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Rebecca Otto

State Auditor Rebecca Otto on her property in Marine on St. Croix on Friday, January 8, 2016.  (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

State Auditor Rebecca Otto on her property in Marine on St. Croix on Friday, January 8, 2016. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

Professor Michael Mann, the famous climate scientist who produced the Hockey Stick Graph demonstrating that recent anthropogenic global warming is a big deal when viewed in the context of deep time, has endorsed State Auditor Rebecca Otto for governor.

 
This is a national level figure noticing the importance of the Minnesota governor’s race and carefully choosing among the candidates, picking the one that has the best record on climate policy.
 
Here is Dr. Mann’s endorsement:
 

Rebecca Otto is a shining example of the kind of integrity and leadership we hope for in our elected leaders but too rarely see: someone who puts their money where their mouth is.
 
I’m proud to support Rebecca Otto for Governor of Minnesota, and urge everyone who is concerned about climate change and clean energy to join me in supporting her.
 

Michael E. Mann, director of Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, shared with his colleagues the honor of receiving the Nobel Prize awarded to the IPCC and its team for its work on climate science.  Mann and his colleagues Malcolm Hughes and Raymond Bradley produced the famous Hockey Stick Graph in 1998.

Michael E. Mann, director of Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, shared with his colleagues the honor of receiving the Nobel Prize awarded to the IPCC and its team for its work on climate science. Mann and his colleagues Malcolm Hughes and Raymond Bradley produced the famous Hockey Stick Graph in 1998.

After studying the evidence, Rebecca and her husband Shawn became national leaders in charting ways for governments to reduce fossil fuel energy use, and in combating industry propaganda campaigns that sow doubt about the billions of points of evidence that all point in the same direction. As the Minnesota State Auditor, Rebecca issued a nationally award-winning report on how local governments can reduce energy costs dramatically by switching to clean, carbon-free energy sources. Shawn has authored two books on the War on Science, on what the evidence says about climate change, and on how we can combat the disinformation and move forward; he also co-founded the US presidential science debate initiative and was involved in planning the March for Science. The couple built and live in a solar and wind-powered home and drive electric vehicles.

 

Rebecca wants to make Minnesota a national leader in tackling climate change and creating well-paying new jobs in the clean energy economy, and I’m confident she will achieve her goal with our support. We need her leadership to help move the ball forward globally on this pressing issue.

 
This is an appropriate endorsement given Otto’s long term commitment to doing something about global warming. Note that they first built the house decades ago, so this is not a recent short term commitment, but a long term passion.
 
I asked Professor Mann why a climate scientist working in Pennsylvania would worry about a governor’s race in Minnesota. “In climate change, we face a threat that knows no boundaries—continental boundaries, national boundaries, or state boundaries,” he told me. “We must support politicians everywhere who are willing to act on climate. Rebecca Otto has demonstrated that she places great priority on science-based policymaking on climate change and I am happy to support her candidacy.”
 

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State Auditor Rebecca Otto on her farm.  (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

State Auditor Rebecca Otto on her property in Marine on St. Croix on Friday, January 8, 2016. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

Here’s why: All the available data strongly indicates that Otto will beat all the other contenders across state in the upcoming Governor’s race.

 

Democrats have two major problems to face in 2018 and beyond. First, how do we win elections? Second, how do we remain true to our progressive and liberal roots?

 

For Democrats, 2018 is a must-win election, and Minnesotans have a lot at stake. Will the state remain the shining star of the North, or will it go the way of Wisconsin, and sink into a Republican dark age of union busting, environment polluting, professor bashing, service slashing, and economic activity destruction?

 

Of all the candidates running or suspected of running for Governor in 2018, Rebecca Otto is the only one who can most clearly win and at the same time preserve and advance core, human based, Democratic ideals, in my opinion.

