Future Viability of the St Paul DFL in Doubt

The results of the St Paul DFL City Convention this weekend begs a specific question.  If the only result is an endorsement for school board candidates, can the DFL survive in the era of Ranked Choice Voting? The failure to achieve an endorsement in the race for mayor evolved from a series of factors: 1) The existence of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV); 2) The lack of incentive for any aspiring candidates to leave the field; 3) The egotism of each self-anointed candidate; and 4) The fact that no specific person exists to broker a deal and cull the field.

The fact that Melvin Carter III led on each ballot; First: 47.26%, Second:  50.57%, Third: 51.71%, Fourth: 52,20% and finally the Fifth:  54.72%, but failed to achieve the required 60%. This was due to a 7:00 p.m. time certain adjournment of the convention, in respect for the fast-ending Iftar meal of the Muslim delegates, who principally supported third place candidate Pat Harris on each ballot. Had the delegates continued to vote past the self-imposed time limit, the convention could have been accused of being culturally insensitive to the Islamic community but may have reached an endorsement on subsequent ballots. One of the realities of an endorsement process is the factor of attrition, and that is why alternates are selected as a part of the process. The results of the convention by ballot are reflected in a previous article here on C&B.

There was not a great deal of attrition during the five ballots. Initially, there were 529 delegates voting, then 524 on the 2nd, 526 on the 3rd, 520 on the 4th, and lastly 508 or 92.63% of the total available in the end. The reality is Carter only needed 26 votes to achieve the endorsement. There were 93 people who voted No Endorsement on the 5th ballot, largely Harris supporters because he was dropped after the fourth ballot.

The set-up to the endorsement balloting was staged from the fight at the start of the convention over the proposed Rules and the Agenda. As we had communicated C&B Publisher Shawn Towle was a delegate to the convention and played a significant role in starting the Rules committee debate. Upon the presentation of the Rules Committee report by Rick Varco. Towle challenged the validity of the meeting first called on the 25th of May, and then changed to May 30th, due to Varco’s personal conflict as a lobbyist with the original meeting date and the call of a Special Session at the legislature.

The significance of the meeting date change meant a delegate to the Rules Committee who supported Carter, John Sherman, was replaced by a delegate supporting Harris, Darren Tobolt. This single change shifted the balance of power from a 7-7 tie to an 8-6 advantage for the Harris and Dai Thao coalition. At the convention, Tom Goldstein joined the Harris/Thao side, and that is why the forthcoming Rules Committee vote became such a nail biter.

During the debate, the chairs of the convention ruled in direct conflict with the DFL Party’s Constitution, which is the document that is supposed to supersede all other documents. Varco’s use of an email notification as a valid form of contact to Rules Committee members also violated the 10-day requirement as required by the Constitution. After being ruled out of order, Towle challenged the chairs Sue Moravec and Tim O’Brien, based on their lack of adherence to the Constitution, and their overall inconsistency. Upon a vote of the delegates, Towle’s challenge prevailed. This then provided an opportunity for the Minority Report of Rules Committee member Eric T. Nelson to be presented and it was approved on a vote of 228 to 224. The new Majority Report was a staggering change because in DFL history this is likely the first Minority Report to fully replace a Majority Report.

The new Majority Report was then amended to include a time certain end of 7:00 p.m. This was a structural compromise, reached after a lengthy debate extending he original drop-dead time of 5:00 PM by two hours. Effectively, because of the length of the two-hour debate, things were a wash.

In another move to challenge the DFL to be consistent, Towle moved to amend the new Rules and apply Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) as the drop rule.  This failed resoundingly and proves the DFL is hypocritical. because they expect the General Election voters to use a preferential voting system when they refuse to do so themselves. Ironically, had they used the IRV, they would have started with four candidates on the first ballot and had two candidates on the 2nd, and then with a head-to-head contest, they might have achieved an endorsement.

Now that the convention has ended, the air has gone out of the balloon and the effect on the campaign this summer will be an arduous process. The candidates will seek organizational endorsements, attempt to self-define for the voters, who are not likely to pay attention until October, or if they are lucky, in September. It shifts the dynamic away from a viable political organization (St Paul DFL) supporting a candidate to forcing a candidate to seek financial support from outside groups.  The DFL endorsement is the big Kahuna and lacking such, means the various combination of labor unions, associations, and advocacy organizations are seeking to create a unique tapestry or matrix of support.

If a Primary/General Election system were in place, past opponents would normally lick their wounds and massage their bruised egos and either endorse one of the two Primary winners. They need time to say, “Initially I was a Harris supporter at the convention, but I am okay with voting for Carter because he has the endorsement” or “I voted for Thao in the Primary, but can support Carter or Harris in the General.” Because this healing ritual will not occur between the convention in June up to August or from August onto November, it will need to take place after the election, but before the inauguration. This will be a significant issue. Because during the 2017 campaign as candidates are trying to differentiate themselves from one another the public may not even participate.

Since we heard Thao pound the podium, the one he had constructed to provide better optics, we are hearing a series of rants from an angry Asian man. He was joined in doing so by a friend of Philando Castile and the shrill nature of the message is not one welcoming to general St Paul voters. One of the points of his vexed anger was directed at the Carter campaign, because of the investigation by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the issues of illegal campaign solicitation. We are wondering if Thao will be vindictive and act out against Carter.

We know Carter has some wind in his sails despite not achieving the endorsement. There is already speculation Thao or some other entity like the Police Federation, which supports Harris, will be drawing attention to matters about Carter intended to embarrass or create a negative impression. Now, it might not be Thao who broaches the issue, because RCV is supposed to reduce negative campaigning, but it does not prevent third-party organizations from doing so. Since the normal therapeutic ritual will not occur, especially for the four DFL candidates, the post-election time will be a unique time.

Since the normal therapeutic ritual will not occur, especially for the four DFL candidates, the post-election time will be a unique time.

There still is the possibility that additional candidates will enter the field, including other DFLers, especially, a female candidate, who could provide a viable alternative. The filing deadline is August 15, 2017. In addition to the four DFLers, there are two other announced candidates, Elizabeth Dickinson (Gr) and Tim Holden (I).

The irony of ironies will be if one of the DFLers emerges victorious, and then four years from now, he and his supporters come to the DFL convention and seek the endorsement. This after they, except for the Carter campaign, were instrumental in undermining or better yet sabotaging the entire St Paul DFL endorsement process. The ripples of the repercussions will be felt for years. This simple fact may bring about the demise of the St Paul DFL unless Ranked Choice Voting is eliminated.

On the Floor at the St Paul DFL City Convention

We are sitting on the floor, listening to the last question being asked of the four candidates for the DFL endorsement for mayor, Dai Thao, Tom Goldstein, Pat Harris and Melvin Carter III. The biggest question on the first ballot will be whether Carter achieves 50% and whether the combined support for the other three candidates hold 40%.

We think Carter will lead followed by Harris, Thao, and Goldstein.

The biggest fight today has been on the Rules of the Convention and the Agenda. The Rules vote was 228 to 224, the Agenda passed by a far higher margin. There were several controversial, challenges to the Chair, in which two prevailed on one failed. Later that delegate’s credential was challenged and he survived the push to remove him from the floor.

We are trying to obtain the results of the first ballot before they are announced from the podium. So far with 529 delegates voting Carter is leading with 250 votes for 47.26%, Thao 120 votes for 22.68% and Harris 114 votes for 21.55% Goldstein 38 votes for 7.18. No Endorsement 7 votes for 1.32%. Carter dominated in Ward Four.roderick

2nd Ballot results are in. With 524 delegates voting Carter is leading with 265 votes for 50.57%, Thao 111 votes for 21.18% and Harris 111 votes for 21.18% Goldstein 36 votes for 6.87. No Endorsement 1 vote for 0.19% there was 1 spoiled ballot.

3rd Ballot results are in. Goldstein was dropped from the ballot With 526 delegates voting Carter is leading with 27 votes for 51.71%, Thao 123 votes for 23.38% and Harris 121 votes for 23.00% No Endorsement 10 votes for 1.90%.

