Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Legislative Races: House Districts 4A, 4B, and 12A

House District 4A is an open seat. DFL incumbent, Frank Moe, is not seeking a third term. The district includes parts of Beltrami, northern Cass, and western Itasca counties, including Bemidji, Cass Lake, Remer, and Deer River.

DFL John Persell

Republican John Carlson

Independence Sharatin Blake

Report on 4A race: Bemidji Pioneer article

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District 4B includes southern Cass County, half of Hubbard County and the northern part of Crow Wing County. Cities in the district include Akeley, Pillager, Longville, Walker, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore, Breezy Point and Cuyuna.

Republican incumbent, Larry Howes from Walker, is seeking his sixth term. He's opposed by DFLer Meg Bye from Pequot Lakes.

Republican Larry Howes

DFLer Meg Bye

Brainerd Dispatch article by Renee Richardson

Meg Bye, DFL candidate from rural Pequot Lakes, is challenging incumbent Larry Howes, Republican from Walker, for the District 4B seat in the Minnesota House. Howes, who was first elected in 1998, is seeking his sixth term. Bye, a former mathematics teacher, is a 12-year veteran of the Duluth City Council.

Looking at a predicted state deficit of $1 billion to $2 billion, candidates were asked what they would list as a priority and what they would cut. Howes said the state has to do what families do - live within its means. With today's financial uncertainty, Howes said: "This is simply not the time to raise taxes." Bye said to be fair people with incomes more than $400,000 should pay an additional one percent in taxes.

Bye and Howes differed on support of the JOBZone program, with tax breaks to attract businesses to specific locations. Bye said the program was a gimmick and was more about moving jobs around the state than increasing the economic base. Howes said the JOBZone program was not a gimmick and he said the biggest reason for job loss in the region coming from cuts in the forest industry and from the housing market.

Both Bye and Howes support the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment on the ballot this Nov. 4.

In regard to K-12 school funding, Howes said getting school levies off the property taxes would create a better economic system and he is impressed with plans coming forward. Bye said school funding should come through the state and not property taxes.

"We should stop pretending we can have good schools and not pay for them," Bye said.

Regarding a statewide single-payer universal health system, Bye said one was needed and people are ahead of the politicians on this issue. Howes said he somewhat supports a single-payer policy but not a universal one, saying health management systems have been the biggest curses for health care in the state. Bye agreed HMOs haven't worked and said health care needs to get away from being a commodity.

Candidates may have been the most animated when they asked questions of each other. Bye asked Howes why he voted against an energy bill that favored items like solar panels. Howes suggested it was a "gotcha" moment and he didn't remember the specifics of a particular bill. Bye said Howes voted against ever improvement to the energy policy. Howes countered asking Bye about her tax increase and questioned how that would affect small business. Bye said she didn't think many people in the district would be affected.

Bemidji Pioneer profile of House 4B race

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District 12A includes most of Crow Wing County including Brainerd, Baxter and Crosby. DFL incumbent John Ward is opposed by Republican, David Allan Pundt.

John Ward

David Allan Pundt

Brainerd Dispatch article by Matt Erickson

Ward, Pundt weigh in on issues facing Legislature
Staff Writer

When the Legislature convenes in 2009, whoever is representing Minnesota House District 12A will have a lot of work to do.
A $1-$2 billion state deficit, education funding reform and health care reform are just the tip of the iceberg of issues facing candidates Republican David Allan Pundt of Baxter and Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd.

On Thursday, the two used a debate sponsored by Lakeland Television as a job interview of sorts, and both offered their ideas on what they would do in St. Paul.

On the deficit, Pundt suggested cutting legislators per diems, overhauling the state's welfare system concerning travel and requiring every state department to start each year with a zero based budget.

