About Me

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I have served the City of Isanti as Mayor since 2007. We have accomplished great things together and I look forward to building on our success. United, we move forward to a better future. You may contact me at 763-442-8749 or e-mail me at george@georgewimmer.com. My website is www.georgewimmer.com

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nuisance Abatement

Announcing another Reform
The City Council will be discussing changes to our current nuisance abatement procedures. The current process takes months and months before we get to the point of ticketing and enforcement of City ordinances. Violators need to know the City is serious about keeping our community clean.
All our property values are at stake when property is allowed to fall into various stages of blight. The basic outline of the proposed change is as follows:
  1. nuisance is confirmed
  2. letter sent to offender giving 14 days to abate (clean up mess)
  3. if no compliance then a ticket is issued and the City will enforce the clean up
***
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns george@georgewimmer.com or 444-7158

Ways and Means Committee

It was an interesting process last night. There was a bit of filibustering during the education testimony. Passions ran high as dedicated education professionals were making their case for more resources.

Time however was running low by the time local elected officials took our seats. I abbreviated my comments to the basic tenant that I want consistency and stability in local government aid. I will follow up with Rep. Eastland and Senator Olseen on the other topics affecting Isanti.

The majority of the 20 plus legislators seemed to be looking for comments that supported their own positions rather than being open to new ideas. It was an interesting process and hopefully it will impact the state legislators process in St. Paul.

Dennis Doran of the Cambridge Medical Center and Bruce Novak of the Cambridge Isanti School District did an excellent job presenting the tough health and educational issues we face.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee

Here is the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee Agenda. To start at 7:30pm.

COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
MONDAY, JANUARY 29, 2007
SPECTACULAR EVENTS
ISANTI, MINNESOTA

AGENDA


1. Call to order

2. Announcements

3. Bill Marx, House Fiscal Analyst
Overview of Governor Budget

4. Public Testimony:

Education:
Al Jones, Teacher North Branch
Muffy Henjy, Teacher North Branch
Karla Meemken, Teacher North Branch
Sue Howard, Teacher North Branch
Donna Hubbard, School Board Member, North Branch
Bruce Novak, Superintendent of Isanti

Questions from audience – 15 minutes – re: Education issues

Health, Mental Health Issues
Lori Lillian, National Alliance for Mental Health
Dennis Doran, Cambridge Medical Center Administrator

Questions from audience – 15 minutes re: Health Care Issues

Local Government Officials:

George Wimmer, Mayor of Isanti
Sue Larson, Isanti Council Member
Marlys Palmer, Cambridge Mayor
John Schlagel, Cambridge Council Member
Dr. David Schornstein, Cambridge Council Member
Robert Schogren, Cambridge Council Member
Jaysen Guthmueller, Chamber of Commerce

Questions from audience – 15 minutes re: Local Issues/property taxes etc.

5. General Questions from Audience

6. Adjournment

Friday, January 26, 2007

Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee

I will be speaking to the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee open meeting at Spectacular Events Monday night. I will be sharing my views on property taxes and how LGA, state timing requirements and the lack of development impact fees affects us all. The event is at 7:30 pm and open to the public. I am thankful to the Committee for taking the time and making the effort to come out of St. Paul to listen the public.

If you have any questions please let me know. george@georgewimmer.com

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Goal Setting Update

The Goal Setting Session on Monday went very well. Council Member Johnson did not attend. The 3 Council Members and I had agreement on the top 5 goals for Isanti.

  1. Long Term Financial Plan (LTFP)
  2. City of Isanti Marketing Plan
  3. Increased Commercial Development
  4. Downtown/Main Street Marketing Plan
  5. Water Treatment Plant
The next phase will be this coming Monday, January 29th when we flesh out these high level goals. The Council will be briefed on the cost, time and return on investment of each of these goals.
The fresh start we have is exemplified by the change in attitude from January 2006 to January 2007. LTFP which I pushed for last year and was not worked on at all is now listed as our top project. LTFP is the tool that will let us understand and control City cost and in turn make better financial decisions that lead to economic growth and lower taxes. I have been extremely happy with the conduct of the Council during this process.
The partial presentation of our current fiscal health and debt load made by City staff has added a level of realism and the urgency to this process. I will update you with further details as they develop.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Goal Setting

Goal setting starts the 22nd and raps up the 29th. I will be holding no office hours these two Mondays.

All Council members will be presenting projects, reforms and ideas for the future of Isanti. The process will create a list that is agreed to by a majority of the Council.

