Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Betty and the Bridge Part 3: The Faux Budget Fixer

With the country on the brink of, or perhaps beyond, the worst debt crisis in our history, we need to make very serious decisions. Decisions about the debt ceiling, social security, medicare, health care, wars on now three fronts, unemployment at 9%+ (really closer to 20%), and unsustainable public pension plans that are bankrupting our states and cities. Serious changes need to be made to the budget process.  When Betty McCollum was on both the budget and the appropriations committee, there was no budget produced.  In the 2010 debates, she referred to the budget as "simply a piece of paper"

The Congressional Democrats are making the debt crisis a political shell game. Blocking the budget process and debt reconciliation process in both the House and the Senate.  So perhaps this is the new norm for Congressional Democrats, no budget, no plan.  However in several areas Rep McCollum goes beyond this to make us wonder if she is really serious in any way about fiscal responsibility. So where has Betty being placing her bets on balancing the budget?

The Stillwater Bridge
Rep. McCollum's statements about the Stillwater bridge accuse Rep Michele Bachmann of playing a strategy of political distraction.

"The question is, where does the $700 million come from? We need to look at that whole river corridor, we need to be cost-effective, we need to be prudent with taxpayers' dollars."
McCollum denounced the proposed bridge as "excessive and irresponsible" in light of budget troubles in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"Frankly, the prospect of such legislation becoming law is negligible, which makes such a strategy more of a political distraction than a real transportation solution," McCollum wrote to the St. Croix County, Wis., Board of Supervisors. That board passed a resolution in January supporting an exemption for the bridge. Minnesota's Washington County board did the same on Tuesday in a 5-0 vote.

Where was that attitude of concern about "excessive and irresponsible" in the debate over the extraordinarily expensive central corridor issue.  There are many who doubt the necessity of the light rail as the project was pushed forward without all the contracts even being in place as demolition began.  In the congratulatory conference held on April 26, 2011, after they finally got the federal funding in place, here were Rep McCollum's comments:

Next up was Franken, the former Saturday Night Live funnyman turned politico. "I would like to say I just didn't get Chris' jigsaw analogy," said Franken, to widespread laughter. "Or the golf."
At least the jigsaw analogy makes some metaphorical sense, no matter what got lost in translation. U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum went out on a limb, so to speak, to compare the audience in the room to the rain coming down outside: "Each and everyone of you is a little raindrop. Each and everyone of you is going to contribute today."

Well she is so far out on a limb on the bridge that even those who would be the first you would think would support her opinion are actively going the other way.
All four Senators from Minnesota and Wisconsin

May 27 2011  Sen. Amy Klobuchar has introduced legislation that would clear the way for a four-lane, highway-style bridge over the St. Croix River to replace the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Mark Dayton

May 31 2011 With legislation now introduced in the U.S. Senate — as well as the House — to get a new bridge over the St. Croix River south of Stillwater — Gov. Mark Dayton is thanking those responsible for getting things rolling.

Still other's in Washington have pointed out the questionable nature of this even being an issue:

May 5 2011 “I think it’s a dumb issue,” said Rob Bishop of Utah, who chaired a Wednesday hearing on the bill in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “It should have been done a while ago.”

It is unquestionable that Betty McCollum is committed to the environmental side of this and other issues as the video from the Sierra Club shows.  She is, as the Sierra Club interviewer says, "in common cause" with the environmentalist alliance.
A Conversation with Congresswoman McCollum from Sierra Club North Star Chapter on Vimeo

The Military Recruitment Advertisment Program
May 30, 2011 The Army was instructed by Congress to explore motorsport sponsorships in 2000 as a recruiting tool. But the Army's sponsorship expenditure has come under fire recently, with Rep. Betty McCollum pushing for an amendment to the House spending bill for 2011 cutting the $7 million a year the Army spends on sponsorships in auto racing. The House voted down the measure.

The National Guard's investment was seemingly a wise one, as even casual fans saw their sponsorship of Hildebrand and Earnhardt's cars.