The ballot for School Board is in John BroderickJeannie Foster and Marny Xiong were endorsed. There were 521 votes cast Broderick received 368 votes for 70.63%, Foster 382 votes for 73.32% and Marny Xiong received 362 votes for 69.48%. Eduardo Barrera only received 267 votes for 51,25% and did not clear the 60% threshold.

4th Ballot results are in.  With 520 delegates voting Carter is leading with 270 votes for 52.22%, Thao 122 votes for 23.51% and Harris 119 votes for 22.93% No Endorsement 7 votes for 1.35%.

5th Ballot results are in.  Harris was dropped from the next ballot. With 508 delegates voting Carter is still leading with 271 votes for 52.22%, Thao 122 votes for 23.51% and 119 votes for 22.93% No Endorsement 7 votes for 0.19%. The convention will adjourn at 7:00 PM.

This is the last ballot. With 508 delegates voting Carter is still leading with 278 votes for 54.72%, Thao 137 votes for 26.97% and 119 votes for 22.93% No Endorsement 93 votes for 18.31% and 6 Spoiled Ballots. There is No Endorsement.


St Paul DFL City Convention Countdown: Day One

Sorry, we missed Countdown Day Two, but honestly, there wasn’t much new information that came our way to share. Today, as we view the field of candidates, follow the discussion about the pending Rules fight, prepare ourselves for the role we intend to play, and survey the landscape, we gleaned a significant piece of information. The Melvin Carter III campaign is prepared for a No Endorsement convention. This is not to say they are working toward it, but will be resolved if that is the results. This is surprising because they seem to be the only campaign poised to capture the endorsement.

This resolution puts a different twist on the conventions start because it means Carter can be who he is, have fun, show everyone the due level of respect and contest openly and honestly. This is compared to the Dai Thao and Pat Harris campaigns who by their collusion are showing just the opposite.

Our position remains, we doubt there will be an endorsement, no matter what Rules are in place, which is why we support the change in the Rules and use of Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) as the Drop Rule. Using IRV will expedite the process and enable to contest to start with two candidates in the fastest manner possible while keeping alive the option for every delegate to vote No Endorsement at any time. The importance of the No Endorsement vote by delegates, whose candidate removed from the ballot means the number of delegates available remains fixed at the highest number established on the first ballot. While each ballot is its own quorum test the higher the number is to the available total of 550 creates a solid test for a 60% majority, required for the endorsement.

Tips & Tricks

  1. Delegates should always know where their alternates are at. When a Delegate leaves the Convention Floor they are supposed to relinquish their badge and their Alternate is available to be upgraded. Even when going out to use the facilities is a point of time where an Alternate could be allowed on the floor.
  2. DFL conventional are often held in school cafeterias. This enables the Delegates to sit across the table from each other kibitz and spread all the literature and materials out in front of them. It is not a bad idea to bring a book along to the Convention because there will definitely be breaks in the action and people will have available leisure time.
  3. Delegates can move around on the floor and talk to each other. Only during a vote are people required to be in a specific place.

Repke Resigns from St Paul Charter Commission

Because of the timidity of St Paul Charter Commission Chair Richard Kramer, Charter Commission Member Chuck Repke resigned yesterday. Repke’s reason for quitting is not reflected in the language of the resignation letter, but in a private conversation, which contained many expletives and plenty of disparaging comments about KramerRepke made his sentiments clear.  

He (Kramer) is best characterized as having an obstinate attitude and operating like a dictator which as a public official is embarrassing behavior. This is something people should know about before they ever appoint him to another public position. He currently serves as a member of the Metropolitan Council.

This leaves the issue of Ranked Choice Voting being on the November ballot in doubt, which is a major deal especially since the votes to pass it are there.

St Paul DFL City Convention Countdown: Day Three

As we get past the hump of the day we are looking forward to a City Convention poised to accomplish a herculean task. If the Minority Report to the Rules Committee passes, it will the first time in the history of the DFL Party where this has happened. Sure, there have been Minority Reports accepted and folded into the Majority, which has passed previously but never has a whole scale replacement set passed on its own.

If it is to do so we say Bully for it proponents, of which, we consider Checks & Balances to be in the mix. We have heard little chatter about the issue on the message boards or in different conversations, but often, little talk leads us to believe more acceptance than opposition exists.

Tips & Tricks

  1. Watch for something new to occur. There will be a person who emerges as a recognizable leader or an issue of worthy value that will magically appear. Granted, you might not recognize that this happened until later, but most assuredly something will.
  2. Take time to talk to your fellow delegates about their knowledge and experience. If you ask many will be very forthcoming and there might be a significant amount of information to be shared.
  3. If you are unsure about something find a person with whom you agree with philosophically and ask them their take on an issue, and you might find an ally and someone to follow. Understand they may see the same characteristics in you and may defer to you on other issues, especially if you show you’re passionate about it.

Moveable Chess Pieces

If the Convention starts with a feeling of two different camps ready to square off, and the first-floor fights show clearly defined sides of opposition it will be a long day. If every item is followed by a point of order, and questions of the chair it will seem never-ending and be a truly painful exercise. But if the first few matters are challenged and resolved and the Convention begins to flow and items start to fall off the agenda quickly it can be a fun event.

We will be most interested in the proceedings once there are only two in competition for the mayor and who the remaining candidate is besides Melvin Carter III. If it is Dai Thao we doubt there will be an endorsement because of the clear identity politics present in the room. If it were to be Pat Harris then the question becomes whether or not Thao releases his delegates or just has them vote No Endorsement. We are fairly well assured if Harris is dropped his supporters will vote No Endorsement on each subsequent ballot, but we will need to be at the Convention to make the same determination about the Thao supporters.

Tom Goldstein might be in the perfect position to play powerbroker because the votes on the Minority Report may be so close that his 4% of the delegates or 25 people could play a sizeable role in the outcome.

If anyone has specific insight please let us know. Se are also interested in people’s thoughts on the proposed Minority Report.

For the record, we will be publishing live from the Convention floor throughout the day.

Enbridge Pipeline Issue, Simple, More Safety, Less Profit Margin

We attended last night’s public hearing on the proposed pipeline to replace line number three. Now it is clear this project could do a number of positive things, increase the jobs in a great number of communities, where those jobs would be a significant boost to the local economies, and if done right could improve the emergency response services in the area. Now, you may ask why we focused on the emergency services, its simple because the pipeline to be installed is expected to fail on the average on once every four years.

Is the risk worth it, not really? Because we always have felt increasing the potential environmental problems is never worth the risk. We ascribe to more of a belt and suspenders approach. Since rail cars are now required to be double walled we wonder is this pipeline double or even triple walled? Can’t many of the potential problems be offset by increased prevention efforts?

If the Draft Environmental Impact Statement calculates for a downstream effect of a spill to only 10 miles then make it 100. If a break in the pipe causes a high-pressure geyser to go off, then have a staged set off automatic shut offs staged at regular intervals, like every ten miles.

If leaving the old pipe in the ground means it must be cleaned up and maintained, then remove it all together. Have the old pipe in the ground is environment al waste, Clean It Up.

We can understand why people are distrusting of Enbridge, because of the spill at Kalamazoo, MI in 2010. The company has not shown itself to be a good corporate citizen. The steps the company is willing to go to protect its own interests, like not releasing the chemical profile of the additives used to liquify the tar sands oil sludge so that it is able to move through the pipe is a clear example. Who cares if it is a trade secret when the pipe breaks, and it will the responders need to be able to quickly avert the long-term adverse effects if they can at all.

We are hard pressed to understand why the higher value is to pump the nastiest, most corrosive, and least productive type of oil product across our state. We are nothing more than a pass-through place that assumes all the risk and reaps little by way of reward.

When we watched the proceedings last night it was hard to figure out if the evening was structured to be actually informative or if it was just window dressing for a dog and pony show.

If the Trump Administration is going to force feed our nation, nasty black goo, in a pursuit of purely profit motives, we already start from a poor place.

So, the answer is Enbridge what are you willing to do better tomorrow than you have proven to do so far?

St Paul City DFL Convention Countdown: Day Four

Our interest in the Convention Count Down is building, we have had twice as many people read Day Five and had read Day Six. Leading into the convention this is encouraging for those who value the process, and actually R-E-S-P-E-C-T the delegates and alternates.

