Note to Tom Emmer: No taxes for sidewalk poetry

All the “fact checking” blogs and quickie TV features around town are nice. But can we agree that offending politicians don’t care one whit about whether what they’re saying is true? The latest is the tale of Tom Emmer and the origami bird. Poetry actually. Poetry written on St. Paul sidewalks.

MPR’s PoliGraph, filed by Catharine Richert, finds nothing lyrical about Emmer’s accusations. During an MPR-sponsored debate at the Minnesota State Fair, Emmer promised to reform local government aid so it can’t be used to pay to put poetry on the sidewalks. “LGA should be applied to what it was intended for,” he said. “It should pay for essential services defined as police and fire service and sewer and water infrastructure. That’s what it should be going for, not to etch poetry in sidewalks in St. Paul.” However, “There’s no truth to Emmer’s claim,” she writes. “Emmer said that local government aid was intended to pay for essential services, such as the police force and fire fighting, and often it is. But his statement implies that there are restrictions on how it can be used. In fact, local government aid can be used however a city sees fit — including sidewalk poetry. Even so, no local government aid was used in Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk, the project that has Emmer so fired up. Rather, the entire project is paid for by a group called Public Art St. Paul, and has been since 2008 when it began.” MinnPost’s Jay Weiner offers his take on the LGA issue here. Sheesh, is a guy really supposed to know what he’s talking about?

As someone who has driven miles in the wrong direction after messing up in the Crosstown commons construction (do i really have to read all those signs?) I’m thrilled to hear that the east-to-west section heading north on I-35 is now a done deal … permanent … and won’t be rearranged the next time I go through. KSTP’s Jennifer Griswold files a story, adding that you can also get off at Diamond Lake Road heading north on I-35. Woo-hoo! We are livin’ now, baby.

Jim Hammerand at the Business Journal files a brief piece about Minnesota health care muckety-mucks and politicians heading off to Germany (a socialist hell hole, you know) to check out their 117-year-old public health care system. A group of about 16 health professionals and policy makers will take the trip Sept. 14-20 to meet with their German counterparts. Delegates include Minnesota Health Commissioner Sanne Magnan, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota President and CEO Patrick Geraghty, Hennepin County Medical Center Board Chair David Jones and state senators Linda Berglin, Scott Dibble, John Marty and Linda Scheid.” Here’s one word of advice about health and Germany this time of year, go easy on the pilsners.

The set-up is sadly familiar, but MPR reporter Nancy Lebens follows the story in a different direction. She starts up in Mora, a city that has had to lay off its police and contract with the sheriff’s department. Thing is … it hasn’t worked out so badly. “Out on the main highway into Mora at Coborn’s Superstore, Dean Randt, manager, says the move to eliminate the police department was controversial at the time, but he’s OK with the change. ‘We really haven’t seen a lot of difference … It was pretty seamless from police into the sheriff’s department, very similar service.” She continues: “The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association represents most of the unionized police in the state. Executive director Dennis Flaherty says budget pressures on public safety are intensifying. His organization favors a different way of responding to that pressure. ‘We have a number of consolidated departments and to the best to my knowledge, they’re all working well … That’s the future in our state, particularly because of the rural nature of our state. It’s not limited to greater Minnesota. You’re seeing it in suburban areas as well. I think you will see more and more of it.’ ”

With MinnPost’s D.C. correspondent Derek Wallbank checking out who Michele Bachmann’s “Jim the Election Guy” is (“ … Jim is actually Beau Peregino, an actor who studied theater at Towson University in Maryland and lives now in California.) … and Tarryl Clark firing back with three “real Jims” who, they say, actually live in the Sixth District, Fox9 calls in U of M political science prof Kathryn Pearson to discuss whether “negative” works. Bottom line? “They’re memorable.”     

PiPress editorial writer Jim Ragsdale gets off a good barrage at Gov. Pawlenty’s version of neo-“states rights.” The essential context is Pawlenty constantly playing personal politics with vital federal and state programs. Says Ragsdale: “Since Obama took office and Pawlenty shifted focus, the governor has been caught up in a political rip current. It is a powerful force, fueled by economic desperation, mistrust of government solutions and fear of the future. Its waters are intermixed with toxic streams of anti-government hysteria. It’s powerful and more than a little scary. Pawlenty has chosen to ride this current as far as he can. He has the right to oppose Obamacare and to try to defeat it at the polls. But he is our governor until he leaves office in January. In this role, he is expected to go beyond politics. He is expected to put the laws of the land above his own political future.” “Put the laws of the land above” what?  

