consultants are sandburs

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

RAMSEY - Today I submitted my application to be on the City's Charter Commission. NOTE IMPORTANT ENDING UPDATE.

The charter is online, pdf form, on the city website, here. That link is given, this city website subpage.

An earlier post noted the City is soliciting applications for boards and commissions.

Although the application packet is silent about charter commission, it exists and people can apply to serve, as with any other board or commission.

I did exactly that because of two beliefs. Beliefs of what might be beneficial governmental steps to take, in the public interest.

First, stringent conflict of interest recognition and regulations should be policy put into this grounding document. That is clear from past land speculator presence on council, where votes were abstained but where untelevised work session participation at the council table happened. Indeed that was the very case at the work session before the televised same-day council vote on preliminary plat approval of the Nedegaard LLC's Town Center exploit. There were "Feges-this" and "Feges-that" comments by the conflicted member during the work session, it was not silent participation, but the conflicted member stood down on TV, when a vote was taken. Also there was the Flaherty council-spouse employment, whereby the council person had facilitated a series of subsidies and a dubious use of city credit and bonding to advance the Flaherty adventure to a groundbreaking, after which the spouse got a construction supervision job. Curtailing such stuff at the most fundamental level of things, the charter, seems overdue.

Second, sewer-water extension is already a charter topic. It needs tightening and from experience a few years ago charter amendment games can be played against citizen efforts to have the charter amended according to statute. Then City Administrator James Norman, procured two legal opinions against charter protections being proposed by Terry Hendriksen and me. Basically, with precise language something that would benefit from the entire commission's input, the charter should by definition say that involuntary hookups or routing decisions of city sewer or water improvements does not benefit a single family residential property by being along adjacent rights of way unless/until a voluntary petition by the property owner to subdivide to allow multiple lots and increased density. The Charter should be clear: That substitution of city services for private services is an alteration of form alone without actual ongoing resident single-family present benefit.

Special sewer-water assessments are limited by law to not exceed benefit to a property so that definition by charter of no present or immediate benefit would serve to protect ownership property rights. Because the charter already has provisions related to sewer-water expansionism, any such change would be supplemental, and not preemptive of other charter property ownership protections.

Likewise, such a possible charter amendment would allow recoupment of city costs at the time of any voluntary subdivision application filed by a property's owner. But not sooner where a hardship might otherwise be imposed with no actual benefit to somebody wanting only to have his/her family continue to live in the family home.

Condemnation or negotiation in lieu of condemnation for rights of way, a partial taking of land, any of that would not be a subdivision triggering anything, since it would be involuntary, even if negotiation vs. litigation leads to the taking for public purposes. Words would need to be carefully chosen, which is why the City Attorney chairs charter commission meetings and why having lawyers on the commission as at present has benefits (with lawyers, of course, cost-benefit arguments always are possible).

Roughly, those are my policy reasons for wanting to become a charter commission member. I believe that they would benefit the citizens, and as the Minnesota Constitution begins:

Section 1. Object of government.

Government is instituted for the security, benefit and protection of the people, in whom all political power is inherent, together with the right to alter, modify or reform government whenever required by the public good.

Sometimes folks in government may be rushed and harried, and may neglect that, and referenda are not held sometimes when I would favor holding them.

Hence, I urge any like-minded citizens of Ramsey, wanting either tighter conflict of interest constraints in Ramsey, or greater property ownership protections re expansions of governmental provided sewer and water services, (or both); and who are deeply respectful of that Constitutional Article I, Section 1 mantra; to apply as I have, for charter commission membership.

I was ignorant of procedures, and presumed all boards and commissions follow comparable procedures. City Clerk Thieling emailed:

I am in receipt of your email to Colleen re omission of the Charter on the list of Boards and Commissions. She did not omit the Charter. Vacancies on and appointments to the Charter are all done under a separate announcement. The Council does not interview and appoint Charter members; the appointments are all done by the Tenth Judicial Chief Judge. Someone interested in being appointed to the Charter may send their request directly to the Judge - or to me - and I will pass it on to the Judge. I would be happy to send your paperwork on to the Judge as is - or if you would like to include a letter of introduction and request to be appointed, I will wait and send that all together. Please let me know what you would like me to do.

Since a form is quickest for a busy judge to review, I replied:

Why not just send it on as is, with a note of yours saying I misunderstood the process, and whether that form suffices if/when there is an opening on the charter commission. If you find out more is required, please let me know.

If anything more is learned, it shall be posted.

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