Tag Archives: Chanhassen Villager

Carver County GOP Commissioner candidates: talking to themselves

Having been frightened away by the scary “leftists” at the Eastern Carver County League of Women Voters (even failing to follow through on their tough talk about how they would stand up to the LWV’s “lies” at last week’s Chanhassen Voter ID forum), four Carver County GOP candidates for County Commissioner have regrouped with a plan that only the brain trust responsible for this and this could come up with.

A member of the Carver County GOP Executive Committee has posted on the Chanhassen Villager’s website that of course voters will have access to see these candidates in action — at events sponsored by the party itself (an open house next week and a to-be-scheduled forum)!  We can see what Messrs Workman, Long, Beaudette, and Walter really meant by their letter — that in fact they only are willing to face questions from approving supporters.

In fact, it seems unlikely that we will see an all-hands-on-deck candidate forum like the LWV forums of previous cycles, where voters will get to see both candidates for the same office answer the same questions back-to-back.  That’s a huge loss to Carver County voters.

None of the four candidates have yet to identify any problem with any of the six questions asked of the Commissioner candidates by the LWV in 2010.  And they won’t either, because there wasn’t anything wrong with them.

What these four candidates are doing is demonstrating yet again that they’re not ready for the offices they seek.  Apparently, the forces in power at the Carver County GOP are immune to the lessons of history.  Just two years ago, they formally endorsed two challengers (and had a third refuse endorsement) to incumbent commissioners, saying that the Board wasn’t conservative enough.  Those three challengers all lost, by an average of 10 points.

Just last month, the same group of folks that spawned these four Commissioner candidates backed one of 2010’s losers, Bruce Schwichtenberg, in a primary challenge against the Senate Deputy Majority Leader and Tax Committee Chair, Sen. Julianne Ortman.  When the votes were tallied, Schwichtenberg lost by nearly 17 points.

The lesson to be learned here is that running further and further to the right — even in a conservative area like Carver County — is self-defeating.  It’s hard to get elected and it’s even harder to govern if you’re only willing to preach to a smaller and smaller choir of true believers.  (As an aside:  the notion that someone like Ortman wasn’t conservative enough was laughable on its face, as shown by Schwichtenberg’s absurd nit-picking over the record of someone who had spent a decade in the Senate.)

Not to mention the fact that the increased partisanship in these local races is proving detrimental in other ways.  Many of these candidates are running on issues that aren’t applicable to the County Board, like light rail or voter ID.  Some local conservatives get it.  If only the rest of them did, too.

And while local conservatives may think they’re immune from competitive electoral pressure, choosing to operate in an insular way does have risks, even in presumably safe seats.  Backing bad candidates who feel no shame regardless of their shenanigans and have no interest in representing all of Carver County’s citizens will someday catch up with them.


Wrong on the referendum: breaking down the Herald/Villager editorial

The Chaska Herald and the Chanhassen Villager issued an editorial last week urging a “no” vote on the District 112 Technology Referendum.  While I can understand that reasonable people can disagree on the merits of the referendum, there are a couple of points in the editorial that deserve further discussion.

First, the editorial uses some aggressive language towards the referendum that frankly isn’t warranted.  This referendum isn’t a “money grab”, nor is it a “perpetual a la carte funding source”. (This phrase, of course, is just plain factually incorrect.  The levy goes for 10 years and would have to be re-approved by voters at that time.)  This is about the district having a stable funding source for needed technology upgrades over the next decade.

Why is stable funding important?  Because decisions in St. Paul have caused real damage to the district’s budget.  The last two budgets passed have taken $10.6 million out of the district’s budget over a four-year period.  That’s 40% more per year than this referendum will generate.

Both of the K-12 funding shifts have been supported universally by Carver County’s legislative delegation and signed off by two different governors.  (Although the delegation voted against the first shift for partisan reasons when it was ratified by the legislature in 2010, Sen. Julianne Ortman, Rep. Paul Kohls, and Rep. Joe Hoppe all supported the shift when Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced it as part of his unallotment package in 2009.  This year, Ortman, Hoppe, and Rep. Ernie Leidiger all voted in favor of the second shift.)

Where is the voice of the Herald and Villager holding our legislative delegation and Govs. Pawlenty and Mark Dayton accountable for the damage they are doing to school budgets?

The notion that such strong language is reserved for district leadership now is somewhat strange as well.  This new administration team has proven themselves to be straight-shooters (whether or not you agree with their conclusions) and they haven’t had any of the foibles of the previous leadership team — namely a leadership style that was frequently divisive and some really costly accounting errors.

