Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Rice County Transportation Plan

The 2nd '4th Monday of the month' LWV discussion focused on the Rice County Transportation Plan, which is still in process of being approved and implemented.
According to the Rice County Website the plan is guided by the following elements:
Development of roadway standards that can be put into action across the County, these standards will answer questions such as:
What design standard should be chosen for a roadway's reconstruction?
Where driveways should be located?
How roadway improvement costs should be shared?
Identify solutions to existing safety and traffic volume problems?
Anticipate where safety and traffic volume problems are likely to occur over time as the area grows and plan for those future needs before problems occur?

Develop a vision of a future roadway network that works with existing and future land uses and can be supported by cities and townships within Rice County and neighboring counties
Identify trail locations and "park and ride" opportunities
Develop an approach to fund identified transportation improvements

The County Board has already approved some parts of the plan to facilitate its implementation, however the plan does not deal with what are termed "local issues" within the boundaries of the communities of the county, like deadman's curve on Cedar Ave. or what will become of Jefferson Parkway. League President Kathleen Doran Norton moderated the discussion and shared a map of the plan, which shows the establishment of traffic corridors flowing East and West to I-35 and North and South a long it to provide for local traffic. The plan identifies 150th street as the East West trunk road south of Dundas that would funnel traffic from MN246 across the river and to I35. (The plan and map can be downloaded from the County website.)

When some asked about the plans for the idea to extend Jefferson Parkway across the river, Bruce Morlan of the Dundas planning commission stated that as far as he knew the county would build only one bridge across the Cannon. Hopefully Dundas Bridgewater and Northfield would be able to come together on what might be the best option. Of course this is all being driven by runaway development that already exceeds what even a few years ago was predicted for our area. The city has requested new predictions from a demographer to determine what might be more accurate predictions for the city. I wonder if it will include growth predictions in the Dundas/Bridgewater area. This is information the school board will be interested in as their boundaries extend beyond the city.

Bruce has done a fair amount of thinking about development in the area and has offered his expertise on dealing with planning issues to the Dundas City Council. Bruce indicated that it is only through a thorough planning process that one can identify those hidden costs you will encounter when you city and county staff what happens when you develop a certain area. Bruce is also chairman of NCO so of course he has a blog too. Check out what he has to say. Here are a couple of posts on the issue: 1, 2
Bruce reports that "Bridgewater and Dundas are very concerned, and actively working to keep transportation issues at the forefront of their planning processes, with traffic being a driving factor in resource sharing between the two."

Bruce explained some of the complexity of the traffic issues with an example you can also find on his blog:
"A proposal to develop the Chester property was met with some concern, especially with respect to traffic planning for C.S.A.H. 1, Cty 20, MN 3. Dundas is firmly committed to not repeating the errors that make Cty 22, MN 246, C.S.A.H. 1 so dangerous on the south side of Northfield, east side of Dundas. Indeed, while Bridgewater Heights, Phase II, will be blocked if the traffic problem along 115th Street is not solved, it turns out that solving that problem will require:
- straightening out 115th on the western approach (blind curve)
- reducing the grade (steep steep hill will need to be reduced to no more than a 5% or so grade)
- surfacing the road with blacktop rather than gravel
Note that the neither of the dangerous intersections need to be fixed to satisfy this list - though I have and will continue to argue that it is really poor form to spend as much as $4M to fix 3/4 of the problems only to spend that amount again to fix the last 1/4, when we could design the first 3/4 to grow smoothly into a final design."

Others talked about the need to think more about trails and sidewalks as sections of the county become more urbanized. It may be even more costly to think about them after the fact. Betsey Buckheit of the Northfield planning commission added that it has been very difficult to solve the problem of adding in sidewalks in Northfield. Residents see the value of a sidewalk on the street but don't want it put on their side of the street.

Then there was the concern about what will happen with highway 19 and how difficult it is to work with other local units of government. This issue will not only involve Rice County but MnDOT, Dakota County and several townships and probably St. Olaf College. It would be useful if the state could play a role in providing information and expertise to local interests to come together to solve some of these issues. Local control is very important but often local units don't have the expertise or information to make the best decisions, consequently they can be at the mercy of who ever applies the most pressure to get their way.

