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Saturday, January 27, 2007

E Democracy Celebration

I went to the E-Democracy Party last night. It appears that there are exciting new things for E-Democracy. Steve Clift has gotten a 3 year fellowship to work full time on E-Democracy related projects - and the E-Democracy board is having a board retreat to discuss future directions for the organization.

I like the E Democracy lists, but have real differences in philosophy with the way David Brauer manages the Minneapolis Issues list. He recently ruled the Target tax abatement as a non-germain issue - even though the issue very much relates to Minneapolis.

I talked to both Tim Erickson and Steve Clift about the mn-politics yahoogroup. I encouraged them to get the list into groupserver, and do some more promotion of the list.

I also saw Paul Kuettel from Wogs Blog. Check out Kuettel's blog. Kuettel writes well about his life. He is seriously ill (liver disease from alcoholism). He told me he has decided he'd rather not live so long and be happy, than live longer and be miserable.

UPDATE: Steve Clift from E-Democracy stopped by and noted that E Democracy has a project blog up.

Don Samuels Responds on Libraries

After Don Samuels stated in the newspaper of record that "the only use for a book is to throw it at them, or block a bullet", I sent him the following email.

From: Eva Young [mailto:lloydletta@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, December 12, 2006 11:56 AM
To: Samuels, Don H; Megan Goodmundson; sen.linda.higgins@senate.mn; Benson, Scott A; Lilligren, Robert W; Hofstede, Diane T.; Johnson, Barbara A; Alan Hooker
Subject: Don Samuels: "the only use for a book is to throw it at them, or block a bullet"

Dear Don:

Samuels said he understands the growing concerns of the libraries, "but at the same time, when you are a person at the other end of gun, tip of a knife, and in the middle of a threatening crowd, the only use for a book is to throw it at them, or block a bullet with it. We have to remember that. We cannot compromise public safety."

EY: I voted for you, when you ran against Natalie Johnson-Lee.

Libraries are a core part of government services. Putting money into libraries does not prohibit having police. Having libraries open helps keep young kids from getting into crime.

I am embarrassed to be represented by someone who makes such an appalling statement.

Eva Young
Near North
http://lloydletta.blogspot.com

"Samuels, Don H"
Jan 25
Eva,
The Library board is an elected body, put into the office at the same time and process as the city council. That board has a budget and is to make decisions based on that budget. That budget was seriously affected, as was the city's, by deep LGA cuts. The city's portion caused deep public safety compromise because public safety is completely dependent, as is the library system, on LGA dollars.

The city made serious compromises, cutting the police force, ultimately, by 130 officers. The city council meetings were swamped with protesters. Our emails were flooded with protest. We got calls from every sector of the community. Murder rates and violent crimes spiked. We cut the juvenile unit, had early retirements, froze wages at 2%.

Community members were running to their homes from their garages to avoid being mugged. West Broadway became a nightmare. I HEARD ABOUT IT believe me.

So when the library board, equally affected by cuts, came to us to be baled out, having not done its dirty work the way we did, having spared the public lashings and union discord we endured for our deep cuts to the public's safety. When they came to us for help and managed to make it seem that we were responsible, that it was the city vs. the libraries and public safety vs. books, it is time to set the record straight.

Don Samuels
Minneapolis City Council
Fifth Ward
(612) 673-2205


On further correspondance, I understand that Don had his response in his drafts folder, and that's why he'd taken so long to send it. I've done that myself.

I suggested the removal of the City Council $400.00 per month car allowance. Here was Don's answer to that one:

I wont introduce removal of the car allowance. I use my car endlessly on
city business and I also get nickeled and dimed for parking which I negligently never submit, even when there was no allowance. In addition, the trips are frequent and short and would require the kind of fastidious attention I am incapable of.


Join the real world, Don. Most other employees - including those at the city, have to justify the expenses they charge to the taxpayers. Why should you be exempt?

Andy at Eleventh Avenue South on Al Franken's Joke About the Murder of a Gay Man

Here.

Conservative bloggers are trying to make the case that Al Franken is at the very least a hypocrite riding the coattails of the GLBT community, and at most, a gay-bashing bigot. The GLBT community should embrace those rare and special moments that a Republican or conservative blogger is concerned about GLBT rights and shares thoughtful policy ideas on ending violence against GLBT folks. Is those one of those cases? Sadly, no.

These compassionate conservatives are more interested in Franken-bashing than the welfare of our community. Why else would they feign concern over a 30-year-old joke, while supporting anti-gay marriage amendments, and, in at least one case, be on the payroll of the campaign of a woman who called gay people "like Satan?" If labelling an entire population as intrinsically evil and aligned with the Prince of Darkness doesn't invite derision of the GLBT community, I don't know what does.

