Archive for the ‘Transparency’ Category

Where’s the Budget?
by Silence Dogood

According to Wikipedia, Clara Peller (August 4, 1902 – August 11, 1987), was a retired manicurist and American character actress who, at the age of 81, starred in the 1984 “Where’s the beef?” advertising campaign for the Wendy’s fast food restaurant chain. Clara became a phenomenon asking the all too obvious question.

Three months into FY15, there is no budget document whatsoever on the website for the Office of Finance and Administration. Even the budget document from last spring has been removed.

Apparently, promises have been made by the administration that a budget will be provided within the next few weeks. The obvious question is “Where’s the beef, I mean budget?” It’s simply incredible that more than 25% of the way through the fiscal year there is no budget for a $200,000,000 enterprise.

How can anyone think that, three months into the fiscal year, it is appropriate not to have a budget document available for discussion? Does anyone really believe that the administration is so incompetent that more than 25% of the way through the budget year there is no budget? Not even a “draft” budget? It’s sad to admit but we know that there is a budget—the administration just doesn’t want to show it to anyone.

Last spring, the declining enrollment at SCSU had been going on for four years it certainly can’t come of as a surprise. From FY10 through FY14, the FYE enrollment has fallen a staggering 18.0%. SCSU’s $6,400,000 loss on the Coborn’s Plaza apartments has been well documented. The university spent nearly half million on a “branding” makeover. SCSU has been hemorrhaging cash. Little, if anything, has been done about it.

President Potter even admits it in a St. Cloud Times article on August 29, 2014!

The curious thing about the timing of this article is that President Potter didn’t mention anything about an impending $10,000,000 shortfall, a 5% across the board budget reduction, or a ‘flexible’ hiring freeze in his convocation address nine days earlier. Here is a portion of an August 19, 2014 news release describing his address.

To top it off, President Potter held a real ‘feel good’ event after his address.

Are we to believe that nine days later, there is a looming financial disaster? T. Boone Pickens once said

Does anyone believe that President Potter was not aware of the financial situation of the university before his convocation address? If so, his Vice President for Finance and Administration, Tammy McGee, would probably be looking for work right now. Of course he knew!

The reason that there is no budget document is because as soon as a budget document is provided, there will be discussion. As of right now it’s only smoke and mirrors about a ‘flexible hiring freeze’ and a 5% across the board cut.

Whenever you make a prediction, you typically make a fool out of yourself. Last March 19, 2014, a Silence Dogood article published on the Let Freedom Ring Blog entitled More on State Appropriations ended with the quote “The truth will be evident as enrollment numbers come in for next fall and budget cuts are announced.” I guess Silence got it right.

The enrollment debacle President Potter has directed for the past seven years has finally run the “Flagship” of MnSCU aground and a shortfall of $8,000,000 to 10,000,000 is the consequence of his inaction. The captain of the Costa Concordia made a bad decision and we saw how well that worked out.

Unfortunately, President Potter’s only solution seems to be is to now ask the very people who are going to suffer the most as a result of his decisions to roll up their sleeves and help overcome this latest challenge. Or perhaps he’ll just hire another consultant—it’s worked so well in the past. What could go wrong?

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This LTE in the St. Cloud Times shows the growing discontent with Common Core from across the political spectrum:

Sandra Stotsky was a member of Common Core’s Validation Committee from 2009-10. She is professor emerita at the University of Arkansas. She wrote that Common Core’s K-12 standards, instead of emerging from a state-led process in which experts and educators were well represented, were written by people who did not represent the relevant stakeholders and included no English teachers.

Common Core is supported by lots of supposedly well-meaning politicians. Chief among those politicians is Jeb Bush, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016. The Gates Foundation is the chief funder of CCSS.

That’s one of the problems with CCSS.

“Because Common Core is run by private corporations and foundations, there can be no Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings or ‘sunshine laws’ to find out who got to choose the people who actually wrote the standards. It’s completely non-transparent and rather shady.”

