Archive for the ‘Cronyism’ Category
It isn’t a secret that Democrats aren’t fans of government reform. They’ve been the defenders of the status quo for years. Hillary Clinton was their presidential nominee. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are the faces of Senate and House Democrats. This trio of fossils aren’t mistaken for having fresh ideas. If they don’t want to be politically irrelevant, they need new management and fresh, appealing ideas.
In Minnesota, the DFL is slightly ahead of the game compared with the DNC. Still, they’re too reliant on cronyism. That’s what this article highlights.
Cronyism is the name of the game that Ted Mondale and Michelle Kelm-Helgen played with U.S. Bank Stadium suites. According to multiple reports, “Kelm-Helgen and Mondale, two government employees, control access to two lower-level luxury ‘Norseman Suites’ for all events at the stadium in downtown Minneapolis. The MSFA controls 36 tickets per game and the agency also got a nearly identical number of free parking spaces in the surface lot used by Vikings players.” That’s just the tip of the U.S. Bank Stadium iceberg. There’s more:
Kelm-Helgen and Mondale said they and the four MSFA commissioners use the suites to host potential clients who are looking to rent all or portions of the stadium, which opened in August. But they also acknowledge they regularly invite friends and family to the suites.
The two say they can’t reveal the identities of their guests because that would hinder their marketing efforts. However, they did release the identities of 12 current and former public officials who reimbursed the authority $200 for their tickets to the suite.
Here’s the description of what’s included in the Norseman Suites:
Norseman Lounge Suites
Highly exclusive 10 person Suites located between the 20 yard line and the end line just 36 rows from the field. Each Suite comes with access to the exclusive Lounge directly behind the Suite featuring a private bar and all-inclusive upscale food offerings, VIP parking, other event access, away game trips and much more. (NEWLY DESIGNED, ONLY 15 BUILT)
ABOUT THE NORSEMAN LOUNGE SUITES
• 36 Rows from the Field
• Side End zone – 20 yard line
• 6 fixed and 4 drink rail chairs with view to the field
• All-inclusive, unlimited beer, wine, high end food and non-alcoholic beverages
• Private/ Elite Lounge access
• 1 Annual Suite Holder Event on the field
• Super Bowl Access
• Away game road trips
• Access to other events
EXCLUSIVE SUITE BENEFITS
• VIP Parking Passes in a ramp in close proximity to the Stadium
• All-inclusive food and beverage package with a full-service concierge staff
• Participation in Team-arranged away road trips at points during the term of your Suite Agreement (limited to two (2) persons)
• The opportunity to purchase a to-be-determined number of Super Bowl tickets (not Suite tickets) in any year the Vikings participate in the Super Bowl or the Super Bowl is held at the new Stadium
Frankly, it’s disgusting that Kelm-Helgen and Mondale insist that they “can’t reveal the identities of their guests because that would hinder their marketing efforts.” That’s spin for saying ‘giving out that list would be politically embarrassing.’
I’d say that some DFL (sense of) entitlement reform is required.
Technorati: Michelle Kelm-Helgen, Ted Mondale, Minnesota Sports Facility Authority, Entitlement Reform, Accountability, Mark Dayton, US Bank Stadium, Norseman Lounge Suites, Betsy Hodges, Cronyism, DFL Culture of Corruption, Myron Frans, DFL
In Part I of this series, I highlighted how the SEIU Healthcare MN union are stealing families’ Medicaid benefits. From a moral standpoint, it’s difficult to justify SEIU’s actions. As Kim Crockett, the vice president and senior policy fellow at Center of the American Experiment, explained in her op-ed, “Minnesota’s Choice PCA program was created in the 1970s when the Legislature wisely decided it was more humane and more cost-effective to care for persons with disabilities in their own homes rather than in a state institution.”
