Senate District 48 Republicans

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Sheila Kihne vs Jenifer Loon
     • 07/24/2014: Sheila Kihne 
     • 07/24/2014: Jenifer Loon
     • 07/24/2014: Senator Dave Osmek
     • 07/24/2014: Jon Duckstad
     • 07/24/2014: SD48 Executive Committee

Light Rail
     • 04/17/2014: Donna Azarian
     • 03/20/2014: Brad Aho
     • 02/27/2014: Donna Azarian
     • 01/23/2014: Jeffrey Simon
     • 01/16/2014: Kimlinh Bui
     • 01/09/2014: Donna Azarian

Eden Prairie City Spending/Taxes
     • 05/10/2014: Dan Kitrell
     • 05/01/2014: Dan Kitrell
     • 04/17/2014: Sheila Kihne
     • 04/10/2014: Corlyss Affeldt
     • 03/29/2014: Jim Viken
     • 03/27/2014: Dan Kitrell
     • 03/20/2014: Robert Rozanski
     • 02/27/2014: Dan Kitrell
     • 02/27/2014: Dan Kitrell
     • 01/16/2014: Dan Kitrell
     • 01/09/2014: Sheila Kihne

State Taxes and Spending
     • 03/31/2014: Rep. Cindy Pugh
     • 03/27/2014: Gene Stageberg
     • 03/20/2014: Senator David Hann
     • 03/18/2014: Thomas Cosgrove
     • 03/09/2014: Steve May

Archives
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     • 2011 Letters to the Editor
     • 2010 Letters to the Editor

The following article appeared in the Eden Prairie News July 24, 2014:

Sheila Kihne, Eden Prairie

In 2009, I joined regular citizens who represented communities across the country to send Washington a clear message: Stop the spending. The following year, Republicans were swept into office by citizens who were tired of status quo politics and wanted vocal and steadfast representation locally and nationally.

Five years later, not only have things not improved — they have gotten worse.

Our federal debt is over $17 trillion and climbing. Minnesota has the fourth highest income tax burden, the third highest corporate tax burden, the 16th highest property tax burden and our sales and gas taxes are above the national median. Three out of the top five employers in Minnesota are now government, with a fourth — the Mayo Clinic — government subsidized. We must address this growth in government in order to prosper as a state in the long run.

House District 48B, which is composed of 12 Eden Prairie precincts, is filled with the men and women who make Minnesota run. It is filled with the people who have established and run great businesses, and of those who dream of establishing and running the next great business. We are a large part of the economic engine of Minnesota. We seek a community where young families can afford to buy a home and thrive as our median age increases. We seek a community where our aging parents can afford to live near us so that we can help care for them. We seek a community where businesses can afford to expand and employ more people. We have the same desires, but may disagree on the best path to achieve them.

Our district also faces big challenges brought to us by big government. The unelected Met Council's success in approving the $1.7 billion Southwest Light Rail Transit line will forever change the landscape of our district. The increase in government-subsidized housing will further skew the market here. Eden Prairie cannot become a place where only the wealthy or the government-subsidized can afford to live and raise a family. The state Legislature must work to abolish the Met Council and move its core infrastructure functions — like the sewer system and wastewater treatment — and needed transportation functions — like public busing — into existing state departments. The Met Council, which is run by politically-appointed, no longer serves the people.

I'm not running for a career in politics, I'm running because I think I can make a difference in my beloved home state. I live just across the Minnesota River from where my Irish ancestors settled in the 1800s and I'd like to work for a state where my children and their children can have the same opportunity for prosperity that I've had. I had the opportunity to attend the University of Minnesota and will work to ensure that high-performing students from our district have better access to our taxpayer-funded higher education institutions.

I will bring true private-sector experience, not lobbying experience, to the Capitol. As a Xerox-trained salesperson, I understand the art of negotiation. In a state dominated by public unions, this is a prerequisite. In the private sector, you don't have the ability to tax in order to raise money. You must cut back in uncertain times and government must do the same.

We may not agree on every issue but I hope that we can agree that strong families make for a strong community and strong communities are the foundation of a strong economy and state. Let's work together to bring ideas for how to improve our district for the greater benefit of Minnesota to the Capitol. I'd be honored to have your support.

The following article appeared in the Eden Prairie News July 24, 2014:

Jenifer Loon, Eden Prairie

It has been an honor to serve the people of Eden Prairie as your state representative. I work hard every day to make sure I'm an effective voice for our community in St. Paul, a respectful listener to all citizens' ideas and concerns, and a results-oriented worker that produces solutions — not just political rhetoric. I am asking for your vote in the Aug. 12 Republican primary election so I can continue to make a difference by eliminating barriers that stifle job creation and innovating to create a more efficient and taxpayer friendly state.

Over the past six years, I have a proven track record of success that has helped grow jobs, improve our local transportation infrastructure, and protect Eden Prairie taxpayers and small businesses. From sponsoring the tap room or "Surly" bill that led to the creation of 8,000 new jobs in Minnesota's craft beer industry, to securing state and federal funding to rebuild the 494/169 intersection, to repealing Gov. Dayton's harmful tax increases, I have been able to pass important measures that have bettered our community and our state.

Our quality of life is dependent upon creating good paying jobs. This session, I led the charge against harmful new business-to-business taxes and was successful in repealing over $500 million in these job-crushing taxes. Reforming our tax code and eliminating unnecessary and outdated regulations are two of the best things we can do to draw new businesses to Minnesota, retain the ones we have, and boost our prospects for long-term economic success. If privileged to continue my public service, I will continue to seek ways to improve our business climate and jobs outlook both now and in the future.

Education is also vital to a prosperous future for our children. Having spent countless hours in Eden Prairie public schools volunteering in my daughters' classrooms, and on parent-teacher committees, I am passionate about ensuring all our children receive a world-class education. Making sure our education dollars are spent in the classroom, with reforms that focus on measurable student achievement and maintaining local control over education policies, so parents and educators have the freedom to do what is best for our kids, has also been my focus in the education arena.

