Category Archives: Minnesota Politics

After the Democratic Party’s opening convention night….

…there is no way the local DFL could nominate Assistant Fire Chief Simonson to replace Kerry Gauthier in good conscience:

Erik Simonson’s mother, Beatrice Simonson, said she, her husband and their daughter haven’t had contact with their son and brother since he stopped seeing his daughter. She said she and her husband wanted to maintain a relationship with their granddaughter.

“It’s sad. It’s a heartache,” she said. “But there’s nothing you can do.”

Erik Simonson said he has spoken with his brother several times but that he hasn’t spoken with his parents or a sister for about 18 years.

Unless all that messaging about women was just rhetoric.

Openly gay

Until I read this Star Trib story about the Duluth that is no longer your grandparent’s Duluth (I’m a grandparent!) I had never read that former candidate for the Congressional Seat held by Chip Cravaack was gay. This story mentions it as though everyone knew it. Not me. I only heard it rumored by a local DFL operative who explained to me that because of it this candidate would never get elected.

I feel better that I apparently didn’t out him.

In the near future, in that better world I anticipate our gravitating toward, it should be unnecessary to announce your sexual predilections when you run for office. We’re not there yet. If Obama only had a 5% loss of voters due to his being black if you were to compare that to oppositon based on sexual preference I’d guess that in Northern Minnesota that figure would be closer to 10 to 20%. If I’m right that would be enough to guarantee a loss for any DFL challenger to Chip Cravaack.

Just because life isn’t fair doesn’t excuse a candidate from failing to disclose possible impediments to his getting votes. Who can forget Senator Thomas Eagleton failing to tell George McGovern that he had undergone electroshock before being selected as a VP candidate by McGovern? That may account for the worst drubbing any democrat has endured in a presidential election.

If this candidate was still in the closet so that the Strib couldn’t mention it as though it was no big deal that would be different. But he semi-outed himself. I guess all his buddies and the political insiders knew but not the delegates at the DFL caucuses and conventions. Had they decided to endorse him even though they knew he had to bear the cross of being gay that would have been different, laudable even. Instead he allowed the delegates to remain uninformed with a potential bombshell to be detonated by the GOP after the primary. In a year when all Democrats are aching to take back the Congress he did them a major disservice.

Silver is tarnished

I just watched Almanac North and have concluded that the Assistant Fire Chief Simonson has a chance.

Travis Silver is a nice tongue tied-young man, probably a Ron Paul devotee, who doesn’t really know why he’s running for the legislature. He’s probably running because someone asked him to file just so the GOP could have a candidate. His chief argument could have been one of mine back in 1976 to wit: that Duluth ought to have a Republican in the legislature and not keep all its eggs in the DFL basket. For crying out loud, Given the opportunity he didn’t even say “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

I can imagine Travis getting barely 20% of the vote all the more for write-in candidates.

I mentioned the likelyhood that City Councilor Fosle and Chief Simonson could split the vote. Fosle didn’t show up on Almanac. He had some previous engagement. If he really wants to win he sure as hell should have skipped the previous engagement. My thought was he’s too chicken to show up or was afraid he couldn’t handle questions from Denny Anderson.

Simonson looked and sounded like a legislator. When the DFL endorses him they will put their shoulder behind his campaign.

I suggested that there was no way to get Kerry Gauthier’s name off the ballot. We’ll see. If the DFL can endorse Simonsen in time they may have an in to get his name on the ballot in the absence of a DFL candidate. The primary was in August which gives them close to a month before the ballots are actually printed up to make their case in court. They may be stuck with a write-in campaign but could probably win it. If they can set a new precedent they have a shoe in.

Can the GOP take West Duluth? and a reminiscence

I think so if two serious challengers run write-in campaigns in Kerry Gauthier’s district.

I don’t know how many “conservative” votes there are in the old Jaros/Munger house seat. When I ran a campaign in the area back in 1980 I discovered that Richard Nixon only got 23% of the vote in far western Duluth. That was 1972 and the biggest ever blow-out Presidential election in America’s modern history. George McGovern got three times as many votes as Nixon in west Duluth. That’s a tough district for any Republican.

