Archive for the ‘Cronyism’ Category

Now that people are questisoning some of Chancellor Rosenstone’s decisions, like his decision to pay a consulting firm $2,000,000 or the Trustees’ decision to extend Chancellor Rosenstone’s contract before giving him a performance review, perhaps it’s time to ask what his qualifications were. This chart shows that Rosenstone wasn’t as qualified as the other finalist:

It’s too late to void Chancellor Rosenstone’s sweetheart deal but it isn’t too late to question whether the Trustees serve a useful purpose. Based on this side-by-side comparison and their decision to hire a less qualified candidate, I’d argue that their decisionmaking abilitie are questionable at best.

Further, it’s time to admit that Gene Pelowski, Bud Nornes, Michelle Fischbach and Terry Bonoff haven’t done the job Minnesotans needed them to do. Their refusal to conduct oversight hearings is an indictment against their chairmanships.
What Minnesota needs is for the Trustees to disappear and for the legislature to play a more hands-on role in MnSCU, especially with regards to hiring chancellors and negotiating the chancellor’s contracts. I don’t want people who can’t be held accountable to make these important decisions. I expect people who can be held accountable at election time to make these decisions.

The best way to produce terrible results is to look the other way and not demand explanations for important decisions. Part of why Chancellor Rosenstone is making questionable decisions is because he wasn’t qualified. Another reason why he’s making questionable decisions is because he isn’t disciplined when he makes decisions like hiring a do-nothing consulting firm for $2,000,000.

I can’t say that Minnesota’s higher ed system is worthless. I can say, however, that MnSCU has made lots of foolish spending decisions that shouldn’t have gotten made.

That’s why MnSCU reform should be a high priority for the next legislature.

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It’s bad enough that AFSCME is intent on forcing a unionization vote down child care providers’ throats. What’s worse is that the person overseeing the election is owned by AFSCME:

Governor Dayton appointed Josh Tilsen to be commissioner of the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) in Feburary 2011. As BMS commissioner, Tilsen administers union elections, resolves collective bargaining disputes, and oversees labor mediation and arbitration activities. He is paid more than $95,000 per year by the State of Minnesota for this full-time role.

In addition to Tilsen’s full-time work as BMS commissioner, he also maintains an outside consulting business, acting as an arbitrator for the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). According to the official Iowa PERB website (updated March 25, 2013), Tilsen’s per diem is $1,200. Notably, the office phone and fax number they list are Tilsen’s official BMS numbers in Minnesota. In addition, under “Current Employment/Associations that could cause a conflict,” it lists “None.”

That’s just part of it. There’s more:

Tilsen’s case in particular, though, seems riddled with real or potential conflicts of interest. While Tilsen technically consults for the State of Iowa, he is paid in part by labor unions, as both parties to arbitration cases share the cost of the arbitrator. To that point, according to U.S. Department of Labor records, Tilsen was paid $7,451 last year by AFSCME Council 61. Meanwhile, as Minnesota’s BMS commissioner, Tilsen oversees union elections and helps resolve union disputes involving AFSCME affiliates. As such, one has to ask: How can a fulltime, government official who collects income directly from a labor union be expected to act as an impartial referee of labor disputes?

While this isn’t illegal, it’s more than suspect. Jeff Johnson, the MNGOP-endorsed candidate for governor, made this statement on the matter:

“Mark Dayton uses his office to pay back his union campaign contributors, and apparently his Commissioner in charge of dealing with unions is in their pocket as well,” said Jeff Johnson.

“This is a gross conflict of interest. Commissioners have a full time job and are paid a handsome full-time salary by the taxpayers. They shouldn’t be doing outside work in any case, and certainly shouldn’t be taking paychecks from the people they are supposed to regulate,” Johnson said.

“This is just another example of Dayton’s sacrificing the interests of Minnesotans to those of his campaign contributors,” Johnson concluded.

It isn’t a stretch to think that Democrats side with their special interest allies more frequently than they side with Minnesota’s families. In fact, that’s their identity.

