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I just published this post to highlight the DFL’s failure to put the highest priorities on the most important things. In that post, it was mostly about what I’m calling the Pothole Crisis. According to the Minnesota Transportation Alliance, the DFL legislature only appropriated $15,000,000 for pothole repairs on Minnesota’s trunk highways and county roads.

As frightening as it is to think that the DFL didn’t put a high priority on this crisis, that isn’t the only thing where the DFL didn’t put a high priority on an important matter. Rep. Matt Dean explains in this post:

Dean said there are some major differences between what the House and Senate bonding committees propose. The biggest one, he said, is a southwest Minnesota water project.

“Lewis and Clark is a big deal,” Dean said. “We think that should be the first project in and not the last project in.”

The project should receive the nearly $70 million it needs to move water to residents in the Luverne and Worthington areas, Dean said. Dean, like other Republicans, said that museums, theaters and other arts projects should get less money so Lewis and Clark can be fully funded.

The DFL wrote the bonding bills. They put in a few projects that the Republican legislators want in their attempt to pick off a few votes to pass the bill. What they didn’t do is prioritize their spending.

The fact that the DFL’s bill shortchanges an important infrastructure project but puts in tons of money for frivolous projects highlights the Democrats’ inability to say no to silliness and their inability to say yes to important infrastructure projects.

Minnesota’s taxpayers can’t afford more of the DFL’s foolish priorities. They shouldn’t have to deal with a political party that isn’t putting the highest priorities on the most important projects. Spending $90,000,000 on the ‘Part-Time Politicians’ Palace’, aka the Senate Office building but only spending $15,000,000 on Minnesota’s Pothole Crisis isn’t just foolishness. It’s outright stupidity.

The DFL’s decision to spend money on theater renovations and other entertainment projects instead of fully funding an important infrastructure project is proof positive that their priorities aren’t Minnesota’s priorities.

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Things aren’t going the DFL’s way when MinnPost is harshly criticizing Gov. Dayton and the DFL legislature:

The Legislature this year instead appropriated just $11.4 million to fix potholes in 87 counties and another $3.6 million for cities, for a total of $15 million. “That’s about $100,000 per county,” says Margaret Donahoe, executive director of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance, a prominent member of MoveMN. Considering that each pothole costs about $1,000 to repair, “It’s a nice gesture, but it doesn’t do the job,” she adds.

That’s the gentlest of MinnPost’s criticisms. This is quite a bit harsher:

What’s more, the DFL holds all the reins of power, and the party platform [PDF] calls for “well-designed and maintained roads and bridges throughout the state” and “increased investment in Minnesota’s transportation and infrastructure, on a regional and statewide basis, including public transportation, mass transit, commuter rail corridor, light rail, buses, pedestrians and bicycles.” The state also found itself with a $1.23 billion budget surplus, an amount that would encourage legislators, one would think, to get a little bit spendy on transportation infrastructure.

MinnPost is right. The DFL heldd all the reins of power in St. Paul the last 2 years. They’re the party that didn’t deal with this crisis. The DFL’s platform talks about “well-designed and maintained roads and bridges throughout the state.” The DFL’s failure to live up to that part of their platform is almost on a par with their estimate of e-tabs revenue.

It’d take a Herculean effort to fall that far short of the e-tabs revenue. The DFL tried to top that with their feeble effort with the transportation but couldn’t quite pull off that size of disaster.

There were all manner of excuses from legislators. It is not a “budget year.” It is a short session. It’s an election year. “They raised the gas tax in 2008, and that was an election year,” says Donahoe, sounding a bit frustrated. Nonetheless, the DFL leadership did not want legislators to have to vote on new taxes before running again, says Erkel. Another negative: lack of support from the state’s Chamber of Commerce, which hadn’t recovered from the sting of tax increases passed last year.

The DFL showed its true colors on the pothole crisis. They offered excuses. They didn’t offer solutions to this crisis. What’s worse is that they didn’t hesitate in spending $90,000,000 on a building that’ll house senators and their staffs 3 months each year.

That’s quite the contrast. The DFL spent 6 times as much money on a palace for politicians as they’re willing to spend on the pothole crisis. During the campaign, the DFL will attempt to tell people that they’re fighting for working families.