That’s just the tip of a rather disgusting iceberg. A significant part of CCSS, aka Common Core State Standards, is data collection on families. I spoke recently with a friend who has a 3-year-old. The school district sent her a questionnaire asking things like whether there were guns in the house, whether they planned on home-schooling their child and other questions totally unrelated to the education of her child.

I wrote this post last fall to alert people to the threat CCSS poses. Here’s part of what I included in my post:

What did this Work Group look like? Focusing only on ELA, the make-up of the Work Group was quite astonishing: It included no English professors or high-school English teachers. How could legitimate ELA standards be created without the very two groups of educators who know the most about what students should and could be learning in secondary English classes? CCSSI also released the names of individuals in a larger “Feedback Group.” This group included one English professor and one high-school English teacher. But it was made clear that these people would have only an advisory role – final decisions would be made by the English-teacher-bereft Work Group.

The woman that wrote that paragraph is Dr. Stotsky, the woman quoted in the Times LTE. The fact that the working group putting together the standards for English language arts didn’t include any English professors or high school English teachers should automatically disqualify them as a serious working group. They certainly shouldn’t be considered an authority on school standards on any subject.

The American Federation of Teachers is calling for a “moratorium on using Common Core test scores to determine whether students deserve to advance to the next grade — or teachers deserve to keep their jobs,” according to Politico.

When conservatives and progressives agree that something is bad and they can list their substantive objections as to why they think it’s bad, that’s proof CCSS should be totally scrapped.

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In the aftermath the Great Place to Work Institute’s Trust Survey, President Potter announced that he’d be holding listening sessions. He’s sent out an email prepping people for those meetings. Here’s part of the text of that email:

To the Campus Community:

I know that many of you have taken time to review the data released earlier this month generated by the Great Place to Work survey. While the documents bring to light some difficult and sensitive issues, there are clearly some emerging themes represented in the data sets that warrant our collective attention as we seek to improve our work environment.

There are three primary phases of our work as we move forward: (1) Share; (2) Listen; and (3) Act. We have completed the first phase through the four town hall meetings that were held earlier this semester and through the creation of the “Campus Conversations” SharePoint site (, which contains all of the data we have received from the Great Place to Work Institute. Together we will now embark on the next stage of this important work, the listening phase.

Our next steps include a series of Campus Conversations and the President’s Listening Tour, beginning early April and continuing into the fall term. We recognize that the hectic schedules in April and May will make it difficult for many of you to engage in this process during this academic year; therefore, we will be scheduling sessions into next fall to facilitate full engagement from all faculty and staff.

It isn’t surprising that President Potter hid the GPTWI survey data on a password-protected webpage. President Potter isn’t into transparency. He doesn’t want people to find out that faculty don’t trust him to make sound financial decisions. President Potter doesn’t want the community to find out that the vast majority of the faculty don’t think that President Potter’s words match his actions.

President Potter, if you desire true openness, if you seek true transparency, put that data on a webpage that’s open to the public. If you keep this information hidden, we’ll know through your actions that you’re putting a higher priority on hiding this information than on making it public.

While I understand that significant portions of the survey don’t help you look good to the media, the reality is that this information is public information. That’s why I submitted a DPAR over the weekend. Our taxes paid for this survey. We have the right to know what’s in the survey. We shouldn’t have to submit Data Practices Act requests to find out what’s in it.

FYI- The information will be published.

President Potter, here’s a little unsolicited advice. The secrecy isn’t helping build trust with the faculty. Stop trying to hide the bad news. It’s time you stopped hiding public information. It’s time you started acting with integrity. Men of integrity don’t hide bad news because they don’t want their image stained.

President Potter, you’ve tried hiding the transcript scandal. You’ve done everything possible to hide the financial losses on the Wedum Foundation contract.

