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“I love to sue insurance companies…”

by TwoPuttTommy on October 28, 2014 · 1 comment

That line, Ladies and Gentlemen, was from the opening remarks of candidate Amy Dawson at a judicial candidate forum last Friday (October 24th) in south Minneapolis. And it was followed up with, as best I can recollect, “…and I’ll probably have to recuse myself from some cases if I’m elected.”
 

Now, I’m not an attorney, but even the ol’ TwoPutter knows a no-no when he hears one. The election of judges, and Amy Dawson is a candidate for the Hennepin County Bench Seat 61, is supposed to be about judicial philosophy, NOT political ideology. That comment, “I love to sue insurance companies” goes straight to judicial philosophy: it’s ok to have blatant biases and sit on a seat where citizens should be able to expect judgess with open minds and impartial attitudes.
 

After the forum was over, I went to the nearest attorney I could find and said: “I cannot believe I just heard a candidate just say she loved to sue insurance companies and would probably have to recuse cases if elected.” “Yeah, it’s like 70 percent of the civil cases filed that involve insurance companies.” I asked Ms. Dawson’s staffer/volunteer about the comment; the reply was “So? She’s said it before.”
 

Apparently, Ms. Dawson doesn’t see a problem with being blatant about a bias towards an industry that makes up a big percentage of cases she’s likely to hear, should she be elected. I wondered if others did.
 

First call? My insurance agent. “Say, what would you think about a new judge being elected that says she loves to sue you?” After relaying the particulars, it’s pretty safe that conversation was passed up and on.
 

I made many calls to mostly attorneys; attorneys on both sides of the political aisle. Only one explained that he wished candidates for the bench were more forthcoming on what their biases are. The rest? Responses ran from “problematic” “unfortunate” “troublesome” to “You’ve got to be (bad word, deleted)in’ (bad word, deleted)in’ me!!!”
 

No, gentle readers, I am not. One follow up email read: “No credible judicial candidate would ever boast about loving to sue insurance companies and that they would need to recuse themselves from cases. Any candidate making such a statement would face serious questions about whether they had the judicial temperament to serve on the bench.” Another sent this: “Look at Rule 4.1 (11). Her comments may not have been “pledges, promises, or commitments” but they’re close. Admitting she would have to recuse herself over them is an admission of that. Her website is a wink and a nod about judicial independence.”
 

Almost universal was agreement that if elected, Ms. Dawson would indeed be recusing herself from cases involving insurance companies; one speculated that were Ms. Dawson not to, any insurance company would surely file a motion to recuse immediately upon finding their case had been assigned to Ms. Dawson.
 

I can assure you, Ladies and Gents, that if I were to find myself in Hennepin County Court, should she win her election Ms Dawson would not be hearing my case – a motion to recuse would be filed. You see, I prefer my judges fair and impartial. Hennepin County deserves a judge ready and able to sit on 100% of the civil cases brought before the bench. Ms. Dawson cannot be that judge with her “I love to sue insurance companies” comment.
 

(Photo, above, by TPT at Turtle Bread in south Minneapolis, 24 October 2014)
 
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Minneapolis at-large school board candidate Iris Altamirano issued this statement about recent negative campaigning:
 

A recent negative mailing and negative campaign calls we’ve seen and heard about, in the past week are more examples of what I’ve been saying throughout our campaign: We need a new conversation about education in Minneapolis because the situation for our kids is too urgent. Negative campaigning does not move us in that direction. Our campaign has been focused on bringing people together and building a collective vision for all Minneapolis kids to have opportunities to succeed. I will continue to campaign with integrity, respect for all perspectives, and with the deep belief that we must move beyond the polarized framework of this debate and put children at the forefront of this conversation.

An independent group, Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund, has been supporting Altamirano and Don Samuels, and running a negative campaign against Rebecca Gagnon. Pardon me going through basics again, but I was reminded while doorknocking this weekend that there are voters who respond to questions about local elections with something like, “We have local elections this year?” I think that’s a hint. I’ve also been informed that “at-large” is a bit jargon-like. So, “at-large” means citywide, as opposed to districts. If you didn’t know, just pretend. No one will know. Non-Minneapolitans, hang on through this hyper-local stuff, because I’ll shortly mention something that might interest any politics geek.
 
Minneapolis has three at-large seats and six districts, elected for four-year staggered terms in even numbered years. So three districts and one at-large member are elected in presidential years, and the other three districts and two at-large seats are elected in midterms.
 

