OPINION

  • Bloomington’s Incredible Shrinking Curbside Cleanup Program

    Trash_Collection.jpgStarting in Spring 2018, Bloomington imposed limits on the quantities of items picked up during the annual Spring Curbside Cleanup Program, while increasing the collection fees for that service.  Now in 2022, the city announced the program will only be offered every 2 years at no reduction in annual fees, effectively cutting the value of the service in half.  And, once again, it reduced what’s on the list of accepted items.

    For more than 30 years, the popular program allowed residents of Bloomington to place almost anything curbside for pickup by the city’s contracted trash collectors one week a year. 

    In fact, much of that pickup was done at no cost to the city by drive-by “scavengers” who would take the items for refurbish, reuse, or salvage.  Anything remaining on Saturday was loaded by a trash-hauler crew for disposal at the landfill.  It had been an effective, convenient, and efficient way to redistribute usable but unwanted items and also dispose of general junk.

    In 2018, residents paid $44 per year for the program. In 2019 it was just over $48. In 2020 and 2021 it was $53 per year.

    Residents now pay $106 per 2-year-cycle for a program that hauls an ever-slimmer list of accepted items and has ever-longer lists of “not accepted”.

    Instead of having residents conveniently place furniture and general junk curbside over the span of a few days, the city now plans to invite residents to haul specific potentially reusable items (sporting goods, gardening tools) to a summer community swap. The city will also host a new annual drop-off event in the fall for recyclable materials that will be open to all Bloomington residents.

    Even the language about the service reflects the city-staff misunderstanding of the dual-focus that made Curbside Cleanup so popular with residents.  Now, it’s simply “managing bulky item disposal”. 

    Prediction:  The city-wide, neighborhood by neighborhood, program will be discontinued entirely within 5 years.

  • Times are Difficult, and Rep. Phillips has Failed to Show Up

    By Tom Weiler, candidate for Congress

    Weiler.JPGThe crime in the 3rd Congressional District and the greater Twin Cities is simply unacceptable.  Our community did not get to this point in a vacuum. We are here today because of failed policies and failed leadership. When elected officials abandon law enforcement, promote progressive “zero or minimal bail” policies for those who commit violent crimes, and support the “Defund the Police” movement, criminals are emboldened and law enforcement is undermined.

    Since May of 2020, carjackings and other violent crimes across the Metro have surged to levels never experienced before and murders in Minneapolis and St. Paul are at or exceeding the all-time highs. From the headlines of mid-day carjackings at Byerly’s in Edina, to drive by shootings in Golden Valley, to home invasions in Orono, to the murder of a 15-year-old boy in Minneapolis, the crime wave is real and impacts all of us. Minnesotans in the Third Congressional District and throughout the Metro area deserve a safe place for their families to live, work, and pursue their American Dream.

    It is my goal to better understand the root causes of the crime surge, and to learn corrective actions we can take to improve the situation. While on the campaign trail meeting with constituents throughout the district, I have had an opportunity to speak with a number of police chiefs and law enforcement officers. Over and over, I have heard their calls for leadership and support from elected officials.

    One statement particularly stood out during a conversation with a seasoned police officer regarding the role government leaders could play to address the current crime wave. The officer stated, “I am actually not sure where Congressman Phillips stands on policing.” To me, that said it all. A key member of our law enforcement team -- in a community experiencing a historic crime wave -- is unsure if he has the support of our Representative in Congress. That is unacceptable. Leadership is demanded in difficult situations, and Congressman Phillips is failing to show up.

    Specifically, Congressman Phillips’ lack of leadership further enflames the “Defund the Police” movement, and his vote in support of The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act hurts law enforcement. In particular, the Act he supported would:

    • Effectively defund policing in the district by imposing data collection and additional administrative requirements. Both of these demand significant police resources without providing any additional funding.
    • Remove qualified immunity for police officers. Such changes in the law would allow an officer to go to prison and to lose everything financially for a good faith mistake while trying to defend and protect others. This proposal is already having a significant effect by pushing experienced officers to pursue different careers and limiting the quality and quantity of new recruits.

