Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ruud breaks from west metro schools to support insurance pool

Rep. Maria Ruud (Photo: Minnesota House of Representatives)
West metro school districts are in quiet conniptions over an April 18 vote by Rep. Maria Ruud (DFL-Minnetonka). Ruud's vote helped to revive a bill that could raise health insurance costs for west metro school districts, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The bill, HF 517 by Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston), would mandate that school district employees join an insurance buying pool to reduce health insurance expenses. Unfortunately for some districts, their costs could actually go up in such an arrangement. This is why the Association of Metropolitan School Districts opposes this legislation:
To help school districts continue to provide quality, cost-effective health care for their employees, the Governor and Legislature should continue to allow school districts to have local control and flexibility to design benefit plans that meet the needs of their employees.
The Minnesota Department of Finance's fiscal note for the bill concluded:
While the goal of the pool is to lower health care costs for school districts and school district employees, some districts may experience decreased costs and/or improved health care coverage, other districts would likely experience increases in costs and/or poorer health care coverage. There will be a mixture of winners and losers. For districts, there will be pressure in contract negotiation to gain back coverage losses, or to access district cost savings in the form of salary or other increases.
So even districts that saved money could be pressured to spend the savings on increased salaries and benefits!

The Minnesota School Boards Association "Opposes mandating participation in a state-operated insurance pool for public school districts," according to its Legislative Policy.

On April 18, Davids moved the bill as an amendment to a supplemental state government appropriations bill, HF 2833. Davids's amendment included a provision to allow larger school districts to opt out, and provide political cover for their representatives:
Each exclusive representative of employees of a type of entity described in paragraph (b) which, on July 1, 2005, employed 400 or more full time equivalent teachers shall determine whether the employees it represents will participate in the school employee group of the public buyers group program.
Districts whose teacher headcount could fall below 400, due to falling enrollment for example, must be sweating this provision.

The amendment passed 80 to 54, but the west metro roll call is telling:

  • 32A Joyce Peppin (R) - No; 32B Kurt Zellers (R) - No. (Maple Grove)

  • 33A Steve Smith (R) - No; 33B Barb Sykora (R) - No. (Mound-Excelsior-Orono)

  • 41A Ron Erhardt (R) - No; 41B Neil Peterson (R) - No. (Edina)

  • 42A Maria Ruud (DFL) - Yes; 42B Eric Paulsen (R) - No. (Minnetonka-Eden Prairie)

  • 43A Jeff Johnson (R) - No; 43B Ron Abrams (R) - No. (Plymouth-Minnetonka)

  • 44A Steve Simon (DFL) - No; 44B Ron Latz (DFL) - No. (Hopkins)
The Senate companion bill, SF 1459, passed the full Senate 38-27 on April 12 — with no opt-out for larger districts.

Ruud's vote was not needed to pass the amendment, but outstate districts and Education Minnesota owe her one for this vote. Her constituents should be asking "why?"

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

DFL: Let's raise the gas tax!

With "pain at the pump" gasoline prices, and oil and gas exploration and new refinery construction blocked by environmental extremists, Steve Kelley, Becky Lourey, and former candidate Kelly Doran have called for, what else, a gas tax increase.
Real estate developer Kelly Doran and state Sens. Steve Kelley and Becky Lourey all said they would push to expand coverage and reduce the costs of health care, a mounting problem for many businesses. All said they would accelerate state spending or "investment" on highways and mass transit, and all indicated they would likely approve a gasoline tax increase to relieve what one them called a "congestion tax" on businesses.

—"Three DFL candidates mostly agree at business forum," Star Tribune, February 9, 2006

According to the Gas Buddy Organization, Minnesotans pay a tax of 22 cents per gallon of unleaded gasoline to the State of Minnesota, and 18.4 cents per gallon to the federal government.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

SD 43 candidates introduce issues

Judy Johnson, Ron Abrams, Sarah Anderson. (Submitted photo)
SD 43 issued this statement in a press release:
Residents from Plymouth, Minnetonka, and Medicine Lake met Saturday morning to endorse candidates for the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives. The crowd of area Republicans backed Plymouth Mayor Judy Johnson, incumbent legislator Ron Abrams, and Plymouth Planning Commissioner Sarah Anderson to represent them on the November ballot.