She further tried a second time to get the funding eliminated, by putting an amendment into other legislation to try to kill the Nascar advertising of the Military

May 13, 2011 WASHINGTON — A House subcommittee today rejected Rep. Betty McCollum's latest attempt to divest the federal government from NASCAR sponsorships.
McCollum's amendment was one sentence long, and was offered as an attachment to a $72.5 billion bill covering military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The amendment would have prohibited any funds in the bill from being used "to sponsor motorsports race drivers, racing teams, or racing events."
However it does seem to be an effective marketing campaign for recruitment
May 30, 2011 Given the attention paid to the armed forces at both racetracks—including a full-blown “invasion” of the tri-oval by camouflage-clad soldiers at Charlotte—perhaps U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) should rethink her efforts to bar the military from marketing itself through motorsports sponsorships.

Military Bands

May 26 2011 Rep. Betty McCollum has introduced an amendment to a defense authorization bill that would cap Department of Defense spending on military bands to $200 million during the 2012 fiscal year.
...Other members of the Minnesota delegation have offered amendments to the defense bill. The House will vote on a measure from Chip Cravaak that eliminates funding for the U.S. Institute of Peace,

Both measures passed.  Although, I believe the Military had already agreed to eliminating the $120 million, before the passage.  What is an important difference between the cuts?  Chip Cravaak's actually does make government smaller by eliminating bureaucracy.

Radio and Television Martí
Was this an April Fools Day jest?  If it's a jest it would be even stronger evidence of the lack of seriousness in Rep. McCollum's agenda.  This 1980's program may well be ineffective and worthy of cutting. It is a small step in fighting socialism, perhaps that's one additional reason it's demise is requested.  However, when we are adding between $4.5 and 9.4 billion in debt each day, one must question if identifying this 0.0018% of the debt as a "smart cut" was serious or an April Fool's joke.  Only 54750 more to go!  How many bills can Congress pass in a year?

April 1, 2011 "I am working to identify smart cuts that reduce the federal deficit by eliminating ineffective, outdated, and unnecessary programs," said Congresswoman McCollum. "This legislation would save U.S. taxpayers $300 million over the coming decade by ending wasteful broadcasting programs to Cuba known as Radio and TV Martí."

Here was the Capital Hill Cubans blog response:

April 12, 2011 Here's a question for Congresswoman McCollum:
If the Cuban people ignore Radio and TV Marti, then why does the Castro regime spend so much time, effort and resources trying to jam them?
After all, Castro beams his radio stations to the U.S. (in English) -- including Radio Rebelde, Radio Reloj and Radio Habana Cuba -- but the U.S. government doesn't spend any resources scrambling them.
...But who needs scrambling equipment, when there's Congresswoman McCollum...
However, in Cuba, Radio and TV Marti serve as the only instrument that help Cubans break through the Castro regime's censorship and media monopoly.

Well the Castro/Cuba supporters liked it.

The Nascar support issue came up at the same time as decisions about NPR, PBS, and Planned Parenthood were being made.  Was this a response to that action?  Or is this really the view on budgeting that Rep McCollum has?  With the seriousness of our debt and the destruction it is doing to our economy are these agenda items the real solutions to our problem?  Or are they as Rep McCollum phrased it, simply distractions, rather than dealing with the tough issues addressed by serious work such as in the Ryan budget.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Betty and the Bridge Part 2: Betty and the Senators

The need for a new bridge was evident back in 1990, but as the 2010 census has shown, major growth in the last ten years has been out along the Hwy 36 corridor toward Stillwater, making it an even stronger case.  Beginning in the early 1990's the bridge replacement was envisioned as a four lane bridge.  It drew the immediate ire of the environmental group Sierra Club, known for its frequent lawsuits designed to tie up plans for any development project. At first it was the environment lobby, then it was too big, too expensive, then it was diminished need.  The arguments against seem to flounder around.

