Thursday, November 24, 2011

Maplewood Trash Talk

My wife and I had a small exchange, as I was trying to thaw the turkey this Thanksgiving morning. I had emphatically asked ( well, told, but that never works as everyone knows) my wife to get a small turkey, as I weary of leftovers over the next few weeks. So of course that meant she got the largest turkey we have ever had. Its part of human nature to rebel against what you are being “told” to do. It struck me as a possible explanation for the Maplewood City Council resistance to citizen outcry over the garbage hauling issue.

If the recent election is to be considered a referendum on that, as the primary issue, it was a very clear statement that more than a few people are upset and do not want the single hauler plan.

Candidate Votes Pct

Bob Cardinal
3071 30%

Marvin C. Koppen (I)
2704 26%

Rebecca Cave
2469 24%

John Nephew (I)
1981 19%

That Mr Nephew, widely regarded as one of, if not the primary, architect of the plan, fell so far out of the lead should send a clarion call for reconsideration. A call made even more emphatic when you consider that the other incumbent Marv Koppen has voiced opposition to the plan as well. Thus 81% of the vote went to candidates that were considered votes against the issue.

However the voters reaction may be against more than just the garbage issue, as the interchange between Rebecca Cave and John Nephew brought out.

At 33:20 in the full video at
Rebecca Cave: I am kind of appalled at the sitting City Council and the Mayor, that they don’t even listen to the citizens. There are 1500 cards that came through, that were asking not to do this. They didn’t look at one of them. I was there and I watched on TV from all the people, the trash haulers and the [home] owners that got up to speak. They were shutdown by our Mayor. And its really sad to see that our city’s turned out like this.

John Nephew: I think its worth reminding that there are about 38000 residents for the city of Maplewood, and 1500 don’t decide what’s best for it.

The strongly perceived implication was that John Nephew and the other City Council members do decide, and they know better than the 1500 citizens. That retort, reveals a hubris that may also have played a role in the election results. One might also want to consider that 1500 represents more than 10% of the 12,000 households of Maplewood taking the time to respond, when they have clear indication that the Maplewood City Council is not listening. If a company received even 2% product complaints, they would know they have a very serious problem.

Later in the forum a member of a Union got up and asked again:
"We have roughly 12,000 households in the city, we received 1,500 cards back on the garbage issue, that's a substantial number of people that responded ... do you believe that's a large enough number of people who deserve to have their voices heard?"

Mr. Nephew’s response  (at 89:50 in the full video) was:
An answer to the basic question, which suggests if enough people come forward and yell about something we should give them what they want?  The answer is absolutely not!
You can click here watch a 1:41 highlight video of these comments made above.

Mr Nephew also stated that he did look at the cards and sent emails to all that had added an email address. He also claimed, or implied, that many non-Maplewood residents had responded, and that many had responded positively. An argument that Bob Cardinal refutes in earlier comments. A citizen who reviewed all the cards reported that he believes there were only 25 positive (wanted single hauler), indifferent, or non-resident cards out of the 1500.

This issue comes to a vote at the November 28th 7pm City Council meeting. Mr Nephew will participate in that vote. Maplewood residents may want to attempt to still have their voice heard.  However as the Pioneer Press article reports, it may not be listened to:
11/15/2011 A motion by council member Marvin Koppen at Monday's meeting asked the panel to delay its final vote on adopting an organized hauling system until the new council is seated. But his colleagues didn't bite. That means single-provider trash service may be the wave of the future in the community.
"It's frustrating," Koppen said. "It's clear from the (Nov. 8) election what the people want, but it seemed pretty obvious last night (the other council members) aren't going to change their minds on this."

There may be some who ask, why is this issue important? You can also buy a $5 Rolex from the back of a pickup, but its not the right thing to do.  Not everything comes down to a simple matter of price. Preserving your rights and liberty to choose cannot have a price. Taking away and chipping at liberty becomes a habit that a government will find hard to break, and a citizenry hard to stop.

If the Maplewood City Council acted with wisdom, they would consider that they are members of a representative government. As such they have a responsibility to listen to the will of the people and to respect it and to vote accordingly. So when they vote through the mandate for single hauler trash collection, remember that, the next time you have an opportunity to vote on their continued service to you!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Betty McCollum and the “Do Nothing Congress” Gambit

From her prepared remarks at a recent townhall, Betty started with
“These are common-sense initiatives that have received bi-partisan support in the past. Congress should pass this bill right away.”

I believe that she added to her prepared remarks a comment here about a “do nothing congress”,  a theme to be repeated later in the question and answer portion of the townhall with
“the white house announced three initiatives that do not need to slug through congress, in other words the president can just,  he doesn’t have to wait for congress to do its job, cause, we’re not seeing a lot of action right now up on the hill, I wish were seeing a lot more, I’m ready to do a lot more , but, the three initiatives..”

This is a theme that President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have been pushing as the new political election strategy, a refrain from the days of Harry Truman.
Obama seems to have given up on working with them [Congress] and pivoted to Harry Truman’s tried-and-true strategy of blaming Congress for not doing anything at all.
Rhetorically, at least, the strategy is working. The president’s poll numbers have stabilized from their free fall and rebounded to the mid-40s, while Congress clocked in this month with an awful-even-for-these-guys 9 percent approval rating.