The GPTWI Trust Survey isn’t surprising to people who’ve paid attention. It’s still quite possible that it surprised the St. Cloud Times, which spent time playing ostrich before switching to being President Potter’s off-campus PR firm.

It’s beginning to look like transparency and integrity are four-letter words in President Potter’s vocabulary.

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If anything is gaining traction as a totally unexpected issue, it’s the DFL’s palace, aka the Senate Office Building. In January, Joe Soucheray wrote this blistering piece about the SOB foolishness. He wasn’t finished. He’s written this article to blast the foolishness again.

The duplicitous DFLers in the state Senate are moving the marble around under the thimbles. Again. Watch it. Keep your eyes sharp.

As near as I can understand it, they are now informing us that a new Senate office building they want to build for themselves has always been a part of the plan to renovate the Capitol building.

We didn’t know that. Most of us are on board to renovate the Capitol, but we didn’t sign on to build a new office building for 44 of the 67 senators as part of the project. No, they tossed that new building into a tax bill in the closing minutes of the last legislative session and are now trying to sell us on the idea of how desperately they need the new space and that was the plan all along.

Let’s cut through the DFL’s spin. It’s entirely possible that Democrats, starting with Sen. Bakk, always planned on building this monument. Before you get upset with me, take time to think of it from an Obamacare perspective. After President Obama said that people could keep their health plan if they liked it, they followed that up by saying it was never their intent to let people keep their “substandard health insurance plan.” There’s no disputing that.

Pay attention to this thinking. President Obama and DC Democrats always planned on quietly pushing people out of the health insurance plans that they liked. Likewise, it’s totally plausible that Sen. Bakk and the Democrats supported this ill-advised project if it was done quietly.

If you need to seriously remodel your house to the point where you have to move out, it is unlikely that you are going to build a new house for yourself in the interim. No, you would rent a house.

The senators can rent office space in St. Paul. They don’t need an opulent $63 million building with a $27 million parking ramp on the side. That parking ramp is a beautiful window into the minds of the people who brought you light rail. In fact, light rail will swing right by the Capitol. So they should put their mouths where your money is, rent some of the extraordinarily available office space in St. Paul, hop on the train and get dropped off at the Capitol for votes and meetings and whatnot. Why would they need a parking ramp? They don’t even like cars.

Let’s get to the heart of this. Had the Capitol press paid attention and if they were in touch with Main Street Minnesota, they would’ve highlighted this foolish spending. Rather than actually reading bills and asking questions about whether the bills working their way through the legislature, the Capitol press spends most of its time tracking down quotes from legislators.

That isn’t journalism. That’s stenography. If newspapers want to increase readership, they should require their reporters to read the bills that are getting passed.

Part of the problem, unfortunately, is because people don’t care until after the outrage has happened. If people don’t want money to be spent foolishly, the citizenry should be eternally vigilant. Then, if politicians spend money this foolishly, the citizens should boot their arses out.

Finally, let’s have a straightfoward discussion about what Sen. Bakk perpetrated. Sen. Bakk didn’t want anyone to testify about his ill-advised initiative. That’s why he slid the proposal into the Tax Bill as an amendment in the final weeks of the session. If you look, Sen. Bakk didn’t author legislation proposing construction of the Senate Office Building.

It’s time for Minnesotans to step forward and speak with a loud, passionate and unified voice that any politician that isn’t willing to stop this project dead in its tracks will be targeted and defeated this November. Legislators who aren’t the taxpayers’ watchdog are utterly worthless. They should be fired this November.

That’s the only remedy for this disease. When people get re-elected after spending money foolishly, citizens are sending the signal that they’re ok with foolish spending. I’m not ok with this foolish spending.

Defunding this project is imperative to good governance and protecting the taxpayers’ pocketbooks. The House Rules Committee can stop this ill-advised project with a simple vote. Here’s the committee website. All of the GOP legislators will vote against the project so it’s imperative to call or email the DFL committee members and politely but firmly tell them that a vote to approve this project is a vote that will be remembered this November.

