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 Thou 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

(500)

% 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%
Uncomm/Other
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.

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.”