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North Minneapolis transit forum: SW LRT

by JeffStrate on April 8, 2014 · 0 comments

A little after 3 pm on Wednesday April 9, the Met Council will consider a slightly revised recommendation for the scope and budget of the Southwest Light Rail Project.  When completed, the new light rail line will become the westerly length of what the Met Council has branded “The Green Line.” It will link St. Paul’s Union Station to Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie – and the hundreds of businesses and scores of communities along the line.


Over the past year, major regional media has obsessed on controversies prompted by recommendations by planning engineers and SWLRT project committees of citizens, businesses and municipal, county and state officials, to route light rail along an active freight line through the so called “Kenilworth Corridor.”


Hundreds of recreational and commuter bicyclers travel through corridor between Kenwood and Cedar Lake neighborhoods every day.


Teams of planners, consultants and citizens have addressed the challenges of co-locating freight, light rail and bike trails though what folks have understandably come to think of as a recreational area.  The prospect of moving the freight trains to St, Louis Park or Chaska has been rejected as unfeasible several times.


Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback and frosh Mayor Betsy Hodges (in a SWLRT Project committee) have consistently argued against Kenilworth co-location plans calling for running LRT through covered tunnels hidden by the bike trail and vegetation.


With pinched sound bites and careless headlines, bolstered by hundreds of reader comments (caustic spitballs for the most part) in the Strib’s coverage, the Kenilworth controversy news wise has trumped all other aspects of the $1.6 billion project.



Nienow decides responding to lawsuit is optional

by Eric Ferguson on April 3, 2014 · 0 comments

32NienowSome people respond to personally difficult situations by avoiding the other party to the situation. Due dates get ignored, messages get ignored, and sometimes even subpoenas get ignored. That last one is pretty bad. Thus why the Small Business Administration (SBA) is seeking default judgment against state Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge.
The local media have been reporting that the federal government, in the form of the SBA, is seeking default judgement against Nienow for failing to repay about $750,000 in principle, interest, and fees on a loan the SBA gave him in 2009. However, they haven’t really explained “default judgement” to readers (unless I missed it, which is possible), and I get a feeling no one has explained it to Sen. Nienow, else he surely would have shown up in court. It doesn’t mean a judgement that he defaulted on a loan, though that’s pretty much the point of the lawsuit against him. A default judgement is something the plaintiff asks for from the judge when the defendant doesn’t show up to court, hasn’t been negotiating, and apparently hasn’t been answering the phone or the e-mail, whatever means the SBA has been trying. Plaintiffs request default judgement when it’s able to show the defendants aren’t trying to settle and are showing contempt for the judicial process, such as by not showing up in court.
Apparently Nienow isn’t just avoiding the SBA and the plaintiff in an earlier lawsuit, but he’s avoiding the press too. Though not entirely. KSTP TV managed to find him and get him to stand still a short time somehow, and kudos to KSTP for not softballing the interview. They have Nienow dodging the questions, including a rather obvious one. What happened to the money he borrowed? He’s paid back almost none of it, so where is it?


Minnesota Progressive Project contributor Tommy Johnson, whose political radar pings sharply when southwest suburban, right wing shinanigans unfold, here delivers a commentary on a bill that has had the support of MN Legislative DFLers.  MN House File 2557 would alter the rankings of those who apply to live in a Minnesota State Veterans Home – spouses of veterans would rank lower.   Although the bill may be in DFL limbo right now, theoretically it could resurface.  Johnson and a number of vet organizations will remain alert.


Democratic Visions is handcrafted by southwest suburban volunteers, mostly lefties, without a budget and is carried by community access channels in Minneapolis and six famous suburbs.

Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Eden Prairie – Comcast Channel 15 – Sundays at 9 p.m., Mondays at 10:00 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.
Bloomington – BCAT Cable Channel 16 – Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.
Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m., Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.

You can also click to the Democratic Visions Channel.



Minimum wage amendment a defensible idea

by Eric Ferguson on March 30, 2014 · 3 comments

WAGE-color-3-col-1024x852Let’s just clear up at the start that the headline is definitely lukewarm. “Defenisble” is not a hearty defense. There’s a case but it’s not a slam-dunk; less than obvious; maybe 55-45 rather than 100%. But let’s think about an amendment before reflexively saying no.