I am taking the approach of presenting projects and reforms that will match the time and growth span of our Comprehensive Plan. The Comp Plan is intended to be viable up to a population of 15,000. We need to plan for each level of growth and each level of service. The major infrastructure projects such as a water treatment plant needs to be planned for today even if its construction may be 5 or ten years in the future. Each of the projects will be folded into the Long Term Financial Planning process.

The Council will also be given a brief overview of the city's financial condition. I have been constantly talking about the difficult situation Isanti is in because of past excessive spending. I believe this will be driven home on Monday. 18% of Isanti's current budget is making debt payments. The current debt load does not reflect all current liabilities yet. We could expect 3% to 8% more of our total budget going to current debt obligations when all the numbers are finalized.

If more projects are added that will increase our debt load only two options are available to pay for it---raise taxes or cut spending.....I will fight any attempt to raise taxes. The goal setting sessions will hopefully start the process of the Council making the hard decisions for our future.

I intend to focus on reforms and projects that will aggressively boost our commercial development. A healthy community has a strong commercial base. Commercial properties pay higher property taxes and often need fewer services. This allows a City to have lower over all property taxes and yet supply needed services.

The second group of my proposed projects will focus on infrastructure needs at each level of future growth. This will allow us to plan and start reserving funds for such items as future sewer plant expansion, new wells and Police and Public Work capital equipment. Only through Long Term Financial Planning can we accomplish our long range goals at the lowest possible cost.

If you have any reforms or projects you would like to be coonsidered please let me know. george@georgewimmer.com or calling 763-444-7158

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New Council Member

We have a new Council Member
...Jeff Kolb...
I opened the discussion for either a special election ordinance or a direct appointment. Council Member Larson immediately moved to appoint Mr. Kolb and this passed on a 3-1 vote. I voted against because I believe a special election is the right thing to do. I am more than happy with Mr. Kolb as our new Council Member.
Council Member Kolb was sworn in and started his official Council duties at the meeting. I worked with Jeff on the Planning Commission and was impressed with his abilities. We will now all begin the heavy lifting of getting Isanti on the right track.
I still believe elections are the correct way to pick council members and in the future once we have enough distance from this specific case we will need to discuss it again.

Goal Setting Update

The Council begins our goal setting sessions Monday the 22nd. We have a second meeting the 29th. This will tie the goals from previous years with the plan for the next decade. The Council will discuss each members ideas and as a Council we will pick our city's priorities.

This is the first time Isanti has put this much effort into establishing proactive goals. We are in an ever changing world and need to layout our plan for the future. The goals will be worked on with city staff and through the committee structure to ensure success. We are in an exciting time as we layout the future of Isanti today.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Open Seat Update

The Council will be discussing the open seat once again at the Council meeting. The choices are either passing a special elections ordinance or making a direct appointment. I have already written extensively about this subject. I can only add the process I will use at Council.

I have asked that this item be moved to the top of the agenda. I will ask if there is a consensus for a special election ordinance with a time period less than 2 years. If there is a majority of 3 in favor of an ordinance than we will begin our debate on the specifics. If there are not 3 Council Members in favor of a special election ordinance for terms of 2 years or less than I will move to the appointment process.

The appointment process begins with what method does the Council wish to use to select the new member. Isanti has used a the interview and coin flip process in the pass. I believe if the Council chooses a direct appointment then there must be some legitimacy tied to the selection. This can only be done by using the past election as a guide.

It shall be an interesting process. I want this to be a dignified process.

Office Hour Change

My Monday hours will change from 2:30-4:30 to 12:30-2:30.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Office Hours

I have met will several groups and citizens during my office hours. I have also been working on several projects. If you would like to schedule and appointment please let me know, george@georgewimmer.com or 763-444-7158. My hours are:

Monday 2:30 to 4:30
Wednesday 12:15 to 2:30
Friday 12:15 to 2:30
I will be at League of Minnesota Cities training this Friday so I will be holding no office hours.

In-kind and Rental Property

I wanted to update you on two items I have promised action on, rental property reform and in-kind policy.

If you are a regular reader of my Blog you will be aware of the vigorous discussion regarding rental properties in r1 and r2 zones as a result of a few reforms I proposed last year. The housing market slow down has caused even more single family homes to be converted into rental properties. This can be of great concern to a city's long term health. We have begun work on city policy and ordinance to regulate this practice. The final outcome has to be approved by Council but I am working for a rental property registry. This would mandate yearly inspections by the City's inspection department paid for by a nominal fee charged to the rental property. The registry would give us a handle for the first time of the amount of rental properties in our city. We must maintain a proper balance between rental and home owner occupied units.

We have also seen more properties being converted into multiple rental units out of a single family home. This is a practice that must stop. It violates zoning and building codes.

