Saturday, October 31, 2009
The problems that New Brighton face are daunting and largely of the local government's own making. And I think a lot of the problems stem from misguided ambition. Let's be honest about one thing -- if a mayor sticks precisely to the job description in a city like New Brighton, it's not that exciting a job. New Brighton, like many communities, employs a fulltime city manager who handles the day-to-day administrative workings of the city. New Brighton has largely had highly competent administrators during this time and that has meant that, at least in terms of the services a municipality generally provides, there's not a lot for the local politicians to do.
Steve Larson, the incumbent mayor, strikes me as an ambitious guy, as was his predecessor, Bob Benke, who remains a crucial eminence grise in the local political scene. Benke earned the somewhat derisive nickname of "Bob the Builder" because he managed to get a number of municipal buildings erected during his time. If you go into New Brighton City Hall, you'll see his name on the dedication plaque in the entry of the building. It's one of the satisfactions of what would otherwise be a small bore job -- seeing your name on the entrance plaque, knowing that it will still be there for people to read long after you've left the fray. Let's face it -- people, especially politicians, love to leave footprints.
Larson has his name inside a few buildings around town, too, and one of the legacies he and Benke were hoping to have was the Northwest Quadrant project. If the project had come off as intended, it would have been a project that would have transformed New Brighton, with a densely populated residential and commercial mix in the New Urbanist style on the model of Orenco Station, a top-down project in suburban Portland that is one of the Holy Grails of those who enjoy seeing their names on plaques.
As it happens, the project has become a disastrous mistake. Unsightly yet productive businesses have been driven away and replaced with. . . nothing. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent for land that will require extensive environmental abatement before it can be reused, with costs in the tens of millions. All the money for other development in the City is now tied to the Northwest Quadrant, meaning that stasis is about the best that can be hoped for in the rest of the city. Meanwhile, you can drive down Old Highway 8, a newly rebuilt and resurfaced thoroughfare with expensive lighting that illuminates a moonscape. It's a beautifully rendered pathway through nothing. For New Brighton taxpayers, who are on the hook for perhaps $100 million with almost nothing to show from Mayor Larson's development efforts, it's a well-paved road to hell.
Maybe Steve Larson could still get his name on a few plaques if he can just get by this election. Maybe he can turn all this around, with the help of a few reliable votes on the City Council. Maybe his real estate development acumen will improve now that he's sunk the city's fisc into this mess. Maybe the potential developers will pretend that the city is not desperate to salvage this project and will be willing to help the mayor out by being maganimous in future negotiations. Maybe this time, after failure upon failure, this good-hearted fellow Larson, who would like to remind you that he has given 32 years -- 32 years! -- of his life to public service, will get it right. All he needs is another chance, right?
Are you skeptical? You should be. We shouldn't reward this sort of performance. There's no reason to believe that Steve Larson will do a better job if only he gets another chance, and if only he can get his friends Graeme Allen and Char Samuelson to help him out. Right Hook at Boots On has explained the case against Allen and Samuelson quite well.
Fortunately for the citizens of our community, there are worthy alternatives. Dave Jacobsen will make a fine mayor. He has approached his campaign with a steady hand and he has a 39-year career in the corporate sector that bespeaks quiet competence and effective leadership. He has seen negotiations, he has dealt with environmental issues and he is coming to the office with no greater ambition than to serve the citizens of his community. Gina Bauman, who has served with great distinction on the City Council for the past 4 years, understands the challenges ahead and has the financial background to understand how to make things work. I cannot overstate the importance of keeping Bauman on the council. And for the second council seat, voters have the choice of either Paul Jacobsen, a man who has an extensive leadership background in the military who would bring a fresh, yet fiscally sound perspective to the council, or Walt Witzke, a longtime New Brighton resident who understands well the financial impact of past decisions and has a proven background in managing to do more with less in the corporate sector. Either man would provide valuable support on the City Council.
If New Brighton is going to get better, it needs better leadership. Tuesday is the day to make that happen.
Friday, October 30, 2009
As voters, we are hiring managers. And a good hiring manager looks for candidates with the proper skill set to do the job.
New Brighton has a difficult task ahead and the Northwest Quadrant is a project that has gone badly awry. There are significant financial and environmental issues on the table that must be addressed if the city is to salvage its investment and minimize the impact previous decisions will have on taxpayers.
Whom would you rather have doing this? A corporate executive with years of project management experience and an exceptionally strong background in the real world considerations of environmental issues? Or a salesman, whose primary concern is closing the deal, often with only passing thought to the long-term ramifications?
Those are your candidates. More soon.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
No one running is talking about cutting essential services, such as police and fire protection. And it's disingenuous for Mayor Larson to take credit for their performance. Our public safety personnel in New Brighton would perform admirably no matter who sits in the mayor's chair.
The question in this election is not about how the city spends the taxpayer's money on essential services. The question is how the current administration spent the taxpayer's money on other things. The mayor would prefer that you not think about that.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
BROWN: Officials have been very public about their feelings about FOX News and what they believe FOX News is and represents. And they made a point of coming out and saying it.