At this point, it’s reasonable to question the upcoming election’s integrity.

First, Tilsen needs to recuse himself. Second, Gov. Dayton needs to put back in place Gov. Pawlenty’s policy of prohibiting commissioners from having a side job. Third, the legislature should look into whether other commissioners in the Dayton administration are consultants. If other commissioners are consulting, they need to quit ASAP.

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President Obama is getting eaten alive by an avalanche of crises simultaneously. I’ve never seen a president getting eaten alive by this many crises. Richard Nixon had Watergate. Reagan had Iran-Contra. Bill Clinton had Monicagate. George Bush had Katrina.

President Obama’s crises are crises of his own creation. The IRS scandal happened because he used the IRS as a weapon against his political adversaries. The border crisis happened because he told the world that he wouldn’t enforce the borders. The Iraq/ISIS crisis happened because he told the terrorists that he was giving them the heart of the Middle East. Benghazi happened becausse he campaigned on the foolishness that al-Qa’ida was dead or dying, therefore, they didn’t need to beef up security at the Benghazi compound. The VA crisis happened because he ignored the administrative corruption and the cooking of the books.

It’s getting to the point that the American people, including some DC reporters, have noticed that President Obama isn’t into governing or solving problems. When President Obama meets with Gov. Perry this week, it won’t be good enough to show he cares. (That’s a phrase Rep. Cuellar, D-TX, kept using in his interview with Megyn Kelly tonight.) President Obama needs to reach a solution by working with Republicans. If he doesn’t solve that crisis, he’ll be exposed as just another cheap politician who isn’t interested in solving problems.

Further, if he continues to get slapped by the courts for his extremist unconstitutional agenda, he’ll be seen as the biggest scofflaw in presidential history. If the Justice Department doesn’t start prosecuting criminals like Lois Lerner, President Obama and Eric Holder will become known as the most lawless president/AG duo since Nixon and Mitchell. I didn’t think that that was possible.

President Obama’s crises are policy-driven crises. He’s made one policy mistake after another. Those policy mistakes have caused crisis after crisis. They’re proof that President Obama is the worst president in US history. This isn’t about the color of President Obama’s skin. It’s about his ideology.

The border crisis is turning the American people off to immigration reform. While they like the thought of immigration reform in the abstract, they’re against the lawlessness that’s led to this crisis. The American people won’t sign onto a policy reform until they’re the administration is serious about enforcing the new laws.

At this point, people from across the political spectrum don’t believe President Obama will enforce law. What’s worse is that they’ve seen that Democrats in Congress and the Senate will protect him even when he’s been exposed. The IRS scandal and Benghazi are proof of that.

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On the bright side, the St. Cloud Times is attempting to commit journalism, albeit after the facts are known. This editorial is, at best, after-the-fact journalism. A week after this story broke, the Times’ Editorial Board weighed in:

When the state’s top public official, the governor, names you one of 15 public trustees to oversee the state’s $1.9 billion public Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, it should be understood you must operate with the public’s interests top of mind.

When newspapers and legislators don’t pay attention to low-profile institutions like MnSCU, they quickly turn into fiefdoms. The Times is now covering this story because what was just exposed is so outrageous that even the Times can’t ignore it. Here’s what just happened:

Sadly, as recent news reports have noted, the MnSCU board of trustees failed to come anywhere close to that when it allowed just one trustee, Chair Clarence Hightower, to set up a new three-year contract with Chancellor Steven Rosenstone eight months ago!

I’ll be brief. Hightower shouldn’t have had the responsibility of negotiating a new contract with Chancellor Rosenstone. Chancellor Rosenstone should’ve been told that his contract wouldn’t be extended. Two MnSCU university presidents are ‘retiring’ rather than getting fired. Another president just cost his university hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and $100,000 in back pay for wrongfully terminating their head football coach.

