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Legislators' economic disclosure statements are kind of a joke

The phrase “do not provide meaningful information” … pretty well sums it up. Tom Scheck at MPR reports: “All state lawmakers who take office this week are required to file an economic disclosure statement outlining the sources of their income outside of the Legislature. An MPR News analysis of the disclosures by current and incoming lawmakers finds that the forms do not provide meaningful information that could alert the public to potential conflicts of interest. One only need look at the current and incoming speakers of the House to see the problems with the state's disclosure requirement. Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers lists himself as a self-employed public relations consultant on his statement. Zellers' form does not list his clients, and he did not respond to questions about his work. Incoming DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen on his statement lists his job as an attorney at Lindquist and Vennum. He also does not list his clients. Thissen said he works on mergers in the health care industry but said the lawyer's professional code of conduct prevents him from disclosing his clients.” Why do we put up with this?

A “D” is not good … . Megan Boldt of the PiPress says: “A national advocacy group created by former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee gave Minnesota a ‘D’ for its policies on school choice, evaluating teachers and using those evaluations to make personnel decisions. Minnesota ranked 26th nationally based on report cards released by StudentsFirst on Monday, Jan. 7. View Minnesota’s report here. The highest ranked states — Louisiana and Florida — each earned a 'B-' for their overall grade. StudentsFirst says Minnesota is behind when it comes to ensuring effective teachers are identified, retained, and rewarded. The state is developing a new teacher evaluation system, but the group said it’s not enough because there are no consequences for ineffective teachers.” Louisiana beat us on this one?

Another thing you haven’t worried enough about … . At the Strib, Colleen Stoxen says: “More than 40 percent of Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas, and state health officials say every home should be tested. Gov. Mark Dayton has declared January "Radon Action Month" in Minnesota. Public health agencies and the Minnesota Department of Health are giving 8,000 radon test kits to residents at low or no cost. Find info on the MDH website. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and more than 21,000 deaths are attributed to radon each year. Radon reduction systems can be installed in homes.”

At MPR, Bob Collins offers a graphic account of why Minnesota treats sexual offenders the way it does. The story isn’t pretty: “The Minnesota Court of Appeals today provided a graphic account of why Minnesota locks up people after they've served their prison time under the theory that they might offend again. The court ruled today that a man who has raped several women in the past, can be committed under the state's program just for taking steps that, while not sexually violent under the state's definition, mirror his pattern of behavior that preceded his previous violent behavior.

The GleanThe drought is causing houses to sink across the Midwest. Elizabeth Baier of MPR says: “As Minnesota's drought deepens this winter and the dry conditions that became more pronounced last summer have effectively been locked into frozen soil, some homeowners are dealing with problems left behind when the rain stopped last year. … From Rochester, Minn., to Sioux Falls, S.D., homeowners have reported shifting foundations and cracks in basements and walls. Such damage is common for aging homes, but this year's dry weather exacerbated the problem for many homeowners in southern Minnesota.

Its a tough business, parking … Paul Walsh of the Strib says: “The owner of a popular dining spot near the Xcel Energy Center took a pop in the face and went down to the ground during a confrontation outside his restaurant with a 21-year-old man over parking, authorities said Monday. Dave Cossetta, 56, was punched late Friday morning shortly before the doors opened at Cossetta's on W. 7th Street in St. Paul … The suspect, from Gem Lake, Minn., was arrested on suspicion of fifth-degree assault, jailed and then released pending charges. The conflict centered on whether the man could park in the lot without paying.”

The “We’re So Proud” list of the day. According to the Daily Beast, Minneapolis is the 11th “drunkest city” in the United States:
“Avg. alcoholic drinks consumed by adults per month: 13.8
Percentage of population classified as binge drinkers: 18.1%
Percentage of population classified as heavy drinkers: 4.1%.”
Milwaukee was third, Boston first.

Now this is showing those Sun Belt weenies what we’re made of up here. Mary Divine of the PiPress writes: “Four years ago, Brent Peterson, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society, resurrected a cool way to promote Stillwater during the off season: Hold an ice cream social. Outside. In January. The Washington County Historical Society and the Stillwater Convention & Visitors Bureau will hold this year's ice cream social and bonfire from noon to 4 p.m. Jan. 19 in downtown Stillwater.”

Our guy Prince is still crossways with the French tax authorities. Says David Hanners in the PiPress: “Although lawyers for Prince say the entertainer has given French tax collectors everything they wanted, the IRS says he still needs to obey the summons it issued for him. The two tax returns that Prince's representatives turned over to French officials were undated and unsigned, and a lawyer for the IRS says the agency isn't sure the documents are all the French need. … In September, the IRS went to federal court to enforce a summons issued for the musician, identified in court papers by his full name, Prince Rogers Nelson. Neither he nor his representatives showed up for an April meeting with the IRS over the matter. Doty had ordered a show-cause hearing to find out why the summons was ignored. The French had asked the IRS for the summons, saying they wanted to make sure Prince, 54, and his company, Paisley Park Enterprises Inc., had paid all required taxes stemming from shows he played in that country in 2009 and 2010.”

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Comments (5)

The people who write the

The people who write the disclosure laws are the people who don't want to do the disclosing. It's going to require some sustained pressure from outside the Legislature and someone inside the Legislature who's willing to make some waves. This would have been a perfect issue for Kriesel to champion.

No surprise here: Michelle

No surprise here: Michelle Rhee's school rankings are NEGATIVELY correlated with test scores:

http://lbo-news.com/2013/01/07/more-bogosity-from-michelle-rhee/

As Doug Henwood says:

The results aren’t perfectly negative, and there’s not a perfect downward stairstep pattern in the NAEP columns on this table. But the evidence is nonetheless against Rhee. Alas, that’s the typical story of school reformers’ efforts. For a bunch of business-supported technocrats supposedly in love with metrics, there’s absolutely no empirical support for their ambitions. You might suspect that their real aim is to bust teachers unions and save money educating a population that elites have lost interest in.

Someone alert Beth Hawkins! I'm sure she'll be interested in this...

Our grade

Makes a "D" look like a badge of honor, doesn't it?

More on Michelle

PBS' Frontline tomorrow night does a program on Rhee's tenure as Superintendent in Washington, D.C. and accusations of test fraud. Stay tuned.

Flimsy excuses

From the MPR article:

"Sometimes when you're a consultant, what that means is you're offering yourself as a person who is going to offer advice," Hann said. "And sometimes you're asked to advise on different things. And if you say I'm going to consult on only this topic, well, what if someone comes along and says I'd like you to consult on another topic? Does that mean you can't do that?"

Answer: No, it means you update your disclosure form and add the additional topic you'd like to be able to consult on.

Is it really all that hard for these guys to figure this stuff out? (And if it is, who in their right minds is paying out good money for their "advice"?) (Yes, rhetorical questions . . . . . . )