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to think of something more noble or dignifying than a family member taking care of a loved one with a disability in their own home. Picturing that in my mind’s eye is an inspiring thought. What isn’t inspiring is thinking about the things that the Dayton administration has done to protect SEIU Healthcare MN. In fact, it’s a disgusting thought. First, Gov. Dayton assisted SEIU Healthcare in rigging the initial election. The Dayton administration saw to it that voter turnout was low. The result was the SEIU winning “the biggest labor election in Minnesota history with just 13 percent support of eligible PCAs.” It’s especially disgusting when you think of the fact that “most PCAs did not even know there was a vote.”
Now that the PCAs are fighting for a vote to decertify SEIU Healthcare MN, the Dayton administration is fighting these parents. First, “a coalition of caregivers and advocates called ‘MNPCA.org’ was formed to demand a new vote.” The Dayton administration is assisting because the “MNPCA has a very short window of time to demonstrate a ‘showing of interest,’ defined as handwritten signatures of 30 percent of PCAs, to call for a new vote.”
The Dayton administration is fighting these families:
Getting signatures requires a good contact list. The SEIU receives updated PCA contact information every two weeks. But when MNPCA requested an updated list, the state stalled for five months and refused to give them accurate information, instead giving MNPCA two bad lists. Also, the SEIU and state began negotiating a new contract almost year before the current one expires. If that process is completed before MNPCA gets a new election, the decertification effort will be defeated.
With the window to call for a new vote rapidly closing; the last date to file for a new election is Dec. 2; MNPCA took the state to court. A Ramsey County judge ruled that PCAs must be given the data they requested. Yet even with a judge’s order, the state failed to give MNPCA a complete and accurate list. MNPCA asked the judge to help but for now has to assume the deadline will not change.
It’s impossible to believe that the Dayton administration can’t get an accurate list of PCAs to MNPCA in a timely fashion when they’re updating SEIU Healthcare MN with a list every 2 weeks.
Remember this the next time you hear Tina Smith or some other DFL political hack talk about being for the little guy. That’s BS. They’re for whoever will contribute large sums of money to their political campaigns. It has nothing to do with fighting for the little guy.
In this instance, Gov. Dayton and the DFL aren’t fighting for the little guy. Instead, they’re fighting the little guy. What’s worst is that the DFL is fighting the little guy on behalf of a big money special interest group.
The thieves wearing SEIU union uniforms, along with their DFL political allies, have stolen money from families. This article highlights how the theft happened.
According to the article, “Recently, the union’s stooges in the capital declared some 27,000 of the state’s personal-care assistants (PCAs) ‘public employees’ – but only for purposes of collective bargaining, i.e., so they can be unionized. As a result, the SEIU is siphoning 3% of its members’ very modest Medicaid supplement.”
Kim Crockett’s op-ed explains SEIU’s racket, saying “Minnesota’s Choice PCA program was created in the 1970s when the Legislature wisely decided it was more humane and more cost-effective to care for persons with disabilities in their own homes rather than in a state institution. The Legislature funds a Medicaid benefit, given to a person with a disability, to pay for PCA care at home. Most often, PCAs are family members or close friends.”
First, let’s hear SEIU explain how family members taking care of loved ones with disabilities are government employees. Next, let’s hear SEIU explain why they deserve a penny of these families’ Medicaid benefits. Third, let’s hear Gov. Dayton and the DFL legislature of 2013 explain why they sided with the SEIU rather than with families caring for loved ones with disabilities.
PCAs are people who have chosen to be the primary caregiver of a disabled person; in the vast majority of cases, a family member (usually a spouse or child). Some of the disabilities are so severe that the caregiver is unable to work outside the home. And so Minnesota established a PCA program which allows them to receive some Medicaid support.
In the old days, many of the disabled would have been institutionalized in a government-run facility, a system that was costly and scary. The current PCA Medicaid program allows these people to stay at home and be cared for by someone who loves them.
The heartless SEIU thinks it deserves a portion of these families’ Medicaid support. Gov. Dayton and the DFL legislators from 2013 agree with the SEIU. What isn’t known is why Gov. Dayton and the DFL agree with the SEIU from a policy standpoint. It isn’t difficult to figure out why Gov. Dayton and the DFL agree with the heartless bastards in the SEIU from a political standpoint.
