Search
Archives
Categories

Archive for the ‘Cronyism’ Category

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.”

What?

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.

Barbara Banaian’s monthly column highlights the arrogance of the St. Cloud School Board while highlighting the fact that the school board hasn’t examined all of the different options available with regard to Tech High School.

If I sound like a broken record on the subject, it’s because the School Board hasn’t changed its plan much. They haven’t explained why a new Tech High School needs to be built. Based on some of the comments by a school board member, it’s apparent that they don’t think they need to justify their actions.

Mrs. Banaian nails the crux of the problem when she wrote “We can all agree they can’t make do with Tech in its current condition. But should we pay to build a new high school? The proposed new Tech is slightly smaller and slightly less expensive than the one rejected in the 2015 vote. The school board and interested parties have invested time and money in a detailed design for a new building. But what have they given for the option to renovate Tech?”

Then Mrs. Banaian drops the hammer:

A scant “cost opinion” based on what contractor R.A. Morton said was “limited information.” “A complete facility assessment would be required to accurately assess the mechanical, electrical and structural conditions of the existing building. An educational assessment would be required to assess the flow, function and viability of educational programming of any renovations completed,” Morton wrote to the board June 2.

When the contractor indicates that they couldn’t do a legitimate estimate because of “limited information”, that’s proof that the School Board isn’t interested in finding out how much a Tech renovation would cost. When the Board cites a “cost opinion”, it should be rejected as worthless.

This is the same problem that Claire VanderEyk and Sarah Murphy ran into when they looked into the situation.

There’s a two-step solution to this situation. The first step is in voting no against the Tech referendum. The other step is in electing members to the school board that will actually address citizens’ questions. The School Board, as currently configured, is nothing more than a rubber stamp for the ‘education community’. We need citizen leadership, not vested special interests. This group should be voted out of office ASAP:

Eliminating the Board’s institutional arrogance is the only way to fix this problem.

Saying that Laura Ingraham isn’t honest isn’t easy for me to say. Still, it’s what I must do after reading her latest pro-Trump spin piece. It isn’t that I disagree with everything in her article. I’d be lying if I said she’s constantly dishonest. Still, I can’t sit silent after she said “I, too, would have preferred an ideal candidate who would unite us and cruise to an easy win over Hillary. Unfortunately, the conservative movement failed to field such a candidate. Much of this is due to the fact that many so-called conservatives, and their enablers in the donor class, wasted their time and money promoting the candidacies of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, two men who were, and are, utterly unacceptable to almost all actual voters in the Republican Party.”

While there’s no disputing the fact that large parts of the GOP rejected Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, it’s equally true that they were significantly more qualified, and more honest, than the GOP’s presumptive nominee. Further, Trump has been rejected by a large percentage of “actual voters in the Republican Party.” He just wasn’t rejected by as many people as Bush or Rubio.

This paragraph can’t go unquestioned:

First, some NeverTrumpers (like the Bush family) violently disagree with Trump on issues relating to immigration, trade, and foreign policy. In each of these key issues, however, Trump represents the traditional views of conservatives like Ronald Reagan, while the supporters of Bushism are locked into an extremist ideology that makes no sense in theory, and has been a disaster in practice.

That’s breathtakingly dishonest. The only other explanation is that Ms. Ingraham is just stupid. Since she once clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas, it’s a safe bet that she isn’t stupid.

Saying that Trump’s foreign policy is identical to Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy is like saying that an arsonist’s goals are essentially the same as the firefighters’ goals. First, when did President Reagan ask President Gorbachev to squash America’s enemies? When did President Reagan think it was wise to give the Soviet Union free run in the Middle East? When did President Reagan insist that we were getting screwed by other countries? When did President Reagan insist that America couldn’t compete with the world if our taxes were low and our regulations were reasonable?

The answer to these questions is simple: never.