JARRETT: What we're saying is, is that we want the public to understand what's going on. When we saw the kind of distortions this summer, particularly directed at seniors, over health care reform, it was really outrageous. And I think what the president said in his message before Congress is, we're going to speak directly to the American people and make sure that they understand the truth. And so, certainly, if we see somebody distorting the truth, we're going to call them on the carpet for that. But we don't want to take our focus away from the core issues that are so important to the American people. Now, when there's all that chatter and distortion and false information, we have to disseminate -- we have to distinguish between truth and fiction.
BROWN: So do you think FOX News is biased?
JARRETT: Well, of course they're biased. Of course they are.
BROWN: OK. Then do you also think that MSNBC is biased?
JARRETT: Well, you know what? This is the thing. I don't want to -- actually, I don't want to just generalize all FOX is biased or that another station is biased. I think what we want to do is look at it on a case-by-case basis. And when we see a pattern of distortion, we're going to be honest about that pattern of distortion.
BROWN: But you only see that at FOX News? That's all that -- you have spoken out about FOX News.
JARRETT: That's actually not true.I think that what the administration has said very clearly is that we're going to speak truth to power. When we saw all of the distortions in the course of the summer, when people were coming down to town hall meetings and putting up signs that were scaring seniors to death, when we have seen commercials go up on television that are distorting the truth, we're actually calling everybody out. So, this isn't something that's simply directed at FOX. We really just want the American people to have a clear understanding. There's so much at stake right now. We really don't have a lot of time for nonsense and distortions.
Emphasis mine. Gee, isn't this a target-rich environment? Let's consider what Jarrett is asserting here. She says Fox News is biased. But when the CNN(!) anchor Brown challenges her, she says she doesn't want to generalize about who is biased and who isn't biased, even though she just did it a minute before. And then Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the most powerful man on the planet, says that she needs to speak "truth to power." Think about that for a minute before we turn it over to the maestro. Take it away, Mr. Taranto:
Good for Campbell Brown for sticking up for a competitor (albeit at the expense of a lesser competitor). And it's pretty funny how Jarrett, after smugly asserting, "Of course they're biased," did not make a pretense of standing by her position when Brown asked a question she would have been prepared for if she had spent any time thinking this through.
Even more risible, though, is the claim that the administration "is going to speak truth to power." Hello, Valerie? Your boss is the president of the United States! No one is more powerful. As we suggested Friday, it really seems as if Obama and his men do not understand what it means to be president. Because their power is constrained--thank you, Founding Fathers!--they labor under the delusion that they are powerless.
This is exactly right. It is risible. Jarrett and her boss have substantially more power than any single news network. Fox News cannot control the agenda of this nation; it can only report on it and comment on it. And if the commenters at Fox News are persuasive enough, they might be able to move public opinion some, but they can only seek to influence. Obama can do much more, any time he sees fit. I don't know what Team Obama expected, but separation of powers has always been baked into the design of this nation. Presidents don't necessarily get their way. Nine different men have served as president in my lifetime and every one of them has received a comeuppance at one point or another. And every one of them has deserved it.
But there's another point to be made, and Taranto makes it well:
Yet while this is all hilarious, it is also scary when you think it through. Great power entails great responsibility. There is little to suggest that Obama and his aides appreciate their responsibility, and much, including their incessant complaining that the previous president did a lousy job, to suggest an attitude of total irresponsibility.
The job of those in power is not to "speak truth to power," though it would be nice if they spoke the truth once in a while. It is to exercise power responsibly. The effort to bully Fox News Channel would be an abuse of power were it not so pathetically inept.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
- Must Not See TV -- behold one of the most annoying panels possible (Ed Schultz, Barney Frank and Ralph Nader) discussing the role of government, as the man who gave you a large chunk of the banking crisis helpfully explains that "We Are Trying On Every Front To Increase The Role Of Government." Ya think?
- This is plenty amusing. Money quote: “He is a man of perpetual promise. There used to be a cruel joke that said Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be; Obama is the Brazil of today’s politicians. He has obviously achieved nothing. And in the American context, to be the hero of five Norwegian leftists, is not exactly politically positive.” But he'll be sure to have an excellent table at the best restaurants in Stavanger. That's something.
- Daniel Ortega pulls an end run to get the Nicaraguan Supreme Court to eliminate term limits. So why is this is a good idea? As you might recall, we're supporting Zelaya in Honduras, who wanted to do the same thing before he was deposed.
- Lately I've been rereading Mike Royko's Boss, after nearly 40 years still the essential study on the career of Richard J. Daley and the Chicago Machine. If you want to understand Chicago politics, it's still an excellent place to start. Highly recommended.
- I'm not prepared to talk about Brett Favre yet. Maybe tomorrow.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
In the health care debate, Democrats and their allies have gone after insurance companies as rapacious profiteers making "immoral" and "obscene" returns while "the bodies pile up."
