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Saying that Mayor Kleis made a major mistake in selling city park land to Costco is understatement. The city councilmembers who voted to approve the sale should be terminated the next time they’re up for re-election. Ditto with Kleis. George Hontos’ op-ed explains things perfectly.

Hontos writes “First, the sale of 18.56 acres of city park land for Costco for $3.5 million was a give away that the mayor could have prevented. The city had an independent professional appraiser determine the land had a value of over $5 million. Back in Jan. 2018, before any purchase agreement was signed with Costco, a local developer offered the city $6.5 million, but the Mayor rejected this offer, saying it was too late in the process.”

Mayor Kleis isn’t the only person who should get criticized. Later, Hontos wrote “There was nothing stopping the Mayor from calling for a bidding process. Just as disappointing were the actions of my cohorts on the city council, there was nothing stopping them from voting the Costco offer down and calling for a bidding process. But they did not do so. Why? What happened to the mayor and city council’s fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers? Now they have given a deep discount on some of the most valuable commercial property left in our city.”

Mayor Kleis has touted himself as fiscally conservative. This transaction proves that he isn’t. This transaction proves that he isn’t that good of a negotiator. Then there’s this:

Second, a highly taxpayer-subsidized “affordable” housing project was approved and again I voted against this. Not that I am against affordable housing, but because of the way this project was billed as helping the affordable housing needs of our community. The developer and city staff billed this project to be one of the nicest apartment buildings in the area. The rents are so out of sync with market rate units. This project has a one bedroom apartment starting at $950 per month. After going on apartments.com I canvassed 30 local apartment buildings with one bedrooms. The average rent as advertised was $699.33 and not one was listed at $950. The majority of the city council, along with the support of city staff, has allowed a private developer to extract significant public assistance from taxpayers all in the name of affordable housing.

Providing affordable housing isn’t a core function of city, county or state government. Period. The government should keep its nose out of this stuff.

PS- The people that voted for the Costco transaction and the affordable housing need to be run off the City Council ASAP.

Now that Electrolux has officially announced that it’s moving to South Carolina, it’s time Minnesota admitted what Minnesotans have known for years. It’s time Minnesota, especially the DFL, admitted that we aren’t competitive with other states.

This isn’t shocking in that Minnesota’s taxes are far too high. Gov. Dayton’s tax-the-rich administration brought this on. The phony-baloney award that Minnesota received is meaningless. According to the award, Minnesota is “the 2nd-strongest state in the union.” The thing about the award is that they don’t consider whether Minnesota is competitive from a business standpoint.

Minnesota’s DFL politicians have insisted that all that’s been needed to have a great economy is a great investment in education. In the 1970s, that was enough. This is the 21st Century. That isn’t enough anymore. Other states have well-trained workforces, too. Unlike Minnesota, though, other states, like South Carolina where Electrolux is moving to, have low taxes and minimal regulations. South Carolina’s policies invite people to the state.

Mayor Dave Kleis painted this the best he could, saying “It’s significant. It’s one of our largest employers. It’s not welcome news, but it’s something where we can coordinate with a number of folks to find employment before the end of two years.”

Minnesota has 2 options to change this. If Minnesotans keep giving the DFL any of the levers of power in St. Paul, we won’t become competitive anytime soon. The other option is to elect a reform-minded Republican governor and maintaining reform-minded Republican majorities in the state House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate.

If Minnesota doesn’t elect pro-growth legislators and a pro-growth governor, Electrolux won’t be the last company leaving.

The Democrats’ battle cry on all things migration and immigration has been ‘that’s not who we are’. Democrats don’t tell taxpayers whether we can afford to accept more refugees. They simply tell us that it’s imperative that the U.S. accept tens of thousands of refugees each year.

When President Trump said halt!, Lutheran Social Services screamed. As I’ve written about before refugee resettlement is how they make the money that pays their executives’ lucrative salaries. At the time, I wrote “LSS gets paid $1,000 for each refugee it finds a home for. This year, LSS will get $225,000 to resettle refugees. That doesn’t sound like humanitarian work. That’s what a lucrative racket sounds like.”

