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As we look back at Gov. Dayton’s time in office, it’s difficult to identify his signature legislative accomplishment. His first year in office, he shut down state government. It was the longest shutdown of state government in US history. When it ended, Gov. Dayton signed the budget deal he could’ve signed without the shutdown.

In 2013, with DFL majorities in the House and Senate, Gov. Dayton finally passed his massive tax increases. In addition to those tax increases, Gov. Dayton promised that he’d stop property tax increases as a result of the increased LGA payments and “historic investments in education.” I wrote this post in December, 2014 to highlight the major property tax increase that Princeton levied on taxpayers. They originally sought a 33.87% tax increase but ‘settled’ for a 25.16% increase.

In this post, I quoted then-Speaker Paul Thissen. Here’s what he said in a statement:

The House DFL Education Budget invests in what works: fully funding all-day, every day kindergarten and investing $50 million in early learning childhood scholarships. All-day K and early childhood education are proven tools to improve test scores, close the achievement gap, and prepare students for future academic success. The House DFL Education Budget also increases the basic funding formula for K-12 schools by four percent over the biennium, an increase of over $315 million, or $209 per pupil. The school shift payback will be included in the House Taxes bill.

In other words, the Dayton tax increase to buy down property taxes failed terribly.

What’s worse is that, in 2014, the DFL legislature repealed several of the tax increases it passed the final weekend of the session the year before. That led to the Republicans retaking the House majority in the 2014 election. Apparently, Minnesotans didn’t think much of Gov. Dayton’s tax increases.

In 2015, Gov. Dayton met with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL- Cook, and Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt every day of the final week of session to negotiate a budget. On the Friday of the session, they were no closer to an agreement than they were when they started. Sen. Bakk and Speaker Daudt sat down and promptly negotiated a bipartisan budget deal in less than an hour. When they made the announcement, Gov. Dayton criticized the budget and vetoed the bill.

That led to another cave-in by Gov. Dayton during yet another special session. BTW, special sessions might be Gov. Dayton’s legacy, though I can’t call them an accomplishment.

Aside from these negative legislative ‘accomplishments’, Gov. Dayton ignored the Somali day care fraud scandal and the elder care abuse scandal. That’s the one where people actually died and nobody from the Dayton administration bothered to investigate.

The other thing that Gov. Dayton was famous for was temper tantrums:

Finally, there’s the MNLARS fiasco, which Gov. Dayton created but didn’t fix and the child care unionization legislation. The unionization legislation went nowhere because child care providers defeated the measure 1,014-392. That’s what happens when you’re stubborn and you don’t listen to people. Gov. Dayton earned those epic slap downs.

Saying that Gov. Dayton failed deputy registrars is extreme understatement. Nonetheless, he’s already started blaming Republican politicians for his failures. Dave Orrick’s reporting lays things out nicely by saying “It’s all the result of the faulty launch of MNLARS, a new computer system launched over the summer to handle vehicle title and tab transactions. It was a mess and largely still is, say deputy registrars, as well as car dealers, insurance agents and untold numbers of regular folks who waited in long lines or ran up against any number of roadblocks in their attempts to transfer a title or some other previously routine transaction.”

Don Davis’s article highlighted how the DFL abandoned the registrars:

The Minnesota House has failed to override Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of funding to reimburse local offices who struggled with the state’s new driver registration system.

It’s just the second attempted override in Dayton’s tenure. With just 79 House members voting to override Dayton on Sunday, it fell short of the required 90-vote margin. Most Democrats voted against overriding Dayton’s veto.
Dayton struck down the bill Saturday, saying lawmakers should have paired it with funding to fix MNLARS. That money is in a separate bill passed by the Legislature. MNLARS was plagued by problems since its summer launch. GOP Rep. Dave Baker says lawmakers owe it to deputy registrars to reimburse them for their extra costs due to problems with the system.

DFL members who voted for the bill initially voted to sustain Gov. Dayton’s veto. That means that they put Gov. Dayton’s vanity ahead of the registrar’s financial needs. Saying that Speaker Daudt was upset with Gov. Dayton is understatement. Watch Speaker Daudt’s body language during this press availability:

About 12:25 into the press availability, Speaker Daudt spoke to the registrars bill, saying “Well, the deputy registrar bill, we are extremely disappointed that the Governor vetoed that bill. Even in his veto letter, he said that “I support this money for the deputy registrars. Confusing. Again, he keeps saying ‘send me a bill — an individual bill all by itself — a standalone bill’ and he vetoes it anyway. In reality, this bill had 101 votes going out of the House. I think we’re going to find out tonight if Democrats stand behind making these deputy registrars whole for the losses that have been incurred by the disaster called MNLARS and I hope that Democrats will stand with Republicans tonight behind these deputy registrars instead of standing behind this governor who has literally gone back on his word to these people.”

