Tag Archives: Chanhassen

A balancing act for District 112?

The Eastern Carver County School District (District 112) has put its E-8 and high school facility task forces on hold until fall, as the two groups wait for a refresh on demographic projections for the next decade.  A faster than expected recovery in residential construction as well as the Legislature’s recent approval of all-day kindergarten for all students may spark discussions of new facilities earlier than anticipated.

While specific decisions on boundaries and possible new school construction will now wait until 2014, the issues the task forces were wrestling with remain.  On the elementary school level, a permanent home needs to be found for La Academia (the District’s rapidly growing Spanish immersion program) and the Family Learning Center, overcrowding in the three western schools (Victoria, Clover Ridge, and East Union) has to be addressed, and a likely shortage in kindergarten rooms resulting from the Legislature’s approval of all-day kindergarten must be resolved.  At this level, the issues boil down to a numbers game — finding a way to make sure that there is sufficient building capacity to meet enrollment and then drawing boundaries in a way that make the most sense for the District as a whole.

On the high school level, the issue is more difficult and more philosophical.  There’s enough capacity in both high schools to last the District for the next decade.  Chanhassen High School has (and is projected to continue to have) higher enrollment than Chaska High School by 200-300 students and Chaska High’s population is significantly more diverse (on a percentage basis, there are nearly three times as many non-white students and students receiving free or reduced lunches compared to Chanhassen High).

Although the Chanhassen facility is newer, the two schools now essentially provide the same amenities, with the exception of a “black box” theater, after the District has invested nearly $3 million in renovations to Chaska High since 2011.

The feeder system for the two high schools is based strictly on city lines — something that was strongly promoted by city leaders in both Chanhassen and Chaska and is easy to explain and understand.  Could this change?  Well, it’s possible.  The unbalanced enrollment and demographics between the two high schools is an issue which some feel should be addressed.  Does drawing boundary lines based on city limits do the best service to all of the children served by the District?

How could things change?  Well, some have suggested moving away from city boundaries for the high schools and moving to an elementary-school based feeder program (3 or 4 elementary schools could be designated to feed into each high school).  Other thoughts on balancing include using different geographical boundaries to split the District among the two high schools.  But there’s also plenty of folks who would favor keeping things just as they are today.

What do you think?  Take the polls below, and leave your thoughts in the comments.

Eastern Carver County takes some steps in a moderate direction

Every election cycle, we get the requisite story about Carver County’s long history of voting Republican.  2012 was largely a continuation of that trend, with Mitt Romney racking up nearly 60% of the vote in the County, and Congressional and Legislative Republicans winning re-election.  But there were some signs that the “suburbanization” of eastern Carver County may be starting to make Chanhassen and Chaska look more like their Hennepin County neighbors than like the rest of Carver County.

Let’s start off with the U.S. Senate race.  For the first time in recent memory, a Democratic candidate won the county.  Senator Amy Klobuchar cruised to victory by a double-digit margin over Republican nominee Kurt Bills.  Klobuchar won eight of the nine precincts in House District 47B (all of Chaska, precincts 3-5 of Chanhassen, and precincts 1-2 of Victoria), and tied with Bills in the ninth.  Much of that has to do with Bills’s historical weakness as a candidate, but it also speaks to the kind of Senator Klobuchar has been.  (Keep in mind, Klobuchar lost Carver County six years ago to Mark Kennedy).  Klobuchar has taken a moderate, low-key approach in the Senate, focusing on consumer issues and taking centrist positions on civil liberties and foreign policy, as well as many business issues.

Another notable result was on the marriage amendment.  If you look at House District 47B, the marriage amendment lost by nine points (45.4% yes vs. 54.6% no/no-vote).  The weak performance of the marriage amendment (compared to expectations) in traditional Republican areas like Carver County can in large part explain why it failed on a state-wide basis.

Interestingly enough, this vote puts eastern Carver County’s legislators, State Sen. Julianne Ortman and State Rep. Joe Hoppe, squarely in opposition with a large block of their constituents (While Hoppe’s 47B voted solidly against the amendment, 47A voted in favor of the amendment, allowing it to win SD 47 with 50.1%).  Both voted in favor of putting the amendment on the ballot, and Ortman fought back hard against allegations that she hadn’t been supportive enough of the amendment during her campaign for the GOP endorsement against Bruce Schwichtenberg.  Will Ortman and Hoppe back off of their support for their party’s divisive social agenda?

Meanwhile, the Carver County Commissioner races continued to show trends began in 2010.  In that cycle, the three incumbent commissioners on the ballot withstood challenges from the right.  This year, with all five incumbents up for re-election thanks to redistricting, all five incumbents were victorious.  Four of those incumbents fended off challenges from the right.  Tom Workman was the exception, as he was the lone incumbent who faced a less-partisan challenger.

What does this mean?  Is eastern Carver County poised to “turn blue”?  It may be too soon to say that, but it does show that demographic trends are likely over time to make this area more competitive than it has been in the past.  And Democratic candidates with the right mix of qualities can get a fair hearing from voters in these areas.  Democratic efforts should be focused on party-building and creating the infrastructure to support and develop these types of candidates that can compete and eventually win in eastern Carver County.  Klobuchar and State Senator Terri Bonoff are good examples of the sort of moderate candidates that would fit that mold.

[Edited to clarify a point on the marriage amendment, 11:20 11/13]

Strib: Koch meeting took place in Chanhassen

The Star Tribune provides the timeline surrounding the departures of Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and Senate Communications Director Michael Brodkorb last week.  Here’s an interesting piece of the story with a Carver County twist (emphasis added):

Two sources with direct knowledge of the incident who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the senators held a grinding, emotional, three-hour meeting with Koch at the Minneapolis Club about options. Exhausted, they broke for the night and met again Thursday at a location in Chanhassen.

