Category Archives: Minnesota Politics

Willy Makeit and the Kunst Brothers

After a day spent far away from Donald Trump’s ego boosting rally at the arena (that one insider gives me credit for talking Duluth into voting for) I woke thinking about something unifying and faithful to the Minnesota I moved to in the Era of Hubert Humphrey. You might have heard of him. In 1948 he helped drive the Dixiecrats out of the Democratic Party at his party’s national convention. He had the temerity to cry out for an end to “state’s rights” and new future of Civil Rights:

“To those who say — My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late. To those who say — To those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”

I woke trying to recall the names of the young Minnesota brothers who walked around the world not long after I moved to Minnesota. Thank goodness for Wikipedia. Their entry is short.

They were the Kunst Brothers. I don’t know when I’ve seen a remembrance of them in a newspaper – maybe not for thirty years. However, when David and his brother John set out from tiny Caledonia, Minnesota in Minnesota’s southwestern corner of Minnesota (see map above) in 1970 with a mule they called “Willie Makeit” in the middle of the Vietnam War to walk around the world they caught a lot of attention. That only doubled when they got halfway around Earth to Afghanistan and John was murdered by mountain bandits. After four months recovering from the gunshot to his chest Dave continued his trek with a third brother Pete from the spot in Afghanistan where they were ambushed. John ended his trip solo in October 1974 a few weeks after I’d married and moved to Duluth, after Richard Nixon’s helicopter flight out of the Presidency and half a year before the end of America’s debacle in Vietnam.

Remembering this small shard of history when a couple young American’s went out in search of the world rather than trek to an Arena in Duluth to hear a man preen before an audience of folks who follow him like pimple faced kids at a professional wrestling match was a reminder that greatness is not measured in mouth. It is measured in deed.

Rank Choice

I listened to an interview on MPR today that raised my hackles. It was not this story from two days ago. Instead it was an interview with Forest Lake Republican, Mark Koran, pushing a law to forbid any ranked choice voting in Minnesota even where the local voters have put it into affect. In other words local control is good but only when Republicans agree with it.

When Koran was interviewed by the Star Tribune he told them that ranked choice confuses people. On his interview today he added more thought but first pointed out that while he lives outside the Twin Cities he’s really not against the big city since he grew up in the Metro area. Yeah sure.

I don’t have much sympathy for ranked choice as evidenced by my previous posts on the subject. But I do have some thoughts about “local control.” However, awkward I find it some voters have put it into effect. The tyrant Koran wishes to take it away from them rather than let them change their own system.

He squawked that some voters felt “disenfranchised” because some of the ballots cast didn’t get people elected. Hell. That’s like my saying I was disenfranchised every time my candidate lost because my vote didn’t count. Its like complaining when your teacher gives you a multiple choice test because you prefer true/false questions.

Koran, as a Republican, has a lot of nerve talking about disenfranchisement because his party has taken the old Dixiecrat talent for preventing black people from voting and found dozens of new methods to discourage people likely to vote Democratic from casting ballots. That has been a common complaint of many of my posts about God’s Own Party over the past decade. Now, suddenly, Koran wants to protect people who didn’t bother to vote in the Ranked Choice referendum or who aren’t smart enough to understand how the damned method works.

I’m particularly bitter about his ignoring the Republican’s old faithful talking point – “local control.” When Duluth voters were deprived of the right to vote on the ruinous Red Plan our then Governor, Tim Pawlenty, explained his reluctance to let Duluth have a referendum on it based on the big shots from Duluth and Johnson Control’s lobbyists guaranteeing him that everybody in Duluth wanted to skip a “wasteful” election. As a result, today Duluth’s Public Schools are in tatters.

Ironically, I see no advantage for Republicans in ending St. Paul’s experiment with Ranked Choice Voting. Republicans have always had a hard time getting elected to the City Council in either of the Twin Cities or, for that matter, in Duluth. Killing Ranked Choice won’t end that. Naw! I think its just the same sort of “nanny state” crap that Republicans complain Democrats are guilty of. Thank you Rep. Koran. Your a good Big Brother.

