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Friday, March 16, 2018

Mayor Stephens Bullies Citizen with Baseless Statewide Public Attack Without Evidence. The Response.

On March 15th, the Mayor of Woodbury, Mary Giuliani Stephens, issued a Statewide email to thousands of registered republicans personally attacking my integrity in an email (below). It's titled "He's entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." It's a blanket attack filled with wild false accusations saying everything from that I work for the left wing, that I attack republicans, illegally used delegate emails, and more. All without a shred of proof or sources. In addition, no one asked if I've done anything she claims before sending it. 

Mayor of Woodbury, Mary Giuliani Stephens
This appears to come in response to my fully sourced article (from city data) on how, since taking office, Mary Stephens has nearly doubled the city spending; increased city taxes every year (except 2012); supports the Met Council's Gold Line; continues to fund white elephant programs such as the city owned Golf Course; and more... all sourced:  Gubernatorial Hopeful, Mayor Stephens Tries to Defend Tax and Spend Record.  

My article clearly revolves around how I first contacted Mayor Stephens asking her four questions about her tax and spend record that speaks for itself. She responded, then I wrote the post, and I included her full unedited responses. To this day, no one, including Mary Stephens has shown that any of the dozens of fully sourced facts from the city data in my post are false.

In stark contrast to my article with her full response; Mary Stephen's email issued many false accusations that were inflammatory and baseless to which no one asked me about before issuing. This is a damaging attack piece on me as a tax payer with no current tie to any political party, campaign, PAC, or any funded or volunteer run political group. My opinions are my own and the facts are fully sourced with direct links. Washington County Watchdog has over a dozen volunteers who write posts; we don't make a penny; and we don't endorse or work for any candidate or party. Our mission statement is clear that we are citizens here to keep government on both sides accountable.

I will go through each false statement Mary Stephens blindly issued without sources, facts, or thought to common sense in an attempt to try to repair my image. Unfortunately our WCW audience pales in comparison to the thousands she emailed. Hopefully the Minnesota GOP will review all the facts in this evolving situation and put a stop to it by sending out a formal response to the thousands of GOP members she emailed to help rectify the damage she personally caused me. They know how to contact me to discuss further on the best way to respond to the reckless actions of Mary Stephens that I hope do not reflect the Republican Party.

1.) Mary Stephens doesn't source the article or even mention Washington County Watchdog. Only a person refuting accurate information would go so far to distance themselves from the original content. Clearly an attempt to prevent readers from deciding for themselves.

2.) She never provides sources for any of the many false accusations. Including using GOP mailing lists to working for the Sierra club.

3.) "Matt Behning, a local blogger best known for attacking Republicans, and for his advocacy work for the hard left, anti-mining, extreme environmentalist Sierra Club. "
attacking republicans: False, myself and dozens of volunteer citizens for the Washington County Watchdog keep both sides in check. Mary mistakes articles fully sourcing legislative records of politicians who claim to be a fiscal conservatives as attacking republicans. Fact is we defend the integrity of the republican party by researching about those who we find are not walking their talk claiming to follow the party platform. We always allow them to provide a full unedited quote to defend themselves.
anti mining: False, I support the free market and safe mining, fracking, pipelines, hunting, farming, lumber, and every other responsible use of natural resources. I have never commented against mining or worked against it, nor would I. Again, we cover politicians who say one thing and then do another... My fiscal conservative political leaning is irrelevant.
extreme environmentalist Sierra Club: False, I have never worked for the any of the "hard left" including the Sierra club. She may be may be referring to my post questioning the Democrat Karla Bigham on how she supports tax payer funded incineration of garbage which is against the Sierra Club's clean air policy. My article points out that the Sierra club would not pull their endorsement of her. The group appears to be hypocritical... hardly the words of someone who's working for them or on their side. Again Mary Stephens sources nothing for you to decide for yourself.
4.) Mary Stephens falsely claims, as if a matter of fact, and never asked for explanation: "Behning was able to secure the confidential Republican Party of Minnesota (RPM) email list of statewide activists."
False: Here's the truth, I simply looked up on google "email of GOP leadership" it led to public data listed on the secretary of state website and public campaign finance report information the public contact info of select party leaders. There's not one email a person couldn't find looking for the information in the same legal and ethical way. No one paid me and I don't work or volunteer for any campaign, PAC, or other group. 

