The story of utility personal property tax goes way back in Red Wing, in Goodhue County. When the latest round of tax notices, the 2021 Proposed Tax, were received, people were whining and crying, and when I asked them what they’d do different, NOT A SINGLE SUBSTANTIVE RESPONSE (“cut spending” is not a response, “VETO” is not a response. Let’s get specific here folks, what would you do different??). It also seems that people do not understand the impact of Xcel Energy’s tax cuts and how their cuts are heaped on US regular property owners!

While putting up some articles today that dropped from the heavens into this Legalectric repository, I ran across some old editorials that are a needed history lesson as people in Red Wing discuss property taxes. Red Wing Budget 2021 page! Here in Red Wing, we’re having to make up for the loss of the utility personal property taxes that our “good neighbor” Xcel has weaseled out of over the years. 20+ years ago, starting in 1995 just after NSP succeeded in its fierce lobbying effort to keep the plant open, they pulled the rug out from under Minnesota’s host communities, slashing utility personal property taxes in every way possible. The most recent episode of Xcel Energy cuts was 2018, done in secret at Dept. of Revenue, they gave Goodhue County, Red Wing, and the school district the finger once again.

Here, in chronological order, are those OLD editorials I found in this computer (click on them for a larger view). History matters.

This first one is particularly obnoxious, as Micheletti’s statement (he was then an NSP lobbyist) that utility personal property tax makes our rates higher is outright lie — our electric rates at that time were far lower than almost everywhere in the country!

micheletti_1_mpr082216
(he hates this, so gotta post it!)

And my take on it, after seeing Micheletti’s push, written because people seem to avoid identifying the root of the problem — Xcel screwing us over — was written just a week later, because Xcel is changing the host deal after the fact. They built the nuclear plant in this host community with an agreement to pay these taxes. Now they pull out of that agreement? I mean really, what are they going to do, take their nuclear plant and go? In 1994, they rallied the troops of Red Wing, Goodhue County, and all other host communities to storm the legislature by the busload “to preserve the tax base” and then starting in 1995, they focus their bigger than ever lobbying presence on eliminating that very same tax base. Yup, that’s how they rewarded their host communities. What a good neighbor. Here’s my response to (then) NSP:

And in the Red Wing Republican Eagle, a heads up to the community, long after NSP/Xcel had started, after the post 1994 taxes were slashed, cut, after NSP/Xcel eliminated so much of the utility personal property tax — and we residents had to take up the difference:

It’s hard to stomach anything from Tom Micheletti, who got his and Julie Jorgensen’s Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project and tens of millions of dollars (DNT Investigation – Excelsior Lobbying Cash Questioned) as a perk in the 2003 Prairie Island bill – Chapter 11, Special Session), with cash flow from state coffers for his bogus idea built into law:

We had to fight that IGCC (coal gasification) Mesaba Project bondoggle for over FOUR YEARS before the Public Utilities Commission finally said NO! Meanwhile, Tom Micheletti and Julie Jorgensen financed by millions from the state’s “Renewable Development Fund,” millions from the Iron Range Resources coffers (Iron Range Resources & IGCC take their lumps), and millions from Department of Energy Grants and Loans, giving him enough to retire in style. Boondoggle” is too nice a word for that scam.

Ten years and $41 million later, ‘clean coal’ plant still vapor

Is it any wonder I’d holler seeing Julie Jorgensen, Dennis Egan, and Mark Andrews teaming up trying to get a solar project going in Red Wing? AAACK!

Three Musketeers? Three Stooges?

History is important… facts matter!

Remember Excelsior Energy‘s boondoggle Mesaba Project?  Go to the PUC’s search page and search for “05-1993” and “06-668” for the dockets.

A little birdie flew by today, cocked its shiny eye and said…

So following up… Does anyone find it strange that as of August 3, 2018, the registered office of Excelsior Energy and its agent, CEO, and Principal Executive Office Address of Tom Micheletti, is  THE ABOVE STORAGE UNIT at 4630 Quebec Avenue North, New Hope, MN 55428?