But, besides hypocrites calling Franken a hypocrite, what of the joke? It leaves me feeling very uncomfortable. Even with the strides America's made in curbing violence aganst GLBT people, it still happens. It's happened to me, and it's happened to my friends. This joke is a reminder of a time when authorities didn't take this type of violence seriously; back then you could be fined and jailed for being 'homosexual.' Just admitting the nature of the crime opened you up for criminal prosecution. The joke was hurtful, and members of the GLBT community are right in calling for an explanation, although the obviously satirical nature of the joke, coupled with the passing of more than 30 years make a response unlikely.


I'd like to hear Al Franken explain the satire.

Humphrey Students Comment

Um, just to clarify: it's not entirely "on the record" to post an email from a Humphrey student whose name is listed only as "Goldy."

And your offer is not very encouraging to any HHHers like myself who are interested in hashing this entire thing out and being put on the record.

There was no debate at the Humphrey Institute regarding Sally Kenney's email until you attempted to include yourself as a recipient of our internal communications. Prof. Kenney's email was seen for exactly what it was--one of many, many, many internship/job postings that we receive every day from various departments/professors/schools.

There was no controversy except the one that you and others who are of a similar mind and mission have invented out of thin air.

The real controversy is now over the following points:

Who are YOU and what do you have to do with the Humphrey Institute in any way, shape, or form?

Why is it that you wanted to be included on our internal communications listserv, anyway?

Was it really just for your own personal edification?

To hear "the other side" of the "debate"?

Certainly, none of our emails to each other would have ever ended up on this website of yours as an "EXCLUSIVE SCOOP", would they?
Graham Lampa 01.26.07 - 2:01 am | #


On that one.... No, I would not post emails from the HHH Student personal listserv on this blog without permission of the author of the message.

Eva -

Why were you trying to get on an email list without disclosing to the members or adminstrators of that list who you were. That's not asking for the other side. That's spying.

Also, it sounds like you were using your status as a U staff person to gain this access. Doesn't that make you guilty, more so, of what you are accusing Prof. Kenney of?
episcocat | 01.26.07 - 11:57 am | #

Eva is the epitome of a double standard.
That is why she possesses no legitimacy/credibility in politics in Minnesota. She is a hypocrit, and has to rely on David and Mark for credibility.
Sara


After the hullaballoo over that list, I decided to try to get on the list to see for myself what it was about. So I subscribed. The list manager called me the next day and asked me why I was interested. I said the list had been covered in the Strib and the AP and I wanted to read what the controversy was about.

I have heard from students privately who have different opinions on this.

For the record, here's my take. I think Professor Kenney made a mistake. That doesn't mean I think she's a bad person, and it doesn't mean I think she should be disciplined. My guess is she won't make the same mistake again after getting humiliated in the press.

I also found it very interesting that Larry Jacobs hung her out to dry in the press.

In general, this is a larger problem. Any blogger knows their blog statistics are much higher during the day - during work hours. There are lots of people - in both the public and private sector who spend lots of time looking at blogs during work hours.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Another Humphrey Institute Student Comments

I am interested in hearing from Humphrey Institute Students who want to talk on the record or on background about this situation. Email me at lloydletta@gmail.com if you want to discuss this.

As a Humphrey student, I can guarantee that almost NO students will receive solicitations/information from any Republican candidate, simply because Republicans don't really exist at the Humphrey Institute. In fact, Humphrey students took it upon themselves to flood Alan Fine's Carlson School of Business e-mail account and telephone service with e-mails and calls against his campaign and comments on his opponent.

This situation is hardly overblown. In fact, it's an appropriate debate that should be taking place among students and faculty and all others involved at the Institute. People are commenting on a "rat" in the student body. Yet, the freedom to take to the press and issue you feel is compelling or important is the exact reason freedom of speech is guaranteed by out government. Just as Prof. Kenney is allowed (and encouraged, of course) to speak her mind about politics and be involved (we all should involved). However, in her capacity as an educator of politics as a public university, the lines between what is and what is not acceptable are blurred.

It is my personal wish (maybe just because I don't really care which candidates my professors support) that professors stumped for candidates without the additional help of students. I think the decent thing would have been to have Mr. Franken's people contact the Humphrey Institute and figure out a way to make a volunteer or job opportunity posting for all students to be involved in any of his projects preceeding a possible candidacy, instead of having a professor at the Humphrey acting on his behalf. This way, everyone would have won and controversy would have been avoided. It's this type of down-boarding that I hope students will learn through their education.
Goldy

Press Begins to Pick Up on Franken's Joke about the Murder of a Gay Man

Jewish Daily Forward:

While some Democrats worry about Franken’s comedic past, Republican operatives are already busily working to dredge up any past missteps. In recent weeks, the blog MinnesotaDemocratsExposed.com has posted tasteless comments Franken made about homosexuals in the course of an interview with the Harvard Crimson in 1976. During the 2006 campaign, the website extensively detailed past ties between Democratic House candidate Keith Ellison and the Nation of Islam, and the issue utlimately spilled out into state and national news media. (Ellison later won the election.)


This makes Hotline.

Michael Brodkorb is the most effective Minnesota blogger I know about getting his blog posts republished in the mainstream media. He's been doing Norm Coleman big time favors.