For the two at-large seats, the top four candidates in the primary go to the general election. The top four were Ira Jordain, Iris Altamirano, Rebecca Gagnon, and Don Samuels. All four self-identify as DFLers. Gagnon finished first in the primary, with Samuels a close second and Altamirano a close third, clustered in the 20’s range. Jordain came in a bit under 6%. Gagnon and Altamirano are the DFL endorsees. Regarding RCV, we don’t use that in even numbered years, just odd numbered years when the whole ballot is local races.
 
One interesting thing about this particular race is that even though Republicans might top out at 25% of the vote in Minneapolis, that still means one voter in four is Republican. When I’m at their door clipboard in hand, I don’t waste time trying to persuade them on partisan races, figuring I’m not going to win them over anyway, but in the school board race, they’re having to pick the most acceptable DFLers. That means it’s still worth finding out what they care about, and looking for a way to win their vote. So when I realize I won’t win them over to Franken or Dayton, I switch to school board. It’s a very different dynamic than the partisan races. It’s also a common problem for Republicans in local races in Minneapolis. We had a Republican mayoral candidate last year, but some city council races were all DFL.

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Joe Murphy, a Smart Practical City Council Person

by Grace Kelly on October 27, 2014 · 0 comments

Joe Murphy 2Joe Murphy is running for Vadnais Heights city council as an incumbent. I worked with Joe Murphy when he was a assistant at Ramsey County. I found him to be smart and practical, with sound financial sense. He is one of those people that I always hope that we have in political office. Here are Murphy’s answers to our standard questions:

 

1) What is your background?

 

I grew up in Shoreview, graduated from Totino Grace High School in 1988 and then graduated from Bethel University with a Bachelor’s degree in political Science in 1993. After graduation, I went to work in the financial services business where I am presently a senior representative with Comprehensive Financial Resources. I married my wife Sarah in 2000 and we have lived in Vadnais Heights since 1999 with our yellow lab Lily. I worked as the Principle Assistant to Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett from 1997 until 2012 and I have been a member of the Vadnais Heights City Council since being elected in 2006. I am currently the senior council member, member of the finance committee, and acting mayor. In my free time I am a volunteer on two local non-profit boards in our area. I am a Trustee on the Merrick Inc. Board of Trustees where we help developmental disabled adults find meaningful work in our community. I am also a board member on the Northeast Youth and Family Services board which helps provide teenagers and young adults with metal health counseling services in the White Bear Lake, Roseville, and Mounds View school districts.

 
2) What are the three main issues or values that are key to your campaign?

 

The three biggest issues before our city are:

 

• continuing to develop and redevelop our city in a thoughtful way that brings new residents into Vadnais Heights

 

• continuing to hire competent, qualified, highly educated professionals that work with the city council

 

• ensuring policies and procedures that treat all of our residents equally regardless of how long a resident has lived in town or whom they know

 

Also, we must continue to add senior housing facilities into our mix of housing options. I have been a strong advocate for our first ever senior housing project the Gable Pines that is currently being constructed on Co Rd. E. and will open in August of 2015.

 

3) Who is your political hero and what qualities would you strive to emulate?

 

My political hero is my former boss Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett. Tony is a good and decent person that always treated people fairly and with respect. He was the best example I know as a true public servant to his community.

 

4) Since the politics involves negotiation of competing interests, please give an example where you successfully negotiated a difficult problem among multiple parties.

 

My best example of an issue where we had to bring multiple parties together to get something done our the Gable Pines senior housing project. We had opposition from the adjoining neighborhood as well as the neighboring community and it also included working with multiple businesses on a land swap to get the best location for the project.

 

5) Please provide an example where you stood up for people or for rights against a powerful organization.

 

I was part of a team of residents that stood up to the corrupt Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher by publically supporting Matt Bostrom for Ramsey County Sheriff. As anyone who knows Ramsey County politics, knows that Bob Fletcher is the biggest bully and we beat him 58% to 42%.

 

6) Please tell us why your campaign is better choice (i.e. more organized, works harder, works smarter) with specifics?

 

I am running for re-election because I like to help people get things done. My opponent is now former Ramsey County sheriff Bob Fletcher who is only running as he has said many times to elected officials, labor leaders, and residents so the Mr. Murphy loses. He is a vindictive person who does not like to be challenged. Over the years as Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett’s assistant I challenged him at a staff level and very publicly as a council person in Sheriff Bostrom in election in 2010. I have over 200 signs up, and by election day I will have either mailed, insert into the local paper, and or drop 20,000 pieces of positive campaign literature, and I will have also knocked on more doors that all of the three other candidates combined.

 

7) Please tell us how you as an elected official or your campaign would help other DFL endorsed candidates get into office?