In his own press availability, Gov. Dayton said that he’d only sign the deputy registrars’ bill if it included ‘the other $33,000,000’ needed to fix MNLARS. Republicans told him consistently that they weren’t willing to write him a blank check, then hope that his IT team would fix MNLARS over the summer. Writing this incompetent governor a blank check with the belief that he’d fix that system isn’t just insane. It’s stupid. Why trust a governor with Gov. Dayton’s legacy of mishaps and mistakes and who can’t be held accountable now that he’s officially a lame duck?

When some of these deputy registrars go out of business or lose their homes, I hope they remember who stood with them and who abandoned them. Gov. Dayton vetoed the bill but DFL legislators abandoned them. DFL legislators supported their governor rather than supporting their constituents.

I hope these deputy registrars and their families remember that the DFL preached that they’re for the little guy — until their governor needs their votes. When they walk into the voting booth, I hope they feel like this:

Then I hope they vote for the people who will support them when it matters. They’re known as Republicans.

According to this Strib editorial, the Met Council is just terrific. Apparently, they don’t think the same about Jason Lewis. The editorial’s opening paragraph states “Second District Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis is attempting to apply the heavy thumb of the federal government to tip the scales in a long-running debate over the composition of the Metropolitan Council. We think Lewis and the feds should keep their hands off. This is a matter Minnesotans can and should decide for themselves.”

Actually, it isn’t just a local matter. That’s because many bodies like the Met Council exist across the nation. Further, since the Met Council has taxation authority and the authority to usurp local jurisdictions, it’s insane to think that they shouldn’t be accountable to the people.

The editorial also says this:

We’ve also been skeptical about creating a “council of governments.” Its members would be politically beholden to the local constituencies that elected them, rather than the region as a whole. Instead, we favor instituting staggered terms for council members and employing a panel of local officials as a screening committee to recommend council candidates to the governor.

What’s so virtuous about a panel that’s accountable only to the governor? I don’t see anything worthwhile about that. Let’s further ask the question at the heart of this argument: why do these bureaucrats, plus the Star Tribune, fear the people? Governments are supposed to be of, by and for the people. This nation was started in part by the belief that there should be no taxation without representation. Who does the Met Council represent? The Governor?

That doesn’t sound like a governing body that governs with the consent of the people. That sounds like a dictatorial body.

The Met Council is filled with special interests. For instance, Jennifer Munt ‘represents’ District 3, “which includes the Hennepin County cities of Chanhassen, Deephaven, Eden Prairie, Excelsior, Greenwood, Long Lake, Minnetonka, Minnetonka Beach, Mound, Orono, Shorewood, Spring Park, Tonka Bay, Wayzata, and Woodland. Munt is the Public Affairs Director for AFSCME Council 5, where she leads marketing, communications and media relations.”

This isn’t about representing the people. It’s about representing the special interests:

Previously [Munt] was the Communications Director for the Hiawatha LRT project (2000-2005) and an Outreach Coordinator for the Metropolitan Council (1999-2002).

Munt hasn’t represented people in the past. She’s represented governments and special interests.

Here’s Jason Lewis’s statement on what his amendment actually does:

“Currently, and in contrast to federal law, all 17 members of the Met Council are appointed by the Governor of the State of Minnesota. MPOs nationwide are created with the intent to improve infrastructure planning and, especially, transit investments on behalf of constituencies across a given region. In 2012, Congress rightly determined that locally elected officials are best suited to represent those same groups. In our region, the failure of the Met Council to include locally elected officials as part of their governing board has undermined this key aspect of accountability to the people they represent.”

Background:

MAP-21 required that federally recognized MPOs that participate in transit improvement program planning, long-range capital plans, coordination of transit services, and that carry out other state activities, all of which rely on federal funding and grants, meet certain requirements. These requirements include a board makeup of locally elected officials, public transportation officials, and appropriate state officials.
The Metropolitan Council (Met Council) currently has a Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) that consists of local elected officials, but in August of 2015, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration ruled that the TAB lacked any voting authority and therefore the Met Council did not meet the threshold of MPO compliance.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration used a separate clause in federal law to “grandfather” the Met Council into compliance.

