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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Ramsey County Commissioners - Time to Bounce the Incumbents

The Saint Paul Pioneer Press editorial staff continued its tradition of liberal illogic by endorsing the three incumbents (two liberals and a RINO) up for re-election on the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners. The funny thing is that in the logical tap-dancing they present to justify their rubber-stamp endorsement, the StPPP editorial staff makes several good arguments on why all of the incumbents should be rejected in favor of the challengers.

From the linked endorsement:
We believe that Bennett, Parker and Reinhardt have performed well as part of a county board that has taken the lead in standing up for the east metro. We do not agree with all their decisions, but we believe their advocacy for Central Corridor light-rail line was vital, and that they have run the county in an open manner.

...We have had our beefs with the board, particularly its decision in April 2007 to raise members' salaries by 25 percent, to $80,000. We have argued, without success, that county governance should be a citizen-legislator model, akin to a state legislature or school board. But metro county boards have bought into the managerial model, and many provide pay and benefits equal to those of full-time managers.

We lost that debate. But we praised the Ramsey County Board for doing it openly and giving time for citizens to object. Few did.
In reality, the Ramsey County Board has been anything but open. They regularly schedule meetings early in the morning on weekdays with little fanfare and are not shy about cutting meetings very short if it serves their purpose. This probably does not impact those who work for the paper because any reporting on the actions of the board seems to closely follow the talking points contained in the official press releases anyway.

The StPPP also seems to have more than a passing infatuation with the "vital" Central Corridor. So much so it makes one wonder whether or not there is also a financial interest. A little explanation on why they feel the line is so "vital", especially for the people in the districts these commissioners are supposed to represent, would be interesting.

The editorial endorsement goes on [emphasis added]:
All three challengers this year are critical of the pay hike. They feel that the incumbents have not worked hard enough to keep a lid on property tax hikes. The challengers oppose or at least question the proposed Central Corridor light-rail transit project down University Avenue, which the incumbents support despite the fact they represent suburban districts. The challengers question the reach and scope of county government and have raised concerns about the bumpy merger of emergency communications centers...We agree with the three challengers that there are too many unanimous votes on the board and that some reasoned opposition would help. We agree that government too often protects itself from the economic hardships the private sector faces. But it is not enough to be anti-government; candidates for public office must know how government works if they are to change it. None of the challengers, intelligent though they were, impressed us with that knowledge.
OK...the editors, in agreement with all three of the challengers, didn't like the pay increases. They imply that they find it understandable that people of the suburban districts, the people these commissioners are supposed to represent, may not be all that keen on light rail. They also acknowledge that the merger of the emergency communications centers has been "bumpy" under the incumbents. The wise sages also agree with the challengers that government too often protects itself from economic realities the private sector has to deal with. They also have a problem with the often unanamous votes by the incumbents.

So why the flamin' hooty-hoo is the StPPP editorial staff not endorsing at least one, if not all, of the challengers?

These wise men and women claim that the challengers, all admittedly "intelligent", didn't impress them with their knowledge of "how government works" - right after they gave examples of how county government isn't working! There appears to be more than a bit of a logical disconnect, not to mention an institutional political bias here.

I wonder if it occured to the StPPP editors that it possibly could be that the lack of knowledge by the incumbents about how the private sector makes their enterprises work is the cause of many of the problems with Ramsey County government? If a private sector business messes up, unlike government, they go out of business! It's interesting how the "anti-government" pejorative is slipped in to dismiss any consideration that perhaps the new ideas the challengers will bring is precisely why the incumbents need to go.

Fortunately it is up to us the voters of Ramsey County, not the liberal hacks at the Pravda Press, to decide on who we want to represent us on the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners. We have three outstanding Conservative candidates, Jim Schottmuller in District 1, Richard Moses in District 2, and Dennis Dunnigan in District 7 who will do a much better job than the incumbents they are challenging.

Even if one is reasonably satisfied with the way the Board has been run, there is nothing to lose and potentially much to gain by electing the challengers and their new ideas. At the Roseville candidate debate it was brought up that a citizen had asked one of the candidates why, if 85% of the county's spending was mandated by other levels of government as the incumbents assert, do we need seven highly paid, ostensibly part-time, commissioners who always seem to vote the same way on virtually every matter that comes before the board? If the ideas of the Lock-step Seven are truly superior to those of the new-comers, the status quo would still be maintained with a 4-3 majority along with administrative continuity. If, however, the votes start consistently coming up 4-3 (or even 6-1 or 5-2 if some of the challengers do not get elected) in favor of the old ways, the voters will have the option of making further corrections to the makeup of the board in future elections if they see that the majority on the board is not voting in their best interests.

If any of the three challengers are elected to the board, the remaining old timers may very well learn more than a few things from the new private sector perspective on the board and start to move the board to act more in line with the best interests of the electorate rather than as an exclusive club for the benefit of career politicians. Let's do the job right in a big way and put all three of the challengers into office and give the current incumbents the opportunity to explore opportunities in the private sector.

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Blogger Daria said...

The PP's endorsement of all three of the incumbent Ramsey County commissioners is puzzling. They encourage the incumbents to take their opponents criticisms to heart, disagree with their decision to raise their salaries by 25%, don't like the multitude of unanimous votes, advocate some reasoned opposition and disagree with the managerial model of governance in favor of a citizen legislator model. Then they criticize the challengers for not having a background in government and feel that keeping the status quo best serves the needs and interests of Ramsey County!

I also fail to see how a 62% self-approved pay raise since 2003, a 4.5% property tax levy increase during a mortgage foreclosure crisis, a $1.4 billion light rail system project during an economic downturn, and a failure to resolve the problems with the 911 call center is "best serving the needs and interests" of Ramsey County.

11/03/2008 8:33 PM  

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