 

I have been endorsed by Congresswomen Betty McCollum, Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, State Representative Jason Isaacson and White Bear Lake School Board member Don Mullin. I have worked closely with all of these elected officials and continue to do so during this re-election cycle. I have been also endorsed by each of the trades and labor professions, along with the public employee unions.

 

8) How would you keep your constituents informed about issues and what you are doing?

 

As a council member I am the most active member of the Vadnais Heights City Council attending most if not all of our public meetings and civic events throughout the year. I regularly write informational articles in the Vadnais Heights press to our residents and have been featured many times in our city newsletter communicating city policy to the residents. I like to keep in touch with our residents. I believe strongly that it is a big part of being a council member.

 

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MN-06: Perske gets St Cloud Times endorsement

by Dan Burns on October 27, 2014 · 1 comment

67833_1410329809214435_1844121466_nI’m not suggesting that endorsements of any kind swing a race, which is why I very rarely blog about them. I find this one significant because of the pretty pointed language used, especially the direct comparison of Tom Emmer with outgoing Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). The St. Cloud Times is far from “liberal;” on the right sidebar there’s a link to endorsements for conservative GOP incumbents for the Minnesota House of Representatives who should in fact be replaced by their strong DFL opponents.
 

The reality is the 6th District has been marginalized with eight years of uncompromising, divisive and at times embarrassing representation from Rep. Michele Bachmann. Voters need to elect the person who can begin to restore district credibility while improving the return district residents get on the tax dollars they send to Washington.
 
The soft-spoken, blue-collar-leaning Perske is a better choice than Republican Tom Emmer. While Emmer is the likely favorite because of the district’s conservative demographics, voters need to seriously consider whether his political persona will help the district. He’s similarly conservative to Bachmann and he is known as a political bully, which makes his House strategy is “building relationships” a tough sell.
(St. Cloud Times)

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The Courage of Still Being Hopeful

by Grace Kelly on October 26, 2014 · 1 comment

Many of you know that I had frequently styled myself as the Curmudgeon. A friend of mine challenged me on this referring to the definition of curmudgeon as “ill tempered”. It is bad branding. Sadly I do agree. But I am going to miss that title. When no one wanted to listen to my voice, the branding of Curmudgeon allowed me to speak. A curmudgeon is not shushed, is not scared off and does not just go away. But yes, there is that “ill tempered” branding. And yes, people who have met me are surprised that I am a nice person.

 

More over I think in taking on the branding of curmudgeon, it allowed me to give up hope. If everything is all bad anyway, then one can give up hope and just make snarky comments. All that the bad guys need to win, if the good guys to give up hope and stop trying. Staying in for the long haul is the discipline that wins in politics. And I am always going to be doing something to make a difference.

 

Yet I must admit that my friend calling me on the name of curmudgeon, was a case of application of

 

How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?

 

All this time, I had complained of the greens and peacemakers who simply have meetings among themselves making snarky comments about others, especially Democrats. See if one believes there is no hope then one is relieved of the burden of being politically active. While I am certainly politically active, I must admit the hope is running on empty. Climate change is my challenge to hope. It takes more discipline to believe and hope in times of adversity.

 

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Questioning Sheriff Stanek High Travel Expenses

by Grace Kelly on October 25, 2014 · 6 comments

Previously, I reported that Sheriff Stanek’s projected 2014 budget is $92 million, which is $43 million larger than Ramsey County’s projected 2014 budget of $49 million. Hennepin is way above every other urban county.

 

At the same time, Stanek has the smallest population of any urban Sheriff in Minnesota to directly police. Hennepin County is unique in that it is comprised of cities that all have their own police forces. Less than 1% of the population is directly policed by the Hennepin Sheriff Rich Stanek. The other urban counties have more population being directly policed by the Sheriff.

 

This graph shows the glaring the differences between Hennepin and other urban counties in 2012 numbers. In comparing urban county Sheriff Budgets, one would expect that the budget is high when the amount of direct policing and reported crimes is high. Hennepin county is the opposite. Given the numbers on direct policing, one could easily make a case that Hennepin’s budget should below Ramsey County’s budget.

 

Kelly Sheriff Budget Comparison

 

So if Sheriff Stanek money is not being spent on policing, where is the money being spent? Today Eddie Frizell, the Minneapolis Deputy Chief running against Stanek gave us all a clue. Frizell’s press release said:

 

Reports show that within the past 2 years, Sheriff Stanek has traveled extensively while neglecting the communities that matter in Hennepin County. “Just in the past 3 years of his term, the Sheriff has charged over $54,000 in tax payer money to his county issued credit card for over 40 flights and 30 hotels for numerous conferences and out of town meetings,” stated Frizell. “Between the money spent on travel and his administrative costs being doubled, this is money that could spent in other areas of the organization. To me, this doesn’t justify “sound and principled stewardship of taxpayers’ resources”. Hennepin County is best served by electing a community Sheriff that leads from right here at home and November 4th is the voters chance to make a difference,” added Frizell.