Government spending that outpaces the growth in family wages and our private sector economy is neither sustainable nor strategic, and it jeopardizes our children's future. I have been at the forefront in fighting unnecessary spending and government waste that has grown dramatically under all DFL rule in St. Paul. By demanding better value for the taxpayer from essential services, and offering reforms that grow jobs and enhance economic freedom, we can keep more money in the pockets of Minnesotans so families can thrive and businesses can grow jobs.

There is a great opportunity to improve the way we direct and evaluate government programs. We must do the hard work of reform to achieve efficiency in the delivery of essential government services and measure the return on investment of taxpayer dollars. If programs aren't obtaining quality outcomes, it's time to eliminate or reform them. In asking for your vote, I pledge to continue to work to make state government more effective — not more expensive.

Thank you for allowing me to serve our community. Listening to your ideas has helped me to work in an effective and principled manner on matters important to the hard-working taxpayers of Eden Prairie and Minnesota. I humbly ask for your support and vote on Aug. 12 in the Republican primary.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News July 24, 2014:

Senator Dave Osmek (R-Mound)

What do you look for in a leader? What are the qualities that you want in your state representative?

As a state senator, I know what I want to see. I want a state representative that will stand behind her word and can be trusted to stand firm when "the heat is on." I want a legislator that I can look in the eye and know I'm being told the truth. In St. Paul, your word is your bond, whether that is with your colleagues or with your constituents.

I know Sheila Kihne. I trust Sheila Kihne. After I was endorsed by over 81 percent of Republicans in 2012, Sheila stood with me and campaigned with me because she knew I was a strong, solid, conservative voice. Even though I was not going to be her senator, she helped me win when others sat back and did nothing.

I may be one of the only state legislators to support Sheila, but that is because they don't know her. When you're considering your vote on Aug. 12, look at both candidates and get to know them. Look past the smoke and filter away the static. You'll find that Sheila Kihne is a smart, passionate, conservative Republican that you can trust to support your values in St. Paul.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News July 24, 2014:

Jon Duckstad, Eden Prairie

Sheila Kihne is a person of unwavering principle, a devoted mother of four, and an unusually talented candidate for Minnesota House of Representatives from legislative district 48B (Eden Prairie). Sheila is a true conservative who is committed to conserving our core traditional cultural values. She is also committed to conserving our original democratic Republic as given to us by our founding fathers.

Sheila believes every individual is important and should have the opportunity to succeed with educational opportunities and hard work. She understands the importance of an effective educational system that would include more competition provided by charter schools, private schools and more parental participation.

Sheila also understands that all levels of government should focus on policies that support job growth to enable all or most Americans a chance to work to better their lives. She supports less government spending with a needed reduction in the size of government.

Sheila also supports reducing business regulations which tend to strangle business growth resulting in job losses. She also understands cutting excessive taxes favors business growth which is currently needed to get people back to work and off expensive government unemployment benefits shouldered by taxpayers.

Sheila also recognizes that her role as an elected state representative would be that of a "public servant" who serves the citizens of Minnesota. Please join me in voting for Sheila Kihne for representative in the primary on Aug. 12.

The following letter appeared on the SD48 Executive Committee Twitter Account on July 24, 2014:

Taking sides?

The following message was re-tweeted on the twitter account controlled by the SD48 GOP Executive Committee:

The following letter appeared in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune May 10, 2014:

Letter of the Day (May 10): Public amenities
Municipalities are removing voters from spending decisions
Dan Kitrell, Eden Prairie

Savage sports facility = $4 million. Woodbury sports center = $16 million. Eden Prairie aquatic center = $21 million. Cities spending millions of tax dollars on amenities without voter approval = Priceless.

Cities are increasingly using tax abatement bonds to fund amenities like pools and sports centers, in part to avoid a referendum. In response, the Minnesota legislature passed state statute 475.521 outlining a "reverse referendum" process. Citing this statute, hundreds of Eden Prairie residents signed a petition requesting a referendum on the proposed $21 million aquatics center. However, the city claimed statute 475.521 did not apply to this project and spent $21 million without a referendum.

Is voter approval a thing of the past? Should cities be able to spend millions of dollars on optional amenities beyond providing and maintaining critical infrastructure? Will residents no longer be allowed to prioritize discretionary spending within their communities?

Each dollar can only be spent once. By approving this project, the Eden Prairie City Council has decided a $21 million aquatic center is the most important investment for their community and the families that live there. Residents may or may not agree, but they will never have an opportunity to find out.

The Aquatic Center will add 20 million to the tax burden of Eden Prairie families -- without a referendum?

To find out more or sign the petition, click here.

The following data was provided by the City of Eden Prairie Finance Division

Top Eden Prairie city projects (including road improvement) since 1990
The Aquatic center is one of the largest capital building project in the history of the city. Except for the Community Center (which was approved by referendum) all other projects on this list are a core function of government.
Rank Project Amount Year Infrastructure or Amenity?
1 Water Treatment Plant $25,094,644 1999 Infrastructure
2 Shady Oak Rd - CR 61 - South $24,600,000 (Estimate) 2014 Infrastructure
3 New Aquatic Center? $20,000,000 (Estimate) 2018 Amenity (No Referendum)
4 Community Center Expansion $11,211,196 2008 Amenity (Approved by referendum)
5 Shady Oak Rd - CR 61 - North $10,429,964 2014 Infrastructure
6 Fire Station #4 $5,539,160 2008 Infrastructure
7 Maintenance Facility $5,014,082 1997 Infrastructure
8 CASHI from CSAH4to TH212 $4,579,739 2012 Infrastructure
9 Fire Station #1 $4,534,459 2000 Infrastructure
Data compiled by Eden Prairie City Finance Division

The following letter appeared in the Eden PrairieNews May 01, 2014:

Residents deserve a vote
Dan Kitrell, Eden Prairie

Families, businesses, and groups "vote" on their priorities based on how they spend their limited dollars. For example, if members and users of the Community Center perceive more value from the proposed $20 million expansion of the aquatics center, they will be willing to pay higher monthly membership dues and user fees. If private swim clubs believe they will benefit from a better facility, they may be willing to pay more for naming rights and commit to raising more donations from their members. If businesses like hotels and restaurants will benefit by Eden Prairie hosting more competitive swimming events, they may be willing to pay to sponsor portions of the proposed expansion.

