Sunday, October 24, 2004

Art show - pie - Stephanie's ducks etc.

Thursday before the Carleton forum, my campaign manager and I made a stop at the "Voice Your Vote" exhibit at St. Olaf.

I ran into St. Olaf artist Mac Gimse and Steve and Jennifer Edwins who wished me well in the coming election. We all noted with interest that the exhibit included a slice of pie for each visitor to the exhibit.

When I questioned the students who were serving it up, they had no knowledge of the pie-gate episode, and got a chuckle out of it. Republicans are still complaining and whining about it when a good reading of the law will show they have nothing to complain about, well, maybe from their perspective they can complain about the amendment adding the language that makes my serving pie perfectly legal. All of which reminds me of Stephanie Henricksen and the pie art poster she made for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts exhibit

on the 'Art of Democracy'. Her work featured Steve Sviggum shouting over a large piece of pie in the foreground "David Bly, YOU MAY SERVE NO PIE!" I blogged about it earlier this month.

A sad note about Stephanie, who recently was the victim of what might be described as a terrorist act. She came home from church and errands around town to find that her domestic ducks, mostly white, had been shot, according to her husband David, probably with .22 caliber long rifle. A vehicle with large tires, likely a truck or SUV, pulled onto the side of the road, and someone got out and shot the ducks. The ducks were along the base of her split rail fence at the edge of her property and most of them were killed like the sitting ducks that they were. They are very sociable free range ducks that she keeps in at night, and they've had the run of her farm for 12-15 years. "No one has ever shot at my ducks before," she said. The sheriff checked with the neighbors and filed a report. The DNR has been notified and the new conservation officer is expected to be on the job starting this weekend. Stephanie is disheartened, "Why me? Why now? Why today? Was it that it was the pheasant opener? Was it my signs for Democratic candidates at the end of my drive? Was it my editorial in the Northfield News?"

College students - future oriented

Finally, the final days of my campaign I have been spending a fair amount of time with college students. What a tonic! It's wonderful to catch their idealism and optimism about the future even in the face of the fact that our generation through the President's policies are sticking them with a world they don't deserve and a huge debt they will end up paying unless we change our course.
Which got me thinking about Elmer Andersen again. After acknowledging he did not support the president's premature invasion of Iraq, Elmer L. Andersen said, "while giving our leaders the support they need to carry on a difficult mission, we shouldn't go overboard in restricting fundamental rights of our own people. It's going to be a difficult time."

I think there's a certain American spirit that is called forth by necessity, frequently in trying situations . . . it's part of my own belief that in every incident, there's something to be learned. When something happens that seems to be a tragedy or a disappointment, there is something to be learned. When something happens that seems to be a tragedy or a disappointment, there is a something to turn to advantage . . . any person can make a difference, any person can add to the culture of the country, any person can add to the happiness of the unfortunate. If we all do what we can where we can, the we'll have a good country. I think it was Eisenhower who said, "America will be great as long as it is good. If she ceases to be good, she'll cease to be great."

These are the words of a great Minnesotan, a youthful voice in a wise and aged heart. as inspiring as the young people I have been visiting with.


Economic development - zero sum game

Friday, I heard Art Rolnick, Senior Vice President and Director of Research Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, speak at the Education Minnesota Conference. His topic was "Early Childhood Education - Economic development with a real return." He has spent the last ten years studying the research on a variety of forms of economic development and has concluded that investment in Early Childhood programs for at-risk families pays the best return of any economic development plan. Like Elmer Anderson, Rolnick was very critical of schemes he described as zero sum games, where businesses vie for tax incentives from various states or communities to encourage them to expand or resettle. These schemes may result in jobs in one community but at the same time represent job losses some where else, hence the zero sum game. These 'local economic development' schemes also result in communities forfeiting funds meant for public purposes to private hands, with little overall return to the public. Who benefits? The public doesn't, local government doesn't, it's the corporation. As Anderson noted, taxes are not the reason a company chooses one community over another.

To make his point about education he gave an economic history of the state.

Minnesota's Economy
1920 - Minnesota was well below the national for per capita income and production of goods and services
1957 - We start to do better Why? We've made a serious commitment to invest in education.
1974 - With further improvements in education funding Minnesota betters its neighbors in income and product.
2004 - Minnesota has one of the best economies in the world.

In the 1970s, the investment in education paid a 30 to 40% premium, and now that premium on the investment is 80%. Across the globe the key to sound economic development is education, from birth to age 18+

Not welfare but economic development

Rolnick described three or four 30 year longitudinal studies that looked at the positive effects of early childhood programs on at-risk families. In particular, he mentioned the Ypsilanti Study that showed:

In analyzing the data collected at age 27, research staff found the following major differences favoring the 27-year-olds who had been enrolled in High/Scope's active learning preschool program:

Social responsibility. By age 27, only one fifth as many preschool program group members as no-preschool program group members had been arrested five or more times (7% vs. 35%), and only one third as many had ever been arrested for drug dealing (7% vs. 25%).

Earnings and economic status. At age 27, four times as many preschool program group members as no-preschool program group members earned $2,000 or more per month (29% vs. 7%). Almost three times as many preschool program group members as no-preschool program group members owned their own homes (36% vs. 13%); and over twice as many owned second cars (30% vs. 13%). Only three fourths as many preschool program group members as no-preschool program group members received welfare assistance or other social services at some time as adults (59% vs. 80%).

Educational performance. Almost a third again as many preschool program group members as no-preschool program group members graduated from regular or adult high school or received General Education Development certification (71% vs. 54%). Earlier in the study, the preschool program group had significantly higher average achievement scores at age 14 and literacy scores at age 19 than the no-preschool program group.

Commitment to marriage. Although the same percentage of preschool program males and no-preschool program males were married (26%), the preschool program males had been married nearly twice as long as no-preschool program males (averages of 6.2 years vs. 3.3 years). Five times as many preschool program females as no-program females were married at the time of the age-27 interview (40% vs. 8%). Further, preschool program females had only about two thirds as many out-of-wedlock births as no-preschool program females (57% vs. 83%).