Cooled off…for now

I forgot that I was seething before leaving for Arizona. Its not that there aren’t plenty of things to seethe about with a President whose hourly lies are not fake but but its just that rationality calls for a temperate frame of mind before making big decisions like running for State Auditor. I understand our former Congresswoman Michelle Bachman has just decided not to run but that doesn’t seem to be temperance. She evidently failed to hear God command her to run for President after she started praying about it. That’s almost enough for me to reconsider my agnosticism.

I’ve had a weekend away visiting family and helping lay my Aunt Mary to rest in Arizona.

When I start Seething I think of filing for public office – and I’m seething

I just dashed off my latest campaign finance report showing that I have $511 in the bank which I could put to use to run for the School Board again in 2019. But on my trip home from delivering it I heard an infuriating story on Minnesota Public Radio. It was about hysterical Republican Facebook Posts from GOP legislators warning that Muslim infiltrators were going to take over this year’s GOP precinct caucuses. OMG!!!!!!!! Isis in the heartland!

The story is not yet up on the MPR website but its been reported on the Minneapolis Strib.

I began the book, Driven Out, about a similar hysteria just before my August trip to China. Its about the Era of the “Yellow Peril” and the Chinese Exclusion Act back in the 19th century. It would have prevented the cousins of today’s Minnesota GOP Chair, Jennifer Carnahan, (a Korean-American) from entering the United States. It was the realization of the Trumpian and now Republican dream to limit immigration to Norwegians. To her credit Chair Carnahan, said of her party: “There is no religious test to participate in the Republican caucus,” and “We welcome those who are in agreement with the values of the Republican Party, those who voted Republican in the last election or plan to vote with the party in November.”

What inflamed the hysteria was a video of a Bangladeshi professor encouraging people to attend Republican caucuses. So did the PTL Club’s Pat Robertson, only when Pat in 1988 he was running for President and told his supporters to hide their religious convictions. Talk about a sneaky take over.

Two GOP legislators warned that this caucus training was was the first step in replacing our Constitution with Sharia Law. I found this ignorance deeply offensive. Not quite twenty years ago I made a very close friend on the Internet who was a native of Bangladesh. Claudia and I met her whole family not long afterward. Shortly after 9-11 hit America she feared the Islamic backlash that began sweeping over America. A vile bumper sticker that was part of the backlash prompted me to make a small modification to the Pledge of Allegiance I recited before our school board meetings.

Its not Muslims that have me worried. For the past ten years I have been uploading frequent posts to my blog under the category “God’s Own Party.” These have detailed the Party’s takeover by folks who believe that America is a Christian Nation rather than a nation that offers all religions equal footing under the Constitution. The category contains nearly 700 posts.

As Duluth’s perennial candidate I’m contemplating driving down to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office this summer to file for state-wide office as a Lincoln Republican. I could use the $511 dollars I’ve set aside for a school board race and jump into the fray to hurl abuse at the traitors to the spirit of our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

I could direct salvos against one of Trump’s first milquetoast casualties in the 2016 campaign, Tim Pawlenty, who helped pave the way for Duluth’s disastrous Red Plan or Rebecca Otto, who as State Auditor ignored the petition Duluth voters sent her to audit the Red Plan. She’s angling for the Gubernatorial race but if Chris Coleman or Tim Walz get get the DFL nomination she could retreat back to the Auditor campaign. I’ve already hurled a little abuse at her. She deserved it and I know something about State Auditors.

The elephant in the DFL screening room

I had a jolly good time at the screening committee. I knew several of the screeners some of whom may have been surprised to see me turn up. It was that way at my first DFL Precinct caucus which I think was 2006.

At that first caucus I joined about 30 folks in a classroom at Woodland Middle School. Eyebrows were raised there as well as DFLers know their Republicans. It was odd but comforting as well as for the first time in twenty years I actually voted in a majority on a great many issues which had become verboten for Republicans. I attended about four election cycles of DFL caucuses and the 2008 caucus was probably the highlight of my political life with its huge Barack Obama turnout. It was a heady experience being in a majority at the following District convention when Obama won handily.