5.) "Behning has been served with a cease and desist order"  
I was not "served" with a ceases and desist order.  Matthew Pagano, executive director of the MN GOP, sent an unofficial email saying they got a report accusing me of using GOP email lists. He had no proof to provide and no one to source who issued the complaint or any details. The email appeared to be a huge eye roll and a copy and pasted response to entertain emotional candidates who don't have a record to stand on. Candidates who find themselves having to explain their voting record after someone emails party leadership with their fully sourced facts.

If it was a real Cease and Desist they'd have it served in person or by official mail to confirm it was received. It'd be sent by the GOP lawyers and not from the Party director. Matthew Pagano was basically saying the GOP delegate emails are private and they can't be used by anyone but the party (agreed). If it's true, please stop using the email addresses (it's not true, but agreed). He was clear: "I am writing you specifically about the misuse of any party lists. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions. Thank you."

Obviously I'll respond denying that I used any list and certainly agree that I'd never use MN GOP email lists. I'll explain just as I have here how I found publicly listed email addresses of select GOP leaders from the secretary of State off Google like any person could.

6.) She moves on from her wild baseless accusations and name calling to questioning the fully sourced post, without sourcing it, saying it was "selective use of certain statistics, combined with his cherry picking other numbers and calculating his own liberal definition of “city spending” is exactly the type of fake news fabricated by the mainstream media and left wing bloggers. "
False: I posted data on every single year she's been in Woodbury office consecutively, without skipping any years. I posted spending, city taxes, city tax rates, and for reference to the 20% population increase to contrast the 83% spending increase she's backed since being elected. She follows with true cherry picked data and compared Woodbury to liberal cities of her choosing. She compares her yearly tax increases to the State average as if to provide evidence she's a conservative... Nearly doubling city spending from $46.8 million a year to $84.1 million a year is not my "own liberal definition of city spending" it is what it is! The fact is I'm a blogger on the Right pointing out the accurate data in context with the city itself... trying to compare yourself to the liberal cities of your choosing in the State and saying your more conservative is like any liberal tax and spend politician looking to point anywhere but towards their own district for evidence of what they want viewed. It's like saying "well my city is hemorrhaging less than the other cities so it proves I'm conservative... I'm only increasing taxes every year by single digits, not double digits."... it's all excuses, not leadership to get behind.

7.) "The property tax levy has been substantially reduced during my time on the city council and as Mayor, the position to which I was elected in 2010:"
False: she has only reduced the rate of the yearly tax increases compared to the extremely liberal predecessors twenty years ago (single digit increases vs double digit). Are fiscal conservatives supposed to be impressed with that? 

Again, I hope the damage can be repaired from Mary Stephens' reckless email. This can only be done if the Minnesota GOP gets involved and can contact all those who were emailed and explain I was falsely accused, I did nothing wrong, and that this emotional, baseless, personal attack on a citizen does not reflect how the MN GOP typically handles situations like this. 

On my own, this post will only reach a few hundred people in the east metro compared to the thousands and thousands that Mary Stephens emailed.

-Matt Behning 

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mary for Minnesota Governor <>
Date: Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 10:01 AM
Subject: He’s entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

Dear John,

Recently, Republicans across the state received an email criticizing my record as Mayor of Woodbury from Matt Behning, a local blogger best known for attacking Republicans, and for his advocacy work for the hard left, anti-mining, extreme environmentalist Sierra Club.

Serious questions have been raised about how and from whom Behning was able to secure the confidential Republican Party of Minnesota (RPM) email list of statewide activists. Behning has been served with a cease and desist order from the RPM for the illegal use of party lists made only available to candidates who sign a legally binding list agreement.

Those legal questions aside, as a candidate for governor, my record as Mayor is certainly open to scrutiny and investigation.

But his selective use of certain statistics, combined with his cherry picking other numbers and calculating his own liberal definition of “city spending” is exactly the type of fake news fabricated by the mainstream media and left wing bloggers. Republicans know better.

Here are the facts on Woodbury city spending and taxes, and how Woodbury compares to other cities in the metro area, among our neighboring cities in Washington County, and among cities statewide.

Through conservative fiscal management, Woodbury has the 6th lowest property tax rates in the metro area:
The property tax levy has been substantially reduced during my time on the city council and as Mayor, the position to which I was elected in 2010:
As the largest city in Washington County, we have among the lowest tax rates of cities in the county:
And despite being one of the fast growing cities in the state, Woodbury’s annual percentage tax levy is typically well below the state and metro averages. In 2018, we are third lowest among peer cities.
I welcome questions about my record, but won’t stand by when funny math and ignorance of municipal accounting practices leads to false accusations.

