What's Left of Maplewood (MN)

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

Saturday, January 27, 2007

When will you apply?

What more is there to say?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

LookingNorth: Here we go again!

The latest from our neighbor LookingNorth:

One more time, we see the double standard at work...

From Maplewood Voices:

"Mr. Rossbach and Ms. Juenemann voted against adopting the 2007 labor contracts as the only information they were supplied upon which to base the required council ratification was a list of the unions involved."

On the one hand, the queen mayor insists on having more info on the DeSoto project before they move forward. Yet, when it comes time for the labor contract ratification, it is OK for our formerly long-time unemployed city manager to provide a shred of barely related info on the subject. A nice touch was trying to hang the stink of waiting for their increases on Rossbach.

Does she simply have a memory issue (that could be taken care of with drugs)? Or is she really that unethical?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Historical Context: Roseville

A regular visitor seen at Maplewood city council functions in the past year has been the former mayor of Roseville, Kyzlick-whateverhisnameis. Apparently he's good friends with Mayor Longrie, perhaps something of an advisor or mentor, helping her carry on his idea of how government should be.

So what was he like, when he was running council meetings in Roseville? Sure, you've heard he was a goofball, but did you ever wonder if reality could be as bad as the picture drawn in the media? And exactly how similar is he to our comment troll, as some have suggested?

Well, wonder no more. While you wait for tonight's cable access entertainment, broadcast live from our council chambers, check out this collection archival footage, which a Roseville tipster pointed us to.

LookingNorth Asks, "Why...?"

A missive from LookingNorth asks why we our elected officials can't seem live up to the example set by our neighbors in Little Canada:


Over the weekend, I came across the following article from the Pioneer Press...


After reading it, the same thought keeps coming up in my head...


Why do the band of three need to be so uncooperative? Why can't the mayor be more democratic and less autocratic? And, after a famous line...Why can't we all just get along?

I don't see any 2AM shenanigans. I don't see any numbers doublespeak. All I see is four people having a civil discussion with some logical back-and-forth which includes a civil difference of opinion that was likely resolved within the spirit of the law.

Why can't the band of three follow this example?


Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Value of a Dollar

Today we have another guest post, in effect, from LookingNorth:


From our troll: "If by Chuck working a $5 million road project around some kid's graduation party, increases the job cost by one cent, Chuck should pay with his job."

From the judge via the Pioneer Press: "...the city could be taking a financial risk by hiring new managers while facing the possibility of having to pay salaries, back pay and damages should it lose the civil case."

It looks to me like the City Manager might be losing his job sooner than we think...

(aka ChuckingNorth)

Somehow, LookingNorth, I have a suspicion that the Longristas apply different rules to Mr. Copeland and his financial bungling ...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


In the comments of a thread below, our frequent visitor LookingNorth shared a disturbing confession:

PS: Yes, it kills me now to say it. I did vote for Hjelle and Cave. Go ahead Frostbrand and Drawnleftward, ban me from the blog or flog me publically if you like. I probably deserve it.

Neighbor, all joking aside, I don't think you need to worry about drawnLeftward and I doing either one of those things.

Some people, our troll being a convenient example, see politics as a matter of picking a team and then supporting and defending them, even when doing so becomes ludicrous, illogical, and self-contradictory — as it so often has this past year in Maplewood. In their way of thinking, specific issues are really beside the point. The overarching strategy is to separate "us" from "them," and then use that division to push the interests of "us" at the expense of "them.” Thus we see the Longrista troll continually trying to unify critics of Longrie/Cave/Hjelle under a label like "Rossbachians," and telling us that the political victors deserve all the spoils they can take for themselves and their loyalists.

Reality is not so simple. Critics of this city council majority come from all over the political spectrum. I am sure they do NOT have unified views on the many of the specific issues before Maplewood. (Compare the voting correlation of Juenemann and Rossbach to the correlations between members of the Gang of Three, for example.) It's even less likely that they have monolithic views on politics in the world beyond Maplewood city limits.

