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minneapolis_skyline__heroThere are elections for Minneapolis City Council in November. I’m not going to be blogging much about them yet, but I am passing this along. I think it’s realistic to suggest that more than a handful of voters in the city, to say the least, wanted and expected more “change,” however defined, after the turnover that happened in 2013.

But when asked what made them take the leap to run, any remaining nerves transformed into resolve. One by one they opened their eyes and spoke long held truths that became seeds for stump speeches: because representation matters, because racial equity, because of my community.
We focused on these seven candidates – Jillia Pessenda, Samantha Pree-Stinson, Phillipe Cunningham, Raeisha Williams, Jeremiah Ellison, Andrea Jenkins and Erica Mauter – because they bring in terms of race, gender identity and sexual orientation, an unprecedented level of diversity to the 2017 elections. Not only do they embody a new potential for Minneapolis politics to be more reflective of its growing populations than ever before, but with platforms heavily focused on social justice, racial and economic equity, they bring a potential to shift the balance of power on the City Council.
(Twin Cities Daily Planet)


Keith Ellison is no anti-Semite

by Eric Ferguson on December 7, 2016 · 0 comments

US Rep. Keith EllisonWhen I say Keith Ellison is no anti-Semite, I’m not just speaking as someone who leans left in my politics and likes a lot of his policy positions. I actually know the guy. I’m DFL chair of a state senate district within his congressional district and I’ve been working with him since he first ran for congress in 2006. He’s not an anti-Semite, nor is he anti-Israel. I’m not going to rehash his whole record and the debunking of the allegations being made. Vox has done that admirably. I’m looking to add the voice of someone who knows him.

American politicians are expected to show their pro-Israel bonafides by being one-sided. They’re not allowed to admit that both sides have legitimate points and painfully real security concerns. Keith has visited both Israel and Palestine, and I’ve heard him speak sympathetically of the plight of both sides. I distinctly recall, during one of the spasms of violence in the occupied territories, he explained how awful the Hamas rocket attacks were for Israeli civilians under constant threat of attacks, frequently forcing them to take shelter in case the rockets landed on them. This was in private, not just an attempt to say the right thing to a certain audience. No doubt the wingnuts trying now to swiftboat him would have jumped all over the sympathy he expressed for Palestinian civilians having their lives controlled in destructive, and sometimes even in petty ways, by the Israeli occupation, like restrictions on consumer goods intended merely to make life uncomfortable, not to improve security — because in America we can’t acknowledge there are two sides with valid points and their own suffering.


minneapolis_skyline__hero(Update: A candidate forum was held on October 26, and you can read about it here.)

(Update 2: Someone did have time and expertise to go through finance reports, and did a great job, here.)
Minneapolis has been, and remains, far and away the biggest pro-public schools vs. deformers stage in the state. This excellent article from Southwest Journal has candidate profiles and links to websites.

Four of the nine seats on the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education are up for general election on November 8, 2016. Incumbent Kim Ellison is running for the at-large seat, leaving her District 2 seat open for a newcomer. She faces challenger Doug Mann. The race for the open District 2 seat features candidates Kimberly Caprini and Kerry Jo Felder. In District 4, incumbent Josh Reimnitz is running against challenger Bob Walser. In her bid for re-election in District 6, incumbent Tracine Asberry faces challenger Ira Jourdain. In addition to choosing which candidates to add to the board, citizens of the district will vote on an operating referendum.

If you click that Ballotpedia link and scroll down some, you will also see information on the operating referendum question.
Ellison, Felder, Walser, and Jourdain are endorsed by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, and the DFL. According to the SW Journal article, they “see eye-to-eye on the issues and are running as a team.”
All that I can tell you for sure is that Reimnitz is a deformer. I don’t know who all may be getting deformer “dark” money in this election; I couldn’t find a convenient source for that, and I have neither the time nor the expertise to pore through individual campaign reports. Anyone who knows more is more than welcome to comment here or on our Facebook page. From their website it appears that Minnesota Comeback, the new face of the deformer movement in this state, hasn’t endorsed anybody. They just might realize that doing so could well be an electoral liability for any “favored” candidate(s).