Michele Bachmann submitted legislation to clear the way for bridge plans, originally approved by the National Park Service in 2005, to move forward.  The legislation does not call for spending.  It creates the legal basis for the proponents of the bridge to proceed with project planing.  After another law suit by the Sierra Club the Park Service had, in a rather unprecedented move, reversed its opinion.  Only Congress could counter that decision.

This was the point where Betty McCollum stepped in and began to voice what appears to be overly strong dissension.  She says the "the prospect of such legislation becoming law is negligible, which makes such a strategy more of a political distraction than a real transportation solution,"  That basically missed the mark for a real argument, so she has also referred to it alternately as: violates the scenic nature, too expensive, to big, would create huge traffic down Hwy 36.  She does state that she supports a bridge for Stillwater, but limits that support to a two lane bridge. 

The National Parks issue is primarily one of the scenic nature of protected waterways.  I for one remain unconvinced of the scenic difference between a four lane and a two lane bridge.  The visibility is about the same with either.  The constant delays by the environmentalist lobbies has so dramatically increased the costs of the bridge, that the "cost" of either size is completely drowned in the waste that has been created by their actions.  Its important to note that Betty McCollum votes very consistently with the environmentalism lobby, receiving a 100% scorecard rating.  I have also not seen cost estimates for a two lane. So the savings, and significance, remains a bit of a mystery.  The two arguments that its too big and that it would create huge traffic also seem contradictory in nature.

A March 2, 2011 Strib article predictably supports Betty's position
Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann introduced a bill on Tuesday that would allow a new St. Croix River bridge despite a recent National Park Service ruling that the proposed bridge would violate the U.S. Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Her bill drew immediate fire from Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, who serves a bordering district and said she would "do everything in my power" to defeat what she said amounts to an exemption from existing law on a protected river.

Planning for the proposed bridge, long under discussion to replace the 80-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge, came to a halt in October when the Park Service ruled that the bridge violated federal law and would harm the river's scenic and recreational qualities.

Bachmann's support of a public works project that critics consider excessively costly -- a four-lane bridge currently being built over the Mississippi River at Hastings is expected to cost $120 million -- also led to allegations of so-called earmark spending from advocacy organizations that oppose a large bridge.

Bachmann, in an interview on Tuesday, said such criticism comes from "radical environmental groups" who she said are responsible for adding $500 million to the bridge's cost because of lawsuits and delays. Her bill isn't an earmark because it doesn't call for spending, she said. Money to pay for the bridge would be determined later by Minnesota and Wisconsin state governments and the federal government, she said.

"You build for the future," Bachmann said in defense of the current bridge proposal. "You don't build to create a problem. It would be nonsensical to build a bridge that would cause bottlenecks on either side of the river."

Well miracles do happen... The senators, all four, from both Minnesota and Wisconsin have joined together to advance legislation to clear the way for the four lane bridge. 
May 27 2011  Sen. Amy Klobuchar has introduced legislation that would clear the way for a four-lane, highway-style bridge over the St. Croix River to replace the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.
..."While I don't think the proposed four-lane bridge is a perfect bridge by any means, the people of Stillwater and the St. Croix Valley need a new bridge and one that can be built without further years of delay," Franken said in a statement. "I would have preferred a less expensive option but this is the bridge that's been chosen through a decades-long process, and I support its construction."

"This Senate legislation is a disappointment," McCollum said in a statement responding to the Klobuchar bill. "It achieves exactly the same outcome as Congresswoman Bachmann’s bill by removing protections for taxpayers in favor of an excessively large and costly bridge that overwhelmingly benefits Wisconsin.

This seems to be a crushing, and possibly stinging, blow from fellow Democrats to Betty McCollum's attempts to block the bridge.  Her response seems to ignore all the benefits that come from the new bridge.  Not the least of those will be safety, and hopefully reducing congestion in the access to the bridge. Which currently cripples traffic in downtown Stillwater.  The costs, nine times the original estimates, are almost entirely due to the 20+ years of delay that the environmental groups which Betty McCollum so often sides with. Again, she has an almost unique 100% rating in joining with them.  It also completely misses the point that the legislation does not remove protections from tax payers, that is simply a demagogic statement, it simply removes the National Parks issue about the Wild and Scenic River Act from preventing planning to proceed..