Bruce described several decision-making tools he used to help groups think their way through this kind of planning. It made me think how lucky Dundas is to have someone willing to volunteer their expertise in this way. The state used to have a department of planning that could provide expertise and resources to local units of government if they desired to make use of it. Another casualty of the "we don't need government" frame of mind holding us hostage these days. Apparently some of their resources can still be found online at their website: Local Planning Assistance


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Community Building and the Key
A week ago I wandered down to 'Art on the Water' gallery and visited with Dean Kjerland about his newly acquired collection of fossils from Hamline University and his ideas for development on Northfield's West bank. The conversation meandered to the Key and the Northfield Union of Youth, which has been under some discussion recently in the News. Dean said something I found very interesting and important and that was how he enjoyed visiting with young people on their way to the Key. He said he didn't approve of everything thing they did but he liked engaging them in conversation. He appreciated their perspective and interacting with them. Having worked with youth most of my adult life I found this a refreshing comment for a downtown building owner to make. Too often it seems the attitude expressed is that we want to eliminate the presence of young people.

The last time I had a similar conversation was when I used to talk about various students of mine with Bob Jacobsen. I would stop in to shop often for things I couldn't find anywhere else or pick up my daughter who worked for Bob. Bob would stop and ask me what I knew about this young person or that one, someone he had taken a particular interest in. Bob was into community development of all sorts but this was one aspect of community too many overlook. He knew instinctively that what young people of all types need is someone to take an interest in them. Someone who sees them for the interesting individual they are. A lot of times they think no one notices and no one cares. Sometimes they expect rejection and dress accordingly and if you ask them they might say, "I don't care what you think." But they do care, in fact they want to know you care that they challenge you even though they make it hard for you to breakthrough and connect.

But these young people are also doing something important for themselves and for us. Their doing the business of finding out what it means to create a new world with their name on it, sometimes they make it hard to appreciate them, but if we can remember to be curious and interested it helps. But they are also stretching us getting us to see things in new ways ask different questions and seek new answers. I believe it really is community building. Most of the young people I work with are likely to stay in town. We must connect with them and I know it is not always easy. But I have found time and time again it is well worth it. Youth of all backgrounds need to be offered opportunities to enter the community conversation. They will not know everything about how to do it or what to say or how to say it but they will learn through the interaction. As community members it is our job to help them find a connection and see the value of community. If we fail at that we fail our selves not just them. That's not to say we don't respond to behaviors that are disturbing but we remind ourselves that the behavior is not the person.

Recently the ALC, the school I work in, was moved out of the Northfield Community Resource Center. A decision made with little if any input from the ALC staff or students. Had I been asked I would have had many reasons to reject the move, among them moving the program away from the high school, but the most important reason for being at the NCRC was the potential for being part of a community and interacting with it. Some at the NCRC were receptive to that and enjoyed the interaction, others disliked the young people and just wanted all of us gone. I guess that would be a neat way of dealing with social differences - just putting out of sight all those folks you found disagreeable but maybe not the best way to build a community.

The ALC will have to find new ways to connect young people to the community from our new location at Longfellow School. I hope the Key can continue to offer young people in the community a place to come to and be a presence down town to challenge us and keep us growing.


Sunday, July 17, 2005


"We get relatively inexpensive, reliable electricity. Who pays the price for our power?"

This was the question asked at last Wednesday evening's forum hosted by ME3, RENew Northfield and Cannon River Watershed Partnership.

Ken Bradley from ME3's JustEnergy talked about reducing energy consumption to lessen the cost both to our environment and to consumers. He used the example that where consumers simply change their incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents, they could cut 66% of their energy usage. He also talked briefly about the problem of mercury pollution caused by coal fired power plants and the ecological and economic damage caused by hydro-electric power. He then introduced a trailer from a film ME3 is sponsoring called "Green Green Water", a documentary film about hydroelectric power and its impact on the lives of thousands of Aboriginal people in northern Manitoba. You can learn more about this on ME3's JustEnergy website.

JustEnergy is a campaign focused on educating consumers about the devastating impacts Manitoba Hydro's large-scale dams are having on people and the environment in northern Manitoba, Canada. United States utilities (primarily Xcel Energy) purchase 40% of Manitoba Hydro output and sell it to unknowing customers in the United States. JustEnergy is working to engage consumers to urge Xcel Energy, regulators, and legislators to set standards for hydropower purchased by utilities and sold to United States consumers that does not harm people or the environment. (ME3)

The film mentioned that since the coming of hydroelectric power to Manitoba, the Cree have seen their lives turned upside down. Once a thriving fishing industry offered residents 90% employment they now endure 90% unemployment, have had homes and lives destroyed through flooding, suicide and alcohol abuse. The Cree get no benefit from the power produced -- they do not use the power because it is shipped to Minnesota and other energy users to the south, and they do not get any economic benefit.

