Tag Archives: Chaska Herald

Chaska Herald, other Carver County newspapers urge a no vote on marriage amendment

This week’s edition of the Chaska Herald features an editorial indicating the paper’s opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot to limit the definition of marriage to be one man and one woman.

Here’s a key passage from the piece:

The United States has a long tradition of debating our rights, namely measures that would limit freedoms. The public has largely argued against things that would limit rights – to bear arms, to worship, to free speech.

So it’s alarming that the state Legislature would ask the public to enshrine in the State Constitution a law that would strive to take away rights – the right of two Minnesotans to marry.

Traditionally, we know that marriage has been defined as between one man and one woman. We also know that customs and laws have changed for the better since the founding of the United States, providing equal rights for women and minorities. As a result, our country has grown stronger.

The Herald joins three other Carver County newspapers — the Carver County News, Waconia Patriot, and Norwood-Young America Times — in opposing the amendment.  Their editorial, which ran last week, echoed many of the same themes:

America was not founded on the principle of oppression. America was founded on the principle of freedom.

Passing the amendment would place limits in our constitution on the freedom of same-sex citizens. It would erect a barrier to continuing the discussion of same-sex marriage, for today’s voters and for future generations of Minnesotans who might want to reopen the debate.

Voters would, in fact, be making choices for those future generations. Voters would be telling many of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that marriage won’t be an option for them.

That’s not freedom, that’s oppression, and we are concerned what message that sends the world about our state. What kind of Minnesota do we want to present to the world.

The implications of that message may reach farther than we realize. We believe the marriage amendment, if passed, would limit the ability to recruit and retain top talent. Minnesota companies such as General Mills and St. Jude Medical have spoken out against the amendment, saying it would hurt their ability to recruit and hire a diverse group of employees.

The papers are right on this issue.  Same-sex marriage is already illegal in this state based on statute, there is no need to make it doubly illegal by enshrining such language in the Constitution.

(On a snarky note, is it possible to have Carver County Commissioner candidate profiles retroactively removed from the Herald?  Asking for some friends.)


Leidiger speaks, and it makes no sense

State Rep. Ernie Leidiger has finally spoken regarding his tax problems.  Based on what he said, he probably should have kept his mouth shut.  In an interview with the Chanhassen Villager/Chaska Herald, Leidiger claims the current owed amount of taxes is lower that the original amount of $144,000 and he is working on a payment plan.

Instead of taking responsibility for his problems, though, Leidiger knows exactly who to blame for his problems:  Barack Obama.

“One of my companies is a victim of the Obama economy,” Leidiger told the Villager.

Later comes this passage:

Leidiger said if the Obama administration had not done a federal stimulus program the business would have been fine.

An interesting perspective, given Leidiger’s own business was the recipient of a $500,000 loan as part of the federal stimulus program.

Leidiger also claims that if government had reduced spending, his business would still be alive today.  How Leidiger can make that claim is not specified.  And it likely won’t be specified in the future, either, given Leidiger’s record.

Updates to the Ernie Leidiger story

Some updates on the various issues surrounding State Rep. Ernie Leidiger:

  • House Minority Leader Paul Thissen has called Rep. Leidiger to explain the unpaid taxes, and failing that, for Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers to comment on behalf of the Republican caucus.  Press release available here.
  • I was on the LeftMN Radio Hour this weekend to Leidiger’s problems. Listen to the audio here.
  • Republican Carver County Commissioner candidates have taken up Leidiger’s cause against the League of Women Voters by dropping out of a scheduled candidate forum on October 13.  Candidates participating in the boycott include former State Rep. Tom Workman, Jim Walter, Vince Beaudette, and Frank Long.  An open letter to the league signed by all four candidates is available on the Chaska Herald website.  Telling is the close where the candidates will only deign to appear with organizations they deem as “centrist” or conservative.  Since when do political candidates only get to interact with those who agree with them?  When you have such a regressive mindset, that’s how you get to the problems we currently have in St. Paul and Washington.

[UPDATE]:  The StarTribune’s Rachel Stassen-Berger has a short post on the Leidiger situation this morning, noting that he has not returned any requests for comment since this story broke.

Chaska Rex movie theater closes

The Chaska Herald is reporting that the Chaska Rex movie theater closed yesterday.  The Rex was part of the Five Star Cinemas group which also operates theaters in Chanhassen, Buffalo, and Excelsior.  Per the company’s website, gift cards and rewards cards will be honored at those theaters.

This is another tough blow for the downtown business district.  Hopefully, implementation work on the Downtown Master Plan and an improving economy can help the area begin to prosper.

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.

Rebutting arguments made against the technology referendum

This week’s Chaska Herald featured some letters and commentary against the Eastern Carver County Schools Technology Referendum.  Let me rebut some arguments and set some facts straight.

There was a letter to the editor by John Brunette that indicated that District 112 had higher per-pupil expenditures than most other neighboring districts.  Brunette’s data is incorrect.  Per the Minnesota Department of Education, District 112 is one of the lowest spending school districts of its type.  Check out the graph below, which shows the actual per pupil funding for the last three years, plus the projected funding for next year if the referendum passes, for like school districts (suburban school districts with +/- 1,500 students).

