Archive for the ‘Dave Kleis’ Category
The very first high school football game I went to was in September of 1970. The game was played at Clark Field. It’s still the best football field I’ve ever watched a game at. Part of that is because it isn’t a multi-purpose field. Thanks to the fact that there isn’t a track oval, fans sitting in the front row sit only 25 feet from the playing field.
For the last few years, the school powers-that-be have tried to scrap Clark Field. This St. Cloud Times article indicates that the Times Editorial Board supports scrapping the best football field in Minnesota. I have a simple response for St. Cloud Superintendent of Schools Willie Jett and the St. Cloud Times Editorial Board: over my dead body. This is war.
Admittedly, I’m hopping on the proverbial bandwagon after others have built the Clark Field bandwagon. The Friends of Clark Field are “a grassroots group formed to save its namesake next to Technical High School.” According to the Times editorial, “neither the school district nor the city are embracing the vision of the Friends group.” That’s part of the Times’ rationalization for not supporting the maintaining of Clark Field. Another part of their rationalization is that the Times just assumes that a new Tech High School will soon be built, “complete with its own modern-day, multi-use stadium.”
The Times shouldn’t make that assumption. Last fall, the School Board’s Vote Yes campaign lost by a resounding margin. When the dust settled, 8,460 people rejected the bonding referendum while 7,393 people voted to approve the referendum. Since that vote, the dynamics have shifted significantly.
The bonding referendum that was soundly defeated called for $167,000,000 in total bonding, with $113,800,000 of that money going into building a new Tech High School. Plenty of the people who voted no voted against the referendum because they were skeptical of the costs. I wrote this post to confirm the skeptics’ beliefs:
“Those numbers are really round, so it’s hard to take them seriously,” said Murphy, who worked for architectural firms in Minnesota and Colorado before becoming a space planner for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. “The building is 100 years old so it’s going to need some help. But if there are real structural problems, there shouldn’t be anybody in the building. If the cafeteria has major structural issues, why are they using it? They’d be putting the kids at risk. There’s a difference between structural problems and things that are inconvenient or don’t look good, like floor tiles popping up.”
That’s just part of Ms. Murphy’s and Ms. VanderEyk’s argument. There’s also this:
During the campaign to pass the Tech bonding referendum, the ISD 742 school board said it would cost between $85,800,000 and $96,800,000 to temporarily fix Tech for 5-10 years. When Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk toured the facility, they took notes on what was in disrepair and needed fixing. Since they’re both architects, they’re qualified to determine what’s in need of repair, what’s structurally deficient and what’s in good repair.
Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk are both Tech alums so they’d like to preserve the building if that’s possible. That’s why they took their notes to a contractor to see how much it would actually cost to repair the existing Tech campus. Saying that their estimate came in at less than $97,000,000 is understatement. It came in at $15,696,000, which is approximately $100,000,000 less than the School Board said it would cost to build a brand new Tech High School.
Simply put, the $167,000,000 bonding bill is dead. ‘Trimming it’ to $100,000,000 is probably dead, too.
It’s time for Mayor Kleis, the Times and the St. Cloud School Board to start thinking in terms of refurbishing the existing Tech High School. There’s no reason not to save Tech High School. There’s no justification for raising people’s taxes that dramatically. Sarah Murphy and Claire VanderEyk have given voters a glimpse of what’s possible when competent people are put in charge of project. They’ve provided a picture of the difference between competent experts from the private sector and bungling politicians with ‘a vision’.
It’s time to save Clark Field. It’s time to refurbish Tech High School. It’s that simple.
The purpose of this op-ed, written by MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle and Met Council Chairman Adam Duininck, is to criticize Jim Knoblach. In the interest of full disclosure, Jim represents me in the legislature. He’s also one of the smartest policy makers in Minnesota. But I digress.
