine your past political collaboration with them, and why you have both decided now to reject them.

I have to tell you that I'm pretty skeptical about your statements. At the DFL meeting, I overheard you telling someone that you did not run as a team with Rebecca Cave in 2007, despite your numerous examples of joint literature. At the same meeting, Dave Hafner stated to the audience that he did not campaign against the DFL-endorsed candidates in 2007, which would surprise some folks in his neighborhood. People who are familiar with you guys may already have been given the impression that you're more interested in winning votes than in being truthful.

Best of luck,

P.S. I will post your message and my reply to my blog, so that readers can be aware of your objections.

Re-reading Rocky's e-mail, it's not clear to me that he actually denies supporting Mayor Longrie, or if he is just saying that he doesn't think there's any public proof of it. He also does not actually deny that Hjelle supports his slate; he only states that Hjelle didn't in advance know they were running. Perhaps he'll come forward with a more clear and unequivocal statement about these matters.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bob Cardinal's Letter

Besides the incumbent, another of this year's candidates for mayor has held the seat before: Bob Cardinal.

I started paying attention to Maplewood politics after Mayor Cardinal had left office, so I don't honestly have a lot of familiarity with his time in office. I do know that he has been strongly critical of Mayor Diana Longrie, her allies, and their time in control of the city.

As described in a Maplewood Review article, Cardinal wrote a letter to Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner in late November 2006, asking her to investigate alleged wrongdoings in City Hall such as open meeting law violations, conflicts of interest, and retaliatory actions against city employees. A scanned copy of his letter can still be found in the archives of Maplewood Voices.

The county attorney's office determined that the issues itemized by Mr. Cardinal did not fall under their jurisdiction, as discussed by a later Review article in January 2007. Even so, I think he deserves credit for using his stature as a former mayor to call attention to what was happening under the Longrie-Copeland regime and to speak out on behalf of many citizens who were distressed by the direction their city was taking.

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Monday, August 10, 2009


One of the things I find most interesting about this year's primary ballot is the divisions it shows among what had been the Longrie-Hjelle coalition. I guess it's not terribly surprising, as Erik Hjelle's contempt for Mayor Longrie is often apparent. Their alliance has always seemed to be one of convenience founded upon mutual enemies (such as all the people Erik went into office intending to fire, as he told the Pioneer Press way back in 2006), not mutual respect.

There seem to be more Longrie allies running in the council primary than there are spaces on the general ballot. But two former Longrie supporters -- Dave Hafner and DelRay Rokke -- are now running as a slate with a different mayoral candidate, Ken Smart. They filed rather late, and my speculation is that they're the slate that Erik supports. If Erik has contempt for Diana, his distaste for some of her supporters -- particularly the ones who filed for office relatively early -- is even stronger. (Notice that Hjelle is the sole member of the council who voted against reappointing council candidate Robert Martin to the planning commission earlier this year.)

By way of example, here's a passage from an e-mail that Erik wrote to me (dated 2/12/09, 8:33 AM, and copied to city staff) when, at the request of Environmental and Natural Resources Commission members, I had asked for the council to consider removing Frederica Musgrave from that commission. He wrote:
And let me be clear, I view this "tiff" amongst the DFL liberal/progressive/environmental nazis your guys' problem, not mine. This is what happens when you coddle and enable victims on every scale. Just because your DFL progressive environmental/greens don't get along with Diana's DFL progressive environmental/greens is NOT my problem.
(What's with Erik's gang's fascination with Nazis, anyway?)

Just like Erik promised in his e-mail, there was a frivolous lawsuit from Ms. Musgrave. When her request for a temporary injunction was denied in no uncertain terms, she dismissed her own suit shortly thereafter. A few months later, Musgrave's housemate, former parks commissioner and current council candidate Julie Binko, filed her own frivolous small claims action against the city on a different matter.

As an observer, I'm curious to see how Erik's contempt for the "victims" and "environmental nazis" in Diana's camp balances against his hatred of fellow councilmember and mayoral candidate Will Rossbach. Will Hjelle go for the trifecta, violating campaign finance/practices laws in a third consecutive municipal election cycle -- and if so, which candidates will his violations be supporting or attacking this year?

