Voter ID – Lenczewski Demonstrates a Clear Lack of Integrity

For years the GOP has been working to require photo identification for voters, in response to clear evidence of voter fraud (*).  The DFL opposes voter ID systems.

Bloomington DFL Representative Ann Lenczewski’s record on this issue is incomprehensible…intentionally.

Here is why:

Lenczewski enjoys support from the Bloomington League of Women Voters (LWV).  The LWV is supposed to be a non-profit organization not involved in partisan issues, but has taken a clear stand agains voter ID.

However, with  80% of constituents supporting Voter ID (*), Lenczewski doesn’t want to take an unpopular position dictated by her party and special interest group.

So, she throws integrity out the window and does everything she can to obfuscate her record.

Once again in this term, rather than having an honest discussion and representing her constituents, Lenczewski plays the political shell game:

  • In the 2011 session a bill (HF0210/SF0509) for voter ID was passed by the legislature then vetoed by DFL governor Dayton
  • There were a series of votes on the 2011 bill
    • AGAINST – Amendments by chief author Kiffenmeyer to clarify voter ID requirements:  Lenczewski voted against, but the amendments passed
    • AGAINST – Kerry Gauthier (DFL) attempted to re-amend the bill to weaken it and was called out of order.  Lenczewski voted to support Gauther, but was defeated.
    • AGAINST – Andrew Falk (DFL) attempted to “table” the bill so that it could be killed.  Lenczewski and DFLers supported this, but were defeated.
    • FOR – The bill was put to vote for passage.  Lenczewski switched sides (abandoned the DFL, joined the majority GOP) and voted for the bill, which was passed.
    • AGAINST – Lenczewski was immediately quoted in the local news(*): “I just cannot understand how anyone could think that this bill would ever get signed”, despite the fact that she just voted for it.
    • AGAINST – The bill was sent back to the Senate and committee, re-amended, and brought back up for vote.  Lenczewski voted against the Senate version to kill it, but was defeated.
    • FOR – The bill was brought up for final passage again, and Lenczewski voted for it, prevailing with the GOP majority against her DFL minority.
  • The bill was immediately (2011/05/26) vetoed by the DFL Governor Dayton.
  • In 2012 Kiffmeyer again raised the issue (HF2738) in the form of a constitutional amendment, allowing the voters of Minnesota to overrule the governor’s veto:
    • AGAINST – Again, the bill proceeded through the House legislative gauntlet, but eventually passed (2012/04/04) with Lenczewski voting (but failing) to defeat it .
    • AGAINST – The bill went to the Senate and came back to the House, and was passed again, with Lenczewski voting against it again along with her DFL party.

At this point, it should be clear that, as of 2012, Lenczewski is against voter ID provisions to clean up or election system.  In her last vote, she effectively said that she doesn’t even support the right of Minnesotans to decide this issue for themselves via a constitutional amendment voted on in a general election.

After years of trying to convince the electorate that she was with the majority of voters on this issue, Lenczewski has finally run out of wiggle room.  She has finally been forced to show where she stands and openly contradict her previous efforts to mislead voters into believing that she supported this issue.

A Dance Between Big Government and Big Insurance

The plan is simple:  take an undeniable statement of goodwill, logically extend it and then use it to gain control over every aspect of citizens lives.

The statement is:  “everyone should be healthy”.

The logical extension is:  “health care and insurance should be provided to everyone”.

The last step in the plan is to ingrain these statements into a system which has control (the force of law) over everyone’s lives:  big government.

You may think that I am talking about Obama’s plan to governmentalize healthcare (aka ObamaCare), which is a topic of feverish national debate.  And, you would be right, except that I am not.  I am talking about the same thing happening at a much more local level, right here in the city of Bloomington.

The libertarian view of small city government is: roads, water, sewer, police, fire…period.

