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Grand Rapids City Council Examines Unemployment Rate. What’s Obviously Missing from this Report?

This article ran in the Grand Rapids Herald a nearly 4 years ago.   Has anything improved since this article was published in the paper?     – GRV-

 

CITY COUNCIL EXAMINES GRAND RAPIDS UNEMPLOYMENT RATE
By Lisa Rosemore Herald-Review Nov 1, 2013

So why is the unemployment rate in Grand Rapids so high compared to the rest of Itasca County?

Grand Rapids city councilors wanted to know if there was an answer to this question, so during a council work session in June, they asked Councilor Ed Zabinski and City Administrator Tom Pagel to research the issue further and report back to the council at a later date.

That later date came at Monday’s city council work session.
He, along with Pagel, interviewed people from various organizations to see if they could find any answers to the unemployment puzzle.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, along with KOOTASCA, had concerns about funding, especially the inconsistency of funding, for job programs, Zabinski told the council Monday afternoon.

Another thing they found during their research was many area jobs go unfulfilled because the unemployed don’t have the skills to perform those jobs, he said.

One interesting thing they learned through the Chamber was a worker in Minnesota needs to earn wages of $14.11 per hour match what a person earns on welfare, he said.  The Chamber also said the next five to seven years, there will be approximately 50,000 area jobs to be filled as Baby Boomers start to retire.

According to figures from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the unemployment rate in Grand Rapids was 8.7 percent in July and 8.5 percent in August, the most recent data available. In comparison, Duluth was at 5.9 percent (July) and 5.5 percent (August); Itasca County was at 7.2 percent (July) and 6.7 percent (August); Koochiching County was at 7.6 percent (July) and 7.2 percent (August); Aitkin County was 6.6 percent (July) and 5.9 percent (August); Virginia was at 7.7 percent (July) and 7.5 percent (August); and Hibbing was at 8.9 percent (July) and 7.9 percent (August).

According to the memo provided to the city council:

• Both KOOTASCA and the Chamber explained they have “proven, successful programs to help transition unemployed people to jobs,” but the issue is inadequate and inconsistent funding. KOOTASCA provided information that a family of four needs to have an annual income of $52,416 to meet basic needs.

• According to DEED, there were 5,206 job vacancies in Northeast Minnesota. “Of those vacancies, the wages of only 163 fell below the welfare equivalent wage of $14.11 per house.

• Blandin Foundation executives said that resolving an issue like high unemployment requires a commitment of resources, time and talent.

“The consensus was that the community needs some entity or person to champion the issue of unemployment,” the memo said. “We believe that there are several groups in the community who may be potentially able to fill that role.”

• The City of Grand Rapids is not in the business of job training and education; and it does not provide a social net for those in need. Most people interviewed believed the city’s most appropriate role “is cultivating and maintaining an environment supportive of business growth and job creation.”

• Officials from the Grand Rapids Area Foundation said “they are setting strategic goals and have concluded that Itasca County’s poverty levels are an overriding concern for the area.” Several conclusions were reached during discussions with the foundation, some of which include: No one organization is leading a community effort to deal with the area’s high unemployment; there seems to be a “heightened sense of entitlement” in the area; there is little or no demographical data on unemployed people in Grand Rapids or Itasca County; and “we don’t need another report that sits on a shelf.”

Conflicts of Interest

At the last GRV meeting the topic of Local Government Conflict of Interest was brought up.  It appears that a few Public officials in the City Government may have conflicts of interest, which may be either intentional or unintentional.   To avoid embarrassment or accusation of impropriety they should abstain from voting or decline to participate in discussion.

 

 The State of Minnesota Office or Revisor of Statutes website (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/pubs/) contains the official State Statutes, Definitions, and Rules pertaining to conflicts of interest for all public officials

Per Minnesota Statutes, County Board members are required to file the Statement of Economic Interest while City government is not.  Why the one and not the other?

Although such disclosures may not be required by statute for our city public officials, it is thought that in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict it would be good public policy for our public officials to provide a “Statement of Economic Interest” , similar to the requirements in Minnesota Statutes Chapter 10A CAMPAIGN FINANCE AND PUBLIC DISCLOSURE, paragraph 10A.09, Subd.5  (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=10A.09).     

§ Subd. 5.Form.

(a) A statement of economic interest required by this section must be on a form prescribed by the board. The individual filing must provide the following information:

(1) name, address, occupation, and principal place of business;

(2) the name of each associated business and the nature of that association;

(3) a listing of all real property within the state, excluding homestead property, in which the individual holds: (i) a fee simple interest, a mortgage, a contract for deed as buyer or seller, or an option to buy, whether direct or indirect, if the interest is valued in excess of $2,500; or (ii) an option to buy, if the property has a fair market value of more than $50,000;

(4) a listing of all real property within the state in which a partnership of which the individual is a member holds: (i) a fee simple interest, a mortgage, a contract for deed as buyer or seller, or an option to buy, whether direct or indirect, if the individual’s share of the partnership interest is valued in excess of $2,500; or (ii) an option to buy, if the property has a fair market value of more than $50,000. A listing under this clause or clause (3) must indicate the street address and the municipality or the section, township, range and approximate acreage, whichever applies, and the county in which the property is located;

(5) a listing of any investments, ownership, or interests in property connected with pari-mutuel horse racing in the United States and Canada, including a racehorse, in which the individual directly or indirectly holds a partial or full interest or an immediate family member holds a partial or full interest;

(6) a listing of the principal business or professional activity category of each business from which the individual receives more than $50 in any month as an employee, if the individual has an ownership interest of 25 percent or more in the business; and

(7) a listing of each principal business or professional activity category from which the individual received compensation of more than $2,500 in the past 12 months as an independent contractor.

(b) The business or professional categories for purposes of paragraph (a), clauses (6) and (7), must be the general topic headings used by the federal Internal Revenue Service for purposes of reporting self-employment income on Schedule C. This paragraph does not require an individual to report any specific code number from that schedule. Any additional principal business or professional activity category may only be adopted if the category is enacted by law.

Our purpose is not to encumber our city officials with needless paperwork but to rather to shed light on activity and policies that can lead to erosion of the public trust and to help ensure that the decisions of our public officials remain clear of undue and corrupting influences.

-GRV-

 

Was the Grand Rapids City Council Candidate’s Forum on 10/14 Rigged?

Craig Nelson and Joe Maurer discuss their observations of the Grand Rapids MN City Council Candidates Forum which was held on October 14, 2016 at the Grand Rapids City Hall. One of their main concerns was that the Forum format and line of questioning was slanted toward a specific political ideology and was designed to favor the incumbents.
Watch the Candidates Forum for yourself at ICTV’s Facebook Page link which can be found on ICTV’s website: http://www.watchictv.org.

Question of the Week: Do you know the filing dates for candidates running for state, county and municipal offices?

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The following is taken from the Minnesota Secretary of State web site.
http://www.sos.state.mn.us/election-administration-campaigns/become-a-candidate/candidate-filing-periods/

2016 Filing Dates

Summary of 2016 Filing Dates
Filing Period Applicable Offices Filing Opens Filing Closes Withdrawal Deadline
Early Filing Period
  • Federal Offices
  • State Offices
  • Judicial Offices
  • County Offices
  • If primary is possible:
    • City Offices
    • School District Offices
5/17/16 5/31/16 6/2/16
Late Filing Period
  • If primary is not possible:
    • City Offices
    • School District Offices
  • Township Offices with November elections
8/2/16 8/16/16 8/18/16
Township Filing Period
  • Township Offices with March elections
12/29/15 1/12/16 1/14/16

Question(s) of the Week: Read On

Questions to Ponder for the “Grand Gathering”.

1. Is the process to pick a city or county administrator flawed by vendor input and sponsorships to the League of Minnesota Cities or Association of Minnesota Counties?

2. Should the County and Blandin Foundation stop funding the IEDC? Are they aware of any influence pedaling to other sponsors? Has IEDC improved the economics of the area?

3. Should the County of Itasca put the choice of Elected Executive on the ballot as the form of County government?

4. With the highest unemployment in the state and the lowest average wage has the Blandin Foundation been a detriment to the area?