consultants are sandburs

Friday, December 20, 2013

Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence.

Who are they? Here and here. Mostly names and affiliations in the business community to me, on the board; the thing headed by a former Pawlenty person. Explore their website:

http://www.fiscalexcellence.org/

The post is presented because of mention by Strib's Editorial Board, online in an op-ed, here.

With Ramsey exploring franchise fee use, and with public attention heightened to multiplication of revenue sources and how different public revenue paths affect a citizenry differently, this op-ed link, etc., seemed worth posting.

In particular: Early in my deciding to look more at local government practices, (that would be at the time of the lawsuit against Hendriksen by another councilmember and its chilling effect and the time of James Norman as city administrative head), I came to learn of a proposal in Norman's mind and planning, to have a Port Authority in Ramsey.

Big-time red flag on that hummer. A worry of back-door operations sprang to mind.

Luckily, so far vigilence has kept Ramsey free of having a Port Authority [absence of a port in Ramsey did not seem to at all deter James Norman's intent], and going into a New Year, may we hope fervently that Ramsey never has a Port Authority.

I would even like to see that in Ramsey's Charter.

The Charter mentions "boards and commissions" but is silent on "authorities" despite Ramsey having two active ones, the EDA and HRA, with no specific Charter checks or balances or defining goals for either. The new year may be one of opportunity to better define checks and balances in how authorities operate in town. The last council, before the present body took over in January 2013 had, in the view of some, an inordinate passion for use of the HRA in unchecked and imbalanced ways. That HRA operation then featured an identical membership makeup to the council, but splitting the "business" of things in ways where debate over soundness of operations and maximization of transparency was possible. Reliance on consultancies was a factor, and likely may again be so, with staff turnover vs stability also a factor.

UPDATE: Going into the New Year, a reminder of a step I believe helpful to government transparancy, was adding the weekly update to city web publication; i.e., on the city website homepage, http://www.ci.ramsey.mn.us/, the left sidebar menu, top item, "Agendas, Minutes and Weekly Update." In the past, combing over agendas and waiting for the publication of minutes (where there necessarily was delay), was the norm with the Weekly Update then an item circulated among staff and council, primarily, with, presumably some board/commission/authority members also privy to circulation. Now it is published online.

This link, for the most recent Update.

Readers might check a few earlier Updates, to get a feel for the condensed, helpful presentation format.

Again, for those who may want to set a bookmark, the direct LaserFiche-WebLink page link for Ramsey's Weekly Update posting is here. (If that link fails for any reader, please remember the city website has included a Request/Response page:

http://www.ci.ramsey.mn.us/requestandresponse

With that and direct contact info for individuals in city government posted for fairly easy website navigation and identification of persons and contact means, transparancy per the website has much improved, over time, where I believe most who remember GOVDOCS days and such would agree.

FURTHER UPDATE: More Ramsey stuff. I do not know whether monthly Town Center news is still being sent out by email, but there is a SUBSCRIPTION box, this page.

With Ted LaFrance now on staff as Ramsey's economic development liaison, he likely will be responsible for news releases related to his title/responsibilities (Economic Development Manager); although it is early in his tenure so we may wait for things to adjust.

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