While attacking Chairman Knoblach, Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck made a major mistake by essentially admitting that extending Northstar will be expensive, not just in terms of building it, but also in operating it. Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck admitted it when they wrote “Building out the line involves some up-front costs, including upgrading the St. Cloud Amtrak station to make it ADA compliant; upgrading railroad crossings in St. Cloud; and adding a third track at the Big Lake station to allow trains to stop there. These capital costs along are estimated at up to $43 million, and this doesn’t include the additional funding to operate the line day-in and day-out.”
Why should we extend Northstar at such an expensive price when there’s already shuttle service from St. Cloud to Big Lake? I suspect that the operating costs of the shuttle are less than the operating costs for Northstar. I’m certain, however, that maintaining the shuttle service won’t require $43,000,000 in “capital costs.”
Question for Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck: how many years could the shuttle be operated with those $43,000,000 in capital costs?
Stop that train. Stop that train. It isn’t that the $43,000,000 is the only major financial outlay:
Our $43 million cost estimate also does not include the cost of acquiring right-of-way from BNSF Railway.
Here’s another question for Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck: How much will acquiring that right-of-way from BNSF cost?
Here’s a question for citizens: shouldn’t Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck lay out those costs in an op-ed in a major newspaper?
We want to work with area legislators to find a way to bring Northstar to St. Cloud residents. But that work has to first start by acknowledging the realities and the costs. Minnesotans deserve a real proposal.
The question residents should ask Knoblach is: Does he still support the extension when faced with the reality of the cost?
Actually, the question citizens should ask is whether extending Northstar is worth it at that price. As a lifelong resident of St. Cloud, there isn’t a great uprising of support for extending Northstar. It’s true that a handful of public officials are pushing it but that’s pretty much it.
We don’t need to spend $50,000,000 or more just to give Gov. Dayton another ribbon-cutting ceremony to attend. I don’t speak for Chairman Knoblach but I’ll speak for myself. Spending 10s of millions of dollars on this project is a waste of money.
Check out the opening paragraph of the St. Cloud Times Our View editorial:
St. Cloud has acquired a jewel of a park — in need of refurbishing.
The City of St. Cloud didn’t “acquire” George Friedrich Park. They fleeced SCSU President Potter when they talked him into swapping a beautifully wooded 50-acre plot even up for 5 acres of land that can’t be developed. The St. Cloud Times said that a) the Friedrich Park land is worth $328,000 and that the land just south of the National Hockey Center is worth $294,000. According to my calculator, that means the barren wasteland south of the Hockey Center is worth $58,800/acre and that the beautifully wooded Friedrich Park is worth $6,560/acre.
Does anyone seriously think that barren wasteland is worth 9 times more per acre than a beautifully wooded lot?
At least the Times took time to indict President Potter’s mishandling of the Park:
Improvements to Friedrich Park have been talked about for years. The land swap resulted from a collaboration between Kleis and St. Cloud State University President Earl H. Potter III. Kleis has added an important chapter to his legacy. His knowledge of the history of the community and the park is exceptional. But to his credit, he turned the knowledge into action.
Let’s assume for this discussion that acquiring Friedrich Park adds “an important chapter to” Kleis’ legacy. Wouldn’t it be equally true that refurbishing and restoring Friedrich Park would’ve added to President Potter’s legacy? The same lessons about St. Cloud’s history would still be there.
It’s true, though, that the Friedrich Park fleecing will be part of President Potter’s legacy. It’ll rank right up there with his lease with the Wedum Foundation, his hiring the Earthbound Media Group to rebrand the University’s image and his paying the City of St. Cloud to police their city.
Thus far, SCSU has lost $7,700,000 on the Wedum Foundation lease. Additionally, SCSU paid EMG more than $400,000 to rebrand the University. Since the time of the rebranding, enrollment has continued its decline and SCSU’s revenues have dried up. As for President Potter paying $720,000 for 3 years of policing, the injustice is that SCSU is paying for police officers that the City should’ve paid for.
Adding Friedrich Park to those financial disasters just makes President Potter’s ‘legacy’ one of financial foolishness.
