Archive for April, 2016

Last night, #UniteCloud sent an email to St. Cloud City Councilman Jeff Johnson. It said “Shame on you. You were voted into office to represent all of Saint Cloud. Not just the ones who look like you. I will call you out every time I see you in the future. I will also be ready to inform all not to vote for you or your ignorance. I want my city to be nice and you are not helping at all. Shame on you. Sincerely,”

Apparently, #UniteCloud didn’t like the fact that Councilman Johnson testified in support of the resolution to direct the Office of Legislative Auditor, aka OLA, to audit the multitude of programs that support the refugee resettlement program. Councilman Johnson was quoted in the St. Cloud Times as saying the “taxpayers have a right to have a good and fair audit.” Johnson also said that he’s been concerned about the lack of transparency with the refugee resettlement program.

It’s stunning that any civic organization would criticize transparency in government but that’s what #UniteCloud apparently supports. Councilman Johnson replied to the email, saying “Call me out on what? Asking for an audit as to how much money is being spent on refugee resettlement? The taxpayers are paying for this program and we have a right to full transparency.”

Telling the #UniteCloud person that he supports transparency didn’t sit well with #UniteCloud:

Wasting time where you could do some good for all and spreading hatred and ignorance. This email will be shared. SHAME ON YOU!

To his credit, Councilman Johnson didn’t reciprocate. He didn’t start calling the #UniteCloud person derogatory names. Instead, he finished the email exchange with this:

I don’t see how asking for an audit of a taxpayer funded program and spreading hated and ignorance is connected. Yes, you are free to send this email to whom ever you like.

It’s baffling how #UniteCloud can equate conducting an audit with “spreading hatred and ignorance.” According to this blog post, there’s an “Anti-Refugee Bill in MN House and Senate.” I’d love hearing Natalie Ringsmuth’s explanation for that. Rep. Steve Drazkowski’s legislation (HF3034) would direct the Legislative Auditor to “conduct financial audits of spending related to refugee resettlement costs, and money transferred.”

Here’s the text of Rep. Drazkowski’s bill:

(a) The legislative auditor shall conduct or contract with vendors to conduct independent third-party financial audits of federal, state, local, and nonprofit spending related to refugee resettlement costs and other services provided to refugees in Minnesota. The audits by the vendors shall be conducted as vendor resources permit and in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards issued by the United States Government Accountability Office.

(b) For purposes of this section, “independent third-party” means a vendor that is independent in accordance with government auditing standards issued by the United States Government Accountability Office.

(c) The legislative auditor shall report the results of the financial audits required under paragraph (a) to the chairs and ranking minority members of the legislative committees and divisions with jurisdiction over health and human services finance and policy by February 1, 2017.

(d) The commissioner of human services shall, in fiscal year 2017, transfer to the Office of the Legislative Auditor the amount necessary to conduct the financial audits under paragraph (a). The central office appropriation under Laws 2015, chapter 71, article 14, section 2, subdivision 3, is reduced accordingly.

#UniteCloud’s misleading headlines calls into question what their mission is. If their goal is to unite St. Cloud, then they’re failing. That’s because they’ve accused people who support transparency of “spreading hatred and ignorance.”

UPDATE: I was just contacted by Councilman Johnson. He said that he doesn’t know whether it was #UniteCloud that emailed him. Consider this a retraction of my statement that #UniteCloud threatened Councilman Johnson. That being said, whoever it was that sent the email used the same tone as was used in many of #UniteCloud’s public statements. There’s no need to retract my statement that #UniteCloud’s statement about “anti-refugee” legislation. #UniteCloud’s statement is highly deceptive, if not outright dishonest.

Further, I stand by my statement that #UniteCloud isn’t uniting St. Cloud behind their agenda. If anything, Natalie Ringsmuth’s statement have united St. Cloud against their agenda.

Enrollment Declines at MnSCU Universities
by Silence Dogood

The FYE enrollment data for the 7 MnSCU universities from FY10 through FY15 is shown in the table below:

The data for FY16 is not shown because the numbers will not be final until 45 days after the end of spring semester. The data shown in the table are final enrollment numbers as reported by MnSCU.

The last column in the table is the difference between the enrollment in FY15 and FY10 so it represents the five-year change in enrollment. All Minnesota State Universities but Metropolitan State University have a decline in enrollment for the five-year period FY10-15. When you look at the data, the declines are not large except at Moorhead and SCSU where the decline tops 1,000 FYE. In fact, the decline at SCSU (3,245) is so large it is almost equal to the total enrollment Southwest Minnesota State University (3,679)!

