What's Left of Maplewood (MN)

We can't draw, so we are left with verbal cartoons about Maplewood city politics.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lillie News on Xcel Fee

A new article is up today on the Maplewood-Ramsey County Review newspaper site about the Xcel tax increase.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Oracular Readers

During Monday night's meeting, one of our readers (at about a quarter past 11) sent a prescient e-mail to us at WhatsLeftOfMaplewood@yahoo.com:
While watching the meeting, am I reading too much into things, or are
the threesome, or parts thereof, trying to setup Chuck Ahl for a fall?
Could they be starting to position our temporary manager for the
permanent gig?
Good call.

In at least two ways on Monday, the council demonstrated their political incompetence: First, Xcel played them like a cheap kazoo; second, they managed to make Copeland permanent in the worst possible way, by doing it in the dark of night before an empty chamber, thus living up to all the bad things their detractors have said about them and their contempt for process and open governance.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hjelle: Off Topic, But Passionate

Chumpelopithecus watchers are known to wait long hours (or fast forward until their thumbs are sore) to see this elusive hominid spring from torpor into his famous, furious rage. In this respect, Monday's meeting did not disappoint. Besides the obligatory slings and arrows cast at persons not present (such as council member Will Rossbach or citizen Dale Trippler), and always some angry howling at the media, we were treated to a perfect exemplar of Chumpelopithecus behavior: When Xcel's representative stepped forward to answer council questions about the electric franchise tax, I mean, fee increase, Chumpelopithecus launched immediately into a screeching tirade about how city fire trucks have to be on hand whenever there's a gas leak to repair, and similar outrages.

Some citizens, lacking the specially cultured palate that can appreciate the unusual behavior of Hjelle (as one might learn to savor a malodorous cheese), actually took him to task later in the meeting for his rudeness and irrelevance. Those of us who might want to preserve the office of this endangered hominid have a difficult task, I fear, to convince the electorate not to eliminate what surely looks like a noisome, invasive species.

If there was a sharp point hidden amidst the soft flying poo he hurled, it seemed to be that the city should really charge more taxes or fees to Xcel. Of course, Xcel could be expected to pass those taxes along to their Maplewood customers. Unlike, say, a trucking company that might have a spill on the freeway, and thus might pass clean-up and insurance costs to their customers somewhere far away, Xcel's customers are us, and so we could expect them to pass along higher costs (such as being billed for Maplewood firemen standing at the ready while they repair a gas leak) right here at home.

This is not the kind of subtle thinking you can expect a Chumpelopithecus to master. We must learn to enjoy the grunting and chest-beating for the entertainment that it is, however devoid of substance.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Copeland Made Permanent

Whoa. You'd have to stay up terribly late to get the really big news last night -- in the wee hours of the morning, and with only 4 of 5 council members present, the triumvirate decided to short circuit the whole city manager hiring process and make Copeland's interim appointment permanent, as reported by savemaplewood.com.

So much for having a process to get citizen input.

Xcel Fee Coverage

Local media seems to have turned out to cover a crowded meeting last night, on the topic of the Xcel electric franchise fee. Here are some links:

Fox 9 News
KSTP (Channel 5) News

The Maplewood/Ramsey County Review has an article up on the subject from last week, but not from last night's meeting, thus far. I didn't see any coverage in the Pioneer Press or Star Tribune websites, at least not yet.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Passing the Bucks

A topic discussed at some length at the last council meeting (and earlier this year) was the raising of the electric franchise tax, er, I mean, fee, which Xcel charges its customers and passes through to the city of Maplewood. This past week all of us Maplewood residents got letters in the mail from Xcel advising us of the proposed increase, suggesting we could attend tonight's council meeting or call city hall if we had concerns about the 440% increase in this tax, er, I mean, fee. Apparently Xcel is not eager to get the blame for this.

Perhaps in response to such phone calls, the city of Maplewood has put up a document explaining the fee increase. With clumsy legerdemain that would make the lowliest street magician blush, the document contends that the fee increase should really be regarded as a reduction in taxes.

No kidding.

Besides the amusing proposition that "not increasing your taxes as much as we might" = "tax cut," the chart provided in the document is enlightening. Even by the city administration's calculations, we can see that the fee increase is shifting the burden of city expenses. Where is it being shifted? Well, if you're a homeowner with property in the lower valuation range ($150,000 or less) you're at best looking at a wash. If you are a renter or run a non-profit agency or other property-tax-exempt entity (wouldn't this include churches?), this will of course be entirely an increase in your taxes, I mean, fees. On the other hand, if you own a $400,000 house, you'll be able to rest, comfortable in the knowledge that you'll have an extra $44 in your pocket, helpfully provided by low-income renters, Second Harvest Food Bank, and the like, thanks to the Maplewood City Council.

I wonder if it really increases the appeal of this proposal to market it as a plan to redistribute wealth from those with the least assets to those with the most?

It might be an interesting meeting tonight. I wonder if some residents who have not previously had the Clowncil on their radar got a wake-up call in the mail from Xcel.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

Remember to vote. Remind your friends, neighbors and family to vote.

And if you haven't seen it, here's a graphic video reminder of the importance of this election: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gr5tx0lcyQc