Monday, March 5, 2018

Taxpayer Funded Campaign Propaganda from New Brighton City Hall

The current New Brighton City Council has no ethical boundaries when it comes to entrenching their power and influence. After the last election resulted in a united hard-left council it only took them a week to give themselves another year in office for all council members without the consent of the voters.

Judging by the negative response to the council's action on social media and the convoluted answers from city officials to questions on the subject posed at a recent city sponsored neighborhood meeting, it seems that the public reaction to the their actions has driven the city council members to seek political cover.

Last week New Brighton residents found the following letter in their mailboxes (click to enlarge):

This document is nothing short of a political campaign piece that, unlike legitimate campaign fare that is paid for by the candidates or their supporters, was printed on official city stationary and apparently produced and distributed at taxpayer expense.

This abuse of office, in addition to their original action that unilaterally gave themselves an additional unelected year in office, is appalling. The content of this self-serving and misleading propaganda along with my commentary (in italics) appears below.
In November, important city and school district issues in New Brighton inspired nearly 4,800 residents to turn out and vote. This was the highest vote total this century for a local election in New Brighton in an odd-numbered year and a 64 percent increase in off-year turnout compared to 2015. Thank you to all who turned out and voted.
So far so good. Important local issues inspired people to get out and vote.
Yet, the members of the City Council who are authoring this commentary look at these results with some concern. Almost 13,000 New Brighton voters turned out for the 2016 presidential election. More than 8,800 people voted in the 2014 U.S. Senate election in Minnesota. By any measure, voter interest expands in even-numbered years and shrinks in odd-numbered years, even though city elections are the most important way to influence critical daily issues such as public safety, parks and recreation, property taxes and building permits.
A lot of New Brighton citizens are also looking at the election results with some concern, especially after the contentious and often unethical campaign practices of some of those who were victorious.
As a plan for increasing voter participation in local elections, the New Brighton City Council recently voted to shift our municipal election day from November in odd-numbered years to the November Statewide General Election Day in even years.
Notice that the above fails to mention that they also voted, without any fanfare, to give all of the incumbents and in-coming council members an extra year in office without any say by the voters. This occurred one week after the very contentious election that resulted in virtually no diversity of thought on the council.

One has to wonder if one or more candidates who would not vote in lock-step with the majority had been elected would the majority be so intent about ramming in this decision? Clearly one can make the case of an ulterior motive here, and giving oneself an extra year in office without the expense, inconvenience, and potential for rejection by the voters would certainly fit the bill.
Of the 854 cities in Minnesota, only 26 continue to hold elections for municipal offices in odd-numbered years. The reasons that most cities use even-year elections are pretty convincing:
  • Higher voter turnout;
  • Reduce pressure on city staffs to annually manage elections; and
  • Save money – when a city holds elections every year, both in odd and even years, costs go up and efficient use of city staff and resources go down.
Higher voter turnout does not necessarily result in better government. The same people pushing this change in the past had repeatedly whined that odd-year elections disproportionately attract "activist" voters (i.e. the type that often disagree with them), yet they had no problem that the highly organized and outside funded "education" activists (who are often left-leaning and generally support the views of the hard lefties on the council) were much more active than fiscal conservatives in this election.

City staff is very well compensated and are on the job getting pay and generous benefits regardless of whether or not there is an election.

There is also credible evidence that the claimed savings are not nearly as large as implied due to shared costs by other governmental entities. If cost savings is such a big issue with the council  there are other ways which may be better, though not as politically attractive (e.g. Ramsey County can administer elections if the city chooses to do so).
We heard the concern that people should just pay attention more, and get out and vote if they care about local issues. We believe our residents care very deeply about local issues – and more of them will express their opinions if we hold elections on the same day that they vote for other local state and federal offices.
This is a crock of crap. With all of the early and absentee voting options currently mandated (which does make voting more convenient but also opens the door to potential problems with election integrity) residents are not required to exercise their right to vote only on election day. If one wishes to vote it's more than convenient (wouldn't it be great if government made payment of taxes so flexible and convenient?). It's also interesting that no one in city government seems to be concerned about the cost of elections associated with dragging the voting period out over several weeks.