I’d guess that the four decades that have passed have taken a lot of old New Dealers with them. Today a good Republican should get an easy 35% of the vote out west especially in a Presidential election year.

Gauthier’s name will be on the ballot even though he’s decided to “withdraw.” I’d be surprised if he got much less than ten percent of the vote. For argument’s sake lets assume that he gets 7% and the Republican, Mr. Silver, gets 30%. That would leave the two (so far) write-in candidates fighting over 63% of the available vote. It would take a near miracle to get that many voters to cast a write-in but if that happened one of the newcomers would have to clean the other’s clock. Could an assistant fire chief pull such a thing off over a sitting City Councilor? Could the reverse happen?

The Republicans are in deep doo doo (Broadkorb, Sutton, et al) all across Minnesota this year but I’ll bet some Minnesota Koch-brother-type would love to kick in some money to see at least one satisfying and unexpected GOP victory this year.

I’d like to add one more thought.

To my mind no one has been irreparably hurt by this incident except Mr. Gauthier. Thomas Huntley called him a “child molester.” From what I know about this day and age in America and what I know about most boys over the age of 17 I find that description a stretch not withstanding my previous description of the young man as a “boy.”

So let me follow with a personal story.

When I was 20 years old I got a chance to be an intern in Washington DC. I lived in a run-down block about eight blocks from the Capitol Building. Next door was a gentrified house lived in by two gay men, both college professors as I recall. I was living next door in an ancient town house in a room I painted black and white. (The radiator was zebra striped) I’d been in the city for about a month when I decided I needed to cook something and bought a cake mix. When I realized I had nothing to bake it in I got the crazy midwestern idea of asking my neighbors for a baking pan. The first two doors I knocked on got me nowhere but the third door, the next door, brought results.

An effeminate man answered the door and was delighted with my request. He invited me into a house with a lot more class than my grubby black and white. When I returned the pan a few days later he and his partner invited me to have a martini (my first) with them. They took me to a very cool backyard patio/garden showed me a platter of ripe tomato slices collected from a nearby Farmer’s Market and we had a very nice chat.

I asked my housemates if they thought the neighbors might be gay when I got back later that night. To their credits my housemates were indifferent. I got invited over several times afterward and was introduced to a number of men who seemed like sophisticates. One was a British fellow who had been the premier danseur for a Parisian Ballet Company. They were fairly interested in me and my drudge-like work in the bowels of the Congressional Office Buildings. The subject of marijuana came up. I told them I’d read a survey that summer that reported that something like 70% of the staff of the Congress admitted to using grass. Even in the office of my conservative Republican Congressmen the staff was so casual that all of the staff under the age of 30 (including me) confessed to the Administrative Assistant to having used grass. Some of the fellows at the party had usedJus grass, one expressed interest and another was a little shocked by the subject. It was a good chance for me to reciprocate for the martinis I had been served a month earlier and I offered to bring a dime bag over for them to sample. They thought it a capital idea so I did and we toked up.

In some ways the evening ended rather poorly. Marijuana has a tendency to make folks a little paranoid and that was the affect on me this particular night. I was surrounded by five pretty harmless gay men who were obviously interested in me. When I was sober this was not a problem. After the intoxication kicked in, however, one of them, produced a kitten and placed it on the sofa next to me. When the hand petting the kitten went astray and rubbed against my knee I mumbled an excuse and abruptly left the house.

I felt a little bad about my hasty departure the next morning. Even so we stayed on cordial terms although I only stopped by their house once more to say goodbye prior to flying back to a new school year at Mankato State. Both the partners mentioned that they would be in Europe the following summer and invited me to be their house sitter. I rather liked the idea.

My father did not. I’d told him the men were gay and it was likely their friends would drop by. My Dad was alarmed enough about the offer that I sent my old neighbors my regrets. They were honest regrets.

The point of this is that even though I wasn’t at all interested in sex with men had I been this would have been a comfortable a place to do some exploring. The primere dansur told us a very funny story about his youth in the Paris Ballet. He told us that all the ballerinas tried to have sex with him because, in the trade, it was considered good luck to sleep with a virgin. All the gay men at the party in D.C. thought this was very funny. Of course, as they all appreciated, the primere’s good luck was wasted on him as he was really not into ballerinas. On the other hand, had it been me in Paris I suspect I might have acted with a little more enthusiasm had a ballerina placed a kitten on the couch next to me.

