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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Infrastructure Can Mean Broadband As Well

Category: Barack Obama
Posted: 12/30/08 02:58

by Dave Mindeman

Whether you agree with it or not, there is probably going to be a very big and broad stimulus package coming out of Congress next year. The only question remaining is what will it focus on.

Yesterday, Senator Klobuchar gave some public credence to a very important aspect. Broadband.

The Senator makes an important point:

?Broadband has become a key infrastructure for our 21st century economy,? said Klobuchar. ?It?s essential that all of our communities have affordable access to high-speed Internet service. I want to go back to Washington and make sure that federal broadband investments will serve the needs of Minnesota.?

Moving all of our communities into easier access is critical to moving our economy. We have the opportunity to fix this problem in one large sweeping gesture.

And it doesn't just mean broader or faster internet access:

Klobuchar said that broadband service is becoming increasingly important for job creation and economic development. She cited a recent study by the Brookings Institution, which estimates that every one percentage point increase in broadband penetration per year would lead to the creation of nearly 300,000 new jobs.

It is not just roads and bridges anymore. Broadband is infrastructure as well. And that means jobs.

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MN Supreme Court Should Have Been More Decisive on Ballots

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 12/30/08 02:38, Edited: 12/30/08 02:39

by Dave Mindeman

It is beginning to look like the US Senate race will never be over until someone in authority just says so. The Supreme Court didn't do anybody any favors by their ruling on absentee ballots. To allow either campaign to void a ballot based on a written objection is just opening the door to endless and useless debate.

The 1350 ballots that were identified as being wrongly rejected went through the proper procedure. They should have just been counted (and the Supreme Court should have stated it that way).. no discussion...just do it. The reasons behind a rejected absentee ballot are stated in statute and the counties review of the process seemed to be pretty clear about which ballots are involved.

But with the Supreme Court interpretation, the campaigns have little incentive to withhold their objections. It now becomes a game of which county the ballot comes from.... putting us back on track for a protracted court battle. And that court battle not only involves the two campaigns.....now, the individual citizens will be filing their own lawsuits over their own ballots.

The courts should have given us clarity here, not muck up the works.

We are back on a trajectory to have the US Senate decide.... and it is getting to the point that any kind of final decision, no matter where it comes from, will be welcome.
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The Top 10 Best Political Persons in 2008 Minnesota

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 12/28/08 07:43, Edited: 12/28/08 10:01

by Dave Mindeman

It's almost time for the 3rd annual Top Ten Worst Political Persons in Minnesota post (comes on New Year's Eve), but before we do that, let's think of the positive points of the year. So here is a look at the Top Ten Best Political Persons in 2008 Minnesota.

10. Tom Sorel, MnDOT Commissioner. Although he still has a lot of work to do, MnDOT is improving under his leadership. Sorel has been gaining the confidence of those who work with him and, maybe more importantly, the confidence of the legislature. Some tough decisions on bridges were handled with public safety in mind and the quick decisions on future projects will help get Minnesota moving again. I hope to see more advocacy for light rail in the future, but for now, Sorel has been a vast improvement over his predecessors.

9. Rep. Jim Oberstar. Oberstar has been a strong advocate for Minnesota for a good many years. His powerful position on the Transportation Committee in Congress has given our State a strong voice in Washington. He was one of the few Representatives who probed for more answers from the I-35 Bridge investigation. His efforts were stonewalled but he at least brought the matter to the public's attention. Oberstar was rumored to be in line for Obama's Transportation Secretary....and although he would have been an excellent choice, he will have more influence on transportation policy staying exactly where he is.

8. Al Franken. Potentially our next US Senator-elect Franken. Franken has had an interesting voyage this year. Although he will always have his critics, I think you have to admire the improvement in his campaign that he fostered through the long course of the election without end. He had to overcome a large number of obstacles, including many from within his own party. Regardless of what you think of candidate Franken, he made the changes necessary to be a better candidate and brought in an excellent new team. He has set the right tone in the post election media wars and at this writing, he is in the lead to be the next junior Senator from Minnesota.

7. Jim Ramstad. The retiring 3rd District Congressman has had a long career of service to Minnesota. He decided to hang it up in 2008 after long years of bucking the far right wing of his party. He lent his support to his eventual successor, Erik Paulsen, during the election, but he managed to stay above the fray....as he has done through most of his electoral career. A moderate, in the truest sense, the fitting close to his career was the passage of the mental health legislation that he, and Paul Wellstone, fought to pass for so many years. It was another great moment and a fitting way for Ramstad to leave the political scene.

6. Ashwin Madia. There were a lot of high hopes that a Democrat could win the 3rd Congressional seat in Minnesota. But the main reason for Madia to be on this list is the way he overcame the odds to get as close as he did. He was certainly a non-establishment candidate. He challenged the status quo in the Democratic party and inspired a lot of new Democrats to get involved. You might even say that the reason he lost is that he tried to change himself and become more of the conventional candidate he had fought against from the beginning. Madia's rise was a great story for 2008... I hope more is in store for him.