Standing before District 43 supporters, Johnson, Abrams, and Anderson vowed to work together in getting the important work of this state done including reducing property taxes, addressing rising health care costs, providing good roads, and achieving greater accountability and success from our schools.

Who is Sarah Anderson? Part II

Like the rest of the slate, HD 43A candidate Anderson has an extensive knowledge of campaigns and government from the inside out. She has over nine years of experience in government, working with legislators, agencies, and the public. She is a commissioner on the Plymouth Planning Commission, and works in the Minnesota House of Representatives as Director of the Legislative Assistant Department. She was Executive Advisor to the Speaker of the House for six years, and was the administrator for the Capital Investment Committee for two years. Anderson has been active in the Republican party since 1991.

Anderson lists her issue positions as: fiscal accountability and efficiency, traditional family values, pro-life, Second Amendment rights, and property rights.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

SD 43 gets wake-up call

SD 43 convention (Photo: North Star Liberty)
If last November's special election was a rude awakening for the once "safe" Republican west metro area, the Minnesota Senate District 43 Republicans got a wake-up call for good measure from its leadership at Saturday's convention. Over one hundred delegates packed the lunchroom at Hopkins North Junior High School to endorse a slate for state Senate and House candidates and vote on party platform resolutions.

Congressman Jim Ramstad (Photo: North Star Liberty)
Rep. Jim Ramstad, Third District Congressman and resident of the district (he also represented the area at the State Capitol during the 1980s), exhorted the delegates to work hard to "take back" the Senate seat lost last fall, and keep the House seats in the Republican caucus. Ramstad is well-known for never taking anything for granted, not even party endorsement after winning eight terms in Congress, so his staff and volunteer team are very familiar with hard work on campaigns! Ramstad will face Democrat challenger and radio broadcaster Wendy Wilde for his Third District Congressional seat.

Perhaps the most dramatic moment of the morning came when Republican activist James Seim, the first to announce a run for the SD 43 Senate seat endorsement after Terri Bonoff's win in November, told delegates that the time had come to unify behind Mayor Judy Johnson for Senate. The announcement came as a surprise to most, which turned to a standing ovation for the man who delivered such a classy resignation speech. Delegates will likely welcome him back should he run for some future office.

Sarah Anderson (Photo: North Star Liberty)
Who's Sarah Anderson?

Greeting arriving delegates as the registration tables opened was Sarah Anderson, who won endorsement for the House District 43A seat being vacated by Attorney General candidate Jeff Johnson. Anderson was accompanied by a troop of her closest friends and relatives in red campaign t-shirts, large red signs, stickers, and flyers introducing herself and her stand on the issues. That was a good thing, because most delegates had never heard of Anderson, unless it was from a visit to Speaker Steve Sviggum's (R-Kenyon) office, where Anderson served for six years as Executive Advisor.

Sarah Anderson volunteers (Photo: North Star Liberty)
Rep. Jeff Johnson assured me that there will be an attempt from the floor of the House to amend the Twins Stadium bill to include a referendum on the Hennepin County sales tax, but that the amendment will face strong opposition from House members (surprise) outside Hennepin County. The "Hennepin County Twins" and "Hennepin County Stadium" is sounding better and better every day (surely the Hennepin County Board will at least get naming rights in exchange for the tax revenue).

Rep. Ron Abrams (Photo: North Star Liberty)
Rep. Ron Abrams, who will defend his House District 43B seat this fall, enjoyed major kudos for his years of behind-the-scenes efforts to improve Minnesota's tax code. While he shies from the limelight, he is highly respected on both sides of the aisle for his extensive knowledge and — a rarer commodity — wisdom.

Mayor Judy Johnson appeared energized, in fighting trim, and positively eager for the campaign to begin. Her hubby and son were helping out at the convention (their daughters had sports commitments). Like Ramstad, she was not taking her endorsement for granted, but will no doubt kick it in gear now that the endorsement is in hand.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hugh Hewitt: "delusional"

Welcome Hugh Hewitt fans!

Hugh calls me "delusional" for answering his challenge to help the MOB collectively raise more money for Mark Kennedy than his own blog.

That's OK. A link from Hugh's blog to North Star Liberty was worth a 20x increase in the average number of daily hits to this blog, even if it's only for a day.