Kerry Gauthier is close to my age and I know that he lived through a couple cruel decades as a young man where shame and humiliation were about the best he could expect in the way of public support. He says he’s suffered from addictive behavior for the past thirty years which may be evidence of that cruelty. I’m pleased that we seem to be heading to a new more enlightened age. I wish Mr. Gauthier well and I wish the same for the young fellow who answered his ad. They both deserved better than a public rest stop.

The Iron Drainge

My Buddy sent me this story about the shrinking heft of the Iron Range for the 8th Congressional District.

When Tony Sertich graduated from Chisholm High in 1994, he was one of about 80 seniors who crowded the stage, he recalls.

This year, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board commissioner and former House DFL majority leader returned to his alma mater as the commencement speaker. The graduating class numbered fewer than 40.

Unendorsed Dayton supports Endorsed Nolan

I enjoy the irony of this. Mark Dayton who got elected Governor without the DFL endorsement is supporting the Eighth District DFL Congressional candidate who got the endorsement Rick Nolan. I would guess that this is mostly a pragmatic decision with Mark looking for the strongest candidate but I’ll bet he and Nolan feel like fraternity members of the 1970’s as well when they bot got into politics.

The one line in the email appeal which was sent to me – twice – (damn overlapping data bases) that I thought was the funniest suggested that Nolan had once before been the Eighth District’s representative to Congress: “And I hope you’ll help me help him– because it’s time we had a fighter like Rick Nolan representing the 8th once again.”

He wasn’t.

a Republican political honor killing

I wouldn’t likely have commented on the surprise resignation of the Minnesota Senate’s Majority leader, Amy Koch, had it not been for the four Republican male Senators who decided to give a press conference about their role in confronting her over rumors of impropriety between her and a staffer. That they were holding a press conference about having acted on rumors was bad enough. Then their spokesman, Geoff Michel, had the audacity to tell the reporters that the four of them were like Senator Amy Koch’s “brothers.” Some brothers.

Oh yeah, I forgot today’s bygones in the Trib

This was the result of the “Minnesota Miracle” during which both Republicans and Democrats decided to put far more burden on income taxes to pay for local public schools and lower the burden on regressive local property taxes. Perhaps your tax bill has come in and you’ve noticed that this miracle’s angels have been falling from the sky.

Bygones News Tribune
Dec. 1, 1971

The Duluth School Board yesterday voted for a property tax levy that reflects a drop of 26.8 percent from last year’s figure. The reduction is possible because of increased state school aid from a state tax increase approved by the Legislature.

More on that Vikings stadium

The The Ramsey County Charter member I quoted a bit ago has just had an interview with KSTP television. Beforehand he sent this explanation on why a referendum ought to be offered on the proposed Vikings stadium in Ramsey County.


Here are some attached letters that explain the legal aspects of the charter that I have been trying to convey to the pro-Vikings fans. None of their letters have said anything about the charter.

Points are explained in the Blume letter regarding the often heard question “why wasn’t there a referendum for the Twins Stadium or the Guthrie Theatre?”

There are 107 cities and 1 county in Minnesota that have the charter form of government. There are many cities in the metro that have a charter. It’s a set of laws that sort of serves as a constitution for that entity – a city or county. The laws are generally additional laws on top of state statutes. The charter cannot conflict with state law nor can it be looser than state laws. It can be tighter than state laws. Continue reading

No referendum for the Vike’s stadium

I’ve been exchanging email with a member of the Ramsey County Charter Commission who has followed the theft of the voter’s right to vote on the Red Plan for the past five years. He assures me that the County Charter requires a referendum before Ramsey County can levy a tax to pay for the Stadium. I’m inclined to think this is true but I haven’t studied the matter closely. If so then the Vikings are following the Johnson Controls model to reap tax dollars for their shareholders.