"As far as any other cuts, they're all on the table," Pundt said.
Ward agreed with all possible cuts being considered. He said reforming health care may add additional revenue and advocated a study of the state's tax system.
On education, Ward noted the writer's of Minnesota's constitution stipulated education must be adequately provided for, while Minnesota currently is 20 percent behind in its funding formula.
"We have to have funding in Minnesota that's fair, adequate, equitable and timely," Ward said.
Pundt said the state is using a 1940s system for 21st century students. He proposed merit pay for teachers and students going to school for more days of the year, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., five days a week.
"Let them treat it like the job it is," Pundt said.
On health care, Pundt said state mandates should be reduced and competition encouraged. Ward said costs could be cut by up to 80 percent through health programs.
"Health care should be right for all, not just the few, the rich, whomever," Ward said. "We need a health care system that's universal, comprehensive (and) affordable ..."The two issues most separating the two candidates Thursday were the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Dedicated Funding Amendment voters will decide on the Nov. 4 ballot and the possibility of raising minimum wage.
Ward was in favor of both issues, Pundt was against.
On the amendment, Ward said he was supportive of it because it gave people the choice to decide. He said the environment was critical to District 12A and needed to be preserved to pass on to future generations.
While not against clean water, air or restoring habitat, Pundt said he was against the amendment because dedicated funding for 25 years. He said things should be done with recurrent money.
On raising the state's minimum wage, Pundt said he was opposed because it would force businesses to raise prices or cut employees.
Ward said he was in favor of raising it to meet the federal minimum wage standard.
"It would put people closer to an actual living wage," Ward said.
In a twist from most debates, Pundt and Ward were able to ask each other one question.
Ward asked Pundt what he would do if the Republican party leaders demanded he vote the party line. Ward referenced last session's vote on a transportation bill in which six Republicans voted with Democrats and were punished by their party. Pundt responded that he would vote according to his conscience and constituents wishes.
Pundt asked Ward how he could say he was a pro-life candidate when he voted to elect pro-choice Rep. Margaret Kelliher as Speaker of the House. Ward defended his pro-life declaration, saying he's been so since he was a child and will remain so to the grave.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

First Local StoryCorps story on KAXE

Tune in this Monday morning at 6:50 for the first locally produced StoryCorps segment. You'll hear an excerpt of the conversation that Rick and Kathleen Blake of Grand Rapids had in the StoryCorps airstream trailer. They took their 40 minutes to remember their son Michael, who passed away when he was 8 from leukemia.

Kathleen tells the wonderful story of how telling her "Micahel the Elephant" story helped Michael get through his treatments.

It's the Fall Fundraiser at KAXE - the Northern Observer. What better way to support local media like KAXE that gives you real stories that matter. If you pledge your support at $10/month - $120/year - you can get "Listening is An Act of Love" - the first StoryCorps book as an EXTRA thank-you gift. Pledge online or call 218-326-1234/800-662-5799 to pledge your support.

And stay tuned to 91.7KAXE for more local StoryCorps stories. You'll hear the people in your community telling the stories that mean the most to them.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's The Means, Not The Ends: Colleen and Chuck Weigh In On Funding Clean Water, Wildlife Habitat, and the Arts

By Scott Hall

Few people question the value of public funding for clean water and wildlife habitat. The arts enhance our quality of life. But over the last fifteen years there have been many proposals in the MN Legislature to increase funding for these causes, mainly by raisng the sales tax by three eights of a penny. All of these proposals failed, so this year the Legislature decided put it to voters in the form of an amendment to the State Constitution. We asked our political commentators, DFLer Colleen Nardone, and Republican, Chuck Marohn, to tell us how they will vote.

The amendment on the November 4th ballot reads as follows:

Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater; by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eights of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?


I will vote NO. While these issues may be important, they are obviously not important enough to survive the legislative process. This is bad government. It is the legislature admitting that they cannot do their job and then allowing "the voter" to be the bad guy. If we vote this down, then they will say it is not important and they are justified in not funding it. If we approve it, they will claim to be leaders by setting this aside. It is a political sham.

I am also against because I believe much of the money would be wasted. If you look at the "trust fund" from the lottery proceeds, while some good work has been done, nothing proportionate to the money spent. For the most part, it has actually been a way to defund programs (they can go to the trust fund) or prop up agency spending in light of other budget cuts.

It is smoke and mirrors and bad government. We have enough of that already.


Variations of this amendment have been proposed many times. I have opposed them for some of the same reasons that Chuck opposes this one. If the issues of clean water, wildlife habitat and, in the case of this amendment, arts funding are such a high priority - which I think they are - then the Legislature and Governor should be providing the kind of sustained funding they need. In general, I don't like restricted, specific funding for specific causes, especially in the form of Constitutional amendments.

Having said all that, I'm probably going to vote for the amendment this time. We have gone a long time now without adequately funding wildlife habitat and clean water. Plus I'm a big advocate for the arts because they contribute so much to the quality of life for us here in Minnesota.

Observe: The Big Carrot

by Maggie Montgomery

Yes, it’s just a carrot. But it’s a honker!

