Minnetonka, Hopkins show support for local authority

By Gabby Landsverk, Sun Sailor Newspapers

The Minnetonka City Council voted April 10 in favor of a resolution supporting local authority, following a similar vote at the Hopkins City Council’s April 4 meeting.

“The legislature is starting to want to micromanage cities way more than we feel is appropriate,” said Minnetonka Mayor Terry Schneider, explaining that local governments effectiveness is threatened by proposals to restrict cities’ ability to set local ordinances and fee structures, as well as impacting the amount of data a city is required to maintain.

The resolution supports local decision-making authority and opposes legislation that removes the ability of local elected officials to respond to the needs of constituents.
“There’s a number of (bills) that absolutely make no sense in terms of what our citizens are looking for and what our council has been engaged in for many, many years,” Schneider said. “I think it’s a bad message to be sending to local elected officials that they know better than we do.”

The resolution was recommended by city staff members in response to more than two dozen bills in the State House and Senate that could limit city decision making.
“We’ve been following closely what this legislation is and trying to work with our local legislators to alert them,” said Geralyn Barone, Minnetonka city manager. “This would make it very challenging for us to do business … There’s that balance of how much control the state imposes on us and how much freedom you have to do what you were elected to do.”

The Hopkins City Council passed a similar resolution at a recent meeting, also at the recommendation of city staff members.
“Gary Carlson is the director of intergovernmental relations at the League of (Minnesota) Cities, and the head lobbyist for the league. He’s been working there since 1983 and he said he’s never seen such an attack on cities,” said Hopkins City Manager Mike Mornson. “They’re asking all cities to adopt this resolution.”

He said the resolution would be sent to local legislators, including Rep. Cheryl Youakim, DFL-Hopkins and Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park.
“I think we need to have our voice heard,” said Hopkins Councilmember Jason Gadd.

Minnetonka Councilmember Brad Wiersum added that the end result of the proposed legislation would be that decisions currently made at the local level would be made at the state level.
“I strongly support this resolution. This is a really big deal for our residents,” Wiersum said. “Good government is local … We’re much closer to constituents that state government is, and we’re uniquely equipped to deal with problems that are much tougher to deal with on the state level.”

In other business, the Minnetonka City Council awarded a contract for the Crosby Road rehabilitation project to GMH Asphalt Corporation for $1.486 million. The project, authorized last year, is for full roadway replacement from McGinty Road north to the Wayzata city border. A majority of the project funding, $1.25 million, is budgeted from the city’s street improvement fund, with $750,000 from the utility fund, $400,000 from the storm sewer fund and $500,000 from the electric franchise fund. The work is expected to begin in late April.

The council also approved a request from Jay Jensen of Shelter Corporation to extending the date for an affordable housing project in the city as permanent financing terms are finalized.
“The tax credit market for the last five months has really been in turmoil. …Affordable housing does take longer … this project has 11 sources of funds. It gets complicated and you can only go as fast as the slowest source of funds,” Jensen said. “It’s going to be a great project for the community. People living there are going to be living in great housing they could never afford otherwise.”
The project includes 27 units of housing at 5740 and 5750 Shady Oak Road, known as the Music Barn Apartments, as well as the rehabilitation of 46 existing townhomes on Smetana Drive and eight units in Golden Valley.
The project was first approved in May 2015. The Minnetonka council had previously voted to extend the project timeline in October 2016 and January 2017, in light of additional funding difficulties.
“I’m hoping this is the last time,” Jensen said.

Contact Gabby Landsverk at [email protected]