Their legislation proves that that’s BS. They spent more money on themselves than they spent on an urgent need that’s part of their affirmative responsibility.

Gov. Dayton and the DFL didn’t fulfill their obligations. They don’t deserve another term in office. It’s that simple.

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This video shows how the DFL is attempting to distract attention from the pothole crisis by claiming the problem is part of a bigger spending problem:

Here’s the stunt that the DFL is playing:

“It’s a result of our road system in this state is more than 50 years old. More than half of our roads are crumbling as we drive over them every day,” said Darin Broton, campaign manager for Move MN. “It’s not until we get a broken axle or bent rim that people understand we have a bigger transportation problem we need to solve.”

The problem is that the DFL didn’t deliver on its promise of fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges after they increased transportation taxes by $6.6 billion in 2008. They complained about Minnesota’s roads and bridges, then raised the gas tax by a nickel a gallon but raised taxes for transit by huge amounts.

The day after the tax increase went into effect, I predicted that the DFL would return soon to raise taxes again. Here’s what Move MN identifies as their mission:

The Move MN coalition consists of a large, diverse group of advocates that knows that funding for transportation is critical to growing jobs, economic competitiveness and quality of life, and it directly impacts the missions of the diverse organizations and people we each serve. We believe it is crucial that the Minnesota Legislature pass a comprehensive transportation funding package in 2014 that requires additional transparency and efficiency for current resources and provides long-term sustainable funding for roads, bridges, transit, and bike and walk connections.

Here’s my simple response to that BS: First, prioritize fixing potholes in the short-term. They’re a crisis that needs fixing ASAP. People are getting injured because roads are in such disrepair. Second, it’s time to stop directing existing taxes to transit. Fixing Minnesota’s bridges is infinitely more important than spending money on another ribbon-cutting ceremony for another light rail project.

Third, Minnesota needs a comprehensive transportation strategy that sets new priorities based on a comprehensive plan. Putting a plan together that deals with issues on an ad hoc basis isn’t what’s needed. In fact, that’s a major part of the problem.

This comprehensive transportation strategy must prioritize which projects are worthy of funding. That means telling the choo-choo activists that their priorities are lowest on the list. That means telling MnDOT that repairing our bridges is their highest priority starting ASAP. It means putting a higher priority on adding lanes to highways than on extending Northstar from Big Lake to St. Cloud.

This comprehensive transportation strategy must also include making better use of Minnesota’s riverways and airports, too. In short, it must be a strategy that’s driven by people’s needs, not lobbyists’ wish lists. It’s time that people’s needs are met. That’s infinitely more important than fulfilling transportation lobbyists’ wish lists.

Until the DFL gets serious about doing the people’s business with transportation, they should be removed from that part of the decisionmaking process.

The problem isn’t that Minnesotans aren’t taxed enough for transportation. It’s that Minnesotans are getting ripped off because the DFL’s priorities are totally screwed up.

The key to getting Minnesota’s transportation priorities right is figuring out what will help grow Minnesota commerce through roads, bridges, waterways and airports. Transportation strategies that focus primarily on social engineering are doomed to failure.

It’s vitally important to get roads and bridges right because that’s the heart of Minnesota’s transportation system. That won’t happen with the DFL in charge. The proof of that is in Minnesota’s potholes.

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The last thing that the DFL wants to hear right now is that fixing Minnesota’s bridges and filling Minnesota’s potholes is a higher priority for Minnesotans than their giant-sized bonding bill. Whether the DFL wants to admit it or not, the reality is that fixing Minnesota’s potholes is at the top of most Minnesotans’ priorities.

Most Minnesotans don’t want the legislature to spend $90,000,000 on an office building that’ll be used 3-4 months each year, especially when that money could’ve been spent on filling potholes. Most Minnesotans don’t want the DFL to spend a month debating whether to pass a bill legalizing medical marijuana if it means the DFL has to ignore the crater-sized potholes they’re hitting on their cities’ streets.