Vikings stadium ribbon-cutting today

by Dan Burns on July 22, 2016 · 0 comments

minneapolis-aerial-530I have a couple of items to pass along, to mark the, uh, joyous occasion.

About $20 million annually was used to breath life anew into Minneapolis neighborhoods. Today, that program struggles to cobble together around $4 million.

That’s because payments on the city’s spending bender are now coming due.
According to the city Finance Department, Minneapolis is on the hook for about $1.6 billion in debt and operational costs for the convention center, the Vikings stadium, and the Timberwolves arena over the next 20 years.
Broken down, that’s an annual three checks adding up to $80 million, money that’s off the table for paving East Franklin Avenue, fixing swings at Kenwood Park, or financing low-interest business loans on West Broadway.
(City Pages)

If you’re a member of Minneapolis’ creative industry, you helped contribute $4.5 billion to the local economy last year.
That’s the finding of a report into the value of the city’s arts and culture workers released (in June). It shows creative jobs grew by 10.4 percent in 2015 – ahead of the 7.2 percent rise seen across all jobs in Minneapolis.
And despite Minneapolis being home to the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves and Lynx, the $4.5 billion revenue generated by the creative sector dwarfs that made by the sports industry by eight times.
(Bring Me The News)



Thinking outside the box.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” ~ Albert Einstein


Last Spring, 2015, in an article in the Star-Tribune, we got a frank admission of failure from Ward 7 City Council Member Lisa Goodman on the subject of vacant and abandoned properties in Minneapolis:


“What we’re doing is not working,” Goodman, who chairs the city’s community development committee, admitted. “So any option that would get these homes into the hands of people who want to restore them and live in them has to be something we think about differently.” Star-Tribune


Of course, any admission of failure on the part of government will set any free marketeer’s heart pounding for sheer joy. But the simple truth is that the free market has failed, too. Nor is there the slightest indication that “market forces” have any real power to fix the problem. Because, you see, there’s no money to be made — but there’s plenty of money to lose: in lower property values for neighborhood residents, in lower property and business taxes for schools and infrastructure maintenance, etc. It’s a classic Free Market fail.


Maybe it’s time to consider whether the problem might be bigger than either city government, or the free market, has the chops to handle. As former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca once said, “Big problems require big solutions.” His point was that even the CEO of a major corporation can only affect what’s within his purview or power. He has to know when a problem is bigger than the power of his office can resolve. He has to know when he needs to get outside help. In Iacocca’s case, he needed a $400 million loan from the federal government and he needed his creditors to reschedule or restructure loans (to share the pain) in order for Chrysler to remain solvent. Solvency was the big problem he needed to solve … and he needed solvency of thinking to reach a solvent solution. What resulted is business history. Or, Big Government success.


Other examples of Big Government successes include bailing out the Big Banks, Big Auto, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. According to Politico, of the 618 billion dollars spent on TARP, Detroit and the GSE mortgage lenders, 683.4 billion has been returned to the US Treasury — resulting in a net profit on investment of 65.4 billion, or a 10.58% ROI. That the highest return you can get anywhere. No wonder foreign investors are parking their money in US cash and securities.


Big business sometimes handles big problems by pulling all the big stakeholders into a conference room, locking the doors, and forbidding anyone to leave until a tenable solution has been agreed to. I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in a couple such meetings as a dispassionate documentarian tasked with producing a fair record of the proceedings. In both cases, tension in the room was palpable. Executive careers and salaries were on the line and the conference rooms stank of body odor, dyspepsia, and fear. Put 10 or 12 sweaty fat guys in a room who are making 350K – 750K a year and tell them to get creative or lose their jobs and they get real creative, real fast. For me, the lesson was clear: amazing creativity comes out of a meeting where a clear line will be drawn between the quick and the dead. In some ways, it’s like the free market competitive model so often touted by folks on the right — if equally inhumane. In a different way, it’s a fascinating model of human behavior by individuals under extreme stress: a category of behavior about which I’d already learned more than I ever cared to and had come to know too well.