Last known address: 708 1st St., #421, Minneapolis, sold 2017 for $749,900(verified in Metsa for Congress report, 3/9/2018 donation)… and then there’s Orono: Tom & Julie’s house is for sale.

Did you know that Excelsior Energy got their regulatory perks extended until 2025?!?!  Really, look at this, Minn. Stat. 216B.1694, Subd. 3(b)(1), a 2017 legislative boondoggle!

(1) site and route permits and water appropriation approvals for an innovative energy project must also be deemed valid for a plant meeting the requirements of paragraph (a) and shall remain valid until the earlier later of (i) four years from the date the final required state or federal preconstruction permit is issued or (ii) June 30, 2019 2025; and

Yes, Excelsior Energy was doing their lobbying in 2017.

Julie Jorgensen has been hustling with Greenmark, our good friends Mark Andrews and Red Wing’s ex-Mayor Dennis EganThree Musketeers? Three Stooges?

Then there’s Excelsior Energy Capital.  What’s that?!?!  Well, a Delaware corp registered in Minnesota in August of 2017, and inquiring minds found out their HQ is a BOAT SLIP at 21950 Minnetonka Boulevard, #210, Excelsior, MN.

Really.  Could google maps be wrong?  It’s not international waters, but assuredly … ummmm… well, bizarre!  Look at their TEAM (can you say photoshopped?).  I can’t find direct connections to our friends at Excelsior Energy, but with an operation like this, it’s got to be there!  Searching…

Remember AWA Goodhue’s office?  And Secretary of State lets them get away with this?

po-box-307-of-mastics-new-era-001

 

I found my notes!!  On August 29, 2017, Alan and I went to the Goodhue County Courthouse for the GreenMark Solar v. Wacouta Township (Court Case No. 25-CV-17-1462) festivities — a Summary Judgment hearing.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m not a fan of any of the principals of GreenMark, Mark Andrew, Dennis Egan, and Julie Jorgensen.  Mark Andrew is a former Hennepin County Commissioner and a fan of burning garbage. Here’s a thread from the Mpls yak-yak list about Andrew when he was running for Mayor.  Dennis Egan, well, we had a few go rounds when he was Mayor of Red Wing AND was executive director of Minnesota Industrial Sand Council, and at the time silica sand mining issue was on agenda for City of Red Wing. Julie Jorgensen? Her Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project coal gasification plant took up 5 years of my full-time labor before it went to part-time and intermittent, and still just won’t fully go away! Minn. Stat. 216B.1694, Subd. 3(b)(1)(ii).

That said, I’m also a big fan of solar, from way, way back when my father designed the solar on the Minnesota Zoo (that was later taken down, it was hot water! Not quite what was most needed, and they didn’t know much about solar back then).

Here’s the GreenMark Complaint — couldn’t find the Wacouta Answer or the cross-motions for Summary Judgment. The Wacouta Township website is years out of date — what’s up with that?  (2014 is most current minutes, plus a notice of the May 2017 meeting about the solar project. ???)

Greenmark Solar v. Wacouta Township_Complaint 25-CV-17-1462

Here are a couple articles:

GreenMark Solar challenges Wacouta Township | Republican Eagle

Minnesota Developer Sues for Solar Garden Permit

The oral argument started with Greenmark.  Some points (not all inclusive):

Focus on Minn. Stat. 394.33, Subd. 1, that the township decision violates Town Powers Act. It’s inconsistent with their zoning. They can enact more restrictive zoning, but they didn’t, township has no solar ordinance.2

Township ordinance is ambiguous.  Frank’s Nursery case — if ambiguous, allow property owner to do what they want with the property.

“Agricultural community” — Planning Commission and Board selected different definitions.  Current use, peat mining and hay.  Pollinator scale 45, and 85 with solar.  Wetlands. Reduce carbon emissions.

Township argument:

Town Power Act does not restrict township actions. Bergen defines inconsistent, it’s not different.
Township Ordinance, Art. 3, Subd. 10, limits industrial uses that do not support agricultural. Solar is an industrial use. Twp. does allow solar in ag, BUT, it’s more restrictive, and it’s not inconsistnet.