Ledgers tell a different reality. Health insurance profit margins typically run about 6 percent, give or take a point or two. That's anemic compared with other forms of insurance and a broad array of industries, even some beleaguered ones.
Profits barely exceeded 2 percent of revenues in the latest annual measure. This partly explains why the credit ratings of some of the largest insurers were downgraded to negative from stable heading into this year, as investors were warned of a stagnant if not shrinking market for private plans.
About the only industry I can think of that operates at similar margins are grocery stores. If you want to argue that the government would do a better job than private insurers, fine. Go right ahead. But let's give this "obscene profit" thing a rest.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Even before the Obama administration formally tightened executive compensation at bailed-out companies, the prospect of pay cuts had led some top employees to depart.
And now that Kenneth Feinberg has broke out the terrible swift sword, how does it look?
At Bank of America, for instance, only 14 of the 25 highly paid executives remained by the time Feinberg announced his decision. Under his plan, compensation for the most highly paid employees at the bank would be a maximum of $9.9 million. The bank had sought permission to pay as much as $21 million, according to Treasury Department documents.
At American International Group, only 13 people of the top 25 were still on hand for Feinberg's decision.
So much of the senior leadership of these firms leaves. And the government wants the firms to pay the TARP money back, even though they've made it more difficult by chasing away the people who would be best-positioned to get the money back. Good plan!
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Well, most of the press pool, anyway. They planned to exclude Fox News. There's video at the link and it's worth watching.
Here's the good part -- the other news organizations in the pool refused the offer to interview Feinberg if Fox was excluded, so the White House backed down.
Allahpundit's typically spot-on and acerbic analysis asks all the right questions, to wit:
Decide for yourself what the most disgraceful aspect of this is. Was it the fact that Gibbs told Jake Tapper explicitly on Monday that the White House wouldn’t try to dictate to the press pool who should and shouldn’t be included — before doing precisely that? Was it Anita Dunn going out of her way to say she respects Major Garrett as a fair reporter — before the administration decided he didn’t deserve a crack here at Feinberg? Or was it the repeated insistence by Dunn and Axelrod that of course the administration will make its officials available to Fox — before pulling the plug today?
Good questions all, and worthy of discussion. But I would be remiss if I didn't say this -- hats off to NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and the rest. They understood what this move meant and resisted it. The cure for speech you dislike is not to curtail it or to cut off access. The cure is more speech.
Sue, Marissa and I met freshman year. Marissa was a science major at Beloit. Sue and I were history majors. Even though we rarely took the same classes, we remained friends through college and beyond.
The three of us traveled a lot together, mainly in cars. While we were still students, we traveled from Beloit to Minnesota during spring break. We borrowed Sue's brother's Camaro. A total of five of us made that trip in Bob's Camaro. One summer, also while we were students, Sue and I drove to the East Coast. We visited Marissa and her family at their home in Connecticut. After we graduated from Beloit, we traveled to Europe. What a trip! One day I will never forget was the day we spent driving around East Berlin in a rental car that we had rented in West Germany. Our gas dwindled to less than a quarter tank. That was a big problem since we needed to either cross over the border into West Berlin or find a gas station in East Berlin that sold unleaded fuel. In those days, unleaded fuel was scarce in East Berlin. To make a long story short, we made it to a West Berlin gas station that sold unleaded fuel before we ran out of gas.
Years passed. Sue told me some bad news. Sue and I could still travel for pleasure. By a cruel twist of fate, years after John Ed's prophesy, part of it came true for Marissa. She was in the Cancer Studebaker with ovarian cancer doing the driving.
Five years ago, the three of us traveled to Beloit for our 15th reunion. Marissa looked good, she was in remission.
A couple of weeks ago, the Dilettante family took our Hyundai Sante Fe to Beloit. Sue's family traveled in their vehicle from the Chicago area to Beloit. Unfortunately, no Studebakers arrived in Beloit.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Pick an artist or band, and then answer the questions using nothing but song titles from their discography.
Mitch answered the questions using The Who. Over in his comments, I used The Clash. And I reprint my answers here. If you'd like to play, either post your answers in the comments section, or do it on your own blog (if you have one) and send a link back here. Play on, playas!