The in-kind policy will be a first for our City as well. I had asked this be addressed last year and the Council approved its development by unanimous vote at the end of 2006. The policy will cover all gifts by the City of Isanti to all organizations and events. The policy will cover direct payments, staff time, equipment time and other city resources. Isanti spends tens of thousands of dollars on community events and organizations. We must have a clear accounting of this activity so we know how tax payer money is being spent. This does not mean the money is being spent irresponsibly but we must know the true cost of this activity.

The policy will also bring greater discipline to the process. The proposed policy will make groups requesting any city resource follow the budgeting process. This means if your group needs city staff time or public work help or a direct payment you will need to make the request this year for 2008. The specific time table is being determined but will follow the city's general budgeting schedule.

My hope is that the Council will see the full cost of our activities and be able to make good decisions in using City resources. I also believe it is important for the public to have a transparent view of how all City expenses. Lastly in those areas in which the Council wishes to support activities we can market our good work.

Any questions please let me know..... george@georgewimmer.com or 763-444-7158

Friday, January 05, 2007

State of the City

My fellow Isantian’s I am speaking to you today about our future. A future that is bright an exciting as it unfolds before us. We are at a pivotal point in our history. Isanti has passed the 5,000 population mark, expanded east of highway 65 and is working on a Comprehensive Plan for the next decade of growth. The decisions we make will affect not only us but the generations to come as previous decisions affect us today.

We must first be honest with ourselves and acknowledge past mistakes and endeavor not to make them again. Lack of planning, poor economic development, exploding city budgets and apathetic city government has left us many challenges to conquer.

The lack of planning and poor economic development has placed a heavy burden on Isanti’s tax payers. We must accelerate commercial growth in the next two years. Our small business community only generates 16% of our current tax base. Residential property generates 75% with another 5% coming from apartments. Growing our business community will lower our over all property tax rates. I will be vigorously working to bring in new businesses and helping current companies expand.

The City of Isanti paid to bring utilities and major roads to the east of highway 65 with an almost $5,000,000 bond. The promised commercial development has been slow to materialize. This is coupled with extensive road and brick sidewalk improvements to Main St in 2003 which more than doubled City debt. We unfortunately have seen a net loss of businesses along Main Street since this investment. This is a prime example of poor planning. An investment this large should never have been made unless it was part of a comprehensive economic plan to revitalize Main St. I was not on the Council at that time but sometimes we make the right decisions and other times we must make the decisions right.

As a new member of Isanti’s Economic Development Authority I will be calling for a comprehensive business development strategy for all of Isanti. This includes the current industrial park and all business districts focusing on Main St and the lack luster commercial growth east of highway 65. I look forward to partnering with the Isanti Area Chamber of Commerce in these efforts. Only through this process can we ensure greater business growth that will help lower all our property taxes.

Isanti’s City Budget grew by over 40% in the last two years. This unprecedented growth can not be allowed to continue in future years. A key problem has been Isanti’s lack of Long Term Financial Planning, (LTFP). One of my first acts as Mayor was to create a Finance Committee. I will be tasking this Committee, on which I serve, with creating the frame work of LTFP. The 1, 3,5,10 and 20 year budgets that will be generated out of this process will give every citizen of Isanti a view into the future of our City. The budget frame work will bring greater discipline to city spending. We will be able to prioritize city projects and expenses and properly plan for the first time. The Council will no longer make a spending decision without knowing how it will affect the current or future budgets and projects.

This is critically important when we are faced with several extremely expensive capital projects in the coming years. The list includes, liquor store expansion, industrial park expansion, city library, new city wells, water tower, sewer plant expansion, road improvements and water treatment plant to name a few.

We already have seen city debt person rise over 500% with our population increasing only 100% in the past 5 years. This equates to $400 in 2001 and well over $2,500 per person in City debt today. Our current city debt severely limits our options and adds weight to the need for LTFP especially considering no exiting debt is retired until 2014.

LTFP will also give us the frame work to lower property taxes and city fees. I will be working this year as I have in the past two years to lower property taxes. My first year on the Council, in 2005, I was proud to vote for an 8.7% tax reduction. In 2006 my 12% tax cut plan was rejected. I will again present a budget with a significant tax cut and hold the line on City spending this summer.

Economic growth, LTFP and lowering property taxes are the most important items of my agenda. There are other agenda items that I will also be working on in the next two years. These include the following; Tougher Conflict of Interest Policy, Residential Handbook, Safe Routes for Children, Safe Guarding Distinct Isanti Neighborhoods, completion of the Development Impact List, Board and Commission Reform, Environmental Protection, Traffic Mitigation and Mosquito Control.

