Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dan Schoen's Twitter Feed Pretty Much Sums Up the Current MNSure Debate

Democrat State Representative Dan Schoen (54A) posted a ridiculous tweet today, and the tweet and Schoen’s responses pretty much sum up the current state of the MNSure debate.

First, Schoen’s tweet:

Leaving aside the flagrant dot rule violation, Schoen’s tweet trying to conflate a relatively minor issue at a private shipping company with the utter failure of the Democrat’s government takeover of the American healthcare system is typical of the lashing out and deflection we are seeing from Democrats in Minnesota and nationally these days.

Schoen is immediately called on his ridiculous comparison by Republican Senator Branden Petersen, and then employs the classic “deny I just said what I said” strategy.

After denying that he had just made the comparison that he made, Schoen then moves into the next Democrat talking point, which is that Republican’s aren’t providing enough solutions to the mess that Democrats created.

Next, Schoen responds with another classic Democrat strategy, invoking the “REPUBLICANS WANT YOU TO DIE OF CANCER” line.

If you have been paying attention to the MNSure / Obamacare debate recently, you’ll recognize this pattern.

For clarity, it goes like this:

Republican: “Gee this MNSure / Obamacare thing really isn’t working out that well…”


Republican: “um…”

Democrat (interrupting): “WHY AREN’T YOU PROVIDING ANY SOLUTIONS?!?!?!??!?”

Republican: “Well, I think we could…”


Republican: “Well, that’s not true, and actually, many people have had their plans canceled under your plan, which is causing real pain for working fami…”


Rinse, repeat

It’s a common pattern, but it’s rare that we see it employed as completely yet succinctly as Representative Schoen did.

If only some Republicans had told anyone that MNSure and Obamacare would be a disaster, maybe this could all have been avoided.

Too bad we were all too busy killing people with cancer.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What The Hann is Going On Over in the MN Senate?

The Star Tribune reported a few days ago that the Minnesota State Senate’s Federal Campaign Committee is paying former state senator Ray Vandeveer $1500 a month for consulting services.

This news raised some eyebrows, for a variety of reasons, depending on who you are and how much you know.

I will state for the record right away that I think David Hann has been a trainwreck as Minority Leader, and should be replaced immediately. But we’ll get into that a bit later.

For now, let’s deconstruct what’s going on here. Here’s what we know:

  • David Hann hired former state senator Ray Vandeveer to consult on “various tasks to prepare Senate Republicans for the 2016 elections.”

  • Hann is unaware whether Vandeveer has ever been paid for political work in the past.

  • Hann considers Vandeveer “a friend.”

  • Hann speaks to Vandeveer “fairly often.”

  • Hann talked over hiring Vandeveer with others, but the decision to hire him was ultimately Hann’s.

  • Vandeveer is being paid from the MN State Senate’s Federal Committee, named the Senate Victory PAC (Campaign ID C00506410).

We also know that the fact that Vandeveer was doing work for the Senate was not widely know among members of the Senate caucus, as reported at Politics.MN.

Now, let’s take the controversies that have been alleged, one by one.  These are items I have heard or read elsewhere since the story broke on Monday.

  • Why does the MN State Senate have a Federal Committee when they are a state entity?  - I don’t know the answer to this, but I assume it has something to do with the labyrinthine nature of campaign finance laws. Both the House and Senate Caucuses of the DFL and GOP have these committees, so the existence of the committees is not unique to this situation.

  • Hann is a criminal because he illegally took corporate contributions - This particularly stupid allegation comes to us from blogger Two Putt Tommy. Tommy fails to understand the difference between corporate contributions and contributions from PACs, called Separate Segregated Funds (SSFs), which are not funded with corporate money, but with contributions from the personal funds of employees who work for a business or belong to a group such as a union. The existence of SSFs is perfectly legal and common. Both the GOP and DFL routinely take contributions from these funds. Tommy, as usual, misses the point entirely and adds nothing to the conversation.

  • Hann’s arrangement to pay Vandeveer using federal funds to work on state races is illegal - This allegation, made by someone blogging under the name “The Big E” on racist blog MN Progressive Project, is harder to nail down. Several people have opined both publicly and privately about the potential illegality of this arrangement. A few have defended it.

    I am not a campaign finance expert, so I don’t have a ruling on this. I do know that in general, campaign finance matters remind me of professional sports- everyone fancies themselves an expert, but only a few actually know what they are talking about.

    An analysis of the four Senate/House GOP & DFL federal committees going back to 2010 does show that the arrangement of paying someone for consulting on a regular basis from a federal account is unique to the Hann/Vandeveer situation, meaning it’s not a typical arrangement for these types of accounts. Make of that what you will.

Whether the Vandeveer arrangement is legal or not is irrelevant to me. (If it’s illegal, it will be dealt with, as it’s now out in the wide open. If it’s not, then it’s not.)

To me, the largest issue in this whole affair is that David Hann hired “a friend” with dubious qualifications to do unspecified work, and did it in secret. One would think that if Vanderveer were bringing value to the Senate’s campaign operation, this would not be the type of thing that you’d keep quiet.  Instead members of the Senate caucus get to find out who is allegedly working for them by reading the StarTribune.

This, of course, is not the first time that a Friend of Hann™ with dubious qualifications has found themselves gainfully employed. Or been allowed to stay employed on the taxpayer’s dime while off running (or I guess he prefers the term “advising”) some other campaign. One could get the impression that being a friend of David Hann could be a quite lucrative thing to be.

Hann has a pattern of poor decision making. He has terrible political instincts, and he is a liability in a position where we desperately need an asset.

Minnesota’s Senate Republicans are a guaranteed minority through 2016.  If we allow the cronyism and incompetence of the Hann Dynasty to continue, we will be a minority for a lot longer than that.

It’s time the other GOP Senators stand up and do what needs to be done. It’s time for a new Minority Leader.

Actually, it’s past time.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mark Dayton's Charitable Giving

I worked for the Dayton Hudson Corporation (and it’s successor Target Corporation) for over a decade starting in the late 90’s. One thing that was drilled into our heads repeatedly was the company’s stance on charitable giving. The company had a long standing tradition of donating 5% of its pre-tax profits back to the community. It was something they were proud of, and should be.