Pick Your Artist: The Clash
Are you male or female? White Man in Hammersmith Palais (The Clash)
Describe yourself: Lost in the Supermarket (London Calling)
How do you feel about yourself? I’m So Bored With the U.S.A. (The Clash)
Describe where you currently live: Garageland (The Clash)
If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Safe European Home (Give ‘Em Enough Rope)
Your best friend is: Janie Jones (The Clash)
Your favorite color is: Atom Tan (Combat Rock)
You know that: Julie’s Been Working for the Drug Squad (Give ‘em Enough Rope)
What’s the weather like: Lightning Strikes Not Once But Twice (Sandinista)
If your life was a tv show, what would it be called?: The Right Profile (London Calling)
What is life to you? Career Opportunities (The Clash)
What is the best advice you have to give? Stay Free (Give ‘em Enough Rope)
If you could change your name, what would it be? Jimmy Jazz (London Calling)
Your favorite food is: Koka Kola (London Calling)
Get the Funk Out Ma Face, Brothers Johnson
Get Ready, The Temptations
Get Down Tonight, KC and the Sunshine Band
Immigrant Song, Led Zeppelin
Sing a Song, Earth Wind & Fire
I'm So Glad, Cream
Emotional Rescue, Rolling Stones
Cocktails for Two, Spike Jones and His City Slickers
Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover, Paul Simon
Less Than Zero, Elvis Costello
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
- Officially, the race for mayor is between the incumbent, Steve Larson, and Dave Jacobsen, a retired executive making his initial run at public office. Based on Mayor Larson's behavior last night, you would have thought that he was running against incumbent City Council member Gina Bauman. Bauman is the one person in the campaign who has direct knowledge of Mayor Larson's work in the past few years and has been Mayor Larson's most trenchant critic. There was an incident during the event that revealed some of the tension involved. During the portion of the program devoted to City Council candidates, Bauman made a specific point about health insurance for city government officials which apparently rankled Larson enough that he sent a note up to the moderator, who then "corrected" the information Bauman had offered. Because of the rules of the forum, Bauman was unable to respond. This was a bad show on the mayor's part and certainly a mistake by the moderator, who should have ignored Larson's entreaty.
- For a first-time candidate, I thought Dave Jacobsen did pretty well. He's a very smart man and he has an excellent skill set for the position -- he's been a corporate executive with budgeting experience and he was responsible for a large part of his employer's environmental portfolio. He doesn't speak in soundbites and you have to pay attention to what he is saying, but he was authoritative as he spoke. If the first test of a challenger is credibility, Mr. Jacobsen passed easily.
- There are seven candidates running for two seats on the City Council. The forum was a bit of a cattle call and it was somewhat difficult to sort out the candidates. Based on what I knew before the event, it had seemed like there were 4 credible candidates -- Gina Bauman, former city council member and State Representative Char Samuelson, political lobbyist Graeme Allen and newcomer Paul Jacobsen, who has an extensive military background. I would rank them somewhat differently today. Based on what we know at the moment, here's how I see it:
- Bauman is clearly the best candidate in the field, and it's not even close. She is the only incumbent in the race. Considering that the city's governance has been problematic, one might consider her incumbency to be a problem; however Gina has been a consistent voice of opposition to the policies that have brought the city to the brink. She understands what needs to be done and is well-positioned to do the work. With a different cast of characters at City Hall, she would the one candidate in the field who could immediately bring about needed changes. No matter what else happens, it is imperative that Bauman is returned to the council, either as a reform leader or as a watchdog should Mayor Larson be re-elected.
- At this point, it's pretty much a toss-up for the second seat among Samuelson, Paul Jacobsen and Walt Witzke, a longtime resident with extensive experience on various commissions in the city. Of the three, Witzke gave the best performance on Monday. He is a fairly soft-spoken, analytical man and he has thought long and hard about the issues facing the city and has come to well-reasoned conclusions. Like Dave Jacobsen, Witzke has established that he is a credible candidate. Paul Jacobsen is an outwardly impressive fellow and he clearly has outstanding leadership skills, but at times he didn't seem to understand some of the issues he was asked to discuss. He has a lot of upside potential, but he needs to get up to speed quickly, because the task at hand will not allow the luxury of on-the-job training. Char Samuelson has the most impressive resume in the field and has served the city with great distinction in the past, but she was very much off her game last night and seemed almost a little distracted. She also was the only candidate who explicitly said she would raise taxes. My guess is that won't play well, especially among the large percentage of New Brighton residents who are living on fixed incomes.
- Of the remaining three candidates, Graeme Allen was probably the best, but to me was well behind Witzke, Jacobsen and Samuelson. Allen is clearly a bright guy and since he is very well plugged into the state government as a lobbyist, he does understand some of the issues facing New Brighton. Having said that, he also seemed quick to fall back on pat answers -- he talked about "investing" in the community several times, which generally is a coded way of saying he views your wallet as common property. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I suspect not. Allen would be well-served to spend some time in the private sector; my guess is that he would understand citizen concerns better with a broader overall perspective. W. Christopher Stedman, like Allen, is a bright and articulate young man. He comes to the race from the other end of the spectrum from Allen, as Stedman is an executive at Best Buy and like his employer, he seems like a savvy, effective marketer. Having said that, he didn't really provide any reason that the voters should select him. He spoke several times and I don't have any idea what he'd do on the council. The final candidate, Ron Meyer, is the sort of guy you'd love to have for a neighbor. He's an upbeat, enthusiastic guy who is full of energy and civic pride. He would make a great ambassador for the city; he and his wife are part of the royalty for the St. Paul Winter Carnival and it is easy to see why. Having said that, he didn't offer any reason to be elected other than his own persona. In a different year, in a different time, he'd probably be just fine on the city council, but with the challenges ahead the city needs leaders who have specific ideas for how to solve the imminent problems. From what I could tell, Meyer didn't offer anything beyond his dynamic personality.