Great Quote from Chuck Hagel

On Wednesday the Senate Foreign Relations committee approved the Biden/Hagel resolution in response to the President's 'augmentation' of Iraq forces.

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (NE) stated the bottom line question in very simple terms......

“I think all 100 senators ought to be on the line on this. What do you believe? What are you willing to support? What do you think? Why were you elected?” Mr. Hagel said, his voice booming. “If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes.”



I agree with Senator Hagel. Let's get roll call votes on all of these resolutions. The November 2006 election meant something (at least to the voters).

PZ Myers Defends Sally Kenney

On Pharyngula. He doesn't think much of the Drama Queen:

The source was the odious Michael Brodkorb. Did I say he was a hack? He'd have to acquire some infinitesimal modicum of dignity in order to drag himself up out of the gutter slime and qualify to the title of "hack". Right now, all he is is a junior shit-stirrer; he dreams of being a hack, if only a magic fairy would come along and enchant some hack-level measure of talent into his sludge-flinging brain. I'm sorry, Michael, but fairies don't exist, so there will be no magic to help you overcome your limitations.

Republican blogger Michael Brodkorb, who recently posted the e-mail on his website minnesotademocratsexposed .com, accused Kenney of using "a taxpayer funded tool not available to competing campaigns. ... It crossed the line into clear advocacy."

A tool not available to competing campaigns? What? Here, you lying wanker, I've got 20 gmail invites. Want one? E-mail is pretty much the lowest, simplest, commonest utility around nowadays; the university hands these things out to all of our students. Are we going to start monitoring email to make sure the users don't commit that horrible sin of expressing their own opinions?

As for advocacy: hell yes! University employees ought to be advocates for our own views. When I signed my contract, I don't recall one of the conditions being that my blood would be drained and replaced with some colorless, odorless, flavorless fluid that was designed to be inoffensive, nor was I told I had to be neutered to work here. If we are to function as public intellectuals, we cannot do so by burying our opinions and pretending to a false and magisterial aloofness—that's just not the way the world works.

Now Brodkorb is the kind of marginally multicellular ooze who might play this fake story up, but what I find particularly appalling is that some other university people are mumbling their support of his thesis.

A colleague of Kenney's, Larry Jacobs, director of the institute's Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, said that "as someone who works with people from all parties, it's just an inappropriate use of university resources. ... I don't ever recall seeing an e-mail like that from a faculty member."

Hmmm. Maybe Jacobs was hired under a different contract—one that required bloodlessness and castration. Does he really pretend that he is an objective observer with no opinions, and is he so fearful that he thinks no one will like him if he admits to an opinion? Email is a commodity, a privilege handed out with our employment, a teeny-tiny perquisite to help compensate for our teeny-tiny salaries, and it's hardly a drain on university resources for a faculty member to send out correspondence with it. If you want to see a drain on university resources, try turning university employment into an excuse to regulate every action of our faculty.


What the story got wrong was that Sally Kenney did not use her personal U of MN email address, but rather used a humphrey institute email address to send this message to a Humphrey Institute personal student listserv. There are legitimate concerns about acceptable use of University Resources on this one.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

US Senate Rejects Minimum Wage Increase

From the NY Times


January 24, 2007
Senate Rejects Minimum Wage Bill
By DAVID STOUT
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 -- Prospects for an increase in the minimum wage suffered a setback today in the Senate, where a majority rejected a move to raise the minimum by $2.10 an hour without tax breaks for small businesses.

By a vote of 54 to 43, the chamber rejected an effort to pass a bill that would increase the wage to $7.25 from the current $5.15 in three steps, but without tax breaks. The measure was overwhelmingly approved by the House two weeks ago.

The vote came on a motion to shut off debate and go to a “yes or no” vote on the measure itself. Since 60 votes were needed to end debate, supporters of the House-approved bill lost by 17 votes.

Today’s vote, while disappointing to those who want to raise the minimum wage at once and with no accompanying tax provisions, was hardly a surprise. A substantial number of senators had indicated they wanted to tie a wage increase to tax breaks for small businesses, to help offset the costs of the increase.

Next, the Senate will debate what kind of tax breaks to attach to a wage increase. Then, the Senate will have to agree with the House. President Bush has signaled that he would sign a bill providing for a wage increase with related tax breaks.

All 43 “no” votes on the motion to end debate were cast by Republicans. Five Republicans joined 47 Democrats and two independents in voting “yes.” They were Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, John W. Warner of Virginia and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine. (Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, and Senators Tom Carper of Delaware and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, both Democrats, did not vote.)



Good for Senator Coleman for supporting an increase.

I'll be interested to see what sort of tax breaks are proposed.

An employee's gross pay IS a deductible business expense, so doesn't a business automatically get a bigger tax deduction by increasing employee wages?

