Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Inside the smoke-free room of SD44

The SD44 BPOU convention on March 24 pretty much filled the upper level of the cafeteria at Wayzata High School. Like the first day of spring training, the convention offered an opportunity to reconnect with old and new friends, start with a clean slate, and enjoy the optimistic feeling you get before the first game of the season is played. The parliamentarian geek in me enjoys hearing credentials committee reports, voting on temporary rules of the convention, and looking up the order of precedence of motions, but part everyone actually enjoys is the camaraderie and talking politics.

Tom Gerrety was elected BPOU chair, hopefully to build on previous chair Larry Thompson's recent successes in the areas of fundraising, organization, and candidate support. Jim Unterseher is the new BPOU treasurer, and Geoff Shipsides will serve as secretary. Six vice-chairs were also elected to the board. The full board of directors and all delegates and alternates to the GOP Congressional District and state conventions are listed on SD44's new website at

BPOU favorite son and District 7 Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson told delegates that at the end of his first term, his view that the county has more than enough money has not wavered. As the latest piece of evidence, Johnson pointed to the $25 million purchase of the 18-story office tower at 701 4th Avenue South. It made Hennepin County, what the seller might call a "motivated buyer" in the transaction, the first county in Minnesota to enter the commercial leasing business, in direct competition with the private sector. Johnson says that the county must lease 150,000 square feet — over half the total — to private tenants or operate at a loss. The county's purchase also removed it from the property tax rolls, increasing the burden on the rest of downtown Minneapolis. You can read more about this 11th Golden Hydrant Award winner (and the other ten) at Johnson's Hennepin County Taxpayer Watchdog blog.

As a frequent lone vote on the board, Jeff Johnson could use an ally. The Twin Cities Daily Planet reports that there are now five candidates for the Hennepin County board to replace the retiring District 2 Commissioner Mark Stenglein ("Five up for Hennepin County post so far," March 11, 2012). They are a member of the Minneapolis School Board, a five-term DFL state senator, a former policy aide to Stenglein, a Northwest Hennepin Human Services board member, and Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels. Something tells me that there will be more Golden Hydrant Awards in the county's future. Johnson is also running for re-election this year — throw the Watchdog a bone at his campaign web site.

Endorsement candidate for U.S. Senate Kurt Bills gave the most rousing speech of the day. The first-term state representative and high school teacher from Rosemount wowed delegates with an impassioned defense of conservative values, a perspective of unions from his memberships in labor and teachers unions, and a mission to bring "Econ 101" to Washington. His credentials include serving on the Rosemount City Council and on the Minnesota House Taxes, Education Finance, and Capital Investment committees.

After his speech, Bills quickly took the microphone back and admitted that his wife had just given him a sharp elbow, telling him that he forgot to end his speech by repeating his name to the west metro delegates. He repeated his name, to laughter and applause. Judging by the several well-wishers who subsequently approached him and took away a piece of campaign literature, all was forgiven.

Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth), who represents the old HD43, touted the Republican-controlled legislature's successful effort to turn last year's $5.2 billion state budget deficit into this session's over $800 million surplus. She also pointed to the Republican House Caucus's Reform 2.0 initiatives that she hopes to help to advance if reelected. Anderson ended by publicly (and belatedly, at her admission) recognizing her number one supporter and campaign volunteer: her husband.

Third District Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN3) discussed the need to repeal the medical device tax and the Obamacare legislation. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek reported on the continued decline in violent crime in the county, and state-of-the-art technology that is reducing costs and more swiftly bringing criminals to justice.

Counting the numerous ballots for BPOU officers and delegates is always time-consuming. As a teller, I hope that a future convention will use machine-read or computerized balloting, at least for the Congressional district and state conventions delegate election. This year's manual tally with computer spreadsheet support in the delegate elections wrapped up around 4:00 pm, long after just about everyone else had emerged into the bright sunlight to enjoy the rest of an unseasonably warm Saturday in March.