Archive for the ‘Iron Range’ Category

According to this article, the DFL’s leadership might become further metrocentric. To those that think that wasn’t possible, that’s understandable. Of the 7-person DFL Senate leadership team, 1 person is from northwest Minnesota (Kent Eken) and another person (Tom Bakk) is from northeast Minnesota. The other 5 people (Susan Kent, who is challenging Bakk for Minority Leader, Jeffrey Hayden, Carolyn Laine, John Hoffman and Ann Rest) are from the Twin Cities. By comparison, the 9-person GOP leadership team represents the entire state.

In particular, Bakk’s positions on northeastern Minnesota mining issues have run afoul of environmentalists who are an important part of the DFL coalition. Kent’s challenge came to light days after Bakk came under fire from environmentalists for telling a group of business and political leaders in Ely that the controversial Twin Metals copper-nickel mine proposal on the Iron Range will not be stopped by a state environmental review. “Now it might take a decade or more,” Bakk said, “but the process isn’t intended to stop projects.”

Bakk’s opposition to stronger gun laws also put him at odds with colleagues from Minneapolis, St. Paul and their suburbs, deepening a long-simmering intraparty rift. Bakk has long been a fixture in the politics of northern Minnesota, a region that was once a DFL stronghold and which has drifted increasingly toward the Republican Party in recent elections.

In other words, Sen. Bakk is too moderate for DFL Metrocrats. DFL Metrocrats passionately hate mining. In fact, the only thing that DFL Metrocrats hate more than mining is the Second Amendment. Apparently, Tom Bakk isn’t leftist enough for the DFL Metrocrats’ liking.

The brewing leadership fight has played out largely out of public view, with several DFL senators declining to comment publicly for this story. It comes as Senate Democrats prepare for a 2020 election cycle in which they will attempt to overturn Republicans’ current 35-32 majority.

With the DFL’s divisions, the DFL should be worried in 2020. DFL turnout in 2018 was almost as high as it is for a presidential election. In 2020, Republican turnout will be higher than it was in 2018. It’ll be difficult for the DFL turnout to be much higher.

This begs the question of whether the DFL can gain seats in either the House or Senate. I wouldn’t bet on it, especially if the DFL essentially tells the Iron Range that they aren’t welcome in the DFL anymore.

This article asks an important question for the Democrat presidential nominee and the DFL Senator. It’s an article about the Line 3 Pipeline project.

It starts by saying “MINNEAPOLIS — A divisive fight over the future of a crude-oil pipeline across Minnesota is pinning presidential candidates between environmentalists and trade unions in a 2020 battleground state, testing their campaign promises to ease away from fossil fuels.” Then it states something controversial, saying “Progressive candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have condemned a Canadian company’s plan to replace its old and deteriorating Line 3 pipeline, which carries Canadian crude across the forests and wetlands of northern Minnesota and into northern Wisconsin. They’ve sided with environmental and tribal groups that have been trying to stop the project for years, arguing that the oil should stay in the ground. Other candidates, including home-state Sen. Amy Klobuchar and front-runner Joe Biden, have remained largely silent, mindful that such projects are viewed as job creators for some of the working-class voters they may need to win the state next year.”

I must take issue with this statement:

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and front-runner Joe Biden, have remained largely silent, mindful that such projects are viewed as job creators for some of the working-class voters they may need to win the state next year.

Oh really, Joe? Then what did you mean at this campaign event?

Ending fossil fuels necessarily requires being opposed to the Line 3 Pipeline project because the Line 3 Pipeline project carries fossil fuels. Democrats don’t want to admit that because Democrats want to appease both construction workers and environmental activists simultaneously. That’s impossible because those organizations fit together like oil and water. (Pardon the metaphor but I couldn’t resist.)