For non-profit employers (e.g. some nursing homes), a tax break means nothing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Humphrey Institute Student Responds to the Drama Queen's Story

Hey all,

I'm a Humphrey student and this issue is way overblown. The Humphrey personal listserv is notorious for spam. In the last week alone I have received e-mails for textbooks, people not turning the lights off when they leave a room, a grandmother’s car for sale, and a student sledding event over the weekend. Every weekday I get about 15 listserv e-mails, of which I find about one or two personally useful.

Professor Kenney merely sent out a personal e-mail looking for like-minded individuals. Any student or faculty member can do the same. In fact, I'm sure I'll be receiving e-mails asking for support or interns from all major candidates and political parties. Anyone who wishes to not receive such e-mails, can unsubscribe from the listserv at any time.

Seriously, I'm sure we all have more important things than to hype up this non-issue. Personally, I'm going to read my public finance homework.

Night all.

Comment by theskippy — January 22, 2007


And it looks like Michael Brodkorb ghostwrote the story for Dane Smith at the Star Tribune.

What Will Mayor Rybak Do?

Apparently there is going to be a resolution to oppose the Iraq war coming up before the Minneapolis City Council on Friday. Rybak vetoed such a resolution in the past. What will he do now? I understand that Cam Gordon and Ralph Remington will be introducing this resolution.

GLBT Rights: Bend-over and be the DFL's bitch, again.

In the past I, as well as Eva, have passionately spoken out against the DFL when it comes to their double-talk on GLBT rights and equality. During the past legislative sessions the GLBT community applauded the DFL cauccus for stopping the likes of Michele Bachmann and Mary Liz Holberg and their anti-equality legislation. You've given them money, time and your hearts. And how are we repaid? Like a one-night stand. The next morning the DFL told the GLBT activists "thanks, it was a good time. We'll call you tomorrow so we can get together and do somthing." And just like every other one night stand we never hear from them again. Sure, maybe you run into each other every once in a while and have that awkward moment trying to pretend you don't know each other, but that uncomfortable smile still creeps across their face. You pass by each other as if nothing ever happened. Sure, maybe you get together again, but it's only after 2 or 4 years pass and everyone pretends like they don't remember the last time. The cycle continues.

So this year, the DFL took over control of the Minnesota House and Senate. They courted the GLBT community, took our money, walked with us in parades and stood by us at rallies. Perhaps we have a fighting chance of getting some equality in our great state. Hell, even civil unions are a starting point. Is that going to happen? My fellow gays, bend over because here it comes. Apparently not. Minnesota Monitor has reported that Same-sex Marriage, Civil Unions and Domestic Partner Benefits will have low to no priority now that the DFL has control.

Who then can we count upon to hold the legislators and the DFL to task? Perhaps a GLBT rights group would step in and call for accountability? Oh wait, no. From the Minnesota Monitor 'Ann DeGroot, executive director for OutFront Minnesota agreed: "I don't think we are in a place to do that yet." '

Ann, I say grow a pair and do what is right. But no that won't happen. The DFL's GLBT Office of Public Relations (a.k.a. Outfront Minnestoa) has consistently said one thing and then done another. Outfront claims to be fighting for equality and full legal protection but then they aren't willing to get out there and fight for our rights at the legislature. This isn't the first time they have said this either. In October of 2005 I went to an organizational meeting for the OutFront, Together Minnesota!, campaign. At that time a gentleman brought up the question as to why they didn't fight for an equal protection bill. The same line was used by Ann DeGroot who said, "Minnesota isn't ready for that yet."

Well I for one am pissed off, but not just at the DFL and OutFront, but at the other member's of the GLBT community. You will stand up and scream at a Republican or a Conservative who wants to ban gay marriage, but you will sit by, like lap dogs when the DFL says "you aren't important to us." To all of you, I say, you get what you deserve. And you are getting nothing. Perhaps you will learn that you can't allow yourselves to be taken for granted, but I doubt it. I will no longer sit idly by and allow people to have a double standard on this issue. I haven't for a long time. Expect me to be a thorn in your side. Phyllis Kahn and Larry Pogemiller you are my first targets as you represent my House and Senate districts. My bretheren in the GLBT commuity, get off your asses, get angry and get results. If you don't then to you I say again, bend over because you're gonna be fucked at the end of the day.

Eva adds: My thoughts exactly. I would encourage Lloydletta readers to call Outfront Minnesota and ask why they don't have a lobbying agenda now that "our friends" have been elected. The number for Outfront Minnesota is 612-822-0127 and Ann DeGroot's email is adg@outfront.org. Feel free to cc me on your emails (lloydletta@gmail.com).

Monday, January 22, 2007

New Republican on Romney v Camenker

On their blog:

ROMNEY'S HYPOCRITICAL WEB:

It'll be fun to watch Mitt Romney try to wriggle free from the web of contradictions he has crafted in such a short political career. He has not even announced his presidential campaign yet, but a press release issued today shows just how difficult Romney's journey will be.

The release is a response to this news story, which details the criticisms of Brian Camenker, (the anti-gay advocate who knows more about obscure, gay sexual fetishes than most gays do, profiled so well by Ryan Lizza last month).