In any case, it is not the purview of government to coax voter interest or participation. Other studies have shown that there is often actually less voter interest in local races and ballot questions when they appear at the end of a busy ballot (many people cast their votes for the Federal and State questions and, for whatever reason, stop there and leave the rest of the ballot blank).
According to state law, if a city moves from odd-year to even-year elections, this action extends the current term for the existing mayor and council members by one year. After the next election, their terms will resume to be either two or four years, depending on which office they hold.
This is certainly an imperfect result, and council members discussed this issue at length. There is no way to shift to even-year elections without temporarily changing the term of the current office holders. To keep the issue in perspective – this temporary extension of terms will last only one year.
Isn't this a convenient side effect of the election cycle change? At least they finally got around to mentioning that the way the ordinance was worded gratuitously granted them all an extra year in office. In terms of person-years, this amounts to a quarter term of a council person's term and half of a mayoral term that was not authorized by the voters.

Questions of what the "law" allows (as opposed to what it mandates) are open to interpretation and only the council's very self-serving view is given here. The term extensions occur by default if the ordinance changing the election cycle does not specifically address the question. 

The council majority was fully aware of this and chose the deception by omission route. Watch the video of the work session where they were very carefully calculating their desired outcome versus the potential political downside. The switch to even years could be accomplished in a couple of election cycles without automatically extending terms - they just chose the power grab option. At least they are correct with respect to being an imperfect result.
Meanwhile, the citizen participation through higher voter turnout will last forever, as will the savings for our taxpayers. Those are goals we happily support.
High voter turnout may or may not occur and, even if it does, it will not necessarily result in better government. Personally I would rather have fewer in number but better informed voters than large numbers of uninformed voters motivated or coerced by highly organized and partisan (on both sides) "Get Out the Vote" or "Jump on the Bandwagon" campaigns.

As far as savings for our taxpayers, consider that the people making this claim have rammed through two large levy increases in a row after years of minimal-to-no increases and have baked in similar increases in future levies with their hard left policies.
Mayor Valerie Johnson              Councilmember Paul JacobsenCouncilmember Mary Burg        Councilmember Emily DunsworthCouncilmember Graeme Allen
The shameless perpetrators. Graeme Allen and Emily Dunsworth should be especially ashamed of themselves. They were not on the council when the power grab was made and could have genuinely avoided culpability either by not signing this letter or releasing statements of their own that disavow their support of the previous council's action. In signing on to the letter they now are just as tarnished as the rest of the council.

New Brighton taxpayers should be outraged at both the blatant power grab by the council and subsequent use of hard-earned taxpayer money to produce this self-serving political CYA instrument.

Fortunately state law does provide a mechanism for citizens to undo abusive and unethical actions by city government. If enough eligible voters sign a properly worded and presented petition the council's action can be nullified and require the question to be placed on the ballot for the voters to decide if the council insists on pursuing it. A petition that meets all of the legal requirements has been drafted and is currently circulating. Click the link at the end of this post for details on how to sign it.

It's interesting to observe that the city council started working on their taxpayer funded propaganda piece immediately after the citizen petition started circulating. Clearly they are not happy that their attempted little coup d'etat did not go unnoticed by the public and have started what amounts to a political campaign to discourage people from signing the petition.

Don't let them get away with itSign the petition!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Protect Your Vote--Sign the Petition.

On December 12, 2017, a month after the 2017 municipal election, the New Brighton City Council at the time (Mary Burg, Paul Jacobsen, Brian Strub and Val Johnson) passed an ordinance by a 4-1 vote (Gina Bauman being the dissenter) that changes the election cycle for city offices to even years. The ordinance also expressly cancelled the 2019 city election, thus giving each of the current council members an extra year in office. This denies voters the opportunity to approve extending the mayor’s term from 2 to 3 years, and all council members' terms from 4 to 5 years. Extending their own terms in this way, three years prior to the new election date and without voter approval, is dishonest and self-serving.