I’ve wondered from time-to-time when it comes to addressing a big gnarly civic problem like vacant/abandoned homes — and its contributions to driving a neighborhood into decline, with all the attendant evils that that implies — why city government doesn’t do something similar? Admit that what you are doing isn’t working, that the power and resources you are applying are ineffective, and ratchet-up the scale of the solution to meet the scale of the problem? Of course, local government can’t apply career pressure on players or stakeholders, other than city employees perhaps, but it can apply contractual and economic pressure on suppliers, providers and beneficiaries. Every corporation has its sh*t-list of “disapproved” vendors. I’d imagine local governments do, too, though I don’t really know. But there’s also the pressure of missed business opportunities, the kind that can weaken your business and strengthen your competition — more about that later. Simply put, there are multiple ways to turn down or turn off lucrative and reliable revenue streams to suppliers that serve as both carrot and stick in modifying business behavior.


The other thing city government can do, of course, is provide fearless leadership. It seems sometimes that we don’t have the political will, or the creative thinking, to try something new and radical for fear of failure. I don’t blame anyone in elected office for playing safe, if you think that one bad move might kill your career. (See? We know you’re human too and live like the rest of us. Really, we do.) But this is Minneapolis: the urban political landscape doesn’t get much bluer than this (maybe Boston … maybe), so shouldn’t we be willing to think along the lines of at least trying something a little radical? Call it a “pilot program” to provide some political cover and an exit point, if you must.


Then we could counter the recurring criticism among voters that I get on the front porch when I go door-knocking for candidates: “What, you people again? Every year you ask for my vote and every year nothin’ around here changes. It just keeps getting worse.”  I’m still looking for a good response for that one: “Um, well isn’t it getting worse SLOWER?” Let me know if you have a better answer.


For years, I’ve been shopping around the idea of Directed Resurgent Neighborhoods to anyone I could button-hole long enough to hear me out: elected leaders, bankers, union guys, clergy, you-name-it. Brother, I earned my reputation as a boring dinner guest: now I don’t get invited anywhere any more. I even shopped the idea by letter to former Mayor R.T. Rybak (hoping he might pass it on to the cognizant powers in city government), to Rep. Keith Ellison, and even to Governor Dayton (hoping that some worthwhile response or direction might come out of it). I got no correspondence back from any of them. Well, I do get their fundraising letters and emails several times a year.


The reason I keep faith with my forlorn hope is that the feedback among those I’ve canvassed has always been universally positive: “That’s a helluva good idea,” my conversational correspondents have told me time and time again after I fully laid it out. I would have just chalked it up to typical Minnesota Nice at a holiday party, but I could see the mental wheels turning, the shine in the eyes, the unconscious nodding about the possibilities. Nothing has ever come of it, yet hope springs eternal.


More Below the Fold


school-bus-stop-clip-art-yellow-schoolbus-childlike-drawing-4389671(1)You know, intelligent, reality-based people saw this coming.

Minneapolis school board members appear to be giving up on Sergio Paez as their next superintendent.
In interviews with the Star Tribune over the weekend, six sources who are close to the debate but asked not be named, said that Paez appears to be lacking majority support going into a vote on Tuesday…
While some board members will ask for a complete reboot of the superintendent search, sources said, others favor offering the job to (interim superintendent Michael) Goar.
(Star Tribune)

This, from Bright Light Small City, has apt remarks about the search firm that recommended Paez.

What is badly needed in this position (indeed, what every school district in the world needs) is someone who is staunchly pro-public schools and anti-greedhead deformer. And who will look to crush the latter in every way, and at every opportunity.
Update: “Paez out in Minneapolis; school board delays vote on runner-up”