5. The Override Six. By name they are Rep. Ron Erhardt, Rep. Neil Peterson, Rep. Jim Abeler, Rep. Rod Hamilton, Rep. Bud Heidgerken, and Rep. Kathy Tingelstad. Six brave legislators who put their state above their party and voted to fund transportation in Minnesota over the Governor's veto. It cost some of them dearly as a few will not be returning to the legislature in 2009. The backlash from their party was enormous but they did the "right thing". A sentiment that is lacking in the great partisan divide of our legislature. And the events that followed have proved them right. Gas taxes have not had the dire consequences that were predicted by an angry Governor. Gas prices have since dropped to decade long lows and the impact of higher gas taxes has been negligible. But, at the time of the historic vote, these six legislators had no way to know what the future would hold. They could only be aware of the enormous party pressure inflicted upon them vs the transportation needs of the state. They proved to be a prime example of the truly best of Minnesota.

4. Mayor R.T. Rybak. Rybak has been a good decision maker in 2008. He jumped on the Barack Obama bandwagon from practically the beginning. He set the right tone regarding the Republican National Convention coming to the Twin City metro area. During the I-35 Bridge collapse, he proved his leaderhip skills in a crisis...making good decisions and getting information out quickly, efficiently, and most of all, correctly. He has been a strong advocate for Minneapolis and has properly called the Governor out on a number of issues. Yet, when cooperation is necessary, the Mayor is on board. A strong advocate for mass transit, the Mayor has shown more future vision than many of his state political counterparts. Rybak has his critics and some criticism regarding his "drinking fountains" may have legs, but the future is bright for R.T. Rybak, no matter where he chooses to go.

3. The People at the Uptake. One of the more exciting media aspects of this year has been the emergence of the Uptake as the primary live video source for political events. Jason Bennett, Mike McIntee and a host of others are turning the Uptake into a major Minnesota news source. Although obviously still fighting for respect among Republican sources, the Uptake has shown itself to be a solid journalistic entity. It is citizen journalism at its finest and the future for this endeavor has enormous potential. Uptake stories have been picked up nationally and very soon, even the GOP will find it impossible to ignore this new wave of on the spot news sourcing. It is exciting to watch.... rock on!

2. Rep. Tim Walz. Tim Walz has emerged from the First Congressional District to become a state wide force in Minnesota politics. Although it is very hard to classify him as a progressive, it is also hard to classify him in any labeling way. He came out of nowhere in 2006 to defeat a strong GOP incumbant and then followed it up with a nearly flawless 2008 campaign to win the district handily. Flattering calls for Tim to run for Governor in 2010 were quickly squashed by Walz himself as he prefers to work on the enormous job facing the next Congress. Walz has made some controversial votes while representing the First District. Many of them have given Progressives some cause for alarm. But, I have to say I have been impressed with the thought and thoroughness of examination that goes into each vote he takes....even when I disagree with it strongly. Tim Walz's future in politics has no boundaries. As his tenure grows in Congress, his practical solutions to problems will be given more credence. That will be good for Minnesota and good for the country.

1. Mark Ritchie, Sec. of State. It is ironic to have Mark Ritchie top the "good" list this year because he did make the top 10 on the "worst" list last year. But Ritchie has managed to do something that is very hard for a politician. He has changed how he is perceived. Last year, he made my worst list because he had used his office for partisan fund raising. But he realized his mistake and was given the opportunity to prove he had changed by the 2008 US Senate race recount. Despite attacks from the GOP that he couldn't oversee the recount in a non-partisan way, Mark Ritchie did just that. He has followed the letter of the law and listened to all the arguments. His canvassing board choices were praised by both sides and his rulings have been fair. He has deferred objections, properly, to the courts when necessary and called for quick and efficient counts from the county election boards. I realize that whoever comes out the loser in this election will find a way to criticize the Secretary of State, but making anything stick will be extremely difficult. Ritchie has taken his duties of election oversight very seriously. He has restored the respect for the Office of Secretary of State....and for that reason he tops our list of the 10 Best Political Persons in the State of Minnesota.

I realize that many will disagree with the choices made here. It is, first and foremost, a personal opinion. Those of you who wonder why such people as Sen. Pogemiller or Speaker Kelliher did not make this list have a justified point. However, I am not convinced that the legislature did enough to look ahead during the last session. All parties involved did little to resolve our inherent budgeting flaws. Too often, legislative leaders are taking the easier path and that just pushes our problems into the future and makes them worse.

Your ideas on who should be on the list are welcome in comments. Look for the 10 Worst List on New Year's Eve.......

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