Truman’s situation was very similar to today's, with the addition that both houses had slim Republican majorities elected, for the only time in 1928 to 1953. Despite the attempt to label it as "do nothing" that Congress tried to get things done, but could only do it over the President's veto.

From the New Jersey Bio page
“In November 1946, the Democrats suffered a severe defeat in the congressional elections. The result was the 80th Congress, the first Republican-controlled Congress in 16 years. Bent on dismantling the New Deal, the 80th Congress moved to limit the power of labor, lower taxes, and ride their successes on to victory in the 1948 presidential election. Not surprisingly, Truman clashed with the 80th Congress over a number of issues, but the most important was Congress’s attempt to regulate and restrict organized labor. Truman vetoed the controversial 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which banned the closed shop and restricted the power of organized labor in a number of other ways. The bill was passed over Truman’s veto, but his actions increased his standing with organized labor. Twice in 1947, the 80th Congress passed tax cuts only to watch Truman veto them with the claim that they favored the wealthy. In 1948 a third tax cut bill was passed over Truman’s veto.”

Staggering similarity. So how accurate is the “do nothing label” now?  Well in the case of the for the 112th Congress, Betty McCollum can only be referring to Harry Reid’s blocking of bills being presented and voted on in the Senate, starting with the Presidents Jobs Bill.
“What I am trying to do here today by requesting this vote on the president’s jobs bill ... is to honor the request of the president of the United States that we vote on it now,” McConnell said. “He has been asking us repeatedly over the last few weeks that we vote on it now.”
“I think the president of the United States, whose polices I generally do not support ... is entitled to know where the Senate stands on his proposal that he has been out talking about ... and suggesting that we are unwilling to vote on it," he said.
From the Weekly Standard
The Obama campaign sent out an email today asking supporters to urge Congress to at least vote on the president’s jobs bill almost immediately after Democratic majority leader Harry Reid blocked a vote on the bill in the Senate.
President Obama and Harry Reid seem to have crossed wires on that one, but it doesn’t seem to stop them from persistently blaming the Republicans for that and everything else as well.

At NewsBusters
As NewsBusters observed last month, the media, possibly with marching papers from the White House, have regularly been blaming all that ails the nation on "The Republican Congress" despite the fact Democrats control the Senate.

On ABC's This Week Sunday, George Will marvelously noted, "While [Barack Obama] was lecturing in Constitutional law, he missed that part of the Article I that says there’s a Senate also"

With polls showing the country's view of Congress at dismally low levels, Democrats and the White House believe they have to convince the public the GOP is responsible, and are therefore employing this tremendously disgraceful strategy.

But as Dick Durbin stated, they cannot even get their Democrat majority to vote for the Jobs Bill.
Durbin said. “There are some senators who are up for election who say ‘I’m never gonna vote for a tax increase while I’m up for election, even on the wealthiest people.’ So, we’re not gonna have 100 percent of Democratic senators.

However that is only the tip of the iceberg of Senate Democrat majority blocked legislation.
Senate sitting on 290 bills already passed by House; tension mounts
By J. Taylor Rushing - 02/23/10 06:00 AM ET Exasperated House Democratic leaders have compiled a list showing that they have passed 290 bills that have stalled in the Senate.
The list is the latest sign that Democrats in the lower chamber are frustrated with their Senate counterparts.
American Job Creators Suffer from Senate Failure to Act on “Forgotten 15” Jobs Bills
Nov 3, 2011 Washington- Today, Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) and Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-OH) released the following joint-column discussing the bipartisan “Forgotten 15” jobs bills passed by the House that are stuck in the Democratic-controlled Senate.  The "Forgotten 15" includes the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act (H.R. 872), a jobs bill authored by Rep. Gibbs that would stop the federal government from needlessly imposing costly and duplicative permitting requirements for pesticide use near waterways:

Here is a list of 15 jobs growth bills languishing at the doorstep of the Senate
President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have continuously blamed Republicans for blocking jobs bills. But this is simply not the case. The Republican-led House has passed more than 15 bills that will spur job growth while the Democratic-led Senate has failed to act.
132 American Economists Say GOP Jobs Strategy Better Than “Stimulus” for Job Creation in Both Short- & Long-Term Nov 8, 2011 Washington-
Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) today released a list of 132 American economists who believe the job creation strategy used in the House GOP Plan for America’s Job Creators will do more to boost private-sector job growth in America in both the near-term and long-term than the “stimulus” spending approach favored by President Obama.