The issues with the Rules Committee’s proposed Rules and Agenda has just gotten even more fascinating because the *correction Rules Committee member Eric T. Nelson* has submitted a Minority Report to the Rules Committee Chair Rick Varco and he had agreed to make copies for all the delegates to the convention. We also hear he secretly believes the report will pass.

As you can see we are pretty well-connected because we have a copy of the report and the accompanying agenda.

We will forgo Tips & Tricks this installment but will remind our readers C&B Publisher Shawn Towle is a delegate and he will be proposing in item 26 a “Friendly” Amendment to use Instant Run-off Voting as the method for the Drop Rule. He contacted the DFL Party Constitution & Bylaws Commission Co-Chair Chris Thorp who emailed the following:

Hi all,

Following my previous email, I consulted further with Jason, and am providing this email as a follow-up.

RONR contains a mix of recommendations, requirements, and factual statements.  The language on “preferential voting” is a recommendation and not a requirement (“should” vs. “shall” or “must”).  The first portion of language cited by Jason is actually a recommendation and not a requirement. Roberts continues in that section, on page 428, to state:

The system of preferential voting just described should not be used in cases where it is possible to follow the normal procedure of repeated balloting until one candidate or proposition attains a majority. Although this type of preferential ballot is preferable to an election by plurality, it affords less freedom of choice than repeated balloting, because it denies voters the opportunity of basing their second or lesser choices on the results of earlier ballots, and because the candidate or proposition in last place is automatically eliminated and may thus be prevented from becoming a compromise choice. (emphasis mine)

If it were prohibited in all cases where it is otherwise possible to conduct repeated balloting, it would be “shall not” be used.

With our long standing practice of using drop rules in our endorsement process, we are largely subject to the negative effect cited by RONR against using preferential voting – namely that that the last place is automatically eliminated (often subject to a percentage threshold).  We partially mitigate the negative effects by not dropping below 2 candidates.

Regarding the second portion, the prohibition on use for officer elections unless authorized by the bylaws, I see our endorsements more akin to other resolutions with multiple choices.  It is effectively a multiple-choice motion that permits future monetary and volunteer commitments to be made.

Regardless, it is clear that reasonable people can make different interpretations with respect to the language contained in RONR and endorsements, which include, but are not limited to:  (1) the above quoted language prohibits use of ranked choice voting for both the endorsement and the drop rule; and (2) that the extrapolation of the above language relating to an election is completely irrelevant and should not be consulted with respect to endorsements.

Given this fact, Jason and I now agree that the entire subject of ranked choice voting and endorsements is a gray area (which we will work to clarify with the CBRC for future cycles).  Accordingly, because the convention is the highest ranking body of an organization, we are inclined to defer to the will of that convention with respect to use or non-use of ranked choice voting as a drop rule.  While a gray area, drop rules vary wildly, and are not addressed in our party rules or RONR (either as a permitted activity or limited in any fashion).  Because we as a party have a long history of allowing conventions to establish their own drop rules as they see fit, it seems reasonable to us to believe that use of ranked choice voting as a drop rule would survive challenge (so long as no reallocated votes were used in issuing the endorsement).  See, e.g., the discussion on Custom on page 19 of RONR.

Although there is a reasonable argument that use of ranked choice voting is not prohibited for endorsement itself, we recommend against use of reallocated votes for endorsement.  This is political, practical advice.  As a matter of illustration, I would note that when the ranked choice voting procedures section was added to the Official Call, the CBRC debated whether to extend this authority to endorsements, and it was rejected.  While that rejection is not binding (i.e., no prohibition was voted upon and added to the rules), it is a window into the thinking of many CBRC members (especially given that the CBRC is made up of members statewide, and ranked choice voting is not generally as popular or widely supported outside of the metro).  So, for political, practical reasons to ensure that an endorsement could withstand a challenge, Jason and I advise that ranked choice voting not be used to reallocate votes in a manner which results in an endorsement.

Kind regards,

Chris Thorp

Co-chair of the DFL State Constitution, Bylaws, and Rules Committee

Minority Report-2017 St. Paul DFL City Rules






St Paul DFL City Convention Countdown: Day Five

We have received a mixed response to our posting yesterday because we actively sent out the article to St Paul DFL City Convention delegates and alternates. Some were appreciative and thankful and others, bitchy and questioning of the motivation behind the message. We have never been concerned with the opinions of the mealy-mouthed people over at the Spot Bar. It even started a conversation on Facebook, which unsubstantiated allegations were made by a party, which was later retracted and deleted. The main point we are expressing is this convention does not belong to the candidates, nor to the paid staff people, it is a voluntary enterprise, which shows the value of our democracy and the quality of the people who volunteer their time to participate.

Our Convention Countdown even started a conversation on Facebook, which unsubstantiated allegations were made by a party, which was later retracted and deleted. The main point we are expressing is this convention does not belong to the candidates, nor to the paid staff people, it is a voluntary enterprise, which shows the value of our democracy and the quality of the people who volunteer their time to participate.

Because of this investment made by people who truly care about their city, it is with the complete and total respect we are standing up for an open and honest endorsement process. Hat Tip to all the delegates and alternates for their dedication to St Paul.

Also if you would like to know an answer about anything or have a question just email mn.editor@checksandbalances.com

Tips & Tricks

  1. When you survey the hospitality, rooms figure out which one has the best cold drinks. If it is hot inside the building, though I have heard the air conditioning will be on grab two of your favorite beverages and bring them to the floor. It is important to hydrate.
  2. Identify the floor leaders for each campaign they are usually easy to spot. They likely have a t-shirt of the campaign on and may even have a headset on.
  3. Volunteer to be a teller. If you really want to know what happens on each vote then help count the votes. If you happen to see someone from Check & Balances let them know and then also tell them the vote totals on the various races. You will be well appreciated.

What is the St Paul DFL’s Purpose in an Area of Ranked Choice Voting?

We have two different contests happening on the same floor of the Washington Magnet School, a mayoral endorsement, and a school board endorsement. Each will have a different process. For mayor, you will vote for one person, but for school board, you can for vote up to three people. If you vote for only one it is called bullet balloting and this is a strategic move to concentration your one vote to a single candidate to heighten the impact of your vote and not increase the totals for the other candidates at the same time.

The only true value of the DFL endorsement appears to be for the school board candidates because with the DFL endorsement comes name recognition, placement on the sample ballot, access to DFL resources and financial support from organizations that help finance the St Paul DFL. If you support a school board candidate you will clearly see the difference come this Fall on the specific campaigns with or without the party endorsement.

Of course, whoever win the mayor’s race in 2017 will seek the DFL endorsement in 2021. But is endorsing an incumbent as important as endorsing a candidate for an open seat, of course, it is not, and the proposed Rules will bring about a no endorsement reality.

Come 2019 when the Ward endorsements occur; will the DFL endorsement matter if there still exists Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)? Well, there hasn’t been an endorsement in Ward 5 since the system has existed. Are you wondering why St Paul City Council members Rebecca Noecker Ward 2) and Amy Brendmoen (Ward 5) are not auto-delegates to the convention? It’s because they were not DFL endorsed in 2015.

Now, we contend the value of the St DFL endorsement is in a death spiral due to RCV in November, and if there is a benevolent God then there will be a revote on the ballot right after the mayoral election. Because there is little incentive for candidates to drop out of the race the election will be based on who can raise the most money and not creating an equalizer for a less financed like Paul Wellstone or Keith Ellison to improve their odds. Because everyone is in the boat in November the forecast is gloomy.


St Paul DFL Convention Countdown: Day Six

If you haven’t followed Checks & Balances, we tend to provide the most blanket coverage leading up to and about political conventions. With this as our specialty, we are going to provide a daily package of material about the convention process, what specific campaign’s focal points are, and other factors with influential potential.

We will start will a little levity.

