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SWLRT: Spring 2017 Update

by JeffStrate on May 15, 2017 · 0 comments


The new edition of Democratic Visions features an update on the funding status of Southwest Light Rail (SWLRT) from local sources and the Federal Transportation Administration. It’s complicated, but Met Council Member and public transit champion Jennifer Munt makes it understandable. Munt represents Met Council Dist. 3 which includes west metro cities in the Lake Minnetonka area including Eden Prairie and Minnetonka through which the Green Line extension and its passenger stations will be built.


I here share a few thoughts of my own. The snippy cult of opponents to the Southwest Light Rail project, based along what had been a freight rail line and switching yard between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles (Minneapolis), with its nuisance environmental law suit continues to generate copy for MinnPost and the StarTribune. The NIMBYs, some of whom are, reportedly, influential Democrats, are encouraged by Republican legislators including House Speaker Kurt Daudt, Senate President Michelle Fischbach, and transportation committee chairs Paul Torkelson, Linda Runbeck and Scott Newman. For their own purposes, these GOPers have deceitfully re-branded SWLRT into a wedge issue about the cost of light rail, funding priorities and urban/rural inequity. Their shenanigans have generated even more copy at MinnPost and The Strib whose news and editorial sections love to show renderings of various plans of the new bridge that will cross the channel between Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake.  It’s as if Southwest Light Rail has no other importance.  Here’s one of those renderings.

One of several design plans that have been considered or the light rail transit bridge in the Kenilworth Corridor.

One of several design plans that have been considered for the light rail transit bridge in the Kenilworth Corridor.

Would that the photo editors at the StarTribune and MinnPost select other SWLRT images.  There are scores of them: stations, bridges, parking ramps and landscaping plans along the alignment through Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie. Believe it or not, the Green Line Extension beyond the Kenilworth Corridor actually edges North Minneapolis and penetrates job rich centers in the south west ‘burbs.  But maybe selecting images from a Met Council or city website on a desktop or laptop is really, really difficult, maybe even exhausting.  But maybe not.   I found these pics earlier today in about 15 minutes.



Overcoming Minnesota’s humor-challenged media

by JeffStrate on March 14, 2016 · 0 comments

Gov. Christie and The Donald

As Seen on TV

Our times are blessed with the most knowing, sharpest and laugh generating political satire since, well, maybe ever.  At least three minutes a week of Saturday Night Live earn occasional rank with more dependable flame and cream pie throwers John Oliver (Last Week Tonight-HBO), Bill Maher (Real Time with Bill Maher-HBO),  Trevor Noah (The Daily Show-Comedy Central), and the heritage TV net boys Fallon, Colbert, Kimmel, Meyers, et. al.   On-line, The Young Turks, The Onion, and Deep Rogue Ram (Vancouver) and hundreds more are uploading stuff.  The big players are pumped with teams of writers who get paid.  So too, some of the less dependable, online spit ballers.
Minnesota electronic media falls flat on political humor.  The guy with the cartoons on TPT’s Almanac and most of that weekly’s ‘humorists are very self-aware, limp and Saran-wrapped for consumption by Crocus Hill donors.  The annual roasts put on by MinnPost for raising bucks have the bite and wit of Almanac.  The highlight videos of these well-meaning MinnPost attempts at insider, comedy sketches are just brassy camouflage for humor-challenged, aging, media types.  When Keillor and his possums are the only ones in broadcast and broadband land serving up slices of tangy Minnesota onion, ones garnished with whimsy, we turn to, say, Sid Hartman.
Democratic Visions, a modest cable access show with no budget, occasionally pours vinegar on the life political.  In the past, MPP co-birther Eric Pusey has uncorked his incredulity to amusing affect.  In the months to come, retired KQ Morning Show, token liberal, Mike “Stretch” Gelfand and improv humorist Jon Spade will serve up encores.   Bruce Baird, however, makes his TV debut right here and now on Democratic Visions.  He and I react to Republican presidential candidate ads.  Being the Ed Wood of Minnesota political issues television, I am grateful to be of service to the progressive community.


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The first Dem challenger to emerge against Bachmann in the ultraconservative Sixth District is Anne Nolan, a pro-life Occupy Wall Street-inspired candidate. (Yeah, really.)