Ken mentioned the work that Bruce Anderson and RENew Northfield were doing to promote renewable energy and reduce the dependency on hydro and coal related energy production. He indicated that legislature failed to pass a new standard for Renewable Energy development and mentioned that ME3 promotes a 20% RES. Passing this measure would help increase the development of renewable energy production.

I asked Ken about the effect transmission upgrades through Minnesota would have on Manitoba Hydro in and on development of coal fired power plants in the Dakotas. I mentioned that the State's Transmission Omnibus Bill called for upgrades on a line proposed to bring wind power to market but that would make possible bulk power transfer of energy from new Dakota coal power plants, thus increasing the already dangerous levels of mercury contamination in Minnesota. Ken acknowledged that is a problem, but he did not know what to do about it. He did mention the proposed Arrowhead line, which has been held up by environmental groups for the last ten years, but in my discussion with Excelsior Energy representatives, I’ve seen that the Arrowhead line could be used for transmission of the Mesaba coal gasification electricity. Allowing the Arrowhead transmission upgrade would allow Manitoba Hydro to increase their output to enter the metro and Chicago energy market, and cause further devastation to the first nation people of Manitoba. This is the kind of behavior we see from energy companies whose business it is to control energy resource for profit and to do so, devastate local people without regard for their welfare.

Bruce Anderson talked about RENew's dream of making Northfield energy independent and totally reliant on renewable energy. This would at least mean that Northfield would not be contributing to the profiteering of energy companies and would see their energy dollars stay in the community rather than going far away to energy producing company headquarters, and we would have generation sources we could live with

Hilary Ziols talked about the work of CRWP in water testing and raising public awareness to mercury and other forms of pollution in the Cannon River Watershed. Here’s mercury information that Paul Fried asked about at the forum, you can see that the Rice County waters are mercury impaired.

The MPCA is holding a meeting in Rochester next week, and the comment period on the Governor's plan is open longer than that, so please make your thoughts known.

Urge Governor Pawlenty to reduce mercury in Minnesota now!

Minnesota's lakes, rivers, and fish are contaminated with dangerous levels of mercury. However, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has released their proposal to WAIT to reduce mercury emissions and discharges in the state. We need strong citizen voices to tell the Governor that much faster, mandatory mercury reductions are right for Minnesota. The MPCA must stop allowing polluters to release mercury into our air and water. This toxin is contaminating our fish and putting our children's health at risk! Tell the Governor and the MPCA today that Minnesotans want mercury out of our water, our fish, and our children. See the Event Calendar for more information.

I urge you to visit the websites of these organizations and do what you can to reduce energy use and let public officials know you want a change in policy to protect our water and our energy future. Each of us is responsible for our own energy use and with a little thoughtfulness, can have an impact.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

'Art Town' Controversy
I am surprised at some of the assumptions and opinions voiced on this issue without much background or thought from folks who did not attend the meeting described in the News. I attended the meeting because I was curious to learn more about it and went away with a clearer picture and still a number of questions.

I do not believe this is an effort to make Northfield into something it is not, nor do I think there is an attempt to exclude alternative visions of Northfield. I do not believe either that this is an attempt to squander scarce community resources but is rather a proposed investment to meet a perceived need.

I don't think I am in a position to say it is a good idea or a bad one and am surprised at those who feel they already know enough to condemn it. Following that, it is my belief that those at the meeting talked about a way to pool resources among various interested arts groups in order to hire someone to meet mutual needs but also to plan for a more inclusive more intentional all encompassing community arts effort.

I found it interesting when I asked who the stakeholders were in such an endeavor, it seemed that those at the meeting viewed a broad spectrum of the community as stakeholders. I believe this is an effort to address changes that have occurred in the Northfield arts community and how it views itself.

The arts in general are community building and I hope would be viewed by all as an important part of the community it is, no matter the theme, how we will promote ourselves. The arts are found in spiritual, educational and commercial endeavors. The Defeat of Jesse James is filled with the arts as a way of expressing that event and selling the town, from story telling to visual arts and handicrafts. ArtSwirl is an event that could emerge as a centerpiece of what some call 'ART Town' festivities; an event distinct from Jesse James Days. An arts coordinator could make it a central part of their job thus giving them a concrete reason to take charge of such things as an arts calendar and member lists.