It seems Eden Prairie residents are the only group not being allowed to vote on the proposed expansion. If the City Council decides residents should pay for the $20 million aquatics center, then the city simply writes a check and sends the bill to residents in the form of property taxes. No vote by referendum. No vote with dollars.

Many residents which support a referendum also support providing a safe swimming facility that allows our city to host competitions, as well as providing families with access to quality learn-to-swim programs. In 2005, the city proposed a $3.3 million project to deepen one end of the current pool and add a zero-depth entry warm water pool to achieve these objectives. However, the proposed solution has now expanded to include four pools and cost $20 million.

If this project was funded primarily by members and users, then there would not be a need for a referendum. However, with residents being asked to fund $16 million of the $20 million project, residents deserve a voice in this decision. Encourage your neighbors and friends to sign the petition at www.eppoolvote.com.

The following letter appeared in the Eden PrairieNews April 17, 2014:

Taxpayers deserve a vote
Sheila Kihne, Eden Prairie

City Councilmembers Ron Case and Brad Aho, along with former school board member Jan Eian have made it clear in commentaries that there's no need for the voters to have a voice on the $19.4 Million proposed aquatic center addition to the community center. Aho called a referendum a “burden” on the taxpayers. (March 29th, “Shedding some light on our community pool.”) Voting in a democracy is never a burden. Excessive government spending and taxes are burdens.

There have been only two other Eden Prairie city government projects since 1990 that have been larger than what supporters have called a “pool upgrade” (see chart below). The $25 million water treatment plant in 1999 and $24.6 Million (estimated) for 2014 work on Shady Oak and County Road 61. Both of these projects are clearly infrastructure. The new multi-pool aquatic center is not.

Eden Prairie taxpayers have always been asked to vote to approve expenditures on new major park amenities, for far lesser amounts than $19.4 Million. If the city council is worried about a “no” vote on this level of new spending, then logic should dictate that they're spending too much.

The fiscally responsible solution is to give residents a choice of cost options for dealing with the existing community center pool. Should we bond (borrow) for a an update of the existing pool? Or, should we build a 47,000 square foot addition to the community center with two competition pools, a warm pool, a spa pool, waterslide, additional fitness rooms, and city meeting rooms?

Should the city council continue to plow ahead without a referendum, residents can look forward to paying off the debt on what will likely be the most expensive community center built in Minnesota. When less than 5% of residents are members, if collective credit card is to be swiped again, then Eden Prairie taxpayers deserve a vote.

Visit www.eppoolvote.com and sign the petition and please spread the word to your neighbors, many of whom are busy working hard to pay for the ever-increasing tax burden in our city and state.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News April 17, 2014:

LRT will destroy Eden Prairie
Donna Azarian, Eden Prairie

Last week, the unelected officials of the Metropolitan Council voted 14-2 in favor of Southwest Light Rail Transit. They also decided to add back the Mitchell Road station in Eden Prairie. Now it is up to the five cities to vote on SWLRT.

My friend, Sheila Kihne, and I decided to ride the LRT route through Eden Prairie (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bl0UrcYX3Zs). The area around the proposed Mitchell Station is mostly wetlands and trees. The train will cross Technology Drive over Mitchell Road, a road used by many in the east quadrant of Eden Prairie to get to the High School. How many young, inexperienced drivers who are late for school will have their lives endangered attempting to cross the tracks to get to school on time?

The light rail will also be crossing through three of the four most accident-prone intersections according to the Eden Prairie Police Department. (http://bit.ly/1eAIjBO)

We then drove to see the light rail line by the airport and were appalled by the tangle of unsightly overhead wires up 34th Avenue South and the loud clanging bells. These ugly wires will be laced through the LRT line in Eden Prairie, giving our beautiful city that gritty urban utopia look.

And remember the LRT selling point of getting people to jobs in the Golden Triangle? There is only one stop in the entire Golden Triangle and it is on the outermost edge of the Triangle. LRT will destroy Eden Prairie and put our citizens in danger. Write to Eden Prairie City Council at allcouncil@edenprairie.org and tell them No SWLRT in Eden Prairie!

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie Sun-Current April 10, 2014:

Residents deserve a vote on the Eden Prairie aquatics expansion
Corlyss Affeldt, Eden Prairie

Council Member Brad Aho recently outlined his case for why the city should provide a swimming pool which meets current safety requirements. Many residents would likely support having a safe swimming pool which allows our high school teams to host events.

The next questions are how much will it cost to replace the current pool and how should we pay for it?

Despite spending about $700,000 to develop plans for the four pools and other amenities in the proposed $20 million aquatics center (including a "warm pool," a "cool pool," a zero-entry pool and a three-lane recreation pool), no cost estimates have been provided to simply replace the current pool. Shouldn't the city at least consider what it would cost only to replace the current pool?

$3.1 million in funding has been identified including $2.6 million from the Capital Improvement Fund and $500,000 from Foxjets. Ideally, users would pay for the rest but that is unlikely since the Community Center continues to operate at a loss. Should residents be asked to help replace the current pool or will the city send residents a tax bill of more than $16 million to build the four pool aquatics center?

Go to EPPoolVote.com to sign a petition to have a voice in this decision.