Betty and the Bridge Part 1: Betty and the Mayors

In a recent Oakdale City Council meeting, Mayor Carmen Sarrack reported to the council about a May 10th meeting held by Rep Betty McCollum [who wants a two lane bridge].  The meeting was to discuss the Stillwater Bridge with area Mayors and officials. Mayor Sarrack told McCollum that the Oakdale City Council preferred the plan as is [a four lane bridge] so that it would not be obsolete as soon as completed. In a subsequent interview (with this author), he added that he "felt the bridge was needed. It would be a big economic benefit to the region, but if we undersize it we will come up short. Build it right the first time. If it had been built when it should have, we would have saved millions."

Mayor Carmen Sarrack of Oakdale said Hwy. 36 traffic is vital to his city's economy. He favors a bigger St. Croix bridge, but he also wants to make sure that construction doesn't block Hwy. 36 entrances to his city.

Many studies have shown the need for the bridge. And in review of the cost estimates from the 1990's, at $76 million, vs current estimates of $668 million, it would have saved $592 million. So if anything, Mayor Sarrack has understated the costs of delay. The bridge has been the subject of much debate for over 20 years. However the current condition of the bridge is a matter of some concern.

In a Wisconsin public hearing:
The current bridge is well over its initial capacity from when it was built in 1931 and has become fracture-critical. The bridge is frequently closed due to flooding and for maintenance, which requires traffic to be rerouted across the I-94 Bridge, increasing congestion and travel times.

“This is a public safety concern. The Stillwater Bridge has a sufficiency rating of 33, the I-35W Bridge that collapsed a few years ago had a rating of 50,” said Severson. “Without a replacement we could be faced with another bridge collapse. Everyday that we delay on this project threatens the safety of the commuters who use the bridge and adds to the overall cost.”

The environmental groups, that Betty McCollum so often sides with, she has an almost unique 100% rating, had been involved from the beginning (with lawsuits dating back to the 1990's), but still sue and play other delaying tactics. Tactics that jeopardize people and ultimately simply make the projects much more expensive.

February 28, 2011, The National Park Service, which oversees the scenic riverway beneath the bridge, was sued last year by the Sierra Club, which opposes the "bigger is better" proposal.
"They had a seat at the table," says Rep. Kind. "They were one of many voices to decide the location, the scale, the scope of the project. I feel it's a little disingenuous now that even though their idea wasn't the final one adopted, they still want to challenge and tie this up in court."
December 4, 2010 Progress on building a $668 million bridge across the St. Croix River stalled in October when the National Park Service — reversing an opinion issued five years ago — said the bridge should not be allowed because the river is protected by the U.S. Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

 In the 1990's the bridge was first being discussed, then it was considerably cheaper, nearly nine times less. The plan has always been the same, a four lane bridge to replace the over capacity lift bridge. A smaller bridge would greatly diminish the service capacity, and serve no purpose in reducing the visibility of the bridge. Which has been one of the primary concerns/complaints voiced by the Sierra Club.

St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN) - December 5, 1990 - 1A Main

A new bridge will be built over the national wild and scenic St. Croix River in Stillwater during the 1990s, Minnesota and Wisconsin officials announced Tuesday. The departments of transportation from both states are planning for the $76 million project, which would involve building a four-lane bridge approximately 3,200 feet long. The new bridge - a replacement for the 59-year-old, two-lane lift bridge in downtown Stillwater - would span the river from Minnesota 36 at the...
More history is contained in the HR850 bill.