Sources said on Thursday the senators gave Koch three choices: Deny the allegations, resign as majority leader or face the fact that they would share the allegations with other Senate leaders.

Koch has kept silent since these revelations came out on Friday. Brodkorb, however, has been actively tweeting, and doing so strangely given the sort of allegations swirling.  Here’s an example:

City Pages also uncovered a domestic dispute police call to the Brodkorb residence this summer.  Details here.

Let’s hope these families can find some healing.

Chanhassen City Council votes down Walmart proposal

The Chanhassen City Council voted down the proposed Walmart store on a 4-0 vote (Councilor Vicki Ernst recused herself).  Additional details available at the Chanhassen Villager here.

Chanhassen Planning Commission shoots down Walmart proposal

The Chanhassen Planning Commission unanimously recommended not approving the proposed Walmart store at the southwest corner of Powers Boulevard and MN-5.   Anti-Walmart forces turned out in force for the meeting, packing the City Council Chambers and overflow rooms with a crowd estimated at 200.  The proposal may still come before the City Council later this month, but given the recommendation of the Planning Commission and the strong public reaction, the plan in this form appears to be essentially dead.

Coverage from the Chanhassen Villager is here.

Walmart seeking to open location in Chanhassen

The Chanhassen Villager is reporting that Walmart is seeking to build a 120,000 supercenter on the southwest corner of MN-5 and Powers Blvd.  The proposal will come before Chanhassen’s Planning Commission on November 1, and would go before the City Council on November 28.  If approved, construction would begin next spring and the store would open in 2013.

Site plans can be viewed on the City of Chanhassen website.

Breaking down the Chanhassen Villager’s unbalanced political coverage

It’s been clear to readers of Southwest Newspapers for a while that the political coverage of the federal and state legislators in Carver County tends to have a bit of a lean to it. 

The coverage, which is led by the Chanhassen Villager team of Richard Crawford and Forrest Adams, frequently fails to challenge political spin offered by GOP elected officials and often omits or downplays Democratic perspectives.  A couple of stories from the March 31 edition indicate these trends perfectly.

Let’s start with “Budget proposals on the table“, written by Adams.

There’s attempts in here to include Democratic perspectives.  But these attempts are frequently out of context and/or lacking in comparable detail to the Republican perspective.  Looking at a few examples will make this more clear.

Democrats disagree. A public radio report quoted DFL legislators claiming the Republicans were using “Enron-style accounting” and basing their budget plans on unproven numbers. Gov. Dayton, speaking to several different audiences, referred to the majority plans as “draconian measures” and “in some cases barbaric.”

The problem with this quote is that no effort is given to explain what underlies these criticisms of the Republican plan.  The fact of the matter is that it’s true that Republicans have not agreed to use the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget numbers which have been used in the past and have instead relied on outside parties.  Additionally, the MN GOP hasn’t provided any of the underlying analysis behind these numbers.  By omitting this context, the comments are made to appear like garden-variety political griping when they are not — they are substantive critiques of the GOP majority’s actions.

And, there’s not a lick of discussion about the cuts that Republicans Julianne Ortman, Joe Hoppe, and Ernie Leidiger put their votes behind over the past couple of weeks.  Huge cuts to higher education and major cuts to health and human services, among them.  I would think most Villager readers would find these to be important to know about.

Here’s another example:

Democrats claim the LGA funding is likely to result in property tax increases that are at a much higher rate than would be offset by any refunds.

It’s not just Democrats saying this.  The Department of Revenue’s analysis of the omnibus tax bill shows this to be true (and, keep in mind that DoR is currently headed by a Pawlenty appointee). Yet, this analysis — released on Monday — doesn’t make it in to the story.  And, Ortman is allowed to state unchallenged that the bill will “greatly improve the livelihood of individuals receiving that tax relief”, when the evidence on this point is shaky at best.

Then, Adams slips these lines in later in the story:

DFL Sen. Tom Bakk, of Virginia, the former chair of the Senate Tax Committee, called Ortman’s tax bill “a big disappointment.”

No explanation of what is disappointing about the bill or why it is disappointing.

DFL Sen. John Marty at a news conference after the tax bill passed committee also decried the proposed $105 million cut to a renters’ property tax refund program.

Again, no explanation of why Democrats think this is important.  The fact that such changes actually make the bill regressive, not progressive, is missed in the Villager’s coverage.

The second story, Crawford’s “U.S. Census: Growth will bring new Senate district to county“, has a fundamental problem:  two GOP sources quoted, no DFL sources quoted.

Just because electoral results have gone predominantly in one direction in this area does not give the local media a pass to give lip service to other perspectives, ignore needed context and not apply some basic fact-checking to what elected officials say.

Our elected officials need to be held accountable, and it’s the media’s job to help with that process. And if they’re not doing their part of the job, it’s time to hold them accountable, too.

Show your work, part 2

Remember all the talk we’ve heard in recent years about how the city of Chaska was going to do a better job of communicating with residents?

The city of Chanhassen will be approving their preliminary tax levy on Monday, September 13 — the same day Chaska will be doing the same thing. Chanhassen has a 129-page document online showing their proposed budget including line-by-line detail. They evaluated three scenarios (a small increase, a no change scenario, and a small decrease). It’s been available on their website since August 18. The agenda and all the supporting documentation for their council meeting was posted by yesterday (some pieces were available last week).

Here’s the link to their budget document.

Here in Chaska, none of the above information has been posted. Trumpeting the fact that you signed up for Facebook is worse than irrelevant if you aren’t going to make the effort to truly communicate with people about the things that really matter.


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