These findings indicate that a high-quality preschool program, such as High/Scope's, can significantly increase children's future contributions to families and society. The key, as Rolnick points out, was that these are family programs that guide the whole family, not just the child. Rolnick and his partner Rob Grunewald looked at the data and calculated a rate of return for this public investment. They determined it brought a 12% economic return in savings because money did not have to be spent on law enforcement and penal institutions, resulting savings in welfare and special education.

"Only 50% of Minnesota preschoolers," Rolnick says, "are ready for school and 30% barely know their name. An investment to help prepare them for school would go along way in staving off costs later on." To remedy this, he proposes the establishment of a 1.5 billion dollar trust fund that could be used offer scholarships to 3 year olds and their families who met an at risk criteria. Do we have the money? Rolnick says the Minnesota gross state product is $200 Billion, and he is busy talking to State and Federal Government officials and corporate heads to put together a package that would include investments of $.5 billion each from the State, Federal Government and the private sector to get to that $1.5 billion endowment. Rolnick also mentioned that the Itasca Project, a group of CEOs, are also looking at the early childhood issue.

Another testament to one of Minnesota's strengths: a commitment to facing up to the problems before us and solving them.

After his talk, I asked him for some grant suggestions to help us with our parenting program in Northfield and he gave me some suggestions and encouragement with our program. We had a brief talk about the upcoming campaign, and he said, noting my Kerry button, "Oh, you're a Democrat, we need you in there," and wished me the best in the election.


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Will the real Elmer please stand up?

Thursday evening I participated in a candidate forum at Carleton College, organized by David Holman of the Wellstone House of Organization and Activism.

The many attendees were witness to a good discussion from city, county, and school board candidates, and the House 25B candidates, Rep. Ray Cox and myself. Roy Grow was the moderator and was very fair and even-handed in the way he conducted the forum. He remarked at the end about our good behavior, and I wonder if he had been expecting something different.

Ray made the clearest statement I have yet to hear him make, where he both acknowledged and defended his Republican voting record. He stated his belief was that the 'sky was not falling,' that the budget cuts that were made were good cuts, and the budget was balanced in a fair way.

Ray Cox again defended his co-authoring of the Mesaba 2,000 megawatt power plant saying that the coal gasification process was sound because it would prevent mercury pollution. The science is still out on such a huge project, it has only been used in 200-300MW sizes, and it is not known how well the process will do in protecting the environment from dangerous pollutants such as mercury because the mercury removal technology is still at an experimental stage. I've also learned that the consultant that testified at the capitol about mercury emissions of the plant, ICF, was the same one that the Dept. of Commerce demonstrated had underestimated mercury emissions by 65% in a transmission line proceeding before the Environmental Quality Board. Ray did not address the problems posed by the legislature's exemption of the plant and its transmission from Certificate of Need review, giving a private interest eminent domain, mandating a power purchase agreement because there is no market for the electricity, and the giving away of $10 million from the renewable energy fund which is now in dispute at the Public Utilities Commission. The bottom line of this project is that according to industry projections this is energy we don't need, it uses public moneys in a time of extreme scarcity to help a private company to produce a massive amount of energy that can only be delivered to market over massive power lines through bulk power transfer that will put the environment and our power grid at risk, and although it's an independent power producer, they'll try to bill the rate payers for the transmission line upgrades. This commitment to over one billion dollars in infrastructure is putting private interest ahead of the public good, and once it's spent, we can't get our money back.

Ray went on to argue that the budget cuts that were made got rid of waste ultimately that will result in making the state more efficient. I would like to know specifics, such as what cuts he's referring to when he speaks of waste, what programs were inefficient, because the programs that I know of that were cut are crucial programs that we are dependent on. What local government funding was extravagant or unnecessary?

Answering the same question I indicated I thought the budget passed by the legislature and the Governor was 'horrible, horrible' because it did not deal with the realities we face, it was not balanced, and it puts our state budget into deficits for perhaps the next seven years. Nineteen million dollars was cut from child care support, 38,000 lost their health care through Minnesota Care, local governments lost funding and had to raise taxes, schools have had to cut programs and lay off teachers. State aid to college students was reduced and college tuition went up, which is now being felt at MnSCU, which had its first decrease in enrollment this quarter and students are saying they are having a difficult time paying the double digit tuition hikes. Some of these cuts cannot be restored, the tobacco endowment was used to balance the budget, unfairly regressive fees and surcharges were put in place, and cost shifts put an increased financial burden on residential, middle and lower class and future taxpayers. An attempt on the part of DFLers that would have equalized the now lopsided tax code was turned away.

Perhaps the sky is not falling, but the '03 budget has hurt us as a state like the Chinese torture called 'death by a thousand cuts' and there is more to come. I do not see any basis for Rep. Cox's talk that things are just fine and that we will be better when our earning power and state services sink to a level equal with our neighboring states. Rep. Cox has publicly said at two or more forums that we must not equalize the tax rate paid by the rich, which I promote, because he claims, we risk forcing the richest Minnesotans to leave the state if we ask them to pay their fair share. But he is not apparently worried about nursing home residents, or schools, or local governments, people who drive on roads, or minimum wage earners, and apparently does not understand that the very rich became rich and have been living in Minnesota and the U.S. under far higher tax rates, they prospered through that, gained from the services and infrastructure provided by taxes and prospered. Isn't that prosperity what we're after here? Wouldn’t that mean that we were doing something right?

Ray writes in a recent letter to the editor, that he just wants to return to the legislature to finish work improving schools and so on. Considering what's been done I'm not sure we can afford to send him back. Ray also makes the claim he is a moderate much like Elmer Anderson, a former Republican Governor of the state.

In his book I Trust to be Believed former Governor Elmer Anderson writes,
People need quality services from government, and the way to provide them is through industrial development. Industrial development is built around education and investment in people, not tax cuts. Anyone who knows business knows that taxes are really not the issue that decides where firms locate. The crucial issue, after consideration of market, is the adequacy of the available workforce. An industry surrounding new development goes where people are trained and skilled in that development. The firms that choose low tax states are those that can tolerate poor education because they rely on low-wage, unskilled labor. Desirable industries, those that pay high wages and seek to maximize the per capita production of each employee, need the things that a high-tax state provides. They need a fine workforce of well-educated, healthy people who are attracted to a place because of its culture and amenities, not its cheapness.