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Kathleen Juenemann Evaluates Copeland

For a contrasting view, after seeing the performance reviews done by Diana Longrie and Rebecca Cave, here is Kathy Juenemann's evaluation from the same June 11, 2007, workshop.

Juenemann is currently on the council and a candidate for reelection.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Park Patrols Under Attack?

One of the items on Monday's agenda is approval of an electric GEM car for the police volunteers, to be used in patrolling city parks and trails. From what I've heard, this is a welcome response to legitimate resident concerns about safety in the wake of incidents around Lake Phalen and Beaver Lake. I saw the car myself at one of the National Night Out parties I visited, and heard positive comments there and from other residents.

The original price was under $10,000, which would not require City Council approval; but with a delivery fee added to the final bill, it wound up at $10,149. Hence it appears on Monday's consent agenda.

In a number of recent e-mails copied to the rest of the council, Councilmember Hjelle has gone on the attack against this public safety initiative. I'm not entirely sure if he's more wound up by the fact that it's electric car (and thus might be seen as environmentally friendly -- Hjelle has a tag on the bottom of his e-mails that reads "Please Print this E-mail, help save jobs," to mock people who have tags asking people to avoid unnecessary printing so as to save the environment), or if he's worried that it might divert money from his fire department. Either way, it sounds like he will pull it from the consent agenda so that he can vote against it.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Rebecca Cave Evaluates Copeland

As a follow-up to the previous video of Mayor Longrie reviewing the performance of former city manager Greg Copeland, I thought that I should also post the evaluation done by former councilmember and current city council candidate Rebecca Cave. This too is from the June 11, 2007 council meeting.

Cave immediately followed the evaluation done by Will Rossbach. Rossbach was rightly very critical of Mr. Copeland, and described his perception that Mr. Copeland served the majority of Cave, Longrie, and Hjelle, to the exclusion of Rossbach and Juenemann. Of the roughly 2 1/2 minutes that Cave speaks, about the first 30% is spent attacking Will for his criticism of Copeland. She says Will's critique was "inappropriate," "juvenile," and "pathetic," and suggests that he needs to "get some self-esteem classes."

For the rest, her only criticism of Mr. Copeland and his epic mismanagement of the city was apparently that he didn't say enough good things about himself in his self-evaluation.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Diana Longrie Evaluates Copeland

At the DFL screening for resolutions of support, one audience member asked mayoral candidates what they would do about the city's increased insurance costs due to wrongful termination lawsuits. Diana Longrie, under whose watch as mayor the illegal firings (e.g., John Banick and Sherrie Le) took place, disclaimed responsibility by stating that Maplewood is a "Plan B" city in which the council has no control over personnel matters.

Denial of responsibility for the messes of the Longrie-Copeland years is also one of the messages in Longrie's taxpayer-funded, two-page campaign literature editorial in the August Maplewood Monthly. She writes:
Occasionally, citizens may hear individuals accuse certain council members or the mayor of terminating past Maplewood city employees. However, more and more of our citizens are coming to realize that as a result of Maplewood being a plan B city, organized under MN Stat. §412.611, that all city staff employment questions they may have should be directed to the City Manager – the person with the real authority to evaluate staff, terminate city workers or manage the day-to-day affairs of the City.
Citizens may ask questions of the city manager -- but of course it's the mayor and city council who have authority over the manager. So as Greg Copeland was running up our insurance tab with illegal firings, what did Mayor Longrie do to exercise her limited but important role in a Plan B City, to hold Copeland accountable for his performance?

Here's the evaluation she gave Mr. Copeland at the June 11, 2007 workshop:

At this point, the insurance trust had already, multiple times and in writing, communicated its concerns about litigation. Mayor Longrie did not question Mr. Copeland's performance with respect to actions that had invited personnel litigation and made it hard to defend the city in court (e.g., "publishing a budget document that explicitly linked the reorganization to unionization activities").

Instead, she basically worried that Mr. Copeland worked too hard and too long while doing a wonderful job for the city, and wasn't taking enough time for himself. And she thought he needed to do more mentoring of his subordinates.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Dave Hafner Talks About Smearing

On February 12, 2007, current city council candidate Dave Hafner gave a lengthy visitor presentation:

The audio of his comments at the Mayor's Forum, which he referenced, is available in an earlier posting. You can also see my notes from the meeting, which Mr. Hafner discusses.

