$48 million Anoka-Hennepin levy passes comfortably

MORNING EDITION

The Anoka-Hennepin school levy renewal appears to have passed, as well as a levy for tech funding. Maria Elena Baca at the Strib writes: “The district asked voters to renew a $48 million-a-year levy for 10 years, warning of dire consequences if it failed, and the request passed comfortably. A second proposal — for $30 million over 10 years for technology funding — appeared to pass by the narrowest of margins, while a third, for additional per-pupil money, was rejected.”

Stillwater schools didn’t fare as well. Megan Boldt of the PiPress reports: “Voters in Stillwater Area Schools narrowly voted down three ballot measures Tuesday that would have increased property taxes to bring in more money for district operations, technology and facilities. Just more than half said ‘no’ to the first question, which asked for a levy of $1,465 per student. That was $468 higher than the current levy and would have brought in $5 million more a year for operating costs. District officials warned that if the levy was defeated, they would have to cut about $10 million from the budget.”

One sitting councilman in St. Paul was defeated in Tuesday’s election. Says Frederick Melo of the PiPress: “Amy Brendmoen, a 41-year-old marketing manager for an adoption and social services agency, has apparently unseated sitting St. Paul City Council Member Lee Helgen, 42, in Ward 5. With all 13 precincts reporting, Brendmoen held 50.17 percent of the vote, and Helgen had 49.24 percent. Brendmoen also captured a majority of second-place and third-place votes under the city’s new ranked choice voting process.”

The ranked choice voting process apparently went off well enough for most … but not Ol’ Sooch. In his PiPress column, Joe Soucheray writes: “I don’t need a system designed to accommodate the lowest common denominator. That’s what it felt like, that I had to complete the whole test in order for my vote to count. And the proponents say this is fair? It’s like first-graders choosing their favorite insects. Whee! I get to fill in another oval — the ant isn’t so bad — and another and another, and then I guess I am supposed to be satisfied if my third-choice candidate pulls out a victory. That’s not a victory. What happened to my first choice? My polling place is in a senior apartment complex. I could see many of the residents enjoying breakfast, and, God love them, many of them were practicing the old-fashioned habit of reading the newspaper with their coffee. The people in that breakfast room built this country, built this city, worked, raised families, prayed, believed in convention and tough luck. I suspect many of them were going to be as confounded as I was when they strolled over to exercise their storied franchise. Not confounded because it was difficult. We all know how to make ovals. But confounded because the lifeblood of their American experience required them to understand winning and losing, that victory and defeat were, in fact, the basic truths of their lives.” Boy, wait ‘til someone tells Joe they’ve stopped putting out Chubby Checker on 45s.

Most of Joe’s neighbors weren’t embracing their inner-Luddite. John Brewer of the PiPress writes: “St. Paul’s first taste of ranked-choice voting seemed to go down easily Tuesday, as roughly 30,000 voters showed up at polls to pick city council members. ‘The news today is that there’s no news,’ Ramsey County election manager Joe Mansky said Tuesday evening. ‘I hope what this means is that our advertising campaign hopefully kind of sunk in and people had a general idea what to expect when they showed up.’ “

So the guy in the plot to extort $500K from a man who later killed himself will serve six months for not filing taxes during a time when he gambled away more than $2 million? Maricella Miranda at the PiPress checks up on him, saying: “Rickey Eugene Pouncil, 47, pleaded guilty Monday in Dakota County District Court to five gross misdemeanor charges of failure to pay or collect taxes, court records show. A felony charge of failure to file tax returns or report taxes was dismissed in the plea agreement. Pouncil will serve the sentence concurrently with a 13-month prison sentence ordered in August involving the felony coercion charge, to which he pleaded guilty in Hennepin County District Court. In the tax case, records from Mystic Lake Casino Hotel showed that Pouncil gambled more than $2 million from 2001 to 2008 at the casino, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint. He generated between $22,400 and $97,955 in gambling income from 2003 to 2008, records showed. … Earlier this year, Pouncil admitted to masterminding a scheme that extorted $500,000 from Bloomington businessman Dan Kreye by threatening to show his family sexual text messages and photos of him involving other women.” Thirteen months? Am I missing something here?

Oh, this’ll play well. Steve Brandt of the Strib reports: “The four employees of the soon-to-be-defunct Minneapolis police and fire pension funds will leave their jobs with at least $400,000 in severance benefits, although all four have preference for jobs with a statewide pension plan that’s absorbing their organizations. Board members of the police fund said Tuesday they had to pay the severance under contracts signed years ago, but LeaAnn Stagg, a city representative to the board, said she was ‘completely aghast’ at the deals. … With the two funds in deep financial trouble and the city on the hook for making up deficits, the Legislature approved a rescue plan this summer that merges the two local pensions plans with the state plan at year’s end. The deal boosts pensions sharply for those involved but saves the city millions by lowering its payments and giving it more time to meet those obligations.”

In a Strib commentary, GOP Rep. Bob Barrett responds to an earlier opinion piece from lobbyist Keith Carlson on whom to blame for property tax sticker shock going on around the state: “The 2011 Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton … replaced the Homestead Credit with a Market Value Exclusion, providing direct property tax relief to homeowners. Since the session ended, the Market Value Homestead Credit has been the subject of more factual inaccuracies and blatant politicization than any other issue. … local governments and their well-paid lobbyists actually supported these changes. It is also inaccurate to assert, as the article did, that cities and counties will be hit with a $261 million funding cut because of the elimination of the Market Value Homestead Credit. While the state planned to spend $261 million on this program in the budget forecast, in reality cities and counties received only $89 million from the credit program for the last two years. In other words, the state’s books look $261 million better, but the impact to counties and cities will only be $89 million.”

