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If Bill Hanna’s op-ed makes anything clear, it’s that Tina Smith likely will replace Al Franken as a shill for anti-mining environmentalists. Hanna wrote “Prettner-Solon was a strong advocate for issues so vital to the Range. Smith was a great big question mark. And Smith did little to allay my concerns during that initial meeting. She admitted to not knowing much about the proposed PolyMet and Twin Metals copper/nickel mining projects and had yet to even talk or meet with officials of those two companies. But she would be doing so, she assured. Not exactly a vote of confidence for a new era of mining on the Range. Smith has since been the dutiful lieutenant governor in line with Dayton on issues, while doing what she does best, raising political funds. So on mining, Smith was in step with Dayton, eventually supporting PolyMet in the footprint of the former LTV Mining plant near Aurora and Hoyt Lakes while giving a thumbs-down to the desired Twin Metals underground copper/nickel/strategic metals venture near Ely and Babbitt.”

It’s clear that Gov. Dayton’s intention in picking Smith was to stay away from picking a Range DFLer like Tony Sertich. Sertich would’ve been qualified (from a DFL policy standpoint) with the exception that he might’ve been too pro-mining for the Metrocrats’ liking.

But the Range needs a modern-day mining/logging/land use promoter in the Senate, not a reluctant follower or, worse yet, a reliable “no” vote. Smith connects well with Twin Cities Progressives who show off their penmanship when writing checks for liberal causes. She will definitely do the same on a national level.

But Progressives don’t like mining, even though they relish their computers, vehicles, medical devices and cell phones that are only made possible by minerals extracted from below the ground. It’s all so odd; don’t you dare mine, but do make sure we’ve got plenty of tools to connect with the Internet. And you better not mess with my Facebook Page abilities. It’s like believing milk just magically appears in stores in cartons, without the aid of cows.

Come Election Day, 2018, the Iron Range, as well as the rest of the Eighth District, Sixth District and Second District, better turn out in huge numbers. Further, they’d better vote for Karin Housley. Unlike Smith, Housley will represent the entire state.

She won’t pay lip service to the Range. She’s already speaking out in favor of the Range:

Compare that with this blather from Tina Smith:

It’s clear that Smith isn’t interested in the Iron Range or the construction industries. Smith is for these unions except when they want to mine ore, precious metals or want to build pipelines. When they want that, Smith is a less-than-enthusiastic supporter of those unions.

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Friday night, after reading this article, I spoke with State Sen. Karin Housley, (R- St. Mary’s Point) about this scandal. Sen. Housley is the “chairwoman of the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee.”

First, the article startled me when it reported that “the health department investigated 10% of the 3,400 complaints it received about public nursing homes and home-care treatment. In 2016, just 1% of nearly 21,000 cases were investigated through on-site investigations when facilities self-reported incidents.” That information broke my heart.

In our conversation, Sen. Housley said “Since January, I have been working as the Chairwoman of the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee to better understand the problems at the Office of Health Facility Complaints and what the legislature can do to help remedy those issues. While more funds were allocated to the OHFC last session at request of the Governor and the office itself, the problems have unfortunately not improved. It is clear to me, and it is becoming clear to the people of Minnesota, that there are systemic issues within the Minnesota Department of Health and the Office of Health Facility Complaints that need to be addressed before real change can take place. I called on the Governor and the Department of Health Commissioner Ehlinger to give us answers. The recent resignation of Commissioner Ehlinger is a positive first step toward achieving that change. I am hopeful that with legislative action and continued oversight, we can start to make progress and ensure that Minnesota’s most vulnerable are protected.”

Sen. Housley then directed me to the statement she issued after Dr. Ed Ehlinger resigned as the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health. Here’s that statement:

SAINT PAUL, MN – Following Tuesday’s resignation of Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Senator Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point) issued the following statement:

“It is abundantly clear there is an urgent need for systemic changes in Governor Dayton’s health department. For months, we have been hearing horrifying tales of abuse and neglect at Minnesota senior care facilities, complaints being thrown in the trash at the hands of an ineffective bureaucracy, and a climate of intimidation and harassment in this state agency.

