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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

The Bakk Problem Has Not Improved

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 07/29/15 11:49

by Dave Mindeman

I don't mean to belabor the point, but I think this is still going to be a problem going into the next legislative session. And this needs to be addressed.

Sen. Tom Bakk announced some Senate staffer pay raises to the media yesterday and that is a good thing. Everybody in Minnesota government is really underpaid.

But that is not what bothers me about Senator Bakk.

Bakk, in a wide-ranging news conference after the committee meeting, said he had a call scheduled Tuesday with Gov. Mark Dayton to talk about disaster relief in the Brainerd lakes region -- their first conversation since the Legislature finished business June 13.

Again, nothing wrong with the substance of the announcement. The problem lies in the last sentence..."first conversation." Bakk and Dayton have not had any conversation since the session ended. You would think there would still be plenty to talk about. That session ended on a not so positive note.

OK...but to me, this gets worse.

He (Bakk) said he has already talked to Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, about moving quickly next year on bills to address transportation funding and provide tax cuts.

Already talked to Daudt. He talked to Daudt before he talked to Dayton. He never bothered to get the Governor's take, or have a discussion with him, on the next session before he starts discussing things with the Republican Speaker of the House.

Did Bakk not learn anything from 2015? Are we, again, going to have a divided message from the Senate and the Executive Office?

It doesn't seem to occur to Bakk that we have a party leader which should be the focal point of Democratic messaging...namely Gov.Dayton.

The Governor's office, a Democratic office, is not something that a Democratic Majority Leader is allowed to ignore or to consult after the fact.

Dayton made it pretty clear once more that he wants more pre-school funding if there is a discussion of tax cuts in 2016. Bakk has not said anything about supporting that -- and he seems to already have talked to Daudt about the 2016 agenda. Talks that obviously have not been run through Dayton's office.

I'm sorry. We have a serious problem here and it is centered squarely in the Office of the Senate Majority Leader.

This needs to be fixed....sooner rather than later.
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2013 Worst Political Persons in Minnesota

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 01/01/14 00:25

by Dave Mindeman

And now for the worst in Minnesota politics....

10. Minnesota's Medical Device Industry

Greed. That's all this really is. Minnesota's medical device industry has been highly successful and highly profitable. And they have benefited from the health care and insurance system that has been in an inflationary upward spiral for decades. To help the uninsured afford the insurance needed to pay for these expensive devices, the ACA put a user tax on these devices to pay for the new program. But the medical device manufacturers have fought it every step of the way... spending millions of dollars on lobbyists and working the Minnesota Congressional delegation to carry their water - led by 3rd District Congressman Erik Paulsen (bought and paid for). They want the new business coming from the ACA, but they do not want to pay for it. Greed.

9. Congressman Erik Paulsen

Paulsen correlates with the Medical Device industry because he does their bidding. He has been the top recipient of their political donations for several years and even used a repeal of the device tax as leverage in the budget shutdown fiasco. Paulsen panicked when the GOP popularity tanked during that shutdown - even trying to distance himself from the Tea Party obstinence. But representing a moderate district has not deterred Mr. Paulsen from voting in lock step with the hardliners. A DFL opponent needs to be supported here.

8. Michael Brodkorb

Brodkorb's troublemaking has been ever present in Minnesota political circles for decades. Not content to let an embarrassing scandal in the Minnesota Senate involving him and Majority Leader Amy Koch run its course, he has to sue the Senate for "wrongful" termination. It cost the taxpayers a hefty six figures overall in legal fees, although the final settlement number was a mere $30,000... leaving many to wonder why this was pursued in the first place. Of course, with Brodkorb it is never about logic - just publicity.

7. Sportswriters of Minnesota Media

This group isn't so much about politics as it is about fairness... gender fairness. While the writers wrote volumes about the failures of the Twins and Vikings and Timberwolves and Wild - (something we are unfortunately getting all too used to) - the media writers let the incredible stories of the two time league champion (in three years) Minnesota Lynx and the record breaking Women's Gopher Hockey team's 62 game winning streak get page three coverage. Lynx stars Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus should be just as prominent in the Minnesota sports lexicon as Joe Mauer and Kevin Love - but where are the stories? Just asking....

6. Majority Leader Senator Tom Bakk

Yeah, we get Democrats in here once in awhile. Although Bakk has been a tough Majority Leader in the Senate, his end of session chicanery has been political fodder for some time. The last minute killing of the minimum wage bill, the business to business taxes pushed into the tax bill, and the sneaky method of putting the Senate office building into play have given liberals and conservatives some head shaking moments. Bakk likes the old school political dealing, but it can hurt friend and foe alike. A lot of the Republican political talking points come straight from the results of actions taken by Bakk himself. The Senate is not up for election in 2014, but Bakk may have given the House as many headaches as the GOP minority.