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Saturday afternoon, Mitch Berg interviewed Kirsten Block and Linda Bell of Minnesotans Against Common Core to talk about the disruptive nature of Common Core. (Make sure to check out MACC’s website.) The information these ladies shared was stunningly Orwellian in nature. Here are some of the facts about Common Core:

Top 5 Facts about Common Core

  1. National student database – over 400+ data points collected, including child’s medical history and parent’s political and religious affiliations.
  2. Federally mandated – no local or parental control
  3. Curriculum not written nor approved by educators:
    1. English classic literature is greatly diminished;
    2. Math skills delayed by 2 years;
    3. Untested (no field test) curriculum;
    4. More testing, high-stakes tests, including biofeedback
  4. Local tax dollars will have to pay the bill: Approximately 13.7 million for the state of Minnesota

  • Brought in by the 2009 Stimulus Package through RTTT funding. Common Core was not reviewed nor voted on by Congress or State Legislatures.
  • That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If you don’t do anything else this weekend, reading this letter is essential. Dr. Sandra Stotsky put the letter together for a conference at Notre Dame. Here’s part of what Dr. Stotsky wrote about Common Core:

    What did this Work Group look like? Focusing only on ELA, the make-up of the Work Group was quite astonishing: It included no English professors or high-school English teachers. How could legitimate ELA standards be created without the very two groups of educators who know the most about what students should and could be learning in secondary English classes? CCSSI also released the names of individuals in a larger “Feedback Group.” This group included one English professor and one high-school English teacher. But it was made clear that these people would have only an advisory role – final decisions would be made by the English-teacher-bereft Work Group.

    It’s astonishing that the people putting the standards and curriculum for subjects together aren’t experts on the subject. That’s foolishness. Again, that’s just the tip of the iceberg:

    The lead ELA writers were David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, neither of whom had experience teaching English either in K-12 or at the college level. Nor had either of them ever published serious work on K-12 curriculum and instruction. Neither had a reputation for scholarship or research; they were virtually unknown to the field of English language arts. But they had been chosen to transform ELA education in the US. Who recommended them and why, we still do not know.

    It’s worth asking what these people’s qualifications were. It’s also worth asking who picked them to be the lead writers of the curriculum. If these questions don’t raise red flags, Dr. Stotsky’s opening paragraph will:

    Common Core’s K-12 standards, it is regularly claimed, emerged from a state-led process in which experts and educators were well represented. But the people who wrote the standards did not represent the relevant stakeholders. Nor were they qualified to draft standards intended to “transform instruction for every child.” And the Validation Committee (VC) that was created to put the seal of approval on the drafters’ work was useless if not misleading, both in its membership and in the procedures they had to follow.

    Everything was done behind closed doors. Open meeting laws didn’t apply. The people writing the curriculum weren’t experts in their assigned subjects. Again, there’s more to this. Does this sound like a collaborative effort?

    In a private conversation at the end of November, 2009, I was asked by Chris Minnich, a CCSSI staff member, if I would be willing to work on the standards during December with Susan Pimentel, described to me as the lead ELA standards writer. I had worked with her (working for StandardsWork) on the 2008 Texas English language arts standards and, earlier, on other standards projects. I was told that Pimentel made the final decisions on the ELA standards. I agreed to spend about two weeks in Washington, DC working on the ELA standards pro bono with Pimentel if it was made clear that agreed-upon revisions would not be changed by unknown others before going out for comment to other members of the VC and, eventually, the public.

    A week after sending to Minnich and Pimentel a list of the kind of changes I thought needed to be made to the November 2009 draft before we began to work together, I received a “Dear John” letter from Chris Minnich. He thanked me for my comments and indicated that my suggestions would be considered along with those from 50 states and that I would hear from the staff sometime in January.

    In the second week of January 2010, a “confidential draft” was sent out to state departments of education in advance of their submitting an application on January 19 for Race to the Top (RttT) funds. (About 18 state applications, including the Bay State’s, were prepared by professional grant writers chosen and paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—at roughly $250,000 each.) A few states included the watermarked confidential draft in their application material and posted the whole application on their department of education’s website (in some cases required by law), so it was no longer confidential. This draft contained none of the kinds of revisions I had suggested in my December e-mail to Minnich and Pimentel. Over the next six months, the Pioneer Institute published my analyses of that January draft and succeeding drafts, including the final June 2 version. I repeatedly pointed out serious flaws in the document, but at no time did the lead ELA standards writers communicate with me (despite requests for a private discussion) or provide an explanation of the organizing categories for the standards and the focus on skills, not literary/historical content.

    That isn’t a collaborative effort. That sounds more like a rubberstamp operation than a collaboration. Ignoring all of the recommendations of a professor is one thing. To be invited to work on developing standards one week, then essentially being told a month later that your help isn’t needed is a slap in the face. To then pass up opportunities to communicate with this professor indicates that the standards were predetermined and that she was being invited to be window dressing.

    The VC members who signed the letter were listed in the brief official report on the VC (since committee work was confidential, there was little the rapporteur could report), while the five members who did not sign off were not listed as such, nor their reasons mentioned. Stotsky’s letter explaining why she could not sign off can be viewed here, and Milgram’s letter can be viewed here.

    This was the “transparent, state-led” process that resulted in the Common Core standards. The standards were created by people who wanted a “Validation Committee” in name only. An invalid process, endorsed by an invalid Validation Committee, resulted not surprisingly in invalid standards.

    It’s understatement to say that the process left much to be desired in terms of transparency. It didn’t set high standards, either. The public is entitled to know more about Common Core than we know currently. If they aren’t willing to waive the privacy agreements, for instance, Common Core should be either rejected or repealed. If the working groups aren’t willing to testify about their discussions and deliberations, state legislatures should either reject or repeal Common Core.

    I’m sending special thanks to Mitch Berg for addressing this issue. Thanks also go out to Kirsten Block and Linda Bell for explaining the dangers of Common Core.

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    In the past, demented Michele Bachmann haters argued that she didn’t care about her district. While it’s true she took time to run for president, it isn’t true that she doesn’t care about what’s best for her district. Her getting a new Stillwater Bridge built is proof she cares about the Sixth District. This Pi-Press article offers more proof that Rep. Bachmann cares about the Sixth District:

    Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann sought Monday to muster support in Minnesota and Washington for money to add a new Interstate 94 lane in each direction between the western Twin Cities suburbs and St. Cloud.

    The congresswoman came to the state Capitol along with supporters from local government and businesses to talk about the project, as well as a related push to upgrade U.S. 10 that runs parallel to the heavily traveled interstate. Backers of the I-94 project are trying to amass $25 million for the first construction phase of an expansion that could reach $100 million when fully complete. The improvements to U.S. 10 are priced at $300 million.

    Of course, the Dayton administration sought to diminish the importance of the I-94 project:

    But Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said the I-94 widening doesn’t rank high on the agency’s long-term list of priority projects. “There are projects like this all across the state — really good projects, really important projects, projects that have tremendous support like this,” he said. “It all really boils down to the funding piece.”

    It’s interesting that MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht hints that widening I-94 isn’t a good project or an important project. The notion that one of the two busiest highways in the state doesn’t qualify as an important project is utter nonsense.

    This stinks of political gamesmanship on behalf of the Dayton Administration. Sixth District voters will remember that when Gov. Dayton asks for their support in 2014. I’m betting they won’t like it that his administration prefered playing political games rather than doing what’s right for economic development in central Minnesota.

    The other thing that’s worth noting is that Michele didn’t airdrop an earmark into a transportation bill conference committee report. She’s putting the project through the committee where it can be researched in the light of day. Michele’s projects, including the Stillwater Bridge project and this project, both went through the committee process. The Stillwater Bridge project was signed by President Obama because it withstood the scrutiny of the House and Senate transportation committees.