To the best of my knowledge, Mark Dayton, now Minnesota’s Governor, never worked in the family business. Maybe he did, but apparently the tradition didn’t rub off.

Dayton released his tax returns this week, which showed that he had a personal income of $343,234. The return also showed he had charitable donations of $1000. That’s about 0.3%.

Dayton later said that he is “embarrassed” by his lack of giving.

“I pride myself on my charitable giving and I’m disappointed in myself,” Dayton said at the end of a briefing with reporters on another issue. “I totaled it up and noticed I had fallen off, so I will remedy that.”

The drop was significant from 2009, when Dayton, then a gubernatorial candidate, earned $172,475 mostly from family trusts, and donated nearly $27,000 of that to charity.

Though it does seem to me that Dayton’s level of giving has been… shall we say… erratic.

Dayton gave $1,750 to charity in 2011, when his earnings totaled $342,322.

If Mark Dayton were a private citizen, I wouldn’t care how much of his money he gave away. I don’t think that anyone should be compelled to give to charity. What you do with your money is your business.

But Mark Dayton is the Governor, and has been a frequent employer of class warfare as a means to get what he wants. For instance, he pushed through a tax increase this year by riding a wave of anti-“1%” sentiment.

It’s also interesting to note that candidates for MN Governor aren’t required to disclose their tax returns. Dayton does so voluntarily, so this revelation about his inner grinch, and any damage it does to him, is totally self inflicted.

I wouldn’t worry too much about Dayton’s reputation though. He has the media to make sure that we know that Dayton “still gave back last year in the form of taxes.

The notion that paying compulsory taxes somehow equates to “giving back” is not unique on the left, or in the media (forgive the redundancy).

In fact, it is one of the major philosophical differences between the left and right. Leftists like Mark Dayton believe in compelling people to “give back” through taxes, while people on the right believe in the power of private charity and voluntary donations.

You can see this divide quite clearly when you examine the tax return of one of Dayton’s challengers in the Governor’s race. Senator Dave Thompson showed charitable donations of over $20,000 on income of just under $200k.

That’s a rate of about 10%, something Thompson should be proud of. I’d imagine Mark Dayton’s forebears would approve.

Reviewing The Met Council's 2040 "Projections"

As a member of Crystal’s Planning Commission, one thing that I deal with is the City’s comprehensive plan.

The comprehensive plan outlines the city’s plan for growth over the next 20 or so years. A city is required to have one by state law, and the document requires Met Council approval.

The next update to the comprehensive plan is due in 2018, and covers the period to 2040. Even though we’re still several years out, the Met Council has already begun work on the 2040 plan.

The planning commission recently received information on the Met Council’s “Preliminary Forecasts” for 2040, which was focused on three areas: Population, Households, and Employment.

In each case the Met Council’s “forecasts” were not based in reality.

Crystal is projected to see an increase of 28% in population, 35% in households, and 55% in employment by 2040.

To reach the population and household numbers, Crystal would have to see growth increase by a rate of 5 times more than the rate we achieved during the housing boom of 2000-2007.

Said another way, we need to add about as many housing units per year for the next 26 years as we usually add in a decade. It’s just not going to happen.

The employment number is even more insane.  I’m not sure where the land comes from for all the new jobs, since we’re supposed to be using it all to add housing units.

Crystal’s city planner attended a workshop with the Met Council to discuss the city’s concerns with the “projections”. The concerns were echoed by the planners from other cities, meaning the asinine numbers are not unique to Crystal.

The Met Council admitted there were flaws in the computer models they used to form the projections, but were noncommittal about when or if the flaws would be corrected.

Crystal’s city planner wrote a great recap of the issues with the process, which you can find here.

His update includes this line, which I believe describes the issue perfectly: "maybe [The Met Council’s] ‘forecasts’ are really just MC’s aspirations and should just be treated as such."

Anyone with even a passing familiarity of the Twin Cities Metro Area would realize quickly that the Met Council’s “projections” are pure make-believe.

A computer model that treats a corn field in Farmington the same way as it treats a fully developed neighborhood is Crystal, as this one does, is pure garbage.

When I first reviewed the comprehensive plan, one of the first questions I had was over the use of the term “projections,” as the projections in the current comprehensive plan are not realistic either. That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

What’s frustrating as a taxpayer is that we have city staffs all over the Metro wasting time responding to the Met Council’s fantasy plan- several years before the numbers should even be relevant.

The Met Council’s “projections” are used to justify demand for light rail, among other things.

It’s clear that the Met Council is more interested in pushing an agenda than providing for common sense regional planning. It’s time that cities start understanding that, and acting accordingly.

Update on the Crystal Police Department's Alleged Corruption

I wrote about the alleged issues in the Crystal Police Department a few months ago.

My bottom line conclusion at that time was that allegations of widespread corruption were unfounded, but I left the door open on the potential for management issues based on not having all of the facts available. After reviewing new information, I stand by that assessment.

My biggest complaint during this process was that an outside group from Minneapolis was agitating against the city, and was trying to circumvent the normal processes that are in place to resolve these types of complaints.

This is a position that I shared with the Crystal Police Officers Union and the Crystal Police Supervisors Union.

The city released an update on the issue earlier this month.

In the update, we learn that one of the officers who had been removed from duty, Alan Watt, has now been reinstated.  Watt went to arbitration on one of his complaints and it was found that the city had just cause for imposing discipline. He has two other complaints pending.

The other officer’s grievance process is ongoing.

As for the allegations of corruption, there is an ongoing investigation by the Police Officers Standards and Training Board (P.O.S.T.).

There are processes in place to address all of the issues that have been alleged, and in all cases the processes have been followed. These processes take time.

I have always found it ironic that the outside group agitating in Crystal accused the city of not following proper procedures, but then wanted to throw procedures out the window and just fire the city manager and the police chief because they said so.

I have full confidence that Crystal Mayor Jim Adams and the majority of the members of the city council will handle this issue in a responsible manner. If there are issues found with city management, they will be dealt with.

