Power

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I went to a new restaurant and hated it – there were too many menu choices and they all sounded so good that I couldn’t decide because I worried there was a better choice.

Cops have that problem.  The deputy sheriff guarding our building wears a Batman Belt giving her the choice of responding to problems with handcuffs, baton, pepper spray, Taser, pistol . . . too late, you’re dead.  Took too long to decide because you were worried there was a better choice.

We should go back to the old way: nightstick and a pistol, forget the rest.  If you go in the cop car peacefully, we won’t need handcuffs; if not, you’ll either go in the ambulance or the hearse and again, we won’t need handcuffs.  Should make the rules of behavior easier for cops and much clearer for People Whose Lives Matter.

Joe Doakes

I’m gonna indulge in a rare disagreement with Joe here.  The less we treat cops like medieval knights and civilians like peasants, the better.

Protection For We, But Not For Ye

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Some local folks lost their home for non-payment of real estate taxes.  Their son allegedly showed up at the county offices, threatened some staff, broke a window.  A restraining order was issued but staff wasn’t satisfied.

“A piece of paper won’t keep him away, he might come back with a gun. We need protection,” they told the County Manager.

Like what?  A guy with a badge?  We have that, the private security guard at the door.

No, he’s just a rent-a-cop.  We are a unit of County government, we want a Deputy Sheriff.

Pull a deputy off patrol to babysit an office building?  How about a Reserve Deputy?  Wears the same uniform and badge, is that okay?

No, Reserve Deputies don’t carry a gun.  We want a real deputy.

So what you want is a Good Guy with a Gun to defend you from the possible Bad Guy with a Gun?

Not necessarily, it could be a female deputy; but basically, yes.

So we got one, she’s been sitting in the squad in the parking lot.  With her gun.

Amazing how being personally targeted clarifies one’s thinking.

Heather Martens would be appalled.

Joe Doakes

Well, I for one think Heather would looooove a police state.

The Madding Horde

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

“Doc. No. XXX is stated as being expired, but was not listed on the spread sheet. Please make sure that this is inserted and in the future when you discover a new one please add it to the list. Thanks much.”

Another example of a clerical mind-set employee who knows the procedures, but not the reason for the procedures.

I started the spreadsheet as a way for me to track expired restrictive covenants that kept showing up in conveyances. Most of those documents were recorded by developers in the 1950’s, before suburbs had zoning ordinances, so they afflicted whole subdivisions with crap like “can’t build closer than X feet from the property line” or “building must be at least X square feet” and of course, the ever popular “cannot sell to colored people.” They expired under the 40-year law but must be manually removed each time I see one.

Unless the restrictive covenants reserved easements for utilities or drainage, in which case they can’t be manually removed but instead must be corrected to say “reserves easement.”

I created the spread sheet so I wouldn’t have to read the restrictive covenant document every time; instead, I’d glance at the spread sheet to see which ones had to be carried forward with corrections and which could be omitted.

The document in question is a deed that affected one single platted lot. It did not reserve easements. So I ordered it removed. Now that it’s been removed, it’ll never be a problem in the future. Do we need to list that deed on the spreadsheet? No, of course not. But she has to make a point of sending an email to the whole office reminding us to do it, just to be certain we know that she’s paying attention to every single thing we do, searching for mistakes to correct them, to prove how valuable she is. It’s “quality control,” you see. To enhance “customer service.”

Except it’s not a mistake, I deliberately chose not to clutter up the spread sheet with useless data. The employee knows the procedure but not the reason for the procedure, and therefore confuses the means with the end. Of course, saying so would be mansplaining, a hurtful and sexist thing to do, and elitist because I have a degree as well as ageist since she’s been here 30 years and it’s disrespectful not to respect her opinion, even if wrong.

You wonder why government isn’t fast on its feet – it’s because of all the ankle-biters slowing us down.

Joe Doakes

Government bureaucracy – where people are penalized for being too good at their jobs.

Let Them Eat Paper

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Divorce case recently appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, sent back for more fact-finding on this question: were the parties even married? The Court of Appeals’ reasoning infuriates me.