Public servants like St. Cloud City Councilman Jeff Johnson has tried to find out how much refugee resettlement costs St. Cloud taxpayers. For being fiscally responsible, the special interests have criticized him constantly. Thankfully, Johnson is about to get some answers:

Did you know that welfare spending in Minnesota is going up about 20 percent or more a year? K-12 budgets are ballooning, as well. All we have is a promise that the Office of Legislative Auditor is going to tell lawmakers in 2018 what costs are currently tracked, so lawmakers can presumably order HHS and other state agencies to begin tracking the costs.

Think of that last statement. At present, lawmakers haven’t told state agencies to track the costs of refugee resettlement. Here’s why that’s important:

Think about this a minute. From 2002-2014, there’s been an outmigration of Minnesota-born people. While that’s been happening, there’s been a strong inmigration of people born in other countries, sometimes hitting 15,000 international-born refugees.

Further, let’s remember that Minnesota’s welfare spending is increasing by 20% per year. What math-minded person thinks that’s sustainable? It’s one thing if a minor department’s budget increases by 10-15% per biennium for a couple biennia. That’s something that we can probably absorb without running a major deficit. The HHS budget is the second biggest line item in the state budget, behind only K-12 Education. Astronomical increases to the second-biggest department in Minnesota’s budget isn’t sustainable.

Our reigning elite, including so-called feminists, have ignored the pleas and shouted down the concerns of Americans who dare to wonder out loud how to deal with incoming cultures that openly reject religious tolerance, profess an allegiance to Sharia law, practice polygamy and mutilate their daughters. These are not the loser racists who show up in ridiculous man-boy outfits to rant and rave at alt-right gatherings. These are good, decent Americans who wonder, “What about my culture? Does that get any respect?”

This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s a bipartisan issue. Businesspeople from both parties love cheap labor. If they have to drive the middle class out of Minnesota while importing low-skill international workers that they pay a pittance, then that’s what they’re willing to do.

That isn’t to say that all businesspeople think that way. They don’t. I’m just identifying the fact that there are some entrepreneurs who do think that way. Often, they’re found in the hospitality and meat-packing industries.

The point is simple: importing thousands of international refugees isn’t sustainable. Politicians that tell us otherwise are either lying or they’re too stupid to serve us properly.

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When the ISD 742 promised to “repurpose” the Tech High School and turn it into the School District’s office, people didn’t imagine that the District would betray them. That’s what they did, though. Now, the District wants to transfer that property to the City of St. Cloud.

Matt Demczyk’s article states that “St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis says he and St. Cloud Schools Superintendent Willie Jett have come up with a proposal to have the district transfer the school and grounds to the city once the district vacates the property to move into the new Tech High School.”

Demczyk continues by quoting Mayor Kleis as saying “We are proposing to both the school board and city council that District 742, when it vacates Tech in 2019, that all of that property is conveyed to the city, so the city can plan in conjunction with the neighborhood the redevelopment of that site. And we’ve gone through this process many times where we will set, with the neighborhood and community, a process envisioning the best possible use.”

Let’s be clear about something. I don’t trust Willie Jett at all and I don’t trust Dave Kleis that much, either. I agree that the City has more tools to use and that they’ve gone through this process before. This is prime real estate. It should be zoned commercial so we can start getting property tax revenue from it. Since the City Council has to vote on the Jett-Kleis negotiations, they have the right to put stipulations on how the property can be used.

There’s little question that the planning board won’t want restrictions put on it. That’s tough. Since the property belongs to the people, the people should have a say in the matter. If the property isn’t put back on the property tax rolls and if the property doesn’t meet with the people’s approval, the Jett-Kleis initiative should be rejected.

Kleis says the city doesn’t want to hurt the character of the neighborhood, and will work with community members as plans are drawn up to renovate the historic part of the building. The Mayor is hoping city council and the school board sign off on the proposal in the next month or so.

If the people get what they want, we’ll sign off on the initiative. If we don’t get what we want, the City and the District will have its hands full. It’s time the District, the Mayor and the Council got a taste of trust but verify.