MinnPost columnist Eric Black on Nolan’s chances of winning the Sixth District, today:

The one DFLer who has so far indicated she will run is Ann Nolan of St. Cloud, an attorney who has twice run unsuccessfully for the Legislature. You never know, but her entry is unlikely to put Bachmann onto the national race-watchers list of endangered incumbents.

In her introductory interview with the St. Cloud Times, Nolan said she has been inspired by Occupy Wall Street and sees the campaign as a “real opportunity for a candidate to raise the economic issues that the Occupy movement is talking about.”  This is not a line that a professional messaging specialist would have recommended for use in that particular district. But it’s a free country.

So–journalist Eric Black looks at the voting demographic in the Sixth District and comes away with the same impression I wrote about on this blog yesterday. Maybe he’s following MPP these days.

But it’s more likely that Black looked at the same fact pattern and came away with the same conclusion: running as an Occupy Wall Street inspired candidate in Minnesota’s most conservative congressional district is a tough row to hoe.

As I wrote yesterday (twice, in the same post) my own position is: “I don’t know what to tell you.” And my position on who to support–is the same as it’s always been. I’ll support the Bachmann challenger who has the strongest chance of beating Bachmann–provided her strongest challenger isn’t to the right of Michele Bachmann (Hey, that’s an actual possibility in the paranoid Sixth District.)

And I have another position that hasn’t changed since 2006: the Democrats in this state have never understood how important it is to defeat Michele Bachmann. She’s a linchpin of the nuthouse politics that have infected the elected officials of the right in Minnesota.

I’ve written about that regularly for more than six years. Even before Bachmann was elected to Congress, I’d pointed out that Bachmann success would inspire and drive little Bachmann imitators who would enter government in GOP-friendly districts and emulate her agenda and “message.”

That happened. My regular warnings fell on deaf ears. And it’s apparent that there are still a lot of people out there determined to remain stone deaf on this issue.

And (sigh) here it is again, another long-held position of mine: the Dem candidate facing Bachmann should run a campaign that can damage Bachmann’s future electability. The Bachmann challenger should use the candidacy to force Minnesota media to confront and document Bachmann’s career-long legacy of extremism and lies.

Because the rise of extremism and the agenda of the ultra-right in the MN GOP–has never been “just a Sixth District” issue.



As can be expected, Doug Grow gets it wrong again. A 100% Obama preferential vote is not guaranteed nor is it expected. I expect that Doug Grow is merely being a stenographer for Republican talking points again. In Minnesota, “Uncommitted” is valued vote. Indeed the traditional hold-out votes in any national endorsement tends to come from Minnesota. Just to hold the president accountable, you can expect that at least some of the DFL will vote “Uncommitted.” Either Doug Grow just means to set up impossible false expectations here or he really does not understand that “Uncommitted” is a valid vote. Here is the quote:

DFLers will be voting 100 percent for President Barack Obama.
(Doug Grow at MinnPost)

The presidential votes will be used as input to help determine the number of “Obama” and “Uncommitted” delegates to the national convention. The actual delegates will be elected by congressional and state conventions. The Minnesota DFL preserves the rights of minority through proportional representation, which means if there are enough “Uncommitted” votes to have even a single delegate, then “Uncommitted” will be represented. So every possible write-in candidate has representation through “Uncommitted.”

I attempted to post this correction as a comment on the actual MinnPost article, it has not yet been approved. Update, the comment is now accepted.


Vin Weber agreed to an interview with MinnPost about why Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign failed.  As if it wasn’t obvious.  But maybe to some people it isn’t obvious.

The Pawlenty campaign failed because Tim Pawlenty has no charisma.

The article is pretty funny in terms of what questions weren’t asked.  I wonder if part of the terms for the interview were to not ask certain questions.

Questions like:

  1. Who thought it would be a good idea to back down at the New Hampshire debate from the ObamneyCare attack on Mitt Romney?
  2. Why was the campaign so schizophrenic?
  3. Did you ever consider doping or blood transfusions as a means to getting some charisma for your candidate?

Okay … that last one would’ve just pissed Weber off, but the first two are legitimate.