Today in Bachmannia: Considering her attendance record, Our Gal may have standing to claim she is an outsider to the wretchedness that is D.C. Josh Lederman of The Hill writes: “Michele Bachmann on Tuesday worked to distance herself from Washington and a Congress with disapproval ratings in the mid-80s, calling herself a mother at heart who relates deeply to the struggles of other moms across the country. ‘I am not a politician. I am a real person,’ the Minnesota congresswoman told ABC News/Yahoo! on Tuesday. … One of only two sitting members of Congress running for president in 2012, Bachmann has an uphill battle separating herself from the anti-incumbency mood that has enveloped the electorate. Consequently, she has spent less time trying to portray herself as a political outsider than many of the other candidates, such as Herman Cain and Mitt Romney. But while acknowledging that the Republican-controlled House remains overwhelmingly unpopular with voters, Bachmann on Tuesday positioned herself as the tireless dissenter. ‘People saw that I was fighting against Washington,’ she said. ‘They’ve been acting like Greece. I fought that.’ ”

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/09/2011 - 08:36 am.

    Random comments with my second cup of coffee:

    We in St. Paul could save a few bucks by foregoing elections and simply installing the DFL endorsee in whatever seat is open. It’s increasingly obvious that the party endorsement is more powerful and more important than, say, experience. How else explain the election of a 28 year old with 3 years work experience, all of which has been for fellow DFLers, or the clean sweep by DFL endorsed candidates for the school board? (Yes, I have a Mannillo sign for sale at a bargain rate this morning and yes, I did vote for 2 of those elected to the school board.)

    As long as I’m in an agreeable mood: yes, Brian, you are missing something on Pouncil. He was charged with tax fraud, not extortion or any other crime which may have been implicated in the death of Mr. Kreye. In theory, we only sentence people for the crimes for which they’ve been convicted.

    How about a state law prohibiting severance packages in public employee contracts? If we breach a contract for employment for a defined term, without good cause, then let them sue like any other employee, public or private. At least then they’re obliged to make reasonable efforts to find other employment and reduce their losses. As it is, they can blow out one door and in another, the same day, and still inflate their parachutes.

    Given my utter confidence in the accuracy of politicians’ analyses of complex matters, I can’t help but wonder whether the amounts Rep. Barrett reports as actually having been paid out under the Market Value Homestead Credit were the result of limited use of the credit or ‘budget balancing’ by the Legislature and the Pawlenty administration.

    When can we expect Rep. Bachmann to pose at the apple orchard? She’s already wrapped herself in motherhood and the American flag. Or are her core convictions a veiled reference to the third leg of this political tripod? (Only a few more weeks until her book is released and she can quit the race.)

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/09/2011 - 09:31 am.

    Personally, I’d be happy to see severance packages prohibited for public employees just as soon as they are ALSO prohibited for private executives and CEOs (especially those who have left with multiple millions as the companies they’ve been managing file for bankruptcy).

    In the REAL world (not the conservative alternate reality) good pay and benefits are necessary for public managers (especially those mentioned in this article who were managing the types of funds that, if they had been private retirement funds would have drawn FAR LARGER salaries and severance packages),…

    and for EXACTLY the same reasons our conservative friends claim they are necessary in the private sector.

    Not to mention that the underlying reason for providing good pay and benefits for public employees is to ensure that they do not feel the need to enhance their meager incomes by providing decent service only to those who grease their palms while leaving everyone else to languish,…

    as is the case in so many other parts of the world.

    The tradition of well-paid civil servants with good job security is the ONLY thing that has prevented what is the case in so many other nations – that you have to BRIBE someone to get even the most routine things done,…

    and law enforcement routinely creates reasons to shake down the average citizen for money.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/09/2011 - 10:38 am.

    Regarding the pension severance payouts, I’m not sure these folks are actually public employees. It looks to me like they worked for the Unions. At any rate, this is a lesson for all you anti-union folks who think “at-will” employment is the best thing since peanut butter- what they have have and you don’t… a contract.

  4. Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/09/2011 - 11:15 am.

    Prohibiting severance packages does not in any way limit the possibilities for providing appropriate compensation to public employees while they are doing the jobs for which they were hired and reducing the risks mentioned by Mr. Kapphan.

    Yes, there are risks to accepting certain positions. Make that a bargaining point in setting wages, so that the public knows the true costs involved.

    BTW, if I were addressing a personnel matter in a private organization in which I had a financial interest, I’d be saying the same thing.

    I find it amusing that I’m seen as an inhabitant of a conservative alternate reality, apparently on the basis of a single position.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/09/2011 - 12:52 pm.

    James,

    I don’t there’s any coherent way you can start passing laws as to what can and cannot be in contracts. And there’s no reason to single public employees contracts. Again, I’m not sure these folks actually were public employees, it looks to me like they were employed by the unions, there’s a difference. The solution is to write better contracts, not muck around with can or can’t be in contracts. And I hate to point this out, but unless these people actually did something wrong, their entitled to their payouts. Congress had to save hundreds of private pension plans back in 2002 because corporations had stopped contributing what they were supposed to. The article implies but does not explain exactly how these people are supposed to be responsible for the pension crises.

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