Veterans Bills are also waiting for consideration
Veterans Legislation Passes House of Representatives – VOW Act Heads to the Senate
Oct 12, 2011: In a 418-6 vote, the House stands behinds veterans.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives passed six pieces of veteran legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support this week (H.R. 2433, as amended; H.R. 2074, as amended; H.R. 2302, as amended; H.R. 2349, as amended; H.R. 1263, as amended; and H.R. 1025).
“The House of Representatives sent a clear message that not only is support for our veterans strong, but that we stand together to end veteran unemployment,” stated Rep. Jeff Miller (FL-01), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “The VOW Act is the most comprehensive, thoughtful legislation that has been introduced to get our veterans out of unemployment lines and into meaningful jobs. We must also get government out of the way and ensure we have the right environment for the job market to flourish once again for all Americans.”
On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest unemployment figures, and while the national unemployment rate held steady, there was an alarming rise in the veteran unemployment rate – from 7.7% to 8.1% nationwide.

Thankfully it appears that some Veterans legislation may be making its way through Congress at this point
Nov 16, 2011 Congressional Democrats and Republicans rallied on a rare patch of common ground Wednesday, moving to pass a bill helping unemployed veterans and government contractors.
The liberal punditry loves to bash the Republicans for, well, just about anything, including the odious tactic of saying they want hurt the economy to hurt Obama.  In particular they claim:
In the deliberations of the "Super Committee," Republicans have been completely unwilling to give on the fundamental question of whether millionaires should be asked to pay to put America's economic house in order.

Well this belies the fact that as Rand Paul has stated, the Democrats basically abandoned the “Super Committee” after Republicans had made a substantive offer yielding on that exact point.
Sean Hannity Interviews Rand Paul On Democrats Walking Away From Super Committee

George Will: Obama Needs Supercommittee To Fail If He Wants To Run Against Do-Nothing Congress
November 6th, 2011 George Will claimed that if President Obama should be hoping that the Congressional supercommittee convened to come up with a bipartisan plan to balance the budget and deal with high unemployment will fail, because he can’t run against a do-nothing Congress in 2012 if the public sees Congress is actually doing something.

Republicans offer tax deal to break debt impasse; Democrats dismiss it
Congressional Republicans have for the first time retreated from their hard-line stance against new taxes, offering to raise federal tax collections by nearly $300 billion over the next decade as part of a plan to tame the national debt.
But Democrats rejected the offer Tuesday — along with the notion that Republicans had made a significant concession that could end the long-standing political impasse — leaving a special debt-reduction committee far from compromise with less than two weeks until its Thanksgiving deadline.
later in the article the author says:
Other Democrats challenged the notion that Republicans had made any major concessions. Lowering the top rate from 35 percent to 28 percent would eat up most of the extra revenue generated by limiting itemized deductions, they said, leaving very little savings to reduce future borrowing.

Which basically leads to the main conservative point, stop the spending, stop the borrowing.  So while Betty McCollum’s charge that the Congress, in the sense of the Senate, isn’t doing much is not wholly inaccurate, the implication that its Republicans is.  It would be interesting to see Betty McCollum not follow ardently in the path laid out by Obama and Pelosi, and state that the blockage is due to her fellow Democrats.  She claims she want to do more, but her statements (in video) of solidarity with Obama to bypass the Constitutional path, imply that it is more political attack than creation of accomplishments.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Maplewood City Council Candidates Forum

A Forum for the Maplewood City Council Candidates was held Thurday Nov 3 at the Maplewood library. As a non-partisan event, it was attended by approximately 20 people at the event, and 12 to 18 viewing the Ustream online during the forum, making it one of the best attended forums for local Maplewood elections.

The evening was moderated by Eric Ekstrand, chair of BPOU 55A, who took on the very difficult task of maintaining the structure of the debate, and eliciting questions from the citizens in a form that could be answered equally by all candidates.  The audience questions came directly from the citizens attending, including current Mayor Will Rossbach and former Mayor Diane Longrie, a local fireman and union members.

Following a format from one of the recent Presidential Primary Debates, that leads to more interaction, the candidates were given 1 minute to speak to the question, and 30 seconds to rebut if they felt they were directly addressed in the statements.  An option that the candidates, John Nephew, Rebecca Cave, and Bob Cardinal took full advantage of in the lively 99 minute forum.  Candidate Marv Koppen did not attend.

The most intense questioning of the night predictably was related to the current, and sensitive, topic of single hauler garbage collection.  A sampling of other questions asked were: "what will be your two main objectives you want to accomplish", "each of you have been on the city council...could you each speak to the levy increases that occurred during your term on the council and your thought process why they were necessary", and related to the fire station closings "are you as city council members willing to think outside the box".

One of the best questions, related to the single hauler garbage issue, came from a citizen who is also a member of a union, as the last question of the night.   "We have roughly 12,000 households in the city, we received 1,500 cards back on the garbage issue, that's a substantial number of people that responded ... do you believe that's a large enough number of people who deserve to have their voices heard"?  I considered it one of the best because it was reflective of the many studies that have shown that in product complaint systems the number of people who directly complain about a product is very small, typically less than 2-10% of those who do experience/have a product problem, but is a very important indicator.  Much like the tip of an iceberg, the mass below the surface is many times larger that what is above the water.

The elections are Tuesday Nov 8.  For those readers in the Maplewood area, this forum is one of the best/only ways to see your candidates discussing the issues. To see the candidates answers to these questions and many others, watch the forum and form your own conclusions as you exercise your right to vote on Tuesday.

Go to the HD55A website to watch at