The St. Cloud City Council just passed an ordinance raising the minimum age to purchase cigarettes to the age of 21. Mayor Kleis made a great presentation, talking about how the United States Constitution was amended in 1972 in less than 3 months. Mayor Kleis noted that the 26th Amendment was passed unanimously in the Senate and with only a handful of dissenting votes in the House of Representatives. It took the states only 3 months to ratify the constitutional amendment. The text of the 26th Amendment statesSection 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

After hearing compelling testimony from the community, City Council President Lewis, Councilman Laraway, Councilman Hontos and Councilman Masters still voted with the CentraCare lobbying unit. One testifier was Mark Fritz, the owner of E-Cig Emporium in St. Cloud. His testimony was blunt and to the point. He said “Your ordinance will not stop them. You need to recognize all you’re doing is hurting your local businesses.”

The good news is that Mayor Kleis has already announced that he’ll veto the ordinance, saying “I can’t support it and I won’t sign it.” Thanks to Kleis’s veto, St. Cloud stayed away from becoming a total supporter of nanny statism.

The truth is that the City Council is approaching this the wrong way. They’re trying to limit supply when they should be trying to limit demand. If you don’t reduce demand for cigarettes, limiting where young people can purchase cigarettes won’t have a significant impact. It’s the rule of the forbidden fruit. If you tell someone they can’t have something, that thing quickly becomes the thing they want most.

One of the testifiers noted that cigarette smoking has dropped each year for a long time. It isn’t the problem health organizations make it out to be. That isn’t saying we shouldn’t try reducing it more. It’s that we should try reducing smoking through educating people, then trusting them to make an informed decision. People who are old enough to sign a contract are certainly old enough to make an informed decision. Based on their votes, Lewis, Laraway, Hontos and Masters disagreed with that principle.

St. Cloud State students should remember that these councilmembers think these students aren’t able to make informed decisions the next time that quartet is up for re-election.

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This LTE, written by Maureen Warren, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, is pure CYA. In the LTE, Warren states “As part of our work, we are required to hold quarterly meetings with stakeholders that are involved in the process of helping to resettle refugees. These stakeholders include officials from local government, county personnel in human services, and representatives from public health, public safety, housing community, public education, social services, businesses and other service providers.”

There’s ample proof that county officials have gotten briefed on the programs. After all, they administer most of these programs. However, there’s no proof whatsoever that city officials have attended these meetings. Mayor Kleis has repeatedly said that the city doesn’t have anything to do with refugee resettlement. He’s also said “We don’t have any funding that goes to refugee resettlement.”

That’s pretty slippery wording. Notice that Mayor Kleis didn’t say that the city budget doesn’t spend money on refugees who’ve already settled here. Further, citizens who support Councilman Johnson’s moratorium haven’t talked about city budgets:

Since July 10, 22 people have spoken about refugee resettlement. Many of the speakers said they are concerned about the taxpayer cost of refugees.

Once the refugees have been here 90 days, federal funding disappears. At that point, the taxpayers get hit with the costs of supporting refugees. The same taxpayers that pay property taxes to the city get hit with property tax increases from the school district to pay for programs that help refugees learn the English language. That’s why St. Cloud’s education rating is awful. By comparison, Sartell, which doesn’t have to deal with refugees, earns a higher rating for education and for crime.

Our focus is to increase communication and seek solutions to meet the needs of refugee populations. This is a working group. Quarterly meetings were never intended to be an open public forum.

Thus far, it’s apparent that LSS’s focus is on keeping these proceedings secret.

We know there is community interest in learning more about refugee resettlement. To create greater understanding about this work, we are opening our December quarterly consultation meeting to interested public observers.

How quaint. LSS is opening up a meeting one time so LSS can say that they’ve been transparent.

Resettling refugees is humanitarian work. We’ve been involved in refugee resettlement for nearly 10 years in St. Cloud, and many decades in Minnesota. Our role is to help refugees get off to a good start and become productive members of the community as quickly as possible.

Actually, it’s a racket. Businesses that hire refugees who’ve been unemployed more than 6 months qualify for a tax credit of up to $9,600. Businesses hiring refugees aren’t hiring them for middle management positions. They’re hiring them for unskilled positions. In other words, businesses get cheap labor and a huge tax credit for hiring cheap labor.