Still, the Times is right that the MnSCU Board of Trustees disgraced themselves. Consider what they said in their evaluation of Chancellor Rosenstone:

In the public summary of the evaluation, Renier said Rosenstone excelled at focusing on the key question of what’s best for MnSCU students.

Renier also commended Rosenstone’s handling of a new strategic plan for MnSCU, “Charting the Future,” which calls for the system’s colleges and universities to work more collaboratively.

“We are extraordinarily enthusiastic about the new and powerful ways in which our colleges and universities have begun to work together under Chancellor Rosenstone’s leadership,” Renier said.

That’s astonishing. Chairman-Elect Renier is acting like Charting the Future has been implemented and that it’s producing incredible results. That isn’t close to the truth. Charting the Future is a document that hasn’t been implemented yet. What, exactly, is Chairman-Elect Renier gushing about?

The Board of Trustees’ performance review of Chancellor Rosenstone came months after they’d negotiated a contract extension. Given the difficulties within MnSCU, they should’ve written Chancellor Rosenstone’s performance review before authorizing Chairman Hightower to negotiate a new contract.

This recommendation isn’t satisfactory:

Gov. Mark Dayton and legislators should follow the dismay and disgust they expressed about the new contract with a new protocol for such contracts.

First, the legislature and the next governor should pay attention to what’s happening at MnSCU. That would be a major improvement from what they’ve done the last 4-8 years. Further, the DFL shouldn’t just throw more money at MnSCU. They’ve done that the last 2 year, then patted themselves on the back for what they did.

Meanwhile, they didn’t hold hearings on whether Chancellor Rosenstone deserved a contract extension. Obviously, the MnSCU Board of Trustees has the final say on that because they’re the part of the executive branch that deals with that. Still, holding hearings would’ve allowed public input on whether Rosenstone deserved another contract.

The Times’ brand of journalism is an indictment against institutional journalism. It’s just a matter of time before the Times is history.

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There was a time when Paul Krugman was considered a bight guy, especially when he talked economics. That Krugman doesn’t exist, at least not in public anymore. That Krugman disappeared when he decided it was more important to be a corrupt political hack than to be an expert economist.

Sadly, Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has been Krugman-ized. In his latest article, Ornstein’s disgusting ideology is displayed:

First, it is clear that this moves the Republican Party even further to the right, in approach, attitude and rhetoric. Even if the overwhelming majority of incumbents, including establishment ones, have won renomination, even if broader Republican public opinion is more establishment conservative than Tea Party radical, all it takes is an example or two of the opposite to get all politicians jumping at their shadows and muttering to themselves, “That could happen to me.”

The fact that Ornstein mentions TEA Party radical is proof that Ornstein is a political hack. Here’s what ‘radical’ Dave Brat believes:

We Believe:

That the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice,
That all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society,
That fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government,
That the Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing Constitutional limitations,
That peace is best preserved through a strong national defense,
That faith in God, as recognized by our Founding Fathers is essential to the moral fiber of the Nation.

Wow. I instantly felt tormented by Brat’s radicalism after reading those principles. NOT. If that’s Ornstein’s definition of radicalism, then that says that Ornstein’s the radical.

There was a time, back the country functioned properly, when adhering to these principles was totally uncontroversial. Unfortunately, that’s history, at least in the eyes of people like Ornstein, Krugman, not to mention President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Here’s another telling statement from Mr. Ornstein:

Cantor had put out a policy plan for June that has a bunch of symbolic actions and a few real policy advances. Now, that plan will surely be curtailed further. Action means government doing things, and the zeitgeist of the GOP now is not to have government doing anything except self-destructing.

First, Ornstein’s paranoid delusions shouldn’t be taken seriously. Republicans, including TEA Party activists, want government living within the Constitution’s limits. There’s no question that the Constitution is a radical document. It’s the only document like it in the history of the world because it says people give power in limited amounts to the government.

Other country’s governing documents say that a) power originates from the government and b) is given in limited amounts to the governed.

