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Jon Pieper for Minnesota House 28B

by Dan Burns on September 17, 2014 · 0 comments

pieperThis is that rare district that is rated “even.” But Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) has been winning it for quite some time (11 terms, all told, if I‘m not mistaken. He‘s missed one since he first started, barely losing in 2006, I believe). Perhaps demographic drift, and the general disdain for Republicans that is clearly evident in other contexts, here in Minnesota, can make this our year.


As a child, I was given great opportunities. I had a great public education which gave me the opportunity to decide my future, to choose my life. I chose a quality life. I came home. I wanted my children to have the same opportunities as I did, to live in a healthy and safe community. There is no more important responsibility than to preserve the quality of life for our children and grandchildren…
After extensive rehabbing, we opened The Old Village Hall Restaurant (in Lanesboro, MN) in 1994. Since opening the restaurant, my property taxes have more than quadrupled. My opponent must not think this is real money for ordinary people. He has consistently voted to hurt our main streets, our friends and our neighbors. He has consistently voted to raise our property taxes. So much has changed in the last twenty years, but my opponent has not.
(Jon Pieper for House 28B)

Unlike many of these sorts of races that I’ve been blogging about, there is no shortage of noteworthy media items about the incumbent. This, from 2011, is typical. (The link no longer works, so I’m blockquoting from a blockquote – you‘ll see what I mean):

When Rep. Greg Davids was in Willmar Tuesday night to explain the new tax bill to local government officials, he said the elimination of the market value homestead credit was proposed by Gov. Mark Dayton during special session negotiations in July.
Davids, a Republican from Preston, is chairman of the House Tax Committee, and reiterated that statement in a telephone interview Thursday morning…
Katharine Tinucci, Dayton’s press secretary, called the Tribune to say that Dayton did not propose eliminating the homestead credits and that the proposal came from Republican lawmakers. She said the governor reluctantly agreed to proposal the as part of a compromise to end the state shutdown.
(Bluestem Prairie)

Just to be clear, Tinucci was correct, and voters held Republicans accountable in 2012.


Reasoned, learned discussion of the MNsure news

by Dan Burns on September 17, 2014 · 0 comments

I’m quoting this via Minnesota Brown. Jennifer Schultz is the DFL candidate for Minnesota House District 7A (Duluth); she’s probably at least a 99% favorite to win. She’s also an economics professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth. There’s no way to blockquote this effectively. I’m just lifting some tidbits, but it’s all useful for, among other things, figuratively wiping the smug smirks from the mugs of obnoxious, gloating – and most of all, desperate – righties.

“The Affordable Care Act and MNsure are programs based on market capitalism,” said Schultz. “The program was developed twenty years ago by the very conservative Heritage Foundation. In market capitalism, we expect that some players will find difficulty in competing and make mistakes. We expect the market to weed them out.
“Of the more than 327,000 Minnesotans who are insured through MNsure, only 10% are insured through PreferredOne. These customers do not need to be alarmed by this development.
“It is especially important to note that no customers will be uninsured as a result of this change…”
“The most likely reason for PreferredOne leaving the program is that its clients, obviously enrolled because PreferredOne was the lowest cost insurer, are the most price sensitive, and if PreferredOne found itself unable to match prices of other insurers in the exchange, they probably stood to lose a large part of their market share.
“I am surprised that people are surprised by this development. That shows lack of understanding of how markets work. I am very suspicious that most of the excitement we are seeing is pure opportunism on the part of political partisans hoping to gain an advantage by acting like this is a crisis.”
(Minnesota Brown)

Try as they might, Minnesota’s corporate media outlets have obviously been unable to make MNsure a political liability for DFLers. That’s another thing that won’t change.


