UPDATE: A bit of an aside — a decision from Massachusetts, the public has a “right to be rude,” specifically when demanding public comment and transparency!


The most recent Red Wing City Council meeting was yet another interesting meeting.


I was “there” (virtually) for Agenda Item 10B, Consider a Motion to Submit a Letter of Support to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in Support of Xcel Energy’s Public EV Charging Proposal.

But 10A was an interesting one, and a narrow step of the Three Rivers Community Action Housing Project was approved. On the video, it starts at 1:15.

10.A. Consider Motion to Approve Resolution No. 7851 Approving a Land Donation and a
Good-Faith Commitment to Tax Increment Financing for a Three Rivers Community
Action Housing Project on Technology Drive, Contingent on Receiving State Funding
The purpose of this item is for City Council to consider a land donation and a good-faith
commitment to tax increment financing for a housing project in partnership with Three
Rivers Community Action that would meet the needs of modest-income residents in our
community. The purpose of the housing project is to provide housing for families in a
place that offers green space and is walkable to amenities like healthcare, groceries, and
transportation. The project also provides 12 supportive housing units with on-site

It passed on a 4-3 vote, and some of the comments were odd, like “don’t put it near a day care” inferring that there were safety concerns. Huh?

Tom Wilder, a Recall City Hall principal and funder had this to say, some of which I’m highlighting, because he has some bizarre notions of what a City Council should AVOID DISCUSSING (!), that the City should “encourage and discuss true economic development that provides the most benefits for the majority of the current city population.” It looks to me like there’s a class basis to Wilder’s notion of who is and who is not represented.

Do recall, Tom Wilder is one who publicly stated that he doesn’t trust the City Council, and a week later went to that same Council, hat in hand, with request that the City give him, for a nominal filing fee, an easement contiguous to his parcel! More astounding, he got the land!

Anyway, here’s what he had to say, from 2:55:09 to 3:00:19 on the video:

Tom Wilder Kinda sounds like we’re looking for a bigger hammer to bang a square peg into a very small round hole. Thank you for allowing me some time. As we’ve often heard, elections have consequences, and this time is no different. Last November, and the special election for Ward 2 prior to that, the citizens through their vote, spoke loud and clear to change the leadership and more importantly, the direction of city, police, policy decision making. The newly elected four arrived with mandates to stop reckless spending and to refocus the City Council on the basic functions of efficiency in city government. The voters have done their part, and now it’s time to enact the necessary changes. Let’s take a moment to state the four basic duties of a City Council.

  • Number 1: Maintain a strong and well supported police and fire department to keep us safe.
  • Number 2: Guide, support, maintain and fund solid infrastructures, streets, sewers, and clean drinking water.
  • Number 3: Be ever vigilant in keeping taxes of all types low on the citizens as well as the businesses that help this community thrive economically.
  • Lastly, the City Council should provide an open forum, like tonight, to encourage and discuss true economic development that provides the most benefits for the majority of the current city population.

Likewise, it follows that there’s a plethora of subject matter every City Council should avoid in discussing. The following list is not exhaustive, but would include such topics as all federal and state level political issues of any type; real estate purchases for development; energy policy for the City, as a whole or its citizens; the idea that Red Wing should mimic other states such as California for our policy direction. Lastly, resolutions, declarations of intent, and other statements of health care, emergency and hazard that end up dividing us as a community rather than uniting us.

With that stated background, I’m here to recommend not approving the proposed Three Rivers Section 8 housing project. There may be a need, but this is not the spot. Let me be clear. I do not oppose the need for some lower income affordable housing in Red Wing. In fact, I support Bob here with Habitat, the recently announced Habitat for Humanity’s project on the St. John’s site, a project that will be literally be in my neighborhood and my back yard. It will not only fill a need, but provide an ongoing tax base to Red Wing, coupled with pride of ownership, sealed with sweat equity of new families in our community. As a side note, the Habitat idea was proposed to the City Council three years ago by our neighborhood group, was quickly squelched by the old council as not providing enough density for the “snapshot in time” 2040 plan. However, that’s a discussion for another day.

Ben Franklin, long considered one of the wisest thinkers of the founding fathers of our country had a method he used to evaluate any big decision that was to be made, still taught in business schools to this day, something like this: Evaluate the main bullet points of the transaction with a simple yes or no chart. Look at the results, decide based on the facts, not emotions. Let’s employ his method on the Three Rivers proposal before you tonight.

  • Does the current zoning match the proposed use? No. Will the developer be paying the project building permit fee of $27,000? No.
  • Will there be an ongoing tax benefit to the City coffers over the next 26 years? That’s the TIF period. No.
  • Will the $60,000 special assessment which is on that property be paid to the City? I guess it will be, I had it as a NO, but I guess that’s a yes.
  • Will the developer be paying the City, I had $260,000, but I’m close, for the cost of the land? No.
  • Does this project meet the stated town employers quoted need for ____  class for more housing? No.
  • Are there other businesses that could answer yes to all of the above that should be actively recruited moving forward? Yes, I believe with a refocus of Port Authority resources that could quite easily become a reality.

In conclusion, let’s take the Motion off the table, and clearly recognize the obvious decision is easy and clear to make. Most of the citizens that just voted for change do not support such a project, nor is there any need for the community to encourage such a project. You all have an obligation to honor the voters, and simply vote no, move on, find a different spot, and continue to refocus the direction of policy making in Red Wing to the core duties of a responsible and efficient City Council. 

Thank you. Respectfully submitted…

The notion that Council members “have an obligation to honor the voters,” “the citizens that just voted for change,” is off — Council members represent everyone in their Ward(s), not only some voters. And that’s so inconsistent with the Recall City Hall effort to eject 6 of 7 Council members despite their having won their elections. Inconsistency, much? Wilder has also publicly stated his desire to undo many of the actions of the “prior” City Council.

Take a close look at the notion that the Council should avoid issues affecting all of us in the city:

Note the very limited view of “public safety,” a primary responsibility of a city! A pandemic is a public safety issue. The City has declared systemic racism a public health issue. Energy and environmental issues are public health and safety issues.

Wilder’s statement is a declaration of Recall City Hall objectives, and it would behoove us all to take a hard look at what’s being said, what’s being advocated for promotion and for limitation. The “newly elected four” do have a job to do, but it’s much broader than installing the Recall City Hall agenda.

Recall recent discussions and votes by the Council. Recall that in December, there was attempt to discontinue virtual meetings. Recall that recently there have been two or more attempts to decline to accept awarded grant and public funding for infrastructure projects, an act that would not only stop those specific projects, but would put future funding in jeopardy. Recall that there was a recent attempt to prohibit virtual public comment. Recall that these efforts did not pass. The theme? These efforts were not in the broader public interest. These efforts would have harmed the City’s ability to obtain funding and were fiscally irresponsible. These efforts would have discouraged public participation contrary to the Council Rules to ENCOURAGE public engagement.

It is the City Council’s job is to protect the health and safety of ALL its residents, not a “majority” of residents. It’s the Council’s job to act in the public interest, with fiduciary responsibility. Most importantly, it’s a Council member’s job to represent ALL in their Wards and the City as a whole. It’s not easy. Oh well, that’s the job.

The power of a Charter City are found in the City’s Charter (DOH!):

And a snippet:

“… for the government and good order of the City.”

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