    I do not support a bill with measures like this, and I will be a different kind of Representative than Congressman Phillips on law enforcement and many other issues.

  • Rep. Phillips Panders to New Left with “Woke” Apology

    By Mark Blaxill, candidate for Congress

    Blaxill.jpgRep. Dean Phillips (D, MN) has won two consecutive terms in Congress, in part by positioning himself as a political moderate and a “problem solver.” As a voting Congressional Democrat in today’s Congress, it’s increasingly hard to claim to be a moderate about anything. And Dean Phillips’ voting record is about as far to the left as anyone in Congress.

    During his first term, Philips voted with Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) 99% of the time, disagreeing with her on only one major vote. During this term, Phillips cast over 900 votes alongside “squad” member Ilhan Omar (D, MN) and voted with her 93% of the time, disagreeing on only 6 major votes. In his second term, Phillips has voted with Pelosi 100% of the time and Omar 94% of the time.

    Based on his voting record alone, we should be working hard to make Phillips’ second term his last. But over the last year, Rep. Phillips has doubled down on his commitment to America’s far left and drifted even further away from his Minnesota constituency. Nothing illustrates this drift more clearly than Phillips bizarre comments on February 4, 2021 on “privilege.”

    Phillips’ four-minute speech from the House floor was a remarkable bit of political theatre, but needs to be placed in context. In the new “intersectionality” sweepstakes, in which Democrats are attempting to build a coalition of oppressed identities under a single banner, he occupies a difficult position. By all accounts, in woke-speak terms, Phillips is a “cis-gendered, heterosexual, white male.” This gives him no standing in the grievance-based politics that America’s New Left has been exploiting to divide us all.

    In those circumstances, what is a “moderate” Democrat to do? In comments that followed the January 6 riots, Phillips chose to put forth a new axis of intersectional grievance.

    Trauma.

    During his speech, which went viral, he began with the following statement

    “I want to start my remarks by addressing those who have belittled, dismissed, minimized or criticized anyone, who has experienced trauma of any type, at any time, in any form.  To you I say I take pity on you and I say shame on you.”

    It’s an odd comment. Is Phillips talking about himself, claiming to be suffering from sort of post-traumatic stress disorder? Is he seeking to cut off at the pass any criticism of his own “lived experience” (after all, the lived experience of oppression renders one impervious to challenge in the new world of social justice politics)? Is he seeking some sort of street cred from his colleagues? He never says it outright, but if you’re paying attention to the clues, he’s certainly suggesting that anyone who criticizes him is, well, a bad person.

  • Elkins' Housing Bill is Really a "KON" Act

    san-francisco_close_houses-g89c6cca59_640.jpgIn our September 2021 edition, SD 49 Newsletter carried a story outlining how our Rep. Elkins plans to social engineer our residential neighborhoods to fit his vision of how we should live.

    Rep. Steve Elkins recently introduced his “Legalize Affordable Housing” Act for consideration in this session of the Minnesota House. It really should be called the “Kill Our Neighborhoods” Bill, as it is a real KON Act. Comparing the bill Rep. Elkins actually submitted to the draft bill we analyzed last September, SD49 Newsletter confirmed that the new bill retains these features:

    1. Elkins’ Kill Our Neighborhoods (KON) bill both requires cities to allow and encourages builders to build low-income, high-density housing. The costs of that housing will still be imposed on the original, single-family residents of the neighborhood, not on the low-income occupants of the high density housing. The new low-income residents are exempted from impact fees intended to make developers pay the costs of new development to the city -- street, sewer and other improvements needed to support the new development. (Article 1, Sec 8 of the KON). In other legislation, projects qualifying as low-income must have at least 30% of their units cheap enough that people earning 30% of the median income for their area can buy them.