When it comes to standing up to heartless special interests, Gov. Dayton and the DFL aren’t profiles in courage.
SEIU Healthcare insists that it’s helping these PCAs:
Key victories in the contract include workers receiving a paid time off benefit for the first time (five days of paid time off for full-time workers), raising the pay floor from $9 to $11 by 2016, a grievance and arbitration procedure to address wage theft, and a training fund to improve the quality of care they provide to people with disabilities and seniors.
How many parents can take time off when caring for a child with a severe disability? The ‘benefit’ is mostly a mirage.
Thus far in this series, I’ve highlighted the fact that the ISD742 School Board hasn’t talked about St. Cloud’s high school enrollment forecasts for the short-, medium- and long-term. They didn’t tell voters that they’ve already purchased the land for a new Tech HS. That wasn’t announced on the District’s website. It was announced this past week on Dan Ochsner’s radio program when a current school board member called into Ox’s show and blurted that information out.
Last year, voters found out in the newspaper that there wasn’t a finalized set of blueprints for people to look at because, according to Barclay Carriar, “with the cost of designing a building, 80 percent of it isn’t going to be designed until after the referendum. And the plans we’ve got now are still tentative.”
Last year, taxpayers didn’t know that the plans were “still tentative.” This year, we didn’t know that the District had already purchased the land where the new Tech HS is supposed to be built at. The next logical question that taxpayers should demand answers to is what other information the School Board hasn’t disclosed. At this point, taxpayers don’t know where the money came from to pay for the Tech HS land. That’s certainly something that we should know. Did the District have enough money tucked away to pay for the land? At this point, taxpayers don’t know.
The thing that taxpayers know, though, is that they aren’t writing any blank checks this year. This isn’t the time when people are trusting politicians. The School Board is asking taxpayers to approve the biggest property tax increase in St. Cloud history without telling taxpayers that they’ve already bought the land for the new high school. That’s terrible because the taxpayers haven’t approved the bonds yet. That tells taxpayers that the School Board is taking them for granted.
Just because the School Board is a rubberstamp doesn’t mean that taxpayers are a rubberstamp. Taxpayers don’t want a canned presentation. They want input from start to finish. That’s something that the School Board isn’t willing to relinquish.
In my estimation, the ISD742 School Board has transitioned from being public servants to being arrogant taskmasters. That’s why the bonding referendum must be defeated. That’s why we need new School Board members elected ASAP.
It isn’t surprising that the Establishment has a different perspective on whether to build a new Tech High School. The title of their Our View Editorial is “Vote ‘yes’ twice to deliver best value for schools.” To be fair, not everything in the editorial is foolishness.
For instance, they have a legitimate point when they say “If you think it’s adequately built to educate today’s youth — not to mention future generations — you have not been in its crowded hallways between classes, especially if your mobility is impaired.”
The question isn’t whether doing nothing is an option. It isn’t. The question is whether the options on this November’s ballot represent the best value for students and taxpayers. They don’t. The current options are the School Board’s choice. The School Board started with a goal, then they tried figuring out how to make it happen.
They didn’t ask, in any meaningful way anyway, what the district’s enrollments would be in 2020. They certainly didn’t think of what the district’s need would be in 2050. It’s certain that ISD742 will look dramatically different in 2040 than it looks today. This argument is total foolishness:
If both questions pass, the monthly increase in taxes for a $150,000 home will be about $13. Approving just a new Tech costs about $9 a month.
So what? The important question that still hasn’t gotten asked is what the district’s needs are. Telling me that the payments on something are $13 a month for the next generation doesn’t tell me whether that something will be useful for the next generation.
The other question that hasn’t been asked is why these prices reflect prevailing wage bids. The cost of everything is increased with prevailing wage bids. The quality doesn’t increase, either. Why would taxpayers want to pay extra for something that isn’t dramatically better? The unions might howl about this but that isn’t my responsibility. My responsibility is to vote for the best product at the least expensive price.
