What's Left of Maplewood (MN)

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

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Bill Comes Due

The election will bring change in the Maplewood City Council -- but not until January. In the meantime, the sitting council needs to finish its budget for 2008. Two days after the voters spanked the council majority in the September primary, the trio decided to give Rebecca Cave a last-ditch campaign gimmick, by voting 3-2 (with essentially no discussion) to freeze the property tax levy at 2007's level. This allowed them to campaign on claims of holding down taxes, while putting off the actual hard work of balancing the revenue shortfall with other revenue sources (non-property tax and fee increases) and service cuts until after the election.

Now the election is past, and we can see the bill for Rebecca's campaign strategy. Take a look at today's meeting packet, which includes the proposed 2008 rates for all kinds of city fees and taxes. As expected by anyone who wasn't lured in by the council majority's shell game, we see many double-digit (and larger) increases.

Is your street due for repair in 2008? Expect to pay 10% more for your assessment. If your street is getting a complete reconstruction, that will be an extra $500 out of your pocket, compared to people whose streets were fixed this year.

Environmental Utility Fund fees on properties in Maplewood are increasing 10%. For the typical single-family home, that means an extra $4.92 per year.

The really big increases are in the Planning Fees schedule. Have a plot of land that you need divided into multiple lots? The fee per lot created for residential one- or two-family dwellings is increasing from $87 to $1,110 -- a 1,176% increase. If you need to apply for a Conditional Use Permit for a single-family residential property, the fee is increasing 51% from $997 to $1510.

How about a sign for your business? The "Wall Sign Permit" (apparently we expect to issue 50 each year) has its fee increasing 46%, from $72 to $105.

All these fee increases aren't enough to cover the shortfall from the tax freeze, though, so even if they are all approved this evening, we can expect to see additional fee increases and spending cuts as the budget process moves forward.

Friday, November 02, 2007


The Maplewood Voters Coalition has posted the transcript of an interview of Maplewood Police Officer Palma, which was released today by Dr. Marlene Palkovich's attorney. See Maplewood Voices for more background. Dr. Palkovich is a Police Civil Service Commissioner and also a board member of the MVC.

Synopsis: At a special meeting in early October, city employment attorney Charles Bethel leveled accusations against Police Commissioner Palkovich, saying that Officer Palma had filed a complaint that Dr. Palkovich had harassed him. Erik Hjelle made a motion to table the issue and adjourn the meeting, a motion that passed with a 3-2 vote (Hjelle/Cave/Longrie vs. Rossbach/Juenemann). Thus, after giving Bethel the opportunity to make these claims, the meeting ended without allowing Dr. Palkovich or her attorney to rebut the allegations.

It turns out that Palkovich's attorney had already interviewed Officer Palma, with Palma's attorney present. As the transcript of the recorded interview makes clear, Palma denied that he was harassed or made any complaint of harassment.

This portion of the exchange is perhaps even more disturbing (RF=attorney Rob Fowler, representing Dr. Palkovich; SP=Officer Palma; MA=police union attorney Marylee Abrams):

RF: Did anybody make, if you understand the term “a quid pro quo” deal with you to go along with this complaint in exchange for anything?

SP: Ah,

RF: I know these are difficult and ridiculous questions but I just need to know.

SP: Can I talk to you first (Marylee Abrams)?

MA: Sure.

(recorder left on while SP and MA left the room)

RF: I actually left my recorder running…

SP: Ok that’s fine.

RF: so there is no break in my recording.

SP: Alright, the question, if you want to repeat it for me?

RF: Ya know, I don’t know exactly how I asked it, but what I was wanting to know was did anybody at the City offer you kind of a “quid pro quo” deal for advancing this complaint, or did was there any promises made to you if you would go along with the complaint, anything like that?

SP: I’ll tell you the situation. I received 2 phone calls on this date.

RF: Ok?

SP: The first one, as I was still, I had just ah, ah, resigned as union steward, but we still had a contract negotiation, er contract that went through arbitration, and we were just ah, figuring out the particulars of it, and we had a conference call with our business agent, another union steward, and our finance director.

RF: Ok.

SP: Alright, ah, and ah, there was an issue settled, where it only affected me on deferred comp, where I ah got my backpay, ah, of $400, and ah, at the end of that conversation or as we were hanging up, and ah the business agent was going top take care of a couple of the other contract things, the City Attorney told me that he would be calling me back on another matter.

RF: OK. And then you got the call from Chuck Bethel?

SP: The City, I’m sorry the City Attorney, so it’s the same person, then he called me about an hour later.

Am I reading this right? It sounds like this police officer feels that his receiving $400 in back pay was given as a quid pro quo by the city attorney in exchange for going along with this false complaint against Dr. Palkovich.

City News: Right on Time

Just as expected, the November city news is here remarkably early in the month -- you can download it now from the city website. As I predicted yesterday in a comment thread, it includes a healthy dose of taxpayer-funded campaign literature for Rebecca Cave.

Councilmember Erik Hjelle devotes his column (page 3) to reinforcing Cave's message from the previous issue, and attacking councilmember/candidate Rossbach. Unlike many columns attributed to Erik over the past two years, this one really does have the genuine feel of his writing. (The only time he uses the word "wonderful" is in quotation marks, with sarcasm. That's what real Hjelle writing is like!)

City Manager Greg Copeland devotes a full page to misrepresenting the financial and personnel impact of the 2007 budget. He trumpets a "million dollars in savings" in a budget that included a 10.2% tax levy increase, demonstrating as he has so often before his difficulty mastering the basics of mathematics. (Apparently the old "$700,000 in savings" number that he used to spout was deemed insufficiently grand, so now he is adding in the salaries of the dispatchers and their managers who transitioned to Ramsey County's payroll as part of the 800 MHz emergency communications changeover.)

Check it out, if you have the stomach for it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dear OAH

If you haven't seen it yet, I noticed the Maplewood Voters Coalition today posted an update on events related to their successful complaint against Rebecca Cave and the MFA. Apparently Rebecca sent a "Dear OAH" letter asking that the judges reconsider their decision, and also asking for an extension on paying her fine. As you might expect, the court replied by explaining that if she disagrees with the ruling she has the option to ask the Court of Appeals to review her case, as the law dictates. If she can't pay the fine on time, it will begin to accrue interest, and if it gets to be 121 days past due it's turned over to collections.

Candidate Secures Husband's Endorsement

In case you haven't seen it, this week's Maplewood Review includes a heartfelt endorsement for candidate Rebecca Cave from her husband, George. It looks like the newspaper took care to preserve its original form, so as not to be accused of editing it in some biased fashion.