Readers of my Blog know that while I rant and rave about Republicans I have fond recollections of the party of my youth. I liked Ike, a fellow Kansan. I loved National Parks so, of course, I liked Teddy, and agnostic old Abe is my all time hero. Long after Lincoln Dinners were abandoned by Dixie-saturated Republicans I was charmed to hear a DFL gathering speak of Abraham with something approaching reverence.

But it was Harry Welty, not Abraham Lincoln, who crashed the screening committee. I joked with the folks I knew and with the people I didn’t. I blamed the Republicans for electing Donald Trump. I told them I would be honored to be an endorsed Democrat on the Duluth School Board even while adding I still didn’t think endorsements for non-partisan races was necessarily the best idea.

I told the screeners that I wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but that I didn’t believe in conducting myself by (and here I licked my finger and stuck it up in the air) testing the wind. I told those new to me that I hid nothing and that everything I stood for I had put into this blog.

I also was asked to explain my ambiguous sounding answer to Question #12: Will you abide by the endorsement of the convention and cease your campaign if someone else is endorsed?

My answer: “I will follow the honorable example of DFL Governors Rolvaag, Perpich and Dayton.”

The explanation I gave to the screener was this: All three of these DFL Governors ran for the state’s highest office without the endorsement of the DFL state convention.

Of course, none of these candidates had ever been affiliated with the Republican Party. Elephants are no more useful to the DFL than they are to Ringling Brother’s, Barnum and Bailey Circus these days.

Of course, Ronald Reagan didn’t mind adding lots of jackasses to the GOP when he was President and they proved pretty useful: From Wikipedia: Continue reading

With apologies to the Chordettes – Bum bum bum …

…bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum

Mr. Sandman
Are you a bad dream?
Knock off a Congressman
to elect one who’s Mean.
Who’ll work for corporatists
rolling in clover
Destroying life on Earth till it’s-all-over?

I see in the Trib that Skip Sandman, who ran for Congress in 2014 is throwing his hat in the Congressional race again for 2018. He got 4% of the vote the first time as a candidate for the Green Party. If he got that many in 2018 he might be able to snatch victory away from a Democratic candidate. Nolan only beat Mills in 2016 by a scant 2 percent.

Such considerations don’t much trouble third party candidates like George Wallace, who helped elect Richard Nixon, or Ralph Nader, who did in Al Gore, and I should know! They didn’t bother me. I ran for the same seat in Congress that Skip is after in both 1992 and 2006 as a third party choice. In the first race I did even better than Skip’s 4% winning 7% of the vote:

James L. Oberstar, Democratic-Farmer-Labor 167,104
Phil Herwig, Independent-Republican 83,823
Harry Robb Welty, Perot Choice 22,619
Floyd A. Henspeter, Term Limits Candidate 8,602

I think Trump’s Ragnarök will provide a safe cushion for the incumbent Nolan but I’m not so sure how an unknown replacement for Nolan will affect the General election race a year from now. FUN FACT – Minnesota Populist politician Ignatius Donnelly penned a fairly popular novel by that name in the 1880’s.

Trump “build-a-wall” bait

My Buddy sent me a post from Powerline (one of my favorite blogs -NOT). It was a doozey suggesting that a Somali woman who just defeated Rep. Phyllis Kahn in the DFL primary had practiced bigamy or immigration fraud. This Somali woman is obviously a treasure so if there is proof that this is true it greatly clouds her future. No one in the DFL and perhaps no one in the press wants to pry into the truth.

Powerline’s posting has forced the issue and this is the latest from the Strib: http://www.startribune.com/marriage-discrepancy-clouds-ilhan-omar-s-historic-primary-victory/390247381/

I am a great proponent of the truth and believe a full airing of this should be made.

As I emailed back to my buddy:

Buddy,

I agree the truth should be told.

That said I imagined a theoretical Jewish woman in 1940 who might have escaped Poland during the Blitzkrieg forging docs to marry her brother to get him safely to the US. It would be hard to find fault with this stratagem.

Of course, it would be unthinkable to imagine her running for the state legislature a few years later with this hanging over her.

Just a couple thoughts.