I’ve been away from home a lot this week, and will be away a lot more, but last night had a chance to take a quick tour of our late fall garden. It’s a little daunting to go out there, because it’s a scene of neglect right now. But the garden always makes me feel peaceful and grateful.

It was kind of cold out there, and breezy. The rain gauge showed that we had gotten 3½ inches of rain last weekend! After a few minutes Dennis came out and poked around with me.

The beets are covered with old sheets because Joel Rosen warned us last year they were susceptible to frost. Some will go in the cellar. Beets keep like champs! I’d like to pickle some too, in chunks.

The chard is getting frost damage around some of the leaves. I picked two bunches and took them in to steam on the cookstove while I canned some pints of tomato puree.

There are some little broccoli shoots to pick, and some of the brussels sprouts are big enough to eat or freeze. A few late cabbages are still growing. The tomato house is about half emptied. There are a couple stout celery clumps, also covered. The few parsnips might just have to wait in the ground until spring.

My favorite vegetable, kale, looks marvelous, although we haven’t had a chance to taste any yet! It’s lush and various shades of deep green—three varieties in one row! It gets sweet after a frost. We generally freeze it and bring it out for holidays.

While I was picking the chard, Dennis pulled a few carrots. I planted carrots four times this spring. The first three times, cutworms mowed them down. When I talked to our neighbor Michael Schumaker about his CSA operation on KAXE’s Morning Show yesterday, he mentioned that carrots are particularly sweet and tasty this time of year.

“Whoa! Look at that carrot!” Dennis exclaimed suddenly. He pulled one out of the ground. The garden had produced a whopper! We took it and a few other carrots inside with the chard.

We each ate a normal, delicious carrot. I photographed the big carrot on the counter, in my hand, and with Dennis. I’m not sure what else to say about it, except to observe that it’s BIG.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Guido's Arts Roundup for October

The BSU Theatre Dept presents five performances of "No More Peace", a satire by Ernest Toller. The play is set in the small European country of Dunkelstein in the era between World Wars One and Two. It's a comical look at lame efforts to make peace among nations that have a history of going to war. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays, October 17th & 18th, 24th and 25th, at 7:29, with a matinee Sunday, the 26th, at 3 o'clock. Tickets $8 adults, $4 students & Srs, at Bangsberg Box Office; 755-3863.

Hibbing Community College Theatre presents "The Visit", a critically acclaimed drama set in a small town after World War Two. A wealthy woman seeks revenge against people in her home town that did her wrong many years before. The method of her revenge and the townspeople's reaction raise thought-provoking questions about justice, the nature of revenge, and the pressures of wealth and poverty. There will be eight performances of The Visit from October 23rd thru November 2nd.
Show times: Thurs, Fri, Sat 7:30, Sundays 2:30; $10 general adm, $8 for students, $5 HCC students; Box Office 262-7377

Over in Bemidji: Studio Cruise, 10/17, 18 & 19: participating artists in the Bemidji area invite you into their studios to reveal tricks, cleaning habits, peccadilloes---and to do commerce. Free and open to all. More info at 218.751.6767 or Paul Bunyan Playhouse: the season’s over, but auditions for summer 09 are 11/15, details at (get ready for The Who’s “Tommy”). At BCAC it’s still Sandra Haff/I Love A Parade, Gege Holden and Sean McCroy ( Plus there’s always art at Dunn Brothers, Wild Hare, Gallery North, Glazed and Amused, Neilson Place, and lots of other places in town.

Jaques Art Center, Aitkin: now through 11/8 Stephanie Mirocha (acrylics & watercolors) and “Turning Trail” (woodcarvings) by Tom Larson. Today (10/16) it’s the regular 3rd Thursday Brown Bag Lunch discussion: “Wildlife Stamps” presented by Judy Mans. Also: advanced photography workshop this Saturday (10/18) with Dee Kotaska.

Ripple River Gallery: through 11/2 Diane Rutherford/batik & Bob Carls/woodturning. SEE THIS SHOW.

Around Brainerd: 10/17-18: Fine Art Sale at the Nisswa Community Center, 10-5. At Franklin Arts Center, 10/21, 10-4, Lake Country Journal Featured Artists Exhibit, details at In Pequot Lakes, 10/24, 7:30, 25th Anniversary of Greater Lakes Performing Arts: Claudia Schmidt.