Convention Tips & Tricks

  1. If you are committed to a candidate, wear a t-shirt or at least a button, candidates have limited time to talk to people at a convention, and if you want the person you support to win, help them out by being well-identified.
  2. If you are uncommitted, do not wear buttons, or wear everyone’s button. If you seek to confuse candidate’s, and their campaigns being elusive is the best route.
  3. The best campaign has the best hospitality room. delegates and alternates are the reasons why campaigns stock up on snacks, drinks and provide everything from bagels & coffee in the morning, to pizza and pop for lunch. Even if you support a specific candidate go to the other candidate’s rooms and see what they offer, they may try to sway you with gourmet coffee or chocolate.


What to Pay Attention To

Read the proposed Agenda and proposed Rules before the convention. The first order of business is the passage of the Agenda and this could be a point of contention if what is proposed differs with what a specific campaign wants. A prime example is the placement of the School Board candidate’s endorsement before the Mayoral endorsement. Since the bulk of the delegates and alternates were determined by sub-caucuses based on mayoral candidates this is the major event at the convention. If the proposed Agenda stands then delegates focused on the School Board races may leave and their alternates may be upgraded, shifting slightly the votes in the room.


Draft 2017 St. Paul DFL City Agenda


Draft 2017 St. Paul DFL City Rules


Prepare for a Rules fight. If you have been following Checks & Balances you know we have been shouting to high heaven about the collusion between St Paul City Council member Dai Thao’s (DFL-Ward 1) and the former City Council member Pat Harris’ (DFL-Ward 3) campaigns, if not scroll down the page. The main reason for this problem is two-fold and rests on the shoulders of the convener of the Rules Committee, SEIU Lobbyist Rick Varco.

As only an alternate the Rules Committee, Varco held great sway. He called the meeting, and changed the date of said meeting due to his work-related conflict with the Legislative Special Session, set the agenda of the meeting, and proposed his own set of Rules for the City Convention.

The result was lower representation for the former Council Member Melvin Carter III (DFL-Ward 1) campaign by one vote. With the short notice date change long-time Rules Committee veteran John Sherman, a Carter supporter, was unable to attend the meeting scheduled the day after Memorial Day. Instead, he was replaced by former St Paul DFL City Chair Darren Tolbolt, a Harris supporter. On nearly every issue brought before the Rules Committee, the resulting votes were 8-6. If Sherman had been present the votes would likely have been 7-7 ties. If the votes tied then both positions would have been brought before the entire delegation for their consideration.

One issue being, item 26 of the proposed Rules. There was a proposal to help the convention move along far more rapidly to a decision, which was to incorporate Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) as the mechanism for the Drop Rule. Bringing the field of candidates from 4 to 1 in the fastest way possible.

Varco ruled this item to be out of order, which it was not and proceeded to a vote challenging the chair, which again failed on an 8-6 vote.

We expect when the same issue is brought up for amendment of the Rules, Varco will again misrepresent the truth and say he believes the item is out of order and in violation of the DFL Constitution and Robert’s Rules of Order (Newly Revised). It is not. A convention can set their own rules any way they want, using IRV to winnow the field is a reasonable and rational approach, and the DFL Party supports the use of preferential voting methods and states:

Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party Ongoing Platform.

We support:

Government Accountability to the Public

The use of ranked choice voting, also known as instant run-off voting for, state and local elections.

For the record, using IRV as the Drop Rule doesn’t even mean, IRV is determining the endorsement, it just sets the field.

Thao Affair May Be Poised for Resolution

St Paul City Council member Dai Thao’s (DFL-Ward 1) hit a deep trench Saturday of the second Ward Conventions when questions were raised by KMSP reporter Tom Lyden about where-or-not Thao is a transactional elected official, meaning it’s pay-to-play, and whether his campaign had solicited contributions illegally. His campaign manager Angela Marlowe was informed by Lyden of a press release from the Thao campaign which fired her from her position.

Since she was virtually thrown under the bus by Thao, Marlowe felt no loyalty and was quick to speak with authorities about her involvement where they requested her technology used for communication with others. She relinquished her cell phone and pad for their scrutiny. We understand earlier this week her devices were returned and impressions were conveyed there would be no further inquiries into this matter.

We are unclear as to when the final report will be offered, but will not be surprised because of the specter which hangs over Thao coming into the DFL City Convention, it may occur next week. If as it seems, Thao is cleared of wrongdoing, his campaign will have a clear conscience, but the question over who did the damage is still in question.

We have heard lobbyist Sarah Clarke shared the original text messages she received with others and record of the conversations exist on other person’s devices. As we have said before most people are either fairly or unfairly pointing fingers at former Council Member Melvin Carter III’s (DFL-Ward 1) campaign.

Now, this can just be an outgrowth of Ward 1 politics, or it might be an aspect of citywide/mayoral politics. We know for sure a portion of this issue will likely play out next weekend.

The City DFL Rules Fight Headed for the Floor

When the St Paul City Council member Dai Thao’s (DFL-Ward 1) and the former City Council member Pat Harris’ (DFL-Ward 3) supporters on the St Paul City DFL Rules Committee colluded together to set the rules to prevent an endorsement, they may have over-played their hands. If the former Council Member Melvin Carter III (DFL-Ward 1) campaign’s response is also too great they may overplay their hand as well.

Without the Thao/Harris collusion, the convention was poised for no endorsement. Honestly, 10 % limit not imposed until the 3rd ballot, along with a four-ballot limit, and combined with a 5:00 PM time certain end, almost assuredly means, three candidates in the final ballot and no endorsement.  Logic would dictate, because of Ranked Choice Voting being the reality in November, there is no clear reason why any candidate will leave the race. The St Paul DFL City Party is effectively neutered and has little force of will. Since everyone who wants to be, is in the boat in November, there is no incentive for anyone to drop out.

In a traditional DFL endorsement, where there are two candidates in November after the Primary, a DFL endorsement likely produced the Primary winner and the eventual elected official. This year, this is not the case.

This reality sets the stage for the Carter campaign to over-reach. If they propose and have more than 50 +1 of the delegates, they can deploy any system they so choose, but it is not advisable. If they want a legitimate contest they should propose the fastest route—which ironically is Instant run-off voting—to a two-candidate competition and then fix the number of ballots, after that point to five. If Carter campaign tries to go old school and force the endorsement by attrition, they run the risk of seeming heavy-handed, alienating specific voters blocks in November.

The Carter forces need to appear to be a hybrid of sorts. They must appear to be fresh and new, communicating innovative ideas while at the same time having the depth of experiment their candidate brings to the table. We suggest Carter forgo listening to tradition DFL activists like Beth Commers, who if she proposes going to unlimited ballots, it is hypocritical since last city convention she supported limited ballots.

Again, the DFL should try to seem consistent in this election which is completely and totally inconsistent.    

Protest Scheduled for Humphrey Day Dinner

Tomorrow, prior to the Humphrey/Mondale Dinner a Governor’s Reception is scheduled for 3:30-4:30 PM at the Minneapolis Convention Center. We understand the faith-based organization ISAIAH is planning to protest the entire event including the dinner with keynote speaker US Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). We are hearing Duckworth will only attend if US Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) attends.

All the announced DFL candidates for governor Rep Tim Walz (D-01MN), State Auditor Rebecca Otto (DFL), Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-26A, Rochester), and Rep Erin Murphy (DFL-64A, St Paul) all will not be attending the gathering. St Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (DFL) was already not attending due to a family conflict. Liebling intends to join the protest.

The reason for the protest is opposition to Governor Mark Dayton’s (DFL) signature on the legislation containing the provision denying the Commissioner of Transportation to allow driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

The increased attention Dayton will receive should create a great deal of discomfort. He always seems uncomfortable in large groups and is often awkward at times. There has been speculation about whether he could be on the autism spectrum and identified as having Asperger’s Syndrome.

In addition to the gubernatorial candidates boycotting the dinner Attorney General Candidate Rep John Lesch (DFL-66B, St Paul) is also forgoing the dinner, but has asked that the money he paid for his table be used to assist in training political organizers in new immigrant communities.

Estrangement in the Executive Branch

We also hear the Governor’s office is becoming more isolationist. Lt Governor Tina Flint Smith (DFL) now has something in common with former Lt Governor Yvonne Pretner-Solon (DFL), as we understand she is not being kept in the loop with the decisions Dayton makes.