 

A brief look at the list of travel charges leads one to start asking questions:
 
1) On 01/23/2012, $2,244.20 was spent at “MARRIOTT 33769″ in Washington DC, for the purpose of “JW DC NSA Conf Hotel – Stanek.” A online website lookup of this hotel says that the daily room changes range from $229 to $429. So it appears that Stanek took the most expensive room for 5 days. Is it the policy to take the most expensive room?
 

2) The number of Sheriff conferences seems high. Why did Stanek go to the WESTERN sheriffs conference?
 
3) On 03/22/2012, $1,327.20 was spent at Delta Air on a flight for and “Flight to DC and PHX”. Aren’t DC and Phoenix in the opposite directions from Minneapolis? Currently Delta Air round trips delta flights from Minneapolis to Washington are $559 first class. So was this charge for two round trip first class tickets?

 
4) On 08/14/2012, $183.98 was spent on a “Dinner with Fed Partners” at Sunsets Wayzata. An expensive meal at Wayzata’s Sunset restaurant would be $30. So did Staneck buy meals for 6 “Fed Partners”? Why didn’t “Fed Partners” use their own expense account?
 
And those questions are only from the first half page, the list goes on.
 
Stanek is Republican, so we shouldn’t be surprised that he spends other people’s money lavishly.
 
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I could be wrong. If I’m right, then I have to admire the cleverness of a certain group of Don Samuels’ supporters, even if, as the title implies, there’s something coldblooded about it.

 

A new organization has sprung up for this election season, the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund. They put out a mailer promoting the candidacies of Don Samuels and Iris Altamirano for the Minneapolis at-large school board seats. Altamirano is one of the candidates endorsed by the DFL. Samuels is not. The other DFL endorsee is Rebecca Gagnon. Voters might be fooled by the effort MPEF is making to hook together Altamirano and Samuels. The images below are a mailer MPEF sent Minneapolis voters (click to enlarge). Some voters have received a robocall supporting Samuels and Altamirano while bashing Gagnon. I didn’t receive one myself and don’t know of anyone who caught who made the calls, but the content sounds roughly the same as the MPEF web site. The mailer is positive about the supported candidates, but the robocall and web site are pretty negative. The web site tries to tie Gagnon to the unproven rumors about State Sens. Bobby Joe Champion and Jeff Hayden. Pretty nonsensical rumors unless someone believes the senators are politically suicidal (denying funding to the Minneapolis public schools? Remember that saying about extraordinary claims…), but MPEF says, “The Star Tribune and MinnPost also have reported on claims…” and yes, someone made claims, those outlets reported that someone made claims, so true as far as it goes. Other than that attack on Gagnon, it’s all generic “every child can learn” sort of stuff said by all school board candidates everywhere.
 

MPEF mailer image 1   MPEF mailer image 2

 
So what’s the strategy? It’s more than knowing the word “progressive” plays well in Minneapolis. The trick is Samuels doesn’t need to beat both endorsees. Since there are two positions, he just needs to beat one. Apparently the strategy is to hook him to one endorsee, giving the impression he’s the other endorsee, while simultaneously hitting the other endorsee with a negative campaign. That may explain why Samuels didn’t seek the DFL endorsement, which he never would have gotten for any public office, but instead attempted the same sort of ambush campaign Matt Entenza tried in the auditor primary: keep quiet until filing so opponents aren’t expecting anything, and then hit hard with a well-funded negative campaign. The brilliance of this strategy is it would have worked equally well whichever candidate MPEF chose to support or attack. Whether there was a reason or a coin flip, MPEF chose to make it appear Samuels is running with Altamirano, even though they’re not similar candidates, and I’ve yet to hear anyone in Altamirano’s campaign have a good word to say about him.
 
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Attack Ads, Madison High and Jim Meffert

by JeffStrate on October 25, 2014 · 3 comments

Earlier today Dan Burns emerged from exploring the effluent of anti-Nolan ads in Congressional District 8 with an advisory that one of the operatives behind them was the owner of our favorite sh*t eating grin of dental veneers, former St. Paul Mayor and U.S, Senate recount wrestler/litigator Norm Coleman.