The progressive view of big city government is to expand the core services by broadening their definition.  “Roads” becomes “Transportation” so that it can cover what and how people drive.  “Water and Sewer” expands to “Infrastructure and Livability” so that it can includes “Parks”, “Recreation” and even “Culture and Entertainment”.  “Police” becomes “Safety” and “Community Development”.  “Fire” expands into “prevention” and necessarily to “Planning” and a whole line of city codes which requires a “Permitting” and “Development” organization.  The Bloomington city organization chart shows where the “Progress” has occurred:

 

Somewhere along this progression the expansion resulted in “Community Services” and “Public Health”.  Now the stage is set for a marriage of “Big Government” and “Big Insurance”.

At the national level of government, this relationship started long ago with the creation of Medicare and Medicaid (part of Lyndon Johnson’s agenda symbolized by the “War on Poverty”).

With “Big Government” ramping up taxation to pay for these agendas, private sector insurance companies lined up to take that money and administer the program.  One of the companies that won out on this was Blue Cross Blue Shield, which now operates a significant portion of this government program.  Per their website:  In 2001, the Blue System continued to process the overwhelming majority of Medicare claims totaling $163 billion. (See “Medicare and Medicaid Created” on timeline).

Even though the term is rarely used to describe government healthcare programs, I call this a “Government Sponsored Enterprise” (GSE – see financial versions).  Other people would refer to Medicare/Medicaid as an “Entitlement Program”

To operate a profitable GSE Entitlement Program, you need to to sign up citizens to receive those entitlements.  This is where the progression of big government at the city level really comes in:  get your city health department to contact residents and sign them up for services.  To do this really well, you need to start up a marketing campaign.

And here is where we come back to Bloomington and a recently launched program called ‘Do.Town‘, a joint venture between Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota (BCBSMn) and the cities of Bloomington, Edina and Richfield.  Among all the other city “health” initiatives like re-striping roads for bike lanes, the city Public Health department can benefit BCBSMn greatly by finding citizens in the community who need their services.  The city department finds citizens and hooks them up with medical services, and BCBSMn can hook them up with the necessary insurance.

This connection has been evident for long time now, but I was only motivated to write about it when I saw to what lengths the mayor would go to promote this program and agenda.  The city website published an article recently, along with video which perfectly demonstrates how the dance between “Big Government” and “Big Insurance” works:

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota is headquartered in Eagan Mn.  Alternatively, HealthPartners is headquartered in Bloomington.  Why isn’t the mayor dancing with their mascot?
  • Full Disclosure:  Recently appointed (then elected) council member Tim Busse had campaign support from Cory Busse (brother?) who is currently a “Portfolio Product Manager” at Blue Cross Blue Shield Mn (see LinkedIn profile).

 

Mayor Winstead Responds to Increased Residential Property Tax Shift

During this 2011 campaign, it has been stated that the Bloomington property tax based has shifted significantly from commercial to residential since 2001.  The source cidted for this was page 174 of the Bloomington City Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for 2010 – CAFR 2010.  Specifically, in 2001 the property tax burden was split between commercial and residential property by 59% and 41%, and in 2010 the commercial portion had dropped below 50% and the residential burden was now over 50%.

The Bulldog pulled the numbers and generated a graph:

Note that the largest shift occurred in 2001.  Mayor Winstead explained this at the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce Forum (see below).   From 2004 through 2008, residential burden continued to exceed commercial significantly, despite the fact that the real-estate bubble started to pop in 2005.  From 2007 through 2010, the tax burden on residential real estate has grown (due to city assessing or actual market improvement?).

If you remove the 2001 shift anomaly, it is still a striking fact that from 2002 through 2009, property tax burdens for both residential and commercial property taxes increased 60%.  This is driven not by estimated property values, but by increased levy demands from government.

One of the consequences of the increase in commercial property value is its affect on Fiscal Disparities, which takes collected property tax dollars out of Bloomington and sends them to other state municipalities.  Tax dollars leaving Bloomington have increased nearly 50% since 2008:

The dollar($) leaving Bloomington have increased from $15M to $23M since 2008, and now account for over 15% of the taxes collected.  Is it a cruel irony that if Bloomington tries to develop new commercial properties it loses more tax dollars to Fiscal Disparities?

Here is Mayor Winstead’s comment concerning the events in 2001:

That was a good explanation of the 2001 anomaly shift in property tax burden. Now, can the Mayor explain the 2002~2009 60% increase in real tax burden?