Further, saying that Trump’s foreign policy is virtually identical to President Reagan’s is saying that Trump has carefully thought through what he’d do. How does that square with Trump telling a rally that he’d “bomb the s—” out of ISIS, then telling a national audience during a debate that he’d get President Putin to take ISIS out?

The reality is that Ms. Ingraham isn’t being honest with her readers or with us. That’s a sad thing because she used to be a person of integrity. I wish that woman hadn’t disappeared.

What’s happening in Prior Lake-Savage school district needs to be highlighted to the rest of Minnesota. This article asks 3 important questions, each of which deserve answers. The first question in Hannah Jones’ article asks “Is the district trying to influence students to vote ‘yes’ by giving referendum presentations during the school day?”

What’s appalling is that the answer is “During the senior meeting, much of the time was devoted to issues like prom safety and graduation ceremony preparation, but during the last six minutes or so of the program, Superintendent Teri Staloch introduced herself to the students, congratulated them on their impending graduation and showed them the district’s four-minute video presentation on the upcoming election. She also asked how many students in the audience were 18 and old enough to vote. It may not be typical for the school to show informational material on a referendum election during a student meeting, but that, Lund said, is because it’s not typical to have a referendum question on the ballot during springtime.”

Then there’s this tasty tidbit:

If they happen to meet during a fall election season, Lund said, he will encourage students to vote.

This sounds like the school district’s attempt to railroad high school students into voting for the bonding referendum. The bond is for $129,000,000. If that sounds like it’ll lead to a huge property tax increase, that’s because it’ll lead to a huge property tax increase. Here’s an additional question that the school district hasn’t answered: has the district looked into whether this could be done less expensively? Here’s another question: Has the district just accepted Nexus Solutions’ influence into this project? They’ve got an interest in this, a very big interest in this:

Nexus Solutions will be compensated at 2.25 percent of the total cost of program management, 7.95 percent of the cost of architectural services, 8.95 percent of the cost of engineering services, 2.5 percent of the cost of commissioning services and 5.75 percent of construction management services.

The reason why this question is important is because of how the school board reacted when their contract with Nexus was questioned:

When “Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board, Member Melissa Enger asked to re-examine the Nexus contracts,” the board “tensely shut down the conversation by taking a quorum on the subject. A majority voted to go with the day’s agenda rather than getting into the contract.”

Prior Lake-Savage voters should reject the referendum just on the basis that their school board is attempting to hide important details from making their way into the discussion. Why else would they shut this line of questioning down that quickly?

Another reason to reject this referendum is highlighted by this question in Hannah Jones’ article: Why is the referendum in May? The spin from Superintendent Staloch is insulting:

Spring is a less expected time to hold an election, which some residents have questioned. Staloch said district officials chose May 24 for the date to expedite the construction process, given that the referendum passes.

“Due to the current and projected rise in student enrollment, coupled with the fact that building construction for a new elementary school would take two years, the school board made the decision to place the referendum question before voters as early as possible,” she said. “If voters approve the referendum, a new elementary school would open for the 2018-2019 school year. If we waited until November to place the question before voters, we would not be able to open the new school until 2019-2020.”

Simply put, that’s rubbish. The reason the school board opted for a May 24th vote is to keep turnout as low as possible. They don’t want the vote to happen in November because that means they’d have to deal with lots more voters. They’d prefer keeping turnout low so that those in the ‘education industry’ will outnumber citizens.

This post is proof that progressives aren’t interested in having an honest conversation about policy. First, Sen. Stumpf saying that “we have a responsibility in the state of Minnesota to take care of property, the things that the public owns, to make our economy keep moving along” is intellectually dishonest.

It isn’t that Republicans don’t think that government shouldn’t maintain essential infrastructure. It’s that Republicans think that projects, like bridges, are multi-generational and shouldn’t be paid for with tax increases that are paid for by this generation. Republicans think bonding makes sense because multiple generations pay for a multi-generational piece of infrastructure.