I’d also reject the notion that Sen. Klobuchar has stayed neutral, as this suggests:

Klobuchar has also avoided taking a position. She has said she wants to ensure a thorough environmental and scientific review to determine if the Line 3 project should move forward. Minnesota regulators signed off on the main environmental review last year, although an appeals court has ordered additional study on the potential impacts to the Lake Superior watershed. But she recently returned $5,600 in donations from an Enbridge project manager after a liberal watchdog group, the Public Accountability Initiative, revealed them.

Sen. Klobuchar knows that that’s BS. The Line 3 has already gone through the entire permitting process, including getting the approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The only step left is for the lawsuits to get settled. Enbridge played by the rules laid out by the legislature and signed by the governor.

Jason Lewis put things beautifully when he announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate:

When Republican Jason Lewis launched his U.S. Senate campaign at the Minnesota State Fair, the former congressman said he would focus on greater Minnesota — the mostly rural part outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul area — to make up for Democratic strength in the cities. He highlighted the 8th Congressional District, which covers northeastern Minnesota and has swung from blue to red. Lewis said Trump’s campaign is “dead serious about Minnesota,” and that he expects it to follow the same strategy.

“Greater Minnesota is turning red, deep red. I don’t know how a Democrat’s going to win the 8th District promising to give pink slips to every trade union member on the Iron Range, promising to stop Enbridge, to stop copper mining, to stop logging, to stop people from having jobs on the Iron Range,” Lewis said.

The DFL is almost ceding rural Minnesota legislative districts while becoming more and more metrocentric. If the DFL continues siding with environmental activists and against the construction unions, they won’t win many elections in rural Minnesota. The truth is that the DFL isn’t interested in farmers or laborers, aka the F-L in DFL.

If President Trump highlights the differences between the DFL’s broken promises to farmers and laborers vs. President Trump’s promises made and promises kept on the issue of slapping tariffs on China to prevent steel dumping, he’ll make Minnesota competitive again.

Democrats love saying that budgets are moral documents. Democrats then say that budgets reflect our priorities. If that’s true, which I think it kinda is, then Tina Smith’s budget priorities are disgusting. As Minnesota’s junior senator, she’s opposed all projects that would’ve helped the people of northern Minnesota. That isn’t opinion. It’s fact. She’s fought the Line 3 Pipeline. She’s opposed the PolyMet and Twin Metals mining projects.

Just those projects alone would’ve had the opportunity to transform the Iron Range from a region with sky-high poverty rates and a virtually nonexistent middle class into a prospering region of the state. The median household income in Virginia, MN is $36,327, compared with the statewide average of $65,699. The percentage of people living below the Federal Poverty Level in Minnesota is 10.5%, compared with 24% living below the FPL in Virginia, MN.

While visiting southern Minnesota, Sen. Smith said “I think at the end of the day, I’m just thinking about what Minnesotans are thinking about, which is prescription drug costs being too high, how can they get the kind of amazing workforce training that they need to get great jobs like they can get here at Red Wing Shoes, and that’s where I’m going to stay focused as long as I can.”

If Smith was honest, which she isn’t, she’d admit that she’s thinking about what Minnesotans are thinking about as long as they aren’t living in rural Minnesota. That isn’t just true now that she’s a US senator. It was true in her time as Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor. It was true when she was Gov. Dayton’s chief of staff.

Writing off a huge geographical part of the state, including the part that feeds the rest of the state, is disgusting. Still, that’s what Tina Smith is doing. That’s been a staple of her political life for years.

If Smith won’t pay attention to rural Minnesota, she should get fired next November. Tina Smith isn’t about doing the right thing for the entire state. Tina Smith and the DFL is only interested in doing what’s best for the metro DFL. That’s why the DFL has lost the farm vote and the laborer vote. When the Metro DFL unanimously opposes the Line 3 Pipeline, which provides the vast majority of jet fuel for Minneapolis International Airport, they’re saying that serving their special interest masters is more important than doing right by the biggest airport in Minnesota.

How foolish is that? Does that like the decision that a person who is “just thinking about what Minnesotans are thinking?” I’m betting that a significant majority of Minnesotans would disagree with Tina Smith and the Democrats on that issue.