The following letter appeared in the Minnetonka Sun-Sailor March 31, 2014:

Tax bill was a mixed bag for most
Rep. Cindy Pugh (R-SD33)

Last week the legislature passed and the Governor signed into law legislation that brings Minnesota's tax code in alignment with some provisions of the federal tax code in tax year 2013, with the other major provisions starting in 2014. This bill also repeals the sales tax on commercial and industrial repair, warehousing and telecommunications machinery and equipment as of April 1.

While I'm pleased we were finally able to un-do some of the damaging tax policy that was enacted in the 2013 Legislative Session, it truly did not go far enough considering there is a $1.2 billion surplus.

There are several notably absent items:

• Increased Standard Deduction for married joint filers, which would have saved 640,000 married couples an average of $112 per return for tax year 2013.

• Retroactive repeal of business-to-business sales tax that went into effect in 2013, which would have returned $55.9 million to hardworking Minnesota taxpayers.

It's distressing to me that job providers who were forced to lay off employees in order to pay these taxes will not have their money returned to them. Even though the law were repealed, we should be giving the money back to those from whom it was taken by state government in the first place.

According to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, if you are affected by these tax changes and have already filed your return, one of three things will occur:

• The Minnesota Department of Revenue will fix your return and send a letter explaining what was fixed.

• The Minnesota Department of Revenue will request more information from you so it can fix your return.

• The Minnesota Department of Revenue will notify you they cannot fix your return. If this happens, you will need to file an amended return.

If you have not yet filed your 2013 taxes, you should wait until after April 3 to do so. The Department of Revenue will have its online systems updated by then to account for tax refund changes.

On another topic, last year the legislature passed and the governor signed into law a proposal that exempted local units of government from having to pay sales tax. However, the Department of Revenue's interpretation of the law did not include local units of government which save taxpayer money by sharing services among multiple cities – known as Joint Powers Agreements.

In our community, the South Lake Minnetonka Police Department operates under a Joint Powers Agreement for police services for the cities of Excelsior, Greenwood, Shorewood and Tonka Bay. My bill clarifies that such entities would qualify for the sales tax exemption.

We shouldn't be penalizing local units of government for spending taxpayer dollars more efficiently by pooling resources – especially when they are doing so for the safety of the public. I was honored to have South Lake Minnetonka Police Chief Bryan Litsey testify before the House Taxes Committee in support of my legislation on March 11.

Unfortunately, I learned late last night that although my bill (House File 2703) will be included as a provision in the 2014 Omnibus Tax Bill, the current language delays enactment of the sales tax exemption for Joint Powers Agreements until July 1, 2015. I'm working to change that particular provision so that the effective date would be immediately after the bill becomes law.

Constituents are encouraged to contact my office with thoughts, comments and concerns. I greatly appreciate having heard from so many of you!

You can e-mail at rep.cindy.pugh@house.mn. You can call me at (651) 296-4315. Mail can be sent to Rep. Cindy Pugh, 313 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, Minnesota 55155. If you haven't yet contacted me but would like to weigh in, I'd love to hear you.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie Sun-Current March 29, 2014:

Residents want a referendum for Eden Prairie aquatics center
Jim Viken, Eden Prairie

The city has made clear, "There are methods to finance the (aquatics center) project that do not require a referendum." But, don't residents deserve a choice in this $20 million project?

Residents have made clear, "Whether we approve or disapprove of the pool expansion, we deserve the right to vote." This and other comments have been shared on EPPoolVote.com.

Other residents have commented: "This amount of spending, no matter what effect it has on taxes, deserves a vote by all Eden Prairie registered voters."

"Let the voters prioritize spending; a reallocation of tax levies that were not intended for this project is poor form."

"This is a long-term commitment that should be decided by the voters. I haven't decided if I support the Aquatics Center spending, but I want to learn more and have a direct voice, pro or con."

"Let the voters prioritize spending; a reallocation of tax levies that were not intended for this project is poor form."

Go to EPPoolVote.com to read more comments and to sign the petition. Tell the city council that you want a choice. You can also share your thoughts with the city council by email at allcouncil@edenprairie.org.

Tell your neighbors and other Eden Prairie residents about the EPPoolVote.com website.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News March 27, 2014:

Have a voice - sign the petition
Dan Kitrell, Eden Prairie

Imagine writing one final check to complete 30 years of monthly mortgage payments. You will now have a little more money each month to pay off credit cards, save for your kids' education, take a family vacation or help with other things that matter to you.

Now imagine receiving a letter from your mortgage company informing you they have decided to continue to take your money for the next 30 years, but the good news is they will not increase your monthly payment. Are you excited your payment did not go up or confused why they are still taking your money?

In 2005, residents gave the city permission to spend $6.6 million to build a Community Center, $4.6 million to improve our parks and $2 million to expand our trails. Paying off these and other debts is contributing to about a $1 million potential annual decrease in Eden Prairie property taxes. Should the city be allowed to collect these property taxes without permission once this voter-approved debt has been paid in full?

The Eden Prairie School District recently received approval to extend its Tech Levy and will likely be asking residents to approve a referendum later this year. Residents will have a voice in this decision. If residents are being asked to pay $16 million of the proposed $20 million aquatic center expansion, they deserve to have a voice in that decision as well.

Learn more at EPPoolVote.com. You can sign an online petition in support of giving residents a choice. But don't stop there. Share the website with your neighbors and friends so all residents can be heard fairly and equally. Your monthly household budget for the next 30 years may depend on your actions today.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News March 27, 2014:

Democrats should give it back
Gene Stageberg, Eden Prairie

Crumbs from the DFL table. That's what Minnesotans get in this tax bill Democrats just rushed through the Legislature. While DFL legislators try to spin that they aren't the tax and spenders their actions clearly show them to be and while shills on the left begin falling over themselves thanking Democrats for "caring" about Minnesota families by giving them "tax relief," let's do a little math and review some recent history to find the truth.