    Years ago, Rep. Bachmann pledged not to be a porkmeister like the late Jack Murtha or Minnesota’s Jim ‘Bike Path’ Oberstar. She’s kept that promise while still looking out for what’s best for her district. Minnesota needs more politicians who are committed to doing things in the light of day rather than away from the people’s scrutiny.

    I expect this post to get tons of comments from Michele’s left wing haters. Their comments will expose them for the partisan haters that they are. Remember their hate-filled comments the next time you enter a voting booth.

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    One of the nicknames that the St. Cloud Times has acquired throughout the years is the St. Cloud SomeTimes. After reading this Our View op-ed in the SC Times, it appears they need a new nickname. I propose that new nickname be the ‘Behind the Times’ for obvious reasons. Here’s part of the Times’ hatchet piece:

    St. Cloud-area Rep. Steve Gottwalt is under some scrutiny in the wake of a Minnesota Public Radio news report last week that highlighted the reasonable public perception of a potential conflict of interest involving his private business dealings and his powerful legislative role in reforming health care coverage.

    The Dec. 10 report stated shortly after Gottwalt, chairman of the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee, championed reforms to a state-run health care program, he became a licensed insurance broker, allowing for the possibility of selling products to those purged from that program.

    The District 14A Republican also entered into a business partnership with another broker who had lobbied for Gottwalt’s reforms. And to further compound matters, Gottwalt hasn’t done a thorough job of explaining all this to constituents.

    This is ancient news. Long before he was elected to represent HD-15A, Steve Gottwalt worked in the health insurance industry, though not as an insurance agent. As a freshman legislator in 2007, Steve became one of the experts in the House GOP Caucus on HHS issues because of Steve’s experience in the health insurance industry.

    As for the Times’ cheapshot that Rep. Gottwalt “hasn’t done a thorough job of explaining all this to constituents”, that’s BS. The vast majority of the people that contributed to Steve’s campaign knew about Steve’s history within the health insurance industry.

    After leaving his job with a local company, Steve opted to get his license to sell health insurance. That was well after Gov. Dayton signed Steve’s HHS reform plan into law. That’s a natural thing for him to do.

    The Times admits that “Gottwalt’s actions don’t merit an ethics probe”, which is like admitting that they didn’t have much for the editorial page so they created this non-story.

    With all their resources, you’d think the Times could find time to write something about the SCSU administration doctoring students’ transcripts. That’s something worthy of an editorial. This garbage isn’t. The question now is why the Times isn’t devoting any ink on a real scandal. Is it that they’re protecting this administration?

    It’s time for the Times to come clean if that’s what they’re doing.

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    There’s been alot of upheaval and discord within the Minnesota GOP within the last month. Surely, lefty websites are writing the obituaries of the state GOP as we speak. Just as surely, there’s alot of in-party complaining, too. If a snapshot were taken right now, people would undoubtedly predict that the Republican Party of Minnesota was heading for a steep cliff.

    That’s a fair assessment. While it’s a fair assessment, it isn’t a fait accompli.

    The chief reason it isn’t a fait accompli that Republicans will careen off that proverbial cliff is because Republicans are the reform party, the taxpayers’ watchdog party, the ideas party.

    The DFL is still the monied party, the I’ll-fight-for-the-failed-status-quo party, the party of special interests. That’s just reality. A party led by the Dayton family’s cronies is a disaster for Minnesota’s families.

    Does anyone think that the DFL isn’t the control freak party? At a time when people are pushing back against control freakism, how well will it play when it’s highlighted that the DFL and the Dayton administration has dragged its feet in approving mining exploration leases? How well will it play when Republicans highlight the fact that the DFL wants to unionize small businesses?