Minnesota has enjoyed great success with a high-services strategy. When I ran for governor in 1960, personal income was below the national average, and population was declining. Not long afterward, the state's average income began to climb, until it reached fourth-highest in the nation in 2000. It's so sad that some people in my own Republican Party seem not to have learned the lesson that taxes do not harm the economy. They help it, by creating a better workforce and place to do business . . .

Paying taxes is like going to a store. You don't go to a store with the purpose of spending money. You go to obtain something you need or want. Taxes aren't a loss of money; they are the price of essential services. It's been an easy political game to promise tax cuts, and to make people feel sorry for themselves, when as matter of fact the taxes people pay are probably the best investment they make. They can be proud to pay the price, if it lifts the standard of social life in their community and state. People need to be educated about government budgets, so they understand that tax money goes to services they want, and that if they don't pay the price they suffer.

A visit to Rep. Cox's web log will confirm he is no Elmer Anderson.

Ray is proud of keeping taxes and wages low. He votes against an increase in the minimum wage, saying many small businesses can't afford it, not noting the tiered rate for small business. He 'supports' JOBZ (but does not vote for it), which promises tax cuts and exemptions and does not build the local tax base. I wish the "supporters" of JOBZ would pay attention to Elmer Anderson when he says, "Industrial development is built around education and investment in people, not tax cuts. Anyone who knows business knows that taxes are really not the issue that decides where firms locate." This also comes into play in the shifting imbalance between the residential and commercial/industrial tax base. Schools are dependent on the residential tax base, local governments on a percentage of the entire tax base, of which commercial/industrial has been a declining share. History tells us what works and what doesn't.

I believe we face challenging times, but we are up to the challenge. I am reminded of a D-Day story I heard not too long ago, a lieutenant faced the men on his landing craft as it neared the shoreline and announced, "There are two kinds of men on this boat: dead men, and the men who will keeping moving forward." We can't put our head in the sand and say everything is fine. We have to face up to the fact that our economy is not serving everyone, that by intent some are gaining and more are losing, and we are in danger of losing what we value. We are being squeezed on many sides, but if we work together to solve these problems and learn from our errors, we can improve our lot in life and maintain the abundant life we have become accustomed to in Minnesota

So who's a moderate? Later I noticed this wonderful piece, a self-diagnostic high-stakes test, by John Gunyou in the Minneapolis Startrib
"Who is a moderate? It's as easy as (a), (b), (c)"
John Gunyou
With the election just around the corner, I thought it might be useful for moderates to have a voter's guide.

There are plenty of tests for right- and left-wing philosophical purity, but not one for those of us smack dab in the middle of the Minnesota road. So when that candidate sticks his or her foot in the door or stuffs your mailbox with campaign literature, here are a dozen questions whose telltale answers will separate the moderate wheat from the pretender chaff:

1. The most important issue is: (a) a constitutional amendment regulating marriage, designer shoes and flannel shirts, (b) the Minnesota we're leaving for our children, or (c) renaming the Floyd B. Olson Memorial Highway.

2. The greatest threat to our state is: (a) the League of Women Voters, (b) the Taxpayers League, or (c) bald-headed people smelling of rosewater out to terrorize election judges.

3. The ballooning $7 trillion federal debt can be slowed by: (a) pretending the cost of the War on [fill in the blank] doesn't count in the budget, (b) not spending more than we take in, or (c) cutting taxes and then borrowing one out of every three dollars we spend.

4. The public investment with the highest rate of return is: (a) a chopsticks factory in Frostbite Falls, (b) Head Start, or (c) the Sid Hartman Memorial Sports Arena.

5. A true fiscal conservative would pledge: (a) never to raise taxes in any form, regardless of the need, (b) honestly to balance the budget and invest in our future, or (c) to floss after every fundraiser.

6. The most trustworthy source of real news is: (a) any group with "Truth" in its title, (b) truly independent media, or (c) cable news channels obsessed with ear-splitting, around-the-clock coverage of the celebrity crisis du jour.

7. Balancing the state budget without raising taxes: (a) was actually achieved last year, (b) really involves balancing ongoing revenue with ongoing spending, or (c) is not something we want to talk about, because it involves real leadership and tough choices.

8. We should fund our schools by: (a) sponsoring corporate fundraisers, (b) rejecting the no-tax pledge and honestly paying for student growth and inflation, or (c) putting slot machines in every bar in the state.

9. Taxes are: (a) out of control, (b) simply the price of public services like police and fire protection, schools and colleges, roads and parks, or (c) an evil plot of the Trilateral Commission.

10. We can control runaway human services costs by: (a) cutting off welfare moms and deporting immigrants, (b) reforming the real cost-drivers, like long-term care, or (c) forming yet another gubernatorial task force.

11. Our transportation backbone should be funded by: (a) letting private contractors build toll roads, (b) raising a gas tax that hasn't been increased for 16 years, or (c) selling 20-year bonds to fund one year of needs, and paying for that long-term debt by cutting maintenance on our already deteriorating roads.

12. You love your country if you: (a) have lots of flags on your lapel, car and porch, (b) care more about the long-term public good than you do about your own immediate interests, or (c) blindly forward inflammatory e-mails purportedly written by the concerned friend of a friend.

The correct answers? They're all (b), naturally. That's the middle answer.

1. It's about the economy. It always is. Moderates care about a whole host of social issues too. We just don't think constitutional changes should be prompted by Fox News Arbitron ratings. The debate should focus on issues that truly make a difference in our children's future.

2. I realize the speaker of the House believes the long-respected League of Women Voters is a cabal of liberal subversives, and our secretary of state stays up nights worrying about terrorist attacks at the polls. But moderates tend to be more concerned about radical groups that are out to dismantle the quality public services that made Minnesota great.

3. Moderates care about fair-minded tax relief, but not if we have to mortgage our children's future. It makes us uncomfortable that every man, woman and child in the country is already burdened with a $25,000 debt. Extending the Bush tax cuts means that it will now take a 50 percent cut in Social Security or Medicare benefits, or a 70 percent reduction in defense spending, just to balance the 2014 budget.