Let’s also look past motivations. Maybe it’s really “trolling”, as Tony Petrangelo suggests. that will become obvious if the DFL Senate leaders back off a constitutional amendment when it looks like it might actually happen. Representatives, as I’ve heard some of them say, are quite conscious that they’re up for reelection and will have a tough time explaining why nothing passed. Senators, judging from their actions, seem oblivious of this fact. Maybe the tension between the houses will stop anything from happening, but let’s pretend that they really do want the best policy, and they want to help their party in the next election. Just to be clear that this isn’t a case of having to decide what’s best for the party contrasting with what’s best for the public, this is a case where the policy is best for both. That’s what drives Democrats nuts when Democratic elected officials don’t jump all over a minimum wage increase. “Good policy is good politics”, remember? It’s incredibly popular and a great necessity for our economy, so why is this even a contention between Democrats? Yet it is. So let’s think about a constitutional amendment.

This is the proposed amendment:


New Junk Yard Democrats Video

by JeffStrate on March 27, 2014 · 1 comment

The Junk Yard Democrats, their fans and some bar flies in a suburban rock dive, weigh in on climate change, right wingers, the NRA, and Egyptian democracy in their new video “Break on Through.”  The bit is featured in the new edition of Democratic Visions which is cable cast in Minneapolis and six well known suburbs.  See the schedule below.

Tommy Johnson, Norb Gernes and Jeff Strate at the Senate District 48 DFL Convention, March 8, 2014.

Tommy Johnson, Norb Gernes and Jeff Strate at the Senate District 48 DFL Convention, March 8, 2014.

The faux rock group performed at the March 8 Senate District 48 DFL Convention.   Jeff Strate, the group’s musical director, posing as an emissary from the GOP SD 48 convention to the DFL  gathering (with a metaphorical olive branch and a fist full of apologies for bad GOP behavior), attempted to lead the trio in singing “We’re in the Money,” the hit song from the Warner Brothers movie  The Gold Diggers of 1933  as a means of finding  common ground through music.  Several attempts were made to begin the song, but the boys instead launched into Woodie Guthrie’s version of “This Land Is You land.”  Their effort sparked an enthusiastic convention-wide sing-a-long. Most younger DFLers were confused searched with their smart phone apps for clues. Their elders, however, enjoyed the scam.

YouTube’s Democratic Visions Channel sports nearly 180 videos.   The monthly program is handcrafted by Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and Edina volunteers (mostly Democrats)  in a Bloomington community access studio and on location throughout the metro area.

The program is also cable cast in Minneapolis and six famous suburbs -

Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Eden Prairie – Comcast Channel 15 – Sundays at 9 p.m., Mondays at 10:00 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.

Bloomington – BCAT Cable Channel 16 – Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.

Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m., Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.

Segments of the program are posted on the web at

{ 1 comment }

(From November, 2013)
My recent post ” For the Tea Party, Another Election, Another Defeat” has some disputing what I consider the established fact, that the Tea Party is in decline both in terms of overall popularity as well as in the numbers of people who identify as members of the movement. Simply put all one need do is Google “tea party identification” and there are more than ample references, including several from the right wing leaning Rasmussen Reports and Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze”, of what I pointed out is a now established fact. That said, here ya go:


“Tea party identification nationwide. Now 22%, was 32% at time of the 2010 election”.;”


Rasmussen Report of 1/7/13: “Only eight percent (8%) now say they are members of the Tea Party, down from a high of 24% in April 2010″
“Just 8% Now Say They Are Tea Party Members”;


“While polls show Tea Party identification dropping from 24 percent in 2010 to just 8 percent today, there have been key wins.” – “Tea Party Says ‘Don’t Write Our Obit Just Yet”;


Glenn Beck’s The Blaze: “while the Tea Party had once enjoyed 24% popularity, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, only 8% of Americans now identify themselves as members of the Tea Party…While that is the lowest it has been in the three years” – “Why Are Some Conservatives Targeting the Tea Party as a ‘Cancer’;


“Tea Party Identification In Texas” (February 2010 – October 2013);


Does anyone have any evidence that the Tea Party isn’t in decline either in popularity or membership?



