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death trap alley

“Pray for me, I drive Highway 60”.

That is the slogan of the Southwest Minnesota Highway 60 Action Corporation that was organized in 1960. The groups purpose back then, as it is today, was to promote the improvement of Minnesota TH 60. They are still praying and waiting 48 years later. Last Thursday, July 24, 380 people gathered in Windom to share their experiences about traveling on Highway 60 and to urge Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) officials to complete the 4-lane expansion.

MNDOT Commissioner Thomas K. Sorel got an earful as about 25 of the 380 in attendance were able to speak over the course of the two and a half hour meeting. Worthington Daily Globe reporter Julie Buntjer covered the event and led her story with this:

One by one they walked to the microphone, sat down and shared their death-defying experiences on a stretch of Minnesota 60 that not once, not twice, but three times changes from two-lane to four-lane traffic between Windom and St. James.  

From an aunt, friend and cousin who shared their stories of 28-year-old Jamie Torkelson, killed in a head-on collision on the highway on May 6, 2005, to retired school bus drivers, business people, truck drivers and city and county leaders — they pleaded with newly-appointed transportation commissioner Thomas Sorel and MnDOT officials to find the money to complete the four-lane expansion.

The Cottonwood County Citizen also covered the event: Highway 60 meeting attracts 380 to Windom Community Center.

Two area lawmakers and state transportation commissioner Thomas Sorel left Windom with a stronger sense of Highway 60’s flaws and the public’s resolve after last night’s meeting at the Windom Community Center.More than 380 people were on hand, several of them were there specifically to provide testimony on the dangers of the controversial highway. One after another, residents testified about cases where motorists became confused by the highway’s mixture of two-lane and four-lane stretches. Most stories ended with someone in the wrong lane and a “near miss,” injuries, or a fatality.

 

The room fell dead silent following two different stories regarding close calls involving school buses full of students.

 

Lawmakers, such as Sen. Jim Vickerman and Rep. Rod Hamilton expressed frustration that MnDOT leaders have failed to comply with a bill the state’s lawmakers approved this past spring - a bill that requires all of Highway 60 to be completed. Read the rest here.  

 

 

Rahn Larson, editor of the Cottonwood County Citizen, questions the power and decision making of the officials at MNDOT in his editorial: MnDot vs. lawmakers?  Larson asks:

Can a state agency simply refuse to enact an order passed by the Minnesota Legislature?

He then goes on to list a number of facts that proves the intent of the legislature to finish Highway 60 and then has this to say:

OK, so the bill was approved and the legislative intent was confirmed and even stressed to MnDOT leaders at least twice. So the real question is this: “Who is calling the shots for Minnesota - the legislature, or department heads for the various departments?

 

State Senator Jim Vickerman (DFL) and Representative Rod Hamilton (GOP) were both at this meeting in Windom but missing in action was Representative Doug Magnus (GOP). Of course it was probably a wise decision on his part to stay away from such a large gathering since he supported Governor Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the transportation legislation. Fortunately the legislature was able to overide that veto.

In the coming week we will probably find out if Governor Pawlenty will be chosen as McCain’s running mate. He will probably bring along his veto pen. We will also remember the collapse of the I35W bridge. Our infrasturcture needs our obvious and urgent and we could use some real leadership on this issue. Unfortunately we have not received that from the Governor or Representative Magnus.

The Worthington Daily Globe has this compelling audio of Hillary Mathis speaking of her cousin’s tragic death on Highway 60.

(click the arrow)

 

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

 

 

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DFL Senate candidate Al Franken stopped in Luverne last Thursday as part of his “Standing up for Minnesota Tour. He spoke at the Coffey Haus and toured the local ethanol plant. Lori Ehde from the Rock County Star Herald has the story here.

Thanks to the Star Herald for the video.

UPDATE: Here is link to the video page:

http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1398270246/bclid1600122511/bctid1610678233

Sorry for the inconvenience

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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Former Minnesota Attorney General and runner-up in the last gubernatorial race, Mike Hatch, in a statement released to Eric Black at MinnPost.com had this comment about union organizing in the AG’s office:

 “With 3,000 cases pending at any time, the state cannot have a jamboree of chickadees chirping different legal policy from every branch of government,” Hatch said in his statement.

AFSCME Minnesota Council 5Executive Director Eliot Seide took offence to that comment as reported by Doug Grow at MinnPost.com.

 Seide says all union members should be outraged at being referred to as “chirping chickadees.”

He noted that people in all sorts of professional backgrounds are in unions in state government, including assistant district attorneys in counties throughout the state, even the biggest, Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

“Are these people just chirping chickadees?” he asked.

Well, maybe they are. Scientists have discovered that the chickadee has a distinct call when threatened by predators and have been know to mob together to fend of the predator. They also have an uncanny memory. They can gather and store food in thousands of places and come back much later and find all of their hidden secrets food.