4. Moderates faithfully read Sid's sports column, but we don't rely on him for financial advice. The chief economist at the Federal Reserve Bank -- hardly a bastion of screaming Socialists -- has documented that every dollar invested in early childhood readiness generates a double-digit return that business executives would envy.

5. Mindless and inflexible no-tax pledges are political theater. Fiscally conservative moderates are responsible leaders, not pandering sycophants. If the Taxpayers League is going to run our state, we should cut out the middlemen.

6. Moderates can tell the difference between news and entertainment, between facts and political spin. Unfortunately, genuinely independent news sources are a vanishing breed as corporate consolidation and advertising revenue blur the lines.

7. Minnesota is still spending at least $1 million a day more than it's taking in. Moderates make fair and balanced choices among competing interests; they don't hide behind gimmicks such as pretending that inflation doesn't exist to claim things are better than they really are.

8. Sure, we play Powerball, but moderates don't look to Nevada as a model of family values. That no-tax pledge means school funding is being cut three years in a row. How much more will our leaders carve out of our kids before they finally admit we need more tax revenue?

9. The truth is, the state's official Price of Government has declined over the past decade. That means government is taking a smaller share of money out of our pockets. We can afford to pay for essential public services if we simply freeze the price at its current level instead of driving it lower.

10. Welfare is not the problem; cash assistance for poor people accounts for less than 1 percent of the state's budget. Our governor, Task Force Tim, needs to provide some real leadership on the real problem -- the burgeoning cost of long-term care for the elderly and disabled is only going to get worse as we boomers age.

11. Moderates understand there's no such thing as a free lunch; you can't get something for nothing. It's no cheaper for private contractors to build and maintain highways than it is for the public. One-third of our state roads are already classified as "too far gone." It's time to wake up and smell the asphalt.

12. Moderates are patriotic; we just don't think what we wear on our sleeves is the measure of a true patriot. Nor do we trivialize our love of country with simplistic slogans at the expense of other Americans. True patriots care about the future we're leaving for our children.

Scoring: Give the candidate one point for every correct (b) answer and subtract 1,000 points for every other response. If they total one point or more, you've found yourself a moderate.

John Gunyou is Minnetonka's city manager and previously served as Minnesota's finance commissioner in the Carlson administration.
© Copyright 2004 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Maybe I'm getting my "Elmer's" confused . . . especially if it's "siwwy season . . ."


Sunday, October 17, 2004

Busy Friday

Here I am on the phone with KDHL's GORDY KOSFELD

He keeps saying I am hard to get a hold of, makes wild on-air APB's putting the word out on me, but he can't seem to call the campaign office, fully staffed and I'm in the book, oh well, and between my work at the ALC and work on the campaign trail, superhighway, I usually don't have time to check my home phone messages until late at night. We finally got a time scheduled and had a good conversation about the state of the economy and my plans to improve things. One caller was concerned about whether funding the necessities of the state would mean higher taxes for her, and given that she's probably not in the highest of the high income groups, it's not likely. Another was concerned about raising cigarette taxes, and thought that alcohol should be as much of a concern as tobacco use. I don't think it's an 'either/or' and think we should be concerned about both alcohol and tobacco use, and use of either while driving, as inattention is a major cause of vehicle wrecks. That was the beginning of a very hectic day over in Belle Plaine. I'll be glad to get back to work, this was no 'day off!'

At the invitation of Social Studies teachers Dick Fox and Dan Gardner,

I visited four classes at Belle Plaine High School to talk about the election, my candidacy and the difference between Republican and Democratic philosophies. They were pretty attentive through the discussion even though we touched on some pretty esoteric things. One student wanted to know how Ray and I were different. I explained that I was a Democrat and Ray was a Republican and how these two philosophies guided our decision making processes. Then he wanted to know how we both would vote on the issue of gay marriage. I explained that this issue came up as a constitutional amendment and Ray voted against it and I would have too. Because I believe the constitution should not be easy to change and that I was bothered by an effort to allow the majority to pass laws that would take rights a way from the minority. This would set a horrible precedent. We need to be wary of doing such things and ought to consider that sometimes tolerance towards others who are different is important. When I finished my closing remarks to the class, this same student raised his hand and said, "Can I get one of your signs, I'm going to vote this year and I'll vote for you."

Mike Klatt CEO of the Lutheran Home invited me to come talk with him at his office on Meridian St. in our conversation he outlined four concerns he has for nursing homes.
1. Need for comprehensive change in nursing home service, including consolidation of resources, in order to give the public the kind of long term care they really want. Look at ways the state can consolidate its departments to help with cost as well.
2. Nursing Scholarship program to bring more nurses in to the system.
3. In regard to Liability insurance problem limit the use of state surveys as evidence in liability cases. Mike says these surveys are inconsistent and are often not understood by juries.
4. ICF/MR issue to secure funding for Hope Residents, this is an issue that directly effects a program at the Lutheran Home and at the Laura Baker School in Northfield.
The Lutheran Home is the largest employer in Belle Plaine and I was very impressed with Mike and his leadership, he struck me as honest and fair minded at the same time truly having the best interests of his employees and residents in mind.

Southern Valley Alliance for Battered women shelter. in Belle Plaine hosted an open house from 2 to 4 that afternoon. I visited with board members and staff. I also ran into Teresa Daly
who was visiting the shelter for the first time. A year ago I had participated in Walk/Run fundraiser for the Alliance in Belle Plaine and blogged about then.

The end of my day came with a call to MNPolitics's reporter Mark Brouwer, we talked about the budget crisis facing state and local governments and taxes. We also talked about how schools and nursing homes are doing and the bleak future they face without serious reorganizing and funding increases. Marl was also interested in what he called the hot button issues of abortion, gay marriage and guns. It was my opinion that these issues are distractions that keep legislators from accomplishing the real business that affect Minnesotans. Voters have a right to know what my values are but we also have duty to get things done like passing a bonding bill that will bring jobs and progress to communities in Minnesota. I am pro-choice, I opposed the changing of our constitution, and I believe the gun laws in Minnesota as they stand are adequate. But let's get on with the business of Minnesota and get things done so we invest in our communities and continue the quality of life we have come to expect.