During this legislative session, it became quite evident the governor’s legislative staff was sight unseen. They also appear to circle the wagons and huddle with themselves and create an echo chamber on the west side of the Capitol in which the only interests served are the bootlickers who are angling to get the ear of the governor. While, Dayton continues to insulate himself against himself, which is foolish. He only proves his ineffectiveness at each instance

No Need for 2nd Session This Biennium

We would not be surprised if Republicans come back to St Paul in 2018 and decide to head back home right away. Since, they got nearly everything they wanted in 2017, they could save taxpayers money and show how unnecessary a two-year biennial session can be.

Because Governor Mark Dayton’s (DFL) folded like a tent in all the negotiations there may be little left on the Republican agenda other than social issues, but drawing attention to the points of controversy like gun rights, abortion, or restrictions on public services can wait until 2019.

Former State Senator Seeking 1st Congressional Seat

Former Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna) is preparing her bid to succeed current Congressman Tim Walz (DFL-01MN) and head to Washington DC. During her last election, she had the luxury of support from both the labor unions and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

We expect Jensen will be a formidable candidate and after a loss in the era of Trump, she have plenty of ammunition to use in this forthcoming election.

Governor Dayton Fails to Deliver

The frustration Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) expressed about the legislation he faced, the and exasperation he felt, is feckless, because he didn’t do anything to reflect his sentiments. The vetoing of legislative salaries is an ineffective and veritably useless response. The use of a pocket veto, is a cowardly act, political in nature because it allows legislation to go into effect without an executive signature. It is directly opposite what it appears to be, a veto.

If the Governor sought to accomplish anything it was only through vetoing the tax bill. If the Department of Revenue was defunded, then he needed to veto all the spending bills and force the Republicans back to the table. The major problems he highlights are not responded to in any way, he just kvetches about them.

Here are Dayton’s biggest gripes:

  • Cancellation of the Estate Tax
  • Removal of the automatic inflater on the Tobacco Tax
  • Reduction in Commercial and Industrial Property Tax
  • Prevention of the Commissioner of Public Safety from allowing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants
  • An alternative teacher’s licensing procedure

When we discussed the stamina of Dayton as an X factor, we may have hit the mark. Yes, it is a tiring exercise to respond the innovative approaches Republicans to governance. It is not new information to realize Republicans are anti-government. To faint false surprise that the GOP has a drastically different view of the world should come as no surprise at all.

When the governor stands at the podium, wrings his hands at the mess that has been wrought, he might as well be playing with a fidget spinner, because he effectively does nothing, and he fails the citizens of the state.

Sure, Republicans held back legislation from public view until the last minute, because their tactic is to hide the ball, for as long as possible, bring items up in the dark of night and place rotten Easter Eggs in the legislation that appears after, all is said and done.

The final budget signed into law leaves Dayton with a haunting legacy and proves the ineffectiveness of his office to recognize the political reality of Republican control. Thanks for nothing Governor Dayton.

Dayton’s Veto Gives Republicans Political Cover on Salary Increase

As the debate over legislative salaries continues, Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) in a futile attempt, to try and respond to the Republican budget, he may have provided political cover for Republican legislators by letting the courts force the issue. Constitutionally, the first item funded is the legislative branch, and legislative salaries are included in the funding.

Through his veto, Dayton has set the stage for a court battle which Republicans can win by fighting for the independence of the legislative branch and the financial means to maintain said independence. As we have already heard from Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-13, Nisswa) the issue is a separation of powers. We had expected the legislature would ultimately win this through the courts and be forced to accept their pay increase, and House Republicans could faint their opposition to more money while cashing their checks. Instead, Dayton serves it up on a silver platter.

St Paul City DFL Rules Committee Creates Rules for No Endorsement

We attended last night’s meeting of the Rules Committee of the St Paul City DFL and can conclude the proposed rules are merely the result of collusion between the Dai Thao campaign and the Pat Harris campaign structured to forgo an endorsement at the city convention on June 17th. As we have said before the existence of Ranked Choice Voting in November Devalues the DFL Endorsement and the campaigns have responded in turn.

There were four specific maneuvers which impinge the endorsement. 1) a limit of the balloting to four ballots, 2) a casual drop rule applied after the 2nd ballot of 10%, 3) a 5:00 pm deadline for the convention to end, and 4) a movement of the school board endorsement ahead of the mayoral endorsement.

In the committee, the three campaigns of Thao, Harris and Melvin Carter III were about equally represented, but the Thao and Harris campaigns had a shared mutual interest in there being No Endorsement and voted on the proposed provisions as such. One glaring reality is to see upgraded alternate Darren Tolbolt, the former St Paul City DFL Chair, now a Harris supporter, voting in favor of these rules. By his acts alone, he undermined the DFL endorsement process, one which his former position is charged to defend.

Each of these rules hampers the endorsement from occurring. The ballot limit is a tried and true way to prevent an endorsement because it is often through sheer will the endorsement occurs and when the process allows fatigue and the upgrading of alternates, more movement can occur, but a restriction of ballot prevents this natural progression. Secondly, because of the number used it provides an opportunity for three candidates to be on the 4th ballot. This means no candidate walks away with a loss. The 5:00 PM deadline, appears to be an appeal to cultural sensitivity, which is something the convention organizers failed to do because the date falls on Ramadan, and members of the Somali Community seek a reasonable endpoint to the proceedings to be able to break their fast. Finally, the one way to hold people at a convention is by holding the biggest contest first. This is clearly an endorsement focused on the mayor’s race.

We did hear one novel idea, which was to use Instant Runoff Voting as a drop rule and means to use one ballot to winnow the field down to two candidates, prior to a head-to-head contest. We understand this will be included in a minority report to the convention.

We congratulate the Thao and Harris campaigns for their blatant maneuvers to assure if they don’t get the endorsement no one will. The rules passed on an 8-6 vote.

How Dayton Can Save the 2017-18 Session

Earlier in the legislative session, in an article entitled: Legislative X Factor: Dayton’s Stamina, we discussed Governor Mark Dayton’s (DFL) role akin to his time in college as a goalie, and said, “you can never win the game, but you can prevent your team from losing,” but it appears we may be wrong. At this moment, at this time, Dayton can actually win triumphantly.

The legislation passed by both Republican controlled houses has sent to Dayton, a series of legislation, which limits the spending in state government in nearly all areas. This continues the spending restrictions, base level funding cuts, and slow growth tactics employed by the GOP. By starving government on the vine, they create a self-fulfilling prophecy, that government doesn’t work.

In response, Dayton now has all the tools at his disposal, especially the veto pen. He has nine spending bills, the tax bill, the bonding bill and the preemption bill. He stated early on he would veto the preemption bill; HF004 Labor standards, pensions, local government, and other employment provisions modified, and money appropriated, authored by Rep Pat Garofalo (R-58B, Farmington), because of its restrictions on local control on wages and labor rules. This is ironic for Republicans, who often tout local control as their mantra, to effectively, assert the will of the state creating state control. Last, we knew that was considered Communism.

If Dayton were to also veto the tax bill he could hamstring the effectiveness of the Republicans and protect the state from pending federal tax cuts, fostered by Republicans in control in Washington, DC. This will allow the state to continue to collect revenues based on current tax policy, meaning our state should continue to have surpluses.

Some may believe this is in violation of the agreement on the Special Session, which was extended by a handshake, but as we understand it, that was only on the spending provisions, and just as was the case in 2011, a veto of the tax bill, keeps the ship of state afloat.

If Dayton signs the other spending bills, then the state will avoid the need for another Special Session, because the government is fully funded. Of course, there is one other possibility to send a message to the Republicans and show who has the final say, and that is in the bonding bill. Since Dayton had to renegotiate the buffer strips in the Ag bill, he should line item bonding projects in Republican districts, which are not associated with clean water, water treatment facilities or other environmental projects. Which will reduce the cost of the 2017 bonding bill, and allows the 2018 bonding bill to grow accordingly.

We understand Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-03, Cook) is in favor of a veto of the transportation bill because it is reliant on too much upfront spending taken from the current surplus and the general fund, but that would trigger the need for a Special Session.

So, the basic point is veto preemption, the tax bill, and portions of the bonding bill.