The Arts Guild currently plays a major role in this event and some ask why doesn't the Guild perform such a role for the arts community. Some would argue it already does. It is a good suggestion and perhaps the Arts Guild if it wanted to could serve such a purpose. But I think it is a problem for two reasons, one is financial and the other perhaps philosophical.

The Arts Guild exists because a few people wanted to get together and do things in the arts. They raised the funds, found space and made things happen. They have succeeded because they were clearly focused on putting funds into tangible things that people could see. They put their resources into buildings and performance, letting artists do stuff. Over the years this has changed some as they have hired staff to run the Guild, but most artists are not paid at all or very much for their efforts, preferring to have the funds go to the event. Payment was the opportunity to put your art or craft out there.

For the Arts Guild to apply its resources to a community wide arts effort will cause it to divert scarce resources but also to change the role it plays in the community. Something it could do but is not now doing.

What the Guild has done more recently is to offer arts opportunities to those who enter their world either through membership or participation in their events or offerings. It has done some outreach through cooperation with the schools. It has not found a way to offer support to emerging arts groups with a vision of their own. That's my take on why ArtOrg came to be. This touches on the philosophical problem for the Guild. How does the Guild maintain control of its own resources and vision and encourage others? Maybe it can and perhaps as its relationship with ArtOrg evolves it can learn how to do this. But it may not want to. This is where an argument for a new entity to come into existence makes some sense. An entity that will also not feel compelled to define what is 'art' and what it is not. Most people aren't even aware that such a question exists until they are forced to confront it.

Recently in the schools with the advancing of the 'Arts Standard' there was debate about whether or not the 'industrial arts' should be considered as 'arts' and a legitimate way to meet the 'Arts Standard'. Should the arts only be considered to be music, painting, and writing? How do you limit what some view as creative expression? The goal of the 'Arts Standard' is to assure all students get exposure to a selection of arts. A goal of the Arts Guild may be to offer opportunities to community members of a selected list of arts. But what about handicrafts or building or manufacturing or fabrication of almost any kind? Both in design and execution the making of things requires skill and creative expression. Why not have a way to recognize this. If a group of quilt makers want to organize a festival and promote it as a part of ArtSwirl or through a community arts calendar why should they not be encouraged?

The COG proposal mentioned in the paper proposes to create such an entity through membership extended to arts groups. From the discussion it sounded as though any group that saw itself as an arts group could buy in and gain access to whatever services or benefit the coordinator might offer. The COG an entity that does not currently exist would develop a list of needs, generate funds through a membership drive, and develop a plan to meet the needs, which it seemed likely would be the hiring of a coordinator. COG, which would become an oversight board would be made up of members who would represent other members through a process yet to be determined.

I left the meeting with the sense that little would happen unless there was leadership from somewhere. There seemed to be interest from a wide variety of people (Guild, Carleton, School District, City, and others) and the leadership seemed to becoming from the Guild and NDDC. With Ross's objections I wonder if things can move forward. I found the meeting an interesting exploration of a possible solution to a growing concern - how to coordinate and foster communication between various arts groups and how to utilize the arts as a way to promote and develop Northfield's future on many levels.

I would like to hear more discussion of the pros and cons if for no other reason than to help those involved in arts groups or city development to think it through. There is merit in the discussion even if the coordinator is not the final solution to the problem. I think Northfield should think about itself as a center for artistic expression because I think that will enhance how it sees itself in every other realm whether that be a commercial and tourism center, education and religious/spiritual center, or a 'shoot 'em up' center for Old West nostalgia.

It took a long time and a combination of private and public efforts but the city did finally manage to develop the river walk area, which I believe all agree is an asset to the community. Perhaps as we look to adjusting to the Highway 3 construction and how to reconnect as a town thinking about the artistic assets of Northfield we can continue to create assets for the common good of Northfield.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Belle Plaine DFL

This has been a busy month and a half for me. Bringing the school year to a close, adding up the credits, making the final reports, packing up everything (as we were forced to move out of the space we designed for our 'community based school') and planning for summer school. I did manage though to meet together with my DFL friends at the Belle Plaine Library as I have for the last two and a half years. One Saturday we heard Mike Hatch talk about the needs of Health care reform, another we visited about the needs of long term care facilities, another time did an analysis of the 04 election and then put on our wet weather gear to do a highway cleanup together. The Belle Plaine friends are a great bunch of people and meeting them was among the things I treasure most in my efforts to seek public office.