Karie Petrie’s article about St. Cloud’s newest park contains a statement that made me laugh:
Mike and Theresa Erickson live next door to Albers and share her concerns about parking. They also wonder how the city will patrol the park. Kleis says officers will patrol the park as they do other city parks.
That’s disappointing. Considering the fleecing that St. Cloud State got in past deals, President Potter should’ve agreed to pay for the officers who will patrol the park he just gave away. Seriously, President Potter is paying $240,000/year for 3 police officers who don’t patrol the SCSU campus.
The least he should do is pay for the police who will patrol the park he just traded away.
Let’s review. Monday night, the St. Cloud City Council voted to approve the land swap where the City of St. Cloud gave St. Cloud State several parcels of land that can’t be developed and that are pretty much useless in exchange for 50 acres of wooded property that once was home to a granite mining operation. Both properties need significant cleanup.
The difference is that the wooded property will be quite usable once it’s cleaned up whereas the empty parking lot and the old railroad right-of-way will still be pretty worthless. What essentially happened is that St. Cloud State traded a 50-acre beautifully wooded lot for a parking lot.
Considering the fact that SCSU a) mothballed 2 dorms in the last 2 years and b) built a parking ramp on campus right before the enrollment collapse, St. Cloud State doesn’t need another parking lot, especially one that’s way to the south of campus.
It’s possible that the thing that’s preventing President Potter from paying for the police patrols for the park is that SCSU’s running multi-million dollar deficits.
I don’t blame the City Council approving the deal. From St. Cloud’s standpoint, why wouldn’t they make this swap in a New York minute? The people I’ve criticized are President Potter, the MnSCU Board of Trustees and Dr. Rosenstone.
Apparently, the Trustees, Dr. Rosenstone and President Potter don’t care whether they’re getting fleeced, most likely because it isn’t their money that they’re flushing down the proverbial toilet.
Land Swap Is A Bad Deal For SCSU—What Else Is New!
by Silence Dogood
On April 17, 2015, this St. Cloud Times article announced a proposed land swap between the city of St. Cloud and St. Cloud State University. The article states: “The city of St. Cloud plans to swap three pieces of land with St. Cloud State University for the 50-acre park. The St. Cloud City Council will vote on the land exchange Monday.” The city property to be swapped is shown in blue in the following satellite image:
The property owned by SCSU to be swapped is shown in red in the following satellite image:
The scale in the two images is not the same. The following satellite image shows the two properties at the same scale. Clearly, the 50-acre parcel owned by SCSU is much larger than the combined three parcels owned by the city:
According to the article: St. Cloud owns three pieces of property near Fourth Avenue and 15th Street South that the university wants. Those pieces of land are worth $294,000. The park land is worth $328,000. From just the valuations stated in the article, SCSU is coming up on the short end by $34,000. However, if you look closely at the blown-up images of the properties, the city is clearly coming out way ahead!
Just by way of a historical reminder, the last time the city and SCSU worked out a deal it was for the “5th Avenue Live Project.” There’s no other way to say it. That deal was a complete failure and was cancelled after stage one. Unfortunately, as part of the project, SCSU entered into a lease with the Wedum Foundation and has lost $6,400,000 in the first four years of the project. It is on track to lose another $1,300,000 this year to bring the total to $7,700,000 lost in the first five years of operation! Since the lease runs for a minimum of an additional five years, SCSU may lose an additional $6,000,000 bringing the total amount lost to nearly $14,000,000 in the ten years required in the lease!
Since there has not been any discussion on campus of a potential land swap, it is not possible to know exactly why SCSU wants the city property. One might guess that it is to add parking spaces for students. In the satellite photo in the article, you can see the picture was taken during the winter while construction of the ISELF building was underway:
Clearly, classes are in session when the satellite image was taken because the faculty parking lots are fairly full. However, the student parking lots are clearly less than half-full! So much for needing additional parking. Also, since this picture was taken, the enrollment at SCSU has declined by over 20% so the argument that SCSU might need additional parking is simply a joke! In fact, SCSU has two mothballed high-rise dorms that have a total capacity of approximately 900 students. There is even discussion about demolishing one of them! Clearly, SCSU is not expecting these students to return.