I’m proud of my executive experience and bold leadership that has made Woodbury among the best cities to live in the nation. With your support, I’ll take this record to all of Minnesota!

Conservatively Yours,
Mary Giuliani Stephens

Monday, March 12, 2018

We do not need a Convention of States (Response to Rep. Matt Dean co-signing House File 2690)

Post by Leon Moe of Cottage Grove. He's a disabled Vietnam Vet and Washington County Watchdog is proud to share:

There is a national movement to establish a "Convention of States" to amendment the Constitution, including right here in Minnesota with HF 2690One of the State Representatives sponsoring the bill is from Washington County. Representative Matt Dean (R), who is known for his strong fiscal conservative record, as well as championing the reform of MNSure after it killed at least one Minnesotan, Gail Dunker. 38 states are required to assemble the convention according to article 5 of the US Constitution.

(response from Representative Matt Dean to four questions asked at the end of this post)

When they assembled in Philadelphia for the 1st Convention their original intent was to simply amend the Articles of Confederation and they ended up writing a whole new Constitution. Keep that in mind.
A proposed Amendment in HF 2690  is a BBA (Balanced Budget Amendment). Right now we know that Gun Control is a hot topic…could there be a proposal to Amend the 2nd Amendment or a host of other Amendments?  John Malcolm thinks it could happen, he's the Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation ( a source many consider the undisputed expert on the Constitution). They published a paper stating the history and risks of opening a convention of States. Stating it could cause a "Runaway Convention." That there's no rule to say the convention is limited to the topics originally stated in a well intended bill like HF 2690
The Constitution is not the problem…the problem is the miserable failure of our elected representatives to honor their oaths to support and defend the Constitution…on EVERY issue, EVERY time.
One indication of this failure were the awards for voting on the “basis for a constitutionally limited government established to sustain life, liberty, justice, property rights and free enterprise” presented by the LEA (Legislative Evaluation Assembly) 3, repeat 3, out of 134 in the Mn House received awards (Matt Dean included) and none from the Mn Senate. Another indication of this failure is that 30% or the bills passed in the Minnesota legislature in 2017 were MSBs or (Multi Subject Bills), which is a direct violation of the Minnesota State Constitution Article 4, Section 17.. ”No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title”.

If you would be interested in a list of those MSB bills so you can check to see how your rep voted send an email with 2017MSB in the subject line to What kind of an Amendment or alteration to the Constitution could we possibly add that would inspire elected representatives to honor their oaths any more than they do now?

Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first Convention…I should tremble for the result of a second” –James Madison (11/2/1788)

Leon Moe
Cottage Grove

Questions for Representative Matt Dean: 
1.) What's your response regarding the concerns mentioned by some of the greatest constitutional scholars on the dangers of opening a convention of states? Specifically, the potential for a "runaway convention." 

2.) How can our Republican majority State house and Senate be trusted to set limits on the reckless spending of the Federal Government when our own GOP legislature passed an over a billion dollar bonding bill and 30% of the bills passed were multi subject bills (MSBs) in 2017? These MSBs are a direct violation of the Minnesota State Constitution Article 4, Section 17.. ”No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title”.  (One bill, one vote)

3.) Say you get the 38 states to ratify the constitution and the convention goes exactly to plan. Who's to say the changes won't be circumvented just like the other powers of the constitution? (10th amendment to name one) 

4.) What do you say to those who suggest energy would be better spent calling on the feds to honor the current US constitution rather than changing it and having them still ignore it? ie: Sue the federal government for violating the constitution like Texas has. They've won seven law suits against the Obama administration's unconstitutional over reach of federal power.

Answer from Representative Matt Dean:

From: Matt Dean 
Date: Sun, Mar 11, 2018 at 8:17 AM
Subject: Re: Rep Dean. Your Bill on Convention of States

Thanks. I'm glad you emailed me regarding this. I'm also glad you have so seriously thought through the issue and its implications.  I wish more people would. 

Debt will crush our republic through a weakening ability to provide national security. We can not continue to steal from our children and grandchildren especially if that comes at the expense of their liberty.  But that's how much it costs.  I have been convinced that there will come a time when we must push away from the table and sober ourselves. We can do it sooner under our own terms, or later under China's. 