The standard is whether down decision was rational, i.e., legally sufficient, supported by record.

Reasonable — inconsistent with agriculture, exported to the grid. CUP – exported, GreenMark takes issue with def of ag use, but see “Hubbard Broadcasting” denial of Conditional Use.  Review is deferential.  Mandamus (GreenMark’s action) review not to challenge discretionary decisions of local government.

Frank’s Nursery re: ambiguous ordinance, doesn’t require ordinance to be construed to support use. Court still needs to determine rationality.

Greenmark Rebuttal

Mandamus – this is about building permit, a ministerial act, not discretionary.

Does township even have jurisdiction/authority.

Purpose of project — Goodhue County, that’s the area.

Altenberg (?) – Town Powers Act – Twp didn’t adopt a more restrictive ordinance.

Bergum (?) – legislative intent of Town Powers Act.

Township Rebuttal

Cases of Mandamus for building permits

Goodhue – zoned agricultural, township couldn’t zone industrial, that would be inconsistent with county zoning.

__________________________

Judge Bayley said he has a lot of homework to do, and will do it and issue Order.

Last night, the Red Wing Citizens Assembly report was presented to the Red Wing City Council:

Red Wing Citizens Assembly Event Report

The video isn’t posted yet, though last night’s Library Board meeting is.  ???  Will post that video when it shows up.

I’d had a particular issue that I want addressed in Red Wing, that of ethics in government, particularly development of a culture of ethical behavior, where people would raise whether there are conflicts of interest voluntarily, and these potential conflicts are sufficient to recuse from discussion and votes on an agenda item/issue.  What’s happened that I’ve observed in this town is that there’s no recognition or acknowledgement of conflicts, and it takes harsh exposure, press coverage, and resignation.  It doesn’t need to be that way, especially in a small community where there are so many ties, conflicts are to be expected, and the City needs to learn how to handle them.

Letter: Strengthen the city Code of Conduct

As a member of the Red Wing Citizens Assembly, I’m thinking more formally about public policy. As frequent participants in local issues, representing groups and members of the public, and as individual residents, Alan and I are particularly interested in Red Wing’s Code of Conduct. It’s a company town in many ways, with undue corporate influence.

Compared to that of the Public Utilities Commission where I practice (Minn. R. Ch. 7845), Red Wing’s Code of Conduct is inadequate. Under PUC Code, commissioners “shall behave in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the commission’s decision-making process,” and prohibits “… any action that might result in or create a conflict of interest or the appearance of impropriety… .” Red Wing’s Code gives too much wiggle room.

Remember removal of Mayor Dennis Egan? Why was resignation even a question given the direct conflict of interest and sand issues on the city agenda at the time?

How many City Council members are financially connected to Xcel Energy, as employee, contractor or with business ties? Xcel matters are regularly before the council, i.e., LabUSA “ash mining” (Full disclosure: I represented in limited scope neighbors challenging that project), nuclear issues, utility personal property tax revenue, and the city’s legislative agenda. How does the city balance Red Wing’s interests with Xcel’s interests?

3M/Capitol Safety agreed to create 40 new jobs in exchange for a $500,000 state MIF Loan and $284,677, 100 percent city tax abatement, for the new building. 3M didn’t comply by the deadline, nor within the three-month grace period, and now they’re six months overdue. The public is paying over $19,000 per job, Red Wing’s share over $7,000 per job. The council granted an extension without penalty, with no disclosure of how many jobs 3M fell short. 3M is moving jobs around — why not to Red Wing? Shouldn’t tax be assessed during noncompliance, not abated? An “extension fee” of at least $19,000 per job not created by the deadline? How is extension, with no consequence, in the public interest?

These are just a few examples. A few thoughts for improvement:

• The Red Wing Code of Conduct should require full disclosure of employment and contracting ties, in campaign information and city website biography. For each agenda item with a potential conflict, council and commission members should be queried via roll call about conflicts and interests with their response on the record.

• The administrator’s council packet should review for each agenda item the “city interest,” “applicant interest” and “public interest” for consideration.