 

Coleman attended James Madison High School in Brooklyn. During my road running days I jogged past his alma mater a few times when training for my mid-pack goals in 10 K and marathon races. That part of Brooklyn can produce scrappy weasels as well as top shelf, pragmatic visionaries. “America’s Senator,” Bernie Sanders (VT), Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Senator Chuck Schumer (NY), former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and 4 Nobel Prize recipients graduated from Madison High in Brooklyn.

 

You are not worthy Denfield, Eden Prairie, Roosevelt, Saint Paul Central and Centennial Highs. But in terms of the Franken-Coleman re-count results, Blake School in Hopkins, Al’s alma mater, has parity with Madison High.

 

But I wander. Dan Burns sheds light on the darkness in CD 8 and considers something I haven’t thought much about: The Ventura Effect –  “Whoa! Beer Bong Guy for Congress?” Cool! I’m gonna VOTE!!”

 

Jim Meffert making a point on Democratic Visions in 2010

Jim Meffert making a point on Democratic Visions in 2010

Now back to negative attack ads.  Former DFL Congressional District 3 candidate Jim Meffert anticipates that attack ads will increase in frequency until November 4.   Meffert tells Eric Black at MinnPost that the negative ads are actually targeted at iffy voters to discourage them from voting for the likes of, say,  Rick Nolan. I don’t recall many if any negative ads during Meffert’s 2010 challenge to then frosh Congressman Eric Paulsen. Meffert had real appeal to we suburban voters but did not garner the big bucks to be competitive. There was little need for the right wing to negatively attack Mr. Meffert at a level now being seen in the CD 8 race.

 

The Junk Yard Democrats are always game to toss a dark, musical spitball at Mr. Paulsen.  Like Eric, Tommy, Norb and Doug live in Eden Prairie.  Here again is your link to view “He Talks the Line.”   This time around, the Junkers are supporting Sharon Sund.  So am I.

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MN-08: Coleman’s anti-Nolan ad is mostly false

by Dan Burns on October 24, 2014 · 1 comment

millspartying2A new TV ad that you’ve probably had to endure is the work of a dark money group headed by a former U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Norm Coleman, a true weasel who seems to have indeed found his proper, if odious, place in society. The ad’s a piece of crap.
 

Last year, Nolan voted against a funding bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is typically a solidly bipartisan piece of legislation.
 
But that wasn’t because Nolan doesn’t want to fund veterans’ care. It’s because he thought the bill didn’t put enough money into health care services for vets. Further, Nolan has since voted for other bills that increased funding for veteran care.
(MPR Poligraph)

I don’t see that there’s any doubt that between pushing for more earned benefits for veterans, or more tax cut welfare for the pampered and privileged like himself, where Stewart Mills III’s priorities in Congress would lie.
 
It has long since been the case that most of the Mills-backing mailers I’ve been getting say “Vote against Rick Nolan,” not “Vote for Stewart Mills.” Even Republicans sense that they’re not going to get anywhere by emphasizing the alleged strengths of their own wretched candidate, because there aren’t any. Except, apparently, his fine-looking mug and well-toned musculature. Because that’s what matters, right?
 

There’s a possibility that Mills is picking up some electoral assistance from an unlikely source; I’ll call it the “Ventura effect.” When the latter was elected governor, he undoubtedly got some help from normally apolitical rednecks, mostly male and mostly in their twenties, who were like “Whoa! Jesse the Body for governor?! Cool! I’m gonna VOTE!!” This time, we may be seeing “Whoa! Beer Bong Guy for Congress?! Cool! I’m gonna VOTE!!” Probably not enough to be a big factor in the race, though.
 

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Laurie Warner for Minnesota House 32B

by Dan Burns on October 23, 2014 · 1 comment

warnerHere’s her Facebook.

 

I will fight to strengthen our economy further and create jobs for Minnesota workers by ending tax loopholes for corporations, providing tax cuts to small businesses, investing in a clean-energy economy like Geronimo Solar Energy, and putting our district to work rebuilding our infrastructure…
 
People need to have good-paying jobs, but not at the expense of our environment. There is strong growth potential for jobs in fields relating to clean energy and environmental protection. I will work to bring those businesses to Chisago County.
 
I support the right for workers to join labor unions.
(Laurie Warner for Minnesota House)

Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Lindstrom) has been in the House for two terms. With the outlook for Minnesota being that conservatism will become increasingly irrelevant at the state level in general – younger voters everywhere just plain know better – there’s no reason to keep him there. His website shows him trying very hard to take credit for DFL accomplishments. Also:

 

On February 5th of 2013, Representative Barrett was fined $1000 for disseminating campaign literature that misrepresented the record of his opponent in the previous election. The Administrative Law Judge Panel concluded that the false information “likely had some impact on voters” in Barrett’s 51%/49% victory.
(Wikipedia)

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