(From December, 2013.)
I was scrolling through the various commentaries on offer at yesterday when I spied one written by Newt Gingrich’s daughter Jackie Gingrich Cushman titled “Are We Sick of Him Yet?” Being all too familiar with the anti-liberal, anti-progressive and rabidly anti-Obama venue that TownHall has devolved into I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I opened the article to find just what I had suspected to be contained therein. In this stock and shop worn anti-Obama diatribe Ms. Cushman likens Obama’s decline in popularity of late to a story she once heard about a woman who wanted a divorce from her husband, not for any of the usual reasons, but because she had grown sick of him. So much for family values and the sanctity of marriage among conservatives.


Cushman went on to juxtapose from the marital to the political: “Relationships that begin bright and shiny can fade into dark and gloomy when events occur that change one’s interactions, perceptions and hope for the future. Hope was gone — the relationship could get no better.” She then went on to try to force fit this juxtaposition, derived from her friend’s failed marriage, into a broad brush analysis of Obama’s present public relations predicament: “He has fallen furthest among 18- to 29-year-olds — down 7 points within the last week to 42 percent. More telling than his 40 percent overall approval rating (Gallup), is his disapproval rating, which has reached 53 percent…the 53 percent disapproval rating marks a new high. Simply put: More people than ever before disapprove of the job that Obama is doing…What can’t be determined is if Obama can get back that loving feeling or if it’s just that finally we’re sick of him. Maybe we need a divorce.” Thus reading Ms. Cushman’s piece we are left to conclude that vast swaths of the American people have grown sick of Barack Obama and are desperately in need of relief from this most onerous, if not debilitating relationship. However, short of impeachment, which is thus far unlikely no matter how strong the flights of fancy on the right are about such a thing, there’s no divorcing Obama for the next three years so get over it.


But as novel an approach to dealing with Barack Obama as Ms. Cushman’s might be seen to be, she has stumbled pathetically in her analysis of our collective gastrointestinal maladies by failing to examine the extent to which the American people have grown sick of Obama’s critics on the right. A simple examination of polling numbers from Real Clear Politics or Polling on the public approval of Congress shows that while Obama’s popularity has fallen the popularity of the Republicans on Capitol Hill remains stuck near historic lows at 21% and that 73% disapprove of how they are handling their job. While those numbers are off the absolute lows, its only by a few points and that with all of the problems besetting Obamacare already factored into the latest numbers. These results for Congressional Republicans are consistent throughout all of the recent polling, even that of the right leaning Fox News Network. And when it comes to the popularity of the regularly reliable anti-Obama movement that is the Tea Party the results are pretty much where they’ve been for quite some time, at the historic lows in terms of both popularity with the American people and those who consider themselves members of the movement.





I first met Jon Spayde at the Bryant Lake Bowl Cabaret maybe a year ago, on a Sunday night that is otherwise memorable only for the slush, cross walk puddles and snow that crusted Minneapolis.


Mr. Spayde, who I soon learned, had done turns in theater, Harvard, internet editing, The Utney Reader and counseling, has a one man cabaret show featuring more than ten characters of his own creation including a clinically depressed motivational speaker, a Catholic priest, a ladies man and a ghost from the Snoose Boulevard era when Scandies got drunk and brawled a lot outside the saloons and vaudeville halls in Cedar Riverside.

To my delight that night, Mr. Spayde was more than an impressionist – each of his lightly satirical characters was fully etched within the historic, pop culture and/or current issues contexts from which they emerge.   At Bryant Lake Bowl, Mr. Spayde invited members of the audience on stage to engage with the character of their choice in a conversation or line of questioning or even a faux psychiatric counseling session.  I chose Vic of Rhode Island.  Vic, through Jon, knew stuff about Providence, pizza and working class brio.   So do I.   He’s been there and the laughs perculated through the small theater.


There ain’t nothing more comfortable for me on a drudgey, wintry night, than to hang out in hardscrabble improv comedy clubs like the Huge Theater or venues like the Bryant Lake Bowl and – during the twentieth Century – Dudley Rigg’s Brave New Workshop and Barbara Contardi’s kinetic, First Amendment on Bond Street in Manhattan.

Of late, however, despite scores of improvisational riffs that spark ripples and waves of laffs and groans at Stevie Ray’s, Comedy Sportz, The Huge, and the post Dudley Brave New Workshop, and despite all of the improv groups (Hooray!!), the most consistently satisfying improv artist I’ve encountered is deceptively, low-amp Jon Spayde.