Bill Maher, John Kline, Mike Obermueller and student debt

by Eric Ferguson on September 16, 2014 · 2 comments

As interesting as it is that Bill Maher picked one of our congressmen, Rep. John Kline, CD2, for his #FlipADistrict contest, the reasoning is interesting. He explained it on his Sept. 12 Real Time with Bill Maher. The bit I refer to starts around 2:40, where Maher said the issue of student debt inspired most of the votes for Kline, and then he tore into Kline’s record:

Student debt is a huge issue for young adults. If Democrats want young adults to vote, something they’re less inclined to do than older age groups in any sort of election, then we can only help our cause by addressing their biggest issue. Judging from Holly’s post yesterday, Kline’s opponent, Mike Obermueller, has already taken that advice. However, this doesn’t apply just to Democrats running specifically against the representative sometimes described as “Rep. John Kline, (R – for-profit education industry)” (and with pretty good reason). It applies to all Democrats, obviously more so those with more more young adults, but are there any Democrats with no young adults whose likelihood of turning out is concerning? GOP outreach has been a joke, if it’s been there, even though I gave the GOP some friendly advice. I don’t normally care to help the opposition, preferring to let them continue when making mistakes, but I told them to reach young voters on student debt in hopes of making some progress on the issue. Partisan opportunity is just the consolation prize. For now, looks like a consolation prize will have to be enough. However, that consolation prize is just an opportunity, not a win.


minerunoffAnd it really is “mostly.“ I would have to say that the public, the informed part of it anyway, has weighed in. Could well be time for some politicians to reassess.

In all, 52,887 people and organizations took time to submit comments on the proposal, which broke the previous state record for comments by nearly 50,000. An analysis of all of the submitted comments conducted by Mining Truth, found that 51,970 (98.2 percent) of the comments raised concerns about the proposal as currently written. There were 883 (1.6 percent) comments supporting the project, and another 84 (0.2 percent) where the author’s position was not clear…
“The intensity of the opposition to this project is testament to the fact that the mining companies still have some fairly big information gaps in their proposal,” said Paul Danicic, Executive Director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “Since we don’t know how long polluted water from the site will need to be treated once the mine closes, it is clear that there is growing opposition to the idea of Minnesotans shouldering all the long-term financial and environmental risks while foreign mining corporations rake in all the profits.”
(Mining Truth)


Susan Witt for Minnesota House 37B

by Dan Burns on September 16, 2014 · 0 comments

wittI also plucked this one from a “most vulnerable Republicans” list. I see nothing but progressive potential in the north metro, though I recognize there is a way to go, yet. Seat by seat, just a matter of time.
Susan Witt is a retired teacher. I’m quoting from her website, and here’s her Facebook page.

I thought that I should read the Minnesota Constitution so when I took the oath of office to support the constitution I knew what I was affirming. The first article, first section states “Government is instituted for the security, benefit and protection of the people, in whom all political power is inherent.” Paul Wellstone once stated, “Politics is not about power and money games, politics can be about the improvement of people’s lives.” Indeed, this is how our Constitution begins and should be the words that guide our actions. The issues that are brought before the legislature are issues that are about people’s lives.
(Susan Witt for Minnesota House)

From a north metro DFLer:

There’s a 6th District doorknocking caravan getting underway for various candidates the next four weeks, and Susan happens to be scheduled this Thursday from 4-7. It organizes from Subway – Blaine – 108th Ln NE & Radisson Road.

One indication of how Minnesota Republicans have been flailing, is how some of their legislators have been getting into leadership despite little time served. Rep. Tim Sanders (R-Blaine) was elected in 2008, yet is already Minority Whip. A thankless job, perhaps, and district voters might well be doing him a favor by sending him on his way. They certainly would be helping out everybody else.