I'm less concerned about a runaway convention than I am with runaway congress. 

The swamp will prevail if we leave it to the congress. You would think that if any congress could cut spending it would be this one. They were put in charge out of frustration of the middle class. They can't even pass a single bill to slow down Obamacare (let alone kill it) All the while congratulating themselves for passing a tax cut that protects corporate loopholes but takes away deductions for average joes. Sheesh.  Anyway that's my rationale. I am always open to new information and an willing to change my position when I learn I am wrong. Your opinion is important to me and I think the issue deserves debate. Thanks again

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Fugitive Child Predator Who Police Report Says Was Caught With Pants Down and About to Rape Child, Found Living at Woodbury Hotel

This is just one of many posts out of Washington County about child predators just like this roaming in the shadows, getting caught, and being released back into Washington County. See: 

Registered child predatory offender and convicted kidnapper William Lee Sjerven who is living in Woodbury has been charged with violating predatory offender registration requirements. According to the criminal complaint, Woodbury police pulled the car he was riding in over for speeding, they ran his ID and found he was wanted for failing to do his required check ins. He showed his address was room 139 at the Keys Inn, formerly known as the Red Roof Inn. Currently it's rated as a 2 star hotel according to It's off the 494 freeway and Valley Creek road in Woodbury. 

William Sjerven
According to the State BCA, In 1999 he was convicted of kidnapping and served 10 years. In 2013 he was charged with sexually assaulting a 12 year old girl and got a plea deal down to only child endangerment from the incident. He did only a year in jail and just 3 years probation for essentially getting caught with his pants down about to rape the child. The Mankato Free Press covered the story stating:

"The girl told authorities that Sjerven said to her, "I am going to do weird things to you."

Sjerven touched the girl's buttocks over her pants, the girl told authorities, and then picked her up and carried her outside to the backyard where he pulled down her pants and attempted to engage in intercourse.

Before that could happen, however, an adult came outside and observed the pair lying. The girl then ran to her father, who was inside the house. Her father retrieved a shotgun and pointed it at Sjerven.

Sjerven lived in Florida for a short time where he was a registered sex offender (see picture) and had his full name, address, photo, description, etc posted publicly on their sex offender website like 47 states do (26 of which post exact addresses). MN is not one of these states, the list is not public. The fact he moved back to live in the shadows of Minnesota is another example of how convicted child predators are drawn to live here.

It's horrifying that someone who was seconds away from raping a 12 year old girl, had it not been for the father with his shotgun, would get a plea deal in Minnesota down to child endangerment from the prosecutor. A crime he only did a year in jail and 3 years probation. Unfortunately, terrible plea deals like this are made all the time. In Washington County alone:
Rampant Sex Crime on Children, in Just 2yrs, 10 Cases From County Alone, 8 Simple Laws to Update 

If convicted, he will likely serve little, to no, jail time (typically 30 days) for violating parole and simply get a small fine and time added to probation. The maximum time a sex offender can be registered in MN is 10 years. It's the weakest maximum in the Country. Read more here: 
Watchdog Review of Each of the Fifty States Sex Offender Laws Finds Minnesota Ranked the Most Unsafe. 

Legislators to contact in Washington County to tell them to make MN sex offender laws stronger see our 8 Simple Laws to Update:

DATE: 2/16/2018 
DEFENDANT: William Lee Sjerven 
DOB: 10/22/1971 
CHARGE: I: Predatory Offender-Knowingly Violates Registration Req. or Intentionally Provides False Information 

Reported Names

*In no way do we wish harm to the convicted sex offenders outside the judgement of the law. Posting each criminal's data allows the public to decide from the evidence if they appreciate knowing such data. Such as what these sex offender's last known address is. No representation is made that the individuals listed here are currently on the state's offenders registry. All names presented here were gathered at a past date. Some persons listed might no longer be registered offenders and others might have been added. Some addresses or other data might no longer be current. Owners of Washington County Watchdog assume no responsibility (and expressly disclaim responsibility) for updating this site to keep information current or to ensure the accuracy or completeness of any posted information. All data was only accurate at the time of posting per Government sources provided. Accordingly, you should confirm the accuracy and completeness of all posted information before making any decision related to any data presented on this site. The information on this web site is made available solely to protect the public. Anyone who uses this information to commit a crime or to harass an offender or his or her family is subject to criminal prosecution and civil liability. Message us if you can verify us of an address or change in data.  Washington County Watchdog is not responsible for the accuracy of the content shared, refer to our linked government sources.  