We'll revisit the race again in the coming days, talking more about the issues. I also note that Right Hook over at Boots On has offered a detailed synopsis of yesterday's events. As always, his take is well worth your time.
Tapper: It’s escaped none of our notice that the White House has decided in the last few weeks to declare one of our sister organizations “not a news organization” and to tell the rest of us not to treat them like a news organization. Can you explain why it’s appropriate for the White House to decide that a news organization is not one –
Gibbs: Jake, we render, we render an opinion based on some of their coverage and the fairness that, the fairness of that coverage.
Tapper: But that’s a pretty sweeping declaration that they are “not a news organization.” How are they any different from, say –
Gibbs: ABC -
Tapper: ABC. MSNBC. Univision. I mean how are they any different?
Gibbs's response? "That's our opinion."
Here's another question that Tapper ought to ask. If the White House feels that Fox News is not a legitimate news organization, why does it continue to give Fox press credentials at the White House? Why is Major Garrett, Tapper's opposite number at Fox, even in the room? Wouldn't you like to hear Robert Gibbs explain that one?
Monday, October 19, 2009
- Don't know if anyone really pays much attention to those weekend presidential radio addresses, but it's pretty clear that the insurance companies are now Emanuel Goldstein. And in a particularly noxious move, Medicare has fined Humana for telling its customers the truth.
- Meanwhile, there's the continuing fight with Fox News. Karl Rove is hardly a disinterested observer, but I'm not sure that Rove's comparison of the administration's behavior to that of Nixon's compilation of an Enemies List isn't spot-on. Maybe one of my portside commenters can set me straight on that one.
- Meanwhile, the administration continues to find reasonable people to talk to. Like these folks. And these folks. Again, like Tim Hardin, I look to find a reason to believe.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Fortunately, you get two chances to evaluate this year's field.
The first chance is tomorrow, as the League of Women Voters are sponsoring a candidate forum at New Brighton City Hall at 7 p.m. One week later, the Twin Cities North Area Chamber of Commerce will offer a similar forum, also at 7 p.m., also at New Brighton City Hall.
See you there.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The problem is this: sometimes when you cast a movie, the movie doesn't have a happy ending. And if you made a movie of city government in New Brighton for the last decade, you'd think that the script was a horror show.
Mayor Larson has presided over the Northwest Quadrant project, which has turned into an enormous boondoggle. If you go down Old Highway 8 in the area north of 694, you see a moonscape. This was the land that was to become a vibrant multi-use development. This was the project that would bring New Brighton into the 21st century, the project that would be Mayor Larson's crowning achievement. When I first moved to New Brighton in 1997, that stretch of road wasn't beautiful, but it was home to a number of businesses that contributed modest but consistent revenue to the city's coffers and provided jobs for citizens in New Brighton and other surrounding communities.
What happened? You can get an excellent overview of the missteps at the Enlighten New Brighton website. Consider the following from Dennis Flahave, who has served on the New Brighton Economic Development Commission and has had a birds-eye view of the proceedings:
About six years ago when the City's consultants provided "cash flow" projections, I brought two prominent developers to the site to get their opinions of the viability of the project. I told then-city manager Matt Fulton of the developers' opinions: one stated that the project was too dense. The other did not feel that we would receive the high-end dollar projections on the townhomes due to the proximity of the two freeways and the noise associated with these freeways.
Let me make an analogy of the density issue. At The Lakes development in Blaine, the project has a density of approximately 9 units per acre. The density at the Northwest Quadrant is at 15 units per acre. To me this would be like backing out of your garage and into your neighbor's living room. However, the City decided to proceed with these cash flow projections.
As Flahave notes, the developers were skeptical and ultimately, because of poor initial pre-sales and environmental concerns, the developers backed out of the project. Did that stop the City fathers from going forward? Not at all. In fact, they doubled down. Flahave:
In this same time frame the city took $10.7 million out of surplus from other TIF districts and put the money into the Northwest Quadrant in the form of infrastructure such as roads, light poles, curbs, etc.
The City then purchased the Midwest Asphalt property for approximately $19 million on a non-contingent basis. With commercial purchase agreements in Minnesota it is normal to include environmental testing and inspection clauses. Why is this important? Answer, because if a property is found to be environmentally contaminated, the purchaser faces a potential unlimited liability to clean it up. I asked why the City waived its right to test and was told, "if we had done the testing, Midwest Asphalt would not have sold us the property."
But there's more -- the current administration has taken to using creative accounting to minimize the visible impact of its decisions. Flahave:
The City is recently taking great pride in going to the Legislature to get permission for the pooling of our funds. This simply means being able to co-mingle funds - not a good thing as it makes it easier to obfuscate the performance of the individual Tax Increment Districts, no doubt a goal the City desires particularly as it relates to the Northwest Quadrant.
