Paperless trail costs Minnesota taxpayers dearly

By   /  June 29, 2015  /  Accountability, Budget and Spending, Local Government, Minnesota, News  /  No Comments

Steve Jacob photo

On paper, going paperless in government makes sense. Staff armed with iPads can significantly reduce the time spent entering duplicative data for participants in government programs and increase efficiency in providing services, theoretically saving taxpayers.

Yet Winona County is paying dearly for being on the cutting edge of implementing an electronic data management system. What started out as a promised profit center based on selling EDMS software and services to other counties turned into a money pit that may never break even.

“We’re into it for multiple millions, and it was supposed to not be a burden on our taxpayers. It was supposed to be a blessing to our taxpayers,” said Steve Jacob, Winona County Board chair.

Read More →

Legislators sunset once powerful environmental board

By   /  June 24, 2015  /  Energy and Environment, Government Regulation, Legislature, Minnesota, State Government, Uncategorized  /  No Comments

MPCA photo

The ink has hardly dried on lethal legislation eliminating a powerful state pollution panel dating to the activist ‘60s.

But after having the final say on contentious environmental issues for nearly 50 years, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens’ Board has already, essentially, gone dark.

Read More →

Residents trash city plan to end choice in garbage haulers

By   /  June 22, 2015  /  Energy and Environment, Government Regulation, Local Government, Minnesota, News  /  No Comments

Watchdog photo

A group of residents have gone to court for the right to decide who dumps their trash.

“We want the people to have a voice in the process,” said Joel Jennissen, a day trader who founded the citizen-led Hands Off Our Cans campaign. “Every step of the process, where they’ve had citizen input, the majority says they don’t want this. The city keeps going down this path, ignoring that voice.”

The controversy amounts to nothing more —or less — than a bunch of garbage, as the city moves to trash the current system and discard that option for residents.

Read More →

Drink up! Taxpayers back bad loans for country clubs, boats, wineries

By   /  June 18, 2015  /  California, Federal Government, Finances, Massachusetts, Minnesota, National, News  /  No Comments

Photo Courtesy

Sonoma wine maker Vance Rose admits his timing was bad and isn’t happy that taxpayers are left paying the debt.

Read More →

Wind projects winding down in Minnesota

By   /  June 16, 2015  /  Energy and Environment, Government Regulation, Minnesota, News, State Government  /  No Comments

Ken Schefers' photo

The answer’s not blowing in the wind anymore for 70 or so landowners waiting to cash in on the proposed Paynesville wind energy project on the table since 2008.

Dairy farmer Ken Schefers used to be one of the planned 60 turbine wind farm’s most reliable supporters, but the return on the lease he signed with Geronimo Energy five years ago no longer seems like a sure bet.

“This isn’t as good a deal, as it once looked for us. We’d still really like to contribute to green energy, if things could work, but this particular project, just doesn’t look very good for us,” Schefers said. “And that’s kind of the feeling of the bulk of the landowners for various reasons.”

Read More →

Closed meetings at secretive power agency open door to calls for transparency

By   /  June 12, 2015  /  Accountability, Energy and Environment, Government Regulation, Legislature, Minnesota, News  /  No Comments

MMPA photo

There may or may not be a secret handshake at the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency’s monthly meetings. But then again, how would you know?

The power agency’s board meetings have been closed to the press and public for years. There’s a blackout on making even routine documents, often stamped “confidential,” available to the public. The secrecy has spurred lawmakers to introduce legislation to change the practice.

One city official describes a “secret decoder ring” mentality at the electric agency’s board meetings.

Read More →