Second, it’s obvious that Ornstein hasn’t noticed that this administration is incredibly inept without the Republicans’ help. Government that’s run by people who love huge government, is utterly incompetent, not to mention totally corrupt.

Mr. Ornstein apparently is too busy criticizing people with legitimate complaints to notice the Obama administration’s ineptitude. He should stop being a political hack and start paying attention more. He’d have more credibility if he did.

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I’ve written ad nauseum about how environmental activists hate mining on the Iron Range. Rep. Jim Newberger’s Strib op-ed highlights how environmental activists hate coal-fired power plants in Central Minnesota, too:

Last year, the DFL majority forced Xcel Energy to adopt a 30 percent renewable energy standard by 2020. Now the Obama administration wants to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The war on coal has come home to Minnesota. Now let’s consider the cost.

Sherco, located in Becker, Minn., produces enough energy for almost half of our state and is the largest coal power plant in the Midwest. It produces 2,400 megawatts of electricity for more than 2.5 million people. That’s more power than both of Minnesota’s nuclear plants combined.

That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, though. Here’s more:

Sherco already meets or exceeds federal clean air standards, and it plans to spend hundreds of millions more for emissions scrubbers to further reduce its environmental impact. Leadership from the organization leading the charge to close Sherco, Beyond Coal, has publicly admitted that Sherco is “unbelievably clean.”

Beyond Coal is part of the Sierra Club’s war on energy:

Sierra Club Programs

Priority Campaigns

Beyond Coal
Beyond Oil
Beyond Natural Gas
Our Wild America

Check out this picture:

The Sierra Club isn’t hiding the fact that they’re pushing for a no-fossil-fuel energy world. That’s just the start. The Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter Executive Committee reads like a Who’s Who of the DFL:

John Hottinger

John Hottinger is a former Minnesota state senator and majority leader, representing constituents in Mankato. He brings a long history of public service and a deep interest in environment and conservation issues, particularly global warming, to the ExCom.

Javier Morillo-Alicea

Javier Morillo-Alicea is the president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26, which unites more than 5,000 property service workers in the Twin Cities metro area. Prior to being elected president of SEIU Local 26, he was a political organizer for the SEIU Minnesota State Council and served as State Director for the AFL-CIO’s Voter Protection Program. Morillo was previously a historian and anthropologist, teaching courses at Carleton and Macalester College. He is a Fulbright Scholar and has a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Yale University. He lives on the West Side of St. Paul with his partner of thirteen years.

Last Friday night, Javier Morillo-Alicea told his Almanac Political panelists that environmentalists and miners were “having a discussion” about precious metals mining. I suspect his definition of “having a discussion” on mining is what most people would call a step short of a civil war in the DFL.

The DFL’s alliance with organizations like Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and the Sierra Club should tell voters that, on issues like energy and mining jobs, the DFL is far outside Minnesota’s mainstream.

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Sen. Franken finally responded to the VA scandal:

Here’s what Sens. Franken and Klobuchar are really thinking:

Franken hasn’t yet called for Shinseki’s resignation, but he is among those pressing for more information. “It’s outrageous and disgraceful if there has been a cover up of that, and a secret list. I think we need to get to the bottom of this, and people need to be held accountable,” Franken told KARE.

Similarly, Klobuchar wants to know more about what actually happened before passing judgment on Shinseki. “I’m a prosecutor. I like to see the evidence. And as much as we love the news, we can’t base everything on news reports. We actually have to look at the facts on the ground,” she explained.

Ms. Prosecutor, here’s some evidence to consider. The VA has the authority to send veterans to private hospitals if VA hospitals can’t treat patients quickly enough. Under Gen. Shinseki’s administration, that wasn’t done. That’s proof he didn’t use the options available to him.

That’s reason enough to terminate Gen. Shinseki.