5. Kurt Zellers

Zellers plays the usual political games and as a governor candidate, he plays them more than usual. But the cheap shot that Zellers played in regards to a sex offender release is below the belt. He even used Attorney General Swanson's investigation of the release as some kind of justification for his own criticisms. What is really galling about this is that Zellers has had opportunities when he was Speaker of the Minnesota House to address the sex offender problem, but simply punted. Sorry - you don't get to criticize others on an issue you failed to deal with.

4. Zygi Wilf

For a sports owner, Wilf makes this political list way too often. Now, after he gets his stadium financing, we find out that Wilf has legal complication back in New Jersey. He is about to get slapped with a huge multi million dollar penalty for a business deal gone bad. Wilf offers us little in explanation - even though he is required to post a $100 million bond in the matter. We can't look at his finances even though the State could be held responsible for his debts. Minnesota has a "bad" business partner. A New Jersey racketeer,no less. I feel like we should have a Jersey nickname for this guy - Zygi the Nose? Zygi the Lip? Zygi the Fraud?

3. April Todd-Malmlov/MNsure

I hesitate to single out the head of MNsure. After all this was a technology fiasco and she did not make the design flaws or implement the system herself. But, like Leslie Frasier of the Vikings, she has to take the fall for a total team failure. It is hard to imagine that the Curran software system could be put in place without testing or assurances of how it will work - but it happened. This is hurting Democrats at the moment and until this gets fixed and the law is implemented properly, Democrats will continue to be hurt. And when the details of her Costa Rica vacation surfaced, she bailed out rather than meet the challenge head on. Another failure in leadership. In her defense, there may be more of an explanation for all this than we are seeing at the moment. But until that comes forward, Todd-Malmlov is part of this list.

2. Minnesota Majority

This group has become the face of Minnesota voting obstruction. It is the old Republican ploy of making sure the "right" people vote. They pushed for voter ID and they railed against Ritchie's online registration. To Minnesota Majority, making voting easy and convenient is the wrong way to go. Make it difficult for students. Make it hard for the poor. Make it impossible for minorities. Minnesota Majority hides behind the absurd notion of voter fraud in this state. Every piece of evidence says just the opposite. Yet, they continue to try to make this state, with the highest voter partricipation in the nation, an object of baseless suspicion. It is the height of hypocrisy - and I think they know it.

1. 2nd District Representative John Kline

This may be a surprise to some, but not to us in the 2nd District. Congressman Kline is an obstructionist of the highest order. And what really makes it worse is that he has a position of authority that could do something about a variety of issues. He has waffled and weaseled when it comes to No Child Left Behind. He has the opportunity to rewrite the law, yet he does nothing and criticizes the administration who tries. He works against Labor rights. He has been no help on moving the Farm Bill. And, worst of all, he has been carrying the water of the For-Profit Colleges who are saddling the next generation with a Mt. Everest mountain of debt. Kline continues to take mountains of cash to continue that mountain of debt. He has been one of John Boehner's main loyalists - which has presented him with a problem in his own party as the Paulites have targeted him for an endorsement fight next year. He continues to try and straddle all the fences - hiding behind criticisms of Obamacare which can only go on so long. At some point, John Kline has to represent actual, real people. Not lobbyist groups - not For-Profit colleges - not big business - not Boehner's Congressional obstruction. John Kline needs to do his job - or we need to fire him. Until then, he is Minnesota's worst political person.
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2013 Best Political Persons in Minnesota

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 12/31/13 16:57

By Dave Mindeman

Its the end of the year...time once again the best and worst of politics in Minnesota for 2013.

First the best:

10. Congressman Tim Walz

More of a Blue Dog than a progressive, Walz has still been an important piece of the Democratic puzzle for Minnesota and Washington. Although some of his votes seem more of an irritant than a help to the Dems, it is hard to find fault with his well reasoned arguments about why he does what he does. A throwback to the "represent your district" type of politician, Tim Walz has respect on both sides of the aisle. And he keeps the 1st District blue.

9. Senator Al Franken

Franken has kept a non-controversial profile in Washington, but has been fighting under the radar for a number of important issues. Net neutrality, farm issues, and more recently has been more vocal on Move to Amend - the Constitutional Amendment movement to get rid of Citizens United. He takes on causes that don't get the media coverage and forces them front and center. The days of Republican criticism about his show business past are long gone. Al is a hard working Senator in every way.

8. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie

Mark is not running for SOS reelection and frankly, that is a shame. As much as the Republicans hate him, he is a champion to progressives. Mark has fought the good fight regarding voting rights and continues to work for expansion of that vital democratic act. His use of online registration has become controversial because of Republican objections - but the act of moving it directly forward is forcing the legislature to act on the issue. In the end, that has to be a positive for Minnesota voters.