 

The smart move for the DFL in 2018 is to turn to a candidate that has won several times statewide and has strong name recognition, positive feeling among the voters engendered by her commitment to widely held values, and a strong base of support. State Auditor Rebecca Otto is the only candidate with that resumé. Otto has racked up several historic victories, including the largest upset of an incumbent in 112 years, and is positioned to do it again in 2018. Her statewide electoral prowess far outstrips her nearest competitor, Tim Walz, who is largely unknown outside of his first district, and is untested statewide. Beyond that, Otto stands for strong for Democratic values, while Walz has shown himself to be a DINO-style Democrat. Walz enjoys a very high rating from the NRA, for example, and in February of 2013 was one of only six Democrats in Congress to vote to expand gun sales to the severely mentally ill, over the objections of senior generals including David Petraeus, Michael Hayden and Stanley McChrystal.

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State DFL’s GOTV tour visits Hopkins

by JeffStrate on October 31, 2014 · 2 comments

Democratic Visions taped some of the action when the DFL’s Get Out the Vote Tour bus visited its Coordinated Campaign office in Hopkins.  State Party Chief Ken Martin, Lt. Gov. candidate Tina Smith, 3 CD congressional candidate Sharon Sund, State Auditor Rebecca Otto and St. Paul Mayor Chris Colemen pumped up the hard working gathered.  Other notables can be spotted behind the speakers.  From Hopkins, the DFL bus headed to Carleton College, Northfield, then to Eagan, Oakdale, Hmong Village on Saint Paul’s eastside and the DFL Office in Frogtown (St. Paul).   Rather than follow the bus of politicos, electeds and worker bees, Dem Vis retreated to its edit bay to assemble this video.  It runs about 9:30.

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rebeccapointing-lgI’ve spoken to a lot of Minnesota DFLer’s (that’s what we call Democrats ’round these parts) about today’s Primary, especially in relation to the auditor’s race. Rebecca Otto, who, full disclosure, I don’t know at all but who’s husband is a friend and colleague, is the incumbent. Rebecca has really put a shine on the Auditor’s office. I understand that the previous auditor, a Republican, pretty much sucked, so that might have made looking good a bit easier for Rebecca, but it can’t be true that all of the other auditors across the country also suck, and the various professional associations that deal with this sort of thing have awarded Rebecca with top level official accolades over and over. So, she is clearly about the best Auditor in the country, and in Minnesota, the best one to come along in a while.
 
Now, it turns out, that two or three of our Governors were formerly Auditors. I don’t know why Auditor would be a stepping stone to Governor, or even, if it really is. That might just be a fluke, like every president elected in a year that ends in zero getting killed or almost killed. The point is, it has become local political folklore that Auditor is a good jumping off point for Governor.
 
So, there’s this guy named Matt Entenza who has run for Governor before. He used to be in the State Legislature. Mostly though, his political career consists of spending huge piles of family money on running races that he loses. I’m pretty sure Matt wants to be be Governor, and he wants it so badly that he is virtually delusional about the prospects. Or, perhaps, he simply has a deep and unabiding disdain for Minnesota voters. He thought he could just spend a lot of his family money on a campaign and unseat a well liked and widely respected incumbent.
 
In Minnesota, we use the Native American system of choosing our candidates by party to run in the general election. No one fully understand the process but it involves a lot of standing around in a special room that you need permission to be in. People join in groups and hold up symbols of their political beliefs and the candidates they support, then move between groups, sometimes combining groups. A Caucus Chief occasionally tells all the people in this or that group that they must disband, and those individuals then join other groups. If a group gets big enough and they are fast enough they can form two groups. The exact number of groups that are formed and their exact configuration can determine who ultimately is chosen by the Caucus. At various points the Caucus is frozen, and tough looking guys working for the Caucus Chief make sure no one crosses certain lines that are sometimes marked on the floor with Duct Tape. It might be unfrozen and refrozen a couple of times, but eventually the Caucus Chief calls an end to it and each of the clusters of people elect a certain number of representatives who are supposed to vote a certain way on the first ballot at a district convention. But no one knows who these people are because the Caucus Chief works for a secret society that maintains all the rules of the caucus system, and runs it, but does not provide any information from it, so the supporters of the various candidates have to rush to one end of the room where those elected by the Caucus groups are required to go to state their name and how they will vote to a group of very old people who can’t hear a thing. The friends of the candidates try to glean the names of the elected ones, and the elected ones often try to interfere with this process, which seems ridiculous because the first thing you get if you are elected is the candidate buys you a cup of coffee later in the week at Caribou or Starbucks.
 