It’s time to fire the DFL, Tina Smith included. The DFL’s priorities, like Tina Smith’s priorities, increasingly aren’t Minnesota’s priorities.

After the Metro DFL’s attempt to rewrite the mining permitting process, Iron Range politicians banded together to fire back at the anti-mining DFL politicians, even producing this factsheet to refute the Metro DFL’s lies.

John Marty, the crusading DFL legislator who never misses an opportunity to control other people’s lives, insists that PolyMet’s permits should be pulled because PolyMet’s parent company had a problem in South America. What Sen. Marty and other DFL legislators are attempting to do is rewrite permitting laws without going through the legislative process. These DFL politicians hope that they can talk Gov. Walz into ignoring existing state laws. But I digress. Onto the Iron Range factsheet:

The claims by metro legislators and anti-mining groups about PolyMet Mining are downright fabrications. It is very disappointing that people don’t know or don’t care what our strong rules and regulations require, and that the media continues to perpetuate the misinformation. The people of the Iron Range deserve better. The people of the state of Minnesota deserve better. There is no scandal. The agencies have done their jobs. The letter of the law was followed to a “T”. Enough of the fake news already. Here are the facts:

Fact: Our DNR required PolyMet Mining to post bankruptcy proof of financial assurance (only accessible by the DNR) before they even issued PolyMet’s permit to mine. It doesn’t matter who or what the ownership looks like the resources needed to close the mine if the company went bankrupt are currently in place and only the state can release the funds.

The Metro DFL is trying to relitigate this issue without the courts. If he had a spine, Gov. Walz would tell these busybody activists to take flying leap off a tall building. Thus far, Gov. Walz has shown he doesn’t have a spine. He’s got a spine of jello.

Fact: PolyMet has undergone the most thorough and transparent environmental review and permitting process more than any other project ever in our state. Extra-long public review periods, with thousands of public comments, all of which were responded to, and extra meetings were held around the state including the Twin Cities. When was the last time a project in the Twin Cities was required to hold public meetings on the Iron Range?

The Metro DFL doesn’t care about the Iron Range. They don’t care about Minnesota’s economy, either. Based on their actions, they only care about obstructing commerce.

The thing that the Twin Cities media doesn’t cover is that the Metro DFL doesn’t just care about regulating mining. They want to turn Minnesota into a regulation state. Here are the legislators who signed onto the factsheet:

One of the things that businesses should count on is that they shouldn’t have their projects shelved if they follow the rules. Apparently, that isn’t good enough for the anti-mining DFL. According to this Strib article, far outside-the-mainstream DFL politicians want PolyMet’s permits stopped:

Democratic lawmakers are calling for Gov. Tim Walz to suspend all state permits for PolyMet’s proposed copper-nickel mine in northern Minnesota, saying the state needs assurances “that the permits were not rigged.”

It’s the first move by lawmakers following recent disclosures about how state and federal regulators handled a crucial wastewater permit for PolyMet, which would be the state’s first hard-rock mine. Three inquiries into that episode are underway. Sen. John Marty, the Roseville Democrat leading the effort, said lawmakers were also motivated by Glencore’s recent purchase of PolyMet Mining Corp. and the catastrophic failure earlier in the year of an iron ore mine tailings dam in Brazil, a facility with a similar design to the tailings dam PolyMet would use.

Democrats have fought against PolyMet permitting since it started. This is just their latest attempt to halt the PolyMet project. It’s also the DFL’s latest attempt to keep Iron Rangers poor.

It’s apparent that the DFL doesn’t care whether those living on the Iron Range live in poverty. If the DFL cared about people living in poverty, they would’ve helped get PolyMet permitted years ago.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, called the letter an “ideological attack.” “It’s disappointing that Metro Democrats are spreading misleading and false information about the environmental review process in an effort to derail this project and its tremendous benefits for Minnesota jobs and Minnesota’s economy,” Daudt said in a statement. “PolyMet is the most thoroughly reviewed industrial project in Minnesota history and has been going through the environmental review process for 14 years.”