Unlike Sarah Palin, Pawlenty only had one shot at making a bad impression.  National Republican politics are littered with the skeletons of GOP Governors who blew their chance.  Mark Sanford?  Anyone remember Gov Bobby Jindal’s uber-bubbly response to an Obama State of the Union Address?

The weekend before the New Hampshire debate, Pawlenty called health care reform ObamneyCare.  An obvious attack on Mitt Romney’s health care reform in Massachusetts which Repbulicans who despise Mittens consider comparable to Obama’s health care reform bill.  So why would a campaign decide to back off an attack when they could do real damage to an opponent?

Did Pawlenty forget that he really only wanted to be the VP pick when he attacked Romney in the first place?

This question about attacking Romney gets to the real question I would have asked.  Why was the campaign so schizophrenic?
They seemed to veer from the Conservative from a Liberal State to the fire-breathing right wing demagogue to the reasonable, pragmatic conservative who gets things done to the whimpering wet noodle with no seeming plan.

If the plan was, as Weber claims, to play Pawlenty as a reasonable alternative to the Reunion of Batman Villains that took the stage in the New Hampshire debate, why did he even bother to try and woo the right wing christian extremist that Bachmann already had locked up?

Another example of horrific planning was having Pawlenty speak at the Cato Institute.  He bombed.  

The Cato Institute is the leading libertarian think tank in America.  Pawlenty is nearly the polar opposite of libertarian.

More than one Cato representative called the remarks “disappointing.” Cato Executive Vice-President David Boaz said Cato put a copy of a report in Pawlenty’s hands that reflects their position on defense spending, “with the hope we can change his mind.” Cato has consistently argued for a severe reduction in military interventions which would, in turn, require fewer service members, less equipment and lower operating costs.

Cato President Ed Crane, who was visibly irritated at multiple points during Pawlenty’s presentation, simultaneously explained why Pawlenty saw Cato as an attractive option and why the two are a mismatch.

Finally, what about Pawlenty’s lack of charisma?  A Republican governor of a liberal stated doesn’t necessarily doom a candidate amongst the teabaggers, religious extremists and libertarians that make up the Republican party base.

Republicans love the cult of personality.  And this was essential to understanding Pawlenty’s failure.  The campaign’s weakest link was the candidate himself.  My guess is the campaign was always desperate.  My guess is they tried anything they could think of as means to gain any kind of positive attention because their candidate couldn’t stand on his own very well.

Of course, Weber would never have addressed any topic like this.


MinnPost gets into the polling game

by TonyAngelo on July 29, 2011 · 0 comments

MinnPost PollCiting a lack of other news organizations polling about the state of opinion in Minnesota in the post-shutdown environment MinnPost decided to run with that ball and commissioned themselves a poll.

MinnPost (7/28, all Minnesotans):

Who do you think is most responsible for the budget crisis and shutdown?

Governor Dayton: 21
Republicans in the Legislature: 42
Both (volunteered): 22
No opinion: 15
(MoE: ±4.8%)

There’s not really much to parse in these results, 64% of respondents blame the GOP while 43% blame Governor Dayton, supporting the impression I had that the public was siding with Dayton.

Which approach would you rather see used to balance the state budget: Use spending cuts only, or use a combination of spending cuts and tax increases?

Spending cuts only: 23
Tax increases only: 5
A combination of spending cuts and tax increases: 66
No opinion: 6
(MoE: ±4.8%)

This is exactly the question that KSTP/SurveyUSA should have asked back in their silly June poll, and hey look at the results, 71% of Minnesotans support a solution that includes tax increases. Those are voter ID numbers!

Will the state budget situation and shutdown make you more likely to vote for Republicans in the 2012 election for state legislature, more likely to vote for Democrats, or will not effect your vote at all?

More likely to vote GOP: 17
More likely to vote DFL: 30
Not effect my vote: 42
No opinion: 11
(MoE: ±4.8%)

The way this breaks down in the cross-tabs is that independents mimic the top line numbers rather closely, with 29% of them saying they are more likely to vote for DFLers and 13% saying they are more likely to vote GOP.

Considering the razor thin margins that many GOPers won by in 2012, these can not be comforting numbers for them.

