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Following is a message from Wes Mader, founding member of Citizens for Accountable Government (CAG), who recently lost his garage to a fire on Christmas Eve.

A Christmas eve bonfire in Prior Lake

As the sun went down on Christmas eve, I was not feeling very joyful. The sight of our garage and everything in it burned to the ground with me feeling responsible, left a sickening feeling. In spite of the fact that most of our family was together for a Christmas eve celebration later, I wasn’t in a Christmas mood. That was followed by a sleepless night as I lay awake wondering what if I had done this, or what if I hadn’t done that, while trying to remember everything that was in the garage.

By Christmas day morning, the load seemed to be lifting. I was remembering that when we first bought our home, the one big negative in our minds was the detached garage that we’ve lived with for about 30 years. I was cheered by the knowledge that our house is still standing unscarred, because of that detachment. The comfort and convenience that an attached garage would have provided over 30 years, would have seemed miniscule, as compared to what we would have lost if our house had gone down in flames. Everything in the garage is replaceable if even still needed, but our house is filled with things that dollars cannot replace, including a life time of memories. It was time to get over the self-pity.

The investigator from the State Fire Marshall’s office who arrived about 9AM Christmas morning, asked if anyone had been injured by the fire. In effect, he said a visit like this was easy as compared to those where a fire had taken the lives of children, or other family members, which often happens around Christmas time. Indeed, the time for self-pity was over. It was time to be joyful, because the “what ifs” that could have happened if I hadn’t been easily able to escape the garage when the unextinguishable fire started, didn’t happen.

By Sunday my concern about the stuff in the garage was gone, and my spirit was buoyed by the support being offered by friends, neighbors and family. On a broad picture, the burning down of our garage was not a big deal, but friends, neighbors and family are. So are the fire fighters from the SMSC, and the police officers and fire fighters from the City of Prior Lake who joined me at my Christmas eve bonfire. They’re here to lend support if and when needed, something I hope I never forget to do when required.

Wes Mader, Dec. 26, 2021

Merry Christmas 🎄 🎅 🌟 ✨ 🎄 to all our CAG followers, families and friends from our CAG TEAM! We hope you have a great Christmas 🎄 and a Happy New Year. We hope Santa 🎅 brings you peace ☮️ and joy, with a lot of nice presents 🎁 You are all very special and thanks for your loyal support throughout the years 😊

Take care, be safe! 🙏

CAG team members

The Spirit of Christmas 🎄 by Ray Charles

https://youtu.be/LpFA5ItN8hw

Taxpayers have spoken and defeated the $35 million referendum that had been unanimously recommended by the Prior Lake-Savage School Board. The referendum failed for a number of reasons.

First, taxpayers see no accountability in the district – proficiency test scores of our students continue to decline even after giving the district more than $100 million in 2017 via a bond referendum plus a 37% increase to the cost/student operating levy. Giving every teacher and student a new personal device every four years or so isn’t going to reverse the poor proficiency trends.

Second, the school district continues to waste significant time and money on professional development for its staff related to social justice ideologies (such as culturally responsive teaching, social emotional teaching and using principles/tenets closely tied to critical race theory). By getting back to teaching the basics of reading, writing, math and science and stopping the social justice indoctrination will increase student proficiency scores.

Third, the district is not managing its finances prudently. Wanting to increase annual pre-COVID technology expenditures by more than 50% isn’t prudent. Paying consultants such as Nexus Solutions more than $24 million dollars over the past 10 years including more than $16 million since the 2017 referendum to manage facility projects is simply crazy and not prudent.

According to my calculations, the district’s government-wide expenditures during the past 5 fiscal years have grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% while ADM (average daily membership, also known as enrollment) has grown at only a 2.2% CAGR during that same time period. Even accounting for inflation, expenditures growing that much faster than enrollment is a sign that finances are not being managed properly.

Given those reasons, and others such as the controversial Commitment to Equity and Inclusion resolution passed by the school board late last year and the School Board’s dictatorial mask mandates for children rather than giving the choice to parents as to whether to mask their children, it is no wonder why the majority of taxpayers were not in the mood to give the district more money to spend.

On the night after the vote was in, the superintendent of PLSAS released a statement in which she said, “We now need to learn why our community voted no…”. I hope the superintendent reads this opinion piece – an opinion shared by many in the community – to understand some of the reasons why the community voted no.

William Markert

Prior Lake

Please read more at the Prior Lake American ⬇️

https://www.swnewsmedia.com/prior_lake_american/news/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/letter-its-no-surprise-taxpayers-rejected-the-referendum/article_d17532b8-48b5-11ec-823e-978906047671.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-shareB. 

In support of local businesses that create jobs, boost our local economy, and preserve our community, Mayor Kirt Briggs proclaimed Nov. 27, 2021, as Small Business Saturday in Prior Lake.

To help you rediscover your favorites and find some great new local businesses, the City is launching a new interactive map featuring everything downtown Prior Lake has to offer!

Make plans to shop small this Saturday – and when you’re downtown, scan the QR code on any of the new promotional street signs to use the map on your mobile device.

New interactive map featuring everything downtown Prior Lake has to offer! ⬇️

https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/a6f4acaf3bfe4de28b8c0b373b1828ad

By Wes Mader

School District 719 is an affluent district of over 30,000 registered voters, residents who place high priority on the education of children. Why then did only 3,496 of those registered voters cast votes in support of the Tech Levy Referendum that was recommended by the District Superintendent, and unanimously approved by the School Board? An obvious conclusion might be that there is a disconnect between elected Board members and their constituents.

The School District’s website proudly displays a claim that 92% of parents (of 8,850 enrolled students) rate our staff as excellent or good. While I have no insight into how the School District office arrived at the 92% figure, I have no doubt there is a high level of respect for the teachers in our District. Yet, only 3,496 of over 30,000 registered voters went to the polls to support the referendum, that was proposed and promoted by School District leadership. Doesn’t this suggest a serious lack of public confidence in fiscal management and oversight in the District?

Of various fiscal issues that might be cited, the most conspicuously glaring is the disclosure that Nexus Solutions (Nexus), the District’s consultant on facility projects, has been paid about $25 million since initially hired. While numerous questions have been raised regarding the District’s relationship with Nexus, including the circumstances under which Nexus was hired, there have been no forthright or factually meaningful answers.

Prior to the 2017 referendum at which time Nexus had already collected about $10 million from the District, CAG (Citizens for Accountable Government) raised concerns about Nexus involvement. CAG’s request to meet with the Board to discuss the concerns was simply denied. As CAG made its concerns public, District leadership responded in a somewhat predictable manner, not by addressing the questions being raised, but instead by attacking the credibility of CAG. The Chair of the School District, in a letter to the editor of the Prior Lake American, falsely claimed that CAG had hired a nationally known anti-education consultant.

Prior to the 2017 referendum vote, CAG distributed a brochure to School District residents citing specifics about the School District/Nexus financial relationships. The brochure stated that “If the referendum passes, Nexus receives an estimated $13 million revenue, in addition to approximately $10 million they received since hired”. The brochure highlighted specifics about fees previously authorized for Nexus, like $426,511 that the District’s Finance Director authorized for consulting services related to AstroTurf. CAG’s concerns were summarily ignored and dismissed by School officials.

I encourage residents in our School District to read the District’s press release titled Voters Reject PLSAS Technology Levy Request, https://www.priorlake-savage.k12.mn.us/uploaded/Communications/FAILS_Press_Release.pdf In the press release, Superintendent Staloch is quoted as stating “We now need to learn why our community voted no” on the Tech Levy referendum. I hope Ms. Staloch will read the commentary above and consider that the words may have some merit.