    Many of the DFL initiatives are being funded by Gov. Dayton’s first ex-wife, Alida Messinger, and the public employee unions that benefit from airheaded DFL policies. It’s worth noting that the DFL isn’t the party of the people anymore. They’re puppets of the special interests.

    That said, the Minnesota GOP has its challenges. First, accountability is essentially nonexistent. That must change starting immediately.

    Second, a party that’s run by insiders isn’t acceptable anymore. The only recent electoral success came in 2010, a year marked by new participants. This isn’t coincidence. The insiders haven’t had much success recently. If insiders attempt to tell true believers what to do, they’ll find life very difficult.

    Third, the GOP party leadership team needs to eliminate egos. Too many people think that they’re bigger than the party. That list included delusional liberals like Arne Carlson and Dave Durenberger and conservatives like Pat Anderson.

    I have a simple message for them:

    NO MORE!!!

    Arne Carlson isn’t the Minnesota GOP’s wise elder statesman. He’s a liberal who betrayed the party. What’s worse is that he thinks that he’s entitled to elevated status within the GOP.

    Tony Sutton was right in banning Gov. Carlson, Gov. Quie and Sen. Durenberger from attending the national conventions. Consider that the first step in the NO MORE!!! campaign.

    When Pat Anderson was elected as national committeewoman to the RNC, she failed to tell delegates that she’d gotten hired to lobby for Racino. That morning, the delegates voted to emphasize the party’s official opposition to Racino.

    Pat Anderson essentially said that she was bigger than the party when she didn’t disclose her getting hired to lobby on behalf of Racino. She isn’t bigger than the party. She’s just doing whatever it takes to stay viable as a statewide candidate for higher office.

    NO MORE!!! will We The People stand for unprincipled politicians like Pat Anderson and Arne Carlson.

    The path forward is simple: establish a system of accountability, listen to the outsiders more and tell the status quo people that they need to contribute to the vitality of the Minnesota GOP. Productive, ideas-oriented activists are vital to the health of the Minnesota GOP.

    It’s just that simple.

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    You can’t make this stuff up. VP Biden will attend a meeting of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building:

    Spot the irony in Vice President Biden’s schedule today, from the White House’s daily guidance:

    “At 1:00 PM, the Vice President will attend a meeting of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. At 2:30 PM, the Vice President will meet with representatives of the National Sheriffs’ Association in the Roosevelt Room. These meetings are closed press.”

    (It was only two months ago that State Department officials briefed reporters on transparency efforts but refused to have their names be printed; and in March, the White House postponed a pooled-press ceremony for President Obama to get an openness award; it was later rescheduled and carried out in an undisclosed meeting.)

    This administration is the worst administration in terms of transparency while touting their record on transparency. Simply put, this administration has been terrible on transparency issues. This article shows that transparency isn’t a priority with this administration.

    The first hint that this administration wasn’t interested in transparency came when the health care debates weren’t covered on C-SPAN. It wasn’t a surprise because Democrats hadn’t proven that they were interested in transparency.

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    Apparently, the DFL doesn’t like civic participation, at least when it comes to K-12 referenda. Their reaction to Pat Garofalo’s statement on getting people involved is pretty stunning. Here’s the radical idea Chairman Garofalo is proposing:

    Minnesota House Education Finance Committee Chairman Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, today unveiled proposed legislation that would require school districts to hold their levy referendums in General Election years.

    “This bill is about transparency, open democracy and greater public participation in school levies,” Garofalo said. “Districts know the facts – their levies are more likely to be approved in odd-year elections because of lower turnout and lower voter engagement. There are more than $900 million worth of tax revenue increases over the next five years on the ballot next week, and that deserves the voting public’s maximum attention.”

    According to the Minnesota Department of Education, referendums held during odd-year elections pass at a rate of more than 70 percent. Conversely, during even-year elections when statewide elections are held for state or federal offices, that percentage falls to 52 percent of referendums that pass.