• The Code of Conduct should require full disclosure and recusal from discussion and decision of any council or commission member who is employee or contractor or has business dealings with a party to an agenda item.

• The City Council needs education on fiduciary responsibility, protection of city resources and public versus private interest.

City of Red Wing, revise the Code of Conduct. Give it some teeth.

Carol A. Overland and Alan Muller

Red Wing

3Musketeers_Disney

Oh… My… DOG!  Imagine Julie Jorgensen, Dennis Egan, and Mark Andrew, all for one, and one for all!  Where does the public fit in?

3Musketeers_JulieDennisMark

I love solar, but with these three, their track records, lobbying shenanigans, and their public project and public money magnetism, I’m going to take a very careful and skeptical look.

More solar could be coming

The company, which is leasing property from area farmers, will work to have permits completed by the end of the year and plans to start construction next spring, said Dennis Egan, who has been assisting GreenMark.

“We’re looking at the configuration, but it potentially could be three separate sites,” Egan said, producing up to 15 megawatts of solar electricity combined.

Community solar gardens let local residents, businesses and other organizations purchase subscriptions. GreenMark’s projects would offer subscriptions to Xcel Energy customers.

“I am so pleased and proud to be working with GreenMark Solar to offer area businesses, institutions and residents the opportunity to purchase solar electricity at a discount without having to purchase solar panels to install on their own property,” Egan said.

GreenMark currently has a solar project under construction on top of parking ramps at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“As a state pioneer in creating substantial solar expansion, GreenMark is enthused to be offering subscriptions to our solar gardens in Goodhue County and other counties surrounding Goodhue,” said Julie Jorgensen, GreenMark Solar CEO.

The announcement comes on the heels of another potential solar garden project; earlier this month, Red Wing City Council members directed staff to work with Minnesota Community Solar on a lease for a 1-megawatt garden on city-owned property at Highways 19 and 61.

Julie Jorgensen (Julie Jorgensen CV ) was a Chief co-conspirator in the Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project, thankfully now virtually defunct (discounting its zombie qualities.  For more information go to www.legalectric.org and search “Excelsior Energy” or “Mesaba Project” or “Julie Jorgensen” or “Tom Micheletti” or “boondoggle” or “coal gasification” or “carbon capture” or “sequestration” or “IRRRB” or just “IRR” or “Iron Range Resources” or “Renewable Development Fund” and of course go to the Citizens Against the Mesaba Project www.camp-site.info and settle in for a good read.  And from a little over a year ago — zillow.com says it sold, but who knows the real story:

Tom & Julie’s house is for sale  February 2nd, 2014

And this on the money they sucked out of the IRRB… how much has been written off?  And then there’s the state’s “Renewable Development Fund”   Again! Legislative Auditor on IRRRB! April 19th, 2015

And Dennis Egan, he’s front man on solar projects HERE?  In Red Wing???  Well, for sure he’s no longer ED of Minnesota Industrial Sand Council (that’s a google cache, I got a 404, “the site is crashed and should be repaired.”  It might be different by the time you see this, I’ll check tomorrow).

April Fool on April Fools Day!   April 1st, 2013

And then there’s garbologist Mark Andrew, champion of the HERC garbage burner in downtown Minneapolis.

Here’s some info about his garbage burner:

The “Burner County” resource page–resources to better understand why Hennepin County owns, and Covanta operates, the “HERC” garbage incinerator in Downtown Minneapolis, MN

At a Mayoral debate, he did an inventive Al Gore:

That didn’t phase Andrew, who reiterated his intention to install solar panels on city, park and school buildings to “set an example” for Minneapolis businesses and residents. Describing his green accomplishments on the county board, he said was the “creator” of the Midtown Greenway transit corridor, a version of history that glosses over the contributions of citizen advocates, and that he “created” the city’s recycling program.

And Mpls. garbage divides mayoral hopefuls – MPR News.  Needless to say he didn’t get the job.

And now, these three are selling solar in the Red Wing area.  What are they cooking up?  Read the fine print very carefully, and keep all the public money tied down.

three_stooges