In the satellite image, if you carefully examine the land SCSU is getting in the swap, it is pretty hard to see a lot of value in the storage yard where the city stores vehicles and stuff that it considers of such little value that the city chooses not to store it at the indoor storage facility in East St. Cloud.
Just for fun, let’s do a mental exercise. Let’s pretend that SCSU owned the three parcels of land south of the campus and the city owned the 50 acres of woods and quarries. Would it be a good deal for SCSU to accept an even up trade of its small three parcels of land for the 50 acres of woods? The answer is obviously YES! Not only would SCSU be getting a more valuable piece of real estate, it would be getting something that had the potential for development.
In fact, rather than the land swap, what if SCSU simply put the 50 acres up for sale to see if some developer might want to develop the property? While being adjacent to a maximum-security prison might not be the most desirable location for high-end homes, the city certainly thinks it’s a good location for a park. No matter what the use, SCSU might be able to sell the property for more than the valuation of $328,000, then buy the three parcels of property from the city and make $34,000 or more on the deal. SCSU is currently in the process of cutting $12,000,000 from its budget for FY16. While $34,000 might not make a lot of difference to a $12,000,000 deficit—every little bit helps! That $34,000 might even cover another trip to China for President Potter and his entourage.
The St. Cloud City Council is going to vote on the land swap on Monday evening. I’m going to bet that the vote approving the land swap is going to pass! I might even take bets about the outcome and be willing to give odds. In fact, it is hard to imagine that the vote by the City Council won’t be unanimous! It really is hard to think anyone on the City Council won’t vote in favor of the land swap. In my humble opinion, once again, the City of St. Cloud has stuck it to President Potter, SCSU and ultimately, the taxpayers.
Based on the recent history, I really wonder what Mayor Kleis has against President Potter and his alma mater. First, he got SCSU to buy into the “5th Avenue Live Project,” which will ultimately cost SCSU $14,000,000. Second, he got SCSU to pay $720,000 for three police officers over a three-year period to patrol the area around the SCSU campus. Lastly, he got SCSU to agree to a land swap that certainly looks like a pretty good dealfor the City of St. Cloud!
The only hope for SCSU is that the MnSCU Board of Trustees will say no to another bad deal for SCSU. However, this is the same board that recommended hiring Earl Potter as President of SCSU in the first place and then extended his contract. I guess there isn’t much hope for sanity prevailing.
I wrote this post in December about a proposed condo development in downtown St. Cloud. At the time, I thought it inconceivable that an entrepreneur would propose such a monstrosity. I was wrong. An entrepreneur has proposed this project. Here’s something that I wrote in response to the first Times Our View editorial:
The Times editorial board isn’t too bright if they think this is worthy of serious consideration. The former Dan Marsh Drugs building is less than 100 yards from 5 major bars (the Red Carpet, the Press Bar & Lounge, DB Searles, The Office and MC’s Dugout). There are other restaurants and delis within a stone’s throw from where Dan Marsh used to sit. All of these businesses are open well past midnight.
Why would anyone aspire to live that close to businesses that will keep them up well past midnight?
This week, the Times Editorial Board wrote this editorial singing the praises of this project:
First, when the condo project is built, the city will begin to receive property tax payments from the owners of the 46 units. The units range in price from $165,000 to $200,000. Even if it takes time to sell those units, the immediate benefits go far beyond just the tax collection.
Market-rate housing downtown will provide the missing piece of a strong, ongoing rebound for downtown.
With the River’s Edge Convention Center expansion has come a boost in downtown bars, restaurants and some retail. On the west end of downtown, the continued success of the Paramount Theatre and Visual Arts Center has been a strong anchor.
The proximity of downtown offices, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud Technical & Community College and St. Cloud Hospital makes the condo project attractive to several demographic groups, including young professionals, retirees and single people.