St. Olaf College Democrats!

On Thursday evening, St. Olaf College Democrats heard from Mayoral candidates Betsey Buckheit and Lee Lansing as well as County Commissioner Kathleen Doran-Norton and City Council candidates Clarice Grabau and Victor Summa. They all did a fine job talking about the important part college students play in enhancing the life of the Northfield community.

I brought up the end of the evening and talked about what shaped my political thinking and what convinced me to run for office. Before I began, remembering my own first run for office, city council, back in 1974, I thanked all the other candidates for running for office and pointed out to the students that many times the politicians who really have the most affect on our daily lives are these local politicians and it takes courage to run for office knowing that you can't please everyone and sometimes the people who may most angry with you could be your neighbors and friends. . .

I talked about 1968 as the formative year for me. A time of loss of heroes and a divided country troubled over a war that divided sentiments and Americans at their core, including the deaths of

Martin Luther King,

Robert Kennedy and my own father. I talked about the problems we have faced as a state the past five years and the need to be honest about the challenges we face. You've heard it all here before!


Northfield Education Association
On Wednesday, the 13th, the Northfield Education Association (NEA) held its annual all-member meeting. Two items were on the agenda, setting the annual budget and endorsements of local candidates. The budget discussion took about 15 minutes, and a plan was put into place to evaluate school board candidates. The final issue was resolving the issue of endorsement of a Minnesota State Legislative candidate for House District 25B.

Kevin Dahle, the Local President, explained that it was the practice of the local to endorse the candidate who was endorsed by Education Minnesota. He went on to explain that although Education Minnesota had endorsed David Bly, this was a reversal of the recommendation made by the local 7 member screening committee's 3-4 vote. One member of the local screening committee brought this up as an issue, feeling that Education Minnesota should not have overturned this recommendation. He had voiced his opinion in the Northfield News and Star Tribune. However, the general membership did not agree with his sentiment.

A motion was made from the floor to endorse David Bly for State House seat 25B. In the discussion that followed the motion, it was clear that the Screening Committee had not considered Ray Cox's voting record on education and labor issues in its decision. Several teachers emphatically said that although they liked Ray as a person, they were very disappointed in his many decisions to vote against issues that affected teachers. One specifically noted that Ray had not voted for a single measure that was important to her. They felt they could not trust Ray to represent their interests as education professionals. A vote on the motion was taken and passed by a wide margin. The Northfield Education Association endorsed me for Minnesota House District 25B.


Sunday, October 10, 2004

"Who am I?" and "Why am I here?"

The words of Ross Perot's Vice Presidential candidate, James Bond Stockdale, came to mind during the Chamber of Commerce Legislative Candidate Forum at the Archer House on Thursday morning, where I don't think I was in my best form. I wasn't the only one...

My left hemisphere was engaging my right hemisphere in witty repartee, I guess you had to be there, but it was one of those strictly internal conversations. Finally, when we got to a question about our economic future as a state, I was awakened by an odd feeling that I had slipped into an alternate reality, listening to the other debaters describe a rosy picture of where we were and where we are headed. Ray Cox and Pat Garafalo seem to think that things are just fine, government was too big and the cuts weren't that bad. Ray even said some things needed to be cut.

I know after months of door knocking and talking with voters that there is anxiety about where we are headed and how the budget was 'balanced' in '03. How will we improve the roads, build the bridges, and assure that local governments have the resources they need? How can we continue to let schools endure budget cuts with no recourse but increased levy votes? How will citizens pay for health care and prescription drugs? It was as if my two Republican opponents were saying the schools in Minnesota are too good. . . nursing homes provide too much care. . . everything will get better now that economy is improving. I looked at the audience they were real people connecting with what I was saying and it startled me into a higher level of unconsciousness. Of course I don't agree with Gov. Pawlenty's "No New Taxes" pledge!

After the meeting, this exchange got me thinking about the courage of another Republican Governor, Al Quie, for whom I have a lot of respect.

When he faced deficits, he accepted and utilized tax increases to balance the budget, as did Gov. Arne Carlson some years later. Quie believed that because of this decision he would not win re-election, and he decided not to run again, clearly making a hard choice for the best interests of his state and not for his own political gain.

It's been a busy press week, and much of it focused on radio, the perfect medium for an introvert because it's one-on-one with no audience, and it's easy for me to find my "voice.".

Sunday was Radio related with a fundraiser for 'south of the river' Democrats hosted by Garrison Keillor, it included a great stump speech by Mark Dayton too.

On Tuesday evening, I was fortunate to be invited to KRLX FM, the Carleton radio,

where the conversation ranged from health care to energy policy.

Next up, was the StarTribune on Wednesday, for their endorsement interview, and then

Eric Eskola, who called on Thursday. He's working on a story for 'CCO Radio about the hot races in the state.

Then, Friday afternoon, I was featured on KSTO, where I followed Ray Cox on a politics program, hosted by Will and Chris. It was a very congenial interview, joking with the hosts, to the delight of host Chris' parents. Apparently, he's an apple who's fallen a ways from the tree, and I think I gained a couple of new supporters there in the "green room." The day ended with a session at KYMN, waxing about how "I'm different" while struggling in vain to keep my statements under 30 seconds.

Stay tuned...


It's campaign season in 25B
We're down to the wire here, with less than a month to go. There have been many forums over the last two weeks, including the 3 Links Forum, League of Women Voter's Candidate Forum, and the Chamber of Commerce Forum.

At the League of Women Voters Forum, one thing that stood out was the way the Republican candidates distanced themselves from the Republican party, Republican politics, and Republican leadership, by stressing that they were "independent." What does that mean? Particularly in Ray Cox's case, it's confusing, because he voted with Speaker Sviggum 92.5% of the time. Speaker Sviggum has been aggressively pushing an extremist agenda, solidly Republican, albeit 'new' Republican, and Ray Cox has been voting right along with him. Yet he, and the contender for 36A, both want to distance themselves from the Speaker. Cox's 'spokesmen' Neuville and Jones join the effort to distance Cox from Sviggum and try to explain away that 92.5% figure. On one hand, I'm glad that they're taking the time to read the ad in the September 29th paper, it was buried on page 2 of the Sports section, and it was very fine print, so I can see they paid close attention. But for Jones to characterize Ray Cox' representation as 'progressive' in the face of his alignment with Speaker Sviggum and Republican policies, well, it's just not supported by Ray Cox's voting record. They don't take issue with the facts of that ad, they aren't saying I'm misrepresenting, because they can't, because I'm not! The issue for them, though, is the reality of Ray Cox's party status - that he is a Republican, that he votes with extreme Republican politicians for extreme Republican policies. That's a problem, because he wants to be regarded as a 'moderate' when that is not an accurate characterization.