As for Sen. Klobuchar’s statement that “we can’t base everything on news reports”, I’d tell her to pass that word along to President Obama and Jay Carney. Apparently, President Obama hasn’t gotten briefed by the Treasury Secretary about the IRS scanda. Apparently, he didn’t get briefed by Hillary Clinton about the Benghazi cover-up. Now, he apparently didn’t get briefed by Gen. Shinseki about the VA crisis.

After all, Jay Carney said that President Obama learned about those things through the news.

Sen. Franken, if you don’t know what happened, how can you say that what happened is “outrageous and disgraceful”? Also, Sen. Franken, you say “if this happened” as though we don’t have proof. Dr. Foote is a whistleblower who came forward and told Congress that they’re cooking the books. Since then, more people have stepped forward with their stories. How much more eyewitness testimony is required before we admit that these are verified facts?

The truth is that Sen. Franken is trying to play this both ways. He’s expressing outrage while pretending that the allegations might not check out. Sen. Franken knows that the allegations have checked out. More than a dozen whistleblowers have stepped forward attesting to the VA’s practices.

It’s time for Sen. Franken and Sen. Klobuchar to admit that the federal government is terrible at providing health care. It’s time to change directions. It’s time to privatize the VA system.

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This video shows Rep. Jenifer Loon’s compelling case against the Met Council’s dictatorial authority:

If Rep. Loon is right that the Met Council has the authority to override elected officials’ votes on things like the Southwest Light Rail project, then that runs contrary to the principles that this nation was founded on.

This nation was built on the premise that decisions be made at the most local level of government. The Founding Fathers certainly didn’t write the Constitution to have unelected official who were weren’t accountable to anyone to be the final decisionmakers.

The truth is that this is pretty straightforward. People who’ve been elected by the people in their communities should make the decisions. People appointed by Minnesota’s governor, whether the governor is a Republican or a Democrat, shouldn’t make the final decision.

In fact, gubernatorial appointees shouldn’t have the authority to overrule elected officials in making financial transactions. A compelling argument can be made that the Met Council shouldn’t exist in its current form. That isn’t the same as saying there aren’t important decisions that they make.

Actually, that’s the problem. If a group of cities wants to establish a joint governing council on things like light rail projects, that should be encouraged with the provision that the people sitting on that joint council are elected by the citizens they represent.

The Met Council is government at its worst. It’s unaccountable. It has the authority to override the decisions of elected officials. It can raise taxes without the consent of the governed. The appointees to the Council aren’t even subject to confirmation hearings and votes.

Those things make it the definition of being anti-American.

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First, I’ll stipulate that the St. Cloud Times is improving their reporting. Before anyone gets worried that I’m going soft on them, I’ll stipulate that the Times’ reporting couldn’t get lower than before because their reporting on St. Cloud issues didn’t exist.

Dave Unze’s article contains some legitimate facts. Unfortunately, it contains lots of old-fashioned BS, too:

The leadership at St. Cloud State has cited, among other things, challenging economic times, fewer Minnesota high school graduates and competition from North Dakota and Minnesota State University, Mankato as some of the reasons for the enrollment declines.

For the most part, these excuses aren’t legitimate. The only thing that’s true is that there are “fewer Minnesota high school graduates.” It’s true that SCSU is losing its competition with Mankato and North Dakota universities. That’s because students are rejecting SCSU. There was a time when central Minnesota principles had a positive opinion of SCSU. That helped direct lots of students to SCSU. An ‘enrollment pipeline’ developed as a result of that relationship.

That relationship has deteriorated under President Potter’s failed leadership. President Potter has spent tons of time travelling the world to get students to come to SCSU. Unfortunately, he hasn’t paid attention to exotic places like Annandale, Alexandria and Brainerd.

This information is BS, too:

The university runs forecasting models to predict the number of new entering first-year students based on a number of factors, including high school class rankings of applicants, the distance from St. Cloud State that those applicants live, the time of year they apply and whether they attend student advising days, among other things.

Students are assigned an enrollment probability number that is influenced by factors such as when they applied, whether they were admitted to the ACE program, whether they filled out a housing application, whether they attended a student advising session and whether they listed St. Cloud State first as their preferred school on any financial aid forms they fill out.