I just listened to the Vice President of PR for the Vikings on an hour long MPR talk show. I suspect the Vikes will be heading to Los Angeles if the referendum takes place because I think Ramsey County voters will turn it down. That is the threat that motivates the Viking’s cheerleaders. I must say I was not impressed with the VP’s arguments. On the other hand I’m also inclined to believe his sales pitch that Zigi Wilf will put more money into the project than most other NFL owners have had to in their own territories.

I especially groaned when he mentioned that the Twins lost the chance to build a stadium with a retractable roof. The implication I took from this is that we can expect the Twins to come back in two decades to tell us their new stadium is inadequate to justify asking for state to build a new sufficient stadium.

The Ramsey County Charter Board member sent me the latest email circulating. The last four paragraphs raise all the Red Plan hairs on the back of my neck:

Tomorrow could be a bad day for Minnesota. If you allow a stadium referendum to be on the ballot in 2012, the end of the Viking’s time in Minnesota will be near, and that is sad.

The Vikings have done everything asked of them over the years by the legislature. They have a plan, a site, and a local partner. But it still seems like it’s not good enough for some people. And now there might a referendum added onto the Ramsey County share of it? That just will not work. The Vikings won’t wait until late 2012 for this referendum to happen, nor should they have to. They have been waiting many years already, and time is almost up!

I don’t think you people realize how close we are to the Vikings moving to LA. The new stadium in LA is almost a done deal. All they need now is a commitment from a team to move, and with the Vikings lease expiring at the Dome in a few months, it doesn’t take a scientist to figure out what will happen. The writing is on the wall. Do you people really want to be known as the reason why the Vikings moved to LA? Please don’t let that happen.

The referendum is a waste of time and money. We elect our politicians to make decisions for us. That is their job! If the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners chooses to impose a tax, so be it.

Look at Hennepin County and Target Field. The Hennepin County Board had the vision to see what could be done, and look what they did! Target Field is one of the finest ballparks in the country! We should all be proud of that! Hennepin County didn’t require a referendum and neither should Ramsey County.

The Minnesota Vikings are an asset to the state of Minnesota and it would be a shame if we lose them. My kids love going to games with me!!! We would be heartbroken without the Vikings!

Please allow your county to raise the sales tax WITHOUT a referendum!!!

Thank you again for your time.

Good luck…

…figuring out how this will affect your property taxes. It comes from Minnesota Public Radio.

The DNT reported a while back that losing the homestead tax credit would cost Duluthians on average a 5.7% tax increase. That doesn’t include what the City of Duluth or the County or the Duluth School District or voters on a proposed operational tax levy increase in a coming referendum will do to bump up our taxes.

You can see what would have happened in Duluth last year if the Dayton GOP legislative agreement had gone into effect by looking at this. Its a 900 page pdf that won’t easily transfer to the blog here without a lot of tinkering that I don’t have time to do for you, my dear readers. Page toward the end of the alphabetically listed Counties to St. Louis. Duluth is the last entry under St. Louis County.

About that law in an omnibus law…

…that no one knew about which made it impossible to track Excelsior Energy’s use of public money. Well the DNT wrote about a similar provision in the tax law which got passed in the special session without anyone noticing.

Lost in the tumult of the Legislature’s July special session was a huge change in state tax policy that will send property taxes climbing in 2012 across the state, even if local governments freeze their spending.

The Homestead Tax credit has been dramatically reduced. Poor homeowners are really going to take it on the chin. According to the story the result is that while our property tax rates will stay the same we in Duluth can expect an additional 5.7% increase in property taxes as a result.

Now just how this will work is apparently still a bit of a mystery to the County so please forgive me my puzzlement about the tax implications. I presume this does not include any increases that any of our local units of government may impose. According to another story St. Louis County will almost certainly impose a tax that matches the rate of inflation which is, according to the County, 3%.

What I do know is that just like the Red Plan tax increases and any City Increases a county increase and the reduction of the homestead tax credit will be exceedingly regressive falling most heavily on the shoulders of the poorest homeowners.

Who the hell is the damn Tax Chair? Oh yeah! I forgot. Tom Bakk.


Mark Dayton won public office by saying he wanted to raise the taxes on millionaires. Granted, he only won a plurality of the vote but never mind. It turns out a majority of Minnesotans think this is a good idea. (Meaning a majority of Minnesotans disagree with their GOP legislators)

I personally don’t like picking on Millionaires. I would prefer that everybody who can afford it should pay more without picking on the rich.

Still, its worth remembering that we aren’t taxing million dollar incomes at the 90% rate like we were in Eisenhower’s Era. And just who is a millionaire anyway? I recall when I was a kid assuming that ownership of a million dollars of assets qualified one as a millionaire. That was the Era of $20,000 houses and you didn’t have to earn a million a year to be a millionaire. In fact, lots of frugal folks who saved seriously became millionaires despite having never earned large incomes. People like that would never have paid Dayton’s taxes because their incomes would have fallen fall short of a million a year.

Mischaracterizing the Republican side

My wife and I heard the “breaking news” on WDIO last night explaining that the shutdown was upon us. We both scoffed at the early explanation of the GOP offer to Governor Dayton. I just found this post on an MPR blog:

He said he had offered some additional spending cuts and then proposed higher taxes only on the roughly 7,700 Minnesotans earning more than $1 million a year.

Republicans, he said, rejected the idea and instead offered a $1 billion revenue raising option that consisted of delaying $700 million in payments to schools and borrowing against funds from the state’s tobacco companies settlement. He turned those aside arguing they did not really raise revenue.

Republicans countered Dayton had mischaracterized the offer and posted and tweeted a picture of the offer document

I read the document and it sounded just like the Governor described it. I presume the GOP was angry that Dayton didn’t describe the halo which is evident when one reads their proposal.

Click this to see it blown up.

Not a farmer

My better half raised her eyebrows over the GOP’s redistricting proposal thinking it grossly partisan. Of course, its always partisan. It just so happens that the GOP controls both houses of the Minnesota State Legislature. It is imperfect control, however, because Governor Dayton who can veto the plan is a DFLer.

Which brings me to the point of this post which is that whoever’s ox is gored will come up with silly reasons for why the plan is bad, unfair, irrational or imbecilic. Among these are the tried and tired rationales that the District doesn’t look like it used to or that it throws dissimilar people into the same geographic boundaries.

The US Constitution and its Amendments bend over backward to describe citizens as equals. The Supreme Court in 1954 affirmed this relative to voting by ruling that our reapportionments would be based on one man one vote and eliminated the ability to create Districts with vastly unequal population sizes. That left politicians with an even tougher challenge to carve out districts that would advantage one party over the other. Frankly the decision was better for Democrats who were more urban and who got a lot more Congressional Districts after the ruling.

In the past couple decades we have reverted to all sorts of gerrymandered districts which do have equal populations but often run as sinuously and Albert Gerry’s 19th Century Districts. So when I argue that the current Republican proposal looks rational (although there is no question it would be a boon to Republicans) I base that assertion on the relatively straight forward lines it has. In a year in which the Tea Party has been largely discredited and which President Obama has had some achievements who’s to say that Congressman Kline or Bachmann won’t find themselves in trouble. Chip Cravaak will get a safer district but he’s still an unknown quantity. (By the way a minute ago I got a call from his prerecorded voice inviting me to an instant tele-conversation. He began it by saying there was no good reason for us to accept high gas prices. Thanks Chip. And GOP elephants can fly.)

Among the more daft objections I’ve heard expressed for having our 8th District stretch from Morehead in the west to Duluth in the East is that it brings together such dissimilar people Farmers and folks in the mining industry… know laborers.

“We in the north have more connections with Pine County than with Marshall, Pennington or Clearwater, which are agricultural,”

Who raised this objection? Noneother than Duluth’s Democratic Farmer Labor State Senator Roger Reinert. Maybe Rog is really a Democratic Labor representative.

The courage to brown nose

One of my old political heroes was Rep. Pete McCloskey who took on Richard Nixon in the 1972 nomination process. He got exactly one vote at that year’s Republican National Convention. Years later I heard Pete give a speech on NPR where he pointed out that the word politician derives from politic which means, among other things, to give no offense. In other words we elect people to represent us who will bend over till their head is stuck where the sun won’t shine to avoid telling us anything we don’t want to hear.

In Tim Pawlenty’s case he vowed not to raise taxes when he got the GOP nomination for Governor in 2002 despite a looming deficit. When he waffled on that pledge after his election he was promptly beat up by Grover Norquist for attempting to raise “fees” as an alternative to taxes. So Pawlenty backed off, raised no taxes so he could keep his no new taxes bonifides as he pursued a GOP presidential nomination to challenge Obama in 2012. Lucky Minnesota now has an even more killing deficit to endure than the record setting red ink faced by Pawlenty in 2003.

Nevermind that the Republican deity, Ronald Reagan, who helped turn the no new taxes idea into a virtual religious commandment raised taxes as President and before that raised California’s taxes an unprecedented billion dollars back when a billion dollars was real money.

Real Courage today would be for a Republican to point out that all the borrowing we are doing to avoid taxes simply places a great burden on our children and grandchildren. Ah, but such an admissions could cost a GOP candidate a primary election so our GOP candidates are all busy courageously brown nosing no nothing, anti-tax fanatics at the expense of the next generation.

All this is prologue to thank Rep. Kerry Gauthier for courageously offering to defend Duluth from a mean old Republican Representative from Farmington, Minnesota who is threatening to take money from Duluth’s school children.

Last time I checked, Duluth schools were facing a massive $7.3 million deficit and planning on laying off dozens of teachers. The School Board is considering increasing class sizes, making kids walk two miles to and from school and even moving to a four-day school week.

I can’t prove it but I’m pretty willing to bet that the lion’s share of our District’s financial problem are pretty much self inflicted. Oh the economy hasn’t helped and the Pawlenty Administration has played it part but Duluth City Councilor Gauthier stuck his head in the sand when the Red Plan was pushed through. His excuse? The School District wasn’t his turf.

Well, the evil Education Chair that Kerry brags that he will fight represents Farmington, Minnesota a city where the City Council wasn’t afraid to tackle its school board over a controversial school building project. I don’t know all the details but the Farmington City Council set a much less supine example than Councilor Kerry Gauthier did in Duluth. Had Kerry been willing to challenge the unions that were hell bent on building the Red Plan, whether it was needed or not, our Duluth Schools would be in considerably less financial distress.

But that would have taken courage and all Rep. Gauthier is willing to offer us after-the-fact is the same sort of courage Governor Pawlenty gave us when he bowed to Grover Norquist and let our deficit balloon. Thanks Kerry. Thanks $293 million! And good luck fighting the Chair of the Education Committee in your position as a minority member of the House of Representatives.

This non plusses me too

In addition to Sunday liquor sales for Minnesota Senator Reinert will also introduce legislation to take the Aquarium monkey off the Duluth City Council’s back and put it on UMD’s back.

The Aquarium has soldiered along in part by competing against Duluth restaurants which host parties and receptions. It hasn’t exactly lived up to the initial hype as the world’s preeminent museum dedicated to telling the world about our Great Lakes. I think that getting UMD involved in the Aquarium is a good idea. I’m not sure that hiding the Aquarium’s shaky finances by transferring the responsibility for them to a state entity will improve the Aquarium. Maybe this transfer will help compensate Duluth for the loss of Local Governmental Aid.

I’ll bet that Roger’s former colleagues on the City Council would welcome this transfer if Roger should manage to accomplish it. It would be one less reminder of a City Council gamble that has yet to pay off.

Roger will apparently busy himself with minutia after unexpectedly finding himself in the State Senate’s minority after the DFL’s shellacking.

I’m non plussed

This is Senator Reinert’s second big promotion that I recall since he was elected to the State Senate. Sunday Liquor Sales. According to Roger it would provide Minnesota ten million dollars of revenue each year. The social good will be to free lazy people, including his large population of college age voters, from having to stock up on booze over the weekend.

My wife’s brother-in-law used to work in North Dakota where blue laws let him take the day off from his retail work on Sunday. He wasn’t all that religious but he appreciated the day of rest. I guess the freer access to booze seven days a week will steel back a little retail work from Wisconsin and boost Minnesota liquor sales taxes.

I’m sure that the big issue Roger campaigned about, fixing the six million state budget deficit, is still on his agenda. At ten million a crack Roger will have to come up with 600 similar solutions to solve Minnesota’s insolvency.