Amazingly, this system works rather well, and eventually produces a set of “endorsed” candidates. Rebecca Otto, who is a successful well liked and widely respected incumbent, was endorsed by the party. Then moments before a special deadline, after the endorsement, this guy Matt Entenza, who really wants to be Governor, filed to run. So there was a primary challenge within the party.
 
Entenza lied and lied and lied. He lied about himself, he lied about Rebecca, he lied about what the Auditor’s job is, he lied about what he would do if elected (we know he lied because he’s not an idiot and he made claims that he would do things that the Auditor simply does not do).
 
So the Primary was today. They are still counting votes as I write this. And, as I said, I have spoken, especially today, to a lot of DFLer’s (Minnesota Democrats.)
 
Most of them strongly support Rebecca Otto and are annoyed at Entenza. I spoke today to one person who said he’d vote for Entenza, and I think maybe his wife was to. I spoke to an Entenza staffer — a paid employee of Matt Entenza’s campaign — who quit a couple of weeks ago “… because Entenza lied to me, he lied to us, we all told him to go to hell …” who is voting for Rebecca.
 
Last time I looked 17% of the vote was counted and Otto was ahead by over 80%. I’m calling it for Otto.

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Rebecca_Otto_Matt_Entenza.jpg

The 2000 election was probably won by Al Gore. But George Bush was put into office anyway. Imagine what this world would be like had Gore been ensconced in the white house? The Tea Party would probably have emerged sooner and madder, but less organized; global climate change would have become a widely accepted issue to do something about within a couple of years, instead of much later (cuz, you know, that hasn’t even happened yet). We probably wouldn’t have had this war in Iraq. If Gore had continued Clinton’s policy dealing with Al Qaida and Osama Bin Laden (no relation) there probably wouldn’t have been a 9/11. I’m sure we’d have other problems, but none of those problems.

 

As you know, national elections are actually handled by states, and states are charmingly diverse in how they do that. For instance, the technology of elections, and what you have to do to prove you are eligible to vote at the polling place, vary across states. But after the 2000 election there was some movement to make the system work better, to implement chad-free technologies, and to update the procedure for determining eligibility.

 

Eventually, of course, the changes got politicized. Everyone knew that Democratic voters and Republican voters are different, not just in their politics or who they vote for, but in how they vote. The Lockstep Party, Republican, is more homogeneous and generally privileged. You want to vote, you stop in at the voting place on the way home from work and vote. You know where it is because it is the church you go to, you have a car so transport and weather are not issues, you have access to information which is all in English and that is your native language, so you know things like when election day is and so on and so forth: Democrats have that too, but being a big tent Democrats also have other folks. Recent immigrants who don’t understand the system, older folks who don’t have a car and have a hard time getting across town, people who don’t happen to go to the well established local church so they don’t even know where it is. Also, among Democrats are people with overt labels as to how they are likely to vote. You can’t wear a button on your shirt declaring your support for a candidate, but you can, say, be black, and therefore visibly less likely to vote for the Republican. This last bit allows people who control the polls to harass or turn away certain voters.

 

At some point in recent history, Republicans got aggressive with strategies that would make it hard for that diverse subset of Democrats to vote. Some of those strategies are just downright dirty and illegal. When I was working on Get Out the Vote for some Democratic Candidates a few years ago I found recent African immigrants, likely Democratic voters, who had been told by Republican operatives that “Republicans vote Tuesday, Democrats vote Wednesday. So go vote Wednesday.” Seriously.