I am also glad to see the city communicating about this issue in a proactive manner, and look forward to the ultimate resolution so we can all move forward.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Leave No Narrative Unassisted

State Representative Andrea Kieffer, a Republican from Woodbury, announced yesterday that she would not be running for re-election in 2014. Kieffer was first elected to the Minnesota House in 2010.

As is her right, Kieffer gave no reason for her decision. However, that did not stop the lazy, agenda driven media, from inventing one.

Within a few minutes of Kieffer’s announcement breaking, two local reporters shared observations on Twitter.

The first, from the AP’s Brian Baskt:

And the second from StarTribune’s Rachel Stassen-Berger:

Both tweets provide information that may give a clue to Kieffer’s reason for retirement, and both are, in my opinion, very reasonable and relevant real-time observations about a breaking news story.

Only one, however, fits The Narrative™, which was in full swing by the next morning as the lazy and corrupt in the media began to pile on.

The first item I noticed was this tweet from StarTribune’s Lori Sturdevant, who never misses an opportunity to show you that she is morally superior to you, whoever you are:

By this time information about Kieffer’s daughter was widely known, having been disseminated in the StarTribune’s own daily politics newsletter.

Whether Sturdevant neglected to read her own paper’s coverage, or just ignored it, is up to you. One makes her ill-informed, the other makes her startlingly biased. Perhaps both can somehow be true?

If you are keeping score here, we now have two facts available- Kieffer has a daughter who suffers from a terrible disease, and Kieffer voted to support gay marriage.

But, as only one fits The Narrative™, only one will be repeated.

The second piece I noticed (h/t Erik Leist) was a piece by MPR’s Tim Pugmire, which came with this amazingly lazy yet provocative headline.

The Narrative™ has now decided that support of Gay Marriage has cost Kieffer her seat; those neanderthals in the GOP require bigotry as a condition of acceptance into their club, dontcha know?

It was at this point that I did what reporters used to do, and made a few calls to verify what I already knew to be true: that there is no organized opposition to Kieffer intent on punishing her for her voting record, but rather she decided to refocus her attention on her family.

I notified Pugmire of this by email. An email to Pugmire was not immediately returned, as they say.

Once The Narrative™ was settled, every other lazy media outlet was free to parrot it. And they did.

Several outlets ran near carbon copies of the Pugmire piece. Whether he posted his first or they posted theirs first is irrelevant.

I do want to call out two news organizations that went above and beyond, though.

The first is WCCO, who chose the headline “House GOP Marriage Equality Backer Won’t Run Again" along with this photo:

The second is MinnPost, who decided to pair laziness with incorrect facts, in the headline “Another of the Republicans who voted in support of gay marriage is leaving the legislature" despite the fact that Kieffer is the first to do so.

I have screen-capped the MinnPost headline below, as they have a habit of making their mistakes disappear down the memory hole when they are discovered.

The award for actual journalism unsurprisingly goes to a local paper, the Woodbury Bulletin, which got an actual interview with Kieffer before printing their story. You can read that here.

On an unrelated note, I was one of the many people who had never heard of Mitochondrial Disease before tonight.

If the media had done their job, there would be many more people aware of this affliction tonight. But The Narrative™ always comes first.

Rep. Kieffer and her daughter Melissa gave an interview about Mitochondrial Disease a few months ago. You can see that below.


To learn more, you can visit the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation at

I send my best wishes to Representative Kieffer and her family.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013 Election Results: Libertarian Endorsed Candidates

A few days ago on Twitter, an elected Republican BPOU chair pointed out the Minnesota Libertarian Party’s 2013 Voter Guide, which discusses the candidates who were endorsed by the Libertarian Party of Minnesota (LPMN) this year.

LPMN has recently experienced a resurgence of sorts, earlier this year electing Chair David Arvidson, who ran as a Republican for state legislature in District 46 in 2012. Arvidson also served as a Republican Vice Chair in his Senate District, but eventually resigned, only after he ascended to leadership in the LP.

Arvidson, who lost his 2012 race by 40 points, is now in charge of “Candidate Recruitment and Support” for LPMN.

So how did the Libertarian endorsed candidates fare in 2013? I analyzed the results of the races in which there were LPMN endorsements.

Vote totals all come from the MN SOS website, and are unofficial. Some figures have been rounded for readability.

  • BLOOMINGTON – CITY COUNCIL, AT-LARGE, Zavier Bicott (R): Bicott lost this race 26% to 74% in a head to head matchup.

  • BROOKLYN CENTER – SCHOOL BOARD, Mary O’Connor (L): O’Connor placed 5th out of 5, receiving 35 votes, or 7% of the total votes cast.

  • MINNEAPOLIS – CITY COUNCIL, WARD 3, Michael Katch (L): Katch finished 3rd out of 4 candidates, beating the Green Party candidate by 6 votes in this RCV race. Both had roughly 6% of the first choice total. However, in the second round, Katch trailed the Green party candidate by 800 votes.

  • MINNEAPOLIS – MAYOR, Christopher Clark (L), 1st Choice: LPMN’s first choice for Mayor received 188 votes, placing him at 20 out of 35 candidates. Clark received 24 votes more than the infamous shirtless candidate, and 71 more votes than “write-in”.

  • MINNEAPOLIS – MAYOR, Kurtis Hanna (P), 2nd Choice: LPMN’s second choice, who is also the Executive Director of Minnesota NORML (a group that advocates for Marijuana legalization), ran under the Pirate Party banner.  Hanna did a bit better than LPMN’s first choice, garnering 200 votes in the first round.

  • SAVAGE – CITY COUNCIL, Shaun Alexander (L) and Jeremy Seykora (L): LPMN endorsed two candidates in this race, for two available seats. Alexander finished 3rd of 6 (1st runner up) with 20% of the vote, and Seykora finished 4th of 6 with 16% of the vote.

  • ST. PETER – CITY COUNCIL, Roger Parras (L): In a head-to-head matchup for the Ward 1 seat, Parras lost 41% to 59%.

  • ST. PETER – MAYOR, Joel Brinker (L): Brinker fared a little less well than his council counterpart, losing 38% to his opponent’s 62%.