7. Ken Martin (Chair of the MN DFL)

Although there have been times when I have disagreed with Ken, there isn't much question that the party has thrived under his leadership. He has kept the books balanced (unlike his GOP counterpart) and has put together a pretty effective message machine. He has a good relationship with all factions of the party and especially with legislative leaders. He is always there to help in each election cycle....and seems to make the right moves at the right time. Even in the off year, he keeps the party leadership active and engaged. It has made a difference.

6. Minnesota Auditor Rebecca Otto

The state auditor is generally a very low profile position. The controversial audits are the purview of the Legislative Auditor. The state auditor has a busy behind the scenes job and Rebecca Otto has done it well. But her recent vote against mining leases as a member of the Minnesota Executive Council raised some eyebrows in the 8th District and prompted some negative reaction regarding her re-election in 2014. She publicly stated that she was justifiably concerned about the long term aspects of the mines and their effect on the environment; and who will take responsibility for potential cleanup of the mining aftermath. It would be easy to just vote with everybody else - get the jobs going - leave the problems for the next generation to deal with. But obviously, Rebecca Otto is one of those rare, in it for the long term, principled thinkers that we are lacking in todays body politic. She is running for re-election and she needs our support.

5. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges

I look forward to Hodges taking the reins in Minneapolis. An unapologetic liberal, Betsy Hodges looks to move Minneapolis forward in a true progressive and fair manner. Her tenure is just beginning but what was impressive in 2013 is how she embraced the new Ranked Choice Voting system and set the standard for running a campaign under the new rules. She was outspent but never outworked - and her style and RCV mixed together perfectly. She built an outstanding campaign team and is working to do the same in the mayor's office. We'll have to see how she deals with the city council and how she resolves some of the transit issues already on the table. At least we know she will be working as a transit advocate - a good start.

4. Dibble and Clark

No, that is not a comedy team or some corrected name for the Northwest Passage expedition. It is the legislative team that did the impossible. Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Karen Clark were the powerful advocates for the same-sex marriage bill which put Minnesota on the right side of history in 2013. What is impressive about this legislative victory was how they successfully managed the bill through the minefields of politics and urban/rural differences. They ignored the negatives and kept plodding forward -(with a little help from MN United For All Families). The message never wavered and neither did the determination. They are some of Minnesota's best!

3. R.T. Rybak

Rybak is leaving his position as Mayor of Minneapolis with grace, dignity (well outside of a little crowd surfing....), and enormous popularity. Where he goes from here is anybody's guess, but whatever it is, he will be a success at it. During the election of his successor, he kept out of the controversies and let the race run its own course. He has a solid relationship with Betsy Hodges and the transition looks like it will be seamless. Minneapolis' prospects have never looked brighter. Rybak weathered the legislative wars with Republican cutbacks and managed to keep the city's finances in good order. Reaping the benefits now that Democrats are back in control of the legislature. He has been a magnificent promoter for Minneapolis and brought business and prosperity back to the city after a dreadful recession. He also picked the right horse in the Presidential sweepstakes of 2008, as one of the earliest supporters of Barack Obama. What lies ahead for Rybak? That kind of talent can't just sit on the sidelines very long. Is that the 3rd District calling his name? Ry-Bak, Ry-Bak...

2. Governor Mark Dayton

Mark Dayton won a close election, but he has governed like he had a mandate. He has challenged the GOP when they controlled the legislature and tempered the Democrats when they got control back. His own style never changed and the state has prospered. Of course, the GOP has to continue its critiques, but it will be hard to change a perception of a prosperous state under the tuteledge of a hard working governor. He has held steady to his basic idea of tax fairness as the means to balance the budget. Not to mention some solid job creation moves and businesses attracted. Dayton has had a remarkable ability to know when to push forward on his ideas and when to pull back on unnecessary positions. He has been a great Governor. Promises made - promises kept. That is the Dayton story for 2013.

1. Richard Carlbom

Richard is on top of the list for the second year in a row. Last year because of his campaign direction in defeating the marriage amendment....this year because he was the driving force behind the legalization of same-sex marriage. When the 2013 legislative session began, many were saying that a push for legalization would be too much, too soon. The amendment was just defeated and there needed to be a cooling off period. But Carlbom seemed to sense the historical moment quicker than anyone else. Everything was in place to continue the campaign - and the volunteers were still in place. He got the cooperation of Dibble and Clark and the lobbying began in earnest. It is hard to imagine that less than 5 years ago, Minnesota polling was against legalized same sex marriage. In that short span of time, public opinion has reversed and solidified. Thanks in no small part to the efforts of Richard Carlbom - Minnesota's best political person in 2013.
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