When you fled to Thailand in 1975 to escape the Communists after the Americans abandoned Southeast Asia, and you got “married” to this guy that you met in a refugee camp, did you file a marriage certificate with the Thailand government? No? Well, then, the fact you’ve lived together for 40 years, had six kids together, filed married tax returns and owned real estate in Minnesota is interesting trivia but really, lady, if you can’t be bothered to fill out the proper forms, we have no sympathy for you at all. Shacking up with a guy – even with the tribal elders’ blessing – doesn’t give you the privilege to use the Minnesota divorce court. You can’t get divorced if you were never legally married.

Dude. It’s a refugee camp. There IS no government. And if there were, you’d be a fool to bring attention to yourself. No self-respecting government would issue a marriage certificate without a birth certificate, proof of residency, passport stamps showing legal entry, resident alien visa and payment of appropriate fees to every bureaucrat . . . none of which is possible in a war zone. You couldn’t get “legally” married even if you wanted to. It’s a REFUGEE camp.

Oh, and your husband claims you were already married to another guy when he married you. Well, yes, the guy who stayed behind to cover our escape. No, I don’t have a death certificate but I strongly suspect he was captured by the Pathet Lao so what do you think happened to him? No, I didn’t serve him with a Divorce Summons; there was nobody crazy enough to go back to serve it so I could get divorced while I was struggling to survive IN THE REFUGEE CAMP.

It’s as if these judges lived all their lives in safe, comfortable First World suburbs where the biggest disruption in life is weak Wi-Fi signal; they literally cannot conceive of a place where there are no forms to complete, no pens to complete them, no office to file them in.

Madness.

Joe Doakes

What happened to official Minnesota’s vaunted “cultural sensitivity?”

A Bargain At Half The Price!

I was listening to Jack Tomczak talking with AFSCME’s Javier Morillo on the lesser talk station yesterday, about the Dayton pay raises.

Morillo said, out of one corner of his mouth, that there is no way you could find people in the private sector who deal with headcounts and budgets like these administrators do, at the same pay, even with the raises.

And there may be something to that.  Most people who can hold their own in the private sector and look for more out of a career than a pension (outside of law enforcement and fire, the military, teachers and a few other fields) look at government work as a purgatory of eternal frustration and career stagnation.

But out of the other side of his mouth, he said that the salaries still aren’t competitive with the private sector.

So if the salaries are not competitive, the “talent” still isn’t going to get attracted from the private sector (or, apparently, local government). So why have the raises?

It doesn’t make sense as a “talent acquisition” measure; Morillo admitted as much.

But as an expanded payoff to the political class?

There, it makes perfect sense.

Sense And Insensibility

Barack Obama is highly unpopular in the military.

And yet many of his policies are going over just fine among the troops:

The long-term effects of Obama’s social policies on the military remain unknown. But one thing is clear: He is a deeper unpopular commander in chief among the troops.

According to a Military Times survey of almost 2,300 active-duty service members, Obama’s popularity — never high to begin with — has crumbled, falling from 35 percent in 2009 to just 15 percent this year, while his disapproval ratings have increased to 55 percent from 40 percent over that time.

And before someone chimes in “it’s just anti-gay bigotry in the military, angry over the lifting of the sanction against gay troops”…:

A Military Times poll in 2009 found 35 percent of troops felt that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve in uniform. Five years later, that figure has jumped to 60 percent.

Similarly, open opposition to homosexuality in the military has collapsed. In 2009, 49 percent of troops felt gays, lesbians and bisexuals should not be allowed to serve. In 2014, such disapproval fell to just 19 percent. 

Or against women in combat?

From 2011 to 2014, the percentage of survey respondents who felt that all jobs in combat arms units should be opened to women remained unchanged at 24 percent.

But the percentage of troops who felt some combat-arms jobs should be opened up to women — while allowing the military to continue to place some jobs off-limits — increased from 34 percent to 41 percent, while the percentage of respondents who felt the military should not change its policies excluding women from combat arms units fell from 43 percent in 2011 to 28 percent in 2014.

I’m going to suggest that while his policies may not be unpopular among the military, the fact that he’s a terrible leader is.