The big caveat of this poll is the total lack of any screening whatsoever, it’s sample frame is the entire population of the state. I have no issues with a poll of registered voters (as opposed to likely voters) this far from an election, but to apply no screen whatsoever, means that this polls utility in making political predictions is somewhat limited.


Random Story Roundup

by TonyAngelo on April 1, 2011 · 0 comments

It’s Friday, you know what that means don’t you? Partying, partying and fun, fun, fun.

I couldn’t resist that one on April fools day.

Now that you’re in the proper frame of mind, on to the random goodness!

  • Politico reported earlier in the week that former Senator Norm Coleman wasn’t too bullish on the GOPs chances of taking Amy Klobuchar’s Senate seat.
    I think it could be a tough year. She’s certainly strong. She’s got good numbers and good support. She hasn’t been a very polarizing force. Clearly, that’s going to be a challenge.

    Did I say “wasn’t too bullish?” From an insider like Coleman the above quote is about as close as you’re likely to get to “we don’t have a snowballs chance in hell.”

  • – In November Nancy Reagan announced that the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, along with NBC and Politico, would host the first of the Republican Presidential nomination debates.

    Since than no one has actually announced they are running, at least no one anyone is taking seriously, leaving debate organizers in a dilemma, either they let the Bachmann’s and Cain’s of the GOP have the stage to themselves or they postpone the event until some actual candidates emerge.

    Not surprisingly they decided to postpone.

  • its_oshea posted another redistricting map on Thursday, this time trying out the Republican dream map of combining Minneapolis and St. Paul into one district.

    If you’re keeping track at home the map score is now; its_oshea: 2, me: 0. (Did I punctuate that correctly? Probably not.) What that means is I need to draw some maps!

  • – Minnpost has a great article about Mark Dayton’s appearance at a North Minneapolis Economic Summit on Wednesday. As Mayor Coleman said at Drinking Liberally the other week, TGFM (Thank God for Mark).
  • – Another MinnPost link, Steve Berg has an excellent article about population growth patterns or lack thereof, in the Twin Cities and how it hurts the whole region.

    This is from Berg’s correspondence with Bruce Katz, of the Brookings Institution:

    This is an unfortunate trend for a host of economic, fiscal, environmental and social reasons. Economic, because strong central cores enhance the ability of metros to attract and retain talented workers and innovative firms, yield real benefits associated with density and allow metros the reap the full returns on prior investments.

    Fiscal, because population (and job) dispersion across fragmented metro areas raise the cost of building and maintaining infrastructure and delivering basic services and lead to immense fiscal disparities (mitigated to some extent in MSP by tax sharing).

    Environmental, because population and job dispersion lengthen commutes, increase greenhouse gas emissions, and degrade land. In some metros, there are enormous issues associated with water scarcity.

    As for social, the dominant trend is the increasing suburbanization of poverty – which presents enormous challenges for the delivery of social programs and resources given low capacity and high demand in changing communities.

    It’s an excellent piece, check it out.


Something unprecedented is happening in the world of Minnesota journalism.  Someone else has agreed with me that the Star Tribune’s coverage of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is crap.  MinnPost’s David Brauer and the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) criticized Strib reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger’s coverage of Bachmann’s weekend trip to Iowa weekend before last.  Bachmann visited Iowa to get her 2012 Presidential bid going.

The CJR was alerted to Bachmann’s visit and Stassen-Berger’s shoddy coverage by Brauer.  CJR had this to say:

Mid-story, the Tribune reports, in passing, that “Democrats deride [Bachmann] as… factually challenged.” (I’m just passing along some other politicians’ claims about the veracity of this politician’s claims. Yes, I’m a reporter from Bachmann’s home state so I should be in a particularly good position to tell readers whether “factually challenged” is a fair description of the Congresswoman or just an unfounded Democratic dis. But, moving on….) A few sentences later it is confirmed: there will be no fact-challenging (of the “factually challenged”) here (emphasis mine):
On Friday, [Bachmann] largely avoided the specific political statements that have won her attention. Instead, she stayed in storyteller mode….

But she did throw out some strong opinions, saying that the federal government owns half of the country’s mortgages, that the Medicare trust fund will go “flat broke” in six years and that Barack Obama has accumulated more debt in one year than all past presidents combined.