When companies follow the state’s laws and the permits are issued, companies should be able to rely on that as a matter of good faith. Sen. Marty’s attempt to throw extra-legal steps into the process would make him an authoritarian. If Sen. Marty wants a stiffer set of regulations, then he should be required to follow the regular legislative procedure. If the rules can get changed by politicians without legislation or without a hearing, then there isn’t a true rule of law.

Then again, if Sen. Marty and the DFL is willing to ignore state law in their attempt to kill a properly permitted project, there’s no reason to think that they’ll follow routine procedures. This is Metrocrat machine politics at its worst.

Perhaps, it’s more fitting to title this article “The Swamp lives in Minnesota. After writing about the IRRRB’s corruption in this post a month ago, I can’t say that I’m surprised by this information:

This week, it was revealed that the [IRRRB] paid a long-time staffer $166,000 to retire early and then hired him back as a consultant just one month later for up to $43,000 per year. The retirement payoff consisted in $66,000 in unused vacation and sick days as well as nearly $100,000 in cash!

If I didn’t know better, I’d think that the DFL, starting with Tom Bakk and Tim Walz, have turned a blind eye to the IRRRB’s corruption. How can anyone watch what’s happening there think that the DFL is interested in good governance? Further, what type of law permits a government employee to retire early, cash a huge check ($166,000 is a big chunk of money), then allow the ‘retired’ employee to get rehired as a ‘consultant’? That’s stupidity and then some.

If an employee wants to retire early, they should be forced to sign an agreement that forbids them from being hired as a consultant anywhere. At minimum, if the ‘retired’ employee is rehired as a consultant, then their pension should be immediately stopped and they should be penalized.

That shouldn’t apply just to IRRRB employees, either. That should apply to all government employees, whether they’re school board employees, municipal employees or all the way up through state employees. In fact, the cleanest way to deal with this is to prohibit people from retiring early. If a person wants to retire at age 55, let them foot the bill for their retirement until they get to age 62.

The IRRRB needs a major overhaul. It’s been corrupt essentially since its creation.

This article highlights a DFL ‘tradition’ of taking credit for cleaning up a mess that they created. When DFL Gov. Walz started filling out his cabinet, he picked Mark Phillips to be the Commissioner of the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation. Then Phillips hired Joe Radinovich, the DFL congressional candidate for CD-8 in 2018, to a cushy political patronage job on the IRRRB that would’ve paid Radinovich a $100,000 annual salary.

Enter our fearless hero, Gov. Walz, to deliver a tongue-lashing for the ages. Gov. Walz said “I expect you to model openness, transparency, inclusivity and servant leadership. In this situation, you fell far short of my expectations.”

Gov. Walz, you fell far short of our expectations. How dare you appoint a commissioner that’s that corrupt. How dare you not do your due diligence before picking a commissioner to lead a board known for its corruption. This article highlights one instance of IRRRB corruption:

It’s an issue we’ve raised before, as recently as last year. The principle of the separation of powers that guides our government at both the state and federal levels, would appear to prohibit the structure now in place at the IRRRB, where a board comprised primarily of sitting legislators has authority over an executive branch agency. The legislative auditor, in his report this past week, agreed that the current makeup of the board leaves the agency vulnerable to a court challenge on constitutional grounds.

But the makeup of the current board raises other concerns beyond a simple legal dispute. By giving local legislators control of the purse strings for millions of dollars in funding for community and economic development projects within the Taconite Relief Area, the IRRRB helps to cement the status quo rather than encourage new ideas and leadership at a time when alternative visions are definitely needed. As we’ve noted before, giving Iron Range legislators outsized political clout tends to stifle dissenting voices from other elected officials in our region for fear that projects in their communities will be denied funds. There are reasons why the political class on the Iron Range marches in virtual lockstep to the agenda of the region’s legislators, and their control over IRRRB funds is certainly one of the most powerful.

This ‘arrangement’ put legislators in charge of both the appropriations process in the legislature and the handing out of loans from the IRRRB. It’s unconstitutional to be a member of the executive branch and the legislative branch.