The Council’s action cited Minnesota Statute 205.07 which does allow changing the election cycle by ordinance. The statute also, however, indicates the need to hold an "initial election" to provide for an orderly transition to the new election schedule and does not address cancelling a previously scheduled election.

For these reasons Gina Bauman and I have prepared a Ballot Question Petition that is compliant with statutory requirements to put the question on the 2018 ballot.  Voters will decide whether the city should be required to hold the previously scheduled 2019 election.  This would allow voters to be informed of the election year change and the shortening or lengthening of terms prior to the 2019 city election.  Voters, rather than potentially self-serving elected officials, will make the decision.

The only thing this Petition will do is put the question on the 2018 ballot for the voters to decide whether there should be an election as scheduled in 2019.  If you wish to sign the petition, or want to help circulate it for signatures of your friends and neighbors, please contact Gina Bauman at or Susan Erickson at and we will deliver to you.

Ordinance 857 can be reviewed at:

Minn. Stat. 205.07 can be reviewed at:

Friday, December 29, 2017

New Brighton Mayor Val Johnson Makes the List...

...of the Top 10 Craziest Social Justice Warriors of 2017.

This is an "honor" New Brighton could do without. You can view the NSFCH (Not Safe for City Hall) video here:

And this clown just voted herself an extra year in office.

Outraged yet?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Truth About the Lawsuit That Cancelled the 2016 New Brighton City Election

I want to set the record straight regarding the lawsuit that canceled the city election in 2016 as some people in city government are mischaracterizing it in public statements.

In 2015 former Mayor Dave Jacobsen and Council Members Brian Strub, Mary Burg, and Paul Jacobsen all voted to change the election cycle for New Brighton mayor and council members to even years. As a way of implementing this change the ordinance that was passed lengthened the term of the incoming mayor by one year and decreased the term of two council members by a year. At that time all of this was illegal under Minnesota law (changing the election cycle too close to an upcoming election as well as changing the terms of elected officials). This illegal action occurred just one week after the 2015 city election (the newly elected mayor had not yet even been sworn in!) and in spite of Council Member Gina Bauman pointing out the legal problems to the rest of the council.

I worked with Council Member Bauman to stop this illegal action which would have effectively allowed four people to cancel the votes of the rest of the people of New Brighton. Gina and I followed all state statutes to obtain enough signatures on a petition which should have legally required the question to go on the ballot in 2016 to let the voters establish the election cycle rather than four council members. The petition we filed prior to the 180 day deadline was rejected by the City Clerk for no legitimate or legal reason, so the only recourse was to bring a lawsuit.

At the court proceedings Judge Leslie Ott Marek ruled entirely in our favor on this matter. You can see for yourself in the Findings of Fact document issued by the Court (reproduced here courtesy of Mr. Dillettante's Neighborhood blog), that the Court determined the City had violated 17 points of law in regard to this election change. Even after such a thorough legal rebuke, the city attempted to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court (at additional taxpayer cost) which immediately declined to consider the request.

Council Member Gina Bauman and I stood up for your rights against City Hall and won. We will continue to always stand up for what is right.

Susan Erickson
New Brighton Resident

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Watch New Brighton City Council Plot to Add a Year to their Terms

If "buyer's remorse" has not yet set in with New Brighton voters after the last election where city government took a hard turn to the left, I predict that it soon will.

At the December 12 New Brighton City Council meeting not only did the council (with the exception of Council Member Gina Bauman who continued to stand up for the people of New Brighton in her final meeting) ram through a large tax levy increase and a hefty utilities increase, they also voted themselves an extra year on their terms of office. This occurred at the very end of a long and tedious meeting where many who started watching at home or in person likely gave up on it.

They did this in a sneaky manner by emphasizing that the purpose of the ordinance they passed was to improve voter participation numbers by moving city elections to even years. The wording of the ordinance conveniently omitted the fact that a recently changed state law provides that if the change moves the election year such that an existing term would expire before the new election day the term would, by default, be extended if the ordinance language did not explicitly address existing terms. This is exactly how the ordinance was carefully worded.