In the press release (not available online), the Romney campaign charges that "Camenker is not a credible voice and pushes an extreme ideology." Hmm ... more extreme than those of Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, whom Romney has courted? It also quotes a 2005 Boston Globe story, stating that Camenker is "often lampooned by the local and national media," as if it will warm the hearts of socially conservative Republican primary voters to hear that Romney has joined such a liberal stalwart as The Daily Show in lampooning a genuine, hard-working, pro-family advocate. (The press release even links to this hilarious video from said program mocking Camenker.)

But just whom is the intended audience for Romney's rebuttal? Pro-gay Republican moderates, who might take pleasure in seeing Romney ridicule a right-wing nut? More likely, it's social conservative Republican primary voters, who may start to question Romney's commitment to their issues because of the (distasteful, though accurate) critiques that Camenker has made about Romney's contradictory record. Disagree with Camenker on the issues, but you've got to give the guy credit for so thoroughly documenting the rank opportunism of Mitt Romney's entire, and probably short-lived, political career.

Anyway, if it is the latter group Romney is preening to--which makes the most sense--the presumed presidential candidate with the movie star good looks might have some trouble. Camenker, prejudiced though he may be, is no less outlandish in his views on gays than many Republicans. Indeed, some may sympathize with Camenker's criticism of Romney and take offense that he's gone after one of their activist heroes. Oh, the web he weaves.


Romney is clearly trying to play both sides of this issue - and as a result is making both sides mad.

The Drama Queen Is the Center of Attention

Here.

The email below was forwarded to me at my blog on Saturday morning. The Republicans AND Democrats that have seen the email have expressed great concern that Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs/U of M resources will be/are being used to advance Al Franken's candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

Regardless of the last two sentences, this email was sent out on an internal Humphrey Institute email system.


This isn't the first time - and won't be the last that University resources have been used to promote particular campaigns. Republican Alan Fine held a symposium that was totally outside of his research area at Coffman Union, which he then posted on his website.

Brodkorb is very good at getting negative press about his opponents. There's an AP story about this one.

Larry Jacobs at the Humphrey Institute responded:

A cornerstone of the University is freedom of speech. HHH is open to many political parties and viewpoints. The Institute, for instance, recently hosted a retreat of the entire legislature (two thirds attended from both parties) and the Institute's advisory boards reflect the political and other forms of diversity in Minnesota. My Center's programming is determinedly fair.

It is regretful that Professor Kenney chose to use a university resource — email — to conduct her political work.

I am, though, reassured by Professor Kenney's commitment to keep her political and University work separate. This is a strong and welcome commitment. For what it is worth, I understand that Professor Kenney's email was sent out on a "personal" listing.


I believe he meant a "personal listserv" - which was a University Listserv for personal announcements.

What Kinney did was inappropriate. Unfortunately, Brodkorb's gottcha style, will make professors at the Humphrey Institute more leary about promoting any political opportunities for their grad students. The real problem here - and the people who really need to be challenged are Al Franken and the Midwest Values PAC.

Brodkorb didn't like it too much when Tim OBrien at the Strib pointed out how often he was posting during the day - and how he had a very understanding employer.

Republican Base Is Unhappy with Pawlenty's Budget

Strib:

GOP criticism harsher

The sharpest criticism, however, came not from DFLers but from Pawlenty's own party.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said the surplus could have yielded $1 billion in tax relief for Minnesotans, rather than the $281 million recommended by Pawlenty.

David Strom, president of the Taxpayers League, a group that espouses a philosophy of fiscal conservatism, said the scope of the budget "took my breath away." The 9.3 percent spending increase "isn't just generous," Strom said, "it's knocking on the door of spendthrift."

And while Pawlenty does hold his budget increase under 10 percent overall, two areas of the budget stray well into the double-digit zone. Under his proposal, health and human service spending would rise nearly 19 percent over the 2006-07 budget period, while higher-ed spending would go up 16.4 percent.

That's due in large part to the $1 billion in ongoing spending required under current law. Just to accommodate increasing caseloads, health and human services requires nearly $1 billion before anything new is added.

The projected surplus gives Pawlenty an additional $2.1 billion for new spending.

"Pipe down"

Anticipating his critics, Pawlenty took a moment during his budget address to offer a Goldilocks-style defense. Those on the left, he said, would accuse him of spending too little. Those on the right would say he spent too much.

"I think it's about right," Pawlenty said. And in a flash of the feistier style of earlier years, he added that interest groups who wanted still more should "pipe down and be satisfied."

Pawlenty's budget plan calls for no new taxes and $1.7 billion in state borrowing for road projects. It also would rebuild state budget reserves, boost local police forces and State Patrol numbers, offer help for the homeless and water quality and increase preparedness for pandemic flu.


