Monday, July 31, 2006

Summertime retail politics

On Saturday I did some door knocking for Dave Johnson, candidate for House District 43B (Minnetonka-Plymouth), whom I introduced to you in my last post. If you're in shape, it's a great way to get in an extra brisk walk for the week (I logged 2.44 miles in 90 minutes under a high heat index).

This is the type of "retail politics" that I enjoy the most: meeting folks where they live, getting to know a precinct at ground level. For volunteers it gives deeper meaning to legislative district maps, and for candidates it helps put a face on the neighborhoods and people they hope to serve. Hopefully the candidate makes a positive, lasting impression that translates into a vote on Election Day.

As Karl Rove recently told a small group of bloggers (summarized in Triple A's great post, "It’s A Ground War, Not an Air-‘waves’ Fight,")
Like 2004 was for the Presidential race, 2006 is going to be about getting out the vote. For every dollar the Liberal 527s and Democrats spend to run TV ads attacking our President and candidates, we must make sure there are boots on the ground going door-to-door to identify and motivate voters to volunteer and show up on election day and dispel the lies.

When I arrived at Dave's house at 9:30 a.m., he was ready for us with clipboards, literature, campaign shirts, maps, and instructions. Dave's wife had snacks and bottled water ready for us. A district map poster was posted, and the dining room table was laden with campaign paperwork. After a short briefing, the candidate and volunteers drove off to our assigned neighborhoods.

The door-knocking itself was like a (long) walk in the park. Lots of folks were not home or not answering the door. In that case they will find Dave's campaign literature stuck in their doors when they return. Those who did answer the door for the most part accepted my short spiel and Dave's lit with a "thank you." Then it was back down the driveway and on to the next house. Only a few people I talked to asked for Dave's party affiliation. They seemed to be more interested in Dave's positions on education, roads, and spending.

What retail political activity could be even more fun than door knocking? Campaigning at the Minnesota State Fair!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Meet Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson was planning to run for elected office in 2010. Then shortly after the Legislature adjourned sine die in May, Governor Tim Pawlenty appointed Ron Abrams as a judge to the Fourth Judicial District in Hennepin County, and suddenly Abrams's Minnesota House 43B seat was open for the first time in 18 years.

Dave Johnson suddenly realized that 2010 had arrived four years early. On June 5, Johnson received the Republican endorsement, and as of today he has been a candidate for a little less than two months — with only three months until Election Day.

Practically every day since June 5, Johnson has been literally running from house to house in the Minnetonka-Plymouth district, knocking on doors to introduce himself to voters, scouting lawn sign locations, and fundraising. He is recruiting volunteers in an election year when every legislative seat in the state, plus the governor and constitutional officers, is up for election. He mingled in the crowd and shook hands at the Hopkins Raspberry Festival.

Johnson is young, bright, energetic, and passionate, which is what he'll need to sustain him through November. Politics and government is practically in his blood, thanks to the kitchen table tutelage of his father, former Plymouth City Manager Dwight Johnson.

Johnson has experience dealing with complex problems and improving the efficiency of organizations. His bachelor's degree is in Industrial Engineering from Iowa State University, and his MBA is from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. A senior supply chain analyst at Medtronic, he is a certified Six Sigma Green Belt.

On the issues, Johnson strongly supports funding for special education, and for increasing local control of schools. He favors dedicated funding of the gasoline tax and license fees to transportation, which would help planners to avoid highway project "potholes" caused by funding that goes up and down unpredictably with the political process. He supports funding for the Clean Water Legacy Act and alternative energy sources.

Dave Johnson's opponent is DFL candidate John Benson, who was narrowly defeated by the Republican Abrams in 2004.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

It isn't really about baseball, and it ain't over yet

A letter from Brian Burke, president of the Navarre Distribution Services unit of Navarre Corporation, where Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) worked as vice president of marketing, appeared in today's Sun Sailor newspaper:
Stadium vote is history

To the editor:

Over the past couple of months, I have continually heard and seen individuals attacking our local state senator for her vote on a new baseball stadium. As a lifelong Republican, I stepped across party lines during the last state Senate election to vote for Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka. What caused me to make this decision? Ultimately, while I historically don't make my vote based on one issue, I did during this past election. That one issue is the funding of a new baseball stadium for the Minnesota Twins.

I grew up attending baseball games at old County Stadium in Milwaukee and at Wrigley Field in Chicago. My father, now 70 years old, talks about attending baseball games at Wrigley Field with his friends. The memories of attending those games are something that my father and I will also cherish. I want to share these types of memories with my 3-year-old son. When is the last time you've heard someone say the same thing about the Metrodome?

Unfortunately, as with politics in today's environment, certain individuals can't move forward. There are many other things that now need attention. The stadium vote is done - let's move forward.

Brian Burke

As for "attacking" Senator Bonoff, I prefer to think of it as giving her the opportunity to defend being one of only five senators (all DFLers) representing Hennepin County to vote in favor of granting the county an exemption from the state law that would require it to hold a referendum before levying a $1.1 billion local option sales tax. Five Hennepin County DFL senators voted no, including Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Minneapolis) and Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope). Running on one's voting record is what incumbents must do, it's part of being accountable to the people who elected them. No wonder Bonoff's supporters are urging us to "move on," especially self-described single-issue voters like Burke.

As for memories of the Metrodome, I still reminisce about Kirby and Herbie at the Dome, waving a Homer Hanky, and those amazing ALCS games and World Series wins in 1987 and 1992. I think the last time I heard others recalling those cherished memories, from all over the state, was at Kirby Puckett's memorial service this year — which was also held at the Dome.

But it isn't really about baseball, it's about a tax without the referendum required by state law. It isn't even about public subsidies for millionaire ballplayers and billionaire team owners — if the Twins have such a good case for public subsidy, let them make it to the voters of Hennepin County.

When the Hennepin County Commissioners vote whether or not to levy the tax, this vote could also specify a referendum. The legislature did nothing to mandate the tax, which only the county can levy, and they did not prohibit the county from holding a referendum. So if enough people showed up to the three scheduled public hearings and demanded a referendum, perhaps, just perhaps, there could be a referendum. According to the county web site:
The Hennepin County Board today announced the schedule of three public hearings during the week of Aug. 21 before it votes on imposing a countywide sales tax to help finance a new Minnesota Twins ballpark in downtown Minneapolis.

County residents are invited to provide input at the three hearings:
  • 5 – 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 22, Board Room, 24th Floor, Hennepin County Government Center, 300 S. 6th St., Minneapolis.

  • 6 – 8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 23, Council Chambers, Bloomington Civic Plaza, 1800 W. Old Shakopee Road.

  • 6 – 8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 24, Council Chambers, Maple Grove Government Center, 12800 Arbor Lakes Parkway.

It may be the bottom of the ninth inning for referendum supporters, but even if the county commissioners do pass the tax without referendum, there are many decisions to be made and votes to be taken this year and next. No design has been finalized. No requests for bids have been sent out. No bonds have been issued. The only polls that these commissioners (and many legislators) listen to are elections. If only one commissioner is replaced this fall (referendum opponents Mike Opat, Mark Stenglein, and Peter McLaughlin are all up for reelection this November), it could mean the whole ballgame, so to speak.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!By now, newspaper readers all over the west metro know that Ellen Dustman was "stunned" (in the July 14 Plymouth Sun Sailor and July 11 Star Tribune) or "surprised" (in this week's Lakeshore Weekly News) "to see internet blogger Matt Abe's letter stating that Sen. Terri Bonoff is out of touch with constituents."

Dustman serves with Bonoff on the Legislative Action Coalition for the financially troubled Hopkins School District.

I'm not even sure that my original letter ran in the Strib, although it did run in the two west suburban weeklies. Does anyone still have a June 28 Strib (the letters for this date, which is referenced in Dustman's Strib version of her letter, are no longer online)? Ellen, can you confirm that it ran in the Strib?

For the record, I said that Bonoff is "out of tune (in disagreement with)" with her constituents, not "out of touch (ignorant of her constituents' views)." I know she is in touch because she and Dustman read this blog! Thankfully, Dustman made the correction in the version of her letter printed in the Weekly News. (Although I think "stunned" is a more memorable word than "surprised.") Unfortunately, none of Dustman's letters included the URL of — or links to — this blog.

If anyone sees Dustman's letter run in any other newspaper, let me know. Stay in touch, everyone!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Undoing Bonoff's damage

"It ain't over 'till it's over." —Yogi Berra

Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) and four other DFL Senators from Hennepin County may have given us a bad deal when they voted to authorize Hennepin County to raise a local option sales tax without a referendum, but authorization isn't the same as implementation. According to a new grassroots organization called CCARL, "Even though Hennepin County now has the authorization to proceed, the County is NOT REQUIRED to build the stadium or implement the tax, and the County is NOT PROHIBITED from holding a referendum."

This is exactly what baseball great Yogi Berra was talking about. We know which four commissioners supported the new sales tax, and which three were against it. Can the three be convinced to stand firm, and one of the four be convinced to follow the will of the people and either vote against the $1.1 billion sales tax increase, or put the tax to a vote this November?

It may be the bottom of the ninth inning for referendum supporters, but CCARL is not throwing in the towel just yet. Three CCARL volunteers put signs on their cars that said "STOP The Stadium Tax.," and drove up and down Hennepin Avenue four times prior to the start of the Minneapolis Aquatennial Parade. On Saturday they'll be in the Art Car Parade, and Sunday at that western suburban institution, the Medina flea market.

Taxpayers who are disenchanted with the whole process should visit the CCARL web site to find out what they can do next to help Hennepin County avert the $1.1 billion, 30-year boondoggle. The web site has a petition, information, and even downloadable signs and flyers.

This is about baseball about as much as the Boston Tea Party was about tea — which is to say partially, but the bigger issue is whether citizen demands for a referendum — taxation with referendum — will be heeded.


The Eagle has landed

Thirty-seven years ago today, at 10:56 p.m. EDT, Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot on the moon. It was 9:56 p.m. Central Daylight Time in Bloomington, Minnesota, where I watched the blurry television transmission live on our family TV. I had spent the previous few years following the space program during my grade school years, assembling a model of the Apollo spacecraft, playing with my G.I. Joe in his astronaut uniform and Mercury space capsule, reading everything I could find about the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, and of course, watching Star Trek.

Unfortunately, little will be said today about President John F. Kennedy's vision in 1961 of "landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth," or the out-of-this-world technology that quickly brought us spin-off technology from Fisher Space Pens to mass-produced computers in our automobiles more powerful than the computers that got seven manned Apollo missions to the moon and back.

Even in the midst of unprecedented political and cultural turmoil, the U.S. space program is one of mankind's greatest achievements. It inspired a generation to pursue careers in math and science, and invent everyday technology that could only have been science fiction thirty-seven years ago today.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Jason Lewis returns to KTLK-FM on August 7

"This guy he calls himself 'Mr. Right.'" —Jesse Ventura

Jason Lewis (Photo: WBT-AM, or KSTP-AM?)Talk radio host Jason Lewis, Minnesota's Mr. Right, who pioneered Twin Cities conservative talk radio during the Arne Carlson, Barbara Carlson, and Jesse Ventura administrations, returns to Minnesota's airwaves on 100.3 KTLK-FM, The [say it, Erica Ward] FM News Talk, Monday, August 7, during afternoon drive time (5:00-7:00 p.m.). In addition to hosting the Twin Cities' highest-rated drive time radio program, Lewis rallied Minnesota's growing conservative political movement by emceeing taxpayer rallies at the State Capitol Building.

The stars of conservative talk radio will truly be in alignment during our afternoon drive home, with the return of local talker Lewis; the godfather of the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers Hugh Hewitt on AM 1280 The Patriot; and the keeper of the Reagan legacy, Michael Reagan, on AM 1570 KYCR The Patriot II.

My car radio presets are ready for August 7. Frankie Lane and those whip cracks are going to sound awesome in FM stereo. Now if only Tom Hauser would bring back those rousing At Issue debates between Lewis and Ember Reichgott Junge.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The heat is on

Hopkins tents (Photo: North Star Liberty)
On Saturday afternoon under a blazing sun and gusty winds, a bank thermometer on Excelsior Boulevard read 103, but Republican spirits were as high as the temperature at the Hopkins Raspberry Festival.

Judy Johnson, challenger for the Minnesota Senate District 43 seat currently held by Terri Bonoff, was calm, cool, and collected, with friends and family handing out cold bottled water and Johnson for Senate stickers and tattoos. Johnson was clearly energized by meeting the voters, even as the rest of us sought relief from the oppressive heat index by plunging hands into the ice water bath for the bottled water, and slurping ice cream from the Stone Cold Creamery stand across the street. The campaign enjoyed a similar warm welcome from Raspberry Festival parade goers on Sunday.

David Johnson (no relation to Judy), candidate for the open House District 43B seat, introduced himself to voters.

During his visit to Republican Hopkins Raspberry HQ, Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) revealed part of why, when the Legislature convenes, he's one of the smartest guys in the room: he is constantly collecting knowledge, and his kids will be the same way. He asked his young son, "What do I say whenever you ask me what a word means?" "Look it up in the dictionary," came the rote reply. Hann also gave us a quick history of why there's a raspberry festival in Hopkins.

Campaigns for Republican candidates Bill Cullen, (42A Eden Prairie) and Jason Van Buren (44A, St. Louis Park-Hopkins) occupied the tent next to Judy Johnson's. We greeted former state Representative and SD 42 vice chair Peter Adolphson.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer stopped at the Republican tents to say hello.

Even a few non-Republicans dropped by. Minneapolis City Council Member Paul Ostrow, who will run in the DFL primary election for the Fifth U.S. Congressional District, asked for our votes(!) with two field staff. (Pleasant visit, but if we lived in the Fifth, Alan Fine would get our votes.) A Green Party volunteer hustled a petition to get Dave Berger on the ballot for state auditor.

Shar from Minneapolis is back. A volunteer from Shar's Citizens Campaigning Against Renegade Legislators (CCARL) told us that CCARL is tapping into the widespread lingering anger over the referendum-less Hennepin County sales tax. They are reminding citizens that the Legislature merely granted Hennepin County permission to levy the tax, and the tax still must be enacted by the county. The county still could hold a referendum, or decline to levy the tax! Check out their newsy web site and sign their petition.

Friday, July 14, 2006

By the numbers

68 - percentage of Minnesotans who believe that the Minnesota Twins professional baseball team should not get public money to build its new stadium (Minnesota Poll)

65 - percentage of Minnesotans who oppose using taxpayer money to pay for any professional sports stadium (SurveyUSA for KSTP)

63 - percentage of Minnesotans who believe that a referendum should be held before a sales tax is imposed to pay for stadium construction (SurveyUSA for KSTP)

11 - number of State Senators from Hennepin County voting against granting the county permission to raise a sales tax without a referendum as required by state law

5 - number of State Senators from Hennepin County voting for granting the referendum exemption (Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka; Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis; Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins; Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park; Wes Skoglund, DFL-Minneapolis)

0 - number of Republican State Senators from Hennepin County voting in favor of the referendum exemption


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Through a glass, darkly

"Distortion" may be a theme that develops over the campaign for the SD 43 state Senate seat currently held by Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka). In the fog of overheated political rhetoric, voters will need to carefully consider the differences between distortion, spin, and the truth.

This letter to the editor appeared in the July 12 edition of the Plymouth Sun-Sailor:
I was stunned to see Internet blogger Matt Abe's letter in a previous edition of the Sun-Sailor stating that Terri Bonoff is out of touch with constituents...

Bonoff also made no bones that a Twins stadium was part of her vision of Minnesota as a first-class state...

"Out of touch" does not describe Sen. Bonoff. It does, however, describe those who think that they can promote their cause by distorting Bonoff's record rather than running a positive campaign on the issues.

Ellen Dustman

First, I did not choose the headline that was attached to my letter to the editor, "Bonoff out of touch." Nor did I ever accuse Sen. Bonoff of being out of touch. Between the personal visits, phone calls, faxes, e-mails, and regular letters that flood all legislators' offices, and the web sites and e-mail newsletters that flow out of them, and the town hall meetings back in the district, it would be difficult indeed for Sen. Bonoff or any other legislator to be "out of touch." I am sure that Sen. Bonoff was in touch with how her constituents felt about this tax increase — but her vote struck a dissonant chord with her constituents.

Here is the pertinent paragraph from my letter referenced by Dustman:

"I am also very disappointed that Sen. Bonoff voted to ignore Minnesota law by robbing us of our right to a voter referendum on this stadium tax. Sen. Bonoff is out-of-tune with her district. She was one of only a handful of Hennepin County state senators to vote this way."

Sen. Bonoff's vote was a crucial one on a bill that passed the Senate by a vote of 34-32. She was one of five Senators (all DFLers) from Hennepin County, where the tax increase without referendum will be felt, to vote in favor of the bill. I have heard from plenty of SD 43 residents who object to having been "short circuited" by this sales tax increase.

Where's the "distortion?" Who's distorting whom? I encourage Terri Bonoff or her supporters to correct any "distortions" that appear in this blog or in anything else I write. I will certainly hold Bonoff and her supporters to the same standard. Good candidates don't need to distort their opponent's record or positions; the voters are smarter than that anyway.

Bonoff's key vote to allow Hennepin County to raise a sales tax without voter approval was no surprise given her statements during the whirlwind 2005 campaign, but it really was not about the Twins. I too enjoy major league baseball and would mourn the loss of the Twins, having followed the team since the 1965 World Series, Met Stadium, Killebrew, and Oliva. But is financing a professional sports stadium for millionaire ball players and billionaire team owners the proper role of government? Why not follow the law and allow Hennepin County voters to tax themselves? Who really got represented in the 34-32 vote?

Bonoff vote helped to raise Hennepin County sales tax without voter approval

I recently had a letter to the editor published in the Plymouth Sun-Sailor newspaper taking Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) to task for voting in favor of granting the $1.1 billion Hennepin County local option sales tax increase without the referendum required by state law. She was one of only five Senators in Hennepin County, all DFLers, to vote yes.