That information is matched with probability tables and the university gets a weekly prediction of what the size of the incoming class will be.

Potter said that the modeling can predict an incoming class to within a few dozen students.

First, it’s true that SCSU uses data analytics. What isn’t true is that they’ve predicted incoming classes “within a few dozen students.” The first enrollment projection for FY2014 forecast a drop of 2.4%. The next forecast projected a drop of 2.8%-3.2%.

Let’s stop and examine that for a moment before moving on. President Potter or one of his spinmeisters might tell us that that’s less than a 1% difference. They’d be right technically but they’d be exceptionally misleading. It’s exceptionally misleading from the standpoint of actual math. A jump from 2.4% to 3.2% is actually a 33.3% jump. (3.2%- 2.4% = .8; .8 divided by 2.4 = 33.3%)

Unfortunately for President Potter’s supposedly super-accurate forecasting system, enrollment is down almost 5% this FY. That means their initial forecast was off by over 100%. President Potter’s forecast wasn’t even in the park. That’s true even if that park was Yellowstone.

To summarize, this is what happens when the ‘reporter’ doesn’t ask tough questions. It’s what happens when the ‘reporter’ is more interested in gathering information than he’s interested in getting the whole truth. At the start of the new year, John Bodette promised more investigative reporting. We’re still waiting for that first investigative report.

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The Iron Range branch office of the DFL, aka the IRRRB, just announced that it’s spending taxpayers’ money on a bankrupt business venture:

EVELETH, Minn.— Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) Commissioner Tony Sertich today announced that New Partners Consultants, Inc. will operate a call center for its customers at Progress Park in Eveleth. The company is finalizing plans to lease the space that formerly housed Meyer Associates, Inc. New Partners will utilize some equipment from the Meyer operation, which is currently under IRRRB’s ownership. Staffing will begin as soon as all agreements are in place, possibly as early as next week.

“We are pleased to have played a role in facilitating the reopening of the center,” said Sertich. “This project will result in new job opportunities, particularly for those displaced by the Meyer closing.”

Sertich recognized Gilbert native Jerry Samargia of New Partners, stating, “I am thankful to Jerry for investing in the center and the people of the Iron Range.”

He also praised Virginia Eveleth Economic Development Authority representatives and Gary Owen, former owner of Meyer, for putting a deal together in such a short time.

New Partners isn’t well-known. I think it’s time it got some notoriety. Here’s what New Partners is in their own words:

New Partners is more than just a new firm with new people and new ideas. We also represent a new way of doing business. Whether the goal is to win an election, affect reputation, organize an advocacy campaign, raise money, or build a movement, our extensive expertise and groundbreaking strategies will get results.

We are all operating in a new environment based on a fundamental shift in how we organize, how we communicate and how we advocate. From the campaign that defeated President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security, and implementing Governor Howard Dean’s landmark 50 State Strategy, to spearheading an innovative and successful development effort for the One Campaign, and the unprecedented Iowa caucus campaign that led to President Obama’s breakthrough victory, the team at New Partners has been at the epicenter of that shift.

What we have learned from our experience is that no two issues, organizations or campaigns are the same. Each requires a unique approach based on new ideas and new strategies that will lead to new results.

That means that the IRRRB is spending taxpayers’ money on a company committed to electing Democrats. The list of New Partners’ leadership reads like a who’s who from the Obama campaign.

If the Democratic Party want to put an organization together, that’s their right. It’s just that this type of operation shouldn’t be paid for by taxpayers. And there’s no question it’s being funded by taxpayers. That’s the IRRRB’s way. The IRRRB hasn’t met a project benefitting the Democratic Party that they didn’t like.

The DNC should finance this operation. Minnesota taxpayers shouldn’t finance it. Having taxpayers finance the DNC’s operations is the definition of crony capitalism meeting single party government. That’s the definition of corruption.

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