Visit their website and catch some of the things they are doing:

Fellow DFL'er

Join us on Saturday, July 9 for an exciting meeting at the Belle Plaine Library. Corinth Matera of the Women's Prison Book Project will be our guest speaker. We have already collected 10 boxes of books to donate, but you can bring more. Paperbacks only, no hard cover or spiral-bound. PLUS - come to meet gubernatorial candidate Senator Steve Kelley!!

Cookout on July 16!!
It's July, it's Belle know what's next - BBQ DAYS! In honor of the occasion we will be having a cookout at Marion's house (conveniently located across from the BBQ Days Park). Mark your calendars now and we will be sending out full details shortly.

We have also extended invitations to the Northfield DFLers, Senator Steve Kelley and to Coleen Rowley, who recently announced her candidacy in the 2nd Congressional District. Cary Coop has been working on getting us into the BBQ Days Parade, but it looks like they have made an official policy - no politics. Though it remains to be seen if that is 'no politician except one' as it doesn't seem to apply to Rep. Cox who marches under his Construction Company banner all the while passing out campaign literature.

Shutdown Update
Here's a letter from State Senator Chaudhary
On Saturday, the Minnesota Senate made another attempt to get 9,000 laid off state workers back on the job and solve the impasse that has state government shut down for the first time in 148 years.

Just as we had done on June 30, we passed yet another "lights on" bill that would keep government running until July 11, which we feel would be adequate time to get a deal done. The Minnesota House adjourned on Saturday with no passage of a "lights on" bill, meaning that 9,000 state employees will be out of work on Tuesday.

In addition, the Senate DFL made another offer to the Governor in hopes of settling the budget impasse.

The offer we put on the table, which is the seventh budget we've offered in hopes of finding something that the Governor will find acceptable, provides important funds for education, health care and local government aid. Most importantly, it would get those 9,000 state employees back on the job and end this stalemate, which has become a black mark in the history of our state.

As we adjourned to observe the Independence Day holiday, it has been my hope that the Governor who clearly favors logjams over leadership will find the courage to end this mess.


Satveer Chaudhary
State Senator, Fridley

Some of you may remember Satveer when he was a student at St. Olaf College active in DFL politics even then.

You might also be interested in a great article just appeared in the latest City Pages check it out:

The Shutdown Showdown
For once, Minnesota Dems take a hard line with Pawlenty
by Britt Robson
Vol 26. Issue 1283. PUBLISHED 7/6/2005

For those who believe in the principles of collective apathy and cynicism, the first state government shutdown in Minnesota history is a golden opportunity to declare a pox on the houses of all legislators for "failing to get the job done." The "job," by the terms of this criticism, is settling the affairs of the state without cutting services or raising taxes, and getting it done without unseemly bickering, so we can gnaw on a turkey leg and enjoy Dennis De Young playing the music of Styx at Taste of Minnesota in peace.

Unfortunately, a little ruckus over the setting of the state budget is in order, and probably overdue. Over the past six years, no other state in the nation has experienced a more dramatic shift in its traditional political character and philosophy than has Minnesota. Try as we might to avoid them, the ramifications of that sea change inevitably have to be acknowledged.

First, a little background. Six years ago, the Minnesota Legislature passed a biennial budget that contained $2.7 billion worth of tax relief--more than twice as large, per capita, as any other state tax cut in the country. A year later, in a non-budget session, legislators returned hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus money through further cuts in income taxes and car license fees. For the 2002-'03 biennial budget, they executed a "big fix" by drastically lowering property taxes (especially on high-priced homes, businesses, and agricultural land), rebated $700 million in sales taxes back to citizens, and had the state replace local units of government as the source of $1 billion worth of education funding.

Having disgorged billions of dollars in excess revenue back to Minnesotans while simultaneously reducing the state's ability to bring in money and increasing the state's financial obligations, legislators left the state treasury uniquely vulnerable when the dot-com bubble burst shortly after the turn of the century. In 2002, then-Governor Ventura proposed a significant package of tax increases and spending cuts to begin to address the problem. But a pair of legislative leaders running for governor that year, Sen. Roger Moe and Rep. Tim Pawlenty, instead struck a deal to essentially postpone reckoning on the budget, shifting costs and instituting insidious gimmicks such as counting the dollars inflation adds to the state's coffers but ignoring those same adjustments when calibrating the cost of government services.