The truth is that Minnesotans wouldn’t care a bit if the only things that the legislature did was to repeal the B2B sales taxes and pass a bill to fil Minnesota’s potholes and stabilize Minnesota’s bridges.

The truth is that Minnesotans wouldn’t notice if the legislature didn’t pass a bonding bill this session. Lobbyists might be upset with the decision but few Minnesotans rate passing a bonding bill as a priority, much less a high priority. The truth is that Republicans would get rewarded if they shut down their negotiations on the giant-sized bonding bill that Gov. Dayton proposed.

I wrote this article over the weekend to highlight the pothole crisis. When a car hits a pothole that triggers the vehicle’s airbags to deploy, that’s a crisis. When that airbag gives the driver a concussion, that’s a crisis in urgent need of an immediate solution.

This isn’t a Twin Cities-specific crisis, either. It’s a statewide crisis that started last fall. Roads throughout Minnesota were in tough shape back then. Then we had the nastiest winter in a generation, which dramatically deteriorated Minnesota’s roads. To make matters worse, we’ve had lots of rain this spring, which has caused greater deterioration of Minnesota’s roads.

Family vehicles are getting beaten up. Public safety is getting compromised bigtime. After all that, Gov. Dayton said in his State of the State Address that “transportation” will be a priority…in 2015. Here’s a hint to Gov. Dayton: Potholed roads are a crisis this spring. It’s time his staff pulled his head out of….nevermind. You get the hint.

The question now is whether the DFL legislature will set aside the pork projects in the bonding bill long enough to fix this crisis that’s injuring people and damaging family vehicles. I’m betting that the DFL won’t be bothered by the pothole crisis. I’m betting that they’ll try their best to ram through an ill-advised bonding bill.

I’m betting they’ll do that because the transportation lobbyists will tell them that’s what Minnesotans want. The truth is that Minnesotans want government to get the basics right first. Fixing potholes is a high priority that Minnesotans want fixed ASAP.

In fact, I’d bet that people who paid attention to the gas tax debate in 2008 are upset that their taxes got raised but their roads aren’t getting repaired. It’s bad enough that Minnesotans are paying a plethora of taxes without their roads and bridges getting repaired.

If the DFL, Gov. Dayton included, doesn’t start dealing with Minnesotans’ priorities, they’ll get fired en masse this November. “Transportation” isn’t a 2015 priority. Potholes are a crisis right now. It’s time the DFL noticed.

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The last time Ken Martin and Keith Downey faced off on Almanac, Martin said Republicans didn’t offer solutions to Minnesota’s problems. At the time, I said that Martin was lying through his teeth because, as a legislator, Keith Downey was a one-man ideas factory according to his colleagues.

Since then, the Republican Party of Minnesota, aka the RPM, has started accepting solutions to Minnesota’s problems through their solutions website. One of the biggest problems facing Minnesotans is the deteriorating road conditions in the state. On the GOP’s solutions website, the GOP turned to Rep. Mike Beard to talk about transportation issues. Here’s what Rep. Beard said:

“Transportation is the foundation of commerce in our state,” said State Representative Michael Beard (R-Shakopee). Beard served as the chair of the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee during the 2011-2012 biennium.

“Driving to work each morning should not be like driving through a war zone of potholes,” said Beard. “We should not have to be concerned that our bridges are unstable. Our outstate roads should not be allowed to fall into disrepair and should be sufficient for transporting harvest and livestock.”

If you talked with the DFL legislators who’ve served with Rep. Beard over the last 12 years, the most likely statement they’d make is that he’s one of the most thoughtful legislators that they’ve ever worked with. They’d also likely say that he isn’t prone to making incendiary comments. If Rep. Beard talks about “driving through a war zone of potholes”, rest assured that those statements aren’t hyperbole.

Rep. Beard’s statement also brings up another point that hasn’t gotten highlighted enough. Specifically, we haven’t paid enough attention to the state of disrepair of our bridges. This session, the House and Senate Transportation committees devoted lots of attention to the Southwest Light Rail project. The bonding bill calls for $750,000,000 worth of projects but only $25,000,000 worth of “local road improvements.”