Our amendment does not seek to change the operations or scope of the Met Council. It does not attempt to change the activities of the board. It simply requires that for a board to be in compliance they need to have locally elected official representation consistent with every other MPO in the country.

In other words, the Strib appears to be running interference for the Met Council. Rep. Lewis’s amendment doesn’t change the Met Council’s responsibilities. It simply requires the Met Council into compliance with existing federal law. That isn’t “tipping the scales” in one direction or another, as the Strib implies. It simply forces the Met Council to comply with existing federal law.

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KARE11’s Boyd Huppert traveled to Somerset, WI, to see if Justin Rivard’s invention would save lives. While DC-based politicians and special interests retreat to their predictable positions, Justin applied a little American ingenuity to the school shooting crisis situation to see if he could make a difference. What he created in shop class might impact more students’ lives than anything that the politicians and special interests come up with.

The article opens by saying “The flag at Somerset High School flies at half-staff in honor lives lost in Florida. Inside, Somerset senior Justin Rivard was inspired in his shop class to try to save lives here. “I call this the JustinKase,” Justin says of his invention. “You don’t want to use it, but just in case you need it, it’ll be there. Made of steel plates and connecting rods, Justin’s device slips beneath a classroom door and latches to the door’s jam. With his device in place, Justin has yet to find a person who can push a classroom door open, including linemen from his high school football team. “You can lock a door with a lock, it can get shot out,” Justin says. “You can lock a door with this, it can’t get shot out. You can’t get around it.”

It’s time for politicians and special interests to step aside. It looks like Justin Rivard just built a better mouse trap:

What’s not to love about this invention? It doesn’t violate a person’s civil rights. Politicians can sit on the sideline and applaud old-fashioned ingenuity. Gangbangers can’t get past it.

When a shooter is stalking the hallways, the police are 5 minutes away. Justin’s device helps protects students and teachers until the first responders and law enforcement get there. Isn’t it time the politicians and the special interests got out of the American people’s way so they can fix this problem?

When a shop teacher challenged his students to build a device which could increase school safety, Justin Rivard rose to the occasion. Only 15 at the time, he researched current products and then sought to learn their strengths and weaknesses. After months of refinements, JustinKase was engineered, built, refined, and is now helping protect hundreds of students with orders meaning thousands of students in Wisconsin & Minnesota will soon be made safer due to his innovation.

Justin Rivard should get an award from the White House, Congress and others. Everyone knows there’s a problem with school safety. Justin Rivard didn’t complain that politicians weren’t protecting him or his classmates. He just started innovating until he fixed a big problem. I won’t pretend that this is the only thing that’s needed to stop mass shootings. It isn’t. The JustinKase will protect students until police arrive, though, which is a huge deal.

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Apparently, the Met Council doesn’t think it needs to reach agreement with the BNSF Railroad company before completing the Bottineau LRT. Apparently, it’s too lazy to do the due diligence that Kim Crocket put into this article.

In the article, Ms. Crockett wrote about a letter from BNSF. The letter, written by BNSF vice president and senior general counsel Richard E. Weicher in a letter dated Jan. 9, 2018, said “BNSF is not prepared to proceed with any discussion of passenger rail in this corridor at this time. As we explained in discussions some time ago, we do not believe the Blue Line light rail project would be consistent with our passenger principles or protect the long-term viability of freight service along the Monticello Subdivision.”

What part of that communication isn’t clear? A supposedly intelligent person should be able to understand that as a rejection of the Met Council’s proposal. Later in the article, Crockett asked some questions:

Why didn’t the Met Council get these “details” handled before committing to and spending taxpayer money on these projects? If BNSF does not budge, the Met Council would have to find a new rail route for the Bottineau line and start its application with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) all over. The application is currently pending in the engineering stage but far from approved. Since finding a new route is unlikely, why not drop LRT in favor of a top-flight bus system on existing and improved roads?

The answer to those questions is straightforward. The Met Council thinks that they dictate terms to the people and to whoever they have to deal with. They’re finding out that their approach is deeply flawed.

At this point, it isn’t a stretch to think that the Met Council is out of touch with the people it’s supposed to serve. That’s the LFR definition of elitism.