The downtown bars are still within a stone’s throw of the proposed condo. They’re still noisy well past midnight. Here’s the key phrase:
Even if it takes time to sell those units, the immediate benefits go far beyond just the tax collection.
It’s unlikely that this condo project will take off quickly. There’s a decent chance it won’t take off. That being said, if this company wants to build this white elephant, that’s their right. They should know, however, that they won’t get a bailout from the taxpayers if it fails.
This article by Kirsti Marohn raises questions about St. Cloud’s ability to attract regional air service to the airport. At this point, it’s difficult to see St. Cloud attracting another air carrier to the airport:
Boyd said St. Cloud should pat itself on the back for securing the United service, even if it only lasted 10 months. “That’s an achievement,” he said. “You attracted the best regional airline … You don’t do any better than that.”
The problem is, experts say, the odds are stacked against a city this size to find another airline interested in providing service. St. Cloud is not alone. “When smaller airports lie in the shadow of a much larger airport, they’re finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain air service, and St. Cloud certainly fits that mold,” said William Swelbar, research engineer in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s International Center for Air Transportation and an airline industry analyst.
At this point, it’s difficult to picture another airline coming to St. Cloud for anything other than for the guaranteed money, then leaving the minute the money runs out. It’s probably best to take King Banaian’s advice:
It’s time to do a deep think before raising a few more million dollars to approach another airline, said King Banaian, economics professor at St. Cloud State University. “I think you pause and assess what happened,” Banaian said. “We thought we had the success.”
Albert Einstein famously said that doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. That’s the cycle St. Cloud is repeating. I know Mayor Kleis wants to attract another airline to St. Cloud. He’s fighting a valiant fight. He’s expended tons of energy trying to make that a reality.
Unfortunately, the verdict is in:
“I don’t know of any community in America that has tried harder and had more civic commitment to make this work,” said Michael Boyd, president of Colorado-based aviation consulting firm Boyd Group International. “You did the best you can, and now you’ve learned. There is no other airline.” For St. Cloud residents seeking access to the rest of the world, “your airport is Minneapolis. That’s not going to change,” Boyd said.
Mayor Kleis is trying to get the legislature to loan the City $2,000,000 to attract another airline. There’s little enthusiasm on either side of the aisle for that type of loan. Even if there was, it would be a terrible deal for Minnesota taxpayers and St. Cloud taxpayers.
There’s virtually no chance that a different airline will come to St. Cloud. If one came, the odds that they’d stay after the loan dried up would be tiny, if not officially nonexistent. What Mayor Kleis hasn’t admitted yet is that there isn’t a market for what he’s pushing.
The question Mayor Kleis needs to ask himself is why he thinks thing would be different this time. If he won’t ask that question before asking for $2,000,000 that he’d need to repay, then perhaps it’s time that the legislature simply said no.
It’s time to admit that this priority won’t become a reality.
This article highlights the foolish priorities that taxpayers have the ability to stop. Here’s what I’m talking about:
An airport that serves the whole Central Minnesota area is looking for financial support from that region. St. Cloud Regional Airport was the first recipient of revenues from the half-cent local option sales tax when it was established in 2003. Residents will vote in November on whether to continue that source of revenue.
The airport is one of the three regional projects, including trail connections and the community and aquatics center, that would benefit from the tax extension.
“It’s our greatest example of a true regional project,” St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said.
With all due respect to Mayor Kleis, spending money on the airport is a waste of money. A few years ago, money was spent on upgrading the airport. About a year later, scheduled air service was discontinued. The airport parking lot was empty until St. Cloud agreed to terms with Allegiant Air to provide charter service to Arizona.
This is the part of the article that I find offensive:
A $5 million terminal expansion is planned that would need $500,000 in sales tax. The airport was expanded in 2008, and Airport Director Bill Towle said a majority of that work was to bring the building up to new security standards.
The new project would add space to the main lobby area. Towle said the area is overcrowded with the restaurant and lines from the check-in area. Now that hundreds of travelers go through the terminal with daily air service, more space is needed.