When you calculate the percentage of the decline in the MnSCU system due to each of the universities, you obtain the following:

From the data in this table, it is clear that SCSU and Moorhead are responsible for 86.5% of the total decline of the enrollment for the MnSCU universities. However, SCSU by itself, at 65.6% of the total decline, is clearly responsible for the majority of the decline of the whole MnSCU university system.

While I have no clairvoyance as to the motivation behind the MSU—Mankato faculty member who proposed a resolution at the recent Faculty Association Delegate Assembly to ask the IFO to work towards the removal of President Potter, the data in the table clearly shows that SCSU presents a significant liability to the MnSCU system and consequently to all of the MnSCU universities.

Some people have commented that they were surprised the resolution to remove the SCSU President was introduced by a delegate from another (often rival) university. Perhaps given the recent enrollment data and continuing financial troubles at SCSU, it is even more surprising that the resolution was not introduced by an SCSU delegate. However, as I have been reliably informed, it is quite literally shocking that not one member of the SCSU delegation rose to speak against the motion. The motion passed with a two-thirds majority.

From FY10 through FY14, the percentage enrollment decline at Minnesota State University—Moorhead amounted to a decline of 11.1%. As a result, two years ago, Moorhead’s president was ‘encouraged’ to retire. For SCSU, the enrollment decline from FY10 through FY15 is substantially larger at 21.5%. Last fall, President Potter was rewarded with a three year contract extension. What’s wrong with this picture?

[Editor’s note: It isn’t a stretch to think that Chancellor Rosenstone is protecting President Potter.]

This article isn’t good news for the IRRRB porkmeisters, aka the IRRRB Board of Executives. According to the article, “Makeup of the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board would change dramatically if Republican-sponsored legislation is approved.” That’s understatement.

HF3925, which was chief-authored by Chairman Tom Hackbarth, creates the “Legislative-Citizen Commission on Iron Range resources and rehabilitation.” Further, the composition of the board would be dramatically different. The legislation’s language calls for “(a) A nine-member Legislative-Citizen Commission on Iron Range resources and rehabilitation is created in the legislative branch.”

The legislation requires that the nine-member Legislative-Citizen Commission on Iron Range resources and rehabilitation shall consist of three members of the senate appointed by the Subcommittee on Committees of the Committee on Rules and Administration, and three members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House. At least one member from the Senate and one member from the House of Representatives must be from the minority caucus. Members are entitled to reimbursement for per diem expenses plus travel expenses incurred in the services of the commission; and three citizens, one appointed by the governor, one appointed by the Senate Subcommittee on Committees of the Committee on Rules and Administration, and one appointed by the Speaker of the House. The citizen members are selected and recommended to the appointing authorities according to subdivision 1b.”

Further, members of the Commission “must have experience or expertise in economic and workforce development, community development, mining and mineral extraction, natural resources development, and any other issue determined by the governor in consultation with the legislature, strong knowledge regarding issues on the Iron Range, demonstrated ability to work in a collaborative environment and a primary residence located in the taconite assistance area as defined in section 273.1341.”

In other words, the members of this commission are required to actually help strengthen and diversify the Iron Range economy. This commission’s composition is intended to cut down on politicians picking projects that do more for their re-election campaigns than it does to strengthen communities.

The board’s makeup was previously altered to include an additional two citizen members during a Republican gubernatorial administration. But it was then changed back. Range DFL lawmakers have indicated that they like how the board is currently determined.

That the “Range DFL lawmakers” prefer “the board [as] it’s currently determined” is reason enough to change it. The IRRRB has been an abject failure.

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When it comes to pissing away money, few government organizations are better at it than MnSCU. According to this article, MnSCU paid $270,000 “to shed most of its 41-character name.” It isn’t comforting to know that it’s part of MnSCU’s rebranding effort. In fact, it’s disturbing. What’s worse is that MnSCU didn’t get its money’s worth.

According to the article, “In spring 2014, MnSCU hired Minneapolis-based PadillaCRT at up to $270,000 to work on its brand. One year later, the PR firm recommended renaming the system Minnesota State.” The thought that MnSCU paid PadillaCRT $270,000 to come up with the name Minnesota State is infuriating. They could’ve gotten better results by having a PR class at one of its universities work on this as a class project. Those students couldn’t have done worse than “Minnesota State” and it would’ve saved MnSCU $270,000.