Here’s the GOP solution to this depressing situation:

While Democrats call for the usual tax increases to satisfy metro-area public transit and other special interest groups, Republicans will focus on prioritizing road and bridge projects in both the budget and in bonding. They will seek to make the Department of Transportation more efficient, reduce overlapping state and local functions and direct money toward the top values of safety, maintenance and congestion-relief on Minnesota roads.

The Southwest Light Rail project is a priority with transportation lobbyists and environmental activists. It isn’t a priority with Minnesotans using their cities’ streets, the interstate system and Minnesota’s trunk highways. Those people want their potholes filled so they don’t hit a pothole and snap an axel or get a concussion when their airbag deploys.

When Steve Murphy and the DFL raised the gas tax in 2008, Minnesotans expected that money to be used to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. It’s apparent that that didn’t happened. Now that there’s a DFL governor, a DFL legislature and pothole problems aplenty, Minnesotans expect these problems to get fixed.

Debating whether they should spend $1,700,000,000 on the Southwest Light Rail project or spending $1,200,000,000 for bonding projects might satisfy the lobbyists but it won’t satisfy the people using Minnesota’s potholed roads and bridges.

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One of the things Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism talks about is how progressives don’t debate things anymore. The goal of their nastiest diatribes is about shutting down debate.

St. Cloud isn’t immune to this type of fascism. Check out the comments to Barbara Banaian’s monthly column:

Mary Langerude · Top Commenter · Saint Cloud, Minnesota

Isn’t it interesting how some folks are ALL for the gov’t when it comes to something THEY want? Their particular interest is where the priorities should be. Never mind that they have been whining for the gov’t not to spend money and not to raise taxes.

Have the new and improved Urban Chickens come home to roost?

Mark Jaede · Top Commenter · Works at St. Cloud State University

And “waste” is defined as whatever programs are not my priorities.

John Ellenbecker · Top Commenter · Works at Self employed

Funny – she didn’t identify her government employee husband’s salary as a means of financing pothole repair.

I can’t say that I’m surprised by Langerude’s, Jaede’s or Ellenbecker’s comments. They’re political hacks who aren’t interested in debate. They’re only interested in criticizing people they disagree with. They haven’t thought things through in ages. While that doesn’t mean they’re always wrong, it does mean they’re minds are forever closed.

For instance, Ellenbecker’s comment about King Banaian’s employer doesn’t have anything to do with his wife’s editorial. Ellenbecker’s tactic is designed to insinuate that being conservative means that you’re against all government. I know this because I’ve debated him on the Times message boards more times than I care to admit. It isn’t that he’s that stupid. It’s that he’s that intellectually dishonest. It’s what I’ve gotten used to from him.

Ms. Langerude’s statement is either intellectually dishonest or it’s proof she doesn’t understand the concept that the various levels of government have affirmative responsibilities. It’s the state’s affirmative responsibility to fix potholes on state trunk highways just like it’s the city’s responsibility to fix potholes on city streets.

Conservatives, by definition, expect government to fulfill its responsibilities in a timely fashion. Conservatives think that government should be limited and efficient.

As for Prof. Jaede, he’s been one of the most mean-spirited, nastiest DFL political hacks I’ve ever met. There isn’t a nonpartisan bone in his body. There isn’t a tactic too low for him to use. He isn’t a nice man.

It’s apparent that this trio of liberal fascists aren’t interested in debating public policy. They’re interested in shutting down debate of public policy. If they can talk trash while impugning decent public servants, then that’s gravy for them.

Simply put, they’re despicable, mean-spirited people whose primary goal is to criticize people they disagree with.

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I just published this post where I criticized Gov. Dayton for not establishing the proper urgency on fixing Minnesot’a potholes. Gov. Dayton and the DFL legislature spent its time debating various less-than-important issues. These issues include medical marijuana, whether the Capitol needed new procedures for guns, whether we needed to spend $1,700,000,000 on the Southwest Light Rail project and whether to spend $90,000,000 for a new office building for politicians.

This picture should tell the DFL that they’ve pissed away tons of time on the wrong things:

Bring Me the News has the story:

FOX 9 spoke with Dustin Duarte, who was treated at a hospital for injuries suffered when his car’s airbags deployed as he hit a Minneapolis pothole. You can see the photos of the aftermath above. FOX says Duarte was treated at a hospital for a mild concussion and a scratched cornea and plans followup visits with an eye doctor.