  • DULUTH – CITY COUNCIL - LPMN’s endorsed candidate was eliminated in the primary election, but he personally endorsed Ryan Stauber and Skip Sandman in the race, who came in 3rd and 4th in a 4 way race.

I am confident that in the years to come, LPMN will continue its track record of participating in races.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Anyone For Congress, 2014

The 2013 Minneapolis Mayor’s race, with its 35 candidates, has been a circus, which makes it all the more surprising that Keith Ellison has been totally absent from the fray.

Six candidates sought the DFL endorsement, which ended up going to no one. A few candidates dropped out, some more jumped in, and more than a handful of “top-tier” DFL candidates remain.

After Tuesday, most (or all!) of these candidates will not be the next mayor of Minneapolis. I would like to encourage each and every one of these candidates to seek the DFL endorsement for US Congress in 2014.

Minneapolis is in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District. The Congressional seat is currently being warmed by Keith Ellison, who is nearly universally recognized as a joke.

Ellison is utterly ineffective at his job. Every one of the DFL candidates for Mayor would be a better Congressperson than Keith Ellison. Yes, even Mark Andrew.

In 2012 I was a volunteer staffer on the campaign of Chris Fields, Ellison’s Republican challenger.

During that campaign we heard from a number of prominent Democrats, including several elected officials, that Ellison is deeply disliked within the DFL community, because he is more interested in building his own celebrity than serving his district. They are constantly frustrated by Ellison doing nothing to represent them, then taking credit for other people’s hard work when the cameras are present.

However each of these stories was quickly followed up with a “don’t tell anyone I said anything and if you say we met I’ll deny it” type disclaimer.

Because the other thing that is universally known about Ellison is that he is vindictive.

As Fields liked to put it- “I get it, it’s like trying to stab Caesar. Great if it works, but If you miss, you’re done.”

After Tuesday’s election there will be a half-dozen or so Minneapolis Democrats who have a campaign organization, a volunteer and donor database, and name recognition built up that can easily be transitioned into a Congressional run.

It’s telling that Ellison has been a non-factor in the race for Minneapolis Mayor. He famously (infamously?) offered an unsolicited endorsement of Anthony Weiner for New York City mayor earlier this year, but has been silent on his preferred candidate in the city he pretends is his home. It’s not clear if any of the campaigns even asked for his endorsement.

I’m a Republican, but I’m also a realist. I’d love to have a Republican representing the Fifth, but the odds (and district lines) aren’t in our favor. That doesn’t mean that we’ll stop trying.

But until then, Minneapolis and its suburbs deserve representation in Washington DC, something that they don’t have today.

So, Minneapolis Mayor runners up: Anyone for Congress, 2014.

The Revolving Door: Political Staffer Edition

Bill Glahn wrote a piece at his site a few days ago called The Revolving Door: Outgoing Democrat Politician Edition which talks about what happens to DFL/Democrat politicians when they leave office.

The bottom line- DFL politicians rarely have trouble landing on their feet when they leave office. The Left does a good job of taking care of their own through their near-monopoly on institutions, plus their vast network of phony “non-profit” organizations.

On the flip-side, the Right is not so good at taking care of ours.

(You really should go read his piece. Actually, you should read everything he writes.)

I wanted to expand on Bill’s piece a bit to include another group that we on the right fail to take care of- political staffers.

Among people who talk about these types of things, it’s widely acknowledged that we suffer from a lack of talent on our side. There simply are not enough people with the knowledge, talent, and perhaps most importantly, the track record of winning to staff all of the campaigns that need staffing.

Not that we totally lack talent. It’s just that our talent doesn’t tend to stick around. I can count a number of acquaintances who have political talent and experience, but have left the political arena altogether.

Some will explain this away by dismissively suggesting that we live in a blue state, so we obviously have fewer talented people to choose from. But I reject this.

We have plenty of talented people, they just move on and get “real” jobs after campaign season. And who could blame them? People need to pay their bills, and campaigns only run for a short time every few years.

The effect of this is that we end up training in a new crop of staffers every election cycle. (And by training, I mostly mean that we take a group of people with no experience and make them learn on the fly.) A few will stick around for an extra cycle or two, but many if not most will move on.

(The other side of the coin is those who should move on but keep hanging on. That’s a whole different post for another time.)

The Left, on the other hand does a much better job of talent management. When campaign season is over their staffers find homes at all of the same institutions and “non-profits” that the elected officials land at. But when campaign season comes around again you’ll see the same old faces, back from non-profit-land, running campaigns.

Running political campaigns is a unique skill, and like any other skill, it must be honed and developed. If we want to get serious about winning elections we need to start building a lasting infrastructure to win.

2013 Minneapolis Municipal Election Voters Guide

Minneapolis will hold their municipal elections on Tuesday November 5, 2013.

For the first time in, I don’t know, like 50 years or so, there is a credible candidate for Mayor of Minneapolis that doesn’t hail from the DFL - Cam Winton. Unlike many of his opponents, Cam is running as an independent in this non-partisan race, but, as the local media loves to point out, has ties to the Republican party.

I enthusiastically endorse and support Cam Winton for mayor of Minneapolis, and would encourage you to do the same. If you think Minneapolis would benefit from some fiscal restraint, there is no other candidate for you.

I also enthusiastically support David Pascoe for the Board of Estimate and Taxation. David is a long-time Republican activist (and current Treasurer of CD5 GOP), and an all-around good guy.  It doesn’t hurt that he’s a known Star Trek uber-fan. Though his interest and knowledge in economics and local government are probably more relevant to the position he is seeking.

If you’re interested in any of the other races in Minneapolis, the Minneapolis City Republican Committee has a complete breakdown of their recommendations at their website.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 Golden Valley City Council Voters Guide

I don’t live in Golden Valley, but I do live next door in Crystal, and I do care about what happens to our neighbors.  Especially considering we’ll be sharing a light rail line someday. (Or better yet, working to stop one.)

Golden Valley has its city council elections in off years for some reason, which means that there’s an election in 2013, on November 5.

There are two races this year, a special election to fill out the remainder of Mike Freiberg’s term (through 2015), and a regular election for two at-large seats (through 2017).