Message testing for legislative elections

by Eric Ferguson on November 21, 2015 · 0 comments

pothole signThe state senate district where I’m the DFL chair happens to be deep blue, not one where we have to worry much about holding on to our legislative seats. However, as our incumbent legislators remind local DFLers, they can’t get much done when they’re in the minority. Even their seniority and designation by their caucus as a committee ranking member won’t stop vindictive Republicans from kicking them off said committee. So our safe-seat legislators need more DFLers to win in not-safe seats, which gets to why our district did some message testing when it would appear we really don’t have to — and maybe, doing the minimum, we don’t have to. But we want to win; as in a majority of seats, not just the easy-to-get majority of the votes in our district.
Now when I say “message testing”, I don’t mean some proper bit of research your political science professor would have approved of. We don’t have those sorts of resources, at least with other things we have to do. But we can still do something. We can’t pretend what we did is strong research we could get published in a proper political science journal. But we think we have something useful.
Specifically, we have two issues where we did some testing, one intended for offense and one for defense: the offense being automatic voter registration, and the defense being paying for transportation infrastructure. The forum was the tables we set up at neighborhood events in our district as we do each summer and autumn. Usually we have a passel of candidates to talk about, but most of our district, ironically enough given my plea to pay attention to local elections this year, had no elections, and it happened that was the part of the district with neighborhood events where we could set up. Normally our top priority at these events is voter registration, and next trying to strike up conversations so we can find out what prospective voters are thinking about. If anyone wants some jargon, this is sometimes referred to as an “untargeted canvas”. Generally of course, most people are already registered (though some aren’t, and they would not have shown up in a list of registered voters) and they don’t have an issue to comes to mind right at that moment, so we took advantage of having no candidates to test reaction to messages on those two issues. We had flyers on each issue (which we’re willing to share with other party units) but no one sees those right away, so we’re bringing up whichever issue we bring up and flyers are details and follow-up. Basically it’s verbal communication combined with paper they can take with them.


Twin Cities: A Haven for Celebrity-weary Celebrities?

by Invenium Viam on September 8, 2015 · 0 comments

Sally Gets Patched Up

Amazing grace,
How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found;
Was blind, but now I see.
~ Rev. John Newman, C of E, published 1789


The Twin Cities appear to have a growing reputation among celebrities of all sorts as a place they can let their hair down, relax among the general public and not be bothered too much.


There are the continuing rumors that Paul McCartney owns a home here, somewhere near Lake-of-the-Isles I’m told, and has been seen out for an evening walk from time to time around the neighborhood or bicycling around the lake. It’s a rumor I don’t believe, but it keeps popping up. There’s also the occasional rumors of celebrities like Gene Simmons or Kenny Chesney walking through the crowds at the State Fair. Of course, any of those celebrity sightings could be simply cases of mistaken identity. A thousand guys at the fair look like Kenny Chesney. I’ll admit that I did see Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed walk past the Grandstand a couple of years ago. It made sense because KISS was playing the fair that night. They had a gaggle of excited kids trailing behind, but they weren’t otherwise being bothered.


Then, too, you have the news stories of Lady Gaga hanging out at a St. Paul bar with a couple of band members after a show, or Mick Jagger walking around downtown and stopping into a Minneapolis bookstore to buy a book. If they feel free to try and blend in, why not? I’d imagine being on tour can be quite isolating. You’re far from the people you know and the places you live, where you feel welcome and safe among relatives and friends. In most places, between the hotel and the gig venue, I’m guessing there’s not really much of anywhere you can go without being mobbed, or worse, unless you’re able to work out a good disguise. And though I can’t claim the experience myself, I’d imagine that being surrounded by 50 wild-eyed, frenzied fans — each of whom wants something from you big or small — can be a pretty intimidating experience. That alone could discourage someone from going out.


Recently, though, I had a celebrity encounter that brings the notion of the Twin Cities as a haven for celebrity-weary celebrities into sharp focus. As I stepped into an elevator in a downtown Minneapolis office building, I looked up to see Mr. _________ (name withheld to respect his privacy), a famous actor. He looked back and smiled briefly — I might even say warmly. Not your typical celebrity defensive behavior, I thought at the time. I smiled, curtly nodded, and took the opposite corner. That should have been it, but then he turned and looked at me pointedly.


“May I be of some assistance, Mr. _________?” I asked.


“I’m curious about something,” he told me. “Obviously, you recognized me right away. Other places, someone might want an autograph, or a selfie, or try to strike up a conversation. At least they’d look a little surprised and start texting. But people here don’t seem too impressed by quote-unquote celebrity. I’ve heard that was the case and now I’ve seen it for myself. So I was wondering: What’s different here?”