What the critics do have in common is that they see that the institution of city government is being destroyed, and they are concerned about the process of governance and, in short, the rule of law. The rules by which the city is supposed to govern itself are being ignored and undermined, in big ways and small. We've spent a lot of words in this blog talking about the specific examples.

There's another way of looking at politics, which is to see it as a process of mediating the different and sometimes conflicting interests of citizens. In this point of view, it's not absurd to provide help to someone you know voted against you, or vice versa; nor is it crazy to take a stand against someone's position on one issue, while supporting them on another. Whether you are concerned about lowering taxes, or preserving open space, or encouraging redevelopment, or hiring more police, or reducing the city's payroll — whatever the specific ways that you think the common good can be served — you can unite with people who strongly disagree with your particular goals or priorities when it comes to supporting a framework of governance that is open, inclusive, and accountable.

I wasn't watching that closely at the time, but I don't think the Longrista campaign literature highlighted their wish to dismantle the city staff, ignore state laws they didn't like (such as the Police Civil Service Commission statutes or the open meeting law), pursue personal grudges at taxpayer expense (including the taxpayers of other communities, whose insurance premiums are paying the League of Minnesota Cities' lawyers to defend cases the judges have told us the city will lose), give us the second highest levy increase in the past decade, etc. I mean, it's one thing to vote for Cave because you think she likes preserving parks; it's another to do so knowing that she thought the city council should just ignore state laws that she finds inconvenient.

And how could you know? If someone had told you in late October of 2005 that what we saw in 2006 was Diana Longrie's idea of good governance, would you even have believed it? I don't think I would have.

I think there's a growing number of Maplewood residents who feel a particular bitterness about the state of the city, like LookingNorth — the bitterness of betrayal, of being delivered goods that were not what they thought they were ordering.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Where will you spend yours?

Copeland headline in the latest city newsletter

What else is there to say?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

LookingNorth: Hypocrites & Doozies

A couple more Monday night missives from our friend LookingNorth...

Subject: Hypocrites All


This follows a theme that has developed this past week or so. The threesome find some things more important only when it suits them. Also, when it is convenient, those things that were previously so bloody important are no longer so.

Two examples tonight, come to mind.

The first is diana needing to have all the info in front of her before she make a decision on the $5 million Desoto/Skillman project. However, when Will and Kathy were looking for more details before voting on the budget, then it was not important.

On the other end of the spectrum, hjelle goes ape (again!) when Will brings forth something that was not on the agenda. Where was hjelle's concern for the agenda the night of the 2:00 am stunt?

Is there a picture of the threesome in Webster's next to the word Hypocrite?

It's a really consistent quirk of the Gang of Three and, not so coincidentally, their sock puppet in our comments. When other people want to record meetings, it's totally unacceptable; when the mayor's husband wants to, it's a constitutional right. When a severance package is in Fursman's contract, it's "giving away the farm." When the same terms are in Copeland's package, it's just standard operating procedure. When a previous council and manager raise taxes, it's proof of their fiscal irresponsibility; when this council majority raises taxes even more, it's due to circumstances beyond their control, and they should be cut some slack because they're new. Monday night just gave us more examples to add to an already long list of Official Maplewood Double Standards.

Subject: Doozies

The last two items were doozies.

Does copeland even know what he is talking about when he talks about conflict of interest? It's amazing how he proves almost every week how much of a lackey he really is for the threesome.

And how about diana? Can someone confirm that she actually studied law somewhere in the continental US? Her delusional lines of logic defy belief. That business about the recording and waivers was amazing. Did I miss something or was I hallucinating like her? Dind't boy attorney confirm that the meetings could be recorded? And then she tries to weasel around it. Now I know why I stay up until 1:00 am. The endings are almost always show stoppers.

I might have to start attending more meetings. I would've loved to have been at the Mayor's Forum to see her and copeland stick thier feet in thier mouths. Oh yeah, copeland already has diana's toes in his mouth.