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Gubernatorial Hopeful, Mayor Stephens Tries to Defend Tax and Spend Record While Facing Accusations of Trying to Curb Public Data Requests

update: Mayor Stephens Bullies Citizen with Baseless Statewide Public Attack Without Evidence. The Response.

Mary Giuliani Stephe
The Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani  Stephens hopes to secure the Republican endorsement for the Governor's race. However, to do this she needs the public to be unaware of her tax and spend record as mayor. If there's a single vote from her against a tax, spending, or debt increase in Woodbury I've yet to find it; likewise so was she unable to directly say she has voted against any specific tax and spending measure when I asked. Under Mary Stephens over ten years in elected office for the city, the rate of city spending has increased over four times faster than the population (83% vs 20%). 
Spending increase votes by Mary Stephens

It was difficult information to find because Woodbury only posts 3 years of financial reports for the public. All the cities I looked into in Washington County post their approved budgets and financial reports as far back as 20 years. Others go over 40 years back, like Cottage Grove goes back to 1976 and Stillwater to 1972

The Woodbury Bulletin broke the news that the city is lobbying the legislature to narrow free and open access to government data.
Stephens and the city council want to charge residents for data and be able to publicly display their name and what data they requested. Coincidentally this correlates with the timing of the mayor's announcement to run for Governor. Clearly this looks to be a political maneuver to prevent opposition research rather than her claim it's to prevent abuses that we are told are occurring. 

I asked Mayor Mary Stephens if she had a response to this allegation and if she could defend her tax and spend record. 

Stephens response was "There is no attempt to “curb research” into any work product of the city. " Going on to say, "we are taking pro-active steps to ensure those requesting government data can get that information as timely as possible. To that end, I have instructed our city to meet with Mr. Don Gemberling to learn from him how we can make this process even easier while saving taxpayer dollars." She didn't explain how charging citizens to get data on their government and publishing their names was making "this process even easier." or how it saves the tax payers money for this non-issue. 

The questions were led with the fact between the year 2015 and 2017 the city only had 68 requests for data, most of them being from the Woodbury Bulletin. None of the requests appeared to be "fishing expeditions" as she described. The full response from the Mayor can be found at the end of this article. Credit for finding the data on the insignificant number of requests for data goes to the non-partisan Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI).

Charging citizens to look at data is no small fee as citizens are at the mercy of the whatever the Government wants to charge. In 2015 I investigated why the County needed to spend $20 million on a public works building so I requested to review specific parts of the plans. They responded it'd cost me $1,313 for staff time and material despite the fact I didn't want to see every single piece of paper on it. But they wanted to scare me off with a big quote. Or in the least, swamp me with a table full of thousands of pages of data, which they did. They claimed providing the specific parts of the plans to review would cost me more money in staff time looking for the data than if they just brought all of it in. The same thing happened when I investigated how the County lost a law suit of $165,000 for a road construction mistake. They again wanted to charge me hundreds of dollars to see all the court files when I only requested to see the 7 pages on the court ruling. This is why this issue is so important. Not to mention the fact we have other volunteers for our page who request data on sex offender cases and publish articles and posts... if Mary Stephens had her way, these watchdogs would have their names publicly listed.

Mayor Stephens was elected in 2007 to the Woodbury City Council, in 2010 she was elected Mayor. Aside from 2012, city taxes have gone up every year and the
Woodbury yearly tax increases
only no vote on the yearly tax increases has been council member Chris Burns.
The mayor has supported the new city lodging tax, the excessive $22 million dollar Bielenberg Sports Center, the nightmare Gateway corridor/Gold line that does not have State support for funding and the Feds have announced their pulling funding for it too. Yet her support for the corridor on the death spiral continues no matter the cost shift to local tax payers in Woodbury. Washington County DOUBLED the transit sales tax in June of 2017 to pay for the added costs.  She even used misinformation to energize support of the corridor after Representative Runbeck (R) proposed oversight to the Met Council who are unelected and yet allocating tens of millions of dollars for these corridors every year. Still today she maintains support of the Gold Line stating that it's $420 million dollar price tag as a bus line was cheaper than the billion dollar light rail option. This is despite the fact Metro Transit has a $9 million dollar express bus upgrade that would outperform the Gold Line for hundreds of millions less:  Gateway Corridor vs Metro Transit: How State's $9 million Route Upgrade Could Replace the Gateway Corridor