Last session, Democrats raised taxes by $2.1 billion despite having been handed a $1.2 billion surplus from the Republican budget of 2012. After feeling the heat from taxpayers for months, they have spent this session undoing some of the mistakes they made last session before they must face voters in November.

But it's the same bait and switch we see in retail where a store raises its prices by 100 percent so it can run an "Everything's half off" sale. The result is the shopper ends up paying the same price they would have before, but thinks they got a deal. So Democrats raised taxes by $2.1 billion, and then gave back $431 million. That means Democrats still raised taxes by a whopping $1.7 billion. So they took a whole dollar more in taxes, gave back 33 cents and now want us to be thankful for it.

Democrats pushed to suspend Senate rules and pass the bill before Republicans had time to read it. Their excuse was they wanted to give tax relief this year. But if their taxes were so bad, then why did Democrats vote for them in the first place and why did it take a whole year to fix their mistakes? And if it was so important, perhaps Democrats shouldn't have wasted time arguing amongst themselves over the cost of the DFL Senatorial Palace. What we now see is that, like last year when the DFL slipped in the last-minute $90 million palace for senators into the budget, this bill has all sorts of bad things in it they didn't want anyone to find. Reminds me of how ObamaCare was passed.

Here are just a few of the DFL Rotten Easter Eggs in the bill: A shift/gimmick resulting in a $64 million tax increase related to the capital equipment sales tax exemption, a shift/gimmick resulting in a $52 million property tax increase relating to Location Equity Revenue, a provision giving authority to unelected gubernatorial appointees to set the level of reserves and automatically transfer surplus money without legislative approval, and authorization for the Met Council to issue an additional $75.3 million in certificates of indebtedness, bonds, or other obligations.

So this bill leaves more than half of the $1.2 billion surplus for Democrats to spend on top of the 10 percent they added to the budget last year.

I'm happy to see Democrats are scared enough about the upcoming election to give back at least some of our money, but the fact remains - they shouldn't have taken it in the first place.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News March 20, 2014:

Sign the aquatics center petition
Robert Rozanski, Eden Prairie

Do you have an opinion about whether the Eden Prairie City Council should spend $20 million on a new aquatics center? Do you feel that you, your neighbors, other parents at your children's schools and every person that lives in our city should have their voice heard on this $20 million project?

I do have an opinion and I do believe that we all deserve to be heard equally and fairly. That is why I support giving residents a choice on the $20 million aquatics center. That is why I have signed a petition requesting a referendum on this proposed spending.

You can read about the proposed referendum at EPPoolVote.com. From there, you can follow the link to sign the petition requesting a referendum as follows:

"We the undersigned, in accordance with Minnesota state statute 475.521, request a public referendum on the issuance of bonds being considered to fund the proposed expansion of the current swimming pool and associated aquatics facilities at the Eden Prairie Community Center as presented during a public hearing at the Tuesday, March 18, 2014, meeting of the Eden Prairie City Council."

Type in your name, email and zip code. It is a secure website and your name does not need to appear online. Take action now if you want your voice to be heard.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News March 20, 2014:

SWLRT: Is history repeating itself?
Brad Aho, Eden Prairie

As a fellow resident, engineer, City Council member and SW Transit board member, I commend Gov. Dayton's recent decision to delay the Southwest Light Rail Transit project (SWLRT). While we need to improve our multi-modal transportation infrastructure, there are too many unanswered questions to proceed with LRT. The Obama administration should release the federal transit dollars to Minnesota so that we can determine how best to meet our transportation needs.

LRT is undisputedly ugly, noisy, slow, inflexible and extremely expensive. Given the current cost estimates of SWLRT, a growing consensus among residents and businesses in Eden Prairie is that the "solution" to public transit is not one static rail line to Minneapolis. After speaking with various groups for the past many years on this subject, no one, given 1.65 billion dollars and tasked to find an effective public transit solution for the southwest metro area, has concluded that SWLRT is the best use of those dollars. So before we re-invest in 100-plus-year-old inflexible technology (with a cost of more than a Space Shuttle), let's review our historic use and subsequent dismantling of trains and street cars in the metro area.

In 1872, the first "Horse-car" service was opened in St. Paul consisting of a car pulled on a track by horses. This same service opened in Minneapolis in 1875, where 10 cars were pulled by horses across 4 miles of track. By 1879, the Minneapolis, Lyndale and Lake Calhoun Railway opened, where trains were pulled by steam engines.

In 1883, Thomas Edison exhibited the first electric locomotive and the first electric railway line became operational in Chicago (the Chicago El) that same year. By 1889, Minneapolis had converted from steam to electric and in 1890 the inter-urban electric streetcar line was completed between the loops of Minneapolis and St. Paul. By 1905, a new 14-mile line extended from Minneapolis to Hopkins, Excelsior and Lake Minnetonka.

Three years later, in 1908, Henry Ford produced the first Model T via assembly line.

In 1922, the Twin City Lines carried millions of passengers throughout the metro area, which was an all-time high. By then, it had nearly 530 miles of track and 1,021 streetcars. However, streetcar and train ridership declined due to the increase in automobiles and bus service. In 1938, the Minneapolis Tribune reported that residents actually staged a "bus-line polka" and "made real whoopee" when the final run of the Lake Street Streetcar was completed. The advent of buses appealed to riders because of their more flexible routes and more comfortable rides.

By 1954, a fleet of 525 buses had totally replaced Minneapolis streetcars and trains.

The reasons for replacing static and expensive streetcars and trains with more flexible and comfortable buses remain as valid today as 60 years ago. Even the most populated cities like New York and Chicago have trains/subways which carry less than 7 percent of total traffic, and government budgets are already hard-pressed to maintain the main transportation system (roads). There is no logically defensible argument for creating a separate transportation system which only serves a few, is more expensive to operate and maintain, and is unreliable in Minnesota winters especially when maintaining/improving the existing roads and bridges, and increasing bus service where/when needed, can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost.