If Legislators Play Politics on FGM Young Women Die, No Time for Politics

Last night, we attended a forum with members of the Somali community at the Grandview Restaurant and Wedding Hall in South Minneapolis. The topic was Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which is sometimes called incorrectly called female circumcision, because the procedure isn’t done for any preemptive, or positive health reasons, as is male circumcision, but rather to remove a woman’s sexual organs that provide pleasure. This is the epitome of a patriarchy and oppression of women by the male segment of a society. In western eyes, the act is nothing short of barbaric and it is banned in most of the world’s civilized nations.

This clash of cultures recently came to light when two, young Somali girls were taken from Minnesota to Michigan where the procedure was conducted. In Minnesota, it is a crime for a person to perform the procedure, but there is no consequence for the family members who allow it to be done. This is where the public outcry and the conflict between old world ways and the new world of America come front and center.

The principal organizers were: Farhio Khalif, A Voice of East African Women, Fadumo Abdinur, Tasho Community, Omar Jamal, Osman Omar, Waris Mohamud, Hareda Sidow, Deqa Hussen, Camila Abdidoon, and Imam Roble. The most notable absence was freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-60B, Minneapolis), the only Somali state legislator.

The guise used to justify FGM is religion, and the battle occurs both inside the family as well as outside in the greater society. The question is will the Somali Community submit to the social standard of their new home or retain the archaic practices of the past.

The person at the forefront of this issue is an unexpected advocate Rep. Mary Franson (R-08B, Alexandria). She made headlines when she compared people on food assistance to wild animals. Her bill is HF2621, and she attended last night’s forum, the companion is SF2355, authored by Sen. Karin Housley (R-39, St Mary’s Point), who did not attend. An alternative position is being advanced in the senate and hampered by Sen. Jim Abeler (R-35, Anoka). He appears to be siding with other members of the Somali community expressing saying the state of Minnesota will take away the children of parents who have allowed this procedure to be performed on their daughters.

He also did not attend the forum and merely phoned it in. Literally, he called during the event and one of the organizers Omar Jamal had his phone turned toward the speaker and informed the Senator many Somali women would be marching on the Capitol and coming to his office to put the issue right.

As these two sides square off it should be explained the biggest issue front and center should not be about the culture clash between old and new it should be the welfare of the children at risk. The procedure is not medically sound, has major, long-term medical consequences and is perpetuated because of ignorance and oppression.

A way to put this issue in another light, we think people should see similarities between this issue and sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Since FGM is perpetrated under the auspices of religion and remains in the shadows it is akin to the tacit support expressed by the Roman Catholic Church as it shuttled offending clergy around the nation to other parishes when they were found to have abused children.

When it is the institution people turn to in times of solace, the place where the seek comfort in hours of need that authorizes or even administers the horrendous act, the pain felt is even greater. If there are no safe harbors for girls in this new land, then the horrors of the place their parents left enter into their lives for no valid reason.

Why Are Republicans So Mean Spirited?

What is it that constitutes the Republican anti-government fervor? Is it a commitment to a higher-minded purpose, no. Is it a moral construct, maybe? Most likely it is a dogmatic dedication to disdain, an outright rejection of the concept of a collective, societal purpose. The need for others to help make one whole. The realization of the fact, everyone needs something more than they already have.

If a Republican reads this, they will reject it out-of-hand. They will not be able to relate to the notion because it is foreign.

When Hillary Clinton (D) wrote her book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us, she embodied an idea, which was wholly objectionable to a Republican, because extended the concept of who matters in the raising of a child out to those people who might not play a day-to-day role in that child’s rearing. Those people who exemplify the surroundings built to establish the community in which the child is born into are as important as the central family.

In American, 3-5% of the population have sociopathic personalities. We would be willing to bet most if not all vote Republican. If these figures are applied to the MN House it means between 4-6 of the members in this body may be sociopaths and 2-3 members in the Senate. It also begs the question which ones could they be?

As the budget negotiations continue could this idea be a factor in the discussion?

Right now, Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-31A, Crown) is quicker to point fingers after each negotiating session. It may be because he is balancing all his decisions against his gubernatorial bid. We expect a portion of the issue is Daudt has more experience negotiating with Governor Mark Dayton (DFL). Unlike, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa).

We still hold to our belief we had at the start of the session, there will be a special session and mainly because the House is more strident, may contain more sociopaths and is up for election in 2018.

Debating Science Versus Stupidity

Watching the debate on the House Floor on SF550 is an interesting exercise, akin to watching your favorite sports team being beaten by your biggest rival. We listened to Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-18B, Glencoe) address his colleagues on the topic of climate change. He sincerely voiced his disbelief in the support by 97% of scientists acknowledging the existence of human influence on climate change. As he spoke it was hard not to shout, out words like blooming idiot, imbecile, and an abject fool.

It is clear the residents of district 18B, may not be any more intelligent than their representative because they have sent him to St Paul four times. As an insurance man, Gruenhagen provides his customers with protection against calamities and misfortunes. We only wish he would do the same to viewers of the session unless his intent is to provide comedic relief, but we learned long ago it is not polite to tease the mentally challenged.

Feeding the Fish Legislative Style

The staging of the optics for the forthcoming conflict between Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) and the Republican-controlled legislature is merely a feeding frenzy of red meat to the Republican base. As we have already seen Republicans have passed bills, sent them to the governor, the governor has vetoed, and provided information in the veto message about why he took this action. Republicans are attempting to fire a broadside at the governor expecting him to recoil and relinquish ground on each measure. This is where Dayton must prove his resolve and resiliency.

Today, both houses of the legislature will continue their salvos, but as these shots are recoiling from off the governor’s office, they (Republicans) need to know Dayton remains unscathed. The activities this week are structured to occur prior to the Governor’s fishing opener on Saturday. Despite the fact, the governor will be joined by the legislative leadership in his boat, we doubt much will be accomplished. This week is all about posturing, next week will be the same process proving Republicans are committed to their positions and then next weekend will be when the two sides sit down to negotiate.

As we have learned from these conference committee actions, which are advancing only with Republican position, DFLers are not included in the process what-so-ever. This is not a surprise. The DFL is in the minority. They lost the election, now they need to win the rhetorical debate because they will not win any points on the legislative floor.

The proposals advanced by Republicans have one clear purpose, reduce spending to facilitate tax cuts for the affluent. The across the board losses are undermining base funding in many areas. If the erosion continues certain areas will reach a tipping point, and while the budget bills seem to be structured to support the programs we learned from the last budget cycle the programs suffer in favor of the administrative costs and it is a slippery slope down to zero.

It is a traditional Republican approach is to starve government on the vine, prove it is inadequate in its provision of services and a cause of frustration for the public. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now we will be watching out for which bills become the vehicles for the next barrage.

Wait for the Tax Bill

The big Republican maneuver will be when they send the Tax Bill to the Governor. This will be the most political document written this legislative session. It will include the vast array of tax cuts for people in comfortable positions our state will likely see in the near future.

With Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-31A, Crown) seeking to replace Governor Mark Dayton (DFL), every action he takes and each move he makes must be measured in aspiration terms. The future of the Republican majority may hinge on the knee-jerk reactionary, tax cut dogma. As Republican fight with Dayton they impinge their own futures.

We expect the Tax Bill will be a bargaining chip to a Bonding Bill and Republicans will expect it to be signed before a Bonding Bill is truly offered.

Speaking of the Bonding Bill

It is our opinion, on the House side the Bonding Bill will rise and approach a billion dollars, but will not exceed a billion. Our indications from Capitol Investment Committee Chair Dean Urdahl (R-18A, Grove City) reinforce this idea.

Although, while Urdahl uses the Republican playbook currently in use, which is isolating DFLers from the conversation he risks ultimate passage of his bill. Because a Bonding Bill requires a super majority of 81 House votes, Republicans will need DFL votes for passage. This unique reality behooves Urdahl to extend a hand to Minority Lead Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-66A, St Paul) and allow her to help craft a viable bill.