But these aren’t so much “strong opinions” as they are factual (-sounding) assertions that a reporter should, in addition to writing down, verify or correct or flesh out for readers.

The Strib should feel shame over this.  I would hope that getting chastised by the CJR might get them to start behaving like actual journalists when they cover Bachmann.  But I won’t hold my breath.

{ 1 comment }

SurveyUSA polls the Governor’s race again

by TonyAngelo on November 15, 2010 · 2 comments

SurveyUSA (11/10, 10/28 in parentheses):

Mark Dayton (D): 45 (39)
Tom Emmer (R): 44 (38)
Tom Horner (I): 9 (13)
Undecided: 1 (6)
(MoE: ±3%)

KSTP decided that it would be fun to resurvey the Minnesota Governor’s race, you know, now that we know the outcome and everything.

What they found was confirmation of what happened and although we have actual ballots to tell us Mark Dayton won, the ballots don’t tell us about some of the underlying numbers that this poll sheds a little light on.
Umm, that’s not right

David Brauer of MinnPost already pointed out the most glaring aspect of the poll:

The 1,400-person poll’s very first question: “Did you vote in Tuesday’s election for Minnesota’s governor?” 81 percent said yes.

The actual figure: 58 percent.

That’s a 23 point miss, no small amount of error, leading Brauer to believe that more than a few Minnesotans were less than honest about their civic mindedness.

But given SUSA’s general accuracy this cycle, a simpler scenario is that people fibbed. Researchers call it a “socially desirable response” – you’re likelier to tell a stranger (or, in this robo-poll, a stranger’s recorded voice) that you did your civic duty.

I’m not so sure this is what is going on.

For one thing, Nate Silver has found evidence that the “socially desirable response” effect is diminished when the poll is conducted by an automated pollster.

Automated polls have sometimes shown relatively lower levels support for gay marriage initiatives, for instance, in states like Maine and California. Homophobia is fairly common, but has become socially undesirable; the purveyors of the automated polls have sometimes claimed that their respondents are free to be more honest when there’s not another human being on the line.

If this is true then voters shouldn’t have as much trouble admitting to an automated script that they didn’t vote. This means there is another factor at work here and the most likely culprit is non-response bias.

In short, the people who actually pick up the phone for the pollsters call, stay on the phone once they realize it’s a pollster calling and subsequently complete the survey are more likely to be people who also voted.

If you’re not willing to go vote, you’re also probably not willing to talk to a pollster about how you didn’t go vote. On the other hand, if you did go vote you’re more likely to want to talk to a pollster about voting.

This kind of non-response bias is actually helpful to pollsters when conducting polls before an election. That’s because who a pollster considers a likely voter is a big part of how accurate a poll will be and this non-response bias helps to sift out those who are unlikely to vote.

But when doing this type of post election survey, non-response bias can lead to weird results like this. It’s hard to say what exactly is driving the 23 point gap between the poll and reality, but I don’t think it’s because 23% of Minnesotan’s are lying liars, although I don’t doubt that some are.

That said, for that sake of this analysis I’m going to assume that the underlying numbers are valid, but feel free to take it with a grain of salt if not a shaker.

Assuming Minnesotan’s are not lying liars

Tom Emmer lost the election in June

The last question that SUSA asked in the survey was this one:

What do you think is the best way to balance the state budget? Raise taxes? Cut spending? Or both?

Raise Taxes: 6
Cut Spending: 59
Both: 32
Not Sure: 3
(MoE: ±2.6%)

If we add up all the responses except “Cut spending,” we get 41, which is less than the amount of people who said they voted for Mark Dayton. Put another way, 59% of respondents said they supported Tom Emmer’s position on how to balance the budget, but only 44% of those people said they voted for him.

Apparently 15% of respondents supported Tom Emmers position on the budget, his most clear and consistent message, and yet didn’t vote for him.

It’s apparent that Tom Emmer’s image never recovered from the hit it took early on with the tip credit fiasco and other such gaffes. Even though he consistently pushed the “cut spending” message, people weren’t able to get past their initial negative feelings about him.