Consequently, two years ago, the newly elected Governor Pawlenty faced a whopping $4.2 billion deficit in the pending biennial budget, a situation made more intractable by his campaign pledge not to raise taxes. Even after raiding every funding source he could find, he had to hack more than $2 billion worth of services to balance the budget. A showdown seemed to loom with Senate Democrats, who had passed $1.2 billion worth of tax increases in an attempt to recoup a mere fraction of the various tax cuts that had been enacted in the previous four years. But in May 2003, then-Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger not only stopped pushing for a tax increase but abruptly reversed course and offered to supply Pawlenty with three DFL votes in the Senate to enact the governor's agenda. Hottinger said he caved in after deciding that Pawlenty would sooner shut down the government than agree to a tax increase.

To read on click here.


Monday, July 04, 2005

Another 4th of July Celebration

What we believe in makes us blind to what we do, which is exactly why we need democracy and the vision of our founders. In William H. McNeill's 1976 book,

Plagues and Peoples, a new way of looking at the defeat of the original Americans was introduced. It was not the superiority of technology or the belief that the Spaniards were 'gods,' or even the superiority of Christianity or Western Civilization, it was the lack of resistance to infectious disease. Because we believed in our superiority Euro-Americans thought their success was a result of divine intervention or the natural consequences of evolution. But McNeill's study shows us it could not have been accomplished without an important and unknown ally, infectious disease to which the natives had no immunity.

Today we believe our 'superior' technology, economic and political systems make us inheritors of destiny. We deny we are forming an empire even though we are acting as though we are the new Rome. I recently read Tariq Ali's collection of interviews that gives a sense of how those outside 'the empire' see us. He says America is beginning to admit what it is doing, behaving like the new world empire. He says, "Perhaps it is better . . . We know where to kneel." But our leaders today have not really admitted their intentions, they claim that the events of Sept. 11, 2001 have caused us to pursue a 'war' against terrorism, which makes me suspicious this war is no more than an excuse for this administration to impose its imperial desire on the world. Because rather than acting like one of the nations of the world, forming coalitions and using treaty organizations to proceed, this administration leads our nation to act unilaterally and insist others follow our lead. Why? Because rather than looking to ourselves to control our destiny this administration looks to controling Middle Eastern oil or our other economic interests across the globe through military intervention or our support of unfair trade agreements.

This 4th of July causes me to contemplate many sobering thoughts about our great nation including the diverse visions we citizens have of our origin and purpose that may well relate to our divided political scene. We've gone from war on poverty in the New Deal and the Great Society to war on the poor in America and across the globe. A world from Iraq to Venezuela, Afghanistan to Africa, where we are told that unregulated private enterprise will provide the things we have come to expect from government. Those who still believe we need government intervention to assure that generated wealth finds its way to all those contributing to societies welfare and not just the privileged few who control it, are troubled by this unquestioning new faith. This is why we are so deeply divided and why it is so difficult to have compromise even at our state level. I am proud of our democratic ideals, traditions of citizen involvement, and protection of individual rights; our suspicion of unfettered privilege and power, and our democracy based on compromise and distribution of power that protects minorities and the disenfranchised. I recognize that these beliefs and their success also led to the Reagan revolution a reaction against what many were told was the 'tyranny' of special interests over what was 'good' for the majority. In turn this has led to an unwarranted faith in the power of the 'free market' and brought about things like the current Supreme Court decision to rule in favor of eminent domain claims for private interests because they 'may' bring jobs and increase tax revenues. Something governments are increasingly reluctant to do on their own as they succumb to the pressure of those with power.

In our own county we are seeing the behavior of government officials, elected and appointed assuming they are acting in the interests of all as they ignore and abuse the rights of citizens and residents. We have a problem when the concern of citizens, for the environment, and their own wellbeing is termed insignificant or obstructionist. Proposed development along I-35 in Northwest Rice County as promoted by the County Planning Commission and the County Board does exactly that by refusing to hear testimony and discounting public input.

How can we have progress in our state government when elected officials are more interested in gamesmanship and pointing blame than they are in finding solutions to difficult problems of their own making? When a local legislator calls the principled action of a political leader 'a joke' after proclaiming himself a model of bipartisanship, how can any one believe what he says. This same legislator seems unaware of Minnesota legislative history. I am glad he is finally reading his 'alleged' hero Elmer L. Andersen, but he seems unaware that his unbending support of Governor Pawlenty and House speaker Sviggum is in direct opposition to the things that Elmer Andersen believed in, which is why Andersen (as does Gov. Carlson) opposed Governor Pawlenty's agenda. An agenda that is attempting to change the tried and true governing principles of our way of life and replace them with a 'huckster's' promise of prosperity for all. Elmer Andersen believed Minnesota's business climate was good because it operated under the assumption that people mattered. Today we have business leaders who assume that it is more important to know a man's price than to know what a man is.