So I asked her, do you have a response to those of us who can't find one proposal or vote from you to shrink the taxes and spending in Woodbury? Her response was that she is proud of her record. She dodged the question by going on about how the city is growing and how the city council is cutting some spending in 2018 that we found she supported instituting in the first place. Things like cutting the $88,000 a year assistant to the city administrator who himself makes $160,000 a year and cutting a $93,000 a year community liaison... In the real world, adding dozens of government programs, positions, taxes, and other spending increases for over ten years in office then cutting some for the political spotlight is not an example of a principled fiscal conservative. Besides, the 2018 budget and spending is still higher than 2017.

They even admit the public doesn't want these tax increases even if they get more services! In the 2018 adopted budget (with a 3.8% tax increase) the city reports "the percentage that would support a tax increase to maintain service levels remains below 50 percent." Yet they increased the tax anyway with Councilor Chris Burns as the sole no vote.

Another example of waste supported by Stephens is the golf course. The City has owned the 255 acre, 18 hole, Eagle Valley Golf Course since 1998. Most of it's history it's lost tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. They had the chance to sell it in 2012, but Mayor Stephen and the city council turned the offer down. Instead they spent nearly $900,000 to buy out the golf course debt so it could claim it was making a profit over it's $1.2 million year/ dollar operating cost (p.34). But as any government run business, they operate outside reality. Because if they actually paid for all the expenses of running a golf course they'd still be in debt. Because they don't pay for large expense items like new equipment and machinery. For now, such realities are a future goal according to the 2018 budget p. 201 "Long-term objectives as it relates to the [Golf course] budget will include maintaining reserves for the renewal and replacement of equipment or capital items" Profit or not, should the government be in the Golf Course industry competing against the privately owned golf course in Woodbury? A true republican would say that is not a core function of government.
Other areas of tax and spending with Mayor Stephens supports is:

In 2007, when she was first elected to city council, there were 44 city parks and 112 miles of paved trails (p.212), in a city of 36 square miles that's more than a park every mile! But it wasn't enough, the city is up to 3,400 acres of park space across 55 parks, 140 miles of trails, three fishing piers and a swimming beach (p.36).  When is it enough? They're nice, but cost millions a year to maintain. Just putting in trail map signs in the parks is going to cost $156,000 (p.46).  Parks have 
become 19.6% of the city budget (p.65)! Costing tax payers $6,695,800 a year to maintain (p.68).

There's dozens more examples of waste started or ramped up under her watch with her vote, more than I have time to list in this already long article. So please do not be fooled by Mary Giuliani Stephens on the campaign trail as she claims to be a fiscal conservative claiming that she's against wasteful state spending like in the Met Council as she states on her campaign page:  "For too long the Metropolitan Council has overemphasized light rail transit, spending billions on rail lines that can only move a tiny fraction of people and not goods and services." If she believed her own words she'd shut the Gold Line down while she still can; because it too, even with it's own ridership prediction, will move less than 
5% of traffic off of the I-94 freeway. See more here:  The Gateway Corridor, Big Promises, Little Evidence

-Matt Behning

2018 Spending: $84,128,680 (p.55)
2017 Spending: $81,495, 686  (p.55
2016 Spending: $77,975,717  (p.45)
2015 Spending $63,201,759  (p.187)
2014 Spending $64,699,849 (p.177)
2013 Spending $64,590,398  (p.177)
2012 Spending $48,602,500  (p.177)
2011 Spending $49,363,551  (p.177)
2010 Spending $46,953,044 (p.152)
2009 Spending $46,808,081  (p.152)

2017 tax rate  35.1% (p.233)
2016 tax rate 32.4% (p.200)
2015 tax rate 31.1% (p.200)
2014  tax rate 35.4% (p.200)
2013 tax rate 36.6%  (p.200)
2012 tax rate 33.1%  (p.200)
2011 tax rate 32.2%  (p.200)
2010 tax rate 29.1%  (p.200)
2009 tax rate 27.4%  (p.200)
2008 tax rate 26.8%  (p.200)
2007 tax rate 26.7%  (p.200)

From: Matt 

Sent: Monday, February 19, 2018
To: Stephens, Mary
Subject: Mayor Stephens. Comment on your tax and spend record and DPA fees?

Doing a post on your support of having citizens pay to obtain government data and have their names published to discourage requesting data.