Harry

A Rosy Endorsement

In today’s Trib:

Erik Simonson gets my vote for Minnesota Senate District 7. He has the depth of knowledge and professional and personal experiences to continue to serve our community well. Simonson has built strong working relationships in St. Paul and across Duluth, brings four years of experience in the Legislature, and has been a leader on many diverse issues. His positive working relationships and connections with state departments are an asset to Duluth

As a parent of four children, I vote for candidates who understand the multitude of issues that impacts children and families. Simonson makes decisions that are well-informed and thoughtful.

As a Duluth School Board member and an advocate on education issues for more than 30 years, I support candidates who understand the importance of a strong public education system and the issues facing school staff, families and students. Simonson understands the socioeconomic disparities that create the opportunity gaps and that the community needs to help provide health, social and emotional support for students. Simonson is an advocate for funding early childhood education, investing in diverse post-secondary options, and making sure our schools are safe and supportive for all. Check out his track record at simonforsenate.com.

Rosie Loeffler-Kemp

Duluth

The writer represents District 1 on the Duluth School Board.

Ignore my criticism

“About this endorsement
This endorsement was determined by Forum Communications management”

Stewart kind of reminds me of Dan Quayle with more hair. I know, I know. That’s all ad hominem. I’m just jealous of his tongue.

BTW. I got a gander at it (the tongue) on the DFL website and it moved me to comment that it looked like the DFL was trying to elect Mills. It was sort of irrelevant. I liked another’s comment that the incumbent Rick Nolan sounded like everything he said came from the Democrat’s talking points whereas Mills sounded like a regular guy. Yeah, but I’m pretty sure he’s not exactly my kind of regular guy. More pictures here.

He reminds me too much of the college kid across the street this Fall dressed up in doctor’s scrubs during UMD’s Freshman Orientation. He was holding up a sign saying “Free pap smears.” He told me he thought it was a lot more creative than the sign held by the kids across the street. Their’s said: “You honk. We drink.”

Garbage in, Garbage out – for real this time

Art Johnston noticed a couple figures in the millions in the Auditor’s report that didn’t make sense. The Trib’s education reporter noticed some of them too. So last week Art called me up on Wednesday with the news that the Auditor had made a two million dollar error in her spiffy little report to the Duluth School Board. That’s when I first typed up this post’s headline. Its the familiar old line about what you get out of computers – “garbage in, garbage out.” Maybe you can guess where I’m going with this………

……..Nowhere!

I’m unimpressed with the work of the State Auditor. I was in high dudgeon when I began this post last week. Learning that the Auditor put actual numbers in the wrong columns and signed the mistake did little to improve my attitude. But I told Art Johnston recently that I’m inclined to err on the side of even handedness. To that end I was pleased to read the Zenith City Weekly’s take on the Auditor’s report which came out tonight after the School Board meeting. I’m very impressed. First with Jennifer Martin-Romme’s understanding of our finances and second by her ability to explain them. There is nothing about the Auditor’s report to lend any credit to the pro Red Plan side. Her story is a measured story.

I do have much to report about tonight’s school board meeting and Chair Miernicki’s huffy claim that he is simply following the example of two of the nation’s most popular politicians, Congressman John Boehner and Senator Harry Reid. But I’ll beg off tonight. I came home to news that one of my Grandson’s good friends, aged six, is the young boy who was killed when he rode his bicycle into a car a couple days ago. Its the sort of news that puts things in perspective. For tonight I’ll let the Zenith speak for me.

Garbage in, Garbage out – it turns out this is just a prologue

Its 3:30AM. I’ll bank on the last post to keep you interested to see what I write here until I’m good and ready to do a little more posting. I’ve got grandchildren for the next couple days and family visitors from outstate. I’m also in the middle of a small but fussy project to make my garage presentable. Claudia is tired of banging car doors into shovels and I think, after a quarter century its about time I paint some bare sheetrock. I really need more sleep. So, stay tuned.

As the amended title/headline says, it turns out this is just a prologue. I’ve added “Harry’s Diary” to the categories.