So on the one hand, the public’s love of bears has earned an otherwise obscure state park a $100,000 prize. Doug Smith of the Strib explains: “Thanks to online votes from bear lovers captivated by Lily and her cub, Hope, cavorting on webcams set up by the North American Bear Center in Ely, a state park in northern Minnesota apparently will be named Thursday as America’s Favorite Park, earning the state a $100,000 prize. Bear Head Lake State Park was handily outdistancing every other state and national park in the country among voters taking part in a contest sponsored by the National Park Foundation and Coca-Cola.”

But on the other … while you’re feeling all warm and cuddly, Smith files another story, reporting that “The killing of a radio-collared research bear near Ely, Minn., over the weekend has sparked outrage and anti-hunting sentiment, even though the animal apparently was legally taken during the bear hunting season.” He adds: “One of 35 bears in northern Minnesota tracked with radio collars by the DNR was shot last week by a 12-year-old girl hunting for the first time with her father. ‘They decided to go ahead and shoot it, even though they saw the collar,’ said Karen Noyce, a DNR bear researcher. They notified the DNR and returned the collar.” Big of ’em.

Truth be told, we probably don’t want to know, but Jason DeRusha’s “Good Question” segment for WCCO pulled back the curtains on those home run measurements at Target Field, in the news because of slugger Jim Thome’s shot off the flagpole the other day. Says DeRusha: “How do the Minnesota Twins measure Target Field home runs? It’s not with lasers, or sensors, or anything high tech. According to Mike Herman, director of Baseball Communications, ‘it is not an exact science, it is truly an estimate.’ The team has a chart of various distances from the stadium’s architect. When the Twins played in the Metrodome, a graduate-level math student at the University of Minnesota created a detailed chart used by the official scorer. At Target Field, there’s nothing official about the home run distance. It is not an official measurement; it’s an estimate, generated by Herman and Dustin Morse.” Dang! But we really are blowing thousands on sidewalk poetry, right?

And no, I haven’t forgotten. Tonight is the beginning of the Vikings’ dead-certain, no-doubt-about, can’t-stop-us-now, roll to the Super Bowl. The local papers have an item or two about the game. Nationally, the writers seem a bit skeptical that the Purple (i.e., what’s his name, the old guy at quarterback) can play as well as they did last year. Bruce Arthur in the National Post writes: “This rematch of the NFC championship game features both Brett Favre and some other guys, as far as the television networks are concerned. Actually, both sides have something else in common — Favre was once addicted to Vicodin, and Saints coach Sean Payton was accused of stealing Vicodin from the team supply this summer! Perhaps he was celebrating the Super Bowl. To deal with Favre overload, however, Vicodin is not recommended. Just booze, and vitriol. Pick: New Orleans.” Keep it to yourself, pally.

So the question is … how drunk do you have to be to climb a ladder up through a second-story window of a house in St. Paul, fall asleep on a stranger’s couch and tell the cops who wake you that you’re at home in Burnsville? Mara Gottfried writes for the PiPress: “Officers woke [Zachary] McKusick up and identified themselves as police. He ‘refused to obey the officers’ commands, he began resisting,’ [police spokesman Andy] Skoogman said. Police got him under control and handcuffed him. ‘They asked him if he knew where he was,’ Skoogman said. ‘He said he was at his house in Burnsville.’ McKusick told officers he’d been drinking earlier in the evening at the Minnesota State Fair … he said he’d brought his own alcohol to the Fair.” And we’re guessing a lot of it.

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by David DeCoux on 09/09/2010 - 09:56 am.

    “But can we agree that offending politicians don’t care one whit about whether what they’re saying is true?”

    I was thinking about this last night and I had a bit of a political epiphany. Is this why so many lawyers go into politics? The court room has rules and decorum and a lawyer can be called out for objectionable statements. Not only that, but the Jury is then instructed that they cannot consider the information.

    In the real world the sound byte is out and perhaps a million people will hear it while only a handful of thousands may hear the fact check. This is how perceptions are created. (Think Saddam and his al qaeda connections)

    The more this type of thing happens the more I think it’s not an accident, but an intentional and calculated misleading of the public.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/09/2010 - 10:42 am.

    Say Brian?

    I wonder if the Democrat party realizes that by advertising their latest “Emmer lies” meme, they are admitting that Saint Paul, a city best known for it’s mayor’s tear stained appearances before the legislature to rattle his tin cup is spending money, from whatever source, to embellish it’s sidewalks with poetry.

    And if they do, do they really think this improves their image to the thousands of families that are facing layoffs and loss of hearth and home?

    You’d think that with the billions of borrowed Obamabucks floating around someone would think to buy a clue, wouldn’t you?

  3. Submitted by Brian Simon on 09/09/2010 - 11:15 am.

    Swifty, the sidewalk poetry comes from a private group, funded by donations. I would expect conservatives to respect private individuals’ right to spend their money as they see fit, even on such a selfless use as beautification of public spaces. Granted a better capitalist would spend money on personal consipicuous consumption instead, but that’s the trouble with freedom and a free market – choice.