So the end result of all the long continued delay has been to increase the cost nine fold, not including all the legal fees etc., and to make conditions far more hazardous for the people in the area. Growth in the area has almost certainly been stunted by the delay in adequate infrastructure.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hauling the Garbage

Discussions about garbage collection isn't the most exciting of topics, but it does have significant impact on the community in a number of ways. It will affect constituent personal liberty, and economic tradeoffs. At the recent Oakdale City Council working meeting, May 24, 2011, the topic of garbage collection was discussed during the Environmental Commission interviews. The issue is a common problem for many municipalities. Arguably there are many issues that will be raised, "too many trucks", roadway damage, potential for accidents, fuel use, all due to overlapping of routes between waste haulers. The point was raised that Maplewood is moving toward a government managed system, and it was suggested that Oakdale should wait to see the outcome of their experiences, before any consideration.

Yet even as they discussed the off topic issue, the inherent losses that will come from such a change were brought up from their own experiences. The Commissioner being interviewed mentioned that he had switched companies a couple of years ago because his original hauler would not provide covered recycling bins. Others on the Council nodded in agreement, and said that they believed the hauler had since begun offering the covered bins. They theorized that the company had done so because of competition.

That competition and freedom of choice will be gone once a municipality begins to assign areas to specific haulers, or go to single vendor. With no risk of losing customers, the vendors prices and services are either unfettered, or set by the government. And like all governmental run systems, costs will usually tend to increase each year. Personal liberty to choose for costs, or service options will be surrendered.

Maplewood may choose a plan that will result in this loss of competition, with the full outcome not be known for years. Here is some of the discussion that took place there. This young woman does an excellent job summarizing the issues.

Some more thoughts on the issue in Maplewood:

The city is looking at consolidating trash pickup. According to City Councilman John Nephew, one possibility involves dividing the city into neighborhoods or zones. Companies would then bid for work in those zones. Nephew says he believes that system would be more efficient than the current one.

But Mike Berkopec, a spokesman for the Minnesota chapter of the National Solid Waste Management Association, says the costs of a change outweigh the benefits. Berkopec is in favor of allowing residents to choose which hauler they use.

It was a long night at the Maplewood city council meeting on March 28. Again, just like in October 2010, more than 200 residents attended this public hearing, where almost everyone who spoke expressed their dissatisfaction with the city council's intent to takeover garbage collection and eliminate resident's choice. Vocal citizen opposition to the scheme did not make a difference. The council voted 4 to 1 on a resolution of intent to organize garbage collection. The action does not require them to take away Maplewood residents' choice, but the council now can force through a change without any additional public input.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Budgetary Leadership? - Not from Mark Dayton

This is what a rational budget debate with leadership looks like.

The Washington Post offered a rare (i.e. they don't do it often) reasonable analysis of the budget debate in its Fact Checker
Paul Ryan’s attention-getting figure adds up and appears credible, so Ryan earns the rare Geppetto Checkmark.
Meanwhile, we are going award one Pinocchio to President Obama for claiming that the wealthy would pay “a little more.” That phrase is relative, but the hidden 7.5 percentage points identified by Ryan strikes us as more than pocket change.

Paul Ryan spoke at the Economic Club of Chicago: Shared Scarcity vs Renewed Prosperity

In the 2010 election, the voters sent a message: This isn't working. Washington needs to try something else.

We know what that something else must be, because we know what has always made growth possible in America. We need to answer that call for new economic leadership by getting back to the four foundations of economic growth:

First, we have to stop spending money we don’t have, and ultimately that means getting health care costs under control.

Second, we have to restore common sense to the regulatory environment, so that regulations are fair, transparent, and do not inflict undue uncertainty on America’s employers.

Third, we have to keep taxes low and end the year-by-year approach to tax rates, so that job creators have incentives to invest in America; and

Fourth, we have to refocus the Federal Reserve on price stability, instead of using monetary stimulus to bail out Washington’s failures, because businesses and families need sound money.
Mounting debt also threatens our poorest and most vulnerable citizens, because those who depend most on government would be hit hardest by a fiscal crisis. We have to repair our safety net programs so that they are there for those who need them most. This starts by building on the successful, bipartisan welfare reforms of the mid-1990s.

