Harold Hamilton's writing can state essential truths in ways that are hard to dispute or improve upon; hence, when as here he does that his Watchdog words, not mine, carry the theme:
Story #5: Ramsey Town Center Debacle.
Our number 5 story is still developing but is already on pace to go down as one of the biggest boondoggles in Anoka County history, and certainly the biggest at the municipal level.
The Ramsey Town Center debacle will stand as a cautionary tale to city councils around the nation for years to come. The Ramsey City Council essentially suffered from two major afflictions that helped doom the project.
The first was arrogance. Historically, Ramsey has been an exurb of large residential lots with a fair share of commercial and industrial real estate as well. The character of the city has been one of limited government, low taxes, and a general respect for the privacy of those who chose to live far from the urban core.
In a fit of hubris, the city council attempted to ignore the essence of the city’s culture and by fiat create a transit-oriented, high density, mixed use downtown in a city that had never had or wanted such a development.
The transit never came as there is no commuter rail station and the parking garage off Highway 10 is highly underutilized. There will likely never be any real demand for the high-density residential housing because high-density housing is only successful where there is a supporting infrastructure of transportation, retail, and other services within walking distance. Few people want to live in a condo and yet have to drive to buy a gallon of milk or drive 50 miles to work.
The second flaw was a lack of sophistication. While it will probably take years to conclude the investigations and lawsuits, it appears that the city council was taken in by grandiose promises and slick presentations of a new suburban utopia. In short, it looks like Ramsey got in over its head – fast.
"The second flaw was a lack of sophistication."
Just like good holiday candy, it's hard to stop with a single piece. This time excerpting rather than a total en banc copy:
Story #2: The County Board Evolves.
Revolution it probably isn’t, but there are definitely changes afoot at the Anoka County courthouse. Like the knuckle-dragging caveman who has become a refined 21st Century human, the Anoka County Board has turned in its Dan Erhart era wooden clubs and animal skins in exchange for top coats and civil discourse.
Yes, he got his train after years of futility. But he is no longer board chairman. And he didn’t get his football stadium.
Again, kudos to commissioners Rhonda Sivarajah and Robyn West for demonstrating the courage and commitment to principle that is needed to bring about change, especially on a county board where independent thinking had all but disappeared under Erhart’s leadership.
Story #1: Vikings Stadium Fails.
Hands down, the failed Vikings stadium effort was the biggest political story in the North Metro this year. In a classic David-vs.Goliath matchup, regular taxpayers triumphed over Zygi Wilf, Anoka County, and the hoards of special interests that spent millions trying to ram a taxpayer-funded stadium down our throats – without a voter referendum.
Like most Anoka County government mega-projects, the stadium chase was filled with its share of buffoonery and incompetence.
Perhaps most astounding was the fact that the county offered up a piece of real estate for a stadium without ever determining if the land could really support a stadium. Months into the project, the Army Corps of Engineers went public with its concerns about the vast number of wetlands on the site and the need for numerous environmental permits, even if the land itself could support a stadium. The Watchdog is left to surmise that the extent of the county’s soil testing was Erhart standing on the land like a pioneer of yore declaring “This is it!”
He says, "buffoonery and incompetence," and pick the picture this time, reader. Yeah, lots and lots of posibilities, that's why I just left it open that way.
And Erhart, "This is it," an image like Brigham Young. I wonder if the Erhart legacy will be more or at least a part of a Mountain Meadows Massacre one, rather than solely one of a finding of the promised land flowing with bounty and manna, for the man's core followers and believers.
But I'm not criticizing Dominating Dan, I am merely someone who's not been here as long as he or the Watchdog, reporting as much as agreeing with woofing by my friends.
And like that "no referendum" concept the Watchdog woofs over, stadium-style, we had a Norman Castle built here in Ramsey, down on Sunwood, next to the ramp that the first woofing item mentioned - and there was not a referendum over that lavishness in Tom's Town (who else was on council throughout the failed process, from genesis to developer-exodus, so name it after the man on watch).
Now, here's the kicker, and it was not a contractor or workman's error, it was there in the desktop model, planned from the beginning, intentionally started and finished precisely that way, as these pictures show - pick your word, bent, curved - your choice of terms:
For comparison, and back to woofing, here's a picture where you can see a dog's hind leg:
So, is the legacy we leave our children, a city hall "bent as a dog's hind leg?" A city hall "curved as a dog's hind leg?" How would you say it, Ben?
"___________ as a dog's hind leg."
Whatever, Ben, this next November, be sure to vote.
Showing up that way will sweep house better than a broom.