More importantly, I’d like to address the argument made by Kristi Jackson about voting “no” to enact change.  Jackson argues that she can’t support the referendum because of the inequities between Chanhassen High School and Chaska High School.  Let’s talk about those inequities and why voting “no” would be precisely the wrong response.

Certainly, as Jackson suggests, Chanhassen High has newer facilities and more advanced technology.  That comes with the Chanhassen High being in its third year of operation, while the current Chaska High School building is now 15 years old.

And, yes, enrollment between the two schools has become somewhat unbalanced.  Why is that?  Two primary reasons — first, the boundaries were drawn before the collapse of the housing market.  Had the housing market stayed afloat, Chaska Township would be undergoing significant residential construction.  The second factor is that parents are taking advantage of open enrollment to have their children go a short distance down the road to a newer facility.

Yes, math scores are unbalanced between the two high schools as well, as has been previously discussed here.  Those variances can be explained largely by the demographic differences between the schools.

Jackson advocates that the District abandon the community-based boundary system currently in place.  While this is a topic that many will have strong feelings about, I tend to agree with the District’s position that we need to give it a couple of more years to shake out.  Constant transition of school boundaries isn’t good for the District, either, and we need to be very solid on the rationale for doing so before we undertake such changes.  (Living here since 2003, we’ve been assigned to three different elementary schools over that period of time.  I’m glad that my daughters were young enough to avoid having to make those transitions.)

As a parent of children who will attend Chaska High School when they get older, I certainly understand Jackson’s concerns.  But voting “no” is exactly the wrong thing to do.  Voting “no” is only going to make it harder for the District to address the technology, facilities, and performance gap between Chanhassen High School and Chaska High School.

Currently, all the schools in the District are fighting over small amounts of capital improvement dollars.  Allowing technology funding to be supported by this levy will increase the pool of money available to upgrade all aspects of the Chaska High facility.  The district has just posted a school-by-school list of projects in the first two years of technology referendum funding, and Chaska High School is the largest recipient of that funding.

Much of the technology funding will also go to programs specifically designed to address STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subject areas.  These programs will only help Chaska High students perform at a higher level over the coming years.

Finally, we need to remember that changing the boundary lines to equalize the demographic makeup of the two schools doesn’t fundamentally do anything to solve the problem — it just moves it around.  While it may look better (and may make some people feel better) to have two schools at 60% proficiency instead of one school at 50% and one school at 70%, we’ve still got 40% of students who aren’t passing the test.  Regardless of where these students are going to school, the District has to find a way to reach them.

It’s understandable that parents are frustrated about some things.  I certainly haven’t agreed with every decision that has been made over the years.  But voting “no” to send a message isn’t going to help students.  There are ways to send a message to the School Board and administration without harming the very goals you are trying to pursue.

Vote “yes”, and give the District the resources it needs to address these issues and then let’s hold them accountable for achieving results.

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.

Responding to Bob Roepke’s column in the Chaska Herald

Bob Roepke’s column regarding the Chaska City Council’s decision to hold a special election for Mayor (“Choosing and trusting officials”, Oct. 15 Chaska Herald) gets off to a good start.  Roepke accurately describes the process that led to the special election in his third paragraph. 

It’s after this point, though, that things get problematic.  Roepke, who admittedly discloses that he favored appointment (and it should be pointed out that he was considered perhaps the most likely candidate to be appointed to the position), spends the rest of the article elaborately constructing and then destroying a strawman that seems intended to represent the residents who favored a special election. 

Roepke repeatedly complains about the actions and attitudes of “some people” in his piece.  The “some people” are always unnamed and it is made clear that they are separate from the Council itself, which makes it easier to draw broad (and inaccurate) generalizations about them.  

Well, let’s be clear.  The reason we are having a special election in Chaska has little to do with the actions of “some people”.  All four Council members indicated both at the September 9 worksession and the September 21 City Council meeting that they favored appointing the next mayor.  The reason we are having a special election is because those four Council members had three conflicting positions on how to use the appointment process to fill the position.  If Roepke is upset about the outcome, then his complaints are with the Council for failing to reach consensus, not with “some people” who exercised their rights and expressed their opinions in favor of the special election. Supporting a special election was hardly some sort of radical subversion of the tenets of representative government – it was instead a desire to have a true representative elected by the people, not someone picked in a back-room deal. 

Let’s also point out that “some people” who supported a special election for Mayor included:  a former City Council member, current and past members of City Commissions, the editorial page of the Chaska Herald and dozens of long-time residents of this city.  These are not people who are, in Roepke’s words, “quick to criticize and accuse” and who need to “understand what it means to be a leader”.  These are people who care deeply about this city, have its best interests at heart, and who have contributed much to Chaska over the years.    

Bob Roepke has his own long history of service to this city.  He has earned the respect of all of Chaska for that record.  But he should live up to his own words and ditch the strawmen the next time he decides to pen a piece for the Chaska Herald.

%d bloggers like this: