Health and Safety

Last night I had a chance to chat with one of a passel of folks who would like to be the next Governor, Steve Sviggum. Steve was formerly the Republican Speaker of the House and is now the Commissioner of Labor and Industry. Unfortunately for him his Federal duties administering OSHA prevent him from campaigning.

Still he was eager to find out what was happening in Duluth and sidled over to my table to ask about the City of Duluth’s infamous and unresolved $300 million health insurance plan. After a brief discourse on the progress of the case with those present I mentioned that a lot of folks were a little exercised over the School Board’s refusal to let them vote on the $437 million Red Plan.

Commissioner Sviggum helpfully suggested that the State’s Health and Safety funding somehow insulated the School Board from having to follow this course. If his old school board in Kenyon had attempted anything so duplicitous he might have schooled himself about the state’s school bonding laws a little more thoroughly. It was disappointing to watch him shrug off the issue since as a Republican he’s rumored to be a tax fighter. His indifference reminded me of the many legislators who did nothing to stick up for Duluth voters including another Governor hopeful Senator Tom Bakk. Oh, Bakk furrowed his brows a bit in feigned consternation but he’s an old union man and the unions in Duluth wanted the Red Plan for the jobs, jobs, jobs never mind the theft, theft, theft or the waste, waste, waste.

Ironically I found myself with the Commissioner because my wife who recently retired as Board Chair of the Minnesota Safety Council was being feted for her many years service on the Council.

Workplace safety is one of Commissioner Sviggum’s responsibilities and because this includes OSHA, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration he is prevented from politicking because of the Hatch Act.

The Red Plan undermines safety on many fronts. Children are being driven on longer bus rides. Middle schools are crammed with so many children that order is compromised. The Ordean site is woefully tiny for the 1600 high school kids who will be crammed into it with inadequate parking, precarious pedestrian planning and terrible traffic.

How ironic that “health and safety” funding laws should be the excuse for unleashing so much chaos and disorder.

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