Special Election

This one is an easy one. There are only two candidates, John Giese and Steven Schmidgall.  Schmidgall was appointed to take Freiberg’s place when he was elected to the MN House, so he’s kind of the incumbent.  But all he’s really managed to do during his short time in office was embarrass himself and the city by making news for wanting to eliminate the Pledge of Allegiance because it made him “uncomfortable.”

Giese is a long time active member of GV, a military man, and a small business owner.

This one’s not even close. Vote Giese.

Regular Election (Vote for 2)

There are nine candidates in this race, and you get to vote for two.

While the race is technically non-partisan (as are all municipal races) there are a number of candidates who have been endorsed or “pseudo endorsed” by political parties on both sides.

On the GOP side, Jacquelyn Smith and Paul Scofield were “recommended”  or “soft endorsed” by both of the GOP BPOUs (45 and 46) in Golden Valley.  This means that the executive committees of the BPOUs took a vote and decided to recommend them as candidates.

Two other candidates who are worth considering are Simon Gottlieb and Chris Miller. Both are going out of their way to remain non-partisan in this non-partisan race, but you may find their take on the issues to your liking.

Larry Fonnest and Andy Snope have been endorsed by the DFL. Bob Hernz serves in the Dayton administration.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Senator Ann Rest lets down her constituent cities

During the most recent legislative session, the Minnesota legislature passed a law that would make most purchases made by cities and counties exempt from sales tax.

This change should have a positive and measurable impact on the budgets of cities like New Hope and Crystal.

However, the new law has at least one major flaw: purchases made to support shared services under what is called a joint powers agreement are not tax-exempt. For Crystal and New Hope, this means that any purchases made by the West Metro Fire Department will be charged sales tax.

This can add up to thousands of dollars on major equipment purchases.

West Metro is one of the largest line items in the budget of Crystal and New Hope.

We entered into a shared services agreement to save money for our taxpayers, but we are now being penalized for this by the DFL legislature.

Sen. Ann Rest from New Hope is the Chair of the Tax Reform committee, and Vice Chair of the Taxes committee.

After almost 30 years representing New Hope she should be aware of the financial impact West Metro has on the city’s budget.

However, she and her colleagues left New Hope, Crystal, and countless other local governments around the state behind when they passed a law that penalizes local governments for acting responsibly.

Fiscal responsibility should be rewarded, not penalized.

Rest should know better, and she should do better.

Jeff Kolb,

The preceding was published as a Letter to the Editor in the Robbinsdale Sun Post on August 6, 2013

Friday, July 19, 2013

Corruption in the Crystal Police Department?

In the past few weeks, allegations of corruption and a cover up in the Crystal Police Department have been heating up.  A group called Communities United Against Police Brutality (CAUPB) has been blanketing the city with flyers, trying to drum up support for their cause.

I was present at a recent Crystal City Council work session where this issue was discussed extensively.  I will try to first present you the facts of the case, and I’ll weigh in with my commentary at the end.

The allegations in this case go back to July 2008, when a man named Norberto Ramirez was arrested and later deported after an interaction with the Minnesota Gang Strike Force (MGSF).  After the MGSF made the arrest of Ramirez and his son, Ramirez’s sister Martha went to try to retrieve some belongings from the apartment Norberto was living in.  She was unable to gain access to the apartment.  The reason for this is disputed.

While Martha was attempting to obtain access to the apartment, the police were called by the apartment caretaker.  The police officers who responded determined that they were encountering a landlord-tenant dispute and that no criminal activity was taking place.

Eventually, the belongings in the apartment disappeared.  Where they went is disputed.

In September, 2008, the Ramirez family filed a lawsuit against their landlord for an unlawful lockout of their rental unit. The Ramirez family later settled with the landlord’s insurance company for $20,000, as compensation for their lost property.

On the same day as the lawsuit was filed against the former landlord, Martha Ramirez filed a theft report with the Crystal Police Department.  At the time, she provided a copy of her lawsuit against the landlord.  The officer who took the police report felt again that this was a civil matter and that there was no criminal activity that could be proven.  The case was closed administratively, and there was never a criminal investigation into the alleged theft of the family’s property.

I should also note that in 2012, 10 members of the Ramirez family were awarded $3,000 each by the US District Court as a result of finding of wrongdoing by the MGSF.

There seems to be no dispute that the Ramirez family was not treated properly by their landlord and the MGSF.

The lack of investigation into the theft of their property seems to be the main conflict in this whole affair, and brings us to the next chapter of the saga.

Now there are two Crystal police officers who are claiming that they are being retaliated against by the Crystal Police Chief (who, incidentally was not the chief at the time of the incident in 2008) for speaking out about the Ramirez case.

The claim is that these officers recently raised red flags about the department’s handling of the Ramirez case, and are now, several years later, being forced out of their jobs because of this.

I won’t claim to have all of the facts related to this case. I don’t believe that anyone does at this point.  But I do find the claims of the officers to be less than credible.  I also find their association with Communities United Against Police Brutality, a group that seems to have a hard time telling the truth, troubling.  (The propaganda being produced by CAUPB contains demonstrably false statements.)

The Ramirez family has already been compensated for both the “theft” of their belongings, and the actions taken against them by the MGSF.  The MGSF has been disbanded.  The Ramirez family has even moved back into Crystal- an odd development considering they claim the police department is corrupt.

I don’t know why, more than five years after the event, the police chief who wasn’t the chief at the time would retaliate against two police officers for speaking out.

I don’t know if the two officers who have been disciplined were disciplined appropriately or not.  They claim to have filed complaints with the Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) about the alleged illegal retaliation against them. I do know that there is a process for these types of disputes to be worked out.

That process does not include distributing misleading flyers or having your niece speak on your behalf at a city council meeting, as one of the officers did.

Based on the information I have seen, I do not believe there was any wrongdoing by the Crystal Police Department in their handling of the Ramirez case.  Therefore, I find it highly unlikely that the Police Chief retaliated against someone for exposing wrongdoing that doesn’t exist.

What I find more likely is that there are some members of the Crystal Police Department who are just not happy with the new Police Chief. 

As I mentioned earlier, there is a process in place to mediate disputes between Police Management and Police Officers, and I trust that this system will work.  If the officers involved are found to have been improperly disciplined, then the city council and city management should deal with that issue at that time, swiftly and decisively.