Range Creative Art Center/Hibbing: classes & workshops in woodcarving, watercolors, pastels, glass, oil painting, and more.

At the Edge Center in Bigfork: through 10/25, “Natural Perspectives”---pottery, drawing & prints---by Concordia art faculty members Keith Williams, Marko Fields & Stephanie Hunder. Adjust your calendars: folk rocker Kevin Steinman, scheduled for 10/24, re-scheduled to March 13. N.B.: any artists who want to be included in the annual Edge Holiday Show (opens 11/6) SHOULD contact Lynn Nachbar yesterday (10/15).

In Grand Rapids, the High School Drama Club is doing “Shout” at Reif, 10/30-11/1.

MacRostie Art Center: in the MacRostie Gallery, sponsored by Kristen & Ed Anderson, a group show by the juror & award winners from MAC’s 2007 Juried Exhibit: Marlon Davidson (juror), Jay Jones, Dorothy Hall, Anna Shallman, and Natalie Himmirska. Back in the Minnesota Gallery: baskets and containers: curator and artist John Zasada has done it again. Words fail. For upcoming classes & workshops:

At Brewed Awakenings: on the walls this month Mitch Mickelson, on stage next Thurs. (10/23) at 6: Sam Miltich, Pat Downing, Jon Dallas: jazz standards. And High Bongo here at KAXE the following Thurs. at 6.

To Reif: tonight (10/16) at 7:30, sponsored by ICC and an anonymous underwriter, the Rose Ensemble. Ancient Mediterranean vocal music, with some string and percussion accompaniment. Ensemble Founder and Artistic Director Jordan Sramek will be doing a pre-show presentation at Rivers at 5:30. Then Saturday (10/18) at 7:30 it’s “Marilyn/Forever Blonde”, sponsored by Travel Leaders; i.e., Laurie Passard, who was a classmate here in Grand Rapids of Sonja Peterson, who became Sunny Thompson, who becomes Marilyn Monroe in this much acclaimed one-woman show. Next Friday (10/24) at 7:30 it’s American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, direct from NYC, sponsored by Rivers Wine Bar & Bistro, and there’ll be a pre-show event at Rivers that night, too, as well as a demonstration/lecture the next morning at Reif---call 218.327.5780 for more info about any of this. On the 23rd it’s “Stone Soup”, 2 daytime shows for schoolkids sponsored by Sara Swanson Law Office. On the 28th it’s Golden Dragon Acrobats, sponsored by Lake States Tree Service, on Nov. 7th Omaha Children’s Theatre doing “Harry the Horrible” sponsored by Target, the next night “Mama’s Night Out/Bambi On The Hood” sponsored by Jerry’s Warehouse Liquors, the Sawmill Inn & Country Inn.

Two recommendations should you find yourself in New York in the near future: “A Man For All Seasons” at Roundabout Theatre (raves for Frank Langella as Thomas More) and “The Tempest” at Classic Stage Company (raves for Elizabeth Waterston as Miranda).

Friday, October 10, 2008

How Are You Handling The Big Bad News?

The "big news" these days is too important to ignore, but I was glad to wake up to the Friday Morning Show knowing there would be a little relief. The Mom of Pop Culture, Talkbacks, the Border News with Marshall, What's For Breakfast, and other locally-produced segments gave us a break from the repetition of election reportiing and the doom and gloomy economic news.

I can't fault NPR editors for pouring so much time and energy into the election and economy, but I reached a saturation point by mid week. I know some of you are news junkies and can't get enough of the many different ways to look at these momentous events. I also know some of you would be happy with a headline news service and more music. We all have different puke points. What's yours?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Killing Frosts: A Letter From Joel Rosen

The effects of frost are often misunderstood by gardeners. Generally, climatologists and agronomists classify frost as light, moderate, or hard. Light frost (29-32) will usually kill or damage warm weather annual foliage and stems (basil, cucumbers, and melons are especially sensitive). Moderate frost (25-28) will damage or destroy the fruits of the warm weather annuals like squash, tomatoes, etc (especially if their protective foliage has already been destroyed in a previous frost). Hard or severe frost (24 or below) may cause damage to some of the less hardy coles like cauliflower and may induce at least temporary dormancy in grass and clover.