And as a practical matter, it pretty much puts all the City's eggs into one contaminated basket. Perhaps someday the City will be able to sell the NWQ property to other developers. Will they get anywhere near the money that was projected? I wouldn't count on it. Everyone in the Twin Cities business community is well aware of the city's plight and no one is eager to get involved in the development. Would you be?
So where does that leave the City of New Brighton under Mayor Larson's watch? Mr. Flahave runs the numbers thus:
In conclusion, we are currently $100 million in debt and have sold two commercial lots. We are exposed to an unlimited environmental cleanup liability on contaminated sites. Finally, the City now has permission to co-mingle funds making it harder to track the accounting by project. I feel that this is a total breach of fiduciary responsibility.
Guilty Pleasures Part Fifty-Six -- It's Too Late for Joy to the Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves on the Indian Reservation Who Are Tired of Being Alone
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Well, we got our answer today:
Denting President Obama’s hopes for a powerful ally in his campaign to press Iran on its nuclear program, Russia’s foreign minister said Tuesday that threatening Tehran now with harsh new sanctions would be “counterproductive.”Man, how disappointing! There's more:
The minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said after meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton here that diplomacy should be given a chance to work, particularly after a meeting in Geneva this month in which the Iranian government said it would allow United Nations inspectors to visit its clandestine nuclear enrichment site near the holy city of Qum.
“At the current stage, all forces should be thrown at supporting the negotiating process,” he said. “Threats, sanctions and threats of pressure in the current situation, we are convinced, would be counterproductive.”
Mr. Lavrov’s resistance was striking given that, just three weeks before, President Dmitri A. Medvedev said that “in some cases, sanctions are inevitable.” American officials had hailed that statement as a sign that Russia was finally coming around to the Obama administration’s view that Iran is best handled with diplomacy backed by a credible threat of sanctions.Show of hands here: how many of you saw this coming right down Pennsylvania Avenue?
It also came after the Obama administration announced that it would retool a European missile defense system fiercely opposed by Russia. That move was thought to have paid dividends for the White House when Mr. Medvedev appeared to throw his support behind Mr. Obama on Iran, though American officials say the Russian president was also likely to have been reacting to the disclosure of the secret nuclear site near Qum.
As our President would say: let me be clear. There's a reason why Theodore Roosevelt suggested the proper course is to speak softly and carry a big stick. Obama has done the opposite thus far. He's been proclaiming his administration's moral goodness everywhere he goes and has pretty much put the big stick aside. The Russians are an unsentimental lot. Seeing the stick laying on the ground, they have proceeded to shove it into a very personal and private place of the president. Perhaps he can paper over the wound with his Nobel Peace Prize or something.
Presidents talk so much in public that is not surprising to find rhetorical patterns. Although Obama is known for a flair with the written and spoken word, his hardest mission is often to make complicated matters relevant to the masses.
So clarity, it seems, is of the highest order.
Terrorists? "Now let me be clear: We are indeed at war with al-Qaida and its affiliates."
Student testing? "Let me be clear: Success should be judged by results, and data is a powerful tool to determine results."
Iran? "Let me be clear: Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies."
Auto bailouts? "Let me be clear: The United States government has no interest in running GM."
The president takes the phrase everywhere.
In Moscow: "Let me be clear: America wants a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Russia."
In Ghana: "Let me be clear: Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent at perpetual war."
In Italy, bemoaning poor U.S. leadership on climate change: "Let me be clear: Those days are over."
In Trinidad, announcing new aid: "Let me be clear: This is not charity."
Here's my question: do you think that the President is being clear in his intentions? And if you insert the word "perfectly" in between "be" and "clear," don't you hear the voice of another president from about 40 years ago, as one of Professor Reynolds's commenters pointed out here?
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
- The college has a new president.
- The new science building is finished and it is beautiful.
- The college and the city of Beloit are continuing to work together on projects that enhance the area. The latest project is turning the public library into a performing arts center.
- The college had to cut quite a few staff positions last year.
- Alums, if you have not heard from the college recently and would like to hear from the college again, consider contacting the alumni office. When the alumni office recently updated their database, my address was "updated" to the address that I lived at when I was a student at the college. No wonder why I never received any information about the reunion.
- Professor John Rosenwald is retiring.
- Dean Bill Flanagan is retiring.
Despite these changes, Beloit basically is still the same place that it has been for over one hundred and fifty years.
As a student attending the college, it sometimes felt too small. Now, looking back, I now see the small campus as a nurturing environment.
Benster spent a lot of time questioning us about the college. He was intrigued that he could go to a school like Beloit and do the things that we did over the course of four years. On Saturday, we were able to give him a taste of college life by touring the college radio station where Mr. D was a DJ, walking to the football stadium to watch the football game, showing Benster old issues of the student newspaper when Mr. D was the editor and sitting in a professor's office and talking about anything and everything.