Now contrast that against what we get from Mark Dayton, who incidentally only won 43%  of the vote in the 2010 election.  Not sure how he figures that is a mandate for his policy, its more that the opposition foolishly (insanity) split the vote again between two candidates.

When Dayton met with Legislators he started out with demeaning statements

“The crux of our current impasse is no longer policy, or ideology, or even budget,” Dayton told the legislators. “It’s your unwillingness to assume the responsibilities of leadership.”
When asked if Dayton’s comments seemed more conciliatory,  House Majority Leader Matt Dean said, “No.” House Speaker Kurt Zellers said, “Not really.”

“If we were just politicians, it would be easy to get this done,” Zellers said. “We are all very principled.”

The current legislative budget, done on time (unlike the previous legislatures) and within revenue, already increases the budget from last year by $3 billion.  So it clearly has no cuts, much to the dismay of many of us who feel government has simply gotten too big and intrusive. All this make's it painfully clear that Mark Dayton doesn't understand leadership.  That can be seen from his decision to close his Senate office to his mistaken view on the budgetary process.

Governor Dayton’s view is to penalize the job creators and investors, deriding them for not paying their “fair share” to support Minnesota’s bloated spending, which under current law will balloon by 27.5% over the next two years. Spending under Dayton’s proposal will continue to grow and provides little in the way of reform or restructuring of government service delivery.  In short, his proposed budget is just more of the same, business as usual.

Tough talk from Dayton, GOP as final budget bills pass
Rookie Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, said Dayton does not understand that Republicans already have compromised. Hancock said that Republicans would prefer to spend the same as in the current budget, about $31 billion, but increased that $3 billion earlier this year.

“We are meeting him half way,” Hancock said. “There is a general feeling on our part that $34 billion is a compromise.”

Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, said there is no need to talk about how much to spend because Republicans have set their upper limit.

“Let’s talk about where we are going to spend it,” Kelly said.

Kiel said she was disappointed in the Dayton appearance and his unwillingness to negotiate.

 Is it leadership to:
 A) propose to permanently and currently maintain a budget that limits your spending to your current income.  And if you don't already understand it, Rep. King Banion explains why in http://looktruenorth.com/limited-government/340-spending/16625-4-reasons-house-republicans-are-committed-to-a-budget-at-34-billion.html,
 B) to increase your profligate spending and tell your employers (that's us folks in this case) that you demand more money to cover your spending habit.  I think I know what my employer would say, how about yours?  It doesn't count if you are SEIU, we already know that most you buy into the extortion collective bargaining plan.  If you are the rare SEIU conscripted member (we don't have right to work here) that understands this issue, then please understand I know you exist and I am not impugning you.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Healthcare Exchanges, What are we getting ourselves into?

So when you hear "Health Care Exchanges", what comes to mind? A place where you exchange your health care for something else? Perhaps not quite, but given the move toward socialized medicine, government command and control over everything, that it makes, it might not be too far from the truth. If this goes forward unabated, by 2014, all 50 states, will operate new health care exchanges, as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In the land of unintended consequences, where government run programs never quite end up doing what they planned, is a permanent, no way back package the plan to go with? Once the government run health care begins, there will be no easy way to return to a private system. There are issues with our current insurance we system, but Obamacare isn't the answer.

So on Thursday May 12 there was a rally where sereral people explained further, why this is a bad idea. Here is the contact information about the rally and how to go sign the petition to stop going beyond the point of no return. There are better ways to improve on the best medical health care system in the world, without abandoning it completely!