Of course most root crops, cole crops, and hardy greens will survive and in many cases improve in quality following temperatures in the 18-24F range. Further complicating the issue is the level of available potassium in the soil, which will increase even tender plants' frost resistance. I have on numerous occasions seen squash, pumpkin, tomato, and pepper foliage frozen as stiff as cardboard, only to thaw out in the sun with little significant damage. The amount of dew frozen around the foliage (acting as insulation) also provides some protection, while wind in sub-freezing temperatures will increase the level of damage. The heat stored in the soil also can make quite a difference to growth within 6" of the ground, so a late August frost when soil is still warm will often show less damage than a late September frost with the same temperature. Duration of frost is also a significant factor. Finally, the placement of a gardener's thermometer may cause confusion. A thermometer attached to a house wall or inside a porch will nearly always register significantly warmer temperatures in calm conditions. An accurate reading of 37F from a porch thermometer may be less than 100 yards away from a garden where everything is frozen stiff. The nearby unprotected garden in a low area could easily be 10 degrees colder than that porch reading on a still morning, enough frost to damage quite a variety of garden crops.

One final caveat. While warm weather fruits and vegetables may survive light frosts, gardeners need to decide if they are worth covering and saving. Basil begins to blacken and deteriorate after the first night or two of temperatures in the 30's and the quality of vine-ripened tomatoes deteriorates markedly once nights begin to dip into the 30's, epecially when the days remain cool. Due to its higher sugar content, a ripe tomato will "survive" more frost intact than a green one, but it may not taste a whole lot better than those green tomatoes many gardeners wrap in newspaper and ripen in warm places in the fall. Once the weather turns cold, I like to focus on enjoying the things that are starting to taste really good, like carrots, broccoli, cabbage, fall apples, etc.

Joel Rosen is a gardener and frequently contributes his weather information to John Latimer's Phenology Show. Joel lives on Park Lake near Matowah in Carlton County. The growing season and phenology in Joel's neck of the woods can be different from other parts of the KAXE listening area due to the influence on weather from Lake Superior

Friday, October 3, 2008

Debates, Questions and Coded Messages

Fickle Framing
This is the third election season I’ve been a panelist for debates on our local Public Television station. I prepare by spending a few hours asking other journalists and people who follow the Minnesota legislature what issues they think are important and what questions they would ask. I try to frame a question in a way that will not only make the candidates show what they know and think about an issue, but also make them show how much they know about the people they want to represent.

Candidates deflect, avoid or misinterpret debate questions all the time. So, from a journalist’s perspective, debates will be a disappointment if you expect wide-ranging responses that explore the various angles you imagined in your question.

For example, before one debate a few years ago, I had a some conversations with business people in the area. All of them said that the cost of health insurance was going up fast, and the insurance products they could afford had such high deductibles that they weren’t much use to their employees unless they got real sick.

So I decided to frame a health care question in economic terms. It went like this:

“If the state were to assume some of the health insurance costs of Minnesota workers, what impact would that have on the business climate in the state?”

I expected the answers would range from reducing the cost of doing business and improving the business climate (good things) to concern over how the state would pay for the insurance. However, all of the candidates saw the question as an opportunity to give their standard response to the “health care question”. I was sorry they didn’t answer my question, but it wasn’t a waste because at least viewers and listeners heard their ideas about health care reform.

Huh? You Gotta Know The Territory!
Some journalists only ask questions they already know the answers to. However, even if you think you know the answer, some candidate responses are so vague or evasive I think they are trying to disguise their ignorance. But that's not necessarily true. They may be using language people in their district understand that I don't because I don't know the territory well enough. For years candidates have used coded rhetoric for talking about hot button issues like taxes, race and abortion.

A Grand Stand
The first debate I ever worked featured Rudy Perpich and Warren Spannus. They were going against each other in the DFL primary for Governor. I think it was 1982. Spannus was the DFL's endorsed candidate. So Rudy was bucking his Party's will. During his closing remarks in this debate Rudy picks up his tax return and slaps it down on the podium and that's becomes the story of this debate. I'm sure the tremendous downturn in mining was one of the big issues of the day. But what was he saying with his gesture? That he's got nothing to hide? That he's not corrupt? Did this grand stand affect the outcome? I don't remember, but he won the primary and the next two general elections to become the longest-serving Governor in MN history.

Politics in KAXE's broadcast range: There are all or part of at least seven Senate Districts in the KAXE listening – districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 12. Each District sends one Senator and two Representatives to St. Paul . That’s up to 21 legislators in all from our area. This year there are no Senate races. So we will elect Representatives to fill about 14 seats in the House.