seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy


Stories relating to the Twin Cities and Minnesota

FBI Raids Local House

Green Party member, City Councilman, and biking enthusiast Dean Zimmerman had a nasty shock yesterday when the FBI raided his house. He is running for a seat in Minneapolis (due to recent redistricting, he is not an incumbent). According to the activist channels, the warrant was sealed and neither Zimmerman nor his family know for what the FBI was searching. They certainly took enough stuff though - voter lists, computers, basically everything that would have been helpful in the last 5 days of Zimmerman's campaign.

It looks like the Strib is giving this a lot of attention which is nice - but they did not write anything about the warrant being sealed. It will be interesting to see what comes of this.

St. Paul Mayor Race Forum

Yikes! Kim and I attended the St. Paul Mayoral Forum today in St Paul sponsored by a number of community councils. Mayor Kelly fittingly ignored the event, as he has blatantly ignored the community councils as Mayor. The forum was blessed with 4 candidates.

Kim and I quickly figured out which were the loonies. Sharon Anderson and the inebriated Glen Mansfield provided a sometimes entertaining sideshow to the measured responses of DFLer Chris Coleman and Green Party endorsed Elizabeth Dickinson. I would enjoy seeing either one defeat Kelly's campaign but I think his absence shows his arrogance and sadly, his secure lead in the polls.

A quick word about Sharon and Glen - the two loony career candidates. The elitist in me quickly rears its head when I have to endure crazy thoughts from people worried about their "slime dog" neighbors who rent. Listening to Sharon reminds me how glad I am not to live in Texas, a place where she might just be a career politician rather than candidate.

I recognize the benefits of allowing all candidates access to a structured event such as this, mainly because I'm bored to tears from only allowing D's and R's in the big time events at the higher levels.

At the same time, when candidates are unable to answer even the simplest question, I would like to see the moderator step in. Come to think of it, this would be a nice change at the national level as well.

Chris Coleman, who maintained a brilliant poker face throughout Sharon's insanity (she often poked fun at him also), was impressive in his ideas and wit. Elizabeth Dickinson was similarly impressive though I question how she will maintain a friendly business environment while requiring a living wage. Her environmental proposals in contrast seem well thought out and doable.

I have to think that either Coleman or Dickinson would be better for St Paul in the 21st century than Kelly - a man who seems more focused on himself than anything else.

Good Radio

Few people listen to radio any more when they are not in the car. I think that this comes logically from the fact that there is very little good radio - but then who is to say what caused what? At any rate, I wanted to again plug the radio show of T.D. Mischke - you can listen to it from 10:00 pm - 12:00 pm on AM 1500 in the Twin Cities metro area, or stream it online during his show.

I usually forget about his show and don't hear it. Fortunately, he has a more dedicated fan base which has created an archive of Mischke's broadcasts. This seems like a good quick distraction - check out a few of the clips. They load quickly (mp3) and are of varying lengths (and audio quality from what I could tell).

I have long held Bill Cosby in higher esteem than most comics, not because he is the funniest, but because he can be the funniest without resorting to the ole' 7 words. Don't get me wrong - I love the 7 words. I fully enjoy "going sailor" when discussing politics - but I recognize also the genius of people who can make others laugh through a more creative approach than shocking language. Mischke fits into the Cosby school through his inventive style - which includes making up the funniest songs about current events.

Once again, give this guy a shot.

Mayoral Races

It's Friday night so I'm checking out the web sites of some of the mayoral candidates.

Elizabeth Dickinson (Green Party) offers a number of proposals to improve the environment but not much else. The proposal I like best:

Expand the green building plan, which currently only affects city-owned buildings, to all new buildings, especially if they receive any sort of TIF (tax increment financing). Investments in energy efficiency yield two to ten times as many jobs per dollar invested as do investments in fossil fuels and nuclear power. Phase in stricter green building standards, particularly for publicly-financed housing, including Energy Star appliances and lighting. Include recycling spaces designed into new apartment buildings.

Chris Coleman, the DFL contender, apparently has a blog but it only has one post. We'll see if he updates it. His site covers more issues than Dickinson, but offers little detail. For instance, he is going to create jobs by partnering with the business community. Genius! Or ... ummm ... well, duh. Not really a policy there so much as an obvious generality. I do like his transit vision ... though he doesn't explain how he will pay for it.

Chris is committed to making light rail transit on University Avenue a reality. It is a big job, with many challenges, but LRT will serve as a catalyst for the renewal of this major commercial corridor. As mayor, Chris will work with community leaders and elected officials from all levels of government to get the job done. Chris fully supports efforts to make Saint Paul a regional multi-modal transit hub, including a revitalized Union Depot, with connecting LRT, commuter rail and busways, trails and walkways throughout the city. In addition, we will stand up and fight Bush cuts to the Amtrak Empire Builder.