The DFL hasn’t hidden their support for public employee unions like AFSCME, SEIU and MAPE. That means they’ve supported the things described in this article. What’s outlined in this article, though, seems more like highway robbery than representation.

For instance, “Labor unions in a handful of states have been able to take a portion of [Medicaid payments paid to PCAs] by organizing all the personal caregivers as one bargaining unit. Lawmakers in those states have allowed the practice by implementing policies that classify the caregivers as public employees – but only for the purpose of collective bargaining.”

The previous paragraph describes who these PCAs are, saying “Medicaid funds can be provided to personal caregivers who care for an elderly and disabled individual. The caregiver in most cases is related to their client. It’s a system that allows for personalized treatment and oftentimes it allows families to care for loved ones. But it’s also a system that has enriched unions.”

The unions have enriched themselves to the tune of “$200 million annually from Medicaid funds through personal caregivers.” These aren’t public employees. They’re relatives. The union collects their dues but the relatives don’t get the benefits that the unions bargain for. What part of that sounds justifiable?

Here’s what happened in Minnesota:

The union practice exists in states like California, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont, and Connecticut Minnesota lawmakers, for instance, allowed a state union to organize Personal Care Providers (PCA) as a single bargaining unit by passing a law dictating they are state employees simply because they collect Medicaid funds. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton tried to do the same in 2011 through an executive order, but it failed in the courts.

The same bill that allowed unionization of in-home child care providers also authorized the unionization of family-based PCAs. Here’s part of the committee debate on that legislation:

Rep. Mahoney didn’t tell the truth. The union dues get taken out of money paid by government to in-home child care providers and PCAs. With PCAs, that money comes from Medicaid. These aren’t wages. They’re support payments paid to help families provide care for family members who otherwise might be housed in nursing homes or mental institutions. The state is actually saving money as a direct result of this program.

The family member is subsidized to care for family members because they’ve given up their jobs. That’s essentially a reimbursement paid in exchange for helping the state save money. That isn’t a wage.

“Medicaid will pay for homecare services for the elderly and disabled,” Nelsen told InsideSources. “The SEIU and AFSCME, back in the late 90s, when union membership was generally declining saw these workers, and this pool of Medicaid dollars, as a potential organizing opportunity.”

The U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue to an extent during the 2014 case, Harris v. Quinn. The justices ruled that Illinois home care providers couldn’t be forced to pay dues because they weren’t technically state employees. Nelsen argues that unions and state leaders have found ways around those restrictions. “The states and unions have worked hand and glove to design a series of workarounds to the Harris v. Quinn decision, and to keep people paying dues whether they want to or not,” Nelsen said. “There are literally hundreds and thousands of these care providers around the country paying union dues to the SEIU and AFSCME against their will.”

In Minnesota, PCAs have petitioned the government to hold a decertification vote. If it’s held, the largest unionized bargaining unit will be decertified. The vote won’t be close.

When the unionization vote happened for in-home child care providers, it was rejected by a 1,014-392 margin. There’s no reason to think this vote won’t be similarly lopsided.

Salena Zito’s column asks a brilliant question. First, she made the observation that “Few focused on who wasn’t there and why they weren’t. Once again, the pundits were missing the little nuances of how much American politics really has changed, and what that may mean for future results. Once again, the pundits were missing the little nuances of how much American politics really has changed, and what that may mean for future results. Importantly, three people in states that went heavily for Trump in 2016, Indiana’s Sen. Joe Donnelly, West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin, and Missouri’s Sen. Claire McCaskill, were all absent. Two less vulnerable incumbent Democrats Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Pennsylvania’s Sen. Bob Casey were also not there.”

Then she made a statement that said “They have made the bet to pick their donors in California and New York over their voters back home.” Democrats don’t have a message but they’re well-financed. Republicans stumbled early but they’ve put together a solid list of accomplishments. Meanwhile, the RNC has been kicking the DNC’s behind in fundraising ever since Ronna McDaniel took over.

None of these so-called ‘moderate’ Democrats voted for the Trump/GOP tax cuts. Then they weren’t anywhere to be found to negotiate a DACA fix. That begs this question: what identifies them as moderates?

If anyone of those senators get caught near Trump, all of those donors would ditch them in a minute. They’re basically asking McCaskill and Manchin and Donnelly to do an act of levitation. Win without doing the things your voters would like you to do.