Look up his voting record and see for yourself: and for bills he's 'authored' look at the House web site.

Here's the ad in its entirety, from the Northfield News, September 29, page 2 of the Sports section:

How am I different? I am a Democrat!

I've been asked, "How are you different? What would you do differently for those of us in House District 25B?"

Look at Ray Cox's record and look up bills he's 'authored' on the House web site. Compare our positions at and using the 'search' function.

Who best represents your beliefs?
This election is about who should represent you, about who best represents your beliefs. It's about how you were represented in St. Paul. It's not about whether I helped your child get through high school, or whether Ray Cox built your home, and of course, we're both 'nice guys' who you've known for years! This election is about what Ray did at the legislature in the 2003 and 2004 sessions, what I would have done differently, and what I will do going forward.

I am a Democrat. Ray Cox is a Republican
As a Democrat I would not vote for Rep. Sviggum as Speaker, and I won't join any Speaker for a press conference at the dump. I would not vote with Speaker Sviggum 92.5% of the time in St. Paul. I will tell you where I stand. If I changed my mind, I would give you the explanation you deserved.

Health Care and Human Services must be funded.
I believe that funding Health and Human Services is one of the most important responsibilities of the Legislature. I would not vote to cut the human services budget as my opponent did in both 2003 and 2004 (SSHF6, HF1681), and I would not say in a community forum that I voted the other way (8/19/04 Community Forum). The 2003 bill, HF 437, SSHF6, eliminated health coverage for 38,000 Minnesotans, cut payments and shifted costs for hospitals, cut child care assistance by $90 million, reduced funding for senior nutrition and senior services by 15%, increased the nursing home surcharge that results in a $2,000 annual increase for private pay patients, repealed expansion of the Senior Drug Program, increased fees for families with disabled children in need of services, cut $18 million of funding to nursing himes that will cost them another $24 million in federal funding, and shifted human services costs to counties, which will cover it through property tax increases. The 2004 bill, HF1681, took $71 million from the Health Care Access Fund and $40 million from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grants to balance the budget, eliminating funds for services to those least able to withstand loss of those services.
I would have voted for the Thao Amendment to increase nursing home staffing levels from 1:12 to 1:8, and I would not have voted with the Speaker to table it, as Ray Cox did (Thao amend HF1681) I would have protected family farms utilizing life estates and joint tenancy from health care and human services liens, but Ray Cox voted to allow liens (HFSS6).
Recently, Ray Cox was billed in an editorial as "a friend to nursing homes." I believe that nursing home residents should have the full range of remedies that any person whould have if injured through negligence. Insurance companies have been saying that it is lawsuits that are causing the high insurance rates, but that accounts for only about 2% of premium cost, and insurance companies are instead trying to recoup market losses by charging personal and commercial consumers. Ray Cox helped the insurance industries through is co-authoring of bills such as one that limits civil actions against long term care providers and caps punitive damages, and which limits joint and several liability (HF429, HF610, HF2471). The two lobbyists that Ray Cox received campaign contributions from in 2002 also represent nursing homes. Has Ray Cox been a friend of vulnerable nursing home residents?

Communities must benefit from jobs and economic development.
As a Democrat, I would have voted for an increase in minimum wage to $6.65 by July 2005 (HF102), and to continue federal overtime provisions (HF2952)..
I wouldn't say that I supported Pawlenty's JOBZ in my Legislative Report when I had voted against it. I wouldn't call a program that gives tax exemptions to corporations "economic development" when it provides nothing to the communities - economic development is more than subsidizing low wage jobs.
I would vote to restore LGA funding for communities like Northfield, cuts that were made in order to cover new spending in suburban communities.

Investment in education is true economic development.
As a teacher, I know how to help our students and public education system succeed, and I know we're headed in the wrong direction. I would work to fix Minnesota's implementation of NCLB, the federal education initiative that Cox supports, because it erroneously labels schools, misleads parents and hurts students. Ray Cox supports standards (HF2 co-author, HF302). I would vote to fund education, not cut funding or shift from one funding source to another, which was the case in the inequitable increases in property taxes. In a time of budgetary crisis, I wouldn't waste time and money changing the Department's name.
As a Democrat, I would budget for the increased costs education incurs due to inflation, not ignore it, as Republicans have done. Ray Cox voted against reimbursement to districts for costs of compliance with Standards (HF2558) and against a discretionary levy and $80 increase in the per pupil formula (amend.HF1793).
I opposed confirmation of Yecke as Education Commissioner and submitted testimony, and Ray Cox supported her confirmation. I would vote to fund all-day kindergarten, but Ray Cox voted against (HF1793). Because federal law requires internet filtering at schools and libraries, I would not waste state time and money promising a similar state law (HF2832), as Ray Cox did.
As a career union member, I support use of union agreements and prevailing wage requirements in school construction, and Ray Cox does not (part 1 of Davnie amend to HF1404). Ray Cox also voted to authorize use of private contractors for non-instructional services (amend HF1404). He also voted to weaken labor's position by instituting deadlines for contract settlement and requiring use of arbitration through changes to PERLA (Sykora and Davnie amend, HF1404).
I believe that Head Start has clearly demonstrated, dollar for dollar, that it is the best program for preparation of Minnesota's children, yet Ray Cox voted to look at redistribution of these crucial funds to other programs (Slawik HF1404).
On Early Childhood Education Issues, Ray Cox received a 33% rating from the CDF (Children's Defense Fund) Action Council on its Minnesota Legislative Scorecard.