 
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Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 7.34.11 PM

DFL activists and party leaders were both surprised and annoyed when perennial candidate Matt Entenza filed at the very last moment to run for State Auditor against sitting Auditor Rebecca Otto in this year’s primary. He claimed he would fight corporate giveaways at the local level and scrutinize spending on education, addressing the state’s achievement gap. Also, he would be nice to out-state local governments and not favor the Metro, because he was born out-state. Entenza has a habit of running, flush with vast family resources, in DFL primaries and against the party endorsement process, and DFLers have a habit of not responding well. Nearly six million dollars of mainly family money got Entenza third place in a three way race for governor in the 2010 DFL primary.

 

DFL primary voters have to ask themselves three questions on August 12th. First, is Entenza bringing something to the auditor’s office that is valuable? Second, do we need to replace Otto; is she doing a poor job in her position? Third, is Entenza auditor material?

 

Entenza wishes to improve education in Minnesota. This is not actually the Auditor’s job. Also, Auditor Rebecca Otto has an advanced degree in education and a science B.A. and served as a teacher for five years. Otto chaired a successful $55 million levy campaign in a conservative district, and served on the Forest Lake School Board before serving in the State Legislature. She is not only pro education but a highly qualified contributor to that discussion. Entenza wants to make the Auditor more friendly to out-state Minnesota. Otto, however, has a reputation for fair dealing and respectful interaction with all of the municipalities with which she works state wide. Many, from folks on the street with whom I’ve spoken to the Governor, have questioned Entenza’s motive in running for Auditor in the way he has chosen, and a frequent conclusion often said with a wink and a nod is this: He wants to be governor, and sees the Auditor position as a stepping stone to that. The stepping stone hypothesis certainly explains his candidacy better than any of the things he’s said about why he is running.

 

His claim to address government handouts must be a reference to the system of Tax Increment Financing. But TIF is not a government handout. It is a development tool that has positively affected the lives of many Minnesotans. More importantly, TIF, as well as education reform, are policy matters for the legislature and Governor. It seems that Entenza wants to have the job as Auditor so he can be that … the legislature and the Governor. But that is not actually how it works, and it makes me wonder if he really understands what the State Auditor does.

 

We should not be replacing Rebecca Otto. When she came on board, the Auditor’s office had been used as a political tool by the GOP and State-Local Government relations were poor. Otto has been studiously non-partisan and professional in her role, and this has been recognized at a national level. She has the National Excellence in Accountability Award, was elected President of the national State Auditors Association, and was named one of the 15 most influential auditors of all auditors at all levels of government across the entire country (and that is a lot of auditors). She is also the first DFL woman in this position and only one of 7 elected female state auditors in the country. We should be proud of that, not trying to undo it. DFLers know that when they have a top person in a position like this, who chooses to run for re-election, you don’t damage their position by staging an attempt at turnover. That’s not only bad party politics but it is also a negative contribution to governance. Entenza running against a woman who is arguably the top in her field is very difficult to account for.

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Otto Ensures Confidence in Justice

by Grace Kelly on June 14, 2014 · 1 comment

rebeccaottoThe ability of the police to convict on the basis of evidence collected depends on the ability of the jury to trust that evidence. Following best practices of handling evidence is a great way to establish that trust. Rebecca Otto, our State Auditor published a best practices review of evidence handling by Minnesota agencies.

 

At the time of the auditor’s report, local news was featuring scandal by the Metro Gang Force involving evidence handling. Previous Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher attempted to block an audit of financial operations of the Metro Gang Strike Force, which his office has fiscal oversight. Later investigation found mishandled cash and confiscated property. Examiners could not account for more than $18,000 cash and at least 13 vehicles. Unwinding the responsibility led to civil lawsuits and the dissolution of the Metro Gang Strike Force. Sheriff Fletcher lost his next election.

 

The importance of evidence control cannot be overstated. If evidence can be questioned, it not only risks current prosecution cases but every case ever connected to that enforcement agency.

 

The case of a scandal in one Minnesota agency can cause questioning of the nearly 500 other law enforcement agencies in Minnesota. The best practices review by the State Auditor helped restore the public’s trust. In court, compliance with the results of this study is a good way to display evidence integrity.