Lynced

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

My work now has Microsoft Lync, an instant messaging system intended for internal communications. It’s an alternative to inter-office mail, e-mail, fax, telephone or walking down the hall to talk to somebody at their desk.

Why do we need it another form of internal communication? E-mail is retained on servers which costs money, and retained e-mails are discoverable in lawsuits. Instant messages won’t tie up storage space on servers (which will save money) and won’t be discoverable in litigation.

Except . . . we’re government. EVERYTHING we do should be discoverable, that’s the point of Sunshine Laws. And if we don’t want to pay to store e-mail, then don’t store it – establish a retention policy and delete everything after a short time.

Joe Doakes

At my most recent employer, every Lync session started with a notice that *everything*  you wrote and presented was being recorded.

But it wouldn’t astound me if Ramco used Lync to skirt the rules…

Hell: Freezing?

The Star/Tribune Editorial Board, perhaps shockingly, called for a special prosecutor in the IRS Scandal:

That’s a necessary step, and the request should be expediently heeded by the Obama administration. Although there are two investigations underway in the Republican-controlled House, a nonpartisan review by an investigator with bipartisan respect and technological expertise is sorely needed. The public needs reassurance that the nation’s tax-collection agency is run with integrity and that anyone who may have abused its formidable authority has been held accountable.

So far, so good.

But then we swerve into the weeds:

The decision on whether to appoint a special prosecutor, officially called a special counsel, lies with the Department of Justice.

That’s long for Eric Holder.  The guy who’s been stonewalling several other investigations of Obama administration corruption, Fast and Furious chief among them.

IRS officials have insisted that the lost e-mails were just an unfortunate computer meltdown and that the extra scrutiny of groups with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in their names was a regrettable mistake. If this is trumped-up, as Democrats often and sometimes accurately deride other House investigations, there’s nothing to fear by appointing a special prosecutor to put this long-simmering scandal to bed.

Or – as Holder will do – whitewash it. 

Still – while the Strib’s editorial board exhibits its inner pollyanna about the DOJ’s inner gestalt, at least it’s heart is in the right place, kind of:

It’s foolish to think this is going to blow over — or that it should. A May 2013 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration unequivocally concluded that the agency used “inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions.’’…a thorough reading of the report underscores that conservative groups were targeted.

The real question is:  can we, The People, trust an Obama Administration appointee to police his boss? 

There was a time we could count on the media to ensure someone like Holder’s behavior would be above board. 

Perhaps we need a special investigator into that

Straw

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Naturally, I favor the dissent in the Abramski straw-buyer gun case.  This section caught my eye:

That Abramski’s reading does not render the Act’s requirements “meaningless” is further evidenced by the fact that, for decades, even ATF itself did not read the statute to criminalize conduct like Abramski’s. After Congress passed the Act in 1968, ATF’s initial position was that the Act did not prohibit the sale of a gun to an eligible buyer acting on behalf of a third party (even an ineligible one). See Hearings Before the Subcommittee To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 94th Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 1, 118 (1975).A few years later, ATF modified its position and asserted that the Act did not “prohibit a dealer from making a sale to a person who is actually purchasing the firearm for another person” unless the other person was “prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm,” in which case the dealer could be guilty of “unlawfully aiding the prohibited person’s own violation.” ATF, Industry Circular 79–10(1979), in (Your Guide To) Federal Firearms Regulation1988–89 (1988), p. 78. The agency appears not to have adopted its current position until the early 1990’s. See United States v. Polk, 118 F. 3d 286, 295, n. 7 (CA5 1997).

The majority deems this enforcement history “not relevant” because the Government’s reading of a criminal statute is not entitled to deference. Ante, at 22. But the fact that the agency charged with enforcing the Act read it, over a period of roughly 25 years, not to apply to the type of conduct at issue here is powerful evidence that interpreting the Act in that way is natural and reasonable and does not make its requirements “meaningless.”