Ms. Bierschbach wasn’t being honest when she said that “But that’s not how House Republicans see things. Many of them consider borrowing for infrastructure just more government spending, akin to credit card debt.” That’s false. The best way to illustrate the absurdity of that statement is by applying certain principles from home life. It’s one thing for a couple with a good credit rating and money in the bank to take out a mortgage to buy a home. It’s quite another to make frequent use of a high-interest credit card to pay for day-to-day things.

State bonding for things like museums, civic centers and hockey arenas isn’t wise. State bonding for things like highways and other critical infrastructure should be prioritized. It’s that simple.

Further, it doesn’t make sense to raise taxes to pay for building multi-generational pieces of infrastructure. Similarly, taking on long-term debt to pay for things like civic centers, museums, etc. is foolish, too.

Finally, it’s time to rethink the criteria we use for bonding projects.

It’s long been known that Sartell residents would be asked to approve a bonding referendum that would increase school capacity. This was known since before ISD 742 voters rejected their referendum last November. This morning’s St. Cloud Times Our View Editorial has some important information in it that Sartell residents should discuss.

Specifically, the Times editorial says that Sartell-St. Stephen school district residents “will be asked May 24 to cast ballots on a $105.8 million bond referendum” and that “enrollment is projected to grow 8 percent between now and 2026.” There’s little doubt that Sartell’s population is growing and that that population growth will necessitate increasing school capacity. What isn’t known is whether they need to spend $105,800,000 on the initiative.

After the ISD 742 bonding referendum was defeated, Kevin Allenspach wrote this article, which I quoted from in this post. The important information from Allenspach’s article came when Sarah Murphy and Claire VanderEyk, who are both Tech graduates and architects, said that Tech could be renovated for less than $20,000,000. At the time, the school board said repairing the building would cost $85,000,000 to fix the building up for a decade.

Something tells me that Sartell’s $105,800,000 price tag is inflated.

If I was advising Steven Rosenstone, the ‘retiring’ MnSCU chancellor, about communications, I’d quickly teach him the first rule of holes. The first rule of holes is simple. If you’re in one, stop digging. I’d add that, if you ignore the first rule of holes, the second rule is similar but more urgent. The second rule of holes is that if you’re in one and you’ve refused to stop digging, stop digging ASAP.

While explaining why MnSCU has spent $617,000 on rebranding MnSCU, Chancellor Rosenstone recently said that “brand research has found the MnSCU name to be confusing. He said the system must be able to communicate the benefits of attending one of its schools.”

This is consultant-driven thinking. Another term for consultant-driven thinking is stupidity. If MnSCU stopped spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants, administrators and rebranding efforts, they could direct more money towards great professors. That, in turn, would trigger better student outcomes and higher placement rates after graduation.

Academic reputation and high placement rates after graduation is more effective in turning MnSCU around. Students and parents don’t spend much time sitting at the kitchen table wondering whether the student will be able to transfer from Metropolitan State to Moorhead. They spend their time figuring out which university will give them the skills they need to get a high-paying job. Brandon Johnson and Gloria Kaul-Kennedy have figured it out. They’re both students. Here’s what Johnson said:

It cost $272,000 for someone to come up with a name they got from a ‘Coach’ rerun?

Here’s what Ms. Kaul-Kennedy said:

The money could be well spent on many other things. The name change will mean nothing to 99.99 percent of the people. Don’t the administrators have other things to spend their expensive time on?

Ms. Kaul-Kennedy’s statement and question instantly put a smile on my face because she’s figured out what’s a priority to her and what’s foolishness. Here’s hoping that the consultants and administrators don’t negatively influence her thinking.

Technorati: , , , , , , , , ,

Last night, during Special Report’s first segment of the All Star Panel, Bret Baier spoke to the complexities of the delegate selection process. While some states’ rules are complex, most are exceptionally straightforward.