 
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Otto Ensures Confidence in Energy Savings

by Grace Kelly on June 12, 2014 · 0 comments

 What if you were a County Official who wants to implement energy cost savings measures, but you are not sure if those savings actually come true? It would be ideal to have an independent agency that verified those savings in an actual installation. What a dream!

 

But wait – there is such a study! Our Minnesota State Auditor, Rebecca Otto did such a study. It was a study good enough to be recognized with an award (see image).

 
The mission of the Office of the State Auditor is to oversee local government finances for Minnesota taxpayers. Audits verified the actual energy savings of various energy savings projects. The office also publishes best practices for local governments reducing energy costs.

 

Here are some highlights of verified actual energy savings projects that county officials can emulate:

Over $7,000 a Year Savings For Public Works Truck Bay Energy Retrofit

 

The City [of Minnetonka] replaced metal halide light fixtures with more -efficient super T-8 electronic ballast fixtures. The City incorporated additional energy-saving measures, including motion sensors, light reflective floors, and the increased use of natural daylight… Cumulative energy savings of 145,427 kWh over two years reduced energy costs by $14,898.96.

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Entenza’s Missing Pathways to Governorship

by Grace Kelly on June 10, 2014 · 6 comments

entenza wind turbine

Matt Entenza is running against DFL endorsed and respected Rebecca Otto for State Auditor. The best guess about why Matt Entenza is running for Rebecca Otto’s State Auditor office is that Entenza thinks he needs a stepping-stone office to run for governor in two years. It is hard to imagine Entenza with a burning desire to audit books!

 

If Entenza wins, it isn’t like there are great auditor issues to mine for basis a run for the governorship. Maybe when Republicans were running things in their don’t-pay-the-bills ways, that would have worked. Democrats pay the bills, put aside money for a rainy day and budget. Going after small local government would just look mean. So where is the Governor’s stage in all of this?

 
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At the Last Minute Matt Entenza Picks A Race

by Grace Kelly on June 3, 2014 · 3 comments

entenza wind turbine

At the end of last candidate filing day, it looks like Matt Entenza just picked a race. His website, his twitter account and even the words on his campaign site look very generic. One theory is that he was going to run in the attorney general’s race and then just decided to switch when Andy Dawkins decided to do a Green Party run for attorney general.

 

The description on Matt Entenza’s website does not sound like he totally understands what a state auditor does. For example, Entenza’s website says

 

We need an Auditor … who will go after corporate giveaways at the local level.

 

In St Paul, we have had corporate giveaways where we helped local bars build outdoor patios to ease through the smoking ban. An auditor does not have a say in WHAT we spend money on, only in the way the payment is handled.

 

Here is another example:

 

We need and Auditor who will scrutinize education spending and school budgets, focusing on why Minnesota schools have such a wide achievement gap.

 

What is Matt Entenza expecting to find? Does he think there is a rule where only white kids get certain perks and education from public sources that no other kids get. The real problem in Education spending is the way the last Republican administration borrowed from the schools, causing long term damage. A good audit is just going to tell that the financial damage was bad – duh!

 

This is also strange because Rebecca Otto is just a great auditor. She won a national award for Excellence in Accountability. Furthermore, she has been actively working to set up best practices so all the local government can do better on audits.

 

The best explanation that I have is wind turbine envy. Matt Entenza uses his classic wind turbine picture on his website. Rebecca Otto household runs off of a wind turbine generator. Maybe this is a wind turbine contest.

 

Update: The facebook announcement has been taken down after many negative comments and unfriendings. The Twitter account is not available for public viewing. The commentary on private email lists is all strongly pro-Otto. In fact, I have rarely seen DFLers so united and upset. Mondale came out in support of Rebecca Otto last night. Both newspapers mentioned that Entenza financed the last campaign with his own money, implying that Entenza could run without any support. None of these developments bode well for the Entenza campaign. Will Entenza withdraw in this two day period?

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