For example, to address neighborhood concerns about the future of the Tech campus, the district has said it will move its administrative offices and welcome center to the older parts of Tech. Similarly, more thorough research was done — and remains available — about the costs of building new compared with rebuilding old.
There’s no question that more information is available this time. Still, there’s no question that the School Board still hasn’t answered the most important questions. There’s no question that building a new high school and renovating Apollo doesn’t represent a great value to students and taxpayers. It’s too expensive and it’s too big for our needs.
It’s indisputable that Gov. Dayton fights harder for golden parachutes for his political appointees than he’s fought for tax relief for farmers, veterans, students with student loan debt and small business owners. In fact, it’s indisputable that Gov. Dayton and the DFL have fought hard to increase commissioners’ pay.
Think about this: Gov. Dayton and the DFL passed legislation that gave Gov. Dayton’s commissioners pay raises that sometimes exceeded $30,000 a year. Then Gov. Dayton illegally gave 3 of his political appointees more than $75,000 in severance packages. Katie Clark-Sieben’s pay raises increased her salary by $60,000, then she received a $33,750 golden parachute when she left government to pursue other interests. Meanwhile, the DFL legislative leadership has been quiet as a mouse about the severance packages.
Thankfully, Republicans Speaker Daudt and Rep. Sarah Anderson aren’t letting go of this. Speaker Daudt released this statement, saying “Once again, Governor Dayton has disrespected taxpayers and used their money to inappropriately reward his top officials who are already making six-figure salaries. Today’s report highlights the importance of House Republicans’ role as a check and balance on Democrats’ wasteful spending.” Speaker Daudt’s statement also included this:
House Republicans are calling on Governor Dayton to explain unauthorized taxpayer-funded severance payments after a report emerged Tuesday that his administration awarded nearly $80,000 to state employees who voluntarily departed. The most generous severance agreement, awarded to a former Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, came on the heels of massive taxpayer-funded pay increases authorized by Governor Dayton. This commissioner was previously a top staffer on Dayton’s campaign for governor in 2010.
The DFL’s actions are insulting on multiple levels. First, the DFL’s priorities aren’t Minnesota’s priorities. The last time the DFL ran St. Paul, they passed a bill that paid for the $90,000,000 Senate Office Building. They passed another bill that gave $30,000 pay raises to high-profile political appointees. Those aren’t priorities for many Minnesotans.
This year, Gov. Dayton apparently decided that the $30,000/yr. pay raises weren’t enough for his cronies. This year, Gov. Dayton threw his cronies a $75,000 bone in the form of golden parachutes. This year, Gov. Dayton pocket vetoed a tax bill that would’ve provided $550,000,000 worth of tax relief for veterans, farmers, students and small businesses.
What’s stunning is that the DFL won’t answer questions about this:
A spokeswoman for the DFL Senate Majority said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Senate State Governments and Veterans Budget Division Chair Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, said the two legislators would not comment on Dayton’s decision to offer severance to political appointees.
Then there’s this:
It isn’t clear why Sieben, Phillips and Wright were given a severance. Eight other commissioners who also left voluntarily during Dayton’s time in office didn’t receive severance pay.
Apparently, the trick to getting ahead in Minnesota is to make campaign contributions to Gov. Dayton’s campaign, then cash in when he appoints you to a cushy job in his administration. If you’re a blue collar worker, though, you’re SOL with the Dayton administration. They’ll only fight for certain types of white collar workers.
Keep this in mind when you go to the polls: The DFL won’t fight for you if you’re a blue collar worker. They’ll only fight for white collar government workers and the special interests.