Urdahl confided the bill will pass with inclusion of items with broad support, but since there is far greater need than the bill will meet, we reiterate the question asked by a sage member of the legislative establishment Rep. Lyndon Carlson (DFL-45A, Crystal) When all is agreed to will there still be leaking roofs in buildings across the state?

Impact of the Thao Situation on the DFL Endorsement

Will he, or won’t he continue to run, is the question many people are asking about current St Paul City Council Member Dai Thao (DFL). It is no surprise Republicans are calling for his resignation, which is always interesting because they keep a tight lip when it is one of their own. Read our archives.

By our count, Thao has 112 delegates out of 550. If he were to withdraw will these supporters, mostly Hmong, from named Thao sub-caucuses show up on June 17th? If not, then the size of the convention will drop and this provides a significant advantage to the current front-runner former Ward 1 City Council member Melvin Carter III with 173 delegates by our count. Shrinking the convention on the first ballot set the quorum number, and if it remains above a simple majority of the quorum and a 60% of that amount is achieved, an endorsement can be conferred.

Therefore, we advocate for using Instant Run-off Voting (IRV0 for the endorsement, because this keeps intact the total pool of delegates (550 at the start) as the measure in each subsequent round. Since this is still the first and only ballot, the redistribution is within the confines of the same. Working through IRV establishes the greatest denominator for the division.

If the Thao contingent does participate and Thao departs the group is unguided and could easily dissipate in the 2nd ballot, or after a few rounds, which again advantages the candidate in the lead, Carter.

Since the Thao delegates are the essential variable in this scenario, and their identified leader is in peril, they should look to another leader to step forward. If the focus can shift from the personality, Thao to the community Hmong these delegates can have a stronger purpose for remaining in the process.

The east side of St Paul has the lowest turnout in the Twin Cities and if this election could focus on this disparity, then the city will benefit overall. The participation of the Hmong community in the DFL endorsement process is a positive sign and if it can extend to the general election all the better.

Now, we will be clear, we do not expect an endorsement, there is room to block from the Undecided delegates, but running a traditional DFL endorsement fight in the St Paul City Convention, with the Thao issue hanging as a pallor over it, is a greater risk.

If the Thao group blames Carter there is room for former Ward 3 City Council member Pat Harris (DFL) to benefit, but again at higher risk/higher reward, which as an investment banker, Harris should not entertain. The IRV route is a lower risk option.

Will Thao Problem Spill Over into Minneapolis Mayor’s Race?

When we learned of the situation between St Paul City Council Member Dai Thoa (DFL) and Hylden Advocacy & Law firm lobbyist Sarah Clarke a couple of clear points came to mind. If the conversation between Thao, Clarke and her clients from Dart Container Corporation, why was the conversation being routed through the campaign rather than the city council office. As we talked to people about this issue, the first comments were, “smells like a set-up.”

The finger pointing started right away with the primary target being former Ward 1 City Council member Melvin Carter III. Since the focus started with Thao’s campaign manager Angela Marlow, President of AFSCME Local 8, the week after the AFSCME state council endorsed Carter, people began speculating aloud, and commenced looking for connections between Clarke and Carter.

The connection might not be hard to figure out. Clarke, is married to Ward 3 City Council Member Jacob Frey (DFL), a candidate for Minneapolis Mayor. Since Frey and Carter served in municipal office at the same time, and are both politically active it doesn’t seem to be a stretch to believe a relationship already exists. It would also seem the Dart Container Corporation, would be interested in speaking with Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin (DFL), the spouse of Nancy Hylden the principal of Hylden Advocacy & Law. Especially, since Hennepin County has the garbage burner. Could this create a wedge issue for Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges (DFL) in her bid for reelection? Is Frey vulnerable to appearing soft on recycling and garbage disposal?

One of the least talked about issues in the St Paul mayor’s race, which we believe will be a huge issue is garbage removal and recycling. With the raft of problems created with the current collection program, its costs, rules, and failed collections, we expect candidates will need to address these issues and have a plan for implementation in the first month of office.

As we watch these issues associated with Thao unfold, we will be interested to see if other names come into the conversation. KMSP Investigative Reporter Tom Lyden, called Thao “a transaction politician” alluding to a pay-to-play operational style. The cozy relationship between money and politics is not anything new. The distance between money and political positions may not be as distant as some may like.

Politicians may need to invoke the words of former California State Treasurer Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh, “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, take their money and then vote against them you’ve got no business being up here.”

Marlowe Meets with the BCA

We understand Angela Marlowe¸ former campaign manager for Dai Thao met with the BCA yesterday. During their meeting, they asked for her cell phone and said they can subpoena it if she chooses not to surrender it voluntarily. She chose to comply, and as we have learned elsewhere she is feeling, “Thrown under the bus,” by Thao.

We have heard other lobbyists may have experienced the “Thao Squeeze,” and from those we have spoken with this is a common practice. Maybe this is why some lobbyists, specifically Republican ones, have always despised the existence of Checks & Balances because we were on hand to witness conversation and transactions they would rather have kept quiet.

Counting All of the DFL Convention Delegates

The activities in St Paul over the weekend focused on the delegate selection in Wards 1,2 and 5. This weekend the remaining Wards 3, 4, 6, and 7 will fill out their respective elected delegations to the St Paul City Convention, with the grand total being 500 in number. There is another block of delegates to consider called Auto-Delegates and these are elected officials who have received the DFL endorsement, live in and represent a portion of the St Paul city limits, or are party officers.

The list of 50 includes Governor Mark Dayton (DFL-MN) a resident of Summit Avenue, but we doubt he is likely to attend, but Mayoral Candidate Melvin Carter (DFL), a former Council Member, is an advisor to the Administration, and we know Dayton values loyalty. State Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-64B, St Paul) has already said he will not be attending due to a scheduling conflict.

The counts of the elected DFL delegates show Carter with a slightly better two-to-one lead, but only 14.20% of the available elected delegates have declared for him. When we combine the Auto-delegates to the elected his numbers improve to 15.82%. As do the numbers for former Ward 3 City Council Member Pat Harris (DFL), who climbs up two points to 9,27%.  Current City Council Member Dai Thao (DFL) shifts a bit downward, and Uncommitted/Other hovers at 12.73%.

Our list included announced endorsements and direct conversations with the individual persons in question.

There is one important factor to point out. Elected Officials tend to not want to be boxed in, and will either not be clearly forthcoming, or will not bother to attend. The Uncommitted/Other in the Auto-Delegates may also remain uncounted.

Candidate Elected Delegates


% of the 500 Elected Delegates Auto-Delegates (50) % Overall
Carter 156 31.20% 17 31.45%
Thao 107 21.40% 5 20.36%
Harris 93 18.60% 13 19.45%
Goldstein 14 3.20% 0 2.73%
130 25.60% 15 26.00%

*Note* These numbers will change significantly over the course of the weekend, and we will be updating this story each time we receive confirmation of a person’s position. We will have people at each of the Ward conventions gathering our intel.

We suggest you return often to see the specific changes.

No LGA for St Paul, Then PILT Seems a Worthy Response

We attended the St Paul Strong Forum on Wednesday at the St Paul Neighborhood Network. All 6 declared candidates were in attendance: Ward 1 Council Member Dai Thao (DFL), Tim Holden (R), former Ward 3 City Council Member Pat Harris (DFL), former School Board Member Tom Goldstein (DFL), Elizabeth Dickinson (Gr), and former Ward 1 City Council Member Melvin Carter III.

The debate was lively and there wasn’t much interaction between candidates, and the breadth of the issues covered was limited, mainly due to the number of the people on the stage. When each person was limited to a 90-second response it required nearly 9 minutes for each question to be fully answered and depending on the length of the question sometimes even longer.

The most interesting idea we heard from the debate which was support for PILT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) supported by Carter, Dickinson, and Goldstein. Each supporter called it PILOT, but we have learned the correct term used in the legislative tax committees is PILT. This means a voluntary annual payment of the amount a normal tax assessment an entity would receive from the city. St Paul is a community that is property tax poor when all the non-tax paying entities are adequately assessed.

The State of Minnesota, which dispenses Local Government Aid (LGA) is a prime factor. The number of state buildings sit off of the property tax rolls are staggering, including the State Capitol itself. Not to mention, the State Senate Office Building, the State Office Building, the State Supreme Court Building, the Administration Building and so on.