Thanks Beloit for remaining a place where a chemistry major can add a poetry minor, where a professor invites you to his or her house for a meal and where fellow graduates want to hear your life story regardless of whether you are president of Sony Pictures or a stay at home mom.
New Brighton is at a crossroads right now. The current leadership of the city has undertaken a huge development project that has gone badly awry. The Northwest Quadrant project has denuded a 1-mile stretch of Old Highway 8, from the 694 overpass up to Highway 96. When we first moved to New Brighton, this stretch was filled with a number of businesses, mostly industrial. They are now gone and the grand plans for redeveloping the area have fallen through. What you see when you travel Old Highway 8 today is largely a moonscape of fallow land.
As a citizen of New Brighton, I find the current situation problematic for many reasons. The businesses that were shooed away from the Old Highway 8 corridor were unsightly, but they contributed jobs and revenue to the city and those resources are no longer available. The land, which the City acquired through highly aggressive use of eminent domain, faces significant challenges before it can be redeveloped. And because the city fathers put all their eggs into this basket, other available monies for redevelopment elsewhere in the City are now tied up in order to service the debt on the undeveloped land.
It's been a boondoggle. So the question for the citizenry is this: ought we return the same individuals who chose this path for another term? And are you satisfied that they will do better next time?
My guess is that most people in New Brighton would recognize that things must change. But who are the people to bring about this change? That is the big question. And we will be looking at this question in the coming days.
You Really Got Me, the Kinks
Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved, James Brown
Love Me, Love Me Now, Curtis Mayfield
Save the Life of My Child, Simon & Garfunkel
Don't Worry About the Government, Talking Heads
Got to Get You Into My Life, Earth Wind & Fire
You Ain't Going Nowhere, the Byrds
I'll Be Your Mirror, Velvet Underground
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show, Neil Diamond
Cult of Personality, Living Colour
Monday, October 12, 2009
- I wrote about the latest foul offering from the increasingly odious Garrison Keillor yesterday over at G. O. M. I worked for a number of years in foodservice during my Target years, so I have some knowledge of the subject. Keillor's assertions about how meat is processed, his casual libel of Cargill, McDonald's and Burger King, and his incredible statement about how the industry is somehow back to the 19th Century (not that he'd say how, of course) is really reprehensible. It's pretty sad, really.
- The New York Yankees are really good.
- President Obama told a largely gay audience over the weekend that he's going to get rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act. He could get rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell today if he chose to. Will he? I'm not sure he'll be able to get rid of DOMA, though. Let's see if he actually will do these things. I would remind anyone who is interested in the subject of what Jim Geraghty has often said: all Barack Obama promises come with expiration dates.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Friday, October 09, 2009
12. JD Power & Associates Award, Best Mid-Size Sedan
11. Queen of Sheba
10. Playmate of the Year (thanks, Picklesworth!)
9. Lady Byng Trophy
8. Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval
7. Best in Show, Westminster Kennel Club
6. Cy Young Award
5. Buckeye News Hawk Award (and coveted Silver Sow)
4. Robert F. Lucas Memorial Lt. Governor's Award, Key Club International
3. Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
2. Miss Richfield 1982
1. Alice in Dairyland
- The first point is obvious -- even if he were to ever deserve such a "prestigious" prize, it's way to early to tell. His administration has barely begun and it's absurd to give it to him now.
- In the president's defense, I would say this -- even with his awfully thin resume, President Obama does deserve the prize more than Rigoberta Menchu, Le Duc Tho or Yasser Arafat did.
- And when you consider that list of previous honorees, and also recall that Al Gore and Jimmy Carter have won as well, you begin to understand that the Nobel committee jumped the shark years ago.
- And you know who's really gotta be angry right now? Bill Clinton. Clinton pretty much spent the last year of his presidency trying to do something, anything to help bring about a peace agreement in the Middle East. He didn't even get a sniff from the Nobel cabal. Obama makes a few speeches and he gets the prize. I tell ya, no respect.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Does Mayor Larson deserve another term? Before you answer that question, you owe it to yourself to visit Enlighten New Brighton, a new website that has a lot of deeply useful information concerning the issues that pertain to this election.
I'll be talking about this election more in the coming days. But remember, knowledge is power.
I remember thinking it was pretty suspicious at the time. Now, thanks to our friends at the Wall Street Journal*, I know why:
When it comes to politicized intelligence in the Bush years, the critics may finally have a point. Perhaps the work of America's intelligence agencies was manipulated to suit the convenience of a small group of willful officials, intent on getting their way against the better judgment of their colleagues.That timeline is significant. Indeed. And there's more:
Except the intelligence was about Iran, not Iraq, and the manipulators weren't conniving neocons but rather the Administration's internal critics on the left.
That's one way to look at last month's revelation that Iran is building a secret second site to enrich uranium, among other emerging intelligence details. The Qom site—too small for civilian purposes but ideal for producing weapons-grade uranium—is supervised by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and was only declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency after Tehran got wind that the nuclear watchdogs knew about it.