Why?  Well, dear possums, Spayde provides his characters with rich and informed contexts.  The man clearly reads books (and writes them), has himself been through hard times, frustrating times and great times, is good-hearted and intuitive and swims in a life stream with lots of different fish, snakes, anglers. poachers and game wardens.  Spayde, like Lorna Landvik (who also writes books and plays Bryant Lake Bowl), delivers more than a clever or risqué punch line; provides the ticket buyer with more than the shell of an archetype.  And he knows political issues and players – few other comedian performers in the local goldfish bowl of improv and cabaret comedy share his level of awareness – that makes them, at least in the political sphere, unfunny and trivial poseurs.


We recently produced four new segments with Jon for Democratic Visions, the cable and internet program that is handcrafted by mostly DFL volunteers in the southwest ‘burbs.  The current program also features ex-MPP blogger, vinegary scold Eric Pusey (late of Minnesota Progressive Project); a report on DFL Senate District 48’s precinct caucuses and an award-winning, short film on environmental activism.  In the first of his new segments, Jon takes on the guise of his clinically depressed motivational speaker character to advise well known Republican and Democrat candidates and power players.


Democratic Visions can be seen in Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Eden Prairie – Comcast Channel 15 – Sundays at 9 p.m., Mondays at 10:00 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.

Bloomington – BCAT Cable Channel 16 – Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.

Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m., Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.

Segments and some full have hour editions of Democratic Visions can be streamed via The Democratic Visions Channel on YouTube.


Science and the 114th Congress

by gregladen on March 13, 2014 · 5 comments

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 12.00.48 PMScience, and in particular, climate change science, has been as Daphne Wysham of the Institute for Policy Studies likes to put it, the broccoli on the plate in American politics, and little more. Last election, climate science was a factor, though probably not a deciding factor, in a handful of elections. Over the last year, the issue has increased in importance. President Barack Obama actually saw fit to note that the Earth is not flat, but rather, a big round thing, and that science is a central organizing body of information on which we need to base better policy, especially with respect to energy and climate change. Three nights ago, over 30 US Senators, all Democrats of course, camped out for a night on the Senate floor talking about climate change, and among them were our own Senators from Minnesota. Word on the street is that there is a handful of Republican Senators and Representatives who hold the party line — the anti-science party line — against admitting that science is a thing and climate change is real, but who wish they were not doing that. What I’ve heard is this: The day after the first Republican goes down in flames against an explicitly pro-Science Democrat, the GOP survivors will bolt.
The 2014 election is the election in which politics in this country will turn around, because that is going to happen. If it goes far enough, the 114th Congress will have a Democratic majority and the last two years of President Obama’s term can be spent actually doing something about climate change.
How do I know this? Well, I admit this is partly wishful thinking, but there are indicators, as already mentioned. Plus, there is this. Billionaire hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and environmentalist Tom Steyer has indicated that he is willing to put as much as 100 million dollars into congressional campaigns that highlight climate change as a top tier issue.
In other words, it is time to make Climate Change the meat and potatoes, and not just the Broccoli, in this November’s mid term election. We are 17 reps away from a majority in the House. 100 million divided by 17 is a large number. Just sayin’


Stop fighting about global warming

by Eric Ferguson on March 12, 2014 · 8 comments

typhoon-philippines-haiyanLet me be clear as possible about that headline. No, don’t stop fighting global warming. Don’t stop trying to do something about it. Yes, stop fighting about it. Stop wasting time with science deniers. That means stop arguing with the crazy uncle at family gatherings and the dittohead at the watercooler. Don’t let the trolls hijack the comment threads and cause you to frustrate yourself trying to convince the unconvincible.

Why stop? Did the urgency of global warming suddenly go away like a melting glacier in a time lapse film? No. Not a bit. The urgency is actually an argument to stop trying to persuade those who have required us to learn terms like epistemic closure, motivated reasoning, and debunking blowback effect. We don’t have time to waste on the minority that will never be convinced even if the prairies become home to cacti and the lizards who served as monsters in early 50′s schlocky sci-fi. The keyword there is “minority”. That’s right, in terms of getting the public to accept that global warming is real, we’ve already won. True, it’s a minority with loads of fossil fuel industry money and a major political party under its thumb, but we already have the sort of majority that usually means you’re going to win politically. Clearly that majority hasn’t been enough, which means we have to change something we’ve been doing, like, say, spinning our wheels in pointless arguments with deniers.