Moe Lane’s post explain the true complexities of West Virginia’s delegate election system. With few exceptions, though, the delegate election process is pretty straightforward. To people who’ve participated in the process, in fact, it’s pretty routine. Honestly, it doesn’t require years of study to figure it out.

What’s upsetting to me is the dishonesty Trump is using in portraying the system as being run by DC insiders and Wall Street fat cats. Recently, he’s hinted that that’s who runs the delegate selection process. It’s time to tell that filthy liar to either tell the truth or to shut up. He’s even had the audacity to ask people how that’s worked out for them.

The truth is that Donald Trump has been part of the problem for a very long time. During the first GOP presidential debate, Trump bragged that he’d bought politicians with campaign contributions so that they’d do whatever he told them to do:

In 2006, Donald Trump contributed to the DCCC and the DSCC. In 2010, thanks in part to Trump’s campaign contributions, Democrats that Trump supported passed universal health care. Prior to his becoming a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, Trump enthusiastically supported universal health care.

To the people who got kicked off the policies that they were satisfied with but weren’t allowed to keep, how’s that working out? The next time you hear Donald Trump, think of how much better your life would be if he hadn’t contributed to Democrats.

Donald Trump isn’t part of the solution. He’s been part of the problem for 20+ years. For him to now put himself forward as the solution to Washington cronyism is beyond laughable. I can’t wait until after the California primary. If Trump hasn’t secured the nomination, expect the super PACs to hit Trump hard on this subject.

Further, Sen. Cruz’s campaign will hit Trump hard for his shifting views on abortion and transgender ‘rights’.

Finally, expect a bloodbath this November if Trump is the nominee. The #NeverTrump movement might not be as potent as the TEA Party was in 2009-10 but it’s still awfully potent. Voting for a northeast liberal who contributed to Democrats isn’t something that principled conservatives will do.

Anyone who’s read LFR knows that I’m not a fan of the IRRRB. Likewise, if you’ve read my Examiner article knows that I’ve pulled lots of information together that verifies that the IRRRB has failed. This afternoon, a loyal reader of LFR sent me this article about the IRRRB’s outright corruption. Saying that this friend of LFR isn’t a conservative is understatement. He’s a Bernie Sanders guy.

The thing that jumps out at me from the article is how the Iron Range delegation have used their positions on the IRRRB board to torment cities who don’t cheerfully submit to the will of the IRRRB board. For instance, the article says that former State Rep. Tommie Rukavina “has been outspoken in dealing with township officials opposed to [new sulfide] mining, again using the threat of IRRRB funding.”

I get it that Commissioner Rukavina is one of the strongest mining advocates in Minnesota. I’ve written about Commissioner Rukavina’s fight for mining in this article.

It’s one thing to be a mining advocate. That’s justifiable. What isn’t justifiable is threatening to withhold IRRRB funding if you don’t toe the pro-mining line. That’s a slippery way of doing things but it’s still corruption.

Here’s what “the late Rep. David Dill” said about withholding IRRRB funding:

There are times when Senator Bakk and myself [sic] have to fight and answer questions from core Iron Range legislators as to why Cook County should get taconite tax dollars when they hear anti-mining rhetoric from some citizens in Cook County.

Legislators are listening to the mining debate [about sulfide mining] going on in Cook County and elections have consequences. The rail harbor has been shut down for years. The power plant is reducing its output and with generator No. 3 scheduled to be closed in the future there will be more questions. The loss of millions of production tax dollars a year would be devastating to businesses, Grand Marais, the school and the county. The local boards would have very tough decisions to make.

Other counties have stayed in the service area after mining has left their communities. Those communities have realized the benefit it is to be a part of a “mining region” and likewise have supported mining.

It’s pretty clear that these legislators that have comprised the IRRRB board are playing hardball with Iron Range and Arrowhead communities. One wonders if there’s a correlation between the IRRRB playing hardball and the poverty rates on the Range and in Minnesota’s Arrowhead.

Technorati: , , , , , , , , ,