City Council conflict of interest letter, full text

Full text as sent. Published October 15, with edits.

Editor -

If you like your political wrongdoing nice and simple, then last Monday’s city council meeting did not disappoint. While the ongoing saga of the Kirkbride brought out the residents, the jaw-dropping moment of the night went to the brothers Synstelien, Randy and Stan.

Following a review of the 2015 city fee schedule, Ward 4 councilman Randy Synstelien spoke against the proposed increase in rental property registration fees and moved that it be removed from the 2015 schedule and studied some more, while approving the remainder of the fees. Before this suggestion had even the time to rattle around in the stunned heads of those in attendance, Stan Synstelien (Ward 1) seconded the motion. A discussion was held, background on the fee-funded rental inspection program given by the Public Works Director, and a work session was proposed, but comments by Randy included the suggestion that such a program is an example of “government overreach” and that if concerned tenants want their properties inspected, they should pay for the inspection out of their own pocket. One can imagine that those who are forced to live in such sub-optimal conditions would feel otherwise.

Concerning rental properties, it is from a position of experience, if not quite political tact, that the Synsteliens speak. According to an analysis of the 2014 tax rolls for the city of Fergus Falls, when it comes to rental properties, the Synstelien family is the largest non-governmental, non-corporate property owner in the city. Our Ward 1 and Ward 4 representatives, along with their brother (and 2012 mayoral candidate) Daryl own at least 10 properties that are not their primary residences, many of which are multi-family. Add in the 11 residential care facilities owned by Synstelien Enterprises, and one can see where a large portion of the family interests (and perhaps income) lie.

Had Randy and Stan recused themselves from the discussion of the fee schedule and simply stepped down from their position on the council dias and addressed the matter as citizens with an interest to protect, this letter would not have been necessary. But they didn’t, and it is my concern and contention (and that of many others that I have spoken to) that such self-serving use of office has no place in the city of Fergus Falls and may very well be illegal behavior, as documented in the League of Minnesota Cities’ informational memo, “Official Conflict of Interest" (available online at http://www.lmc.org/media/document/1/officialconflictofinterest.pdf).

Furthermore, once one begins to see the big picture and the interests at stake, it is understandable why rehabilitation of the RTC, with talk of future apartment units, has been received with less than open arms by certain factions of the council, pending financial disclosure matters notwithstanding. Certainly those in the position that the Synsteliens are in should tread carefully in future deliberations. Or be removed from them altogether.

To that end, we are at an inflection point. Elections are less than a month away. Alternative candidates exist for all contests. Residents of Fergus Falls have the opportunity to effect change in a real and substantive way. We must take advantage of it.

Jake Krohn
Fergus Falls

Related: YouTube video of October 6 council discussion on the rental registration fee issue.

October 15 2014 · Link

Clean sweep

Just so you can be done playing this game once and for all in order to return to the rest of your life, fire up the ol’ inspector in your web browser of choice, and make the following changes to item.js:

case "warp":
 this.inPlayer.y = game.height - this.inPlayer.height - 1;
 this.inPlayer.x = 0;
 break;

and

case "join":
 this.inPlayer.giveExp(nextLevelList[this.inPlayer.lv] - this.inPlayer.exp);
 this.inPlayer.x = 0;
 this.inPlayer.width = game.width;
 this.inPlayer.image = game.assets["./img/player_party.png"];
 break;

Provided you can make it to the mug of beer to call your party to battle, this will give you a marauding force that will obliterate everything in its path due to its extreme size and ability to warp back to the beginning of the level to pick up any stragglers left behind the first time around:

(I once did a legit 21400 as well. Not sure which approach is more satisfying.)

June 6 2014 · Link

Endgame

I can now be done with this part of my life.

April 25 2014 · Link

Power lines and interstates

Recently commented, because I dislike trolls even more than ugly power lines:

Though I’m sure an attempt will be made, it’s hard to deny that if one is looking for the most direct route between St. Cloud and Fargo, the I-94 corridor is hard to beat. Good ol’ Pythagoras and his eponymous theorem would get behind that statement.

True, one could draw a line that’s even more direct, but that would require a path though the heart of our county’s lake country and would be much more intrusive than the interstate route, which, being a four-lane limited-access highway, isn’t going to win many awards for rustic charm anyway.

Also, despite Mr. Van Horn’s claims, the I-94 route was actually the preferred route of the utility companies, and has been since at least April 2009, when a route permit application was filed. This mailing from the CAPX group details that filing and provides a map of the preferred and alternative routes in Minnesota.

Furthermore, the route approved by Administrative Law Judge Beverly Heydinger on April 25, 2011, closely follows the preferred route proposed by the utility companies, differing only in a southern option from the St. Cloud Quarry Substation to a point east of Melrose.

The Public Utilities Commission (Mr. Van Horn’s “government agency,” I assume) approved the route proposed by Judge Heydinger on June 10, 2011, a mere 47 days after the judge’s ruling. No changes by the agency were made, as far as I can tell.

While there is a lot to be upset about, making up falsehoods and conspiracy theories about government shenanigans isn’t the best way to have a constructive conversation about this. Instead of pointing the finger wrongly at “government agencies,” perhaps we should be pointing it at ourselves, for the construction of these unsightly monoliths is simply a visible reminder of our insatiable need for energy to keep our increasingly precarious way of life afloat. That’s the real blunder here.

(From “Power lines deface scenic views on I-94,” Fergus Falls Daily Journal)

April 14 2014 · Link

Seth, I am your father

Just saying:

April 13 2014 · Link