But the more telling detail, as a recent White House "guidance paper" acknowledges, is that the U.S. has been "carefully observing and analyzing this facility for several years." That timeline is significant, because it was less than two years ago, in December 2007, that a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear programs asserted with "high confidence" that Tehran had "halted its nuclear weapons program" in the fall of 2003.
Yet some of us noted at the time that the NIE added, in a crucial footnote, that by "nuclear weapons program" it meant "weapon design and weaponization work and . . . uranium enrichment-related work," rather than Iran's "declared" nuclear facilities.
And who decided to write the NIE the way it was written? The WSJ fingers Tom Fingar:
The NIE's main authors—including former intelligence official Tom Fingar and other internal critics of Bush Administration policies—downplayed this critical detail. Never mind that it was precisely Iran's "declared" nuclear facilities that constituted the core element of any nuclear-weapons program.Wouldn't you like to know why Tom Fingar and his colleagues did this? I surely would.
*Anticipating the inevitable "this is an editorial, not a news story" cavil, I would remind my readership that the WSJ editorial page does its own reporting and has broken any number of important stories over the years.
Rember those higher ethical standards we would see now that the Republicans are no longer controlling Congress? Here's the latest.
Keith Olbermann explains why my friends at United Healthcare are the enemy! The enemy!
A challenge to the readership: what, exactly, is the point that Maureen Dowd is trying to make?
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
- Mop-up man Bobby Keppel would be the winning pitcher; and
- Loose Cannon 1, Carlos Gomez, would score the winning run; and
- Loose Cannon 2, Alexi Casilla, would drive in the winning run
would you have believed me? Would anyone have believed that? Of all the fascinating teams that the locals have put on the field in this decade, this may be the most astonishing team to win a division yet. I still don't know how it happened, but there it is.
Congratulations to your 2009 American League Central Champions, the Minnesota Twins.
Crosseyed and Painless, Talking Heads
I Shot the Sheriff, Bob Marley & the Wailers
Stop! In the Name of Love, The Supremes
Clash City Rockers, The Clash
Sara, Fleetwood Mac
Stormy Monday, The Allman Brothers
It's Raining Again, Supertramp
When I Feel the Sea Beneath My Soul, Taj Mahal
Lounge Act, Nirvana
This Boy, The Beatles
WASHINGTON - For the past five years, researchers in a modest office overlooking the New Haven green have carefully documented cases of assassination and torture of democracy activists in Iran. With more than $3 million in grants from the US State Department, they have pored over thousands of documents and Persian-language press reports and interviewed scores of witnesses and survivors to build dossiers on those they say are Iran’s most infamous human-rights abusers.Anyone have a theory?
But just as the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center was ramping up to investigate abuses of protesters after this summer’s disputed presidential election, the group received word that - for the first time since it was formed - its federal funding request had been denied.
“If there is one time that I expected to get funding, this was it,’’ said Rene Redman, the group’s executive director, who had asked for $2.7 million in funding for the next two years. “I was surprised, because the world was watching human rights violations right there on television.’’
- We'll give ol' number 4 credit for having a nice game and a nice moment yesterday. In the long run, I remain confident that the Packers made the right decision, though. I've seen enough of Brett Favre to know that he'll break someone's heart again this year. And it won't be the Green Bay Packers.
- We had a wonderful time back at Beloit over the weekend. The campus looks good and you get the feeling that there's new confidence at the school. The new president of the college looks like he's going to do an excellent job. And even the football team looks better.
- "So I jump ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas. A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one - big hitter, the Lama - long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-galunga. So we finish the 18th and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice."
- In case you had any illusions about the role of media, especially the MSM, in today's world, this ought to disabuse you of those notions. CNN is a straight-up Praetorian Guard for the current administration.
- I live in Minnesota. I know a lot of people who work for medical device manufacturers, especially Medtronic, whose headquarters is about 7 miles from where I live. Think they're interested in this?
Friday, October 02, 2009
A collective shadow of sadness and shock fell over the crowd. "Wow," people repeated. "Unbelievable." "So sad."I was born in Chicago and lived there for 5 years as an adult. It's a great city, filled with great people. I don't agree with Chicago politics at all. But there's no excuse for schadenfreude. I live in the Midwest and there's no advantage to the largest city in the area being brought low.
"This is just one collective hurt" said Henry McGee Jr, 52, and a small business owner who lives near Washington Park. "I'm really stunned. I thought it would be such a boom for the African-American community."
Under the big top at Washington Park, contortionists and clowns warmed up before the Universoul Circus, which was hosting a viewing party near the proposed Olympic stadium.
A man in a Bears jacket made a slashing motion on his neck.
"It's over," he said.
"I'm shocked," said Natalie McKnight, 29. "I thought with Barack being the chief spokesman, we were going to get it."
I would hope that the organizers in Chicago would simply wipe off the dirt and get back to work. There are other opportunities available.