“Even if the statute were wrongly thought to be ambigu­ous on this point, the rule of lenity would defeat the Gov­ernment’s construction. It is a “familiar principle” that “‘ambiguity concerning the ambit of criminal statutes should be resolved in favor of lenity.’” Skilling v. United States, 561 U. S. 358, 410 (2010). That principle prevents us from giving the words of a criminal statute “a meaning that is different from [their] ordinary, accepted meaning, and that disfavors the defendant.” Burrage v.United States, 571 U. S. ___, ___ (2014) (slip op., at 12). And it means that when a criminal statute has two possible readings, we do not “‘choose the harsher alternative’” unless Congress has “‘spoken in language that is clear and definite.’” United States v. Bass, 404 U. S. 336, 347–349 (1971). For the reasons given above, it cannot be said that the statute unambiguously commands the Government’s current reading. It is especially contrary to sound practice to give this criminal statute a meaning that the Govern­ment itself rejected for years.”

I wasn’t aware the government had reversed its interpretation of the statute and I never heard of a rule of lenity.  But the dissent makes sense to me.

Joe Doakes

Further proof that:

  • We have too many laws
  • The fact that our laws are enforced, not enforced, or overeenforced at the discretion of government according to political priorities is a sign that your government is becoming more lawless, and merely turning into the gang with the coolest guns.

Time to fix both.

Outsourced

Georgia town privatizes just about everything that’s not elected; the experiment has been a raving success.

Sandy Springs, Georgia has, for the past nine years, privatized just about every facet of government:

To grasp how unusual this is, consider what Sandy Springs does not have. It does not have a fleet of vehicles for road repair, or a yard where the fleet is parked. It does not have long-term debt. It has no pension obligations. It does not have a city hall, for that matter, if your idea of a city hall is a building owned by the city. Sandy Springs rents.

The town does have a conventional police force and fire department, in part because the insurance premiums for a private company providing those services were deemed prohibitively high. But its 911 dispatch center is operated by a private company, iXP, with headquarters in Cranbury, N.J.

“When it comes to public safety, outsourcing has always been viewed with a kind of suspicion,” says Joseph Estey, who manages the Sandy Springs 911 service in a hushed gray room a few miles from city hall. “What I think really tipped the balance here is that they were outsourcing just about everything else.”

Critics’ response, summarized?  “Yeah, but Sandy Springs is wealthy!  And white!  And privatizing government leads to gated communities!”

Responses?

  • Sure, it’s wealthy! (And 30% minority).  And they get to keep a lot more of that wealth than if they were in a city where government was the biggest for-profit enterprise.
  • Flint and Detroit were wealthy, too, before successive waves of government and big-union rent-seeking gutted them like deer.
  • If people decide to vote with their feet and hard-earned money for “gated communities”, that’s more a verdict on government than on them.  But it’s irrelevant; Sandy Springs is not a “gated community”; it’s a city that privatized every government function that could be put into a contract.

Mention this in the Twin Cities, of course, and people will recall the Saint Paul suburb that tried to contract out its snow-plowing.  According to accounts (written by government union members), it didn’t work well.  Of course, the contract – written by those same government workers – didn’t spell out performance standards, or at least spelled them out in a form that befitted a group of unionized city workers, if you catch my drift and I think you do.

You can predict the panic in response:

The prospect of more Sandy Springs-style incorporations concerns people like Evan McKenzie, author of “Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government.” He worries that rich enclaves may decide to become gated communities writ large, walling themselves off from areas that are economically distressed.

“You could get into a ‘two Americas’ scenario here,” he says. “If we allow the more affluent to institutionally isolate themselves, then the poor are supposed to do — what? They’re supposed to have all the poverty and all the social problems and deal with them?”

Evan.  Bubbie.  Listen up.

In Chicago, the places were Rahm Emanuel and the Obama family live are as safe as a pediatric ICU.  Mere blocks away, the streets are shooting galleries.  This, in one of the most over-governed, over-bureaucratized cities in the country.

We don’t have “two Americas” now?

Doakes Sunday: Stand And Deliver

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

California students sued, claiming teacher tenure laws were unconstitutional.

“The students argued that they had terrible teachers who were nearly impossible to fire and who kept them from getting good educations.”

Students won in California.  They’re talking about bringing an action in other states, including Minnesota.  Can’t wait.