During his three terms in office, Tim has been recognized as a steady voice for fiscal responsibility and free market opportunity. He is a strong advocate for spending and tax restraint, pro-job growth initiatives, and government reform.
(Sanders website)

In other words, more handouts for the rich, and cutting government services for everyone who’s not. It all worked so well during the Pawlenty era.


klinewinsRep. John Kline (R-MN) has rated low in his district, and now he rates low in the national eye. HBO Real Timers’ Bill Maher picked Kline as the worst of the worst.  Maher said, as he announced Kline’s win on the #flipadistrict chart, “He’s one of those silent threats you never see coming…Ebola…ISIS…John Kline…He embodies the sellouts that keep this town running.”  I agree, Maher. And yes, let’s win one for the Flipper (if you don’t know what that references, look up win one for the Gipper).
Kline penned the bill to increase student loan interest rates resulting in the government profiting billions off of students and some of his biggest donors are for-profit schools with questionable records.  Kline and his opponent Mike Obermueller were recently invited by the national organization Student Debt Crisis to participate in a virtual town hall on the student debt crisis.  Kline neglected to answer the organization, but Obermueller responded to the questions. Here’s Mike Obermueller on  refinancing, government making money off of student loans, and for-profit schools with questionable records.



MN-08: A little cheese with that whine, Stewart?

by Dan Burns on September 15, 2014 · 1 comment

This ad was uploaded to YouTube some days before the “Steve” ad that has backfired badly. So it’s not surprising that this is the one that seemed to be blanketing the airwaves Friday night. I watch little television, but I was tired and idly flipping channels, then.

Some of you may recall the final reelection campaign, in 2000, of the late U.S. Sen. Rod Grams (R-MN). At one point, he aired an ad with his own mother waxing indignant about the attack ads aired on behalf of his opponent; “Stop picking on my boy!” or some such thing. (I couldn’t find a video.) Grams lost. To Mark Dayton, in fact.
Mills’s campaign has been a consistently ridiculous clown show. There’s no reason to believe that any time of his spent in Congress would be a damn bit different.

This great, must-read item from Developers Are Crabgrass notes that:

- Mills does indeed explicitly support additional federal tax cut welfare for himself;
- He is far, far more wealthy than is generally realized;
- He also has a gig as a vice president of something called “Crow Wing Oil Company,” which “appears to be a shell for commodity speculative trading adventure.” (It’s not a big company, but it doesn’t have to be. They quite possibly do mostly just buy, transport, and sell fuel oil. But in this day and age, when a candidate for high-profile elective office discloses any financial interest in Big Filthy Fossil Fuels, people will raise questions. As they should.)

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Scottish independence the wrong way

by Eric Ferguson on September 14, 2014 · 2 comments

If you’re thinking a post on Scotland’s independence referendum seems like an odd topic for a Minnesota-centric blog and you don’t see how it applies to anything that interests you, fair point. I quite understand readers who couldn’t care less scrolling on down to the next post. Furthermore, I’m under no delusion we have a large readership who are eligible to vote on Thursday. Nonetheless, I care about this, so for whatever good I might do, this is what I’m saying: independence, at least as proposed, will have the ironic effect of turning Scotland into a vassal state. In other words, those of you who get a vote, vote no.
I get that if you can vote, it might be irritating to have some American who partly shares your ethnicity putting his nose in. Europeans of any ethnicity might get annoyed with European-Americans saying things like, “Oh, you’re [ethnicity]? I’m [ethnicity] too!” I get that impression of annoyance when I hear Europeans say things like, “It annoys me when Americans say ‘Oh, you’re [ethnicity]? I’m [ethnicity] too!’”.
Yes, it’s true, my grandmother was the one who came from Scotland, not me, though my Irish grandfather was likely descended from Scots who settled in Ulster way back in the 16th or 17th century, if that helps. Probably not. So yes, I’ve been to Scotland just once, for a few days, playing tourist, but that was enough for me to walk the boggy ground at Culloden and see the fresh flowers on the memorial markers. I joined historical reenactors who portray a Scottish regiment in the 30 Years War, and it wasn’t from interest in the 30 Years War, but from a desire to learn about, and rescue from romanticization, that time in Scottish history when clans were central to Scottish life, Gaelic was the language of the Highlands, and kilts were those things worn daily out of impoverished necessity. I’ve studied the wars of independence fought by Bruce and Wallace, wrote a play about them at the same time Braveheart came out and did my best to push back on Mel Gibson’s lies, so I know the immense blood Scotland spilled to gain and keep its independence for centuries before it was lost in the Act of Union in 1707. So I get, at a gut level, the urge to wipe the stain of coercion and bribery that attended the Act’s passage.
Yet I’m saying don’t do it. At least not now, this way.