Help paint the country red. Please contribute to Mark Kennedy's campaign for the U.S. Senate. And remember to enter "MOB" in the referrer field!

Memo to Hugh: I'll see you at the Minnesota State Fair later this year at the MOB gathering. You can buy the house a round of Tom Thumb Doughnuts to help celebrate the MOB victory and a new red seat in the U.S. Senate.

Now, where's the rest of the MOB??

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Kennedy for Senate (no not that Kennedy)

Trash-talking "shock jock" talk radio host Hugh Hewitt has challenged the MOB to raise more money and refer more contributors to the campaign of Mark Kennedy for U.S. Senate than Hewitt's own blog. As Hewitt says, "Kennedy is everyone's choice as the leading opportunity for the GOP to pick up a blue seat in November." Kennedy is also our choice for replacing that certain Senator called "The Blunderer" by Time magazine.

So please help defend the honor of the MOB by contributing generously to Mark Kennedy's campaign today. And be sure to enter "MOB" in the referrer field.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Home delivery of the PiPress -- in Plymouth!

I subscribe to the Saturday and Sunday editions of the Star Tribune, mostly for the coupons and a pathological need to read the Sunday Target ad. It certainly isn't for the paper's prominent light rail advertorials. If only we in the western suburbs of the Twin Cities had a more conservative (less liberal?) alternative in home delivered newspapers. If only the Washington Times had a Twin Cities edition, with Target ads. If only I didn't have print out a hardcopy of Craig Westover's columns from the Internet in order to enjoy them over a cup of coffee on my front porch on a pleasantly cool spring Saturday morning.

Imagine my surprise when last week a copy of the Pioneer Press showed up in, ironically, my green Star Tribune mailbox delivery tube. Has the PiPress finally begun to offer home delivery of a west metro edition, with Target ads?

The story is at the same time not that good, and more interesting. No, the PiPress has not begun publishing a west metro edition, and no, the paper is not offering home delivery out in Plymouth. Instead, an enterprising "paper boy" named Larry Faatz has found a market for the PiPress west of the Mississippi, and is happily working from midnight to dawn to serve that market.

Faatz told me in an e-mail that he has been in the newspaper delivery business for fifteen years (at age 61, he calls himself "paperman," to be exact). He works the overnight shift to home deliver the Star Tribune, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Investors Business Daily, USA Today, Barron’s, and the Pioneer Press.

"Approximately five or six years ago," said Faatz, "I approached Pioneer Press about delivering their product in the western suburbs. They didn't deliver in the Minneapolis area or suburbs and didn't feel it was feasible to do so at that time. As I was delivering all the above papers with each company involved I didn't pursue it any more. I was plenty busy with what I had.

"From May 2004 to January 2005, the Star Tribune took over the delivery of all home delivered papers. As a carrier I then had to wait around from 12:30 am to around 3:00 to 3:30 for papers to deliver. This is quite a waste of time as I had been accustomed to starting at 12:30 am and working all night. In December of 2005 I decided to invest customer tips in sampling Pioneer Press in order to start a route here in this area. I have long ago surpassed the money received but am committed to keep going. My goal is to grow the business so it will consume the entire night delivering. Most customers are subscribing a quarter at a time; however I have some who have paid annually.

"So, you see, I'm locked in here. As the Pioneer Press does not supply me I buy from the wholesaler who supplies the retail stores and vending machines in Minneapolis and the suburbs...I can deliver earlier than I used to using up some of this time I sat around for the past two years.

"I have had many comments from those who have subscribed...One customer stated they have been waiting for ten years for this paper to be delivered. Another just moved to Plymouth from Saint Paul only to find they couldn't get it; a lot say it's a better paper. I have had several that ran to the store daily seven days a week to buy this paper."

I enjoyed my sample copy of the PiPress. Compared to the Strib, it's straightforward not overdesigned, and its news sections lack those new trendy and confusing names. And the PiPress has Westover's columns (though not Mark Yost anymore, darn it). Maybe I'll have to start getting my Target ads from the Internet.

UPDATE: Faats told me that he has now received over 90 west metro inquiries for PiPress home delivery, from Eden Prairie to Maple Grove. Tell him you heard about him on North Star Liberty!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Most folks would understand if Judy Johnson had decided not to enter the race for the Minnesota Senate in district 43 again this year.