What will Geoff Michel do when a gas tax increase is introduced this year? From Spotty (who lives in Michel's district):

TPaw, through his mouthpiece, has already threatened to veto any gas tax:

On transportation, Senate DFLers would raise the gasoline tax, license tab fees and allow counties to raise taxes and fees, all to produce $1 billion of new spending on roads and transit. Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung has dubbed the Senate bill "veto bait."

This is pretty funny, of course, because the Minnesota Legislature's site links the House and Senate versions as "companions." Fellow travelers, so to speak.

So that brings us back to the question in the title of the post. A good transportation bill with a gas tax increase will pass the DFL-controlled Legislature. The governor will probably veto it. Then there will be a vote to override the veto.

What are you gonna do, Geoffy (Michel)?

He voted against the gas tax increase last time, in spite of the fact that the two representatives in his district - Ron Erhardt and Neil Peterson - voted for it. He then had the bad taste to pretend that the Crosstown fiasco of last summer was not his fault.

Spotty, I bet he votes yes.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Eminent Domain to be Used for Stadium Boondoggle

Strib:

With the start of the construction season fast approaching, the push to begin building a stadium for the Minnesota Twins now heads into the courtroom.

Hennepin County's move to condemn land for the 40,000-seat stadium in downtown Minneapolis will go before a judge today for the first time. With preliminary work to begin in mid-March, and with the stadium projected to open in three years, the county has asked to be given title to the land as early as Jan. 30.

The owners of the land west of the Target Center where the open-air stadium would be built -- a limited liability partnership with more than 100 investors -- has rejected the county's initial offer, and both sides appear to be tens of millions of dollars apart on a sales price. Although there has been some progress toward an agreement over the past two weeks, what happens next -- and whether it delays, or even jeopardizes the already-controversial $522 million stadium -- is drawing much interest.

The Legislature limited so-called infrastructure spending for the stadium to $90 million, which includes not only land purchases, but also roads, soil remediation and related projects.

The spending cap, according to county officials, limits how much money the county has to buy the land and still do the other work necessary to build the stadium. It has also set off speculation whether the Twins, who have committed $130 million to build the ballpark, will be forced to help with the land purchase.


Why can't they just pay for the whole stadium?

Since November, when the county filed its condemnation notice, each side has been granted motions for new judges.

For the county, proceeding with condemnation raises other problems. Although it would quickly gain title to the property and could begin building the stadium, the county would not know until later how much it would have to pay for the land. That would leave the county unsure how much would be left for other stadium infrastructure costs. A negotiated sale, without condemnation, would enable to county to know its financial exposure before work began.

"We don't like that option -- the option of leaving to chance the land price," said County Commissioner Mike Opat.

Opat was the lead negotiator for the County Board on the stadium deal.


This is getting more and more 4 stooge like by the day.

If you swim in a sewer....

At some point you'll get some on you.

Ballpark land deal now goes to court
Unable to agree on a price with the landowners, Hennepin County makes a move to condemn the land.

By Mike Kaszuba, Star Tribune


With the start of the construction season fast approaching, the push to begin building a stadium for the Minnesota Twins now heads into the courtroom.
Hennepin County's move to condemn land for the 40,000-seat stadium in downtown Minneapolis will go before a judge today for the first time. With preliminary work to begin in mid-March, and with the stadium projected to open in three years, the county has asked to be given title to the land as early as Jan. 30.

The owners of the land west of the Target Center where the open-air stadium would be built -- a limited liability partnership with more than 100 investors -- has rejected the county's initial offer, and both sides appear to be tens of millions of dollars apart on a sales price. Although there has been some progress toward an agreement over the past two weeks, what happens next -- and whether it delays, or even jeopardizes the already-controversial $522 million stadium -- is drawing much interest.

The Legislature limited so-called infrastructure spending for the stadium to $90 million, which includes not only land purchases, but also roads, soil remediation and related projects.

The spending cap, according to county officials, limits how much money the county has to buy the land and still do the other work necessary to build the stadium. It has also set off speculation whether the Twins, who have committed $130 million to build the ballpark, will be forced to help with the land purchase.

Since November, when the county filed its condemnation notice, each side has been granted motions for new judges.

For the county, proceeding with condemnation raises other problems. Although it would quickly gain title to the property and could begin building the stadium, the county would not know until later how much it would have to pay for the land. That would leave the county unsure how much would be left for other stadium infrastructure costs. A negotiated sale, without condemnation, would enable to county to know its financial exposure before work began.

"We don't like that option -- the option of leaving to chance the land price," said County Commissioner Mike Opat.

Opat was the lead negotiator for the County Board on the stadium deal.

Meanwhile, there have been other problems on the project.

The latest rift occurred when county officials, in a document filed with the state Environmental Quality Board two months ago, said the Twins planned to include "up to 64,000 square feet for potential residential, retail or office use" within the stadium. The disclosure surprised the landowners and their development partner, Texas-based Hines Interests, who have their own plans for residential and retail development on surrounding land that they also control. Any attempt by the Twins to build retail or residential units within the stadium would likely be seen as competition.