Joe Doakes

One can hope.  But I have to think Education Minnesota has been more diligent about buying judges than California was…

“The Dog Ate Our Hard Drive”

Now the Administration is claiming that Lois Lerner’s hard drive was lost, destroyed or recycled, so her emails may be lost forever. 

I’m not a networking guy, but I still call BS.

Perhaps if…

  • Lois Lerner’s hard drive
  • Lerner’s work-group’s email server’s hard drive
  • The RAID (large redundant hard-disk) array(s) and/or backup tape(s) to which Lerner’s work group email server backed up its emails
  • Any of the number of tapes, and/or mirrors of RAID arrays, to which the emails had been backed up in the interest of “disaster recovery”…

…(in other words, the exact same level of backup to which any private entity would be required to adhere to by law, or face default judgment in the event of litigation, including (especially!) from the IRS, and the level of backup all levels of all serious business practice to make sure they can respond to legal action, to say nothing of things like, well, hard drives going bad)…

…had all been “lost, destroyed or recycled”, they’d have a point. 

Odds?

INCIDENTAL NOTE:  This post is #11,000 since November, 2006.  Apropos nothing.

Oceania Has Never Bullied Eastasia, Winston

The bill that the Metrocrats chose to call the “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act” passed the Senate. 

Let’s look at what’s in a name.  Because the name “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act” is intensely misleading – almost to a geometric fault.

There are so many names for this bill that are more appropriate:

The Redundant Feel-Good Act:  Every school district already has a bullying policy.  It’s the law. 

The PC Payoff Act:  This bill – probably soon to be a law – is a chit being paid back to the DFL’s supporters by the party currently in power, creating not only a protected class of students, but a super-di-duper protected class. 

The Full Employment For Bureaucrats Act:  This bill – which creates a huge unfunded mandate on top of all the others foisted on our school systems, to the point where many districts are nothing but mandate delivery systems with occasional spurts of “education” – will create a whole new class of administrators.  And they’ll belong to unions, who donate their dues money to the DFL. 

The Full Employment For Trial Lawyers Act:  The bill makes the entire process of dealing with “bullying” even more legalistic than it already is.  Legalistic means “designed to be controlled, and especially litigated (at an exquisitely expensive hourly rate) by lawyers”. 

The Type-Cast Your Child For Life Act:  Everything related to everything that can be defined as “bullying”, no matter how torturously, will become part of a child’s permanent academic record.  Which will affect childrens’ future chances at higher education, jobs, the military, jobs requiring security clearances and the like, long after the child has grown out of whatever phase they were in when they were bullies (and that’s assume they were rightly and justly accused of “bullying”, since the bill is also…)

“Stasi Had The Right Idea!” Act:   Anonymous informants?  Giving those who accuse others of bullying complete immunity from consequences if it turns out that the accusations were fabricated? 

The “Further Proof That North Dakotans Are Smarter Than Minnesotans” Act:  Other states – including our grown-up neighbor, my home state of North Dakota – address bullying by addressing bullying, passing laws that address actual behavior rather than creating the infrastructure for a network of secret denunciations and…

The Ideology Police Act:  …making all beliefs that don’t toe the PC line, especially personal religious beliefs, however manifested or stated, a form of behavior that needs to be watched and suppressed, overtly or subtly, “for the good of the children”.       

The “Let’s Have More Bullying, Not Less!” Act:  Bullying tends to go up, rather than down, in places with bullying bills.   

The Metrocrat Power Grab Of 2014 Act:  The bill – which does nothing to address bullying of children that isn’t already covered by existing policies – does coalesce more power to indoctrinate, to punish dissent from the state-sanctioned social views, and to extort more from the taxpayer in the bargain.  And it does it during the last session during which the DFL is guaranteed absolute power.                 

Could someone in the legislature please see to this?

An Extra In The Security Theatre

I’m going to commit to you this longish piece by Jason Harrington, “Dear America: I Saw You Naked“, from Politico.  It chronicles his time as a grad student marooned as a TSA screener at O’Hare. 

Of course, if you’re reading this blog, it’s likely as not you aren’t a huge TSA fan.  And for all that, there are probably things in Harrington’s piece that’ll still get you mad.

