A Remembrance of John Burger
1916 - 2005

Nadine Stoner

[Reprinted from GroundSwell, January-February 2005]

John Burger, formerly of Wayzata, Minn., died January 11, 2005 of pneumonia at Miravilla Care Center near Cherry Valley, CA. John's wife of 64 years, Mary Jane, died of heart failure on March 3, 2004 at Miravilla. (See March-April 2004 issue of GroundSwell for her obituary.) A Memorial Service for both John and Mary Jane Burger will be held on June 4, 2005 at Wayzata Community Church, of which they had been members since 1955. John and Mary Jane had moved to Southern California, after living for a few years at the Presbyterian Home in Spring Park, MN, to be near their daughter Susan (Mrs. John) Guldseth. In their last years they attended the Beaumont Presbyterian church in Beaumont, CA.

Daughter Susan writes that John was busy with his stamp collection and was hoping to complete his book, and at his request over the Christmas holidays they went to buy him a desk for his room. Son-in-law John and grandson Steve put the desk together for him, rearranged his Miravilla room, and readied it for him to work. However, John was admitted to the hospital three days after Christmas with what developed into pneumonia. John grew up in Goodland, Indiana, where he graduated from high school, and went on to Indiana University in Bloomington, where he received a BS in business administration. He graduated in 1938 from the University of Minnesota with a law degree. John joined the Air Force in 1941, became a Lt. Colonel and served at Randolph Air Force Base, TX, and the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., and afterwards was a member of the Air Force Reserves. After the war, John set up a law and accounting practice in Minneapolis with Adolph W. Link. John's employment history included the Minnesta School of Business, University of Minnesota, Automation Institute of America, Dale Carnegie Institute where he taught leadership training, and for 25 years he was with General Mills in Minneapolis where he was Community Relations Coordinator and Manager of Training.

He was active in civic affairs including YMCA, United Way, Jr. Achievement, Boy Scouts of America, Citizens League, Outward Bound, and the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches of which he was elected president in 1969. John's favorite Bible verse was "And what does the Lord require of you? to act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8b. Retiring from General Mills in 1980, he then served four 2-year terms as representative in the Minnesota State Legislature, district 43A. In an obituary article on John Burger in the January 18, 2005 Minneapolis Star Tribune, it is noted that he is remembered for trying to reduce every spending bill by 5 percent, being against professional career lawmakers and salary raises for legislators, and for supporting a land-based taxing system.

John had started planting the land value tax seeds back in 1977 when he worked to get "The Land Value Tax vs. Ad Valorem Real Estate Tax" section included as a proposed study in the "Inside the Minnesota Experiment" report published by the Center for Urban and Regional affairs in Minneapolis. He had also gotten on the public hearing agenda to testify before the 1983 Minnesota Tax Study Commission, not only himself but also Walter Rybeck from the Center for Public Dialogue and also Nadine Stoner from Wisconsin Property Owners League. (John had previously come to Madison, WI in 1980 to testify at the Capitol for AJR 96, a site value tax resolution introduced at the request of WPOL. John owned property in Northern Wisconsin.)

In 1985 as a Minn. State Rep., John co-authored HF 388 to establish a Legislative Commission to Study Property Tax Distribution. In 1986 John testified to members of the Citizens League Property Tax Commission that they should recommend Site Value Taxation to correct the primary flaw in the Minn. property tax system. To promote his perspective, John wrote and distributed a 1988 brochure, "SVT - The Rational Philosophy for Tax Reform in Minnesota". John authored and distributed a Legislative Incentives newsletter to his fellow Minn. legislators.

In 1989 when John ran for Governor of Minnesota, his platform included a Land Price Index, classifying property into only two classes -- site and improvements, and reducing taxes on improvements and substituting site value as the tax base. John was appointed Secretary-Treasurer of the Minn. Independent-Republican Party in 1991, following an unsuccessful 1990 campaign for Minn. State Treasurer. Bob Weinholzer, Chairman of the state Republican Party in the early 1990s when Burger was Secretary-Treasurer, is quoted in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that "John was always able to get a good spin on things, get people laughing, loosen them up."

Mark Haveman, former Project Director with the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, recalls John Burger. (See Jan.-Feb. 2000 GroundSwell, "Smart signals: Economics for Lasting Progress" report from the Minn. Planning Environmental Quality board.) Mark is now with the Minnesota Taxpayers Assn. and writes, "John was one of those rare individuals who exhibited true passion for principles and ideas. It is hard to say which he enjoyed more: his experiences in advocating for Georgist ideas or the opportunity to educate others on them. I was one of his 'students' in 1999 - needing a crash course in an area of economics with which I was completely unfamiliar. He welcomed me into his home and with patience, graciousness, and good humor got me up to speed. A hearing on a land value taxation bill is was held by the Minnesota Senate tax committee the week of February 22, 2005. Although John was not directly involved in this legislative proposal, his legacy in the state is clearly still evident."

Joshua Vincent, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Economics, attended a Land Tax meeting in St. Paul on January 10, 2005, and writes, "There was a moment of silence for John Burger. He was highly respected." Josh Vincent reports that two 2004 Land Value Taxation Minnesota Senate/House joint bills SF978 / HF1035 have been introduced. A study performed by Mark Haveman of the Minnesota Taxpayers, widely disseminated in the tax policy community, confirms benefits of a CSE assisted parcel-by-parcel study by the Gamaliel-associated group of Minneapolis-St. Paul congregations. (see Nov.-Dec. 2003 GroundSwell about the Gamaliel national conference. Also see March-April 2004 GroundSwell about ISAIAH, by Rich Nymoen of St. Paul.)

Common Grounders will remember that John Burger served as an elected at-large director of CG-USA from 1987 to 2001. In 1987 he was appointed chairman of Common Ground's Fundraising Committee. John is also remembered for promoting MOST (Mission-Objective-Stragegy-Tactics) at the 1988 Common Ground board of directors meeting in Atlanta. John served as Executive Administrator of Common Ground-USA from 1992 to 1994. During that time in 1992 Common Ground of necessity decentralized from the previously shared offices/staff of HGFA/CSE in Maryland, and Common Ground received the Mary Davis bequest. John wanted to spend more time working on his long time OMNI book project. John remained an elected at-large director of CG-USA until 2001.

John also retired in 2001 from the board of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, on which board he had served several terms.

In the summer of 2003. Members of the Southern California chapter of Common Ground-USA welcomed the Burgers with a dinner at a local restaurant. Marion Sapiro of Laguna Niguel, CA, founder of Common Ground-USA, remembers meeting John about 40 years ago when she had the occasion to work on a committee with him. He was an officer of the American Society for Training and Development and frequent presenter at its yearly conventions. (Marion is a retired Continuing Education Specialist, Business and Management, from the University of California at LA Extension.) She remembers that "his presentations drew huge ovations and incorporated many of the thoughts that he later presented at our conventions." John's public speaking inspired many. He co-authored two books: Business Automation Fundamentals and People Management Principles, and numberous poems. John was preceded in death by wife Mary Jane Burger, son John Burger, and parents Fred and Maude Burger. He is survived by son Rick Burger (Jennifer), Destin, FL; daughter Susan Guldseth (John), Cherry Valley, CA; daughter Melinda Colwell (Warren Lester), Deephaven, MN, 7 grandchildren, 9 great grandchildren, many nieces, nephews and their families.

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