Levy, online here, opened with the above photo of Dave Jeffrey, apparently taken before the expensive rerouting of Sunwood to intersect Armstrong Ave. at the point where Councilmember and HRA Commissioner Jeff Wise intends, still apparently, to relocate his liquor store after the changes at Armstrong -&- Highway 10 impacts his present Wiser Choice store location. It is a fine photo to show the vastness of open area at Ramsey Town Center, after over one-and-a-quarter million dollars has been spent by the present council majority on the Landform consultancy, ostensibly to alter the vacancy situation in some manner in line with the magnitude of the city's payment flows to that consultancy. Without attempting to preempt readers going to the original item for the full report, Levy opens with these observations:
City officials in Ramsey recently found themselves scrambling to solve an unusual problem: how to pay $1.1 million to relocate a fellow council member's liquor store to city-owned property without violating a just-discovered state law preventing such deals.
The solution -- to route the money through a different city agency -- unraveled when one of their colleagues, mindful of Ramsey's troubled recent history, worried about angering residents.
"Enough is enough! At some point, you have to stay stop!" council member Sarah Strommen said after leading the vote Oct. 9 that postponed the deal.
It's the latest conflict to engulf this northern suburb in the three years since the city paid $6.75 million to buy 150 acres of vacant land after the original developers went bankrupt.
Since then, the city-owned development site has been the source of tension and acrimony between elected officials and city staff, replete with accusations of self-dealing and other conflicts of interest. Last month, former City Council member David Jeffrey formally asked the state to investigate, saying that the city has shelled out millions to private companies in what he calls questionable deals to try to develop the land.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto declined to comment on whether her office is looking into the allegations.
Mayor Bob Ramsey and other council members defend their actions to develop the land, which include paying $15,000 a month to a private firm to market the site to prospective tenants and providing an apartment developer with an $8 million subsidy.
But past and current council members, developers and key Ramsey staff who left the city in recent months say the council has little to show for decisions that have cost taxpayers millions.
"I think there's a perception among many in the development community that this city is dysfunctional," said Kelly Doran, a Bloomington developer who said he briefly negotiated with Ramsey officials.
The money quote: Levy goes a major step beyond what is already common knowledge to some, in these paragraphs,(highlighting added):
"If foreclosure went through, we'd be looking at 30 years of dandelions and dirt," Council Member Colin McGlone said recently, defending the decision to purchase the land in 2009.
For Jeffrey, that's where the city's problems went from bad to worse. The City Council, he said in a letter he sent last month to Otto, "transformed itself from a governmental body to that of a private developer," placing a substantial economic burden on Ramsey residents through transactions that he said appear to be improper.
Jeffrey noted that a developer who received a city loan later hired McGlone's wife. A former council member shares ownership of a plane with a developer hired by the city to market the land. The mayor, who lost his small business and home to the recession, lives in McGlone's house.
I had been wondering from the outset whether there was a crony tie of some sort to one or more of those on council at the time Darren Lazan got his contract to attain massive ongoing cash flows from our town; back in 2009 when he first insinuated himself into things - while former state Sen. Michael Jungbauer was on staff at Lazan's consultancy - and Matt Look touted the chance to hire this operation for some kind of water project, noting in minutes that "Senator Jungbauer" might be positioned to get the city a favorable grant. From that initial less-than-fifty-thousand-dollar camel's nose under the tent, the entire ugly animal entered and took residence.
So, big time question, who was that former council member? Stay tuned. And, to further encourage voter-readers to finish the Levy item, which again is online here, his report contains subheadlines, "Two deals, lots of questions," and "Controversial connections." I am not publishing what deals and questions he reports, or what "connections" he characterizes as "controversial."
Read it all, at Strib online.