The question is will the voters hold them accountable? They’re gambling they won’t be held accountable. They’re gambling that Trump is so polarizing that there are no Trump voters available to them on a positive scale. They’re thinking they’re going to have to obliterate their opponent, tear their opponent to shreds.

Yet think about the margins here. Trump won Indiana and Missouri by more than 18 points. He won North Dakota and West Virginia by 30-some points. He won Ohio by 9 points. It’s not like you only need a few Trump voters to stay home, they would need a lot of them, like a third of them, to stay home. And that is just not going to happen.

A quick look around the room speaks volumes:

Heitkamp, Manchin, Donnelly, McCaskill and Brown better hope that voters didn’t notice that they didn’t support any part of President Trump’s agenda. If they notice, that fivesome is history.

Michigan’s Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s statement about the tax cuts in Michigan is the perfect example of that risk. When tax reform passed late last year, Stabenow issued a statement that read:

“I’ve said from the beginning that we need tax reform that makes the tax system simpler, puts more money in your pocket, closes tax loopholes that send jobs overseas and supports small businesses and farms across Michigan. Unfortunately that isn’t at all what this republican bill does.”

Ten days later, Fiat Chrysler announced that they would invest more than $1 billion to modernize the company’s Warren Truck Plant in Detroit, adding 2,500 jobs and moving production of its Ram trucks from Mexico. They also announced they would be giving $2,000 bonuses to their hourly U.S. workers. The company credited the moves to the new tax law.

The Democrats have been on the wrong side of the tax cuts from the start. As these bonuses, pay raises and other positive announcements get factored in, how will Democrats defend their unanimous vote against the Trump/GOP tax cuts?

The pundits talk about how the President’s party usually does poorly in a new president’s first term. I certainly cant dispute that that’s the history. What’s disputable, though, is that that pattern will apply this time. I see information that indicates it might not.

Cindy Whitehair’s LTE is a great example of how special interests have shown the difference in perspectives between how locals see the environment and how special interests see things.

This point is especially driven home when Ms. Whitehair said “There are indeed uses that are allowed in a national forest (for example) that are not allowed in a national monument. One such use is the local tribes’ ability to practice their religion freely. Many of the lands that were swallowed up by President Obama’s Bears Ears designation are sacred tribal lands that are used by local Navajo tribes for religious ceremonies and their access to those sacred lands was cut off when the lands went from a national forest designation to a national monument designation.”

I’m confident that DC special interest organizations know this but haven’t said anything about that the average person who isn’t a local isn’t aware of. It’s a big difference. There’s a policy difference that comes from this, too. Because locals know about these nuances, they’re best equipped to influence how the land is used. There’s no question that the Sierra Club and other national special interest groups were thrilled with President Obama’s unilateral declaration. Ryan Zinke, President Trump’s Interior Secretary, though, took time to travel to Utah to actually talk with residents.

The Trump administration’s decision was made by the federal government but it was made based on the input of locals. The Obama administration’s decision wasn’t made with input of locals. The quality of the decisions is enormously different. Secretary Zinke’s op-ed explains why they did what they did:

Bears Ears National Monument will be modified to create two units: the Indian Creek Unit and the Shash Jáa units. Between these two units, which will now span over 200,000 acres of federal land, the proclamation continues to protect important objects, from the Bears Ears buttes and headwaters, Moon House Ruin, and Doll House Ruin, to unique paleontological resources and areas sacred to Native Americans. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will be modified to consist of three smaller units known as the Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons units.

Why wouldn’t we want locals having input into the use of lands as beautiful as this?

Ms. Whitehair answers that question in this paragraph:

While that is not all bad, these special interest groups were not acting from a stewardship standpoint (as the local Navajo actually are).These special interest groups did not want to listen to the local tribes who were opposed to the designation or to the residents who were concerned about the impact to an already fragile local economy.(Utah’s main economic generator is tourism and if you can’t get into these wild areas, why go to those counties?)

Congress should modify the Antiquities Act by requiring greater local public input into these decisions and by requiring an individual act of Congress to create a national monument over a certain size. That way, individuals have a greater input and special interests from 1,000 miles away have little input.

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It’s indisputable that past presidents have used the Antiquities Act to create national monuments. The worst presidents in terms of misusing the Antiquities Act were President Obama, President Clinton and President George W. Bush. It’s fair to say that each of those presidents misused the Antiquities Act to sidestep the original intent of the law. Rob Bishop’s op-ed highlights how past presidents have essentially ignored the law in creating national monuments.