What’s disgusting is that Gov. Dayton thinks this is a priority…for 2015:

Dayton said in the address that transportation funding must be a priority for lawmakers in 2015. That puzzled Howe, R-Rockville, who sits on a House transportation finance panel. He said Dayton and DFL lawmakers could address the problem this year by spending part of the state budget surplus on roads and bridges.

It’s disgusting that the DFL legislature spent time debating whether to build an office building for politicians when there’s tons of vacant office space near the Capitol. Spending $90,000,000 on that instead of on fixing Minnesota’s roads bridges and potholes is sinful.

Instead of the DFL legislature talking about spending millions of dollars on bike trails and billions of dollars on light rail boondoggles, Minnesotans would be better served if they spent money on fixing Minnesota’s potholes. The potholes are the worst I’ve seen in almost 40 years of driving. As BMTN’s picture shows, they’re a major public safety issue.

The chief requirement of a governor is to govern. Gov. Dayton’s been AWOL most of the last 4 years on that front. He hasn’t governed. He’s shut down government because Republicans balanced the budget without raising taxes. In 2013, he raised taxes. In 2014, he repealed $400,000,000 worth of those tax increases. He accused a woman of lying when he told her to buy marijuana from a street dealer. After increasing spending on K-12 Education in 2013, they returned to give them another funding increase this year.

What Gov. Dayton and the DFL haven’t done is fix the damn potholes. Instead, people are getting injured. What’s worst about this is that this shows how little Gov. Dayton and the DFL cares about the less-than-glamorous parts of governing and prioritizing. Simply put, they’ve failed Minnesotans on doing the basics.

As a result, people are getting injured and cars are getting damaged. That’s totally unacceptable.

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After Gov. Dayton’s State of the State Address, Rep. Jeff Howe had a simple question: where was Gov. Dayton?

Dayton said in the address that transportation funding must be a priority for lawmakers in 2015. That puzzled Howe, R-Rockville, who sits on a House transportation finance panel. He said Dayton and DFL lawmakers could address the problem this year by spending part of the state budget surplus on roads and bridges.

“If he thinks that’s the priority, if he thinks that’s an economic engine, where was he?” Howe said.

I’ve got an easy, honest answer for Rep. Howe’s question. Gov. Dayton was nowhere to be found on fixing roads and bridges. Gov. Dayton couldn’t be found when it came to filling potholes, either. Instead, he spent most of his time dealing with a light rail system. Whether you agree on LRT or not, there’s no denying the fact that filling Minnesota’s potholes should’ve been Gov. Dayton’s top transportation priority by a country mile.

It isn’t a secret that Minnesota’s roads are filled with potholes. (I’d call them craters.) Apparently, Gov. Dayton thinks it’s more important to show up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies than fixing urgent problems. Gov. Dayton’s rhetoric hasn’t matched his actions.

In fact, this is a recurring theme with him. He personally negotiated the tax bill last year, then repealed the B2B sales taxes in that bill this year after signing them into law. That isn’t leadership. That’s what happens when a person doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Gov. Dayton signed the MNsure bill into law, then pretty much ignored the implementation of the health insurance exchange until it went live. Governors are required to actually monitor government operation to make sure thing run efficiently.

Saying that governing hasn’t been Gov. Dayton’s specialty is understatement.

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If people are interested in facts, this article should suffice in putting to rest the notion of expanding the Northstar Rail:

Last month, in an effort to tamp down customers’ anger, Metro Transit launched its new alert service that allows passengers to get notices by e-mail or text message. Callie Bird is one of 975 people who have signed up for the free service, a small number of users on a line that averages 2,783 boardings each weekday.

I’d love hearing a transportation lobbyist explain how spending millions of dollars on something that’s used by 2,800 people per week is spending money wisely. Simply put, there’s no justification for expanding it.

What’s worse is that it isn’t running on time lately. That’s why they’ve created this “alert service.”