    2. Rep. Elkins’ KON specifically allows use of various fees authorized by the KON to build mass transit into our neighborhoods. (Art. 1, Sec. 5 (1))

    3. These fees for “fixed transit infrastructure” must be apportioned to all developed parcels in the district (Art. 2, Sec. 1, Subd (1)(c). However, ‘developed parcels’ is undefined. Fees for street improvement districts must be based on vehicle trips to and from developed parcels over the quarter before the fees are set – based, in other words, on trips by owners of the single family homes which existed before Elkins’ KON strips away their single family zoning and converts our neighborhoods to the high density, low income housing Elkins wants.

    As we pointed out in our January article, Rep. Elkins told us that if we oppose his bill we are NIMBY racists. He told the MinnPost, ““These kinds of zoning restrictions have a clearly disparate impact on communities of color and in some cases have their origins in racism,” said Elkins. “Anyone who has served on a city council in a developing suburban community encountered people at the podium talking about this density will bring ‘those people’ into the community.”

    Rep. Elkins has announced he will seek re-election. If he is re-elected, he will push his KON in our legislature. And if you dislike having your single-family-zoned neighborhood eliminated, you are one of the ‘people at the podium’ Elkins paints so clearly. You could not possibly just prefer low density neighborhoods. In Elkins' view, if you support neighborhood, single-family zoning, you are a racist.

  • Broad Agreement: Oppose No-Knock Warrants

    Fist_on_door.jpgWe on the Senate District 49 GOP newsletter staff support the police and appreciate the work that they have stepped forward to do. However, the killing of Amir Locke by Minneapolis police during the police intrusion authorized with a “no-knock” warrant has sparked renewed discussion and broad agreement across Minnesota. We oppose the use of no-knock warrants.

    If you woke up on a dark morning with armed strangers bursting into your house, screaming at you and you had your pistol in hand, what would you have done? Nobody comes awake and to full awareness in seconds, especially when confronted with that scenario in the supposed security of their own home.

    Your police don’t protect you from violent crime. They can’t. Most violent criminals don’t allow you to call the cops while they rob or assault you, and even if they did, violent crimes are usually over so quickly cops could almost never get there in time to stop it. Minneapolis police have told SD49GOP newsletter reporters that they don’t record how many violent crimes they actually stop in progress because “…it almost never happens.” Minneapolis police also don’t record how many crimes are prevented by citizens using – or more often just displaying – a personally owned firearm.

    Bryan Strawer, chair, Minnesota Gun Owners’ Caucus was quoted this week in the Star Tribune: “Amir Locke, a lawful gun owner, should still be alive. Black men, like all citizens, have a right to keep and bear arms. Black men, like all citizens, have a right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable search and seizure.”

  • Rep. Elkins, Drop Your Single-Family Re-Zoning Bill

    Letter to the Legislator

    Letter_Writer.jpgDear Representative Elkins,
    Your proposed bill to promote the rezoning of local single family residential housing into multiple unit housing zones under the guise of improving housing affordability and addressing racism appears to be ill-conceived.  Where on earth did this idea come from?  What majority of your constituents is asking for such a bill?  Aren't they who you are supposed to represent?  Or is it Ken Martin and the far left of the DFL Party?  George Soros?  Who?

    Since we moved into our upper middle class Bloomington neighborhood in 1979, we have enjoyed numerous Black, Asian and Hispanic neighbors. Currently, out of 9 homes on just our block alone, lives a black family and two Asian families all of whom have lived in our neighborhood for decades.  When we first moved in, our neighbors across the street were a very nice mixed race (black/white) couple.  We all enjoy living in our pleasant single-family neighborhood.  Everybody worked hard to be able to buy a home here.  The notion that single-family zoning is racist sounds more like far-left ideology than truth.

    In today's America, anybody can get educated, get a job or start a business, start moving up the ladder and, depending on their level of ambition, buy any house in any neighborhood that they want to live in.  The evidence of this is all around us.

    Access to affordable housing isn't the main problem for minorities. It's a symptom of the real problems affecting minorities disproportionately.