League of Women Voters Candidate Forum – Fall 2011

The Bloomington LWV headlined a candidate forum supported by the city government, using city hall resources to host.

All city council candidates attended (Mayor – Hans Anderson and Gene Winstead, At-Large – Mike Lehmann and Tim Busse, District 3 – Russ Burnison and Jack Baloga).

The forum lasted approximately 90 minutes, and in addition to opening and closing statements, the moderator asked candidates for their statements on the following questions:

  1. Over the last 10 years what positive changes have you seen in the City of Bloomington?
  2. What problem has the biggest negative impact on Bloomington’s quality of life, and what should the city do to address the problem?
  3. Proposed plans for development at Northgate/Smith park concerns neighbors.  The plans meet code, but how can citizens concerns be addressed?
  4. What is the role of the city in creating more affordable housing?
  5. What role does the city play in supporting public schools?
  6. What are the essential services a city provides, how should they be funded, and is there waste to cut?
  7. Parks and open space make up 1/3rd of Bloomingtion.  Is that the right amount, or too much or too little?
…more to come on details and answers of interest.

 

 

Property Tax Increases…Defining Essential Services

I just got a note today from Minnesotans For Fair Property Tax. Here is an excerpt:

 

State research is forecasting a 5% increase in property taxes statewide for 2012. In the
mean time Mayor Rybak has announced his proposed budget for Minneapolis 2012
which includes a 2% levy increase. His budget has some cuts to keep the increase from
being more.

 

Later in the letter, David Sandler references that Mayor Rybak chose to layoff 10 firefighters to keep the budget down. An effort was mounted to keep the firefighters, but Rybak vetoed that. Fine, hard choices have to be made. But, were there alternatives? I know of many cities that have bloated staffs in departments like Parks and Recreation and redundant Health Services and questionable Human Rights staff. I personally would eliminate Parks and Rec and Human Rights BEFORE laying off firemen, or at least ask for paycuts.

 

The question here is in the prioritization of cuts, and defining essential services. For instance, it only takes minutes of research to find that the city of Minneapolis is spending $2.1M on its Cedar-Riverside renovation project (2011 Budget, Schedule 1 – Fund Summary and Changes to Fund Balance) which contains $60,000 for “Art Improvements” (Media Packet, Cedar Riverside/West Bank Initiative Page).

 

Why does the Bloomington Bulldog care about Minneapolis city budgets? For two reasons:

1) the Bloomington 2011 budget projected a +30% city property tax increase over the next 5 years for Bloomington taxpayers which means that we need to do tough budget analysis and decisions in Bloomington too.

— and —

2) A significant portion of Bloomington property tax leaves Bloomington for the State Local Government Aid (LGA) slush fund, of which Minneapolis is a large receiver. Minneapolis is wasting Bloomington taxpayer’s dollars!

 

Check back into the Bloomington Bulldog later for information about analysis of the Bloomington city budget.

GOP Midwest Leadership Conference

I just heard about a GOP Midwest Leadership Conference to be held in Bloomington on October 7th and 8th: more info here.

The interesting part of this event to watch is whether or not the GOP presidential candidates show up. This is a big “if”, because most candidates will be focusing on the early primary states like IA, NH and SC, and may not want to dedicate resources to this event. But, if they do show up, it would be very interesting for several reasons:

  • Will the local news media even cover it? I expect the state-wide TV networks will mention it, but I am interested in whether the MN Sun will cover it.
  • If the GOP presidential candidates do make an appearance, would the Obama campaign team try to make a counter-appearance. Remember that when the national media was focused on the Iowa GOP debates and straw poll, Obama tried to draw attention away with his “bus tour” stunt, skirting around friendly areas of Minnesota and Iowa. Given that MN is a blue state from the standpoint of the governorship and US senators, would Obama plan an event at the Mall of America? Imagine Obama and Dayton talking about jobs and linking in Lenczewski’s $15M bonding bill pork project near the MOA.
  • Will the GOP event, which is focused on 2012 elections, have ANY effect on the 2011 local city races. Common experience would say “NO”, but it could be interesting if something did happen.

We will wait and see.