Remind me never to hire her for any of my legal battles.

I have to tell you, I'm honestly torn in my evaluation of Diana. Is she truly mentally muddled as she so often seems to be, or is that just an act to disarm people against her underlying malice and deceit? Even Hjelle can be seen rolling his eyes these days as she goes on and on belaboring one obvious point after another. Does she just love the sound of her own voice, or is she working on some Svengaliesque trick to lull everyone into a suggestible hypnotic state?

Kantrud's problem, of course, was that Longrie hadn't had a chance to tell him ahead of time what she wanted his legal opinion to be, so he naively provided the obvious and straightforward answer to Will's question. Whoops. Pretty funny how she tried to argue that Kantrud's opinion in this case doesn't matter because he hadn't taken time to research it (i.e., consult with Diana off the record and then go and try to find some contorted stretch of legal reasoning to support what she wants his opinion to be).

LookingNorth: Graduations

It's becoming a bit of a tradition for some of our readers to send us their thoughts during the Monday night council meetings. Sorry I didn't get these posted sooner -- Blogger was down much of today for some kind of maintenance.

So, without further ado, here's some Monday night commentary, from frequent commenter LookingNorth:

Subject: Graduations

The council is back after a seemingly long holiday break. The one work that comes to mind is bittersweet. This comes from Chuck Ahl in action. Why bittersweet you ask? After all, Chuck is very knowledgeable. He is on the ball. He answers every question asked of him. There appears to be no beating around the bush. He seems to know everything and then some in a job that seems to be one of the most complicated in the city. So again, you may ask, why I would be I be bittersweet watching someone who is apparently so good at what he does. Well, that is exactly the source. He is VERY good at what he does. I experience a certain melancholy thinking about what might have been if three people had taken a step back last year and took a more reasonable path to bringing in a new city manager. I can only imagine how efficiently our great city might be running at this time and going forward if Chuck was at the helm. He is someone who appears to understand his place.

He understands that he is here, not for himself, not for the mayor or any other council member for that matter. He is here for US, the citizens.

One example from tonight’s meeting sums up Chuck Ahl. He told all that he wants to see any and all people who are affected by the reconstruction in the Desoto/Skillman area that would like to be heard. In fact he really wants to know, for example, if anyone is having a graduation. If so, he will work around it(!!!!!) What a classy move. This is everything these people should be about!

Contrast that with the sitting city manager. He is there for only one citizen. That being queen Diana. I don’t see the current manager going out of his way to make something like a graduation work for anyone but the one whose feet he kisses.

Chuck is willing to work a $5 million project around someone’s graduation. This is service to the citizens at it’s best! Let’s graduate Chuck Ahl to city manager!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Copeland's Package

One commenter this morning asked, "How much is Copeland being paid?"

Here's the relevant text Hjelle's motion to hire him (from the minutes on the Maplewood city website):
"Councilmember Hjelle moved under Section 2-101 of the Maplewood City Code, appoint and hire Mr. Copland as the permanent Maplewood City Manager, with 1 year probation, starting tomorrow, at a yearly salary of $85,000 including benefits currently given. The council will give Mr. Copeland a mid-year job performance review no later than June 1, 2007. A salary review will occur after successful completion of an additional job performance review no later than October 31, 2007. After satisfactory completion of his probationary period, Mr. Copeland will be entitled to receive 6 months pay and benefits if terminated by the council for any reason other than cause."

A couple of observations.

1. Previously, the mayor said that Copeland's salary was $78,000, so this permanent appointment came with a generous 9% salary increase.

2. Hjelle implied in his remarks before the motion that by making the appointment probationary for a year, he was giving voters the chance to express their view of the manager in next year's city council elections. However, his actual motion requires that Copeland's probationary status go away before the November elections -- "no later than October 31, 2007."

3. Once they remove the "probationary" tag, Copeland is entitled to the same 6 months' severance package that the Longristas have described as "giving away the farm" when it applied to Fursman.