Who's protecting the environment?
I would vote to retain the right of citizens to request an Environmental Worksheet for feedlots under 1,000 animal units (HF1202). Ray Cox voted in the Environment Committee to eliminate use of citizen Petitions for an EAW, where it passed out of Committee with just a one vote margin (4/3/03). This one vote counted, and is one of those that lead to a 60% rating by the League of Conservation Voters (which then endorsed Cox!). It is also one that lead to the 50% rating from Minnesota Farmers Union.
I believe that utilities must be carefully regulated and that the state must not give up its regulator authority. I would not co-author Excelsior Energy's coal gasification powerplant bill, with a grant of $10 million and unprecedented 'incentives,' including eminent domain and Certificate of Need exemption for electrical generation and transmission. I would not accept campaign contributions from two Excelsior Energy lobbyists, as Ray Cox did (p. 5, CF Board report filed 1/29/03).
I would work to increase the state's reliance on renewable energy and carefully sited distributed generation, which puts generation where it's used, rather than support a coal plant twice the size of our state's largest nuclear plant (HF964). I believe garbage should not be categorized as renewable fuel, based on pollution of the LaCrosse and Red Wing garbage burners and the planned Preston tire burner. Ray Cox voted to classify garbage as a renewable fuel (HF208).
I believe in examination of the consequences of proposed legislation. The phosphorus bills or wind energy credits that Cox has co-authored, if passed, do not counter the massive damage that will be done to the environment by coal plants and garbage burning.
I would fund and support Minnesota Planning, because we need to plan to accomplish our goals and to spend our money wisely, and local governments need this agency's expertise to utilize their powers of local control.

I support fair and clean elections.

I support Fair and Clean Elections and have signed the FACE pledge. I also support and abide by the League of Women Voters "Minnesota Compact on Campaign Standars."
I believe voting is the most fundamental right, and as your Representative, I will work to keep voting as simple as possible, to utilize technology to the greatest extent possible while maintaining the integrity of the voting system. Because of the irregularities in the 2000 election, and the recount in 25B in 2002, I will work to assure that any electronic voting system results in a traceable paper trail. Ray Cox voted against requiring a paper trail (Kahn amend. HF1119).
I believe push-polling is a negative campaign tactic and do not use or condone it. I would require push-pollers to disclose the party paying for the poll and whether the candidate benefiting from it authorized the poll. Ray Cox voted against an amendment that would require disclosure by push-pollers, as did Steve Sviggum and Lynda Boudreau (Mariani amend HF1427), yet despite these votes and unwillingness to require disclosure, the all accused the DFL of push-polling in a press conference at the Rice County dump.
I believe that like workers, students should be allowed time off to vote (Sertich amend. HF1119). Ray Cox voted against allowing students time off to vote.
Because of the experience in Florida in 2000, I believe that the powers of the Sec. of State to remove voters' names from the registration list should be limited (Kahn amend HF1119). Ray Cox voted against limiting the SOS powers to remove voters.

Where does the money come from?
I would not, as my opponent advocated at a community forum, depend on working families to carry the tax burden (8/19/04 Community Forum). Instead, I would look beyond workers for revenue, and would close corporate tax loopholes. Ray Cox voted against an amendment to close corporate loopholes (Pugh amend HF2540). We must reallocate burdens to commercial and industrial properties, and return to more progressive taxation of those with individual incomes over $200,000 annually. I would increase the gas tax to pay for the roadwork we need and decrease consumption. I would reverse the Republican shift of education funding to property taxes. I would reverse the cut to utilities for personal property tax on fossil fuel and nuclear generating plants and transmission.
I am opposed to the Racino because gambling is not the way a state should raise revenue, and we have perpetual agreements with sovereign Indian nations - a deal is a deal. Ray Cox is a strong supporter of Racino (HF646).
The state economist predicts that we will face a $1.5 billion dollar deficit in the coming sessions and that's with the prediction that the economy will pick up. If not, we're in even worse economic straits. We must be willing to face up to the problems we have and solve them. We can eliminate corporate loopholes so that when corporate profits are up we will not wonder why state coffers are empty.
Ray Cox got an 83% rating from the Minnesota Taxpayers League, higher than some others who took the 'No New Tax' pledge, including Rep. Lynda Boudreau. We can spread the tax impact more equally so that those most able to pay can contribute. We can correct inequities in education funding that occurred when the state assumed the cost of school funding. We must be honest with Minnesotans about the costs of services they have come to expect and be clear about the way we intend to ask them to pay for services.

How would I get through the political stalemate?
In order to improve the climate of cooperation, we need to focus on issues that improve people's lives and stop wasting time on social issues that promote gridlock and polarize us. I would find venues for legislators from different perspectives to talk about our goals and work together to make them happen. I have been told by several people in the school district that I have had a strong positive impact on the contract negotiating climate, and I can use this approach in the legislature.

My goals
I will work to assure that every Minnesota family has the ability to support itself with a wage-earning job that will keep them from being dependent on the State for help. I will work to improve early childhood, K-12 and post-secondary education. I believe economic development must attract good jobs to Minnesota's productive workers with the necessary skills gained through a strong education system. Economic development must be statewide and must contribute to a community's tax base, not drain it through subsidies and tax exemptions. I will work to mend the safety net that has been damaged by recent decisions and I will work to assure that all Minnesotans can get the health care they deserve.

We're overdue for change
It's time for a change. As we learned in the last election, every vote counts. Vote for me, David Bly, for the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Produced and paid for by the David Bly Campaign, Chris Ennis, Treasurer, 907 W. 2nd St, Northfield, MN 55057


Friday, October 08, 2004

Art of Democracy

Stephanie Henrickson stopped by to share her latest political creation. She is on her way to enter it at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts:
The Art of Democracy: Tools of Persuasion

October 8 through November 28, 2004
Minnesota Artists Gallery

"Art of Democracy: Tools of Persuasion" is an open call for Minnesota artists to express their political opinions through original works of art in an exhibition coinciding with the 2004 presidential election.

The exhibition's call-for-entries specifies formats for political ephemeral objects including lawn signs, posters, bumper stickers, T-shirts, flyers, magnets, pins, and infomercials. Artists are encouraged to submit one work of art weekly for the run of the exhibition, which will change as new work is installed. The concept was developed by the 2002-2003 Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP) panel.