Someone who read my letter left me this voice mail message:
Hi, I just wanted to thank Mr. Abe for writing that letter in the paper about Terri Bonoff. I agree with him totally. I contacted her shortly before Memorial Day, and she didn't return my call until a couple of weeks later. But I straightened her out on why I think she did the wrong thing. The vote was 34 to 32 by the way in favor in the Senate, and I told her that her vote would have made the difference to make the thing go down in defeat. Thank you very much for writing the letter. I appreciate it.

Another letter, presumably also from constituents of Sen. Bonoff, appeared in a subsequent issue of the paper:
In a previous edition of the Sun-Sailor, Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, wrote about her accomplishments and that she was honored to have been part of the 2006 Senate.

She does not once mention her irresponsible vote to support the building of a Twins stadium that will mostly be paid for by residents of Hennepin County. This, in our view, was against the wishes of the vast majority of the people Sen. Bonoff represents. It is understandable why she did not include this as an accomplishment but it does show what Sen. Bonoff's priorities are.

Judy and Dick Peterson

Friday, July 07, 2006

Johnson, Bonoff, pols mingle at Music in Plymouth

Uncle Sam (Photo: North Star Liberty)
With most of the "public spaces" these days actually under private ownership, it's nice to be able to gather for a truly public event like Music in Plymouth. The event, where people seem to reserve their spots on the lawn earlier in the day every year, is a quintessential community Fourth of July gathering, complete with roasted corn on the cob, fire engines, fireworks, the Minnesota Orchestra, and even a laser light show that at times eerily evoked a real-life game of the 1980 arcade game Tempest.

Although the citizen Plymouth Civic League keeps the event as "civic" and "non-political campaign" as possible, local politicians have made an appearance at Music in Plymouth de rigueur for years, to get some face time with constituents and voters in an informal setting. In 2006, statewide candidates Amy Klobuchar, Tim Pawlenty, and Jeff Johnson made appearances. I greeted Plymouth native Amy Klobuchar, who was cordial in spite of my Judy Johnson for Senate t-shirt. I also shook hands with the Governor as he arrived with his always affable staffer Paul Anderson. After proclaiming July 6th "Music in Plymouth Day" in Minnesota, Pawlenty sat in the grass with a Plymouth family and listened to the orchestra play Aaron Copeland's An Outdoor Overture. Attorney General candidate and three-term state rep for HD 43A Jeff Johnson was naturally at ease with his family at the event, sporting a Plymouth Soccer Association t-shirt with that ubiquitous PSA logo (or so it seems if you have kids in Plymouth).

Rep. Jim Ramstad and Jeff Johnson (Photo: North Star LibertyThird District Congressman Jim Ramstad walked through the crowd and shook hands before the main program began.

State Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista), who represents a small jigsaw-puzzle piece of western Plymouth in SD 33; and Rep. Steve Smith (R-Mound), who represents the same area in HD 33A, stopped by.

Rep. Steve Smith, Jeff Johnson, and Sen. Gen Olson (Photo: North Star Liberty)
The Republican endorsee for Jeff Johnson's HD 43A seat, Sarah Anderson was also present but apparently not campaigning. The DFL endorsee, Plymouth city council member Sandy Hewitt, was there with t-shirted volunteers and stickers ("Hewitt Can Do It"). House District 43B candidates from both parties were MIA, unless I just missed them in the throng.

SD 43 Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) and her challenger, current Plymouth mayor Judy Johnson, were both present and campaigning with volunteers. It was clearly (almost literally) Mayor Johnson's backyard, but the presence of Bonoff's supporters was significant. Johnson put a creative spin on the ever-present campaign stickers with temporary tattoos, which were popular with the younger people.

At the end of the eveing, Music in Plymouth's world-class fireworks and laser light show (with a rock-concert sound system that astounds me every year with God's own subwoofers) marked the middle of summer and the end of the beginning of campaign season 2006.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Milwaukee newspaper provides July 4th lessons

When on the road, I love to sit down with the local newspaper's first two sections, especially the editorial and op-ed pages and the metro section.

This past Independence Day weekend, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel provided a wonderful set of commentaries on the Bill of Rights called "Those first 10 amendments define us." It begins with a history lesson on the origins of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which were born of a deal to seal ratification of the new Constitution. It continues with one or more thoughtful essays on each amendment, by noted scholars, journalists, lawyers, a judge, and the Virginia attorney general Robert F. McDonnell.

On the fourth of July, the paper published the entire text of the Declaration of Independence.

You couldn't find a more appropriate way to observe and appreciate the 230th year of our nation's independence than to spend an hour with these essays and the Declaration. Check it out online.