FFM Bulletin 10/27/11

Institute for Justice picks up Winona property rights case exposed by the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota

The Institute for Justice (IJ) Minnesota chapter went to court Tuesday to fight for the property rights of a Winona man currently serving as a US advisor in Afghanistan. The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota uncovered the case earlier this year when we reported on Ethan Dean’s battle with the City of Winona who was then serving in Iraq.

The controversial “30 percent” rule in Winona limits the number of rental properties to 30 percent of residences per block in this college community.  Home owners who live on blocks above the 30 percent cutoff are not only prevented from renting their property, but also in effect from selling to buyers looking to invest in rental housing for college students.

“This is a law that started in Winona and has spread to other cities in Minnesota and what we need to do is stop this trend before it goes any further,” said Anthony Sanders, staff attorney with IJ’s Minnesota chapter. “The right to rent out your home is a fundamental property right, a traditional and accepted use of your property and Winona is trampling on that.”

The Institute of Justice legal team is asking that the ordinance be declared an illegal use of the city’s zoning power and unconstitutional.  Attorneys filing the case say it may have implications nationally because it addresses the fundamental constitutional issue of whether government may reign in some citizens’ property rights but not others.

Learn more about the case in our latest Accountability Alert, and check back with FFM for updates on the case. And if you know of any onerous housing restrictions in your communities, email us at info@freedomfoundationofminnesota.com.

A first for Foley: city to hire private security firm for street patrol

The Foley city council voted unanimously last week to hire a private security firm to patrol its streets rather than renewing the $280,000 contract with the Benton County Sheriff’s office.  The city could save more than $80,000 from the move. Currently the city contracts with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office for patrol services by three deputies.

The private contractors from General Security Services will carry firearms and make citizens arrests, though they will not be able to make traffic arrests or investigate crimes. The sheriff’s department will still respond to 911 calls, though they warned residents would see less patrols and longer response times.

Given the current economic challenges facing many local governments, it’s far too common to see cities and counties making poor choices on behalf of taxpayers.  Officials from the City of Foley, however, are hoping their latest response to the city’s budget crunch could be explored by other cities around the state.

“It’s going to be a trial and we’ll see how it goes,” Foley council member Dean Weber told MPR. “If it goes well, I imagine there’ll be a lot of other cities looking at it.”

Northstar throws Twins and Vikings “under the train” in defending declining ridership numbers

While Metro Transit reported a substantial increase in bus ridership so far in 2011, the Northstar Commuter Rail saw a decline in ridership for the Minneapolis-Big Lake rail line. The 1.9 percent decrease brought the total number of riders to 552,000 for the first nine months of this year. Northstar set a goal of 750,000 rides for 2011, a decrease from its goal of 897,000 rides in its inaugural year in 2010.

Metro Transit officials noted that fewer “special-event rides” for Twins and Vikings games played a part in the ridership decline, as if the success of Minnesota’s professional sports teams played a part in determining the feasibility and longevity of a successful commuter rail line.

Even if Metro Transit hits their ridership targets, citizens will still incur the massive costs of subsidizing the failing commuter rail line. Brush up on some of the numbers with our previous reports found here:

Freedom Foundation leaders present ideas to Reform 2.0 

FFM CEO Annette Meeks and FFM vice president Jonathan Blake were at the Capitol this week to present research on government reform to legislators as part of Reform 2.0, an effort being undertaken in the Minnesota House and Senate to reform and improve state government.

According to House Speaker Kurt Zellers, the group is designed “to seek new, fresh ideas and support for reform initiatives that will make government more accountable, cost-effective and efficient.”

Meeks and Blake described innovative ideas for tax reform as well as proposals for greater government accountability and taxpayer savings.

On Thursday, Meeks will be presenting ideas on transit reform and innovation to a joint meeting of the Legislative Commission on Metropolitan Government.

In case you missed it…

From the Wall Street Journal:

Here's ABC News, reporting on the speech the president gave in Fog City:

"At a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser today, President Obama warned his recession-battered supporters that if he loses the 2012 election it could herald a new, painful era of self-reliance in America."

Oh no! Horror of horrors! Obama is the only thing standing between us and having to rely on ourselves! And do you know what they call people who rely on themselves?



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