Archive for the ‘Steve Laraway’ Category

For years, conservatives have said that most decisions should be made at the local level. That’s what’s recommended by the men who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That’s because that’s where accountability is theoretically greatest.

That’s increasingly not the case. I don’t know if this is isolated but a prime example of local governments shielding themselves from criticism happens when they shut off the cameras. A prime example of this is the St. Cloud City Council turning off the cameras and officially adjourning the meeting before starting Open Forum. For those not familiar with St. Cloud’s Open Forum, it’s a segment of the meeting when citizens have the opportunity to talk about things that they see happening in their neighborhoods.

Most of these speeches complain about overreaching ordinances, complaints about things not getting done fast enough or criticisms about votes that councilmembers have taken. Suffice it to say, it isn’t fun for the councilmembers to hear these criticisms. Another ‘feature’ of St. Cloud’s Open Forum is that the City Council isn’t allowed to respond in real time to their constituents.

Where’s the accountability if the Council isn’t allowed to respond to their constituents? That’s why I’ve titled this post ‘the accountability dodge”. Based on what I’ve seen firsthand, this segment of the meeting isn’t about listening to the citizens. It’s a segment of the meeting where citizens can vent but where the councilmembers don’t have to respond.

This is just a theory but this feels like a way to avoid accountability. It’s apparent that the City Council, with a couple of exceptions (specifically, George Hontos and Paul Brandmire), would rather just meet, then cast their votes, then go their merry way. The quote from yesterday’s post that Councilman Hontos had violated City Council Rule No. 6 was particularly upsetting.

I don’t have the text of St. Cloud City Council Rule No. 6 in front of me but what I know about the Constitution is that anything that violates the First Amendment is unenforceable. Therefore, Rule No. 6 is unenforceable.

Further, I’d argue that voting on a non-binding censure resolution was a total waste of time, partially because it’s non-binding but also because this vote was taken in private session. That’s the ultimate in not accepting accountability. If City Councilmembers think this is important to vote on, they shouldn’t shut down public debate. They should vote in public, though.

That isn’t accountability. That’s the definition of gutlessness.

After reading Councilman-elect Paul Brandmire’s editorial, it’s clear that a significant portion of our community isn’t interested in listening. It’s apparent, too, that another significant portion of our community doesn’t understand the US Constitution.

In his LTE, Councilman-elect Brandmire wrote “when thousands of people from a very different background are transplanted into the middle of that region in a very short period of time without the population having any say in that decision, it’s going to cause friction and take some time to adjust.”

Later, Brandmire said this:

That is why I support the idea of closing the seemingly wide-open spigot of refugees coming here until we can assimilate those who are already here.

One of the commenters replied “Brandmire’s side has been listened to, extensively, but as Don points out above, that side has pushed for an unworkable and un-Constitutional solution.” Actually, “Brandmire’s side” wasn’t tolerated. They were ambushed. They were called haters and Islamophobes. They were treated like they weren’t welcome in their own city:

There’s nothing unconstitutional about letting the federal government know we can’t absorb all of the refugees they’d been sending us. There’s nothing improper about telling the federal government that there’s a limit to how many refugees St. Cloud can support. Finally, there’s nothing unconstitutional to passing a resolution stating these things.

FYI- Monday night, I’ll be addressing the St. Cloud City Council. I hope to highlight the fact that several of the councilmembers haven’t listened to the people worth a damn. My councilmember, Steve Laraway, thinks that St. Cloud is a great place to live even though one-fourth St. Cloud’s population lives below the poverty level. Dave Masters, who represents St. Cloud’s First Ward, was offended by hats that said “Make St. Cloud Great Again” because, according to him, St. Cloud already is great. Masters thinks that despite the fact that St. Cloud’s violent crime was almost double the rate of Minnesota’s rate per 100,000 people.

In this Strib article, Strib reporter Kelly Smith quotes St. Cloud City Councilman Dave Masters as saying “This one group [C-Cubed] doesn’t speak for all residents. I think we need to come together to work together to make St. Cloud a better place.”

This is the same Dave Masters who was offended when citizens showed up to a September City Council meeting wearing red caps that said “Make St. Cloud Great Again.” At the time, Masters insisted that St. Cloud was already great. (That sounds like Steve Laraway, doesn’t it?) How can a city with one-fourth of its people living below the poverty level be great?

A regular reader of LFR sent me some crime statistics comparing St. Cloud’s crime rates with Sartell’s crime rates. Here’s that graphic:

According to these statistics, violent crime per 100,000 people is about double in St. Cloud what it is nationally. With a high violent crime rate and exceptionally high poverty rate, how can Mssrs. Laraway and Masters tell people that St. Cloud is a great place to live?

Frankly, we need to fire all of these delusional politicians and replace them with people who don’t buy rose-colored glasses in bulk. I’d keep George Hontos and the 2 newly-elected city councilmembers and fire the rest — including Mayor Kleis. This isn’t a situation where a little tinkering around the edges will suffice. It’s a situation where real leadership and time-tested policies are required.

Carol Lewis, Jeff Goerger and Kleis must go. Ditto with Laraway and Masters. Eliminate any of these politicians’ supporters, too. We don’t need more of the same failed policies. If you’re interested in rebuilding St. Cloud and turning it into a prosperous city once again, it’s time to step forward. If you think that things are just fine as they are, I’d suggest that you consider spending more time with your family.

There’s no question that my councilman, Steve Laraway, wears rose-colored glasses. At least, there isn’t any question about that after reading Mr. Laraway’s recent LTE.

In his LTE, Mr. Laraway sneered down his nose at his constituents, saying “We have just gone through an election season that once again focused on division and negatives about the candidates, their voting record, how they might vote or how poorly they represent their constituents. In the campaign for St. Cloud City Council, we consistently heard how bad things were in St. Cloud. Quite honestly, I love living in St. Cloud. I put together a list of 10 things I love about St. Cloud. This list is not all-encompassing, but are my thoughts. The list includes:”

  1. Munsinger and Clemens Gardens and all the other parks and trails in St. Cloud — top tourist attractions right here;
  2. Entertainment venues such as The Paramount and Pioneer Place;
  3. Our proximity to the Mississippi River, the river brings history and beauty every day;
  4. Outdoor gatherings such as Summertime by George, Fifth Avenue Live and the Cathedral Block Party;
  5. The beautiful and diverse neighborhoods;
  6. The Stearns History Museum and the Great River Regional Library: Both allow us to learn from our past;
  7. The YMCA and Whitney Senior Center;
  8. The St. Cloud Hospital and CentraCare;
  9. World-class music options: We can listen to music as varied as the Fabulous Armadillos or the St. John’s Boys’ Choir; and
  10. Higher education: We have access to top-notch higher education opportunities.

First, it isn’t surprising that Mr. Laraway praised CentraCare since he sits on their board. Next, people must wonder what solar system Mr. Laraway is from if he thinks that “we have access to top-notch higher education opportunities.” What Mr. Laraway didn’t mention is that St. Cloud’s economic metrics are terrible.

According to the Census Bureau’s website, the median household income for the state of Minnesota is $63,217 in 2016 dollars. The percent of people in Minnesota living below the Federal Poverty Level, aka FPL, was 9.5%. By comparison, Hibbing’s median household income was $42,004 while 18.2% of its residents lived below the FPL. Sartell, St. Cloud’s neighbor to the north, has a median household income of $71,959 while 4% of its residents live below the FPL.

Sit down before you read this set of statistics. The median household income for St. Cloud was $45,223. An astronomical (and frankly immoral) 23.2% of St. Cloud residents live below the FPL! How dare Mr. Laraway suggest that St. Cloud is a great place to live when one-fourth of its population is living below the Federal Poverty Level. For that matter, Dave Masters should be ashamed of himself for saying that St. Cloud already was a great place to live.

Masters and Laraway are delusional or dishonest. At this point, it’s possible they’re both.