Technorati: Mark Dayton, Mark Phillips, Katie Clark-Sieben, Sheila Wright, Golden Parachutes, Senate Office Building, Commissioner Pay Raises, Tom Bakk, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, DFL, Sarah Anderson, Kurt Daudt, Accountability, Tax Relief, MNGOP
In mid-June, Gov. Dayton pocket vetoed a tax relief bill that would’ve provided tax relief to lots of middle-class people, which I wrote about here. The editorial I quoted got it right when it said “when Gov. Mark Dayton pocket vetoed HF 848 which would’ve provided significant tax relief to the citizens of Minnesota, it sort of felt like something major was lost. Gone was tax relief for veterans, gone was tax relief for small business owners, gone was a tax break for farmers, gone was a tax break for the residents of Houston County who live in Minnesota but work in Wisconsin, gone was the forgiveness of interest paid on debt on the new school building.”
Gov. Dayton didn’t hesitate in vetoing this tax relief for farmers, veterans, small businesses and students. There’s something else that Gov. Dayton didn’t hesitate in doing. Gov. Dayton didn’t hesitate in paying his political appointees huge severance packages. Republicans are demanding that Gov. Dayton rescind those severance packages. Gov. Dayton, through his mouthpiece, has refused:
State law explicitly authorizes severance of up to six months’ salary for senior-level state employees, who make more than 60 percent of the governor’s salary, when they leave state service. We offered severances of up to three months’ salary to three agency heads, as the law expressly permits. The governor made those decisions, and in his judgement the circumstances justified those severances. Gov. Pawlenty used the same statute to authorize severance payments of $73,552 for two senior-level state employees. House Republicans are desperately trying to place a fig leaf over their failure last session to pass the bills that Minnesotans really need: a correctly-written tax bill, statewide building projects, and improved highways, roads, bridges and public transit.
WCCO’s Pat Kessler highlights this important difference:
MMB documents show Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty paid out $75,552 in severance checks to two state workers in 2005 who were not political appointees. One former employee, an administrative law judge, got $26,478. Another, a legislative audit manager, got $47,097.
They weren’t political appointees. They were public employees with lots of time on the job. Speaking of which, “Republicans say the law allows severance only under strict conditions, one of which is 10 years of service before becoming eligible. Republicans say the law allows severance only under strict conditions, one of which is 10 years of service before becoming eligible.”
The moral of this is that Gov. Dayton killed tax relief to farmers, veterans, students buried with student loan debt and small businesses without hesitation. By comparison, he’s fighting hard for illegal severance packages for his political appointees. It’s apparent that Gov. Dayton’s priorities aren’t Minnesota’s priorities.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the DFL legislative leaders, who spout off about all kinds of silly subjects, are silent about this. It’s just more proof that the DFL isn’t the party of the little guy … unless they’re government employees.
Technorati: Mark Dayton, Political Appointees, DFL Culture of Corruption, Katie Sieben, Mark Phillips, Sheila Wright, DFL, Sarah Anderson, Kurt Daudt, Middle Class Tax Relief, Farmers, Students, Veterans, Small Businesses, Middle Class
Thus far, people have tiptoed around what the judge ruled last Friday in the lawsuit brought by Rebecca Otto. Ms. Otto is quoted as saying “In the decision, the court granted our motion in part and denied it in part,” Otto said. “As we requested, the court recognized the core constitutional function of the Office of the State Auditor to audit counties. The court also held that the Office of the State Auditor may ‘continue to exercise its constitutional authority to audit counties to pay for such audits.’ We are reviewing the opinion and analyzing our options.”
It would’ve been surprising if the court had ruled that the OSA didn’t have the authority to be the state’s main auditor. This isn’t surprising. That’s as surprising as the judiciary finding that the Secretary of State had the authority to monitor elections. Later, Ms. Otto said this:
“Unfortunately, the district court also permitted counties to hire private CPA firms at their discretion to conduct an “initial audit.” We respectfully disagree with this aspect of the district court’s decision. It will result in an unacceptable diminishment of the protection this constitutional office provides on behalf of the taxpayers of this state.”