450 new visitors have perused this blog since I stopped adding posts four days ago. That meant that they plus probably an equal number of readers have read the previous post. That means that this school board member can be reasonably sure that a thousand folks have read that I was exposed to an STD by an older woman back in my collegiate years. I didn’t mean to part this particular post. Parking is what I call posts that are particularly telling when I don’t add to them so that my regular readers will be sure to catch the contents of a particular post. I didn’t plan to park the last post but I’m not particularly sorry I did. I’ve aimed with a grim determination to assure my readers of my “honesty.” I can’t think of many things that assure my transparency more than the revelation that I had sex before marriage and that it got me a shot to prevent a very nasty STD. I want my readers to conclude that if I’m willing to bear this personal detail that there won’t be much school board related stuff I’d be inclined to withhold. Ah, but I have been discrete. This may not continue for long.

I’ve got a good half dozen posts I’m eager to unload but once again that will have to wait. I’ll crank out Garbage in Garbage out tomorrow but I’ve got four or so things to type up afterwards which will delay adding any new posts till perhaps tomorrow night or Wednesday. The priorities include a resolution to ask for an accounting of the mysterious 27% of the cost of the Red Plan. The School Board is sure not to want the accounting but I’ll be asking for it anyway. The second, Art Johnston has agreed to type up. It is a return to a policy whereby two Board members can get an item placed on the agenda for discussion at a school board meeting. The next will be a letter to the Duluth Reader assuring then that I think Loren Martell’s version of the meeting we entertained the State Auditor’s staff is pretty much what I remembered it to have been like. This despite our chairman’s sober assessment of his report to have been a lie. Chair Miernicki sent in his rebuttal the week afterwards and poor Loren was a tad upset that his riposte was not allowed to follow up the drubbing the Chair handed him.

Here’s why I stopped writing four days ago. I’ve been busy. I’ve explained before that for this third term on the School Board I intend to put my family first. So, a couple days before my last post my father and brother in laws showed up for a visit. I spent much of the sunny days smearing joint compound on one half of my garage, my daughter started a new job as a teacher necessitating my becoming a grandson sitter, Con artists got into my computer requiring me to take it up to Best Buy’s Geek Squad for a three day check out, We spent a day picking and prepping thirteen pounds of blueberries, We went fishing with two small boys, oh, and Claudia and I celebrated our 40th Anniversary on Sunday by taking eight dozen cupcakes to church.

I know I could have taken a dip into blessed ignorance’s cesspool but, golly, its still summer. If the School Board is hellbent to let the ridiculous persecution of Art Johnston linger into the beginning of the school year and smell up autumn just like it smelled up summer, who am I to hurry the stench along. I’m getting pretty used to wearing clothespins on my nose. The cesspool has only robbed me of good night’s sleeps. I’ve had two good night’s worth over the past seven days. I’ll be waking up at 4AM to get my father-in-law off to Florida tomorrow morning. I’m hoping that having finally turned my attention back to the blog that this start on tomorrow’s “garbage” will get me one more good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s school board meeting. I could really use it.

I’ve got stories to tell that are far more harrowing than my pathetic visit to the Mankato State University Health Center to get a shot in my tush to forestall syphilis. Geez, I’m sixty-three years old! I can afford to show off a few blemishes. Its only saints that things to hide.

The Minnesota State Odditor

I woke my wife up in St. Louis this morning at 2:30 a.m. to get into our car in drive for ten and a half hours straight to get to Duluth and the State Auditor’s presentation. I unpacked the car and printed out a dozen pieces of paper related to the Red Plan the District’s finances and messages sent back and forth between the Auditor and Loren Martell who got the ball rolling. I hustled over to the Board room groggy from my long drive but twenty minutes before the presentation. I was handed the exhaustive 8 page report which concludes with a sentence that begins, “We were not engaged to, and did not perform an audit…”

No kidding. To every question Art Johnston and I asked the three, count em three, auditors did their impression of the great Hogan’s Heroe character Sergeant Schultz,”I know nothing.”

The only information they reviewed came from the folks we wanted audited. They declined to offer any opinions even when asked such safe questions as would the State Auditor frown on double dipping by vendors bilking local government? I asked that question although not perhaps as succinctly.