Until then, it’s important that everyone focuses on the relevant facts, and tries to filter out the noise and misinformation.

You can visit a website put up by CUAPB here.  This website includes statements by both officers (1 | 2), the report produced by an independent investigator hired by the city, and CUAPB’s refutation of that report.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Is Liberty Minnesota the Real Deal? We'll See

Last night I attended Liberty Minnesota PAC’s first Liberty Laurels awards event, at which they gave out awards to members of the Minnesota Legislature who scored well on the PAC’s scorecard.  (You can see that scorecard here.)

Liberty Minnesota scored 14 key “Liberty” votes taken in the 2013 Minnesota Legislative session, and members were given a percentage grade based on how they voted on those 14 issues.  21 legislators, all Republicans, scored at 80% or better on the scorecard.

Liberty Minnesota is a new group, and this was their first major public event.

Overall, I have to give them credit for a well-executed and generally professional event.  They were able to attract about a dozen lawmakers, and about 50 total attendees.  While the event had a few hiccups, including a rambling and somewhat incoherent speech by host Bob Davis and a start time that was delayed by over a half-hour, this was a pretty impressive first effort.

I attended the event as someone who is sometimes openly critical, and generally skeptical of the so-called “Liberty Movement.”  My criticism of the movement has been focused on their disruptive impact on Republican Politics, and the sense that in general, people who self-identify as members of the movement have more interest in being destructive than productive.

So I was encouraged to see emerge what, from the outside, looked like it could be an actual productive and helpful professional organization that would advance the cause of liberty within Minnesota.

After last night, however, the verdict is out on whether that’s what Liberty Minnesota actually is.  I believe that it can be, but it would take a concerted effort to get there.

The Gerson Problem / Primary Challenges

Had I left a few minutes early, my review of the event would have been much more positive.  However, I didn’t, so I was present to catch Liberty Minnesota Executive Director Dave Wahlstedt describe David Gerson as a “driving force” behind the organization and praise his run for congress to cheers from the audience.  (I was told later that Gerson no longer has any official or formal ties to Liberty Minnesota, but was involved in the startup.)

Gerson, if you don’t know, is challenging John Kline for the GOP endorsement in CD2 this year.  This comes after he mounted an ill-fated last minute attempt to run against Chris Fields for the endorsement in CD5 in 2012. 

Gerson’s candidacy is the prime example of what is wrong with the Liberty Movement.  Gerson is a destructive candidate and a divisive force, running a quixotic and pointless campaign based on fringe issues.

But this issue goes beyond Gerson.  As was mentioned last night, no Democrat scored higher than 21% on Liberty Minnesota’s scorecard.  No Republican scored lower than 50%, and most were in the 65% or higher range.  Yet there was talk of finding primary challengers to Republicans.

If Liberty Minnesota wants to make a real difference in advancing their stated goals, they will focus on booting Democrats from office, and on educating and lobbying Republican lawmakers on their issues.  To embrace pathetically stupid primary challenges like Gerson’s would show Liberty Minnesota is interested in existing on the margins, rather than really making a measurable impact.

Professionalism and Messaging

Another area where Liberty Minnesota falls somewhat short is in their messaging and overall professionalism. 

I believe this is a direct result of the utopian “nobody’s really in charge, man” organizational structure that Wahlstedt explained last night.  This is typical of Liberty and Tea Party groups who apparently feel that any type of organizational structure is tyranny.  This also explains why Liberty and Tea Party groups have generally been so ineffective at getting real results.

Real organizations take leadership, and leadership means authority, expectations, and accountability.  Liberty Minnesota would do well to adopt a more traditional organizational approach, lest they share the same fate of so many well-intentioned but poorly executed volunteer organizations.

One area where they should act immediately is to clarify who is allowed to speak on behalf of the organization. If anyone who is loosely affiliated with the group can pop off on social media and insult people, the organization’s credibility will erode quickly. The group should have a limited number of official spokesmen, and should push back against others who purport to speak on their behalf.

In addition, messaging around the group and its stated purpose should be positive.  The About Us section of their website contains this bizarre aside, in what is an otherwise decent message:

We don’t visit the capital in order to cozy up to the Speaker of the House or the Governor.

And we are certainly not there to rub elbows with the special interest lobbyists that advance their cause with cocktail parties, luxurious dinners and campaign donations.

My conversations with others about Liberty Minnesota have focused disproportionately on this odd swipe, rather than the otherwise positive message contained on the rest of the page.  This is a failure of messaging.


I don’t know if Liberty Minnesota can ultimately succeed or not.  I hope it can. 

I believe that there is room for (and even a need for) an independent liberty-focused PAC in Minnesota to focus the efforts of a certain portion of the politically active.

But whether they have the resolve and skill necessary to become an influential member of the (gasp!) political establishment rather than another marginal fringe group remains to be seen.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Legislative Correspondence: Ann Rest on Her Failure to Vote

Yesterday the DFL controlled Minnesota Senate failed to pass the DFL Tax Bill on the first try. The initial vote failed 34-32.

After the vote failed, the DFL went into a private caucus meeting, and the vote magically passed the second time 35-31.  The reason that was given for needing to vote again was that my Senator, Ann Rest, failed to vote in the first round. 

Or so I thought until I watched this video, which clearly shows that Rest did in fact vote initially, but for some reason cleared her vote off the board.

Rest clearly was able to vote, but chose not to, and allowed the Senate to re-vote on the measure based on the implication that they had to re-vote because she wasn’t able to the first time.

I contacted the Senator about this (and I encourage you to do the same).  Her response was… less than adequate.


Senator Rest, I am very concerned about your actions yesterday during the vote on the Senate tax bill.  You clearly had plenty of time to vote, but you allowed the motion to be reconsidered on the false notion that you did not.  In fact, you initially did vote Yes, but later removed your vote.  There is video evidence of this fact.

You owe the citizens of your district an explanation on this shameful and dishonest behavior. Although we do not agree on many issues, you have until now conducted yourself in a professional and honest manner.

Your display yesterday was disrespectful to the citizens of District 45 and the rest of Minnesota.