The popular Plymouth mayor lost the special election five months ago to fill the seat vacated by Republican David Gaither, who was appointed Governor Tim Pawlenty's chief of staff. Instead, the seat went to DFLer Terri Bonoff by 9 points, in an election with a voter turnout of only 20%. It was a tough loss politically and personally.

But even on election night 2005, with family and friends gathered around her, it seemed that Judy Johnson may have been down, but she was definitely not out. Senate Minority Leader Dick Day (R-Owatonna) predicted that night that Judy would be back. Those of us know know Judy Johnson — a longtime public servant, seasonsed candidate, and dedicated Republican — knew deep down that the happy warrior would be back.

In a letter to SD 43 delegates, Johnson sounded energized as she asked for their endorsement at the district convention on Saturday, April 22 at Hopkins North Junior High School. Excerpts:
This campaign and election will be a very different story than the special election for SD43. With your support and an “All Hands on Deck!” campaign, we will bring home a victory, taking back our Senate seat while retaining our two House seats this year.

My supporters and I believe I can win this race and better serve our district, but I will need your endorsement and help. I believe in the values of hard work, the foundation of family, the importance of faith, the respect for life, and personal and fiscal responsibility. Like you, I am proud to promote our Republican, common sense, ideals.

I know how hard people work for every dollar they earn. I will continue to treat every tax dollar as a sacrifice families have made to invest in our community. In the Senate, I will continue to be the steadfast fiscal watchdog that I have been as mayor of Plymouth and city council member, while still investing in legitimate local needs like public safety, roads and infrastructure. Under my leadership as mayor, Plymouth remains a top notch community to live, work and play with one of the lowest tax rates in the entire state along with its Aaa bond rating — which only a handful of cities possess nationwide. I will bring this proven record of fiscal conservatism to the state Senate and will balance the demands and needs of our state including education, transportation, healthcare, economic growth, public safety and the environment.

Last fall, the DFL Party spent well over $100,000 and other ultra-liberal special interest groups added even more money and volunteers to defeat us in the special election. They will work very hard to retain this seat, but we will fight even harder to take it back!
Look for special coverage of the SD 43 convention at North Star Liberty.

Senate District 43 Endorsing Convention

8:30 am (registration opens) - Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hopkins North Junior High School

10700 Cedar Lake Road, Minnetonka MN 55305

Friday, April 07, 2006

Oliver North coming to Twin Cities in May

Oliver North, combat decorated Marine, number one best-selling author, inventor with three United States patents, syndicated columnist, and host of "War Stories" on the Fox News Channel, will be appearing at two events in the Twin Cities to honor veterans next month, shortly before Memorial Day.

North will speak at the Patriot Forum and veteran appreciation dinner sponsored by AM 1280 The Patriot on Friday, May 19, at the Saint Paul Hotel.

North will be the featured speaker at the seventh annual We Salute Our Veterans, at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, on Saturday, May 20. The program will include the Twin Cities Ceremonial Band and the Fort Snelling Rifle Squad.

Both appearances are ticketed events. Click the links for order information.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


As a Republican party activist, I am disheartened to hear of a fellow activist or contributor who is leaving the party. It is especially so when fellow conservatives cite their disappointment with how incumbent Republicans vote and act, seemingly abandoning the conservative base who got them elected.

Yesterday a blogger named American Iron expressed his intentions to leave the party in "Why I'm Done With Political Parties, Especially the RNC."
America is now faced with two major party choices: an RNC of politically incompetent and disingenuous geeks who talk big and succeed little at implementing the party platform, and a DNC whose goal is a benevolent dictatorship of politically correct socialism ruled by left-wing elites. All of the other choices are too small and impotent to have any major influence on American politics, making them irrelevant. The Founders' warning has come true and now I understand and appreciate their wisdom even more than before. Therefore, I'll adopt their wisdom and abandon all allegiance to any party with no regrets. I'll also be a better patriot for doing so.

...When it comes to politics, the party is over as far as I'm concerned.

This goes way beyond winning elections, it has to do with how Republicans govern. But we have to win elections before we can govern. Conservative campaign rhetoric must translate directly into courageous like-minded leadership, or the base will stay home and the Democrats will win. Or the party will move to the left, and we will all be Democrats anyway. Some argue that it has already happened.