Perhaps the current administration’s less political approach to their job is a disadvantage when trying to pass a referendum, but I think we’re seeing better management of the day-to-day fundamentals.  And, that’s what is really important.  For example, note that the current administration was able to negotiate a new contract with the District’s teachers that is fiscally responsible without the long, contentious battle that occurred two years ago under the previous leadership.

Secondly, the Herald and Villager are trying to have it both ways in their criticism of the district.  On one hand, the district is criticized for trying to pass a referendum in these difficult economic times.  Then, the Herald and Villager complain that the referendum isn’t large enough to fund the entire technology plan.   Well, you can’t have it both ways.   The referendum is not about getting every item on the wishlist, but rather focused on making sure the most critical items are funded.

Look beyond the fuzzy logic of the Herald and Villager and look at the fundamentals.  The district has been responsible in its handling of the budget.  There are real funding gaps that are preventing necessary improvements in our schools.  This referendum is a responsible response to the challenges the district faces, sized to allow for needed upgrades and enhancements without unduly burdening the community.

I urge you to Vote Yes! on November 8.

Breaking down the Chanhassen Villager’s unbalanced political coverage

It’s been clear to readers of Southwest Newspapers for a while that the political coverage of the federal and state legislators in Carver County tends to have a bit of a lean to it. 

The coverage, which is led by the Chanhassen Villager team of Richard Crawford and Forrest Adams, frequently fails to challenge political spin offered by GOP elected officials and often omits or downplays Democratic perspectives.  A couple of stories from the March 31 edition indicate these trends perfectly.

Let’s start with “Budget proposals on the table“, written by Adams.

There’s attempts in here to include Democratic perspectives.  But these attempts are frequently out of context and/or lacking in comparable detail to the Republican perspective.  Looking at a few examples will make this more clear.

Democrats disagree. A public radio report quoted DFL legislators claiming the Republicans were using “Enron-style accounting” and basing their budget plans on unproven numbers. Gov. Dayton, speaking to several different audiences, referred to the majority plans as “draconian measures” and “in some cases barbaric.”

The problem with this quote is that no effort is given to explain what underlies these criticisms of the Republican plan.  The fact of the matter is that it’s true that Republicans have not agreed to use the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget numbers which have been used in the past and have instead relied on outside parties.  Additionally, the MN GOP hasn’t provided any of the underlying analysis behind these numbers.  By omitting this context, the comments are made to appear like garden-variety political griping when they are not — they are substantive critiques of the GOP majority’s actions.

And, there’s not a lick of discussion about the cuts that Republicans Julianne Ortman, Joe Hoppe, and Ernie Leidiger put their votes behind over the past couple of weeks.  Huge cuts to higher education and major cuts to health and human services, among them.  I would think most Villager readers would find these to be important to know about.

Here’s another example:

Democrats claim the LGA funding is likely to result in property tax increases that are at a much higher rate than would be offset by any refunds.

It’s not just Democrats saying this.  The Department of Revenue’s analysis of the omnibus tax bill shows this to be true (and, keep in mind that DoR is currently headed by a Pawlenty appointee). Yet, this analysis — released on Monday — doesn’t make it in to the story.  And, Ortman is allowed to state unchallenged that the bill will “greatly improve the livelihood of individuals receiving that tax relief”, when the evidence on this point is shaky at best.

Then, Adams slips these lines in later in the story:

DFL Sen. Tom Bakk, of Virginia, the former chair of the Senate Tax Committee, called Ortman’s tax bill “a big disappointment.”

No explanation of what is disappointing about the bill or why it is disappointing.

DFL Sen. John Marty at a news conference after the tax bill passed committee also decried the proposed $105 million cut to a renters’ property tax refund program.

Again, no explanation of why Democrats think this is important.  The fact that such changes actually make the bill regressive, not progressive, is missed in the Villager’s coverage.

The second story, Crawford’s “U.S. Census: Growth will bring new Senate district to county“, has a fundamental problem:  two GOP sources quoted, no DFL sources quoted.

Just because electoral results have gone predominantly in one direction in this area does not give the local media a pass to give lip service to other perspectives, ignore needed context and not apply some basic fact-checking to what elected officials say.

Our elected officials need to be held accountable, and it’s the media’s job to help with that process. And if they’re not doing their part of the job, it’s time to hold them accountable, too.

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