  4. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 09/09/2010 - 11:33 am.

    Thank the gods the Burnsville-man-who-couldn’t-find-his-way-home didn’t say his name was Goldilocks…some allegory, eh?… like “Officers,’bear with me’, I was only sipping porridge?”…

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/09/2010 - 12:10 pm.

    Brian, the mayor’s spokescritter said that the city pony’s up $1 mil a year to maintain those arty sidewalks.

    Now the spendthrift left might well scoff at a million dollars, but others might contrue a statement to the effect that “no taxes” are involved as, erm, well not accurate.

    I’m all for beautification, but as long as mayor Coleman is still dragging his tin cup to the legislature each year to share tear stained stories of how the poorest of the poor are being cast to the curb and the sickest of the sick are falling down dead in the streets I could live without poetic sidewalks.

  6. Submitted by John Hakes on 09/09/2010 - 12:19 pm.

    Author Brian Lambert raises an interesting point regarding the accuracy of candidate claims.

    While certainly any candidate is capable of misspeaking throughout a gubernatorial campaign that KSTP’s Tom Hauser believes has already featured the most debates in MN history (with almost 2 months to go)–

    there are other instances where candidates seem more interested in generating heat than light. Two such instances involve the Republican candidate’s portrayal of the Independence candidate’s sales tax plan.

    Rep Emmer misrepresented the facts when he closed a recent State Fair debate with a line that suggesting that Candidate Horner would “tax the shirt off people’s backs” when in fact Mr. Horner has suggested the sales tax might only apply to items greater than $100 and also include a possible “sales tax holiday” around back-to-school time.

    At a recent St. Joseph’s debate on health care, Rep. Emmer wrapped up with a similar broadside that the sales tax plan would affect the transactions like “garage sales” or the “kid who mows your lawn.” Such assertions are equally untrue.

    Perhaps you will agree that integrity is a valuable character trait in selecting the candidate best qualified to be the next governor or Minnesota.

    John Hakes
    Communications & Policy Staff
    Tom Horner for Governor

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/09/2010 - 01:15 pm.

    Tom Swift:

    It’s a million dollars a year to maintain ALL public sidewalks in St. Paul not just the few hundred square feet of pavement adorned with poetry.

    Get a grip on reality.

  8. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 09/09/2010 - 02:44 pm.


    So you commented on Jay Weiner’s story that had the clear statement: “Now in its third year, the program has cost a total of $80,587.97,” then you come to this story and claim it’s 12 times that amount. Or perhaps you chose to spout off a made up number here, and then decided not to correct it when you read the real figure later. Regardless, this is the type of dishonesty that the right excels in: make a wild claim, counting on more people hearing the claim than the inevitable real fact. Sadly, it works too often, but I do wonder if you have any qualms at all about willfully spreading lies like this.

  9. Submitted by Brian Simon on 09/09/2010 - 03:10 pm.

    Thomas, as Neal points out, the sidewalk maintenance budget you cite is not particular to only poetry-imprinted concrete.

    I won’t wait up for an acknowledgement of your error.

  10. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/09/2010 - 05:44 pm.

    Random thoughts on today’s Glean:

    Tell those preparing for the Oktoberfest visit to stay home and read about the German system. I’m sure something has been written about it over the course of a century.

    I’m sure the Ramsey County Sheriff would love to take over service throughout the county, including within the City of St. Paul.

    Jim Ragsdale is one of the Press’s best assets.

    I don’t suppose we could mount the head of the father who let his 12 year-old daughter take a bear he knew to be tagged.

  11. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/10/2010 - 10:06 am.

    The German (and Norwegian and Swiss and ?) health care system.

    I’d guess the trip to Germany is to study why it is that, even with private insurers instead of a socialized system, these European countries cost up to half what we spend here and leave no one without care. The reason is that they structure their systems to respond to the health care needs of their people instead of the profits of insurers.

    1) All insurers are non-profits tightly regulated by the government

    2) Insurance is mandated, but the government picks up all or part of its cost for those with low or no incomes

    3) The government reviews health care costs and insurance premium prices each year and allows insurers to raise their premiums only as much as needed to cover increased costs

    4) On the basis of this review, the government updates its common set of benefits — all citizens receive the same level of care — and sets a single price for premiums

    4) Insurers compete only the level of customer service they provide

    5) Insurers make a living instead of a killing. As the Swiss say, they are not allowed to profit from people’s suffering.

    The Massachusetts plan and the new federal plan were both modeled somewhat after this European sysem. Both have good points and valuable benefits. Neither, however, has put any limits on what insurers can charge. The result is that we can look for higher premiums year after year and for more low-premium/spotty coverage plans for those too poor to afford comprehensive coverage.

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