John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Improving Reputation

One of the goals set early this year by the City Council was to improve the reputation of Maplewood, and at this past Monday's meeting we discussed some of the city's progress toward that goal.  An article in today's Star Tribune looks at the subject as well.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Partnership Registry in the Pioneer Press (and Star Tribune)

Today's Pioneer Press also has a story about the passage of Maplewood's domestic partnership ordinance.

Update: A resident's e-mail alerted me to the Star Tribune having a story as well.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Maplewood on MPR: Domestic Partnership Registry Ordinance

Listening to the morning news Minnesota Public Radio on the way to work today, I was a little surprised to hear a story about Maplewood just as I pulled into the office.  The topic was our domestic partnership registry ordinance, which passed second reading at the City Council last night by a 4-1 vote (with Koppen dissenting).  You can read the story on MPR's website.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

My Ballot: Judicial Races

I have a simple rule for judicial races this year: I'm voting for incumbents at the appellate and supreme court level.

Whenever I've looked at judicial candidates (except the rare open seat -- we have one of those on our ballot this year), I've found that challengers usually have one or more of these characteristics:
  • Far right-wing ideology (considering how long it's been since there has been a DFL governor, they are almost inevitably running against someone appointed by a Republican governor or else Jesse Ventura)
  • Sectarian Christianist views (a belief that their brand of Christian theology should be the primary reference point for legal decisions, with the U.S. Constitution taking second place behind their personal reading of the Bible)
  • A desire to increase partisanship in judicial races, and to have races focus more on specific litmus test issues rather than qualifications, experience, temperament, etc.
  • Opposition to the judicial appointment and to proposals for a retention election system for judges (something I think would be a good idea)
I have no wish to see Minnesota become one of those states where big corporations can essentially buy judges to overturn court decisions against them (witness West Virginia), nor a theocracy of any kind.  So I am voting for Helen Meyer, Alan Page, Randolph Peterson, and Larry Stauber; and against Greg Wersal, Tim Tingelstad, Roxann Klugman, and Dan Griffith.

2nd District Court

Two seats in the 2nd District Court have contested elections.  In one case there is an incumbent and a challenger; in the other, it's an open seat.  The Pioneer Press endorsing editorial does a good job of describing the qualifications of all four candidates for the two seats. There's also a good article in the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

For the open seat, Judge 16, I support Gloria Bogen.  I am especially pleased to see her experience on St. Paul's zoning board, since as a city councilmember I appreciate judges who have experience with land use issues and perspective on the process of city decisions on those matters.

Sitting Judge William H. Leary is challenged by Connie S. Iversen, a public defender.  Unlike the appellate races, this challenge does not seem to be motivated by radical ideology.  Be that as it may, I have heard good things about the incumbent from attorneys who have been in his court, and in the absence of a good reason to get rid of a judge I would rather keep their experience on the court.  So Leary gets my nod for Judge 27.


My Ballot: County Offices & Questions

For Ramsey County, we vote on several offices and also two county charter amendment questions.  While political parties may have endorsed some candidates, these offices are all non-partisan, so no party affiliation is indicated on the ballot.


We need change in the office of sheriff.  The incumbent, Bob Fletcher, has been there a long time.  He has been tainted by association with scandals among his staff (a couple of whom went to prison) and the debacle of the Metro Gang Strike Force, for which he was the fiscal agent.  The disbanding of the Strike Force had a direct effect on Maplewood, since it funded one of our police officers -- a salary that is now is an expense for our property tax rolls instead.

Matt Bostrom is an officer of impeccable integrity and professionalism.  He would restore honor to the office, and I know he would work well with all of the law enforcement agencies in the county.  I have been struck by how people I know all across the political spectrum -- from extreme right to extreme left -- so strongly support Matt, because he has the character we need in a sheriff, giving us the confidence that he will enforce the law fairly and effectively.

County Attorney

This is an open seat, with two contenders on the ballot.  John Choi has had my support since early on in has campaign, when I had a chance to meet with him and learn about his vision for the office and his personal and professional background.  While I am impressed by the resume of his opponent, David Schultz, I think that Choi's administrative experience as Saint Paul City Attorney gives him the edge.