What do you have to say for yourself?


Mr. Kolb,

When I observed Republican senators who has spoken in no uncertain terms about their opposition to the Senate tax bill voting green initially on the bill, I smelled chicanery and went off the board waiting for there to be 34 DFL yes votes on the board. We expected no GOP votes, but thought Sen Senjem might vote for it out of consideration for the Mayo project.  If you were watching , you noticed this as well. I suggest you ask Sens. Petersen, Gazelka, Thompson and Hall why they kept switching their votes. I am sure they will give you a principled response. Their gaming this bill disappointed me. The Senate  president wasn’t counting DFL votes as carefully as I was and closed the board before I could go back up green.  She later apologized to me both privately and publicly from the rostrum.

Ann Rest

I sent the Senator another response.  I’ll update if she responds.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

MinnPost sends Eric Black's Mistakes Down the Memory Hole

Eric Black, formerly of the Star Tribune, and now of MinnPost, wrote an article today speculating that Michele Bachmann would retire rather than run again against Jim Graves again.

Black cites, in his words, “Lots of Republicans” to make his case, including one alleged Republican who also cites “a lot of Republicans” who think that Bachmann is particularly vulnerable. How meta.

That Eric Black would post shoddy political analysis that supports his preconceived notions and is based on thin, anonymous sources is not even the least bit remarkable, and is hardly worth mentioning, except for the added twist of the disappearing sentence.

This article came to my attention because Derek Brigham noted on Twitter that Black had included Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers as a potential replacement for Bachmann if she were to retire.

The problem, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with MN Politics would immediately recognize, is that Zellers lives in Maple Grove, which is in the Third, not the Sixth district.

When I clicked on the article to see Black’s erroneous report, I noticed that there was no mention of Zellers in the article, which left me a bit confused.  After a tiny bit of investigation, it became clear that Black had erased his mention of Zellers from the post.  (Black had also mentioned Pete Hegseth and Tom Emmer as potential candidates- those names were erased as well.)

The only mention of Zellers, et al., was the “Related Tags” section at the bottom of the page.

As I mentioned on Twitter at the time, I am “just a blogger” and I don’t work for a fancy non-profit online newspaper, but even I know that when you make material changes to a post you should note that in the original post.

Apparently those same standards don’t apply over at MinnPost.  Or they do, and Black just didn’t apply them.

I asked David Brauer, a prolific tweeter and MinnPost writer, if MinnPost has a policy on noting updates. He confirmed that while there may not be a specific policy, if the change is not trivial, it should be noted.

It’s no surprise that Black would want to make his embarassing mistake just go away.

I mean, if you can’t get the basic facts right, what does that say about the rest of your analysis?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Supporting Kelly Fenton

On April 6, the Minnesota Republican Party’s State Central Committee will meet to elect new leadership for the next two years.  One of the positions we will be electing is the Deputy Chair, for which there are two candidates- current Deputy Chair Kelly Fenton, and two-time challenger Corey Sax.

A few days ago Corey asked me to “pen an essay” detailing why I don’t think he is qualified to be Deputy Chair. I plan to take him up on that offer at a later date. 

However, I wanted to first explain why I think Kelly should be re-elected.

I don’t have to tell you that the Minnesota Republican Party has seen better days.  The issues with the debt, scandals, crushing losses, in-fighting, etc. have been covered in sometimes excruciating detail.  What has often been overlooked, however, is the role that Kelly has had in cleaning up a mess that she didn’t help create.

Michael Brodkorb resigned his position as Deputy Chair in October 2011 to work on the Mike Parry for Congress campaign, which created the opening that Kelly ran for.  The election was set for early December 2011.  At the time, Kelly was running to replace an outgoing Deputy Chair, but the rest of the organization was in place.

The day before the convention to elect a new Deputy Chair, Chairman Tony Sutton resigned.  Earlier in the week the Party laid off the Executive Director and a third of the staff.  At this point there were rumors of debt, but the details of the true amount was generally unknown.

Kelly was ultimately elected Deputy Chair at that early December meeting, but because of Sutton’s resignation, immediately became acting chair.  She inherited a party organization with no Chair or Executive Director. 

During Kelly’s second week on the job, news of the Brodkorb/Koch affair broke.  Over the next few days, details of the debt began to become clear.

Despite all of that, under Kelly’s leadership the Party raised over $150,000 in December.

Pat Shortridge was elected Chair at the December 31, 2011 State Central meeting.

That brings us to January 1, 2012- 11 months from Election Day, with caucuses in a month, conventions right after that, and then the Primary and General elections.

During 2012 the Party has not added to its debt, and has made some progress in reducing it.  Kelly Fenton and Pat Shortridge have kept the lights on and started the process of turning the ship around.

I have, like many of you, been frustrated with the speed of the turnaround.  But when facing a large project where there is still much work to be done it is easy to lose perspective of what has been accomplished.

There is plenty more work to be done. We need to stop treading water and move forward.  We will elect a new Chair in April, and it is my hope that we retain our Deputy Chair, which will provide some much-needed stability during the transition.

It is my opinion that Kelly Fenton is the best candidate, and she has earned my vote for a full term as Deputy Chair of the Minnesota Republican Party.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Primary Challenger for Michele Bachmann?

Roll Call had an article about Michele Bachmann today, called “Bachmann Seeks Redemption at Home” about the Congresswoman’s concerted efforts to be more available in her district following her Presidential run.

It was a pretty decent article, as far as Bachmann articles go (short on the typical hyperbole that she seems to attract), but this part caught my eye:

Bachmann could also face competition for the state GOP endorsement and in the primary, according to Marianne Stebbins, a supporter of former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and chairwoman of the Minnesota delegation to the Republican National Convention last year.

I know I’m still kind of new around here, but I have been around long enough to know that when Ms. Stebbins starts talking this way, there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

At the not-so-subtle urging of Ben Dally, one of my favorite Liberty Lovers on Twitter, the question was raised to Ms. Stebbins herself:

So I asked Ms. Stebbins if she was actively working on a Primary challenge to Bachmann. She said no – bigger fish to fry.