Of course, since I was placed in the position of representing “people here” to someone who might have an influence on whether films get shot here, or whether Broadway shows tour here — or even whether a touring show might premiere here — I wanted to acquit myself well on behalf of my fellow Minnesotans. I felt it was my civic duty.


“I think part of the reason may be that every Minnesotan’s extended family has at least one actor or musician in it. And there are a lot of actors and musicians around. It’s not well known, but the Twin Cities has a very strong theater culture. We have more theater seating per capita than NYC, second only to San Francisco. The University of Minnesota’s theater arts program is among the very best in the country, and the Playwright’s Center is unrivaled at producing new playwrights. We have a very strong music scene that is welcoming to new musicians and new bands. They can find places to play here, top quality sound studios to record in, and they can live cheaply while they hone their professional skills.


“Now, I think it would not be unfair to say that artistic types have more than the usual number of fringe personalities and emotionally-needy people among them, no? And until social and market forces thin the herd a bit and cull out the runts and the lame, there’s a much higher concentration of cranks and weirdo’s among any random group of aspiring artists than you might find even among Hollywood’s A-listers and B-listers. The kind of people who say they’re thankful for indoor plumbing at Thanksgiving dinner. Or who claim to channel the spirit of Catherine the Great. Or who have a face tattoo of a Ladybug. People like that. Over the years they drift away and die. But it takes time. Nature is cruel.


More Below the Fold


A proposal to have landlords hand out voter registration forms threatens to end American liberty. Don’t take my word for it! Really, don’t, because that’s crazy. Take the word of former Minneapolis mayoral candidate and lonely Minneapolis Republican Cam Winton. He’s the one who said it in a recent commentary in the Star Tribune. He was responding to a proposal by Minneapolis council member Jacob Frey to have landlords hand new tenants a voter registration form along with the other paperwork in hopes of encouraging more to register to vote when they change addresses.
Don’t think Winton was entirely delusional to run for mayor of Minneapolis as a Republican, or at least no more so than about 30 other people who saw the open mayoral seat and the $20 filing fee and ran with the “what-the-heck” party. He actually sounded like he had a much stronger connection to reality than typical Republicans. DFLers thought he sounded reasonable if we had to have a Republican (which we didn’t since there were DFLers we actually liked). And then he writes this op-ed.
Winton actually started with an economic argument, that we should want to lower the cost of building affordable housing (true) but having landlords hand out voter registration forms will raise costs and discourage building more housing. Well, sure, because there’s the cost of putting a box of forms on a shelf somewhere, the cost of picking up a form, the cost of putting the form into the other documents a new renter gets, and already we’ve raised the landlord’s costs by … well, by whatever the time is worth. 11½¢ maybe?
Maybe Winton realized the cost argument was rather silly, so he tried some philosophy.

Dating back to the Declaration of Independence, the core principle of our system of government is that we the people grant elected officials just enough power to secure our rights — no more. So when elected officials propose and enact laws premised on the notion that we are incapable of buying our own ear plugs and obtaining our own voter registration forms, it’s a warning sign that the balance between individual rights and government force is out of whack.

Right, because your right to vote is threatened by … having a voter registration form handed to you when you sign your lease or move in. The ear plugs thing is from a complaint Winton had with Frey in an earlier paragraph. Frey got an ordinance passed requiring nightclubs to offer hearing protection to customers. This is bad because … hearing damage is a right? “premised on the notion that we are incapable of buying our own ear plugs”, or maybe premised on the notion customers don’t know how loud the noise will be or the risk to their hearing? Who knew hearing protection and voter registration forms in your rental papers were just overreaching big government?

The straight brackets are my comments:

If our elected officials really think we’re so helpless, what’s next? Might they require supermarket cashiers to chastise us for buying sugary drinks [his own party keeps trying to micromanage how SNAP recipients spend their money and actually do turn cashiers into enforcers, but who needs self-awareness?], require Metro Transit drivers to remind us to update our wills [how dangerous does he think mass transit is?] and require police officers to use their loudspeakers to encourage us to save for retirement? [this sarcasm from the party that keeps trying to gut Social Security] As long as landlords are already handing out pieces of paper, why not require them to hand out fliers for city-sponsored activities, such as City Council members’ own town-hall meetings?