Team backs off

David St. Peter, the Twins president, said the team considered -- but has since dismissed -- the idea of including development within the stadium. "It's been off the table here for probably at least a couple months," he said.

Opat said the proposal was discarded because the county cannot legally issue tax-exempt debt for a "non-ballpark use" at the site, such as residential units. Hennepin County is a major financial contributor to the stadium's construction through a 0.15 percent countywide sales tax that began being levied Jan. 1.

Despite the many hurdles that remain, a sale agreement might lie ahead. "I'm reasonably optimistic that we can reach a deal in the coming month or so," said Dan Rosen, an attorney for Hines and the landowners.

A legal hurdle

The county's first legal undertaking Monday will be to determine whether the landowners will agree that the stadium's construction, under state law, serves a "public purpose." If the landowners challenge the "public purpose" of the project, particularly at this late date, the move would almost certainly lead to a protracted -- and costly -- legal battle that would probably prevent the stadium from opening in 2010. Opat said that the property owners have not given a clear answer and that, without such an agreement, "we won't have a project."

Richard Pogin, the chief financial officer for Investment Management Inc., which represents the landowners, indicated the owners would not challenge the project's "public purpose" but stopped short of an unqualified answer. "If 'public purpose' is building a ballpark, if that's the central issue ... I don't anticipate an objection to that," he said.

Hennepin County and team officials have privately bristled that "public purpose" -- fundamental to the project -- is even in doubt at this time given the landowners' previous actions. Bruce Lambrecht, the president of Investment Management Inc., had long publicly lobbied for building the stadium on the property.

During the first six months last year, when the stadium awaited approval from the Legislature, state records showed that Twinsville, a group that wanted the project on the property, spent $33,000 on lobbying with Lambrecht's involvement. The year before, state campaign finance records show, Twinsville spent $40,474 while Lambrecht was the principal lobbyist, and another $90,280 in 2004.

Lambrecht also publicly endorsed the stadium agreement at a kickoff press conference in April 2005, and three weeks ago mingled with county officials at a swearing-in ceremony for Opat and others.

"I think there's some irony there," St. Peter said.

Though county officials have not made their initial offer public, Pogin said the county had $13.5 million to buy the land. The property, according to county records, has an $8.37 million assessed value. Three years ago, the property owners had given an option to sell the 8-acre site to Minneapolis for $12.95 million. The option has since expired, and also included other nearby land that the property owners would get from the city.

How much, really?

Pogin dismisses reports that the landowners now want between $40 million and $60 million for the property, but said the county is undervaluing it. "What they're really saying is, 'We're afraid of what the fair market value of the land is,' " Pogin said in describing the county's negotiations.



Thank you very much, Mike Opat, Randy Johnson, Mark Stenglein, Peter McLaughlin, Tim Pawlenty, Brad Finstad, Steve Kelley, Steve Sviggum, Laura Brod, and the rest of the slack jawed crooks who got Hennepin County into this mess.

Rep Laura Brod's Crocodile Tears on Taxes

MplsSteve made this comment on the Drama Queen's website:

#

I heard Rep. Brod on Saturday’s show.

Maybe it's just me but I find Rep. Brod’s concerns about taxes to be a little phony.

After all, she did vote (A) not to let Hennepin County voters hold a referendum on a new Twins stadium and (B) voted for the final bill.

I guess Rep. Brod is only concerned about taxes as long as the people of her district don’t have to pay for them.

It is because of people like her that I stopped donating money to the House Republican Campaign Committee.

Comment by MplsSteve — January 21, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

Bush Proposes Taxing Health Benefits

This is a tax increase - and it's targetted to the middle class. New York Times:

The Census Bureau estimates that 175 million Americans obtain private health insurance through employers, while 27 million people are covered by insurance bought outside the workplace. The rest, with the exception of the 47 million uninsured, are covered through government programs like Medicare and Medicaid and military health care.

Under Mr. Bush's proposal, people buying health insurance on their own would receive a tax break similar to the one that has historically been available to people who receive coverage through their jobs. The plan is tied to the average cost of family health coverage, which is currently $11,500 a year.

It would work like this: The administration would cap the amount of benefits that can remain tax free at $15,000 for a family and $7,500 for an individual. Anyone whose health insurance cost more than that would pay taxes on the difference. For example, a family with coverage costing $16,000 a year would pay taxes on $1,000.

The cap would also be used to establish the amount of the new deduction for people who lack coverage. In this example, a family buying insurance on its own could take a $15,000 deduction — even if the insurance cost less. The cap would rise with some measure of overall inflation, but would not necessarily keep pace with the costs of medical care and health insurance.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to upstage the president, said, "The vast majority of people with employer-provided coverage will benefit as well."


The question is whether this tax break would be a deduction or a refundable tax credit. For low income, often a deduction doesn't do any good.

Ronald Reagan was successfully able to make grad student stipends taxable. That affected a smaller group of people. I imagine this isn't going over well. Business and Labor are united in opposition.