There is no question – this change in leadership is desperately needed.

While the resignation of Commissioner Ehlinger is a step forward, there is much work to do to restore the trust of the most vulnerable Minnesotans. I look forward to working with Acting Commissioner Dan Pollock in examining ways to move forward in making absolutely certain our elderly population is cared for with the dignity, compassion, and respect they deserve.

My commitment is to not stop until we achieve meaningful change, as well as justice for the victims of the shameful negligence that has plagued our state for too long.

Senator Karin Housley

It’s clear to me that Sen. Housley won’t let go of this issue until it’s fixed. It’s equally apparent that the Dayton administration, of which Tina Smith is an integral part, isn’t ready for primetime. This has been a problem for quite some time. Why Gov. Dayton didn’t assign a troubleshooter to fix this 2-3 years ago is beyond me. Lt. Gov. Smith was Gov. Dayton’s chief of staff in his first term. Why didn’t she bring this crisis up at the time? This is inexcusable.

Reading this article, I’m left wondering what planet Gov. Dayton is living on:

During his tenure as Commissioner of Health, Dr. Ehlinger made many great strides to improve the health and wellbeing of Minnesotans. Commissioner Ehlinger led the charge to reduce tobacco use, improve community-based health programs through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), improve health equity in our communities, and expand access to life-saving health care for Minnesotans. Dr. Ehlinger also helped lead the state through outbreaks of measles and avian influenza, and led the state’s response to the global threat of Ebola.

It isn’t that I want to diminish Dr. Ehlinger’s accomplishments. It’s that I find it difficult to buy into the notion that “Dr. Ehlinger made many great strides to improve the health and wellbeing of Minnesotans” after finding out that his Department ignored piles of complaints of patient abuse.

According to this article, a series of articles on elder abuse in the Strib has Gov. Dayton incensed. As a result of these articles, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, now Minnesota’s former Health Commissioner, resigned his position.

I was stunned when I read “Ehlinger’s resignation comes after media reports, including a five-part series in the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, found residents of senior care facilities statewide were neglected, abused and robbed, but the perpetrators were often never punished and in most instances complaints were never properly investigated. The state Department of Health is responsible for licensing and oversight of senior care centers.”

It’s fair to ask what responsibility Tina Smith has in this. Smith will soon move on from her job as Lt. Gov. Prior to that, though, she was Gov. Dayton’s Chief-of-Staff, the gatekeeper to the governor, the attention-to-detail person. According to MPR’s article, “The move comes weeks after a Minneapolis Star Tribune series exposed widespread elder abuse in Minnesota nursing care facilities that for years was systematically ignored.” This wasn’t something that started recently. It sounds like it’s been happening since Gov. Dayton took over as governor and Smith took over as his Chief of Staff.

They’re the team that’s responsible for making sure that these facilities are operating smoothly. These facilities are part of the Executive Branch, meaning the proverbial buck stops with them. Instead of discovering and fixing these facilities problems, elderly people “were neglected, abused and robbed.” In some cases, “the perpetrators were often never punished and in most instances complaints were never properly investigated.”

By comparison, Karin Housley, the “chairwoman of the Senate Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee,” has “called for an investigation into management practices at the Health Department after receiving reports of bullying at the agency.” Sen. Housley has officially announced that she’s running in the 2018 special election for Sen. Franken’s seat. The question before Minnesotans is whether Minnesotans can trust a person who was in a position of authority and either did nothing or knew nothing (Lt. Gov. Smith) about the elder abuse or whether they’d prefer a state senator who initiated an investigation into this scandal the minute she found out about it.