There also needs to be more room for baggage claim and the space where bags are stored before being put on the plane, he said.
What happens when scheduled air service to Chicago ends? Then all that money will have been spent foolishly. This graphic shows how underutilized the St. Cloud Regional Airport is:
First, an explanation of the acronyms is in order. LF stands for load factor. To make a profit, airlines need a load factor of at least 70%. The chart shows that they’ve hit that 70% mark twice thus far. They’re projected to hit and exceed that over Labor Day weekend, too.
What’s disturbing is that a significant percentage of the rest of the days fall far short of that 70% mark. Simply put, Skywest Airlines isn’t profitable. They’d need a huge increase in traffic to make a profit.
That isn’t likely considering the fact that airfare out of Minneapolis is 25% cheaper than flying out of St. Cloud. Why would taxpayers vote for a tax that pays for something that won’t get used 3 years from now? (BTW, three years is being charitable.)
While I don’t doubt that the airport is busy right now, there’s little doubt that it won’t be busy if SkyWest opts out in a year. I’m skeptical that air service is viable because the load factor statistics provide an indication of how little interest there is in this travel option.
When I wrote this post about St. Cloud getting daily air service, I intentionally highlighted the fact that this is a one-year agreement, that fares aren’t exactly cheap and that profitability is more than a bit questionable at this point. A year from now, we’ll have a better picture of whether the air service is profitable. We’ll know that because we’ll have hard numbers to crunch.
As informational as the Times article was, they didn’t talk about other air carriers undercutting SkyWest’s prices and they certainly didn’t talk about workforce issues. I just googled pilot shortages. According to Google, there are over 19,000,000 articles on the subject. Workforce issues are dragging the airline industry down. This WSJ article highlights the how severe the pilot shortage is:
A decade of restructuring in the U.S. airline industry has produced a sharp reduction in air service that is curtailing traveler choice and some local economies even as it improves the industry’s health, new research shows.
The study, by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shows that from 2007 through last year, U.S. airlines cut the number of scheduled domestic flights by 14%. The number of seats offered fell by slightly less, as airlines pushed passengers onto bigger planes, says the study, which was prepared by MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation and is expected to be made public Wednesday.
If airlines are cutting flights to Memphis and Pittsburgh, cities that have large customer bases, shouldn’t St. Cloud wondering if they’re being unrealistic? I’m an optimist but I can’t ignore the fact that the supply of qualified pilots is deteriorating rapidly. Wishing and hoping is nice for birthdays and Christmas but it isn’t the way to set public policy. Public policy should be put together by crunching numbers and fitting policies with reality.
At this point, what’s needed is a discussion about increasing the number of pilots and other airline support personnel. That necessarily means talking with President Potter and Chancellor Rosenstone about the foolishness of shutting the SCSU aviation program. That means talking with Chancellor Rosenstone and SCTCC President Helens about starting a program that trains air maintenance personnel. (Pilots aren’t the only things that airlines are in short supply of.)
While it’ll take time to start graduating pilots from schools, the reality is that we’ll be in worse shape 5 years from now if nothing is done. That isn’t wise. As the supply of pilots deteriorates, we should understand that airlines will staff flights from places like Memphis and Pittsburgh first while pilots flying for regional airlines will be cut.
President Potter made a major mistake in shutting the aviation program. Unfortunately, he won’t admit what’s obvious. Chancellor Rosenstone hasn’t shown leadership in this matter, either. A leader would’ve told President Potter that he made a mistake and that it’s time to correct that mistake.
If society wants fewer flights staffed with fewer experienced pilots, we’re on the right path. If society doesn’t want that, then it’s time that leaders to step forward and correct this mistake. That means local politicians and state legislators pressuring people like President Potter and Chancellor Rosenstone.
It’s time for Mayor Kleis to step up and put pressure on President Potter. Scheduled air service to Chicago depends on the availability of flight crews and flight maintenance people.
It’s that simple.
This St. Cloud Times article left me with more questions about the St. Cloud State Police Department than I got answers.