But I am linking to this because it’d seem Mr. Harrington and I must have met. 

Because this person:

Every now and then, a passenger would throw up two middle fingers during his or her scan, as though somehow aware of the transgressions going on.

That’s me. 

Every time I fly.

Pretty Much A Summation Of Relative Levels Of Government Spitefulness

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

If you speak out against Chris Christie for Governor, you get stuck in traffic for a while.

If you speak out against President Barak Obama, you get audited by the IRS, even if you’re dying of cancer.

Joe Doakes

In politics, people who think their ends justify their means are pretty much at the root of every evil, from planned traffic jams to the Holodomor.

Blight of Day

Is Detroit’s new-found cause célèbre ignoring the past to cloud the future?

George Clooney had the Sudan.  Bono has Africa.  Anthony Bourdain – and much of the American media – apparently has Detroit.

Michigan’s So Not Grand Central Station: built in 1912 and on the national registry of historic places. It was closed in 1988 and is one of Detroit’s estimated 78,000 abandoned buildings.

In recent months, the city of Detroit has witnessed two narratives arise in Phoenix-like fashion from the economic ashes of the city, often in conjecture with themselves.  One is the purported economic revitalization of the city that gave birth to Motown and the American automotive industry.  It is a narrative fostered by Quicken Loans founder (and Cleveland Cavs owners) Dan Gilbert who, among others, has put millions into Detroit to try and restore its grandeur.  The other narrative, the so-called “ruin porn” seen in picture form below, depicts Detroit as a third-world ghetto.  A Somalia on the St. Clair River.

The former delights the denizens of Detroit with hopes of a better future.  The latter rankles them.  Gilbert himself expressed outrage when 60 Minutes balance their report on the Motor City between Gilbert’s altruism and the destruction of the out-lying portions of the city, comparing it to Dresden after the Allied bombing of World War II.  Gilbert tweeted a defiant message, stating “a city’s soul that will not die was the story & they missed it.”  But even a sympathetic, blue-collar soul as Bourdain, whose CNN show Parts Unknown highlighted the city last night, saw the need to balance Detroit’s attempts to pick itself up off the ground with the stark realities of a city undone.

The Fisher Body Plant: once part of the GM empire

Both narratives ignore the Chrysler in the room – how Detroit got to where it is today.

If the “ruin porn” industry renders pity without judgement, the acts of Dan Gilbert and others, as well-intended as they obviously are, seek a future for Detroit without acknowledging its past or present.  Not once in 60 Minutes‘ coverage did the story’s telejournalism deal with the political causes for Detroit’s decay – a corrupt, one-party institution burrowed like a tick into City Hall.  Equally, if differently, ignorant are the views of Gilbert et al who believe that once their plans to remove all of Detroit’s blight (78,000 buildings), capital will come easily rushing back into the city:

Gilbert is no fan of urban farming, though. When he envisions land cleared of  blight, he sees developers rushing in to build anew…

“When that blight is gone, maybe we don’t have to be talking about shrinking cities because it will be such a rush of people who want to get into low-value housing — when all the utilities are there and the land is pretty much close to free— not exactly free, but close to it — and all the utilities are there, it becomes very cheap for a builder/developer to develop a residential unit, and they are going to develop them and develop them in mass as soon as we get the structures down and maybe we don’t have to worry about raising peas or corn or whatever it is you do in the farm.”

The Highland Park Police Station: even Detroit’s police stations no longer want anything to do with the city

And what will cause developers (yet alone individuals or businesses) to return to a city with the highest property tax rate in the country?  What will encourage retail industries when Michigan’s sales tax is 6% on top of that?  Detroit’s backers can honestly claim that the city ranks no where near the top of the tax chain (Detroit ranks 92nd nationally; Minneapolis is 52nd by comparison).  But the tax climate is far from ideal, especially the dubbed “most dangerous city in America” with a murder rate 10-times the national average.  Throw in a 58-minute response time for police, to attract businesses back, Detroit may literally need the fictional hero RoboCop (to whom a statue is being built – seriously).

There isn’t much evidence that Detroit is about to change its ways.

The Merrill Fountain at Palmer Park: has sat empty for 50 years since being moved from the Opera House.  Vandals have stolen much of it.

The Merrill Fountain at Palmer Park: has sat empty for 50 years since being moved from the Opera House. Vandals have stolen much of it.

Since Governor Rick Snyder’s decision to appoint emergency manager Kevyn Orr last spring, Detroit’s journey to bankruptcy has been managed with minimal (some would say no) input from City Hall.  As the case has headed to court, where Orr has testified about Detroit’s long-term debts of $18 billion, city officials have fought the measure almost every step of the way.  The election of Mike Duggan as mayor, the former head of the Detroit Medical Center, has been advertised as the promotion of a turnaround artist.  But while Duggan had success revitalizing the city’s Medical Center, Duggan also ran on opposing Orr’s decisions and comes as a political protégé of former Wayne County Executive Edward McNamara – an official who backed the cartoonishly corrupt Kwame Kilpatrick and had FBI agents and state police raid his own office in November 2002, over alleged corruption in airport contracts and campaign fundraising.  Meet the new boss.

The American Hotel: built in 1926, the hotel is 11 stories high with over 300 rooms. It has remained vacant since the early 90’s.

Oh, there have been the requisite platitudes.  Duggan and Orr have broken bread in what was described as a “very good first meeting.”  And Duggan has said all the right things that a reformer would state, such as being “a huge believer in lean processing. If you are not excellent at making systems work, you cannot survive…”

But the inertia of the status quo has been apparent even after only one week from the election.  The Michigan House Appropriations Committee ranking Democrat Rep. Fred Durhal, Jr. is angry that Duggan hasn’t called him yet.  Metro Detroit AFL-CIO President Chris Michalakis essentially threw down a polite ultimatum that Duggan must “honor” his commitment to working families, while suggesting the labor doesn’t trust the new mayor.  Duggan claims he just wants a seat at the table as Detroit’s debts are solved, and if Synder and Orr are smart, they’ll allow it.

Wilbur Wright High School: closed in 2005, this building actually is among the few on this list that has been demolished. 10,000 buildings have been torn down in Detroit since 2010.

The decision to abrogate Detroit’s city government in the bankruptcy process may have been politically necessary (Detroit certainly hasn’t come to grips with its position despite many, many, many opportunities), but doing so has allowed Snyder and Orr to play the villain while the usual suspects who caused this economic disaster play the victim.  However, it’s also allowed Snyder to take all the credit too.  67% of Michigan voters approved the move back in March (including 41% of Detroit), and the decision has given Snyder a welcome bump in his approval rating.  That’s a short term political fix to a long-term structural problem.

Mike Duggan may be a product of the system that failed Detroit, but he’s viewed warily by both it.  Orr’s contract expires in the fall of 2014; Duggan and the City Council can vote whether or not to renew it – almost literally the only voice they have in the process.  If that’s the first time Duggan has to impact the process, he’ll have likely caved by then to labor, vote to end Orr’s tenure and – more importantly – work to undo reforms set in place.  Should Rick Snyder not return in 2015, an opportunity to address Detroit’s deeper fundamental problems will have passed and a new administration will slap a band-aid bailout on the city, and hope more journalists write about Dan Gilbert than urban hunters who live off of raccoon to supplement their meals.

Teacher Of The Year

Perhaps you’ve heard; Minnesota’s new “Teacher of the Year”, Saint Paul science teacher Megan Hall seems to have answered the question “are today’s public schools nothing but left-wing indoctrination centers” with a rousing “Hell yeah!”

This is from her acceptance speech, with emphasis added by me:

Teachers are persistent and responsible and generous because we believe that every child in America, regardless of circumstances of birth, deserves a decent chance at a good life. [Applause] From where I stand, teachers create equality of opportunity. From where I stand, teaching is a profession that takes a gritty patriotism. And from where I stand, teachers are American democracy’s last line of defense against the tyranny of the 1 percent

Don’t believe me?  Here’s the video

How over the top was it?  Even the City Pages’ Aaron Rupar seemed to feel a little uncomfortable: “Yeah, maybe that would’ve been a good line to save for when you’re having beers with your liberal buddies after the speech”.