MPR’s Capitol View Daily Digest has gone downhill

by Dan Burns on September 12, 2014 · 0 comments

It gives me no pleasure to write this. In the past, Minnesota Public Radio’s Capitol View Daily Digest (previously Polinaut) was far and away the finest daily roundup of Minnesota political news. I still peruse it every morning.
But it sure ain’t what it used to be. Over the past couple of years, a rightward lean has increasingly manifested. This past week (that is, since Monday, inclusive) is a great example, as the Daily Digest has failed to note:
- A new poll showing Minnesota DFLers with an 8-point generic ballot lead for the state House;

- That the star of Stewart Mills’s latest ad has a history of posting misogynistic vileness on social media.
It’s obvious that MPR’s big corporate donors have successfully “worked the refs,” as has been the case almost everywhere else, for a long time now. So it’s not surprising, but it is aggravating, and kind of sad.
Absolutely none of this is intended to individually target MPR’s political writers. I have to follow orders when I go to work, too.


Minneapolis has two ballot questions

by Eric Ferguson on September 11, 2014 · 10 comments

Minneapolis_skyline_51Minneapolis voters will be voting on two ballot questions. Even though I live here and follow politics like you would expect of a blogger, I didn’t know about one of these until I looked at the sample ballot at the secretary of state’s web site, Talk about obscure. Though I guess all readers can now pretend they already knew. Smarty pants.

Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to remove the requirement that businesses holding on-sale wine licenses in the City must serve food with every order of wine or beer and to remove mandatory food to wine and beer sales ratios?

If you’re wondering about my opinion, so am I. No idea what that’s about. Feel free to expound in the comments if you know. I do have an opinion on the other question:

Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to increase the filing fees for candidates seeking City elected offices from the current fee of $20 for each office to $500 for the office of Mayor, $250 for the office of Council Member, $100 for the office of Board of Estimate and Taxation Member, and $100 for the office of Park & Recreation Commissioner and, as an alternative to payment of a filing fee, allow a candidate to submit a petition of voter signatures as provided in state law?

This comes from last year’s mayoral race, when we learned the office for filing for election must be in city’s lower levels, because every loose thing in the city rolled down there to file. We had 30-something candidates, which was widely blamed on RCV, which was grossly misplaced. We had RCV in 2009 and it wasn’t nearly this bad. This time we had a combination of an open seat and a $20 filing fee. Scare up $20, no other requirements, and you too could run around complaining you weren’t included in the debates (hint: if your campaign starts and ends with filing, that might be why). The $100 for Board of Estimate and Taxation might be unfair since they get paid just $20/month (now there’s a charter provision that makes no sense) but for the other offices, hopefully that will cut back on the non-serious candidates. The opposing argument is that not everyone can afford the $500 fee to file for mayor, but if your fundraising is that bad, you’re not a serious candidate. Sticking your name on the ballot isn’t enough. This isn’t a lottery. I felt lousy for the people who were learning this the hard way, as I know or have met some of the “token” or “perennial” candidates, and they’re hardly bad people, but I couldn’t pretend they were serious or deserved to be in the debates. Not that everyone who did get in deserved it, judging from their low single digits percentage of the vote; still, a reasonable requirement for a filing fee or petition will make a point about what candidates are getting themselves into.
City charter amendments are a bit different from state constitutional amendments. State constitutional amendments require a majority of all voters who vote in any race in that election, so those skipping the amendment are counted as “no”, whilst charter amendments are decided by simple majority of those voting on the amendment.
At this time, the Minneapolis DFL has not made an endorsement on either question.