While in 2007 he praised Mayor Longrie, Rebecca Cave, and Erik Hjelle (or at least the "good, decent, honest citizens" who support them) in this presentation, today he is running on a slate with two different candidates: Ken Smart for mayor and Delray Rokke for council.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

LMCIT Report on Insurance

While unsuccessfully seeking the support of the local DFL last Thursday, Diana Longrie mentioned a report from the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust which seemed in her mind to minimize the gravity of the insured losses incurred in the Copeland-Longrie era. It's not so bad if you just spread those losses out over 5 or 10 years rather than looking at a one-year period when Longrie's majority and their henchman, Copeland, ran the city, she argued.

She invited residents to submit data practices requests to get a copy of the report for themselves. As it happens, the report was shared with the entire council, so I figured I'd put it online for anyone who is curious, and save our city staff time in fulfilling data practices requests.

I'm not sure why Longrie thinks the report puts Maplewood in a good light. Grouping Maplewood with the eight other Minnesota cities in the 30,000-40,000 population size, our one city of the nine constitutes a whopping 27% of the total losses over a 10-year period and 36% of the losses over a 5-year period. If we were just average, you'd expect us to be about 1/9 of the losses, or 11%. And remember, this is the effect of taking that horrible Copeland-Longrie year of litigation and averaging it with 4 or 9 more normal years.

In any case, I'd encourage residents to read the report and judge its meaning for themselves.


Monday, August 03, 2009

Ken Smart Advocates Selling the Community Center

Mayoral candidate Ken Smart addressed the city council during our truth-in-taxation hearing on December 8, 2008. He expressed concern that the city was not cutting taxes in response to the poor economy, and suggested that one way to reduce the city's budget would be to sell the Maplewood Community Center. I am told that he repeated this idea at the DFL meeting last Thursday.

Ken Smart is running as a team with city council candidates Delray Rokke and Dave Hafner.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Rocky Returns to the Ring

Delray Rokke, one of the 2007 candidates, has decided to take another run at city council.

In the last election, I noticed that Rokke seemed to switch his position on some issues after aligning himself with Rebecca Cave and her then-majority of the council with Erik Hjelle and Diana Longrie. For example, after being a skeptic about the mayor's conservation easements (saying in his Maplewood Review profile that they should be "not encouraged"), he signed on to make it a central issue of his joint campaign with Cave. Here's a joint flyer later distributed by the two of them (click on the image to enlarge):

This is from Gladstone, but I know they did a number of variations on this flyer, each focused on a different neighborhood, falsely suggesting that its local park or preserve would be on the auction block if Will and I were elected.

Cave is also on the ballot again, but this time Rocky is running with a different slate. I saw at the DFL Central Committee meeting that he had produced a joint campaign flyer with Ken Smart and Dave Hafner. I'll be interested to see what his positions are with a new set of running mates.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Behrens Reimbursements

This week's Maplewood Review features an interesting article about Margaret Sletten Behrens, who sits on the board of the Ramsey County Soil and Water Conservation District. Ms. Behrens was the only person who filed to run for the office last fall, and now has made waves by submitting unusually large requests for per diem and mileage reimbursements. Apparently she is billing the taxpayers for things like attending Mayor Longrie's monthly forum at the Maplewood City Hall. (A $25 to $75 per diem, plus mileage, for two hours of mostly listening to the mayor's admirers praise her and bash Will Rossbach?!)

The article casts a new light on the following exchange, which took place at our council meeting of June 8th, 2009. Behrens' father, Ralph, and her sister, city council candidate Elizabeth Sletten, lobbied to have Ms. Behrens appointed to the Fish Creek ad hoc commission:

At the time I didn't see the point in telling the conservation district who they must appoint to attend our ad hoc commission meetings, if they wished to send a representative. But now it sounds like Behrens was looking for more meetings to attend in some official capacity, if conservation district staff and other board members had started to question the validity of paying for her to sit in the audience at Maplewood City Council meetings.

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