Riders have had lots to say about the frequent delays that have occurred on the Northstar Commuter line over the past two months. Their latest beef is about the agency’s electronic alerts, which they say are as unreliable as the trains.

Imagine that. The government takes tens of millions of dollars to build a train that only activists want. Then they build the train that nobody except activists want. Then the people who didn’t want the train in the first place don’t use the train they didn’t want.

That’s terrible. Unfortunately, that’s just part of this story of ineptitude. Now the train nobody except activists wanted isn’t running on time with any regularity.

How much ineptitude do people have to experience before people tell the politicians to stop spending their money on things we don’t need or want? Apparently, it’s too much to ask the government to be competent with the things it runs:

“After standing at a train station for 10 to 15 minutes, alerts may arrive. They may arrive 20 to 30 minutes into the ‘situation,’ or they do not alert at all,” she said. “I like that Metro has the text alert system and I am receiving such messages. However, the alerts are usually so much after the fact that I find myself shaking my head and feeling somewhat embarrassed for Metro Transit’s late alerts.”

At this rate, Northstar’s reputation will soon be in the same range as the IRS or NSA.

Hopefully, Minnesotans will step forward and tell the activists and politicians that Northstar isn’t transportation, that only roads and bridges and urban transit systems constitute transportation systems. Northstar and other similar projects are just politicians’ boondoggles aimed at securing campaign contributions from lobbyists.

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When I wrote this post about St. Cloud getting daily air service, I intentionally highlighted the fact that this is a one-year agreement, that fares aren’t exactly cheap and that profitability is more than a bit questionable at this point. A year from now, we’ll have a better picture of whether the air service is profitable. We’ll know that because we’ll have hard numbers to crunch.

As informational as the Times article was, they didn’t talk about other air carriers undercutting SkyWest’s prices and they certainly didn’t talk about workforce issues. I just googled pilot shortages. According to Google, there are over 19,000,000 articles on the subject. Workforce issues are dragging the airline industry down. This WSJ article highlights the how severe the pilot shortage is:

A decade of restructuring in the U.S. airline industry has produced a sharp reduction in air service that is curtailing traveler choice and some local economies even as it improves the industry’s health, new research shows.

The study, by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shows that from 2007 through last year, U.S. airlines cut the number of scheduled domestic flights by 14%. The number of seats offered fell by slightly less, as airlines pushed passengers onto bigger planes, says the study, which was prepared by MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation and is expected to be made public Wednesday.

If airlines are cutting flights to Memphis and Pittsburgh, cities that have large customer bases, shouldn’t St. Cloud wondering if they’re being unrealistic? I’m an optimist but I can’t ignore the fact that the supply of qualified pilots is deteriorating rapidly. Wishing and hoping is nice for birthdays and Christmas but it isn’t the way to set public policy. Public policy should be put together by crunching numbers and fitting policies with reality.

At this point, what’s needed is a discussion about increasing the number of pilots and other airline support personnel. That necessarily means talking with President Potter and Chancellor Rosenstone about the foolishness of shutting the SCSU aviation program. That means talking with Chancellor Rosenstone and SCTCC President Helens about starting a program that trains air maintenance personnel. (Pilots aren’t the only things that airlines are in short supply of.)

While it’ll take time to start graduating pilots from schools, the reality is that we’ll be in worse shape 5 years from now if nothing is done. That isn’t wise. As the supply of pilots deteriorates, we should understand that airlines will staff flights from places like Memphis and Pittsburgh first while pilots flying for regional airlines will be cut.

President Potter made a major mistake in shutting the aviation program. Unfortunately, he won’t admit what’s obvious. Chancellor Rosenstone hasn’t shown leadership in this matter, either. A leader would’ve told President Potter that he made a mistake and that it’s time to correct that mistake.

If society wants fewer flights staffed with fewer experienced pilots, we’re on the right path. If society doesn’t want that, then it’s time that leaders to step forward and correct this mistake. That means local politicians and state legislators pressuring people like President Potter and Chancellor Rosenstone.

It’s time for Mayor Kleis to step up and put pressure on President Potter. Scheduled air service to Chicago depends on the availability of flight crews and flight maintenance people.

It’s that simple.

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