    The real problems are that too many minorities live in Democrat-controlled inner cities where the quality of public-school education is poor and the teachers unions are the Democrat's first priority.  Add in that too many minorities become dependent on government social programs that destroy personal initiative and incentivize too many dysfunctional single parent families.  Minority kids suffer greatly in this kind of an environment. This is well known by black leaders who are working to address these problems without much political support from Democrats.

    It's pretty tough for a young minority person to get a good education, get a good job, afford a house and move up the economic ladder with a start in the poor circumstances noted above.  Zoning single family neighborhoods so that lower income multiple unit housing can be built will do nothing to help minorities significantly improve their circumstances.  Only after the above-noted social catastrophes are addressed will minorities make real economic progress.

    Please drop your single-family rezoning bill.

    Sincerely,
    Tom Spitznagle
    Bloomington, MN

    The response from Rep. Elkins:

  • Bloomington Council Plans to Mandate YOUR Sick Leave Benefits

    Bloomington_City_Hall.jpgRecent letters to the SunCurrent newspaper highlight local opposition to the City Council’s proposed ESSL ordinance (Earned Safe and Sick Leave) to mandate that all businesses with more than 6 employees provide paid sick-leave for all employees – full-time, part-time, seasonal, or temporary.

    A short Dec 26, 2021 letter by Bloomington business man David Clark, who ran for city council in 2021, mentioned the budgeted city staff-increases associated with this as among the unneeded “strategic initiatives” which burden local tax-payers. 

    In the January 9, 2022 edition, city council member at-large Nathan Coulter, who works as a legislative assistant for DFL Senator Melissa Wicklund, provided a lengthy justification for the council’s sick-leave initiative that boils down to “we want our opinion to control exactly how business owners manage their businesses.” You may read the full letter on the SunCurrent website.

    Contrary to Coulter’s assurances regarding timing “just beginning” and consideration of all views, a Task Force  was appointed by the City Council last summer to study this issue and they have virtually completed their work, as discussed at the January 3 City Council meeting. Very little public input was sought and one business/business owner on the Task Force is located in Minneapolis, not Bloomington. Three advocacy groups are also on the Task Force but none are pro-business. Pro-business advocacy groups were excluded.

    This idea is not new and COVID is only the latest “hook” upon which the urgency of government intervention is hung. The DFL/Democratic Party’s desire to mandate whether and how businesses offer sick leave benefits has been demonstrated for years, with legislation proposed at national, state and city levels. A quick news search for “mandatory sick leave” will show a relentless yearly succession of proposals that have been defeated at national and state levels. The city-by-city approach has seen some success in Minnesota since 2010 – Minneapolis in 2017, St. Paul in 2016, Duluth in 2020. A 2017 interview with the departing president of St Paul’s Chamber of Commerce describes the anti-jobs statements of the policy-advocates.  In 2020, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Minneapolis (and by extension other cities) had the authority to impose such mandates.

    Earned Sick Leave policies are already offered by 60-70% of employers.  We believe the choice to offer this or any other benefit should be left to the employer based upon their industry, ability to recruit employees and financial condition.  And YOU should be able to keep the balance of benefits that made you choose your employer, not be pigeon-holed into a structure of sick-leave benefits mandated by a government committee. Nor should you then be faced with a bigger tax bill for local government oversight of your employee benefit plan.

  • Dean Phillips and Democrat Bills to Federalize Elections

    Dean_Phillips_1.JPGU.S Representative Dean Phillips wrote to constituents last September that he voted in favor of HR4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, “to do everything possible to ensure our elections are safe, secure, accessible, and fair.”  He claimed that it would ensure ALL [his emphasis] eligible Americans are able to vote. 

    He included a link to a WCCO radio interview during which he stated that “it is time that we recognize that especially in part of the south and other parts of the country that voting is not easy.”  He went on to say,” Laws are in place to make it hard, to disenfranchise people.”  Phillips never cited a specific example of where eligible Americans are denied the ability to vote, or exactly how these states are making it "hard" to vote.