While some argue the "use it or lose it" stance, meaning if we don't use the federal LRT money it will go to the next city in line, that is no justification to waste those tax dollars on a bad transportation choice that will obligate us to pay millions more every year to maintain. Surely we can agree that we should not spend more than a billion dollars on antiquated technology that will not meet our needs. Before any final decisions are made, let's go back to the boardroom and find the best possible technological solution that can and will serve our residents and businesses well, both now and in the future. With the advent of self-driving cars, buses with Wi-Fi, bus rapid transit and other fast, multi-modal transportation technologies, we don't have to rely on technology that Edison invented in 1883. I think even he would be disappointed if we did.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News March 20, 2014:

Hann reports survey results, says "Give It Back"
Senator David Hann, Eden Prairie

Now that the legislative session is underway, many of you have taken the time to voice your opinions on key issues by responding to my recent survey, emailing, calling or visiting me at the Capitol. I always enjoy hearing from you, and today I'm pleased to share the results of the survey.

A strong plurality of respondents agree the top priority of the Legislature should be the repeal of the business-to-business tax hikes imposed last year. I opposed these new taxes last session because of their potential to increase costs for farm equipment repair and maintenance, and increase prices to consumers through hidden taxation of warehousing and telecommunications. I'm happy to report the Legislature has already begun the repeal process, and we are working to pass the bill as soon as possible.

On other issues, a vast majority of residents do not approve of the current plan to spend $90 million taxpayer dollars on a new Senate office building. The unionization of childcare providers, which is projected to increase childcare costs and decrease options for low-income families, only received 14 percent support. Gov. Mark Dayton's MNsure (Minnesota's new mandated health insurance purchasing program), which has been riddled with start-up issues and questions about its fiscal solvency, received extremely poor support. Less than 2 percent of respondents felt the program has been working well.

Opinions on the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) project were split. Slightly more opposed the current project than supported it. In response to another transportation question, a plurality of residents want to keep gas taxes at their current level, rather than increasing them to pay for highway improvements. Respondents also think the minimum wage should be raised to match the federal level of $7.25 per hour.

The controversial “anti-bullying” bill being debated at the Capitol received very little support from respondents. This legislation would override local school boards and require school districts to carve more money out of their budgets to fulfill mandates from the Department of Education. I've spoken to many parents and school officials about their concerns with the current proposal, and I think we can do better. Republicans recently introduced an alternative bill that addresses all of these issues and is supported by the School Board Association, but it has not received Democrat support. We continue to look for a compromise that can be supported by school districts, Republicans and Democrats.

A recent state budget forecast has projected a surplus of $1.2 billion for fiscal year 2014-2015, the majority of which can be attributed to the $2.1 billion in new taxes imposed upon Minnesotans last year. A recent Star Tribune poll revealed 60 percent of Minnesotans want to see the surplus returned to taxpayers. My Republican colleagues and I agree, and have launched the "Give It Back" Act to spread this message. Our plan would fully repeal the harmful business to business taxes and the gift tax. It also includes an update to the state tax code that would allow Minnesotans to claim federal deductions such as the marriage, mortgage insurance, adoption assistance and student loan interest deductions that were lost due to the Legislature's failure to act in the 2013 session. Many residents have contacted me to provide their ideas on how to "Give It Back" to taxpayers, and some of the responses have included lowering the sales tax rate or instituting a sales tax holiday this summer. If you have ideas, I would love to hear from you.

If you haven't submitted a survey response and wish to do so, please don't hesitate to contact my office. I value your feedback, and look forward to hearing your opinions on these important issues.

The following letter appeared in the Lakeshore Weekly News March 18, 2014:

Paulsen let us down
Thomas Cosgrove, Minnetonka

I sat and listened with disbelief as Congressman Erik Paulsen, at the recent State Senate District 48 Republican convention, declared that if re-elected, he would continue to fight hard against Obamacare. That is difficult to believe.

Paulsen had the opportunity to kill it last fall, and did not do so. It is doubtful that he will put up anything more than a token fight against what will soon become the most burdensome federal intervention into the personal lives of the American people since the beginning of the Republic.

Paulsen could have stood firm with the more determined members in the House of Representatives and de-funded Obamacare completely. He could have appropriated funds for every other area of government, but excluded funds for Obamacare, but he did not. And so, it continues to expand and drain away our resources, our personal choices, and our constitutional liberty.

Being an incumbent does not make one some sort of a demigod, unable to be challenged in party politics. It is our right, as citizens, to speak out against those we feel have betrayed the trust given to them by our votes.

I was inspired at the SD48 convention, when political activist Sheila Kihne stood up and challenged State Representative Jennifer Loon for the Republican Party endorsement, saying that Loon had, in effect, betrayed the trust of her caucus. The majority of the caucus agreed with Kihne, and Loon was denied the endorsement.

With so much at stake in these decidedly troubled times, let's hope that some other brave soul will also find it within themselves to stand up and challenge Erik Paulsen for the Congressional District 3 Republican nomination.

We desperately need people who will stand on their word, not those who bend with the winds of ever-changing popular opinion. The time is short.

The following letter appeared in the Minnetonka Sun-Sailor March 9, 2014:

Return extra state funds to taxpayers
Steve May, St Louis Park

This letter is a follow-up to the outstanding editorial that suggested the state thoroughly evaluate all of the potential spending options during this budget cycle.

One additional option that the state might consider is returning the capital to taxpayers, who are essentially its shareholders. This is taking place throughout corporate America in the form of dividends and stock buy-backs.