Charter Amendment Questions

I'm reluctant to mess with our county charter without a very good reason.  These two amendments appear designed to lower the threshold for putting issues in front of the voters, to undo decisions made by the elected county board.  I think the mess of the State of California gives us an idea where governance by referendum can take us, so I'm not enthusiastic about any steps to bring us closer to their model.  If an issue is so important and urgent that we need to appeal it by referendum rather than by choosing new elected representatives, it should be able to meet the existing thresholds in the charter.

Conservation District

Let me be honest, I know almost nothing about these candidates.  My main concern with offices like these is not to inadvertently elect a fringe nut-case.  Janelle Anderson and Carrie Wasley have the endorsement of the DFL, and when they were seeking that endorsement I heard good things about them from folks who pay closer attention to the Conservation District than I do.  I feel comfortable casting votes for them both.


My Ballot: Federal & State Races

Well, it's election day, and the ballot is a big one.  While we've been bombarded with ads about the governor's race in particular, there are many more races on the ballot, and it's often hard to figure out who these people are and who I should vote for.  So for whatever it's worth, I thought I'd put up a couple of postings about the races in Maplewood Precinct 3 and how I'm planning to vote this afternoon.


For the legislative offices, I'll vote for Betty McCollum for U.S. Congress, Chuck Wiger for Minnesota Senate, and Leon Lillie for Minnesota House.  All three have represented their districts well, and I've found them to be strong partners for local government, something I appreciate in my role as a councilmember.


For Governor and Lieutenant Governor, I'll be filling in the circle next to Mark Dayton and Yvonne Prettner Solon.

There's no way I would support a radical ideologue like Emmer.  Setting aside his basic philosophy of gutting government in order to maximize the short-term take-home pay of his rich backers, regardless of the cost to our whole state's quality of life, this is a guy who doesn't seem to care for the U.S. Constitution except when it suits him personally.  Consider the legislation he authored earlier this year, to amend the state constitution to decree that federal laws would apply to Minnesota only after being ratified by supermajorities of both houses of the legislature and being signed by the governor -- a direct assault on the supremacy clause, and the basic reason that we have a U.S. Constitution instead of the Articles of Confederation.

While there's a lot I like about Tom Horner -- including his choice of running mate (someone closely familiar with the issues faced by local government units), and his willingness to consider revenue increases as well as budget cuts to address the ongoing fiscal train wreck that Pawlenty is leaving to his successor -- Dayton is willing to put more options on the table, including income tax increases on top earners.  I grew up in Duluth and have family there, and have heard only great things about Sen. Solon.  Dayton's choice of running mate is a good indicator of his ability to build a great team to help Minnesota navigate the challenges of a coming year.

Secretary of State

Mark Ritchie's term in office has been more interesting than is usual for a Secretary of State.  Throughout the Franken/Coleman recount, he conducted himself in a way that made Minnesota proud.  He took the lessons of that experience and worked to change laws in ways to make the voting system better, and has worked hard to increase participation at the ballot box -- for example, with changes to help make sure Minnesotans serving in the military overseas have the ability to vote and be sure their vote is counted.

Ritchie's main opponent, Dan Severson, has served in the legislature.  His signature issue is requiring photo ID at the polls, something that would make it harder for many Minnesotans (especially seniors who no longer drive) to vote.  While there has been news recently about a small number felons voting when they shouldn't, Severson has voted against bills that would address this issue -- such as one that would have notified felons of their status with respect to voting rights, or another that would provide the Secretary of State with lists of deceased voters and felons not eligible to vote.

State Auditor

The office of State Auditor is another where the incumbent, Rebecca Otto, has done a fine job, executing her duties effectively and without partisanship.  When I was newly elected to the City Council, I one day walked into the offices of the State Auditor just because I had some questions and wanted to understand some of the issues I might face in office.  Much to my surprise, I found myself welcomed into the office of the State Auditor herself, where she spent more than an hour talking with me and educating me about her office and its relationship to city government.  The State Auditor is elected to be a watchdog (something Otto's many investigations demonstrate that she does well), but her role is also to be a helper to local governments.  Rebecca Otto has proven herself to me on both counts.


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