Creationism Supporting Karen Klinzing Appointed as Assistant Commissioner of Education

Hat Tip: Joe Bodell.

Hopefully she will not be addressing Science Education as part of her job duties.

Klinzing in her own words:

Dear Ms. Eva,

Are you suggesting that public schools should not teach about the John T. Scopes trial? Most Social Studies teachers do, Ms. Young. It's in all of the text books. In order to teach about that trial in the public school history classes, the Social Studies teachers may need to define terms involved in all sides of the trial, including creationism and evolution. Sounds like your one-sided perspective about history, aka "evolution - only" perspective, might be the more skewed, (or in your terms "wacky") perspective on history.

Most mainstream parents would find it a travesty to learn that their students did not learn the DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES that created America. I have been a public school social studies high school teacher in East Bloomington for 11 years, where many Minneapolis students have taken advantage of open enrollment options to attend our public high school. Along with Minneapolis students, at least 20 % of my classes include students who grew up in East Bloomington learning about and believing in creationism. Is it the responsibility of the American Goverment to disregard their belief system any more than to disregard that belief system of an atheist or evolutionist such as yourself? How can public school teachers respect the DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES in the classroom without presenting all sides of the debate? To teach that evolution is not a debate is to choose your side of the issue.

I believe that faith in God AND believing the theory of Evolution are not mutually exclusive. Who is to say that YOUR evolution-only persepctive should prevail in the public school classroom at the expense of disrespecting 20 % or more of the students. 85% of the students, be they Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, in the public school classes have read the Book of Genesis about the creation of the world in Sunday school. Why shouldn't they learn about the diverse perspectives that formed the context for the John T. Scopes court trial which changed curriculum in American public schools. Would you also suggest that we disrespect 20% of the students who are a racial minority when we teach about the Civil Rights movement....probably not. You would like to pick and choose the views to fit your agenda and not present all of the perspectives. Who deemed your perspective on the world the most correct?
The point of a free-public education in a democracy is to about all of the sides of the debate not (sic)

I'm disapointed in your false representation of Senator LeClair's and Senator Bachman's [sic] viewpoints. You dishonorably smear their honorable characters by claiming that Bachman [sic] is "wacky" and "bears false witness.". Your aim to create a history that lacks diverse perspectives is dishonorable to the principles of democracy on which this country is founded. Your misguided and one sided propaganda is a danger to free, democratic, public education.


PZ Myers made short work of this.

UPDATE: Welcome Pharyngula Readers. PZ Myers posted about this nonsense. If you'd like to let Governor Pawlenty know how you feel about this appointment, call his office at 651-296-3391.

Bay Windows on the Romney-Camenker Catfight

Here.

Mitt Romney-Brian Camenker smackdown!

Christian Broadcasting Network political reporter Adrian Brody recently wrote that he’s “never seen anything like” the catfight between Mitt Romney and Brian Camenker. “My email box is scorching hot from the rhetoric flying from both sides,” wrote Brody in a Jan. 12 post to his blog.
Camenker, who doesn’t believe Romney did all that he could have to prevent lesbian and gay couples from marrying (perhaps he was hoping for a George Wallace-like stand on the steps of Boston City Hall?), has been distributing a detailed 28-page dossier on Romney’s record that purports to show how easy Romney was on the gays during his time in office. Until last week, the biggest bite Camenker had received from the press was a piece in The New Republic by Ryan Lizza, who noted that Camenker’s screed “has been moving through Christian-right circles like a copy of Playboy at a 1950s summer camp.”

Lizza’s piece was cleverly titled “Urine Trouble” — unfortunately, the title is tied to Lizza’s having unquestioningly accepted many of Camenker’s claims: “He (Camenker) notes that Romney’s Department of Education distributed a publication, The Little Black Book: Queer in the 21st Century, that includes the following practical information: ‘There is little risk of STD infection and no risk of HIV infection from playing with pee.’” Of course, the book was never distributed by anyone, much less the state Department of Education. It was mistakenly made available at a gay youth conference by someone working for Fenway Community Health. But why quibble?

Last week, Camenker's opus hit the big time. The Associated Press wrote about it (though much more critically than Lizza did) and within hours of hitting the wires, it was everywhere. Team Romney immediately posted a press release to its website taking apart much of Camenker’s claims. And for good measure, it managed to casually mention that Camenker is Jewish, as the Phoenix's political reporter David S. Bernstein noted on his blog. This week, the right-wing Americans For Truth demanded an apology from Romney for his smear of Camenker. AFT President Peter LaBarbera (who, for work purposes, occasionally dresses in full leather regalia and attends gay S/M events on which he then reports for whichever right-wing anti-gay organization he is currently affiliated with), says Camenker is an "American hero in the fight against the radical homosexual agenda."


We'd never get original commentary like this in Lavender.

Mitt Romney to be on the Northern Alliance Radio Network Next Week

I wonder if they will allow for calls from the Peanut Gallery. I wonder if he's also going to be a guest on some of the KKMS shows.