"Stop the Obamacare Exchange" RALLY -- May 12
Governor Dayton wants to install the Obamacare Health Insurance Exchange — Obama's state-by-state command and control infrastructure to take over health care in Minnesota.
We have not yet secured Republican leadership commitment to stop it. Some GOP leaders have even tried to make it state law (HF497 -- GOP author; GOP/DFL co-authors).
Speakers include Rep. Doug Wardlow (R-Eagan) and Sen. Gretchen Hoffman (R-Vergas), the two dynamic authors of bills to prohibit the Obamacare Exchange in Minnesota (SF1343 and HF1552), Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) and Sen. Sean Nienow (R-Cambridge), two of the strong co-authors of the legislation, Sue Jeffers (KTLK 100.3 FM) and, Twila Brase.
In these last critical days, we must do everything we can to stop the Obamacare takeover of health care in Minnesota. Sign the Citizens' Council for Health Freedom petition and ask others to sign it.
Twila Brase RN, PHN, President
Citizens' Council for Health Freedom
1954 University Ave. W, Ste. 8
St. Paul, MN 55104



Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oakdale City Council sets final chapter for Oakdale Mall

For those of us who have lived in Oakdale for many years, we remember when Oakdale Center Mall opened to great expectations. It began life as a Outlet Mall, filled with many stores, offering great discounts. It had small vendors in the halls offering refreshments and a place to sit while you shopped. We may have been members at the Health Club, or worked at the Imation facility that rented space. We may have gone to the Oakdale Library that briefly resided in the Mall. Or we may have attended Globe College that opened there. Or visited the long standing tenant CSO to buy clothes, and eaten at the China House. However it could not quite compete with the other malls in the area, and slowly lost store fronts and changed.

Sadly for many the only memory is that of the dilapidated, rundown, building with grass growing from the many cracks in the parking lot black top. Or the sight of ancient cars with for sale signs on the dash parked waiting for a new owner. An eye sore that we strived to blot out.

At the City Council meeting tonight the final chapter for the Oakdale Center Mall has been enjoined. A tour for 15 contractors bidding on the demolition contract has been held. Demolition is planned to begin on June 20th. The Oakdale Patch has details about the plans for the site. The City plans on a ceremonial event to be held at 5pm on June 15th.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Minnesota 2011 Tax Cut Rally May 7, 2011

Minnesota 2011 Tax Cut Rally  May 7, 2011

When I went to college, the cheer used to build spirit for the big game was to "fire up".  And that's what was done Saturday at the Minnesota State Capital grounds.  Conservatives, Libertarian's, Constitutionalists, Tea Party, and Republicans met together to hear the inspirational speeches from the US House, Minnesota State Senate and House members.  The "vendors" from many groups around the state pitched tents to provide meeting areas to discuss events and policy, inform participants of upcoming votes and the need to be in active communication to representatives and Gov Mark Dayton, office phone 651-201-3400.

As Sue Jeffer's said from the podium, call Mark Dayton and tell him:
"Governor Dayton, STOP the spending and NO new taxes"

If you missed out, or were too far away to participate here's your chance to hear most of speeches. Enjoy the fun and get fired up for winning back the Presidency and the US Senate in Election 2012!

Pre Event 10AM-12PM
Music by Infidel see it at
Gangsta Government
"Liberalism is a Mental Disorder"

Sue Jeffers News Talk 100.3FM introducing "Vendor" participants
Part 1

Part 2
Part 3

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer on the Voter ID Amendment

Sen. Julianne Ortman on the Spending Cap Amendment

The Main Event Speakers
Introductions by Bob Davis News Talk 100.3FM
Invocation of the event

Michele Bachmann

Chip Cravaack

John Kline

Eric Paulsen

Michael Brodkorb
Kurt Zellers and House republicans
Tony Sutton
Amy Koch and Senate Republicans

Tom Emmer

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Congresswoman Betty McCollum on Climate Change & Energy Policy

Congresswoman Betty McCollum Spoke on Climate Change & Energy Policy
On Friday, April 29, Congresswoman Betty McCollum visited the Macalester campus to discuss climate change, green jobs and clean energy with students, faculty, staff and other members of the community.