This information is frightening:

A Minnesota lawmaker says a state manager whose bureau oversees investigations into abuse and neglect in nursing homes was fired after she blew the whistle on a “toxic culture” that was an obstacle to ensuring that officials do a better job protecting residents of senior care facilities.

Who fired this whistleblower? What motivated that person to terminate the whistleblower right before the whistleblower was about to “meet with an investigator looking into widespread reported problems with how Minnesota investigates reports of elder abuse, including assault, neglect and theft.”

Let’s think about this a minute. “Nancy Omondi was fired days before she was to meet with an investigator looking into widespread reported problems with how Minnesota investigates” elder abuse. This reeks of high-level political cover-up. How high this goes is unknowable at this point. Still, Ms. Omandi held a high-ranking position:

According to state records, Omondi was employed from Sept. 19, 2016, to Nov. 29, 2017, as director of the Health Regulation Division. The division oversees several bureaus, including the Health Systems Bureau, which oversees the Office of Health Facilities Complaints, the office that investigates reports of abuse and neglect against patients and residents of care facilities.

What’s amazing is that this organizational chart already reflects the fact that Ms. Omondi was fired. The organizational chart is updated in a timely fashion but reports of abuse literally went years in some instances without getting investigated.

At the end of the video, the KARE11 reporter said that more transparency is needed. The reporter also said that what’s needed is a change in the culture of the investigative bodies. It’s impossible to argue with either statement.

This morning, I received an email from Karin Housley announcing that she’s running for the seat that Sen. Franken currently occupies. Ms. Housley’s email says “Today I am writing to you to announce I am running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Al Franken, and I am looking for your endorsement. Growing up in a working class neighborhood in South St. Paul, I met my husband Phil, and we got married after high school. We’ve been so lucky to have four fun kids, a son-in-law and two grandsons. It has been an honor to serve in the Minnesota State Senate since 2012. I’ve fought hard for our senior citizens, our kids’ education and the unborn. I worked tirelessly writing, supporting and passing bills to help our small businesses. I fought to keep your hard-earned dollars in your own pocket. And, I’ve called on government to be transparent and accountable. Please visit my website housleyforsenate.com to learn more, join the team or contribute. I would love to represent you and be a New Voice for Minnesota in the United States Senate. I’ll bring this same Minnesota work ethic to DC and I’ll work hard, play fair, and do the right thing.”

Mrs. Housley’s opening campaign ad is impressive because it’s positive:

When elder care facilities whistleblowers reported that complaints of abuse were getting thrown in the trash, Karin Housley called attention to the problem:

Last week Sen. Karin Housley, chairwoman of the Senate Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee, and two other lawmakers called for an investigation into management practices at the Health Department after receiving reports of bullying at the agency.

Tina Smith was part of the administration that turned a blind eye towards the abuse happening at elder care facilities. Now she’s pretending to care about this issue? Give me a break. Here’s what Smith ignored:

In interviews with the Star Tribune, employees described an office so overwhelmed by backlogged cases that workers dumped dozens of maltreatment complaints into recycling bins without reading them. Others said unread complaint forms piled up into stacks 2 feet high and went unexamined for months.

At one point, employees said, they were ordered to stop making phone calls to elderly victims and other individuals who reported nursing home abuse because it was too time-consuming. But that only angered families, hindered investigations and subverted office morale, they said.

It’s safe to say that Gov. Dayton wouldn’t pay attention to this sort of thing. He’s had a history of not knowing what’s happening within his government. He didn’t know the tax bill he and Tina negotiated had a sales tax on repairing farm equipment. Gov. Dayton and Tina didn’t know that the Vikings Stadium bill had a provision in it for personal seat licenses.

Why would we now think that Tina Smith paid attention to utter dysfunction at elder care facilities? We don’t need a career politician in DC. We’ve already got too many of those parasites there now. That’s why DC is so dysfunctional. We need someone who has a history of accomplishment in the private sector. That’s Karin Housley, not Tina Smith.

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