Move-in day at St. Cloud State University this year saw the continuation of a trend of fewer citations issued to St. Cloud State students and fewer issued overall by police.
That’s the good news.
There is another trend that causes trouble for university officials and police: The violence associated with crime on and around the campus is on the rise. That escalation has increased the threat to students’ safety and stands as the main reason the university is paying the city of St. Cloud $240,000 each of the next three years for three police officers dedicated to patrolling the campus and its surrounding areas.
This article attempts to explain why St. Cloud Mayor Kleis and SCSU President Potter signed an agreement in which St. Cloud State, aka SCSU, pays $240,000 per year for the next 3 years. The article didn’t do a good job with that, especially considering the fact that the first St. Cloud Times article, which I wrote about here, was something I’d expect from St. Cloud State’s PR department. Here’s what was said in the Times’ first article:
During the just-completed 2013 move-in weekend, St. Cloud police reported issuing 59 citations, only 11 of which went to university students. That’s a huge drop from last year’s citations, which totaled 161. More importantly, the 11 citations to students last weekend continued a steady decline in the number of university students contributing to any move-in weekend problems.
Look no further than the latest tool to make the campus neighborhood safer — the St. Cloud Police Department’s new Campus Area Police Services officers. Thanks to the university paying salaries and benefits, three city police officers are assigned to the campus area.
Here’s the first red flag in the article:
The agreement between the city and university was years in the making and has resulted in critics from St. Cloud State wondering why the university has to spend $720,000 over the next three years for something they believe the city should already be providing.
Three questions leap to mind from that paragraph. First, why didn’t Mayor Kleis and President Potter issue a statement when they signed the agreement? They didn’t inform the public until after they started taking criticism. Second, if there has been a significant uptick in violent crime in the neighborhoods surrounding St. Cloud State, why didn’t that become a subject addressed during a City Council meeting or a Meet & Confer meeting? If students’ safety is a high priority and the agreement “was years in the making”, why can’t anyone from the City Council or the SCSU Faculty Association remember discussing this pressing problem? Third, where was the St. Cloud Times on this? Each day, they publish a crime log in their newspaper. If there was a significant uptick in violent crimes in the neighborhoods closest to the SCSU campus, shouldn’t they have written a major expose highlighting this? (Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.)
Apparently, the Times is more interested in being President Potter’s cheerleader than they’re interested in doing their jobs as reporters. Either way, they aren’t a newspaper. They’re a media outlet.
Those are just the biggest questions raised by this article. If there has been an uptick in violent crimes near campus, why haven’t students addressed this during the City Council meeting during open forum? If they didn’t do that, they should’ve said something at a student senate meeting.
“This is the right thing to do and yes, it’s money that we have to take out of our budget and yes, it means that the $240,000 a year will not be available for things other people think are important,” he said. “But this is the safety of our students. This is not noise in the neighborhood. This is a life-and-death matter, and I’m perfectly happy to stand up to any critic and say this is a reasonable choice.”
President Potter’s insistence that “it’s money we have to take out of our budget” is BS. The primary function of government, whether local, state or federal, is public safety. Period. The neighborhoods surrounding the campus pay tons of property taxes. The homes to the north of campus along the Mississippi River are older homes but they’re big homes that pay lots of property taxes. The homes to the west of SCSU’s campus are mostly rental properties, meaning they either pay commercial property tax rates or they aren’t homesteaded. Either way, it isn’t like these properties are churches or government buildings.
If this is the crisis that the article says it is, then the Mayor and City Council should adjust their budget to meet their primary responsibility. Let me repeat that important point: Public safety is the city’s primary responsibility. If the city’s budget doesn’t first address that responsibility, then the budget is a failure.
If this agreement was years in the making, doesn’t that suggest that violent crime wasn’t addressed during those years? The city and SCSU can’t have it both ways. Either the agreement was a knee-jerk reaction to a tragic event last November or it’s long been Mayor Kleis’s wish that President Potter pay for expanding the police force for years.
Either way, it’s questionable public policymaking.