Recently, a friend from a Los Angeles suburb of 10,000 and I were comparing city leadership and the usurping of taxpayer money. In that California city, the voters recently gathered 2,000 signatures on a referendum petition to prohibit destroying the historic center of town with multi-story buildings, exceeding the present two-story limit. Now signatures are being gathered for the recall of those leaders intent on destroying taxpayer trust. The California attorney representing those taxpayers wrote the following to me:
Why am I not surprised to see this kind of thing happening elsewhere? I don't know exactly how it got started but it's ubiquitous. I used to think that the corruption of the government at the national level had worked its way down. That the Abramoffs and all those corrupt bribe artists had influenced politics from their level down. Now I have come to realize how wrong that thinking was. In fact, the federal government is corrupt because local politics is corrupt. People have been accepting corruption at the local level for a long time, some willingly and some not so willingly. Often, perhaps most often, it reflects itself as cronyism - one friend helps another and pretty soon, he's the Godfather of local favors.
Brainerd leaders now want to accept 84 acres of swampland in exchange for assessment abatement of over $1,000,000, make a racetrack of Mill Avenue, pay to finish the police chiefs education, buy a $40,000 Tahoe for the fire chiefs work commute, and blindly vote yes to whatever pabulum the administrator presents. The city leadership seems intent on completing this tax-and-destroy mission. Its time for a recall and/or firing of some council and key people to make our leadership responsive to the taxpayers. Recall elections - City Charter Section 18 online.
Lets reverse trend of rising taxes
Over the past four years, property taxes across the state have increased by close to $1.5 billion. In north central Minnesota, they increased by $25 million - a 30 percent jump. Many reasons can be given - cuts in state education funding, cuts in aid to cities and counties and changes in the property tax laws.
In an effort to address this issue in a comprehensive way that will benefit all Minnesotans, the DFL members of the House have unveiled a toll-free number and a Web site that will give every Minnesotan the chance to provide input into this problem, and maybe even help us find a solution. Minnesota residents can offer their input in two ways. Outstate residents can call Minnesota's Property Tax Comment line at 1-800-551-5520, while metro area residents can call 651-297-8391. Minnesotans can also log onto Minnesota's Property Tax Comment web page at www.house.mn/dfl/ptax/propertytaxproject.html. In addition, one Idea of the Day will be highlighted and shared with the Property Tax Relief Committee on a weekly basis. There will also be a Citizen's Property Tax Relief Bill created that will be based on the best suggestions received.
I'm hopeful that by tapping the resources of average Minnesotans, we can develop a property tax relief plan that is reasonable and offers relief to every property owner in the state. We need to reverse the trend of rising taxes and help property owners keep more of their hard-earned money.
State Rep. John Ward
Another appraisal was needed
Recent discussions with Oak Lawn Township regarding the Wright Street extension have revealed previously unknown information, which could create serious concerns for Brainerd taxpayers.
In April 2006 the city proposed to assess benefiting properties for the cost of the Wright Street extension. One of the two benefiting landowners has since sold 25 acres of property to the city for $200,000. This same property owner donated an 81.5-acre parcel to the city in lieu of his $700,000 assessment. The seller provided an appraisal of the 81.5 acres at approximately $700,000 - and the estimated market value provided by the county assessor is $20,900.
The city accepted this donation and as part of the deal has agreed to acknowledge, in writing, that it is accepting the land as a gift with a current fair market value of $869,500. That is a difference of $848,600.
The city engineer has now stated that this land is not developable. The city now owns 81.5 acres of swamp land in exchange for a $700,000 assessment, city officials have signed a receipt for a $869,500 gift that is valued at $20,900, and the Brainerd taxpayers will be paying more than $1.5 million for a street and utilities which will serve one property owner who will be paying nothing. What is wrong with this picture?
Why didnt city officials have an appraisal completed on this property? And did city officials compare the countys assessed value with the current fair market value of the gift and still think it was a good deal?
The city council approved this plan based on an Economic Development Authority recommendation and apparently with no input from city staff concerning the true value of the donated land. The two council members that serve on the EDA are Mark ODay and Lucy Nesheim.
Sen. Biden is articulate, clean too
How could such a mainstream Caucasian guy as Sen. Joe Biden have goofed so badly as in his comments on Sen. Obama?
After all, Sen. Biden is articulate, nice-looking, quite bright, and looks clean as a whistle.
Judge wants shared responsibility
In early December a judge decided that parents dont have the exclusive right in the sex education of their own children while in the custody of a public school. On the other hand, she recognized that the school system has a shared responsibility with the parents. That means the curriculum cannot be deliberately concealed from parents who may want to review the lesson materials beforehand (Minnesota State Statute 120B.20).
Closer to home, the curriculum battle continues. The legal center, which I support, believes an abstinence only commitment is an attainable goal for students. It served us well growing up. Lawyers for the other side, the condoms-for-everyone bunch, are equally dedicated. The two sides may be able to find common ground in the best interests of our kids or grandkids.
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