If the City of St Paul were to place a price tag on the lost revenue for each entity its budget would likely have a multi-fold surplus. Especially, if PILT were extended to schools both public and private, higher education institutions, and churches.

Since everyone who lives and works in the city directly receives amenities it about time the benefactors start acknowledging the benefit financially.

The Legislative X Factor: Dayton’s Stamina

In college, Mark Dayton (DFL) was a goalie and he should have learned you can never win a game, but you can prevent your team from losing. Right now he is the only person between the direction Republicans want to take our state and where we are at this moment. It’s showdown time.

DFL legislators are forestalled and disheartened every time the Governor talks to reporters when he undermines negotiations with the Republican-controlled legislature. A perfect example is his most recent statement about accepting the Republican Transportation plan to use one-time money to pay for a portion of the projects. This is like playing poker and showing your opponent your hands while they hold theirs to the breast. Or a better analogy is playing Russian Roulette and you are the only one who holds the gun to your own head.

The call by House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-31A, Crown) for Dayton and his commissioners to be at the table while the House and Senate Republicans negotiate between each other is a tactical maneuver. It forces Dayton into a position where he is partially culpable for these proposed cuts. Dayton should hold the line and remain outside of the negotiations until the two Republican sides have agreed. The transportation issues can simply be resolved through a Bonding Bill and if Dayton stands firm then Republicans will come to him, because of internal pressures felt in their caucuses.

The reality is, people need to feel pain for them to seek resolution from their elected leadership. The only way Republicans will move is when the voices of their constituents become too loud to ignore.

Dayton’s legacy is in play he can leave office with a poor 2017-18 Budget and that will be what he is remembered for, or he can stand and fight. He needs to give no quarter, prove his resolve, and draw lines he will not cross. He needs to have staff far more active and visible and they need to speak with one voice. No, that is not acceptable to our Governor. Then he needs to call Republicans out when the mischaracterize, distort, and misguide the public.

Also, if Dayton wants to prove he is looking out for Minnesota’s interests when and if a Special Session ensues, he needs to ignore AFSCME and let state employees experience pain too. Many jobs in Greater Minnesota exist because of government and Republicans need to be reminded of that fact.

Governor Dayton, play like Minnesota Wild, your back is up against the wall, and if you lose one play you lose the game, the series, your playoff hopes and hearts and minds of your supporters.

Minnesota’s Moral Hazard

If Republicans want to grow their party beyond fascistic angry white men and gray-haired people, they had better change their course regarding higher education. Our state has witnessed a dramatic shift in state support of public colleges, a shift in financial aid for public college students versus private college students, and when the true costs of higher education are measured, including inflation, it means the burden is shared far more broadly, while the state benefits economically from a more educated workforce.

Minnesota’s Moral Hazard is the increase in structural debt for a vulnerable segment of the population which is placing an expectation on its own ability to meet the financial obligation through higher wages facilitated by a higher educational level. The state’s failure to meet its prior obligation and this burden shift have created a situation likely to face imminent failure.

These inequities in higher education started with the removal of the higher education cap on the state scholarship and grants program back in the late 1990’s. This meant that private college students were no longer bound by the level of financial cost of the highest state sponsored institution, the University of Minnesota, but rather the entire cost of education at private institutions was considered for financial aid purposes. This meant all private college students, who were financially eligible for aid, had a high need. This, in turn, meant the program which had funded public college students with 60% of the awards and private college students 40%, after the removal of the cap, the percentages inverted and now the gap between them continues to grow larger.

Additionally, the state moved to a high tuition/high financial aid model which held one essential flaw, the state never fulfilled its portion of the commitment. This meant students in public colleges had to pick-up the difference and this resulted in unnecessary increases in student loans and thereby student debt.

These structural changes were not all that occurred. Under Governor Tim Pawlenty’s (R-MN) Administration and even great injustice transpired. The state changed the law from 135A.031 Appropriations “The direct appropriation to each board for instructional services shall equal 67 percent of the estimated total cost of instruction for the University of Minnesota, the state universities, and the community colleges, and, for technical colleges, at least 67 percent of the estimated total cost of instruction.”

To: 135A.031 Subdivision 1. Determination of appropriation. The appropriations for the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are determined by considering the biennial budget documents submitted under section 135A.034, performance in advancing the objectives under section 135A.011, available resources according to the state budget forecast, the relative balance between state support for students and public postsecondary institutions, and other factors the legislature considers important in determining the level of state appropriations for public postsecondary education.

Subd. 2.[Repealed, 2007 c 144 art 2 s 52]

Subd. 3.[Repealed, 2007 c 144 art 2 s 52]

Subd. 4.[Repealed, 2007 c 144 art 2 s 52]

Subd. 5.[Repealed, 2007 c 144 art 2 s 52]

Subd. 6.[Repealed, 2007 c 144 art 2 s 52]

Effectively, these changes in the language from “shall” to “may” and took all the teeth out of the law.

Click on the following links to see how dramatic the shifts have been over the course of the last decade.

University of Minnesota Appropriation and Tuition Split (002)

MN State _Tuition Revenue and Appropriations Chart (002)

One major problem that also occurs is the systems no longer are required to present the cost of instruction in each institution. Since the law changed neither the University of MN or the State University and College system has had to provide these breakdowns. So effectively, the only conversation we are having now is the impact of tuition on the operating expenses of the institutions, including administrative costs.

Minnesota’s Tax Burden is Not a Deterrent to Growth, Failing to Fund Higher Education Is.

The Minnesota tax burden conversation is a specious argument. The state priorities are set by the collective mindset of its political leadership and a surplus in revenue is a reflection of a number of realities. One, our economic system is successful and more robust that estimated. This is a good thing. The old adage is you fix the roof when the sun is shining. Our state has numerous areas which are under-funded and areas of deferred maintenance and recognizing these first, prior to seeking a reduction in state revenue is far more responsible. Second, if our state is to thrive in future years we must prepare for the inevitable economic downturn. This idea is not as far away as some may think. The current uncertainty in Washington DC, the loss of federal funding is a looming issue and failure to reflect this problem in the budgeting process is just plain foolish. Federal funding accounts for a sizable portion of our state budget and the same amount should be retained to offset any loss in funding. This is responsible budgeting. Third, denial of inflationary figures in budgeting is a gimmick to force imaginary budget pressures downward, because arguments can be made against additional funding as an attempt to hold the line on spending. Fourth, Republicans as the anti-government party seek to create systemic failure of government in order to prove its ineffectiveness. Fifth, using one-time money for any expenditure without long-term benefit is shameful, and paying for transportation this way is ludicrous, because those costs can be borne over a loinger period through bonding.

Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) must face the reality every debate with the Republican-controlled legislature is a difference in philosophy and their’s is a direct attack on his fundamental belief system. Every proposition is intent on either starving the grape on the vine, sowing seeds of discontent by increasing bureaucratic response times due to fewer governmental employees and provision of fewer services to people in need.

Call for a Realignment of Priorities

Statutorily, Minnesota is required to disburse its surplus revenues in the following fashion: Shore up the cash account, apply one-third of the amount to the Budget Reserve, and funded unmet liabilities in K-12 education. We suggest a fourth priority be applied and that is the allocation of the remaining money to offset, reestablish the state’s unfunded mandate, the cost of instruction in higher education.

A reduction in the economic burden on the next generation will reap significant long-term benefits. It will position people entering the economy far better because their first mortgage will not need to be for their education, but empower them to actually mortgage their first home, become property tax payers and become more invested in the local community.


We think it is time for Minnesota to return to being the brain power state, envisioned by Governor Rudy Perpich (DFL). In our state priorities for addressing budget surpluses, Higher Education warrants a placement as a state priority. After the allocation to the cash flow account, the budget reserve, and Education, Higher Education should be the next place for replenishment.

Under Republican leadership, combined with DFL complacency, we are causing undue financial burdens on the next generations, just because the budget needed to be balanced after deep Republican tax cuts. Listening to Republican leadership it sounds like the same, tired arguments.

We offer the following quotes from Edmund Burke for your consideration;

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”