In Bishop’s op-ed, he wrote “A few statistics can illustrate the scope of the overreach. Between 1906 and 1943, the law functioned basically as designed. Presidents respected the intent of the act. Most monuments were smaller and had clear boundaries with real antiquities inside them. By contrast, designations under the act last year averaged 739,645 acres, or more than 47 times the size of those created 110 years ago. President Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to use the act. He used it 18 times for a combined total of 1.5 million acres. President Barack Obama used it 37 times to designate 553.6 million acres of land and water.”

Chairman Bishop didn’t just complain about the problem. He’s proposed a solution:

Last week, I introduced legislation to correct these failures and permanently address my colleagues’ concerns. The National Monument Creation and Protection Act would, like the writers of the Antiquities Act intended, allow the president to unilaterally designate land up to 640 acres. Monument designations between 640 and 10,000 acres would be subject to review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Designations between 10,000 and 85,000 acres would be required to obtain the approval of all county commissioners, state legislatures, and governors in the affected area. The bill also standardizes and limits the president’s power to reshape monuments.

Chairman Bishop’s legislation is well-written and desperately needed. Unfortunately, there’s no chance it will pass. That’s because it will get stopped by the Democrats’ filibuster in the Senate. Their environmental activist friends will insist that the bill be stopped.

That’s because these environmental activists want big, unaccountable government. These activists are almost always Democrats, though a handful are Republicans. These activists have proven time and again that they prefer it when government tramples over people in favor of the ‘greater good’ of saving Mother Earth. These activists don’t like the rule of law. Here’s proof:

In 1996, prior to the designation of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah, Clinton’s then-Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality Katie McGinty stated the following, “I’m increasingly of the view that we should just drop these utah [sic] ideas. we [sic] do not really know how the enviros will react and I do think there is a danger of ‘abuse’ of the withdraw/antiquities authorities especially because these lands are not really endangered.”

If McGinty’s name sounds familiar, it’s possibly because she ran for Senate in 2016 against Republican Pat Toomey. Thankfully, Sen. Toomey defeated her. But I digress.

It’s disheartening to see Democrats trample over the law. It’s especially disheartening that Democrats do that for a few extra campaign contributions. That’s how cold-hearted Democrats are. This is what’s most disgusting:

The monument was designated in the waning months of Clinton’s re-election campaign. Its total acreage: 1.7 million — three times the size of Rhode Island. No town halls, no public meetings, and no public comment sessions were ever held in Utah. No input was solicited from local stakeholders or land managers in the area. Utah’s governor, congressional delegation, public officials, and residents from across the state all expressed outrage at the lack of prior consultation or warning of the designation. In what feels like symbolism, the proclamation wasn’t even signed in Utah; it was signed in Arizona.

That’s the opposite of transparency. That’s proof that Democrats don’t like accountable government.

This week, I got an email from a loyal reader of LFR who is upset that the city council doesn’t allocate more time to listening to citizens. Imagine my surprise to hear that the City Council allocates a maximum of 10 minutes each meeting to a segment known as Open Forum. According to the City Council website, Open Forum is a time when “St. Cloud residents may address the council with questions/concerns/comments (regarding an item NOT on the agenda).” According to the City Council’s own website, “Speakers will be limited to the first five St. Cloud residents who sign up.” Further, individuals will be limited to speaking twice a year. Additionally, each individual is limited to speaking a maximum of 2 minutes.

How is that giving people the time to properly address important issues? How can a city council member get enough information to formulate an informed opinion on a topic?

It isn’t surprising that this city council is considering raising the minimum age to purchase cigarettes in St. Cloud to 21. This isn’t a priority with anything but a handful of people. Nonetheless, a significant portion of time will be devoted to that subject during the first full meeting in November. How did that item get scheduled for that night’s agenda? It definitely wasn’t because of a significant outpouring of concern from citizens. Most likely, it’s on the schedule because some special interest hacks told a handful of city council members it was important.

To be fair, there are a couple of city council members that are attentive listeners. Jeff Johnson and George Hontos will listen. There might be others but I can’t confirm that. When Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local”, he certainly wasn’t talking about this city council.

Seriously, this city council listens more to the special interests than to the citizenry. At this point, citizens only have a chance to react. They don’t really have a chance to influence the council’s agenda in any meaningful way.

That can’t continue!

Whether they’ll admit it or not, these people work for us, not the special interests that typically take up the majority of the city council’s time.