Way way back, we’re talking 2017, the Citizens Assembly issued its report, part of which were suggestions to improve city meetings, that “better meetings” and ethics and the City’s Code of Conduct were the areas that were important to me. Why? Because at the last meeting, a concerted effort was made, through a secret meeting and a Resolution from that meeting, to prohibit virtual participation and to eliminate the Statement of Intent.

Notice who showed up for this workshop and notice who DID NOT show up for this workshop:


Here’s the packet for the meeting:

Everything I say about this is flavored by the LONG time it took to get to this discussion, and the flagrant misbehavior of some Council members, disregard for basic concepts of how government operates and DOESN’T and SHOULDN’T operate, and the dissing of the public. That said…

The discussion was a start. They went through the suggestions I’d offered (because I was the only one who’d offered specific suggestions, a few times over the last SIX YEARS), variations of what I’ve been offering since 2017, and they DID discuss them. For the most part, they have focused on two things.

  • Develop “Standard Operating Procedures/Best Practices” explaining how things are done.
  • Update the “How to Participate” flyer that’s on the table in the foyer (there should be an announcement of this handout at the beginning of meetings for folks new to appearing).

That’s a start, good to see, and ONWARD!

Here’s the 2/27/2023 City Council Meeting: youtube: https://youtube.com/watch?v=rqZKMLVXYI4&si=EnSIkaIECMiOmarE&t=8603

And here’s a transcript of that meeting:

Here’s the City’s Statement of Intent they want to eliminate:

I put together a handout about “Better Meetings” recommendations in Citizens Assembly Event Report for the meeting:

I also made copies of a Letter to the Editor that Alan and I had written following the ejection or resignation of Dennis Egan as Mayor due to conflict of interest, and as Citizens Assembly was discussing ethical issues and the City Code of Conduct, which is so deficient and needs updating. This last Council meeting was a wake up call for update of the Code of Conduct — discovery of the Gang of Four’s secret meeting, two Council members falsely stating and doubling down that it was an Agenda and/or Executive/Leadership committee meeting (plus “COVID is over,” I mean, really?!?!), and for trying to prohibit virtual comments and eliminating the Statement of Intent? I’d like to see Oath of Office committed to at each meeting!

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!

(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?



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