Randy Kelly, the current mayor, who is supposedly a Dem (he ignited controversy by bashing Kerry in his endorsement of Bush) loses many points in my eyes for the mere fact you need flash to fully experience his site. Lame.

My other first reaction to Kelly's site is to note that the most prominent space is reserved for an endorsement from Guiliani. Just what does he know about Minnesota? Apparently his biggest qualification for continuing as Mayor is from a Mayor 1200 miles away. I realize I should care more about this issues, but this is basically indirect exploitation of 9-11 for Kelly's gain. Or maybe I am too caught up in minor details.

He also has a blog, which he appears to have been updating about once a week. The first post I see talks about his recent visit with Guiliani and explicity mentions 9-11. I remember now how weasely I found this guy when I saw him speak during the Ayd Mill Road comment session a few months ago.

Of the three sites I have checked out thus far, Kelly's is clearly the worst. He has all kinds of space devoted to who has endorsed him and nothing (that I found in my cursory search) about his plans for the future. If he has any plan, they are apparently not important enough to make obvious.

I've been trying to find information about the other candidates, but I have failed. I checked out the websites for Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, and as well as some searches on google and could not find a site that comphrehensively lists the candidates and their information. I'm sure a site is out there, but I'm tired of searching tonight.

AM 950

So it seems that there are some interesting issues with the local Air America radio station, AM 950. Personally, I prefer 1500 or 1280 for my talk radio as I tend to enjoy right wing talk radio more than left - although Al Franken's show is the notable exception. However, (which offers terrific balanced local news round ups) suggests that there are some serious control issues coming down from the top. Look for the section entitled Turmoil at Air America Minnesota. Nick Coleman, who recently started a show, is now leaving.

One of your publishers has guest hosted on Air America (you can guess which one) and was told by the producer that "guns, gays and abortion" were off limits, we understand Coleman was expected to abide by the same.

This is totally unacceptable. According to that story, when Franken returns to MN to broadcast, it may not be on 950.

Keeping it Local

Got some interesting fun, local stories. Kim, Russ, Lisa, and I just visited Izzy's Ice Cream (which continues to work toward the goal of providing peak energy from solar panels) where we found that Green Party candidate Elizabeth Dickinson serving scoops. It seems that they have invited the St. Paul Mayorial candidates to spend an evening (each gets his/her own evening) to scoop ice cream and push political ideas on helpless drooling customers who want nothing more than some savory sweetness. I like it.

We Minnesotans got some good news from the recent transit bill as we get $25 million toward building more bike trails and pedways to encourage people to get off the highway and get to work under their own power. Excellent. Mmmmm... love that other white meat. I believe it is largely going to Minneapolis and Ramsey County ... Mpls seems to really be ahead of St Paul when it comes to trails.

For those of you who care about the differences between Republicans and Democrats ... do you know who your retailer supports? I know what you are thinking ... I hate Walmart - destroyer of small business, nemesis of the underinsured worker. I would rather support Target - a locally created and more responsible seller of cheap imported goods. If you are a big donkey, you might change you mind when you find out that some estimates show Target tends to support R's over D's more than Walmart! Egads.

In local news that is dear to my heart - the local Steelers bar on West 7th (Starter's Gate I believe) has been purchased by the same dude who owns the Dubliner and recently purchased the Turf Club. While I don't have any beefs with what he has down with the Turf, I don't know that I like seeing the only bars I go to with any regularity (heh, right) gobbled up by the same dude. He says he plans on becoming on Steelers fan but will be doing some remodeling. We'll see how it goes. I liked it the way it was - a real dive.

Ayd Update

I have blogged about Ayd Mill Road in the past - it is a road which has been debated for decades. It would connect I35 and I94 through a natural valley that runs through St Paul (in an ideal place for commuter rail out of the southeast suburbs).

I've been meaning to post some updates as the Highland Villager newspaper has been doing a good job with articles in recent weeks. However, they apparently fail to publish an online edition of the paper and therefore it is not a simple matter of linking to them. So I shall briefly summarize.

Mayor Kelly is looking for some funding toward the $50 million construction effort for a 4 lane street to make the link. At this point, the City Council may have already responded to this request, but I cannot find evidence of it. Kelly needs 4 supporters on the council but it no one is sure how it will break down. If the Council does not move on this before the end of July, we will not qualify for federal funds before 2010 apparently (though it could be moved up). Regardless, it doesn't look like this project will be finished anytime soon.

It looks like the payment plan is about half in federal funds, $5 million in state funds, and between $9-$19 million in municipal state aid and the city's Capital Improvement Budget.

The City Council is somewhat peeved at Kelly for largely ignoring their advice and suggestions in this manner which is understandable. Now Kelly needs their support to square the funding and I don't know that he has been wooing them well at all.