What’s interesting about that assertion is that there seems to be evidence to the contrary.  From a For-Liberty-Eyes-Only Facebook Group a few weeks ago:

The exchange starts with Ms. Stebbins asking for someone in CD6 who really wants to “stir things up” over the next 1.5 – 2 years, helping out a candidate (top-level talent) who has already been recruited.

Say, don’t we have elections for the US House every two years?  Isn’t CD6 Michele Bachmann’s district?

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, though.

Probably working on a Liberty Fish Fry.

P.S. INTJ is a Meyers-Briggs Personality Type. That is explained later in the thread.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Red Light Cameras Coming to an Intersection Near You, Thanks to the GOP?

During a quick glance at my Twitter feed tonight I noticed an item of note- this Tweet from “citizen activist” Rich Neumeister.  (If you don’t know Rich- and I don’t- there’s a profile of him here that’s worth a read.)

This sounded familiar to me, as the same thing happened when I lived in Phoenix.

After some light digging I was able to confirm that the company pushing this issue in MN is the same one that did so in AZ.  The company is called Redflex. They provide cameras for intersections (“red light cameras”) and speed cameras (“photo radar”) among other “traffic safety” devices.

Arizona implemented an agressive program of freeway photo radar under then Governor (now Homeland Security Secretary) Janet Napolitano.  This program was managed by Redflex.  Just a few years later, Governor Jan Brewer shut the program down.

Proponents of these “traffic safety” cameras will tell you that their purpose is just that- safety.  However, numerous studies have shown that these cameras actually have the opposite effect on safety.  One thing the cameras are good at, however, is raising revenue.  And that’s what Redflex counts on to sell the product.

Redflex has a long history of hiring very effective lobbyists to get their products pushed through, and they have their sights set on our DFL controlled and revenue addicted state.

Unfortunately, there are two Republicans who are authors of SF377, the bill that would allow these cameras in MN:  Senators John Pederson and Julie Rosen.

Rosen is said to be interested in a run for Governor in 2014.

We have enough to worry about from the DFL majorities trying to squeeze every penny of revenue from us.  It’s beyond disappointing to see two Republican Senators join them.

I’ve contacted both Senators to share my opinions with them.  I’d encourage you to do the same.  (Contact Info at the links above)

A Path to Victory Through Killing off Old People

I’ve noticed a particularly obnoxious trend, (or meme, as the kiddies say) recently among some “younger” “Republican” “activists” lately that really must be addressed.

Stop talking about old people “dying off.” Seriously. Shut up.

I noted this last fall in a post about the “Honey Badger” where he gave this quote to the media:

Atkins argued that change was necessary to keep the party alive as its base ages and dies off.

The “death of the old” imagery is very present in the rants of Corey Sax, quixotic candidate for MNGOP Deputy Chair.

As the current incarnation of the Minnesota Republican Party dies, there is the occasional cough, sputter and shiver, throes of death if you will…

But it was the actions of two self-identified “Young Republicans” at recent BPOU meetings that really took the proverbial cake.

One of these Young Einsteins held forth on an epic monologue about what was wrong with these Old Republicans: they don’t understand that young people move every year, they don’t twitter enough, they don’t do email right, they just don’t get these kids today, they didn’t inform me that I’m not a delegate if I just moved into the area. The screed was interspersed with several variations of the phrases “die off” and “old people” – the monologist seemingly unaware that her audience was all, gasp, over 30.  The audience, painfully aware of the speaker’s relative youth and ignorance.

The other Young Rockstar was addressing the 40 or so delegates who set aside a Saturday morning to attend their BPOU convention in a local middle school.  They were instructed to stand up if they were under the age of 30, and when none did, they were subjected to scolding about how “this is what’s wrong with the party.” A truly motivating speech.

I’m 33.  I agree that we need more young people involved in the Republican Party.  But what we really need is more people- period.

The modern Republican Party has always been a “big tent,” and it should continue to be.  We need everyone who shares our values to build a winning coalition.  The path to victory is not through killing off the old, but by integrating everyone who wants to work toward our common goals.

So young people- as us old people say, you were given two ears and one mouth. Try to use them in proportion. Please speak up when you have something valuable to add, but remember that there are people in the room who have been fighting these fights since before you were born and will continue fighting them long after you wander off and lose interest.

And to those more, er, experienced Republicans out there- please excuse these whippersnappers.  You know how kids are- thinking they know everything.  Someday they’ll grow out of it. We hope.

Oh, and Get off My Lawn.

Friday, January 11, 2013

It Should Go Without Saying...

It pains me to have to explain this, but it seems like it’s become necessary…

I covered how the terms “Builder” and “Destroyer” relate to Ron Paul and the “Liberty Movement” here a few months back.  The whole point of introducing these terms was to clarify an ongoing struggle within the MNGOP by using terms that were a bit more accurate.

The confusion comes in because there is significant overlap between Ron Paul supporters and Destroyers.  But not all Ron Paul people are Destroyers.  And not all Destroyers are Ron Paul people.

A Builder is a Republican who believes in building and strengthening the party. We believe in a “big tent”, varied ideas, and a place at the table for anyone who wants to work.  And mostly, we believe in winning elections, not arguments, because losing on principle is still losing. I work with Builders who happen to be Ron Paul supporters every day.

So it should go without saying that whatever is going on over on Facebook, isn’t exactly in line with the Builder philosophy.
But apparently some, including Mr. Corey Sax, were taken in by somebody’s attempt at satire (or whatever that page is) and thought this Facebook page was real, and that True North Webmistress Extraordinaire (and my fellow CD5 exile) Nancy LaRoche was the evil perpetrator behind it.

So, here we are, at the point where I feel compelled to state for the record that neither Nancy, nor I, nor any other “Builder” thought that the best way to build a broad coalition of people to work together to win elections was to create an anonymous Facebook page.


As an aside, if you’re interested in a laugh, read the blog post where Sax seems to blame Nancy for everything from the Offending Facebook Page, to the Marriage Amendment, the Vikings Stadium, and the overall current state of the GOP.  If you’ve ever met Nancy, you’ll get a kick out of it.

Then if you still need a laugh, check out the comments on the Facebook page.  My personal favorite is the one where Marianne Stebbins talks about "language fingerprints."