The council's action wasn't a spur of the moment decision or an unintended consequence of a poorly worded ordinance - it was carefully and deliberately calculated and plotted at a council work session that took place on November 28.

Fortunately council work sessions are recorded and available on the city web site ( Unfortunately a lot of people probably did not view the term extension discussion as it occurred at over an hour into the meeting.

Below is the pertinent portion of the work session. Watch and judge for yourself.

Personally I find the logically tortured reasoning on how this isn't more of a self-serving move than merely looking out for the people of New Brighton disingenuous at best. Council Member Strub's assertion that the term lengthening is a "side effect" of the election date move is laughable given the obvious deliberate attempt to avoid any semblance of transparency.

There will definitely be a petition started soon to attempt to reign in this attempted power grab by the new council. I will post details as soon as I am aware of them.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mayoral Meltdown Goes Viral

It's going to be a long couple of years for New Brighton, but at least we will have hundreds of thousands laughing through the pain along with us.

Here's the video of our mayor going off the rails that has gone viral, along with some pointed commentary strictly for amusement purposes:

Unfortunately Gina Bauman, the only competent member of the clowncil, was voted out after a nasty and unethical campaign. Before leaving she did get to make an appearance on national TV to comment on the sad situation in New Brighton to give some perspective to those laughing at our mayor's meltdown:

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Setting the Record Straight

I want to begin by saying this post is long overdue.
By now many of you have seen the “shock and awe” video from an October 3rd council work session where Mayor Val Johnson accused me of being a racist. This unwarranted attack was defamatory and appalling. Unfortunately she has displayed this pattern of behavior for the entire time she has been in office. Her recent posts in a Facebook group demonstrates her continued viciousness and dishonesty.
So how does one contest people who are bent on deceit to make themselves look good, or to spitefully try to make someone else look bad? I happen to believe that truth prevails and I will give you the honesty you deserve regarding my character and my votes as a council member.
This brings me to what was being posted by Mayor Johnson and Council Member Brian Strub who always seem to go out of their way to spew their deception regarding anything I say or do. They alleged in Facebook posts that I did not vote for the Lion’s Park and questioned why I showed up at the ribbon cutting, claiming that it was merely for political gain. This was, as usual for these people, intentionally misleading and dishonest.
Here is the timeline of what is on record of the votes regarding Lions Park:
  • Council Meeting – July 11, 2017: Council Business 1. Consider Approval to Purchase New Brighton Lions Park Playground Structure and Poured in Place Safety Surfacing. Vote to approve 5-0CM Bauman thanked the PREC and task force members for all of their assistance on this project.”
  • Council Meeting – October 25, 2016: Consent Agenda Item 5. Consideration of Cooperative Agreement with Ramsey County for City Project 16-5 New Brighton Lions Park and Item 10. Consideration of Stormwater Management Facilities Maintenance Agreement for City Project 16-5, New Brighton Lions Park. Vote to approve 5-0.
  • Council Meeting October 11, 2016: Council Business 1. Resolution to Consider Bids and Award of Contract for City Project 16-5 Lions Park; Amendment: Motion to engage the contractor to ensure no expenses are encumbered until a signed agreement was in place with Ramsey County and to direct staff to enter into an agreement with RC to address the maintenance and finances for Lions Park. Votes to approve 4-0.
  • “CM Bauman knew the contractor wanted to begin this fall, but she feared if and when the County would receive their funding through a bonding bill. While she didn’t oppose the park she questioned if the project should begin without being full funded by the City and County.”
This public record is the latest example of how Johnson and Strub regularly do not tell the truth and are not worthy of representing our city. I believe that this type of behavior by elected officials is a big reason why so many citizens are hesitant about getting involved in city politics.
I believe people who know me recognize me as a person of honesty and integrity, and trust that I will do what is right. I am also very passionate regarding my principals and convictions, but not malicious.
For twelve years I have represented and served the city of New Brighton by promoting and protecting the interest of the people by listening, responding, and resolving their concerns. I want to continue to do so with your vote on Tuesday, November 7th.
Hearing from so many of you with support and encouragement has meant more to me than I can express.
With heartfelt thanks,