In my email to her staff member Mark Kerr I mentioned that my grandfather had been a state auditor until Kansas abolished the office years after his retirement probably for being redundant. I think it might be time for Minnesota to consider doing the same thing. After what I heard tonight I am sure all of the embezzlers in Minnesota’s local governments can rest easy.

Minnesota Supreme Court says: “ignorance of the law…

…is an excuse”:

A well deserved self administrated back pat from the Timberjay Newspaper:

Here comes the sun?

Legislators deserve credit for efforts to restore openness to government contractors
Every year, advocates of government openness celebrate Sunshine Week, set this year for March 16-22. It’s a time when many of us in the media tout the myriad benefits to the public that result from keeping government records open and available to the public.

While it’s easy, and often legitimate, to criticize the media for its at times overwhelming attention to the titillating and the sensational “often at the expense of real news” there are still those reporters willing and eager to do the hard work of the public watchdog. Yet without access to government records, it is almost impossible for even the most intrepid of reporters to perform their critical role in our democracy.

As regular readers of the Timberjay well know, gaining access to public information isn’t always as easy as one might expect given laws that require access in most cases. We’ve seen time after time instances where public officials were slow to respond to information requests, or simply violated the law by refusing to provide records that are clearly public. And as our longstanding legal case against Johnson Controls, Inc., demonstrates, when public officials fail to do their duty in drafting appropriate and legally-compliant consulting and construction contracts, it can let contractors off the hook and leave the public in the dark about key details of multi-million-dollar government projects.

In overturning a unanimous decision by the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court in Helmberger v. Johnson Controls, Inc., carved out a potential loophole that could exempt billions of dollars worth of public contracts annually from scrutiny.

Fortunately, Minnesota legislators on both sides of the aisle are now working to plug that loophole. Legislation, dubbed the Timberjay bill, that advanced unanimously in both House and Senate committees last week would essentially erase the Supreme Court’s recent decision in our case, and protect the public’s right to know.

The new legislation would still require governments doing business with private companies to include a notice in their contracts that any documents or other information they develop as part of that contract is subject to an open records request. But if, as in the case of the St. Louis County School District and JCI, that provision was never included in the contract, the law would apply nonetheless.

That was clearly the intent of legislators back in 1999, when they amended the state’s public records law to include government contractors. The state Department of Administration and lower courts had agreed with that view from the beginning.

The Supreme Court is the only judicial body that has taken the somewhat strange position that if a governmental unit neglects to inform a contractor of their legal requirements, their legal requirements don’t apply. At least as far as the Supreme Court is concerned, ignorance of the law is an excuse.

Fortunately, it appears few in the Legislature share that view, and with any luck, Minnesota will soon have a new law on the books that ensures that the sun will continue to shine on public construction projects. That’s worth our attention and appreciation during Sunshine Week.

The evidence shows that ISD 709 has been wounded by special education…

…notwithstanding my pooh poohing the idea in the last post.

A reader sent me a well reported story from Minnesota Public Radio about the state’s dealings with Special Education since about 2004 when I left the Duluth School Board. As I said, things were always bad. They’ve gotten much worse.

This does not in anyway excuse the spending decisions of the Duluth School District to hush up teachers for its squandering of operational funds to pay for Red Plan Bonds. What it means is that the District was put behind yet one more eight ball. Put another way it means that having crawled out to the end of a flimsy branch another hefty problem joined them on the branch taking them to the Earth.

Here’s the story on “cross subsidies.” Its long but, if you care about public education in Minnesota, you need to read it to make sense of the subject.

I had just read about Indiana (Next post) before getting the story and it had already resoured me on the Republican Party. I’ve had several more episodes of GOP souring since.

Some potential good news for Duluth’s school Board…

…and a lot of qualifications from me:

The DNT’s story on Governor Dayton’s tax proposal offers some hope in mitigating the Red Plan’s disaster in Duluth. (Golly, this one was actually on their website)

Dayton wants a billion additional dollars for education although three quarters of this would go to colleges. All Districts will get their share so Duluth won’t do any catching up with other Districts that don’t their own Red Plan ball and chain. Still, this District is desperate for any good news. I expect the Governor to get his way – mostly. He doesn’t even have a lower house majority of GOP to pester him any more.