I did a little digging into PadillaCRT, which led to their About page. PadillaCRT’s sales pitch reads “The lines between public relations, advertising, marketing and digital and social media have blurred. What’s clearer than ever before is that humans long for meaningful connection. And people are loyal to brands whose true purpose reflects their own worldview. Whether purposeful connections are delivered via website or advertisement, app or annual report, PadillaCRT is dedicated to creating a powerful bond between the soul of your brand and the people who matter most.”

PadillaCRT’s brand strategy page isn’t much better:

The first rule of brand strategy is don’t try to be all things to all people. We help our clients define their unique purpose and define a clear, compelling brand strategy – one that has the power to galvanize employees around your mission and reward customer loyalty. And if done right, you’ll turn skeptics into believers along the way.

If defining “their unique purpose” and defining “a clear, compelling brand strategy” is the goal, Minnesota State doesn’t cut it.

Simply put, the MnSCU board of trustees failed Minnesota taxpayers by not paying attention to how money got spent foolishly. There’s nothing acceptable about that.

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This morning, the Stearns County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution supporting “a bill requiring a state audit of public spending related to refugee resettlement.” Predictably, the special interest organizations that support writing a blank check to pay for refugee resettlement programs were upset.

For instance, #UniteCloud spoke “against the bills, calling them anti-refugee and potentially costly.” #UniteCloud’s about us page indicates that they’re a misinformation organization. That’s revealed by them saying “Often we allow misinformation and dehumanizing stereotypes to make untrue assumptions of our neighbors.” That, friends, is projection. Remember that the commissioners voted on a resolution that supported legislation that promotes transparency.

You’ve got to be either paranoid or dishonest to accuse citizens demanding transparency of being bigots. I’m leaning more towards dishonest than paranoid.

According to Commissioner DeWayne Mareck, “the bill is “‘all about transparency’ and any use of taxpayer money should require an audit.” That’s pretty noncontroversial. So is the text of the legislation:

(a) The legislative auditor shall conduct or contract with vendors to conduct independent third-party financial audits of federal, state, local, and nonprofit spending related to refugee resettlement costs and other services provided to refugees in Minnesota.

What’s controversial about knowing how much taxpayer funding is being spent on resettlement programs? I haven’t heard anyone complain about the legislative auditor auditing a government agency or NPO. Why is #UniteCloud complaining?

Jeff Johnson, a St. Cloud City Council member, said he’s been concerned about the lack of transparency with the refugee resettlement program. “The taxpayers have a right to have a good and fair audit,” Johnson said.

#UniteCloud has the right to complain because the First Amendment protects that right. Similarly, I have the right to ignore #UniteCloud’s fanciful accusations.

After reading former Sen. Richard Lugar’s NYTimes op-ed on immigration, it isn’t surprising that he isn’t a senator anymore.

The first major tipoff came when he said “whether or not you like President Obama’s actions, he has operated under longstanding provisions of law that give the executive branch discretion in enforcement.” It’s stunning that a former senator would make such a foolish straw-man argument. That isn’t the heart of United States v. Texas. The heart of U.S. v. Texas is found on pg. 7 of Judge Andrew S. Hanen’s opinion when he said “One of these memoranda contained an order establishing a new program utilizing deferred action to stay deportation hearings and award certain benefits to four to five million individuals residing illegally in the United States.”

SCOTUSblog talked about the topic of standing in this post, saying “Here is what is at issue regarding state “standing” to sue: to be allowed in federal court under Article III, a state government — like anyone else who seeks to sue in those courts — would have to show that the action being challenged causes it a definite injury or harm. The injury cannot be theoretical or speculative; it must be real, existing right now or predictably.”

That actually shouldn’t be that difficult to prove. It’s inevitable that having “four to five million individuals residing illegally” in Texas or one of the other 25 states that filed the lawsuit would cost individual states financial harm to one degree or another. That harm might come in the form of higher costs for health care programs, education or other benefits that are paid for at the state, county or school district level.

More importantly, though, Judge Hanen stated that one of Jeh Johnson’s memoranda “contained an order establishing a new program” that would “award certain benefits.” That isn’t allowed by Article I of the Constitution. Only the legislative branch is allowed to create new programs. The executive branch executes the programs on the books.