The enthusiasm gap

The partisan numbers of those who voted sheds a little light on why Democrats lost the Minnesota House and Senate.

Group: Those who voted/Didn’t vote

All Voters: 81/19
Democrat: 77/22
Republican: 91/9
Indy: 80/20

As we already knew, Republicans turned out in greater numbers than Democrats and Independents, and that appears to have been the primary difference in a number of close races.

Who did Horner hurt?

Of course the big news out of this poll, is that Horner took more votes from Mark Dayton than from Tom Emmer. KSTP featured this aspect of the poll in their headline:

KSTP/SurveyUSA Poll: Horner Drew More Votes From Dayton

That headline is another thing that Brauer takes issue with and he should.

This particular question in the poll, which was asked of those who said they voted for Horner has an astronomical 9.9% margin of error. This is because those who said they voted for Horner only make up 9% of the sample.

The poll shows those Horner voters breaking for Mark Dayton 37-29, but that is an eight point margin, falling within the question’s margin of error, meaning you should be careful drawing any sort of sweeping conclusions from it, like the above headline.

Choice of Headlines

David Brauer is right to question KSTP’s choice of headline, unfortunately the article he uses to pose this question has headline problems of it’s own.

“Did Minnesotan’s lie to KSTP’s pollster?” is no better than “Horner Drew More Votes From Dayton” because both are specious claims. And yes, I can see the question mark that Brauer put in his headline, but the content of the article purports to provide the answer to the question posed while I don’t believe that it does. Not the correct answer at least.


A poll like this is not really useful for the topline numbers it provides, we had an election for that. Rather, if the topline numbers roughly match the real numbers, as they do in this case, the underlying data will provide some useful information.

The crosstabs on the topline numbers, for instance, will offer insights that can’t be gleaned from the ballots alone. Even the questions asked of Horner voters, at a 9.9% MoE can provide some useful info if put into the proper perspective.

The usefulness of this poll is that it helps to confirm some of the speculation as to what happened on election day. Republicans turned out in droves, and despite that Tom Emmer couldn’t recover from his awful introduction to Minnesota voters even though his message resonated with people.


Fox9/Ritchie Interview. Dave Moore Sunday

by JeffStrate on November 5, 2010 · 2 comments

David Brauer’s negative take on the weird and abrasive interview conducted by Channel 9 News anchor  Heidi Collins of Secretary of State Mark Ritchie  has prompted 23 comments at MinnPost.com.  


I saw the interview about vote counting and a possible gubernatorial recount play out live.  Collins is offensive, misinformed and self-serving but with less telegenic magnetism than, say,  Bill O’Reilly.  Mark Ritchie prevailed over the interruptions and  indignities with alert civility, just as he had as a candidate.   I hope Collins’ newsroom  colleagues were embarrassed.   I know their bosses aren’t.   They’ve posted the interview on their FOX9 website:

Remember when Channel 4 news anchor Dave Moore made it impossible for his competitors to be anything but informed, civil, adult-like and engaging?   Do you miss Dave?

Well, this Sunday on Democratic Visions you can see and hear Dave Moore again.   I interviewed Dave on video tape in 1988 for a cabaret show I was mounting for home sick Minnesotans living n New York City.   Dave talks about television journalism, the Bedtime Newz and weatherman Bud Krahling.

I have included the never-before-broadcast interview in a limited-run, post-election Democratic Visions special that will only be seen on Comcast Channel 15 this Sunday at 9 p.m. in Richfield, Edina, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Hopkins,  

Sunday’s program also includes vintage bits with humorist Allen Brookins-Brown and Timid Video Theater.    Timid Video Theater first appeared on KTCA-TV in the late 1970’s with such titles as “The Bonic Governor,” “Bowling for Tenure,” and “Attack of the Burger Pods.”   Timid Video Theater operates these days out of Eden Prairie.

MPP’s Joe Bodell, The Cukcingstool’s Steven Timmer and MPP blogger Tommy Johnson join Democratic Vision host Tim O’Brien on Wednesday November 10 for the remainder of November.  By that time you’ll have known full well what their takes on the midterms are, but you’ll be delighted to see how telegenic bloggers can be in a TV studio.

Democratic Visions is produced by Senate District 42.