The state might consider returning excessive funds to the taxpayers or temporarily reducing the tax rates to reduce the perception and reality that Minnesota is a high-tax state. We might be surprised what would happen to job creation if the taxpayers were allowed to allocate more of their hard-earned capital.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News February 27, 2014:

Poor planning for LRT
Donna Azarian, Eden Prairie

I attended the Met Council Freight Train re-route meeting in St. Louis Park on Feb. 12, 2014. (The freight train re-route is necessary to move forward on the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) Green Line Extension to Eden Prairie.)

St. Louis Park residents were angry and made it clear to the Met Council that they do not want a re-route through their city because it will move freight trains dangerously close to high school classrooms, cause people to lose their homes and will spoil residential areas. St. Louis Park Mayor Jeff Jacobs said his City Council was united in opposing the freight re-route plan.

St. Louis Park residents repeatedly asked the Met Council why the Kenilworth bike path re-route was taken off the table as an option. The Met Council wouldn't answer that question. Now, there is a stand-still between the Met Council and the city of St. Louis Park. June 30 is the deadline for this matter to be settled; otherwise federal funding for the SWLRT will be shifted to the Bottineau line, killing the Green Line project.

With a $1.8 billion light rail project, it appears that the Met Council's plans are not well thought out.

In fact, I attended a Sept. 4, 2013 Met Council TAAC (Transportation Accessory Advisory Committee) meeting where committee member Margot Imdieke Cross criticized the new Siemen train cars (which were recently purchased for the Central Corridor and Hiawatha lines) noting they were not as accessible for passengers in wheelchairs as the old Bombardier trains.

The Met Council spent $153.2 million for 41 Siemens cars without giving the accessibility issue any consideration. The Met Council is wasting taxpayers' hard-earned dollars with their incompetence and poor planning.


The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News February 27, 2014:

What are your priorities?
Dan Kitrell, Eden Prairie

Recent news stories have reported on how residents are being asked to help the Eden Prairie School District prioritize $4 million in budget cuts in 2014 with more cuts being necessary if a future school referendum is not approved. Budget cuts may impact several areas including STEM, music and arts, gifted and talented and other programs that improve the quality of education for our students and increase the desirability of living in our community.

At the same time, the City Council is considering a new $20 million aquatics center expansion. Although the city emphasizes that they account for "only 25 percent" of the total property tax assessment, taxpayers are not able to pay "only 25 percent" of their total tax bill. Taxpayers must pay an additional 36 percent to Hennepin County, 32 percent to the School District and 7 percent to other taxing authorities.

Each of these groups must prioritize spending within the tax dollars collected. Similarly, taxpayers should have a voice in prioritizing new proposed spending that is funded by our property taxes. Are reduced class sizes, early childhood development, STEM programs and other investments in education of greater importance to more of our residents than a $20 million aquatics center? Does a higher rated school district have a greater positive impact on home values than a $20 million aquatics center?

The school district will likely pursue a voter-approved referendum later this year which will give residents a voice in setting priorities. Will the City Council provide voters with the same opportunity or will they decide to spend $20 million on the aquatics center without a referendum? The City Council will make that decision in March. You can have a voice now by sending an email to our City Council at allcouncil@edenprairie.org. Share your thoughts by letting them know, "What are your priorities?"

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News January 23, 2014:

Thoughts about LRT
Jeffrey Simon, Eden Prairie

Anytime one train breaks down it may stop the entire track.

If the train hits a person, a bike, or a car it stops the entire track.

If there is an ice storm the entire track may be disabled.

If the power goes out on any of the transmission lines the track is stopped.

If any of the above happens, who does MTC call? ... A bus.

And now I am hearing that the ride time will be substantially longer. So if I was planning a trip that takes 24 minutes on the bus, I might have to allow 42 minutes for the train.

Makes one think.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News January 16, 2014:

LRT forum ignored the rider
Kimlinh Bui, Eden Prairie

The Met Council's public forum regarding Southwest Light Rail Transit last Thursday somehow ignored one key demographic: the rider.

Waves of condo-dwelling retirees and 20-something urbanites looking for nightlife will not ride regularly out to Eden Prairie. Instead, most SWLRT riders will be commuters from the southwest suburbs to downtown Minneapolis, many of whom already ride SW Transit bus service.

Express buses run every five minutes at peak times. Yet SWLRT is scheduled every 10 minutes. The bus ride from Eden Prairie into downtown lasts approximately 35 minutes. With 17 stops by light rail, how much commuting time would be spent at a standstill? Further, SWLRT drops off at Target Field, lengthening the walk for most, and increasing total commute time.

As a daily user of SW Transit bus service, I ride in clean, comfortable coaches (a personal light and fan above each seat), surfing the Internet on free wi-fi, napping or cross stitching. Others read, stream videos, work on laptops. Most sleep. The advertised advantages of mass transit have been achieved.

SWLRT offers no additional benefit, and further cannot adjust to changing traffic and residential patterns. The cost to change a bus route? $0.

In addition to its preposterous $1.6 billion initial construction cost, the Met Council expects rider fares to cover only 30 percent of annual operating costs. This money sink will continue without end.

After SWLRT drains our transportation dollars the Met Council is unlikely to continue maintaining an effective (but now redundant) bus system. By choosing the more expensive, more inflexible, more controversial solution, the Met Council serves neither commuters, communities nor taxpayers.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News January 16, 2014:

Referendum could save taxpayers $1.4 million
Dan Kitrell, Eden Prairie

In 2005, voters approved a $13.3 million referendum including $6.6 million to renovate the community center, $4.7 million to improve parks and $2.0 million to expand trails. As part of this referendum, voters also rejected $3.3 million requested to improve the existing swimming pool.

In 2014, taxpayers will begin to retire this $13.3 million of debt contributing to a reduction of more than $2.2 million in taxes per year over the next several years. However, the City Council may choose to continue to collect some of these taxes to pay for the proposed $20 million aquatics center. This is the equivalent of a lender continuing to collect a monthly mortgage payment after the mortgage has been completely paid off.

Although the City Council has claimed that they can fund the entire aquatic center "without raising taxes," almost all of the proposed $20 million is expected to be funded by taxes, including $16 million from bonds. Only $500,000 is forecast to be funded by private sources. This may result in Eden Prairie taxpayers paying about $1.3 million per year in additional property taxes.

The City Council is considering issuing bonds for this project through the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA). This tactic would avoid giving residents an opportunity to approve this project and would be a more expensive option, likely increasing interest rates on this debt by about 0.6 percent and costing taxpayers about $1.4 million in additional interest. Additionally, since the HRA is composed of the mayor and four council members, it would appear as though the City Council is simply deferring to themselves to approve funding for this $20 million project.

The city may not be required to allow residents to approve this $20 million project, but saving taxpayers $1.4 million in interest payments should be an important consideration.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News January 09, 2014:

Taxpayers deserve a vote on pool project
Sheila Kihne, Eden Prairie

While the proposed aquatic center has been referred to by the Star Tribune as a "pool upgrade" and our local politicians keep framing this as a need to rehab our 30-year-old-pool, it's nothing of the sort. This proposal is for a massive aquatic center with a total of four new pools including a "warm pool," a "cool pool," a zero-entry pool and a three-lane recreation pool with a water slide, hot tub and warm tub along with new locker rooms, fitness rooms and city meeting rooms.

Residents know that parking at the High School and Community Center complex can be a nightmare, yet the $19.4 million proposed doesn't include a parking solution for this new facility. Current plans do include a natural-light-filled atrium/entryway that has no parking in front of it, because there's no room for additional parking due to the proximity of Valley View Road.

Last May Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens told the Star Tribune that it hadn't been decided for sure if the city would seek a referendum for the pools' funding, and pointed out that they city wouldn't need a referendum if the project could be funded through revenue bonds. (May 13, 2013 Star Tribune "After years of failed attempts, Eden Prairie pursues $16 million pool upgrade") This statement indicated that the mayor was aware there was a choice to be made; go to the public as had been the case for non-public-safety amenities in the past, or find another way to finance the aquatic center.

The city has made the decision to finance the project with revenue bonds, which require no public approval.

In November 2012, Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Commission Member Tom Bierman acknowledged that it would be important to quell any community sticker shock and that "We should show that this is a revenue-generating thing," which is exactly what the city's been doing. Yet, we already know that the city has fallen down on revenue projections before as the Community Center has lost $3 million from 2008-2012, despite city boasting of "skyrocketing demand" and membership increases. If this was a private business, they'd be out of business. Now, we're supposed to believe the city when we're told that $19.4 million pools will magically pay for themselves.

We are assured by Parks Director Jay Lotthammer that there won't be a tax increase due to this project. Lotthammer must have a crystal ball to make such a prediction which is based on future housing stock and property values which set the parameters for your tax bill, along with any potential revenue with this new facility.

Do people have as much leisure time to swim if they're out working more to pay for ever-increasing state and federal taxes? What happens when other suburbs in the never-ending "battle of the amenities" up their game? What happens when younger families choose to move to the cities as their housing is becoming more affordable? Or, what happens if the federal government decides to eliminate the municipal bond interest exemption as was on the table during last year's "fiscal cliff" negotiations? Why do our elected officials insist on tremendous amounts of spending with so much economic uncertainty?

Council member Brad Aho has said that "there will still be many opportunities for the council and the community to weigh in on the project." As a community member who has attended two of the public meetings on the pools, it's apparent that the voices who are questioning the expenditure are being humored.

This decision's been made. If it hasn't been made, then why has the City Council approved $639,150 for designing and construction administration of the project? Keep in mind the city of Minnetonka put in a new six-lane lap pool with zero-depth entry for $500,000 in 2010, less than we've spent on design for this project . Also recall that on the 2005 ballot, the amount for the pool upgrade was a mere $3.3 million.

As with the rest of the country, there's a lot of uncertainly in Eden Prairie right now. The Southwest Metro Light Rail line — which our city council unanimously voted to support in 2012 — is now in question. Eden Prairie school leaders have yet to heal past wounds, resulting in a sound defeat of this fall's 73 percent hike in the per-pupil operating levy. If there is to be a nearly $20 million aquatic center built in Eden Prairie, then the decision shouldn't lie in the hands of five council members. Eden Prairie taxpayers — whose dutifully-paid high taxes provide the basis for any credit bestowed upon the city — deserve a vote.

The following letter appeared in the Eden Prairie News January 09, 2014:

Speak out against LRT
Donna Azarian, Eden Prairie

The unelected Met Council continues its quest to transform our lives and our town by foisting Light Rail Transit upon us, with over a $1.5 billion price tag and a population density that is not sufficient for the LRT to succeed.

The Met Council is scheduling meetings to be held this week at very inconvenient times so those of us who work will be unable to attend the meetings to voice our opposition to this colossal boondoggle.

The first meeting was held on Jan. 7 in Kenwood. The second meeting will be held tonight, Thursday, Jan. 9, at the St. Louis Park Recreation Center (3700 Monterey Drive, St. Louis Park) also from 5-7:30 p.m. I urge those of you who oppose light rail transit to attend tonight's meeting and let your voice be heard.

In addition, there is an online petition you can sign to voice your opposition that can be found at: http://www.campaignforliberty.org/petitions/stop-the-light-rail-drain-trains/. If we do not stop Light Rail Transit from happening, we will have to endure several years of construction delays and pay higher taxes to build the light rail and to subsidize rides.

Light rail transit has to be updated/refurbished every 30 years at a cost equal to or more than the cost to originally build it. My requests to Rep. Yvonne Selcer and others for studies that show benefits of LRT transportation back on Aug. 14, 2013, have still gone unanswered. We are being sold a bill of goods. Speak out now!

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