If the justices cared about the Constitution’s authorities, they’d admit that the executive branch has the authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion but that it doesn’t have the authority to create a new program that Congress hasn’t authorized through legislation.

The thought that a senator, especially one that’s been a committee chair, doesn’t understand this is a bit frightening.

This LTE from Carolyn Nieters contains the obligatory DFL lie. Ms> Nieters fulfilled her obligation to the DFL by saying “I saw in the news that House Republicans like Rep. Jim Knoblach proposed investing exactly zero dollars of our $900 million surplus toward education for our community. Zero! Yet their plan includes doling out tax giveaways to the richest Minnesotans.”

If I got paid $20 each time a DFL politician or activist made that accusation, I’d be Donald Trump wealthy. Last May, I spoke with Rep. Greg Davids, the chairman of the House Taxes Committee, about his tax bill, which I wrote about here. When I contacted Chairman Davids to respond to Gov. Dayton’s statement about tax breaks for “millionaires and billionaires”, he said “My bill does not do that. Eighty percent goes to individuals. Tax relief is for the middle class…. My tax bill is tax relief for the poor and middle class.”

First, Ms. Nieters should be criticized for thinking that increasing spending on anything should be paid for with one-time money. That shouldn’t happen. Period. That money should either be rebated back to the people or used to fix Minnesota’s roads. Next, Ms. Nieters either doesn’t know that this is a supplemental budget or she knows and hides that fact from readers.

Last spring, Kurt Daudt and Tom Bakk negotiated a bipartisan budget agreement. That agreement included a significant increase in education spending. Is Ms. Nieters suggesting that we ignore Minnesota’s roads and bridges to pay for additional education funding? If that’s her plan, about the only people who’d agree with her are members of Education Minnesota.

Then there’s this BS:

After a decade of shifts and gimmicks, with students facing crushing college debt and the need for things like pre-K for our youngest learners, we are going to give away our surplus to those who already have the most wealth and power?

Ms. Nieters, did you even bother reading Chairman Davids’ tax bill? If you insist that you did, then you’re either lying or you need lots of help in remedial math and remedial reading. Nowhere in Chairman Davids’ bill does it offer a windfall for “those who already have the most wealth and power.” That’s either a figment of your imagination or you’re just lying.

It’s worth noting that the surplus has shrunk by $1,000,000,000 since last session. The February, 2015 forecast had a projected surplus of $1,900,000,000. In December, 2015, that had shrunk to $1,200,000,000. Now it’s shrunk to $900,000,000. (Apparently, the booming Dayton economy is a myth, too.)

After the DFL legislature passed the biggest tax increase in Minnesota history and Gov. Dayton signed it into law, capital flight from Minnesota accelerated. This study verifies that with IRS statistics.

It’s time to reject the DFL’s failed policies. It’s time to criticize the DFL for their web of lies, too.

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More Meaningless Rankings?
by Silence Dogood

It is not hard to find rankings for colleges and universities; a simple online search will reveal a host of different ones. Clearly, some are better than others. Niche is one of the more popular that is available by signing up for a free account.

Just being curious and having nothing better to do, I searched for St Cloud State University and the following page came up:

While I’m not sure about how all of the rankings are tabulated, an Overall Niche Grade of C looked average and unimpressive. In Lake Wobegon (i.e., Minnesota), according to Garrison Keillor, “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” I’d also like to think of myself as being above average so this is a bit disappointing.

On the bottom right of the image, there is a list of the schools to which St. Cloud State University is frequently compared. So I clicked on the link for Minnesota State University and the following page came up:

So by whatever measures are used, SCSU’s main rival comes out ahead on the scorecard. I think I’d be a lot happier be a B- instead of a C!

A more detailed look at the rankings shows that SCSU is ahead of rival Mankato in terms of:

The two universities are tied for:

Mankato tops SCSU in the following categories:

Unfortunately, the list where Mankato tops SCSU is far longer and the categories are probably more important measures of quality of a university (especially the first two measures). It is understandable with these rankings why MSU—Mankato ranks as a B- compared with SCSU’s C.

