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Friday, September 08, 2006

Ridiculous Candidates for Statewide Office

Tonight's 'Almanac' show featured a forum with the candidates for State Auditor. Props to the show for including the Green and Independence Party candidates, as well as the DFL and Republican contenders.

Lucy Gerold from the Independence Party acquitted herself quite well. She seems to have actually done some research and has some understanding of what the office does. The Green Party candidate wants to work for social, environmental and economic justice as State Auditor. With all due respect, that isn't what the Constitution requires. He's making up a new agenda out of whole cloth.

The same can be said for Rebecca Otto, the DFL endorsed candidate. She is a total embarassment, and seems to be hinging her campaign on the basis of a typo in one report. Ironically, the report was from the Minnesota Department of Education, an entity that the State Auditor Pat Anderson's office doesn't even audit.

I worked for the State Auditor's office when I was just out of college, and Arne Carlson was in charge. As I recall, we audited county governments, first class cities (Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth), certain pension funds, and other entities on request, if a need was identified.

As a politician, it would probably be difficult to find interesting campaign material to use, because a person can be successful and do a totally competent, professional job, and none of it would be very interesting to the general public.

Otto showed her true colors when the hosts asked what the candidates thought about the fiscal disaster facing Duluth. The city is self-insured for health benefits, and over the years the public employee unions have succesfully negotiated for free health care (no deductibles, no co-pays) for life. Cradle to grave. No accruals or other accounting for the potential liability have ever been recognized, and now the city is admitting they have an estimated $300 million problem on their hands. Bankruptcy has been acknowledged as one of the solutions.

Pat Anderson has offered advice and feedback to the city officials, but it isn't her job to 'fix it'. What she can probably do is suggest ways to face up to these problems earlier, when it happens to other government entities (and it will).

Of course, Rebecca Otto has to talk about feelings and what is owed these employees who worked so hard. The part she misses is that very few, if any, private employers offer retiree health benefits any more. The big American auto makers have historically provided those benefits, and look at their financial condition.

As a good DFL, union-bound liberal, Otta neglected to mention what the taxpayer in Duluth will have to pony up in the future. Her blind allegiance to public employee unions was quite obvious. How about watching out for the taxpayers in Duluth?

Taken as a whole, this group makes the DFL 5th Congressional district candidates look like a bunch of geniuses. I hope Pat Anderson wins in November, and wins big. She's one of the (very) few Republicans I'll be supporting this year.