Meanwhile, LSS gets paid $1,000 for each refugee it finds a home for. This year, LSS will get $225,000 to resettle refugees. That doesn’t sound like humanitarian work. That’s what a lucrative racket sounds like. This letter from Ron Branstner lays things out beautifully:

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This LTE made me laugh hysterically. The heart of the LTE says “There is a relatively new organization, the National Institute for Civil Discourse, that might welcome the debate/discussion that will take place on Nov. 6 at the St. Cloud City Council meeting, when Johnson plans to introduce his proposed ban. Rather than calling names, let us have the free speech discussion on an issue that divides many of us. “Civil discourse, wherein we actually listen and hear one another, is key to a democratic republic, which our Founding Fathers gave us!”

If you watch the video of that portion of the Oct. 23 City Council meeting, you’d see that those that voted for the Goerger resolution shut down debate the minute Councilman Johnson started speaking. Councilman Masters made the motion to stop discussion after only a few minutes of hearing from the opposition. While it’s wrong to call that censorship, it isn’t wrong to accuse the City Council 5 afraid of having a full-throated discussion of the issues.

Mayor Kleis has been flippant, too, frequently stating that a) it’s a federal matter and b) no money comes out of the city budget. Frankly, that’s insulting. I’ll stipulate that there isn’t a line item in St. Cloud’s operating budget titled ‘Law Enforcement- refugees’ or ‘City health inspections of Somali restaurants’, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a cost.

Further, St. Cloud taxpayers in Benton, Sherburne and Stearns counties live in ISD742. Everyone of those home owners pay property taxes that pay for the school levy that helps refugee students get up to speed on reading English. St. Cloud taxpayers pay taxes to the state, too, which funds many of the health insurance programs or other human services like housing assistance. Whether it’s technically part of St. Cloud’s operating budget or not, it’s still a tax paid by St. Cloud taxpayers.

Playing coy word games isn’t leadership. It’s insulting. Mayor Kleis, if you aren’t willing to be a leader, find a different job. St. Cloud has gone downhill the last 5+ years. Downtown businesses are doing poorly. The University that you provided political cover for is in a financial and enrollment tailspin. That’s hurting St. Cloud’s economy.

While it would be nice to see some civility and professionalism at next week’s City Council meeting, I don’t have high expectations for that.

Last Monday, the St. Cloud City Council went off the deep end. On Ox in the Afternoon’s Friday program, it was said that the City Council “flipped us the bird.” This was planned. Most disgustingly, it was a surprise ambush. Jeff Goerger put forward a resolution for the Council’s consideration. In putting forward the resolution, Goerger ignored the rules that the City Council revised this past August.

Apart from the tactics used, and infinitely more important, the City Council didn’t listen to the people. There have been a large group of people clamoring for an independent audit that tells St. Cloud residents how much of their taxes are being spent on subsidized housing, education, public safety, health and other things. That’s what was the driving force behind Councilman Johnson’s moratorium. City Council President Lewis, Councilman Laraway, Councilman Libert, Councilman Goerger and Councilman Masters voted against accountability and transparency.

They, along with Mayor Kleis, sang from the same discredited ‘hymnal’ that this is a federal issue that doesn’t intersect with the city’s budget. If they want to continue singing that discredited refrain, that’s their right. It’s also St. Cloud’s right to defeat each of these councilmembers the next time they’re up for re-election.

Goerger, Masters, Laraway, Lewis and Libert exposed themselves as unworthy of being called leaders. They did what Kleis wanted them to do. That makes them sheep, not leaders. Further, Goerger, Masters, Laraway, Lewis and Libert attempted to quiet the city with this resolution. They did the opposite. Rather than having a rational discussion with their constituents, the City Council essentially told the people to shut up, that they knew what’s best.

Goerger’s condescension was showing when he introduced his resolution, which was titled “in support of a just and welcoming community.” The implication wasn’t lost on St. Cloud. It’s apparent that Goerger thinks that those that disagree with him aren’t just. His introductory speech made that clear, saying “This one guy bringing forward a resolution is not the voice of the City Council”:

What is the City Council afraid of? It’s clear that they thought that they had to control the debate. It’s clear that the Council felt they had to repudiate Councilman Johnson. It’s clear that there’s a sizable and growing group of people who simply want to know that their taxes aren’t getting spent foolishly.