However, in looking at the data, what jumped out was the numbers for the acceptance rate. MSU—Mankato’s acceptance rate is 66%, which means that about 2 out of 3 of the students who apply are admitted. Contrast Mankato’s acceptance rate of 66% with SCSU’s acceptance rate of 87%! Essentially, just about everyone who applies for admission to SCSU gets in. So much, as one former SCSU President aspired, for SCSU to become the “Harvard of the Midwest.” In the past, SCSU was considered the “flagship” of the system and was the most difficult of the system universities to gain admittance while Mankato was considered to have an ‘open door policy’ for anyone applying being admitted. Clearly times have changed.

Also on the list of frequent comparisons was Winona State University. I’ve always had a pretty good impression of WSU and always thought of them as being a bit more selective for admissions. I clicked on the link for Winona State University. The following page came up:

According to the Niche data, the Overall Niche Grade for Winona State University ranks ahead of both SCSU and MSU—Mankato. Clearly, Winona State University has a large number of rankings of As and Bs. However, what is most striking is their acceptance rate is only 61% so clearly out of the three universities they are the most selective.

Does having a more selective admission standard make for a better university? If the quality of all of the applicants is the same, one might make the case for that university being at least academically ‘better.’ However, the quality of the faculty and staff and the resources available might be significantly more important measures of quality. Ultimately, it is the prospective student who gets to decide how important each of these measures is to them. Unfortunately, when you rank behind your competitors on more of these measures, you make it a lot easier for a prospective student to choose to go somewhere else. It’s a shame that SCSU currently ranks so low. It wasn’t always that way.

The purpose of this op-ed, written by MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle and Met Council Chairman Adam Duininck, is to criticize Jim Knoblach. In the interest of full disclosure, Jim represents me in the legislature. He’s also one of the smartest policy makers in Minnesota. But I digress.

While attacking Chairman Knoblach, Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck made a major mistake by essentially admitting that extending Northstar will be expensive, not just in terms of building it, but also in operating it. Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck admitted it when they wrote “Building out the line involves some up-front costs, including upgrading the St. Cloud Amtrak station to make it ADA compliant; upgrading railroad crossings in St. Cloud; and adding a third track at the Big Lake station to allow trains to stop there. These capital costs along are estimated at up to $43 million, and this doesn’t include the additional funding to operate the line day-in and day-out.”

Why should we extend Northstar at such an expensive price when there’s already shuttle service from St. Cloud to Big Lake? I suspect that the operating costs of the shuttle are less than the operating costs for Northstar. I’m certain, however, that maintaining the shuttle service won’t require $43,000,000 in “capital costs.”

Question for Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck: how many years could the shuttle be operated with those $43,000,000 in capital costs?

Stop that train. Stop that train. It isn’t that the $43,000,000 is the only major financial outlay:

Our $43 million cost estimate also does not include the cost of acquiring right-of-way from BNSF Railway.

Here’s another question for Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck: How much will acquiring that right-of-way from BNSF cost?

Here’s a question for citizens: shouldn’t Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck lay out those costs in an op-ed in a major newspaper?

We want to work with area legislators to find a way to bring Northstar to St. Cloud residents. But that work has to first start by acknowledging the realities and the costs. Minnesotans deserve a real proposal.

The question residents should ask Knoblach is: Does he still support the extension when faced with the reality of the cost?

Actually, the question citizens should ask is whether extending Northstar is worth it at that price. As a lifelong resident of St. Cloud, there isn’t a great uprising of support for extending Northstar. It’s true that a handful of public officials are pushing it but that’s pretty much it.

We don’t need to spend $50,000,000 or more just to give Gov. Dayton another ribbon-cutting ceremony to attend. I don’t speak for Chairman Knoblach but I’ll speak for myself. Spending 10s of millions of dollars on this project is a waste of money.

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I was stunned when I read Erick Erickson’s post on Erick’s new blog. (If you haven’t read Erick’s new blog, make sure you do. It’s a great combination of solid conservative thinking and the writers’ Christian testimony. I like it because it isn’t just about politics. It’s about something more important. It keeps people grounded.)

But I digress.

Erick’s latest post is actually a call to prayer. That thought came through loud and clear when Erick wrote “Over the course of the past few weeks my lungs have been filling with blood clots. The technical term in the medical report is that my lungs are “showered” with clots. My blood oxygen level cratered to the point of numb lips and the act of putting shampoo in my hair was leaving me out of breath.”

Though Erick’s health is improving, Erick still needs tons of prayers. James 5:16 says “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Here’s hoping Erick quickly (and fully) recovers so that he can torment liberals again.