You can find the Environmental Impact Statement and video modeling the finished Ayd Mill project on St Paul's Ayd Mill Road page. Opponents make a good case for focusing on enhancing pedestrian / bike traffic in this corridor instead.

I thought I had seen something about the city acquring funds to add the bike trail to the Ayd Mill corridor in 2007-8 but I cannot find that anywhere now. I'll keep looking.

My tepid support for this project has pretty much evaporated as I have thought about it over time. I have decided that building better / more efficient roads is just a bad idea given the state of public transport in this area. We should be making it more difficult to drive and easier to use mass transit to improve both commute times and air quality.

Let's build more bike trails / rail / bus lines and let people decide to try mass transit after they sit in traffic for longer periods of time each month.

Midway in Motion

I pledge to replace at least one car trip
each week with a walking, biking,
or bus trip, and I agree to
participate in a brief follow-up survey.

This is the Midway in Motion Pledge for those who are interested in taking part in a new program to encourage people to get out of their cars and reduce congestion on neighborhood roads. It seems like a pretty decent program - and hundreds of people have signed up for it I guess. If you sign up by July 31 (and live near Midway) you could win a sweet bike from Boehm's - where I bought mine.

Local News Roundup

Mayor Giuliani helps Kelly's campaign for mayor of St. Paul. I want to focus on this race as part of my election day resolution last year to cover local issues but I have been quite bored by it thus far to be honest.

Then I find that "America's Mayor" has bestowed his blessing upon Mayor Kelly's reelection based on having met him less than 5 times ... I think. One of those times was in St. Paul so I guess Giuliani might have some idea how he is doing.

Yet another victory for politics of style - who do you know - rather than how do you do.

Green Party enters candidate for Mayor race. Though I don't generally support the Green Party as I shun electoral politics but I think I may support her on this one as she is focusing on energy issues. Exciting times ahead!

Clean Air Minnesota is starting to retrofit hundreds of buses to make them cleaner and improve the health of the students who ride them.

Recent studies in Ann Arbor, Mich., Atlanta and Chicago have determined that pollution inside school buses often is much higher than outdoor air, but that retrofit devices can reduce pollution levels inside buses to outdoor levels.

So it would seem that those anti-X-Games folks who demand that children ride with their heads inside the bus windows were actually harming the health of the children. The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again!

The Strib offers a good editorial noting that Minneapolis should allow a 13 story building in Uptown and the Hiawatha LRT desperately needs better signage for people to comfortably use it.

Smoking and the Bars

I remain an opponent of legislation that forces restaurants and bars to outlaw smoking. After reading last week's City Pages and this week's letters to the City Pages, I remain more firm on that than ever.

St. Paul still allows bars that receive more than 50% of their revenue from liquor to allow smoking whereas the ban in Minneapolis is complete. Since then, Mpls bars are losing a lot of money (see the full story) and St Paul bars are seeing increase in customers - especially new ones. While this is nice for the bars in the city long overshadowed by Minneapolis' night life, I don't think anyone is really celebrating.

Minneapolis bars are not only struggling to pull in customers - they are having to deal with a host of new problems. Such is life - always new obstacles. But for a proponent of neighborhood bars, this law really sucks because it forces people to go outside and smoke where they will make more noise and tend to litter more (because they are inconsiderate - this really is not the fault of poorly thought out legislation to be fair) and generally be a nuisance to the neighbors. So bars will be pushed out of neighborhoods to areas which people have to drive to reach. Lame.

Other problems include people stepping out to smoke and ditching their tab. Another lovely indirect problem that comes from inconsiderate people, but one that was less frequent before these anti-smoking laws.

If that wasn't enough to reinforce my opinion on the state dictating where people can smoke, then this letter to the editor certainly did.

Why should we grant bars a license to kill? Why should we cry over bars not being able to allow the 20 percent smokers to kill the 80 percent nonsmokers with their poison.

Though I am a lover of good hyperbole, I'm reminded of just how out of touch some people are to reality. A license to kill? Really? Are those who smoke really killing the non-smokers? The only serious health justification I saw for the ban was to help the health of those who tended bar and served. They are the ones inhaling for 40 hours a week and therefore at risk. I still believe there is enough information on second hand smoke that servers and bartenders can make up their own minds about working in a place with potential health hazards without the state stepping in.

But for this Kenneth Sachs guy to claim that his life is being snuffed out by someone sitting across the room from him for an hour or two one or two nights a week is patently absurd and shows a serious paranoia. But this is what happens in a country with no appreciation for science. People learn that second hand smoke is bad (duh) and assume that any exposure to it will kill them before they get to retire. Meanwhile, they sit at a bar, punishing their body with unhealthy food (tasty though) and alcohol which are going to have a more deleterious effect on the body than some diluted second hand smoke.

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