Had Gov. Walz paid attention to details like that, we wouldn’t have had these problems. Gov. Walz, this is as much your fault for not paying attention to the people you hired as it is Commissioner Phillips’ fault for not prioritizing integrity in the hiring process.

Saying that the IRRRB is corrupt is understatement. Thanks to this investigation, that corruption has gotten exposed.

The article starts by saying “For more than 20 years, Sandy Layman, of Grand Rapids, has worked to convince lawmakers in St. Paul that the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation is more than a revolving door of political patronage for Iron Range DFLers. Layman, now a Republican House member, first served on the IRRR board in the 1990s and later became commissioner of the agency under Gov. Tim Pawlenty. ‘One of my goals has always been to depoliticize the agency,’ said Layman during a recent interview with the Timberjay. ‘It has a highly partisan reputation in St. Paul.'”

It goes further:

Which is why Layman says she is so frustrated with the agency’s recent hiring of Joe Radinovich, the unsuccessful 2018 DFL candidate for the U.S. House in Minnesota’s Eighth District. Radinovich was hired in early March to a highly-paid, permanent position that IRRR officials appear to have created specifically for him. While political appointments are not unusual in state government, and are typically temporary, the kind of job created for Radinovich, known as a “permanent classified” position, is supposed to be nonpolitical and is subject to state hiring guidelines designed to ensure a fair and competitive process in which state workers are hired on merit rather than politics.

Yet an investigation by the Timberjay found substantial evidence that the IRRR’s process, in this instance, fell short of that goal, and that top agency officials sought from the beginning to offer Radinovich a plum new position, with a salary of $100,000 per year in addition to the state’s handsome benefits package. In so doing, the agency sought exemption to sharply limit the posting of the position and appeared to pass over a female candidate for the position with far more relevant experience and education than Radinovich brings to the job.

Radinovich’s hiring comes on the heels of the appointment of Jason Metsa as the agency’s deputy commissioner, which is considered a political appointment and was not subject to the typical state hiring process. Metsa is an Iron Range DFLer who ran unsuccessfully for his party’s nomination for the Eighth District seat.

If that sounds like it’s on the up-and-up, then you’re likely from Chicago. This definitely doesn’t sound like everything was on the up-and-up:

IRRR Commissioner Mark Phillips acknowledges that he sought early on to hire Radinovich at his agency and initially considered hiring the Crosby native as deputy commissioner. “It really was down to Jason or Joe to be deputy,” he said. When the job went to Metsa, Phillips began exploring options to offer Radinovich a different position.

Gov. Walz, what’s your reaction to this? Will you fire Commissioner Phillips? Will you excoriate Rep. Radinovich for being that corrupt? As a former DFL state legislator, Rep. Radinovich knew civil service laws and the IRRRB. Hell, he was a member of the IRRRB board as a member of the Iron Range legislative delegation.

Politically speaking, Radinovich is damaged goods now that he’s identified as gaming the system. He’s bounced around from being a DFL legislator to being the chief of staff for one of the Twin Cities mayors to running Rick Nolan’s congressional campaigns to running for Nolan’s seat before losing to Pete Stauber.

When Karin Housley visited St. Cloud Thursday, she brought a bold prediction with her.

During a visit to the Whitney Senior Center, Housley predicted “This is the year Minnesota’s turning red.” She then explained, saying that she “expects two U.S. House districts to flip in the state with incumbent DFLers Rep. Rick Nolan and Rep. Tim Walz retiring from Congress and running in gubernatorial races.”

I agree with both predictions. President Trump’s visit to Duluth to rally for Pete Stauber filled the arena with people. The ramp wasn’t just filled with cars. It was filled with people too. With a 4-way DFL primary set to determine who will face Stauber, expect that primary to beat each other up. I’m not sure if the DFL will be able to unite after that fight. I’d rate that race as leans GOP. As for Minnesota’s First District, the DFL doesn’t have a bench. Tim Walz was it. There’s a primary on the GOP side in MN-01 but there’s no signs of it getting bloody.