For all I know Ms. Hall is a perfectly adequate teacher – and in my experience in the Saint Paul Public Schools, adequate would have been pretty superlative.

But I have to wonder:  if Ms. Hall is protecting the students from “the 1%”, who is going to protect them from the Saint Paul Public Schools?

Because between the child abuse, the brain-dead kommissariat masquerading as a bureaucracy, and the massive horde of intellectually-walking-dead union members Ms. Hall shares a district with?

I’ll take my chance with those gol-durned rich folks, thanks.

But look at it her way; I suppose if I taught for a district with the worst major-market achievement gap in the United States, with a minority graduation rate lower than Miley Cyrus’ neckline, a district that minority parents were decamping from as fast as they can find open spaces in charter schools or suburban schools via open enrollment, I’d look for a scapegoat too.

Pitch Meeting

Joe Doakes of Como Park emails:

The Capitol Shooting story is looking less heroic and more like a blunder. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence she was a threat, only that she panicked when she turned into the wrong driveway.

Might make a good opening sequence for an action/thriller movie.

Black, single mother, divorced from abusive spouse, lives in Maryland but commutes to work in D.C. for some government agency. Walking down the corridor, she hears raised voices. Her boss, a nice Latina woman, is being given orders by a flabby middle-aged White man in a wrinkled suit. He demands she harass the administration’s political opponents, a group of Black, lesbian, abused, single mothers called BLAM, or he’ll have Social Services take her kids away.

The man sees a shadow, realizes he has an eavesdropper, gives chase. She runs out of the building. She wants to blow the whistle to higher authorities but her cell phone rings – her kid at daycare has a fever and they insist she pick up the kid immediately. She gets the kid in the car and heads for the FBI to report the crime but D.C. traffic is a nightmare because of the shut-down, streets closed, veterans in wheelchairs protesting at a monument. She turns into the wrong driveway by mistake, the cops yell and draw their guns. She’s afraid they are after her because of what she overheard, panics, drives off, is chased down and shot dead by half-a-dozen Capitol Security cops. Her child is left crying by the side of the road.

A brave investigative journalist decides to take on the Administration to get justice for the child. This is her story. Coming soon to a theatre near you.

I was thinking Julia Roberts for the lead but since you have such a close, personal relationship with Scarlett Johansson, I thought maybe you two could do lunch and work it out. Have your people call hers, won’t you?

Joe Doakes

I’m on it.

Your Tax Dollars Hard At Work

Governor Dayton is going to pay back the unions that bought his office for him – and he doesn’t care how much of your money he spends to do it:

In his relentless effort to pay back the unions for his close victory in 2010, Governor Mark Dayton is sending the state’s lawyers into court Thursday July 18th to argue against a group of childcare providers who are trying to block implementation of a new law. The new law was passed over strong Republican opposition in the 2013 session and will force childcare providers, most of whom are small independent businesses, to join a union.

…unless they stop taking state money, which means the availability of daycare for low-income parents is going to drop. 

Thursday’s court action is just the latest in a long running battle between Mark Dayton and small childcare providers who take care of Minnesota children while their parents go to work.

  • Shortly after his election, Governor Dayton tried to force a union vote on childcare providers through executive order. That action was blocked by a Minnesota district court judge who ruled Dayton had grossly overstepped the limits of his power.
  • With the help of $11 million in campaign spending from his union allies, Gov. Dayton succeeded in flipping both the House and Senate in 2012 into a more union-friendly Democratic majority.
  • During the 2013 session, despite overwhelming opposition from childcare providers and parents, Dayton and his new legislature passed a law that will force small independent childcare providers into a union against their will. The law will also drive up the cost of childcare for all Minnesota families while leaving fewer choices for those with lower incomes.

If you’ve got time to make it to a court hearing, tomorrow (Thursday) would be the day for it.  It’ll be at 9:30AM in room 15E of the Federal Courthouse in Minneapolis. 

Governor Dayton is turning his back on Minnesota families by asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed. Show your support for Minnesota families by attending the hearing.

You can be sure plenty of hangers-on in purple and yellow shirts will be there.