That last point is a fair one, because nothing threatens individual rights like telling people when public meetings are taking place.
Apparently unaware that “slippery slope” is the name of a logical fallacy, Winton said, “The slippery slope brings to mind a phrase attributed to various leaders over the years: ‘A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.'” Well, no wonder we don’t know who to attribute that quote to. Who would be dumb enough to want their name on such triteness disguised as cleverness?

Snark aside, here’s a thought. If having landlords hand out voter registration forms is so awful, how about avoiding the need for it by instituting automatic voter registration? Change the registration when the voter’s address changes, getting it from the post office form or the DMV. Don’t like Democrats pushing to register more people? Democrats can think of other things to do too. Oregon recently passed a law to register voters automatically, and North Dakota somehow manages to have elections without registration. They can make it work but we can’t?
Voluntary disclosure: I know Jacob Frey and donated to his campaign. I don’t live in his ward, nor does his ward overlap the senate district where I’m DFL chair. I’ve spent a bunch of time doing voter registration.
Comment below fold.

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Sweet Schadenfreude Ambrosia

by Dog Gone on June 26, 2015 · 0 comments

First we have Governor Dayton’s leadership as governor and liberal policies putting Minnesota #1 for business by CNBC’s ranking.  Minnesota generally, and Minneapolis in particular, have generally done well in comparison to other states and cities.  Under liberals, we ARE COMPETITIVE! We have an excellent quality of life, or as Dayton refers to it, the state gives good value for the collected taxes and tax rate.

Of course the MN GOP keep trying to push wealth and income inequality policies with tax cuts to the rich, cuts to levels of education funding sought on the left, and fail fully to fund the necessary infrastructure, while attempting to contaminate the environment for the benefit of business at the expense of citizens. The MN GOP HATES HATES HATES that unlike so many red states, Minnesota has a surplus, not a grand canyon sized deficit.


Then we have the consistently good news out of the SCOTUS, arguably the most conservative Supreme Court in the history of the nation.  So far as of this morning, we have success for the Fair Housing Act upheld, and success for the ACA (aka Obamacare).


Personally, for me the cherry, whipped cream, hot fudge and sprinkles on the whole conservative epic fail is the massive repudiation of right wing racism, combined with the recent Gallup poll showing nearly 50% of Americans would vote for a socialist (like Bernie Sanders).


…it’s news that 47 percent of Gallup poll respondents say they’d vote for a socialist candidate for president. Though the political designation placed last on a hypothetical list of candidates that included women, gays and lesbians, Muslims and atheists, the survey response still seems to offer hopeful news to democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, who’s running as a Democrat.
The Gallup poll found a huge split in opinion between Republicans and Democrats on the issue. While 59 percent of Democrats said they’d be willing to cast their vote for a socialist presidential candidate, just 26 percent of Republicans did. (Nearly half of Independents, 49 percent, said they would be in favor of the idea.)

Throw into the mix of joy at conservative sorrow the substantial lead of Hillary Clinton announced on Monday, from the Daily News:


Hillary Clinton with comfortable lead over Jeb Bush, other potential GOP rivals: poll

Hillary Clinton has a comfortable lead over Jeb Bush and the rest of her potential GOP rivals, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday.  Clinton leads Bush, the former Florida governor, 48%-40%.
That expands to 50%-40% against Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and 51%-37% against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the two other national front-runners.

turnip tops – Trumpesque

Rounding out the bad news for conservatives — Donald “Turnip-top” Trump, swaggering, blithering idiot of offensiveness, has gone further than previous campaign cycles in appearing to run for the nomination.


Along with him, the most unpopular governor in the nation Bobby “Pretend I’m White” Jindal has declared, and second to least popular governor Chris Christie is scheduled to climb on or set a date to climb on the 2016 conservative clown car, known for only going in the same dizzy tiny circles to the right.


Sadly for the unpopular candidates the mean girls running the RNC are making these candidates climb on the roof rack, the trunk and the hood, rather than letting them inside the clown car, and are trying to keep them off the stages for the officially scheduled debates.