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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

County and Local Legislators Seek to Boost a Fully Sponsored Fundraising Project with $189,000 Tax Dollars

Update 5-6: Due to the Woodbury City Administrator Clinton Gridley this correction piece is in place: Local Government Jepordizes Local Private Fund Raising Effort

In early April we were alerted to House File 2183 a $189,000 State bond request authored by Representative Kelly Fenton (R) to fund a woodbury city park. The park is the Madison Place Play Ground that is going to be added to the $22 million dollar tax payer funded Bielenberg Sports Center. On April 21st the Washington county board voted to use tax payer resources to lobby support to vote for HF2183/ SF2032 in a letter: page 23

We e-mailed the County board and the legislators who authored and co-signed the bills to understand the full context of the request. Stating this project was supposed to be funded by the Madison Claire Foundation as their first project according to their site.

We Stated it is NOT the role of the tax payers.. let alone State tax payers... to bailout failed fund raising efforts like this.  Going on to explain: the fund raiser herself Dana Millington said it best: “People think we have plenty of playgrounds already” in this Star Tribune article.

Also at this time we had an e-mail out to the city of Woodbury to check on the status of their end of funding the $1 million dollar park. We were Shocked to find out the fund raisers exceeded their fund raising goals by $70,000 in February after the Woodbury Polar Plunge! The Woodbury City Administrator Clinton Gridley explained the Madison Claire Foundation was about $130,000 short; However "The group has generated significant momentum coming of its partnership with Special Olympics and the first annual Woodbury Polar Plunge held at Carver Lake. This event raised more money and had more participants than any other first year Polar Plunge in Minnesota and the Special Olympics' commitment to the Madison's Place project is a minimum of $200,000..."

we e-mailed all the members of the County board and the legislators who authored the bills supporting the bond request and received no response.

Update 4-30-15: Senator Housley has removed her name from the bill based on the facts in this article and thanks to your efforts to contact her. Thank you Senator Housley for listening and doing the right thing.

Update 5-5-15:
We wrote to Representative Fenton and Lohmer:
As you can read below or see for yourself, Senator Housley has listened
to the facts and has taken her name off SF2032.If you check out the
e‑mail we sent you several days ago the attached official letter that
we got from the Woodbury City Administrator... he confirms that the
Madison Claire foundation not only met their funding goal, but exceeded
it by $70,000 after the Polar Plunge campaign in February from generous
private sector donors. (as charities should be funded)

Will you do the right thing and also take your names off the companion
Bill HF2183? If you do not, this bill will likely get rubber stamped
costing tax payers $189,000. The city administrator said it himself in
the letter we sent to you that the Madison Claire foundation would likely
not turn down the money even though they secured the funding they needed
privately. A bill that requests money for something only to have it
diverted is unethical and a violation of the voter's trust.

Democrat State Representative Joann Ward (who is on the bill and will
keep it alive) has already responded to me in a half page letter
blasting me: "Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to
any public funding for the proposed Madison’s Place playground at the
City of Woodbury’s Bielenberg Sports Center. While we appreciate your
input, we must strongly disagree with you."

we are writing a follow up story to: County and Local Legislators Seek to
Boost a Fully Sponsored Fundraising Project with $189,000 Tax Dollars .
Please respond by Tuesday evening if you plan to either keep your name
on the bill or remove it. If you happen to not reply I'll state that you
didn't reply and direct readers to also follow the bill on whether you
change your mind or not."

Update 5-5: Representative Fenton and Lohmer both stated in e-mails that they are NOT taking their names off HF2183 despite the unethical nature of requesting funding for a project that actually doesn't need the funds to complete the project named in the request.

Something's wrong with our Government when they ignore citizens who cry foul when they're caught playing politics with tax dollars by hijacking a private fund raising effort. For what? All to make themselves look bi-partisan and generous. And apparently there's no stopping this beast even when faced with the truth that the fund raisers exceeded their goals. But why should they care? It's only tax dollars.
Please contact the County Board and the politicians who are so far as we know still un-apologetically pushing this bill forward:          651-430-6211          651-738-2425         651-430-6213              651-430-6215

Susan Kent (651) 296-4166 (D)
John Hoffman (651) 296-4154 (D)
Ann Rest (651) 296-2889 (D)