This was a fairly unique opportunity to hear a Congressional Representative talk on policy, which I greatly appreciate being allowed to attend.  The open discussion of the public policy process is a key element to maintaining our republic.  Unfortunately it does not happen often, and usually with very limited access for the public.  Renewable energy development is a fascinating area that I try to follow and attend those meetings that are available.  Last year I also attended and recorded the MNREM (Renewable Energy Marketplace) Conference.  In both cases the meetings have a very strong liberal slant, and somewhat view conservatives as the enemy.  That is a very large mistake, since conservatives have long been strong proponents of clean air, alternative fuels, and "good stewardship" of our environment.  We come to that through different logical paths, and policy decisions are always strongly influenced by what you believe are the driving forces and your world view. 

It is quite clear that the main driving force for Betty McCollum is AGW (anthropomorphic global warming).  In the first video she states this is "primarily caused by humans" at about 3:40 minutes in.
"If we don't start doing things as humans to kind of change the way we're impacting the planet we could make this world a very difficult place for us to live in."  
So this is the underlying basis for why and how she formulates policy. Reducing green house gas emissions becomes the overriding policy.

Conservatives come to energy policy from a very different view.  Fossil fuels are a limited resource. No matter how you look at it, they have a limited lifetime.  Debates about how long until we run out (and it is uncertain when) will serve us about as well as the debate over increased drilling.  If we had started drilling when we began talking about it, more than 10 years ago, the increased supply would now be available.  Instead we keep talking and never acting. Hence the $4 gas we have now.  The AGW argument is far from "settled science" as so many disclosures in the last few years have shown. I will follow up with another post on that issue again. The strident demand for reducing green house emissions, as the overriding goal, distorts the path to accomplishing the goal of alternative energy systems.  For example, it leads us down a very unfruitful path of corn based ethanol.  That has been shown to have as many or more problems than if we simply didn't do it.  We currently have no replacement for fossil fuel, and will not for years.  Punishing the use of oil products, before we complete the research and implementation of viable alternatives, is only useful as a political tool to make people feel the pain and force them to change their behavior prematurely.  It creates great economic distress that diverts resources and energy from the search for alternatives.

Once you get past the different logical paths that inform our world view, to get to the point of actually implementing policy and programs, you find that conservatives and liberals often agree on many issues.  One issue Betty talks about is certainly one of them, that we need a consistent approach, tax credits and policy, that is not short term and does not change from year to year. There are several others that you should hear as you listen to the video.  Among them are incentivizing research and development.

A Gallup poll result somewhat supports that this is the dominant view in the US.
Americans endorse increased government efforts to encourage energy production from alternative sources of energy, but at the same time do not believe the government should reduce its financial support for the production of energy from traditional sources.

Here is the video of this discussion at Macalester College in Markim Hall, home of the Institute for Global Citizenship.  The first video begins with about a 2 minute introduction describing the room we were in, part of a "Platinum building", the highest rating in the green building rating system.


Politics is the "competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership", so we should not be surprised when it does turn partisan.  At 12:50 into part 2 we see it with questions like:
"why do you think so many Republican's are still in the denial stage about climate change let alone trying to.."? 
The answer to the question is, yes there is global warming, but we believe the evidence is that is is primarily due to natural forcing sources. The AGW argument, how much is due to human activities and how significant is it, is far from "settled science" as so many disclosures in the last few years have shown.



Last year the MNREM organization held a meeting and the then State Rep Jeremy Kalin also spoke on energy and policy in Minnesota.  He spoke of the implementation of the strongest renewable electricity standard in the country, and the Global Warming Mitigation Act's very aggressive carbon emission reduction goals, right on the heels of California's.  But lamented that we didn't see the
"robust economic development we all expected". 
He spoke of some reasons, primarily that policy alone doesn't help economic development.  This is unfortunately the problem with setting mandates, they often do not really result in the outcomes you hope for

So which approach seems more likely to have a positive impact, the carrot or the stick?  As Congresswoman McCollum and the man at the back who I believe was the President of Macalester said, you decide and then you need to find people who represent what you believe in.  If the gallup  poll is remotely correct, I believe America agrees its not the punishing stick, but the encouraging carrot that we should use as policy.