NOTE: To put this $243 million more for public education in perspective look at it this way: Its 72 million less for the whole state than tiny Duluth spent all by itself on the Red Plan. ($315 million) It’ll be a drop in the bucket for us. Our share of it will be about 3% of the total or about $730,000. And it ain’t in our pocket yet. We won’t get any of it until the following school year. Meanwhile the District has to cut another $3.5 million and use up more of its rapidly diminishing reserve.

The Strib and the DFTRA pension

This morning I got a very brief peek at the news after waking up at 4AM to head to the Ft. Lauderdale airport and my frigid return to Duluth. I was very impressed to see the Strib far ahead of the Duluth News in covering the sorry plight of the Duluth Teacher’s pension.

Here’s the story and here’s the bit about Duluth:

The Duluth Teachers Retirement Fund Association, for example, which has just over 3,300 members, saw a negative return in 2011, but then saw a percentage return in the mid-teens in 2012, said Association Executive Director Jay Stoffel.

Still, the Duluth Teachers Fund has a long way to go before it’s healthy, Stoffel said. It has a $119 million unfunded liability, is only 63 percent funded, and has more retirees to pay than active teachers paying into the fund.

“Our board is concerned,” Stoffel said. “We certainly don’t think we’re in good shape. We have an actuarial consultant who has told us that we do need to do something.”

I knew immediately that I would have to offer kudos to the Strib once I got home and had a chance to link the article on my blog. BUT – HERE’S A SURPRISE TO ME.

I’ve gotten back to Duluth and just found the article again. Before I get to my reactions I just made a new discovery. The article was written by one of the Duluth News Tribunes best reporters. Brandon Stahl. That explains the inclusion of an interview with Jay Stoffel of DFTRA but since there is no mention of the Duluth Trib I wonder if the STRIB stole Brandon away from the DNT or if they are sharing his services. If its the former its a real loss for Duluth News paper subscribers.

Now about the DFTRA. In the post I wrote about the tour of the DFTRA that Mr. Stoffel gave me I said little about my biggest recollection of the meeting.

I asked Mr. Stoffel how the DFTRA could justify raising pension payments to teachers based on Investment earnings that had not yet materialized. This, by the way, is the important question an observent reader should wonder about in Brandon Stahl’s story. What I learned then was that the state of Minnesota seemed to be on the hook if the DFTRA or the TRA or PERA overpaid their retired members. That revelation gobsmacked me. In other words if they gave pensioners more than the pensions collected from active members their public employers of their investment earnings taxpayers would guarantee the pension payment increases.

THAT IS JUST WRONG. No one in the private sector get’s that kind of insurance for their pensions. Better than ten years ago I read about the terrible payouts and impending bankruptcy of Illinois pension plan. Nothing has been done about it and today its in the news again a financial monster that can not be solved so that Illinois public employees can expect full payment of the pension they have been guaranteed.

Minnesota’s crises pales in comparison but its still alarming.

I’ve often expressed contempt for Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker. Using his massive GOP victories as a cover to neuter public employees was the easy way to solve a problem with a guarantee of blow back. His disingenuous self righteousness curdled my milk. But. But. But. Walker was right to see public employees as far too powerful for the State of Wisconsin’s own good. Much the same can be said of most non Southern states including Minnesota.

The Brandon Stahl story makes clear that all these public employee pensions are expecting the Minnesota’s taxpayers to make good their over payment of pensions. The old fashioned Republican in me has one simple reaction to that kind of entitlement. Its a rude two word phrase.

DFTRA’s local problems have been grievously aggravated by the Duluth Teacher’s Union which will soon be lobbying the legislature asking that Minnesota taxpayers bail out their over generous pension. One of the many problems plaguing the underfunded DFTRA pension is the diminished number of teacher who’s payments to the pension keep the huge number of retirees getting those generous benefits. If I was a teacher with 35 or 45 teachers in my class seeing my earnings going to retirees I’d wonder if the stress I was enduring was worth it. Oh, probably. Their stress shortened lives will make it easier for the DFTRA to pay future pensions in full.