Equally irksome to me is our representative's claim that he has no extreme 'right wing' agenda, when he so ferociously defends those who promote the agenda he claims not to own. Who is he kidding? How can he defend the Governor without supporting his agenda of outrageous reforms. One thing he is clear about is his defense of protecting the wealthy from taxation. He argues that he won't support taxing one group over others referring to the DFL Senate proposal to increase the income tax on Minnesota with incomes over $400 thousand, even when that tax plan is aimed at equalizing the total tax as a percent of income people pay, as substantiated by the last Minnesota Tax Incidence Report and the important work done by Joel Kramer of Growth and Justice.

By the way a quick read of this report also shows the affect of shifting the weight of commercial and business property taxes to residential property tax enacted under the Ventura administration. The drop in commercial tax revenue has led County officials to argue that more commercial development is necessary on the re-zoned I-35 site, in order to balance the trend toward residential growth. Though it may be that some commercial growth should be encouraged why not protect environmentally sensitive wetlands and agricultural land and put this development in urban areas.

For those interested in the moments leading up to the government shutdown, for what it's worth, I found the following article from the Virginia Minnesota paper interesting:

Senate DFLers adjourned with 'set-up' afoot
Bill Hanna
Mesabi Daily News
Saturday, July 02nd, 2005 11:02:16 PM

ST. PAUL - When it comes to baseball, "Inside Baseball" means those little things about the game that only those on the field and the most ardent fans would understand - a balk; the signal sent by a coach putting his finger to his nose; a pitch called a "cutter"; the intentional walk.

When it comes to the Minnesota Legislature and the countdown Thursday to a midnight first-ever state government shutdown, "Inside Baseball" means that DFL Senate "intelligence sources" reported back to the party's caucus members that a "set-up" was afoot.

The "set-up," according to state Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, one of a handful of DFL Senate leaders who convinced other caucus members that adjournment at 10 p.m. Thursday was necessary.

"When you know the inside game, we had no choice. We made a decision. We could not take a chance," Bakk said.
To read more click here.

On this 4th of July I hope you too are prompted to think about what kind of democracy our founders brought into existence and what kind of democracy we want to preserve.


Friday, July 01, 2005

Government Shuts Down
It seems a bit disingenuous for Republicans to say they were shocked by actions of the DFL Senate when their refusal to support efforts to 'keep the lights on' and insistence on interjecting reforms that had not passed in regular session should be brought into negotiations. There are two sides to the story and for the record here is what I am hearing from the DFL.

From the DFL Senate


Below is information for your use. The governor's phone number is
651-296-3391 if you want to call and weigh in today.

Pioneer Press has an online poll you may want to weigh in on.

It's important to remember that very single Democrat in the Senate and House voted to keep government operating. The DFL Senate will continue to pursue that course of action again today. Everyone Democrat agrees that government operations should resume immediately.

Jack Rice (WCCO Radio) is live at the Capitol today (Friday) from today at 12 noon if anyone wants to call in, the number is 612 or 651 989-9226 or email:

Background information on Breakdown:

At 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2005, the majority Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives voted to shut down government for the first time in the 148 years that Minnesota has been a state.

Earlier in the day, Senate Democrats passed legislation to keep state government running. Senate Democrats voted to keep 10,000 state workers on the job, voted to keep the highway rest stops open, voted to keep the warning signals on the highways operating, and voted to keep allow Minnesotans to get their driver's licenses.

All the House Republicans had to do was approve the Senate's lights on bill and the government would not have shut down. Instead, 67 of the 68 House Republicans voted to fire 10,000 state workers, voted to close our rest stops, voted to shut off the highway signs and voted to not allow Minnesotans to get their driver's licenses.

Every single DFLer in the state legislature -- every DFL Senator and every DFL Representative -- voted to keep government open. Every DFLer voted to keep 10,000 state workers working, and every DFLer voted to keep our rest stops open. Every DFLer voted to keep the highway signs on and every DFLer voted to let our taxpayers get their driver's licenses.

Every Republican Senator except one, and every Republican Representative, except one, voted to shut down the state's government.

On the morning after, 10,000 state employees wonder if and when they will work again, highway rest areas sit dark on the busiest travel weekend of the year, while highway signs are turned off and thousands of Minnesotans in need of driver's licenses sit with no help. Meanwhile, all of Minnesota waits for leadership from a Governor seemingly unconcerned about completing the task at hand. In place of leadership, we get more blame games from a chief executive clearly unable to lead his own party and unwilling to do what's best for the state he's been elected to govern.