The other unmistakable message sent by the City Council was that they have no intention of being transparent with the people of St. Cloud. The unmistakable message sent by Councilman Goerger is that he’s a liberal who isn’t that bright. In his resolution, he stated that “the city of St. Cloud has the capacity to provide municipal services to the aforementioned prospective new residents without an impact on the city budget or quality of life.”

Anyone that thinks that refugees don’t have an impact on the city budget is delusional. I wrote in this post that this was a crystallizing event. Further, it’s clear from watching the video of the meeting that there were essentially as many citizens opposing Goerger’s resolution as supporting. Why, then, was the vote lopsided in favoring Goerger’s resolution?

Further, people are saying that the Goerger resolution passed. It didn’t. The only vote taken was on whether to call the question. No votes were taken on whether to approve Goerger’s resolution. This video clearly shows that:

That’s shown approximately 1:20:00 into the video. Within seconds of the vote to call the question, Council President Lewis adjourned the meeting.

Finally, it’s clear that the anti-transparency activists weren’t there to listen people with a different opinion. They were there to shout down people who disagreed with them. Think about that. The people supporting the resolution titled “in support of a just and welcoming community” shouted down the people who wanted a full, respectful discussion. These anti-transparency activists who demand St. Cloud be a welcoming community were openly hostile to Councilman Johnson.

That’s both ironic and pathetic.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis isn’t the brightest bulb in the Constitution’s chandelier. Appearing on KNSI Tuesday morning, Kleis told host Bob Hughes that “refugee resettlement is not within the city’s power to regulate and it would be a violation of the constitution.” Specifically, Mayor Kleis said “Only congress has the authority when it comes to immigration and then you have the aspect of the 14th amendment, the equal protection clause.”

The equal protection clause states “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

First, Mayor Kleis is right that the Constitution gives the federal government the authority to set immigration policy. Nobody’s disputing that. What Mayor Kleis didn’t explain was what laws Councilman Johnson’s resolution would violate. For that matter, Mayor Kleis didn’t say how a moratorium (a pause) would violate the Constitution.

Next, there’s the issue of the Refugee Act of 1980. Mayor Kleis sent this letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services. The letter reads a bit like a push poll at the end. Specifically, I’m referring to the part where Mayor Kleis wrote “The specific concern expressed by some groups is that these quarterly consultations are not occurring, at least not locally. Since this is a federal issue, and not a local matter, I am bringing this to your attention.”

Mayor Kleis, why can’t you put 2 and 2 together and get 4? The Refugee Act of 1980 requires consultations with “local governments.” If those consultations aren’t happening locally, which you admit isn’t happening, where would these consultations happen? In Washington, DC?

This sounds like shuck-and-jive Kleis, not Honest Abe Kleis. We have a right to expect better than this from our mayor.

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Now that it’s official that the St. Cloud City Council is packed with nanny state busybodies, the special interests are coming out of the woodwork. We’re now being told the virtues of government overreach. This time, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota weighed in with this editorial.

The editorial says “Ninety-five percent of addicted adult smokers started by age 21, which is why they heavily target 18-to-21-year-olds. With tactics like menthol and candy flavoring, magazine advertisements and event sponsorships, the tobacco industry aggressively markets to youth and young adults to recruit replacement smokers and guarantee profits.” Later, it says “Why should we care? Because smoking costs everyone. A recent report by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota showed smoking annually costs our state $3.2 billion to treat people with smoking-related diseases. Per capita, smoking costs $593 for every adult and child in Minnesota. It also claims 6,312 lives due to premature death. Every year.”

Let me answer the question first. Governments shouldn’t care. These are personal decisions. Anyone old enough to vote in elections and fight in wars is perfectly capable of making solid decisions. Further, this argument isn’t fitting for the situation. It’s one thing if a state law was passed raising the minimum age to 21. That law wouldn’t have much of a chance of succeeding but it would have a better chance of succeeding than this proposed city ordinance.

Passing this proposed ordinance might make people feel better momentarily but it doesn’t fix any problems. First off, I’d argue that this is a solution in search of a problem. Next, I’d highlight the fact that none of the other neighboring cities are thinking about raising the age. That means they’ll get the business that St. Cloud is chasing away.

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