As for Sen. Housley, momentum keeps building, much of it due to the booming Trump/GOP economy. Liz Peek’s article highlights this beautifully:

President Trump wants you to quit your job! Well, not really; but the White House’s tax cuts and rollback of onerous regulations have encouraged millions of Americans to do just that. The economy is booming, opportunities are opening up all over the place, and workers are responding, by quitting in record numbers.

This may be bad news for Democrats hoping to take over Congress in November. They have no economic agenda that can compete with a buoyant jobs market that is making the American Dream come true.

Then comes the dagger:

But it is great news for American workers.

Tina Smith’s message is obstruction, resistance and socialism:

“The political revolution that Keith and I and others have talked about is not just a progressive agenda that speaks to the needs of working families, it is the need to create a national grassroots movement where ordinary people stand up to the billionaire class and take back this country,” Sanders said. “By electing Keith, and reelecting Tina and Amy [Klobuchar], you guys can help lead this country in that direction.”

Tina Smith’s socialist smile will turn upside-down when it’s revealed that she’s just another socialist who will do whatever Chuck Schumer wants her to do. Tina Smith wants to pretend to be a moderate. She isn’t:

Tina Smith rallied with Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison this week. If that’s her definition of moderation, I’m betting most Minnesotans will reject that definition. By rallying with Sanders and Ellison, Smith proved that she’s trying to appeal to everyone. Normally, that’s ok. This isn’t normally, though. She rallied with radicals from the #Resistance.

Meanwhile, Karin Housley can claim that she’d fight for Iron Rangers, the elderly and economic growth. Housley is smart, reasonable and has an overabundance of energy. She’s exactly the type of candidate that can defeat a check off the boxes candidate like Tina Smith.

The polls don’t show it yet but what’s likely going to help Republicans like Karin Housley and Pete Stauber are the Republicans’ closing arguments. The DFL doesn’t have a closing argument. All they have is #Resist and #AbolishICE.

This LTE highlights what I think is a Range war. It starts by saying “I got a big chuckle out of comments by Governor Mark Dayton (MDN 5/13) ‘Everyone on the Range should know: the state government is on your side.’ In fact, I still can’t stop laughing! His comments remind me of the old adage ‘The Three Biggest Lies: the check is in the mail, of course I’ll still respect you in the morning and I’m from the government…I’m here to help you.'”

One thing comes through clearly in that opening: Rangers don’t trust Gov. Dayton. That should frighten whoever becomes the DFL gubernatorial candidate. Tim Walz’s Lt. Gov. pick is a wild-eyed environmentalist. That’s before considering the fact that Walz was a longtime NRA member who just threw that record overboard to win the endorsement. While she was part of the Executive Council, Rebecca Otto voted against approving a series of exploratory mining leases, then sent out a fundraising letter bragging that she’d stood up to big mining corporations. Finally, Erin Murphy is an unknown quantity in terms of mining policy but who is the most progressive of the 3 DFL finalists. Why would a Ranger trust her on mining issues?

Mark Dayton is a poor little rich kid from Minneapolis whose fortune is invested in trust in South Dakota to escape Minnesota taxes. He is personally and ideologically aligned with the environmental wacko movement and his heart and soul is not with us on the Range.

Dayton will do what he thinks the Range needs, not what the Range knows it needs.

The DFL has literally run the Range into the ground for decades. That isn’t hyperbole. When confronted with the Range’s high unemployment years ago, IRRRB Chairman Tony Sertich said (sorry, I’m paraphrasing here) that that’s been that way for years. The statistics verify that.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Republican Party is the new home for construction workers, farmers and miners. The DFL doesn’t understand blue collar workers any more. The DFL has fought and is fighting against new pipeline construction (Sandpiper) or old pipeline (Line 3) replacement.

The DFL has shut its doors to blue collar workers. Their policies haven’t helped the Range in decades. Literally.