You've been a Woodbury City councilor or Mayor for over ten years but only a month after announcing run for Governor you've decided that data requests to the city are costly and abusing staff resources. Yet from 2015 to 2017 the city only had 68 request for data, most of them being from the woodbury bulletin for soft ball news on police reports. None of the requests appeared to be "fishing expeditions" as you describe.

1.) Do you have comment about how this appears to be an attempt to curb research into your tax and spend record?

2.) Do you have a response to those of us who can't find one proposal or vote from you to shrink the taxes and spending in Woodbury?

3.) What tax decrease, spending decrease, or decrease in the size of government can you claim as something you championed for the residents of Woodbury?

Lastly, on your website you say:
"For too long the Metropolitan Council has overemphasized light rail transit, spending billions on rail lines that can only move a tiny fraction of people and not goods and services."

So do you no longer support the the nightmare Gateway corridor/Gold line that has not had State support for funding since 2011 and the Feds have announced their pulling funding for it too. Yet do you still support this corridor on the death spiral?  The cost is shifting more and more to local tax payers. Washington County DOUBLED the transit sales tax in June of 2017 to pay for the added costs.  

4.) Do you still support the Gateway Corridor?

Thanks for responses. They will be unedited full quotes if you decide to respond.

-Matt Behning
Washington County Watchdog

note: inaccuracy in her response is the Legislature funded the corridor in 2014... they didn't, it was back door funded through the Met Council who received a lump sum to fund corridors like the Gateway Corridor. 

From: Stephens, Mary 
Date: Wed, Feb 21, 2018 
Subject: Re: Mayor Stephens. Comment on your tax and spend record and DPA fees?
To: Matt 

Dear Matt,

Despite the obvious bias, tone and one-sided nature your questions clearly indicate, I am pleased to respond to your inquiries.


There is no attempt to “curb research” into any work product of the city. The Minnesota Data Practices Act is very clear that information of this nature is public. Please see Minnesota Statutes 13.01 – 13.90.  Every action taken by the City of Woodbury is in compliance with this law, and we are taking pro-active steps to ensure those requesting government data can get that information as timely as possible. To that end, I have instructed our city to meet with Mr. Don Gemberling to learn from him how we can make this process even easier while saving taxpayer dollars. Mr.Gemberling is the former Department of Administration official who oversaw state compliance with the Data Practices Act. He is a recognized expert in the field of transparency and governmental accountability.

I am proud of my record governing the city of Woodbury in a fiscally responsible manner. As one of the fastest growing cities in Minnesota, our goal has always been to provide needed services (roads, parks, public safety) while keeping government growth to a rate below the combined  population growth and inflation rate. Staff is provided with target based direction so budget and fund requests are restricted and confined up front in the budget process. There are many cuts from our budget. Here are several examples from 2018:

Community Liaison position - $93,000

Local Government Management Fellowship Program - $54,000

Tuition Reimbursement Program - $15,000

Police and Fire overtime - $24,700

Diesel Fuel Purchases - $33,000

All told, we eliminated over $549,000 in additional spending in 2018. I recently received my proposed tax statement from Washington County and the city portion of my tax is going down by 5%

In addition, we continue to keep our staffing level below our historic averages since I was elected in 2010 and our police staffing continues to be below state averages despite our delivering paramedic services as well. Staffing is the largest share of the city budget, and keeping firm control on the growth of staff is one way to keep our tax rates under control. We have worked with our development community to streamline the permitting process and have reduced our storm water fee charges.

Until it was dissolved, CTIB, (Counties Transit Improvement Board, created during the Pawlenty administration),  was collecting sales tax from Washington County residents for transit, with many hundreds of millions dedicated to light rail transit. Using these dollars for roads and bridges was not an option. I did not support light rail for Gateway but supported the bus rapid transit in this corridor because the cost was significantly less, it was flexible and adaptable to advancing technologies, added roads and bridges, and emergency vehicles could use the lane. Given the options, this was the fiscally responsible choice at that time.  

When CTIB was dissolved (which was the right decision as I never supported CTIB’s formation) the county took over collecting the sales tax as required by the agreement. Also, the state legislature did appropriate dollars to Gateway in 2014. Secondly, Washington County – not the city of Woodbury -- raised the wheelage tax.  

Please feel free to get back to me if you have additional questions.


Mary Giuliani Stephens
City of Woodbury
twitter @mayorstephens