Monday, May 28, 2018

Sign the New Brighton Elections Petition!

Time is running short. Sign the petition to restore your right to decide who serves on the New Brighton City Council and how long their terms should be.

Contact Gina Bauman at ginabauman@comcast.net or Susan Erickson at emailtosue@comcast.net to arrange for a volunteer to stop at your home at your convenience for you (and any other voters in your home) to sign the petition.

Here's a reminder from our friends at Alliance for a Better New Brighton:

https://www.facebook.com/ABNB2/?hc_ref=ART_JSp7SLbqGSx4c7WdHGrYzBkE3Kpexwua-ymmcZbM2k4K5WO8whcb6EY6wNHm9Gw&fref=nf


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Never Give Up Your Right to Vote

I wasn't sure if the Sun Focus would print my Letter to the Editor so I'll post it here:
 
In this time of very partisan division throughout the country, we still have the right to vote.  Four members of the New Brighton Council took that away AFTER the 2017 election when they canceled our next election.  By doing this, they elected themselves to an extra year on each of their terms without your vote.  I’m not OK with that, are you?
I take my right and responsibility to vote very seriously and will never surrender my vote to anyone.  I testified before the Senate Elections Committee to support Senator Mary Kiffmeyer’s  technical fix election bill, SF3021.  The bill says “The terms of incumbent city council members must not be lengthened or shortened.”  It is very reasonable to allow elected Council Members to finish their terms.  All elected officials receive an Election Certificate stating when their term starts and ends.  This clarification makes the law crystal clear; you cannot change your term without an election.  It can never be misinterpreted by any City in Minnesota again.  Our Mayor and a Council Member were there to testify against it.  I did not appreciate the personal attack by our Senator for sticking up for New Brighton voters.
Nobody has ever tried to stop the change of the election year.  District Court Judge Marek opined that the Council violated 17 points of law in the 2016 lawsuit when they did the same thing after the 2015 election.  The way to make the change is to hold an initial election and set the terms BEFORE THE ELECTION so all voters know what they’re voting for.
There is a Ballot Question Petition being circulated.  It will be in your neighborhood soon.  Signing it is not voting for or against anything, it simply puts the question on the 2018 ballot to let you decide if the 2019 election should be held.  There should be no hesitation if asked to sign, it merely protects your vote.  It’s difficult to engage voters when we aren’t allowed to participate in elections.
It’s your City too!  We cannot ever give up our right to vote for those who represent us.
 
Susan
 
                                                                                            

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Cancelling the Coup

Ever since the New Brighton City Council gave themselves a one year term extension without the consent of the voters they have been actively trying to spin the situation to defend their unethical action. Their self serving, logically tortured arguments have come up in public meetings, official city publications, and a taxpayer financed campaign-style mailing. Regardless of the venue or vehicle the arguments are tired and lame, and apparently not impressing the voters.

The Council's unethical actions have also apparently gotten the attention of the Minnesota legislature, prompting language in an Election Omnibus Bill (SF3021) that includes language that clarifies that City Councils cannot change existing terms by changing the election cycle. During the debate on this legislation New Brighton City officials passionately, but futilely, testified against this provision with their usual specious (to put it politely) arguments.

Audio of the legislative hearing is available at  http://mnsenate.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2606 (the pertinent discussion begins at about the 25:59 mark). Try not to laugh out loud at the lameness of most of the arguments against disallowing the term extensions.

You can help end this power grab by the council by signing the petition that is going around as detailed below (click on the images to enlarge).



Also, the annual New Brighton Town Hall Meeting and Open House is scheduled for 8:30-12:00 on Saturday May 5th at the Family Service Center. This is a good opportunity to ask our elected officials some questions that need to be asked and publicly addressed.

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.
EVEN-YEAR LOCAL ELECTIONS - A COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PRIORITY
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 ginabauman@comcast.net or Susan Erickson at emailtosue@comcast.net and we will deliver to you.

Ordinance 857 can be reviewed at:  http://newbrighton.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=796&meta_id=30230

Minn. Stat. 205.07 can be reviewed at:  https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=205.07

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:

https://youtu.be/AGMmw99T028

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

Outraged yet?