For more information, call the MAEP office at (612) 870-3125.

An online response to the exhibition, The Art of Democracy: Tools of Persuasion has been created by the Visual Art Critics Union of Minnesota (V.A.C.U.M.).
Visit the Triablog.


Saturday, October 02, 2004

Wise Investments
Last Friday, I attended an education summit sponsored by the Alliance for Student Achievement, which includes Education Minnesota, The Association of Metropolitan School District (AMSD), Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA), Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP), Schools for Equity in Education (SEE), Minnesota Association of School Business Officials. I was fortunate to hear Art Rolnick

of the Federal Reserve talk about the pay back from investing in early childhood education. He explained that the traditional way of economic development is a zero sum game, for example Governor Pawlenty's JOBZ programs. It's zero sum because governments at various levels engage in various forms of subsidies to get business to do what they were going to do any way and then local governments can't reclaim any benefit from the companies they've helped because they've put so much into subsidizing the company. But unlike typical "economic development," education has both a financial and social payback because costs later in life are saved because early interventions prevent the need for a variety of social programs.

Later in the day, John Gunyou

talked about how we got into this financial mess, a combination of bad choices that did not protect the public interests of Minnesotans and which allowed a few to prosper while the most vulnerable bore the burden of the deficit. He made it clear that the deficit, in spite of 9/11, was avoidable if we had only made different choices, and kept the surplus. The events of September 11, 2001, did not cause the economic crisis, our leaders poor decisions did. The rebates and tax cuts were decisions made based on an economic outlook that could not be sustained. A clear sighted view would have told us that the boom of the nineties was not going to last. But instead of saving for the rainy day, we spent down our reserves, gave it away in "Jesse checks," cut tax rates on the wealthiest, and mislead the citizens that we would be all right. Now, it's anything but all right as we cut school budgets, increase class size, and cut health and human services that are essential to children and the elderly.

Minnesota can do better. We have built a strong economy that has given Minnesota an business climate that outperforms its neighbors and exceeds expectations. It has provided for infrastructure and support to growing engines of the economy.

Hubert Humphrey said that, "A society should be judged by how it provides for those in the shadows of life." The elderly neighbor down the street who has to choose between groceries and prescription drugs. The troubled teen, who believes she can't stay at home. The health aide at the nursing home who can't find a place to live that she can afford. Working people that do the hard jobs few want to do and are paid little for doing them and then are blamed for their lack of prospering. In addition to building a strong economy we can afford to take care of those in the shadows of life.


Get specific! Whaddya gonna do?
At the Long Term Care forum at Three Links a question was "it seems likely that the greatest pressure in the 2005 legislative session will be for increased spending in five areas: transportation; k-12 education; corrections; increasing access to health care for children, low-income and the working poor; and older adult services. Since those five areas consume most of the state's budget, it seems most likely that if you increase spending in one of those five areas, you will have to cut spending in another one of those areas or increase revenue through some other means such as a tobacco tax. Which of those areas would you cut and which ones would you increase? What additional sources of revenue would you consider?

Out in the audience, someone wasn't satisfied and wanted clarification:

"There are only three choices available to us as we face the coming budget crisis. You can do more gimmicks and shifts, make continued cuts, or you can raise taxes. What are you going to do?" This fork in the road was pointed out one citizen at the candidate forum at Three Links Care center, and he wanted to know how both Ray Cox and I would deal with the issue. What would we choose?

Rep. Cox said some things needed to be cut because we can't sustain them, but he didn't say which of those things listed were the ones to cut. Schools? Nursing homes? Healthcare for children? But Ray seemed confident that by letting things stand as they are, and developing Racino to raise revenue, Minnesota would be just fine.

I don't agree. I don't support the Racino for two reasons: First, Racino is bad "pie in the sky" policy, sending the wrong message that we can get something for nothing -- the wrong choice for Minnesota. Gambling is not a wise source of government revenue -- to depend on gambling is grossly regressive and irresponsible, preying on those least able to pay. In addition, state run gambling is not allowed under the current agreements with tribal nations. The compacts, like any agreement, can be renegotiated if both parties are willing, and Pawlenty administration is trying various methods to extort the tribes to "come back to the table." I believe that a deal is a deal, and that we negotiated the best deal we could at the time

It takes courage to face the reality of our situation. Governor Pawlenty is the first Governor in history to face a budget crisis of this magnitude and not face up to the fact that we need to raise taxes. Had he done so, we would not be facing the $1.5 billion in difficulties we face now, and that $1.5 billion is a "best case" estimate.. There is no surplus and there is nothing left to cut - we have cut too much and cannot weather damage of this magnitude.

On Wednesday, I was privileged to spend an evening with Vice President Mondale at a fundraiser for myself and Bruce Bjork (25A) and was reminded of the courage Walter Mondale showed when he stood up to the plate and let Americans know there needed to be a change.

Mondale said, "The truth is we need to raise taxes, he (Reagan) won't tell you, and I just did." I have struggled with this and tried to say it in a way that would help voters see that we cannot maintain the Minnesota we want without investing in it. Mondale said it again that night, and implored and inspired each of us to do what we can to turn this situation around.

At the forum, Ray seemed to be saying he's going to fight for nursing homes and schools and roads, even agreed with my theme that we need to invest in community, but he has had a chance to advocate for them the last two years. Instead of advocating for those in need, he went right along with his fellow Republicans and approved the Health and Human Services cuts that cost 38,000 Minnesotans their health care benefits, cut payments and shifted costs for hospitals, cut child care assistance by $90 million, reduced funding for senior services by 15%, increased the nursing home surcharge that results in a $2000 annual increase for private pay patients, repealed expansion of the senior drug program… I could go on, but you get the point. There is a difference - I am a Democrat - Ray Cox is a Republican, and he votes with his party in St. Paul, votes with Speaker Sviggum 92.5% of the time.

As I said in my ad in Wednesday's paper, this election is not about who's a nice guy, who built your house, who helped your children through school - it's about who best represents you, who best advocates for the community, who invests in community to preserve and enrich it.