The OSA already has given some counties the authority to hire CPA firms to do their audits. With that being the case, Ms. Otto’s intellectual fight is flimsy. She’s essentially arguing that she has the authority to give counties the right to hire CPA firms to perform their audit but that the legislature doesn’t have that authority.
Further complicating matters is that Ms. Otto is essentially arguing that the statutes that have assigned specific responsibilities to the OSA and other statutes assigning specific responsibilities to other constitutional offices are constitutional but that this statute, and this statute alone, is unconstitutional.
If the Minnesota Supreme Court rules in Ms. Otto’s favor, then we’ll have verifiable proof that Gov. Dayton stacked that court with judges that will rule in the DFL’s favor no matter what the Constitution says. Let’s hope that these justices aren’t partisans first and jurists second. Here’s hoping that they’re jurists first, last and only.
In one of the biggest understatements in St. Cloud School Board history, Superintendent Willie Jett said that “We know we have more listening to do as part of this referendum.”
Actually, they need to start listening. I’m not proposing doing nothing. What I’ve consistently said was that the School Board consistently planned to overbuild. The original plan called for twin schools that each held 1,800 students. Student enrollment as of a year ago was 2,800. I’m not a rocket scientist, just like I’m not a demographer. Still, it doesn’t require a rocket scientist or a demographer to figure out that an aging school that’s getting surrounded by growing schools won’t grow 25-30% in enrollment over the next 25-30 years.
It’s far more likely that Sartell and Sauk Rapids will see significant enrollment growth over the next quarter-century than it is to expect significant enrollment growth for Apollo and Tech HS. The truth is that Jett and the School Board haven’t done any significant listening thus far. They’ve listened to people that they’ve wanted to hear from but they haven’t listened to the average voter. They’ve avoided those voters. Without them, the referendum fails.
If Jett and the School Board don’t learn from last year’s defeat, which appears like they haven’t, they’ll wind up with a defeated referendum and major turnover on the Board. The board needs a shakeup. They’ve become arrogant, which means they’ve stopped listening. It’s time for them to go.
The truth is finally starting to trickle out about why the ISD 742 School Board wants to build a new Tech High School. The truth is that the ISD 742 School Board is planning on renovating Tech. According to the article, the “St. Cloud school district plans to renovate portions of Technical High School to house the district’s administrative offices and welcome center if a school construction bond question passes in November.”
The district, from Superintendent Jett to the School Cartel, insisted that Tech was a mess than couldn’t be renovated. The St. Cloud Education Cartel insists that we have to build a new Tech High School at a cost of $104,500,000 and renovate Apollo at an additional cost of $38,750,000.
What’s insulting is that the Education Cartel insists it’s speaking with the voice of the people. Specifically, Superintendent Willie Jett said “One of the general things (we heard) was ‘we need to know what you’re doing with Tech High School, the future of that.” I’ve gotten dozens of phone calls from people throughout the district. The most frequently asked question I’ve received have asked why we can’t renovate Tech rather than build a new school. The most frequently stated statements have said that they won’t vote for that big of a property tax increase without the District first seriously considering renovating Tech.
This Board has insisted on killing Clark Field, one of the most charming football fields in the state, and killing Tech High School. I wrote this post last fall to highlight the Education Cartel’s arrogance:
Finally, it’s time that Ms. Starling understood that lots of citizens voted against the referendum because the School Board didn’t even have the decency of telling the taxpayers what the new Tech High School would look like. They couldn’t because, according to Barclay Carriar, 80% of the building wouldn’t be designed until after the referendum vote.
That sounds like what a political machine would do. It doesn’t sound like something a citizen-oriented board would do. A citizen-oriented board would start the process over rather than seek input on the plan they’re trying to shove down people’s throats.
The Cartel is scrambling in its attempt to get what it wants after voters emphatically rejected their initial proposal. This proposal is virtually the same proposal, just a little smaller. (The first proposal would’ve cost $167,000,000. This would cost $143,250,000.) Like last year’s referendum, this year’s proposal should be rejected until all options are seriously considered.