Background on what DFL is fighting for:
After three years of budget deficits, the Governor proposed another budget that would create yet another deficit for 2008-09. The governor's budget takes the problems we face today and shifts them into the future.

We have a special session and an unresolved budget because Gov. Pawlenty is protecting 40,000 people that are making more than $250,000 at the expense of the other 2.2 million taxpayers in the state.

The Governor and House Republicans froze and then cut spending for schools. The education funding cut and freezes lead to larger class sizes, less educational opportunities for our students, and parents paying many more fees for their children to participate in activities. It's time to stand up and fight for education in Minnesota.

Governor Pawlenty has raided funds dedicated to health care to cover his budget deficits. The Governor and Republicans had set their sights on dismantling MinnesotaCare and denying health care coverage to tens of thousands of working Minnesotans. The Governor and Republicans inaccurately and unfairly describe MinnesotaCare as "welfare healthcare" which isn't true - enrollees pay monthly premiums. Enrollees are working people and farmers. Referring to MinnesotaCare as
welfare healthcare is an insult to the working men and women of this state who are paying their share to ensure they are covered.

We have a special session and an unresolved budget because Gov. Pawlenty is protecting 40,000 people that are making more than $250,000 at the expense of the other 2.2. million taxpayers in the state.

And this from the newly elected DFL State Chair:
The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party
Brian Melendez, Chair Donna Cassutt, Associate Chair
255 East Plato Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55107
Phone: 651-293-1200 Toll Free: 800-999-7457 Fax: 651-251-6325

July 1, 2005

Senate Democrats did their Job to keep Minnesota Open
DFL Chair: House Republicans shut down government by rejecting Senate DFLers' "lights on" bill

St. Paul - State DFL Chair Brian Melendez at a state Capitol news conference today (Friday) laid out the two Parties' roles in the partial shutdown of Minnesota government that resulted when the Republican-controlled House rejected the "lights on" bill that the Senate Democrats adopted yesterday:

"The DFL-led Senate did its job yesterday by passing a 'lights on' bill that would have kept the government open while negotiations continued toward a permanent budget. Every DFLer in the Senate, and every DFLer in the House, voted for this bill, which was clearly necessary and should have been uncontroversial.

"But with one exception, every Republican in both the House and the Senate voted in favor of shutting down the government.

"For weeks, the Senate DFLers have been offering proposal after proposal, in the hope of negotiating a compromise that would have kept the state government open. But Governor Pawlenty wouldn't even come to the table until this week. And when the Governor's tactics had finally driven the government to the brink of shutdown, the Senate DFLers passed the only bill under consideration that would have kept the government open. But the Republicans instead voted in favor of a shutdown."

"Every single DFL legislator voted to make sure that the state's workers weren't hung out to dry when government shut down. Almost every House and Senate Republican voted to shut down government. The Republicans are holding Minnesota hostage because they aren't willing to compromise. By voting against the "lights on" bill and in favor of a shutdown, the Governor and the House Republicans sent a message that they won't support the over 9,000 state employees and the millions of Minnesotans they represent by keeping the government open. The DFL Party is determined to fix this terrible situation, to stop using people's lives as bargaining chips, and to get the work of the people done."

Those Representatives who voted to shut down the government were:

Abeler *Abrams *Anderson, B. *Beard *Blaine
Bradley *Brod *Buesgens *Charron *Cornish
Cox *Cybart *Davids *Dean *DeLaForest
Demmer *Dempsey *Dorman *Eastlund *Emmer
Erhardt *Erickson *Finstad *Garofalo *Gazelka
Gunther *Hackbarth *Hamilton *Heidgerken *Holberg
Hoppe *Johnson, J. *Klinzing *Knoblach *Kohls
Krinkie *Lanning *Magnus *McNamara *Meslow
Nelson, P. *Newman *Nornes *Olson *Ozment
Paulsen *Penas *Peppin *Peterson, N. *Powell
Ruth *Samuelson *Seifert *Severson *Simpson
Smith *Soderstrom *Sviggum *Sykora *Tingelstad
Urdahl *Vandeveer *Wardlow *Westerberg *Westrom
Wilkin *Zellers

I am disappointed in our Representative who continually calls for bipartisanship and yet when he could make a difference chooses to stick to the party line. I think he should also own up to his part in the decision to shut down government and not just play politics and blame the other side of the aisle.