    While professing to be non-partisan, his comments are straight out of the Democratic Party playbook.  These “voting rights” bills are designed to eliminate voting suppression measures that were already addressed 50 years ago.

    Phillips argues that if you do not support the Federal take-over of state voting processes, you are not patriotic.  As will be made clear in the following analysis of HR4, Dean Phillips’ support of the 2021 Voting Rights bills was not an exercise in patriotism, it was a demonstration of straight-up partisanship.

    Analysis:  Federal House bill HR4 

    The misleadingly titled ‘John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act’, does the opposite of advancing voting rights. It actively aims to end fair elections to Federal office.

    Sponsored by Alabama representative Terri Sewell and co-sponsored by 223 House members (all Democrats), the 76-page bill, last updated August 24th, 2021, passed the House on a party-line vote but its identical Senate companion measure, S.4 (same title) failed cloture in the Senate. 

    HR4 includes a lengthy laundry list of reasons allowing the Federal government to take over election of Federal representatives at the state level.  HR4 has provisions requiring that non-protected classes (read: white people) be identified as ‘voting as a bloc’, and that they are ‘politically cohesive’ – both terms impossible of objective definition, and both inherently racist, and that is about as legally reasonable as HR4 gets.

  • Minnesota a Sanctuary State for Child Sexual Predators?

    Child_Protection_League_logo.jpgChild Protection League president Michele Lentz asserted in an interview with Kyle Hooten, editor of Alpha News, that Minnesota is becoming a ‘sanctuary state’ for child sexual predators.  According to Lentz, 87-91% of those accused in Minnesota receive only probation, leaving them at large in our society.

    Lentz specifically addressed those charged for possession, distribution and/or production of child pornography, but provided no data on what percentage of child sexual predators fell into this category. 

    Lentz concludes that the reason is a growing sympathy for predators over victims and a general distaste for incarceration here in Minnesota, but offered no specific evidence for her conclusion during the interview.

    The Child Protection League ( CLICK HERE to see their principles), is promoting Minnesota legislation to toughen penalties for child sexual predators.  Rep. Matt Grossell (R- Clearbrook) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R, Alexandria) introduced HF 229  and SF 1220 , respectively, to address the problem.  Both bills are known as the Protect Minnesota Kids Act.  The bills would raise Minnesota sentencing standards to more closely match Federal sentencing standards.

     

  • Comment by Dec. 14, Jan. 14 on School Social Studies Standards

    history_book-g1408a91d9_640.pngAs reported at Alpha News, the revised social studies standards for schools continue to wend their way through the rule-making process. That will take 18 months to two years, and will include “multiple opportunities” for public comments and potential changes. There will be a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge before formal adoption.

    The article at Alpha News by Katherine Kersten, Center of the American Experiment, includes detailed analysis and commentary on the third and final draft of the standards, with examples. As previously noted, the new standards omit many basic historic facts about the United States and Minnesota and instead focus on "group identity based on race; life as a power struggle between oppressors and victims; and American history as a shameful story of domination, marginalization and injustice."

    There are two ways to make your voice heard on the recently released third draft social studies standards, which you may download as a 92-page PDF document from the MN Department of Education's website.

    The first is easy — sign a petition at the Center of the American Experiment’s website, and send a message to the Minnesota Department of Education and the Office of Administrative Hearings. You can sign your name to their prepared text or personalize it with your own thoughts. The MDE comment period closes on Dec. 14, 2021, and your comments will be sent to both MDE and the Office of Administrative Hearings.

    The second way to make your voice heard is to engage directly with the Office of Administrative Hearings through their open comment process. Commenters can join an ongoing discussion Minnesotans are having about the current draft of the standards. You can attach documents to your comments to support your views. The Administrative Law Judge will read all of the comments before making a decision. Click here  to create a profile and join the discussion. This comment period closes on Jan. 14, 2022.