I wonder if it's coincidence that $85,000 plus half that again for a severance package adds up just about to what Fursman's annual salary was. It's like they want to be able to claim they are saving money, while actually arranging to pay their pal as much as his predecessor for the full year job they can guarantee him, if the next council fires him.

The way around the golden parachute, of course, is for the 2008 council to terminate Copeland for cause. Every instance of his incompetence that citizens document is a tool toward that end.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Where is the Money Going?

Commenting on my last post, our regular Longrie sock puppet asked, "So where did the money go?" She floated a few theories, but as usual provided no documentation -- they're just the usual Longrie smokescreens (joining the ranks of "I don't believe Bob Cardinal could have written this letter!" and "I never told you to do the background check in-house!" and "I believe that senior managers were planning to organize all along, and it's just coincidence that they did it while I am mayor!").

It's hard to figure out exactly, but we can take a preliminary stab at where the spending increases lie. Looking page 10 of the 2007 draft budget, we can do some simple math to get the changes in total by classification.

In total, spending is increasing by $1,506,390. This is slightly more than the property levy increase (that being $1,443,970), so we can see that it's almost all being put on the shoulders of Maplewood property owners. (Hence the property tax levy is increasing almost twice as much as city spending.)

The spending increase breaks down as follows:

Personnel Services: +$863,770
Commodities: +$13,060
Contractual Services: +$692,540
Capital Outlay and Depreciation: -$118,520
Other Charges: +$55,540

We've been assured that there are huge payroll savings due to getting rid of all these "overpaid" senior managers, on the order of half a million dollars or more. Over and over, we've been told how cushy the jobs are and how overpaid Maplewood employees are. We've also been told that Human Resources was dissolved and replaced by Copeland's office and the new Bethel & Associates, to handle labor negotiations. The idea I guess is that Bethel would do a better job of negotiating on the city's behalf, and cost less to do the job. In terms of benefits, we also heard a lot about how health insurance costs were being held steady. And of course we're supposed to be saving money with a lower cost city attorney.

If we believe Copeland and the Longristas, what we should expect would be a decline in the personnel classification expenditures, and perhaps a modest increase in contractual services (as some of the old HR staff budget moves out of house to Bethel).

Instead, we see a big increase in personnel costs, and a huge jump in contractual services expense.

If there is $500,000 in savings from the staff reorganization and firings (as Longrie's sock puppet has claimed -- though without citation, leading us to wonder where this person gets that specific figure), and we add that to $863,770 in new spending on personnel, then all else being equal, the average Maplewood employee must be getting a 8.1% increase in salary and benefits next year. In fact, it should be more than that, since experienced and supposedly high-paid managers let go (Fursman, Coleman, Anderson, Banick) are presumably being replaced by lower-level employees with lower starting wages. Factor that in (and keep in mind that health care isn't the source of the increase, thanks to the new plan that Copeland touted and claimed credit for), and we should expect the typical employee who was with the city last year to get a pay hike over 10% maybe? That's pretty generous for a tough, experienced negotiator to hand out, especially if there is supposedly a mandate from the council majority to rein in the expenses.

It looks to me like Bethel can be added to the list of costly incompentents that the Longristas have invited to gorge themselves at the city trough.

Remember the document that used to be on the city website, justifying the Xcel tax increase? It claimed that the Xcel tax increase would be used to lower taxes. The TV media dutifully reported that Maplewood was lowering property taxes. It was a flat-out lie. I think Copeland clarified at the meeting that it was really a reduction in next year's expected tax increase -- not exactly the same as a tax cut -- but they successfully inserted the lie into the public consciousness, and gave their supporters a false justification to cling to.

A similar deception has been perpetrated vis a vis spending in the budget. Time and again the Longristas talk about the big savings they're getting by firing and reorganizing and negotiating hard. But in the end, where are these alleged savings? The bottom line is more spending and higher taxes -- and the loss of the experienced, competent people who had successfully held down spending and taxes in past years.