I have asked the City Council to add several items to our Current Conflict of Interest Policy. This includes members leaving the chambers when conflicts arise and a one year moratorium on voting on matters arising from the conflict. This last item will end the practice of declaring a conflict one week and then after a specific transaction start voting at the next meeting. The added items will also make it clear that the conflict is not project based but rather person or company based.

My Residential Handbook will include the following:

· List of Pertinent City Ordinances
· List of City Fees and Taxes
· List of key Definitions including Easements and Right of Way
· Chart showing where your Property Taxes are Spent
· Copy of City Budget
· List of City Officials with Contact Information
· City Map with Government Buildings and Trails & Parks clearly marked

There will be other items added as well but I wanted to highlight some of the areas covered. This will be a communications tool to help all, but especial newer citizens.
Safe Routes has been a priority my last two years on the Council. I have fought for sidewalks along major road ways including county highway 5 and 23. I have made a pedestrian bridge across 65 a top project. I have also been a proponent for walking school buses. School District 911 does not provide busing within certain distances of school. Walking school buses can help provide greater safety for students at a minimal cost. I would prefer we offer safe busing everywhere but I also understand in tough situations we must find some alternatives to solve safety issues.

Isanti has a few remaining distinct neighborhoods, some of which date to the City’s founding. We must protect these areas of our city to ensure our history is not forgotten and provide a diversity that is all too often lost in cookie cutter development.

The Development Impact List will drive the creation of planning tools to calculate the impact of development. The planning tools will then dovetail into the short and long range budget and planning process. The goal of these tools is to bring a clearer focus to both the positive and the negative issues of our Rapid Residential Growth. It will ensure that future Planning Commission Members, Council Members, and Isanti Citizens will know the impact and cost of our planning decisions. The list currently includes the following:
· Road construction and maintenance cost
· Traffic impact
· Water capacity
· Sewer capacity
· Police protection
· Fire protection
· City staff time
· Park and trail maintenance

Board and Commission reform revolves around two key points, elimination of conflicts of interest and training for our members to ensure they are making the best decisions possible.

Traffic mitigation is one of the toughest problems for a growing city. We have tremendous growth and then seem surprised by traffic congestion. We need to provide and educate our citizens about alternating routes, establish more noticeable school zones and provide better pedestrian crossings of our county and state highways that divide Isanti.

I want to talk about environmental concerns. Isanti needs to look at opening up and changing landscaping and drainage standards along with developing a storm water ordinance. This could include varying landscaping or the use of rain gardens to help control water run off.
Permeated materials for driveways and parking pads instead of concrete and asphalt. We must seriously explore all solutions to our environmental concerns. Wildlife corridors and environmentally sensitive development will ensure a city that will be prosperous, safe and beautiful for generations to come. Once a structure is built it will in all likelihood never revert to an open area ever again. I believe being a good steward of the land God has given us is a sacred duty.

Seems like a long list I know. If we have the will and a Council that will act it is all achievable. We have a lot of work ahead of us but the reward is great. Our time is now. Seneca once said “If a man does not know to what port he is sailing no wind is favorable”. I know the port I want to sail to. I ask you to join me in the great journey we are now beginning.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Council Questions

I have received numerous questions about Council process and voting majorities. I am working on a posting to explain the Council meeting process and voting majorities for specific types of Council actions. I hope to have this complete by Friday.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

January 2nd Council Meeting Update

The Council reached agreement on committee assignments and additions to the EDA and Planning Commission. We also reached agreement on goal setting sessions and a primary ordinance. The disagreement was on the special election ordinance.

We had a bit of discussion in which Council Member Duff objected to any special election unless it is over two years which is mandated by state law. I had proposed if there is longer than 15 months left on a term that a special election should be held. I brought up the past history of a former Mayor that resigned with 18 months left on his term then ran again for Council and again resigned. I also pointed out that past appointments had taken as long as two months. These along with 5 other resignations in the last 9 years has lead to 7 appointments to the Council. I believe that elected positions should be elected not appointed.

I made a motion and it was seconded by Council Member Larson, Council Member Duff voted against---Council Member Johnson was absent. The 2-1 vote was not enough since we needed at least three total votes from the Council. No motion was made to make an appointment to the open Council position. I will bring the Special Ordinance before Council at the next meeting When we will hopefully have all 4 members present.

I also asked to have a tougher conflict of interest policy. We will work on language to have Council Members leave the Chamber when there is a conflict. This ensures no influence in the decision making process. I would also like to see a one year moratorium after source of the conflict has ended. This would make sure we do not have a person voting on an item for someone they had recently worked with.

I was pleased by the complete professional behavior of all members even on items of profound disagreement. I will post a complete list of all appointments in the next two days.