    “This bill would prevent situations where districts put a referendum on the ballot intentionally in an odd-year election to exploit lower turnout,” Garofalo said. Because state education funding is set during legislative sessions in odd-numbered years, holding referendums in even-year elections would also give schools and taxpayers time to fully assess their district’s financial situation. Many schools have also not finalized teacher contracts, forcing voters to make a decision on referendums without knowing the full picture of their district’s costs.

    “The governor and the Legislature this year agreed to a $650 million increase in education funding, and now just a few months later many districts are back asking for more. Some of them were planning for levies even before the Legislature adjourned, regardless of what the state would provide. Holding elections in General Election years is the most open, transparent way for schools to make their case to voters,” Garofalo said.

    That sensible idea drew this dramatic reaction from liberal blogger Eric Austin:

    Pat Garofalo, Republican chairman of the Education Finance Committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives was one of the architects of the school shift that stole money from local school districts so that his caucus could avoid raising taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans. Now, over 1/3 of school districts are asking their local communities to renew or add levies to pay for the stolen funds and decade long flat funding.

    In swoops Garofalo to cry FOUL! How dare these districts try to recoup some of the funds lost or stolen. His method of punishment? Restricting local districts ability to levy money from their local community:

    St. Paul, Minn. — State Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, says schools should only hold levy votes in even-numbered years, when turnout is already higher for other elections.

    That’s quite the dramatic reaction for something that seems so sensible. There’s nothing radical about wanting as many people voting on important issues as possible, especially on votes that potentially affect their property taxes.

    Mindy Greiling, the DFL’s K-12 education guru, thinks otherwise:

    “Legislative Republicans tied one hand behind the back of school districts with their shifts and gimmicks. Now they want to tie the other hand to prevent districts from compensating for their borrowing which now totals $4,168 per student.

    “This proposal is an attack on local control. Minnesota communities should be trusted to make appropriate budget decisions that are best for their schools and children. I have not heard from a single Minnesotan who feels she needs to be protected from her predatory locally-elected school board. Rather, this is a deflection by legislative Republicans who are facing harsh criticism about their misplaced priorities from all corners of the state. Minnesota schools are now owed $3.45 billion and there is no plan in place to pay it back. Parents, students and school districts are fed up that this year’s legislature borrowed unprecedented amounts from our students.

    “With continued underfunding of local schools, more school districts are asking voters to renew existing levies as well as fund general operations rather than cut teachers or increase class sizes. Today’s proposal is a distraction from this year’s $2.2 billion shift where Republicans withheld funding from schools in order to dole back a bit of an increase, which districts used to pay interest on their bank loans.

    First, if Rep. Greiling is truly interested in “Minnesota communities” making “appropriate budget decisions”, shouldn’t she want the highest percentage of people in their communities making those decisions? Isn’t Rep. Greiling’s complaint really that she doesn’t want a big turnout deciding levy referenda?

    The DFL is doing their best to try and get people to forget that Gov. Dayton’s school shift was significantly more draconian. The GOP finally got Gov. Dayton to agree to a 60/40 school shift. Gov. Dayton initially offered a 50/50 school shift.

    If Mr. Austin and Rep. Greiling want to complain, they should start with Gov. Dayton.

    Further, Rep. Greiling’s comment that “This proposal is an attack on local control” is absurd in the extraordinary. By attacking Chairman Garofalo’s proposal, Rep. Greiling is saying she’s ok with a handful of people deciding local property taxes. Holding elections in odd-numbered years means a tiny fraction of a school district’s population can tip a levy in the district’s way.

    This commentary by Austin is condescending in the extreme:

    How about, Pat, you let us handle our business in our local school districts and you handle your business at the Capitol.

    That’s right. The teachers and the teachers union want to handle the education system. They think that they know what’s best for students. Look at their reaction to voting on school levy referenda when turnout is traditionally higher.

    BTW, what do teaching methods have to do with figuring out that school districts have too many administrators or not?

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