Maybe if people did a little more bird watching and a little less power grabbing we wouldn’t have this mess.

Read my previous posts on the troubles in the AG office here, here, and here. Then watch the video. 

 

 

 

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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Dana Yost reports in the Marshall Independent that Minnesota House of Representatives Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall will have a challenger for the 21A seat in November. Al Kruse of Marshall made his announcement Friday that he woul been running against 12 year incumbent Marty Seifert.

From the paper:

Al Kruse of Marshall said Friday he is running against Seifert.

“We’re definitely an underdog,” Kruse said of his campaign, acknowledging Seifert’s 12 years of experience in the Legislature, and current status as House minority leader.

“He’s been in place for 12 years, but he ran on term limits. I don’t know what those term limits are, but I guess he hasn’t reached them.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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Early Saturday morning, a minivan with Rock County DFL delegates set out to Albert Lea to attend the 1st CD convention. Despite the blustery winds and icy conditions on I-90 we arrived safely to join the other delegates from across the 1st CD to take care of business. Listening to speeches, electing officers, filling committee spots, etc. is par for the course for conventions. Tedious but necessary. The delegates to the national convention that were elected truly represent the makeup of the 1st CD. Of those chosen were party regulars, an 18 year old first time delegate, and a 75 year old delegate.

The best part of the day of course was the nomination of Tim Walz to represent the people of the 1st Congressional District. The congressman has done an outstanding job in his first term and has worked very hard to restore trust in the people we send to Washington D.C. I have been cynical and often disillusioned with our elected officials. Not so with Tim Walz. I am proud to claim him as my representative. His work ethic, openness, intelligence, values, and manner of speaking are just some of his attributes. He understands the challenges that I face. He understands my wants and my needs. He understands my dreams.

After several nominating speeches from delegates, Gwen Walz, the Congressman’s wife, gave a rousing introduction for her husband which really got the crowd pumped up. Prior to taking the stage, I was lucky enough to capture this moment with the Congressman getting last minute advice on his acceptance speech from his son, Gus.

His daughter Hope, joined him on stage while Gus worked the crowd. Congressman Walz gave a great speech and talked about building the largest grassroots campaign the 1st CD has ever seen. There is one thing about his message today that stuck with me. This campaign is not about Tim Walz.  It is about us taking our democracy back. It is about our hope for the future. It is about the people of the 1st CD. He is one of us and that is why we will send him back to Washington D.C.

 

 

Delegates conducting business

As always, you can find the latest news and views about Tim Walz and the 1st CD at A Bluestem Prairie.

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

 

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Sunday I wrote about Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and the unrest in her office. I also offered a message to the AG. Today I am not surprised but certainly distressed that the AG has put assistant attorney general Amy Lawler on administrative leave. Once again, Eric Black at MinnPost.com has the story. MPR’s Tim Pugmire also reported on the Lawler administrative leave. The audio is here. Pugmire reports:

Swanson sent a packet of information to DFL Legislative leaders this week insisting that state law prevents attorneys in her office from unionizing. She also claimed union organizers have been using a common tactic to stir the pot as their campaign falters.”

Sounds like she has been reading the union busters handbook instead of the text of the Employee Free Choice Act. If the Minnesota law needs to be changed then she should be advocating for that change to allow her staff to freely make their own choice and should not be standing in the way.

While many people are probably not following these events real close or don’t really care, I must confess that I have a certain fondness for the Office of the Attorney General and what they have done in the past to make my life safer. If you have read some of my earlier posts you would know that I work in the meat packing industry. In the mid 90’s MNOSHA came to Worthington to do a wall to wall inspection at the Swift & Co. plant where I work. After a thorough inspection the company was cited for numerous safety violations, many of them serious. Of course the company challenged these citations and was prepared to fight it in court. I won’t bore you with many details but the Attorney General’s office was able to reach a settlement agreement with Swift & Co. (now JBS Swift). The settlement agreement allowed MNOSHA and the AG’s office to monitor abatement progress over a three year time period. As the head of the union safety committee at the time I had the privilege to work with a number of assistant AG’s. They were persistent. They were efficient. They were professional. They were not intimidated by the highly paid and arrogant corporate lawyers who would try anything to get out of compliance with the law. My workplace was made much safer and the corporate attitude on safety turned around because of the efforts of the Attorney General’s office and MNOSHA. The unions efforts alone could not have accomplished that and thousands of workers have benefited.

I am grateful.

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

 

 

 

 

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The recent passage of the transportation bill by the Minnesota House and Senate and the subsequent veto by Governor Tim Pawlenty has created an atmosphere of speculation on the possibility of an override of the veto, and consternation amongst the GOP base over those six Republican House members who voted with the DFL majority.

Rep. Doug Magnus (R), 22A, from my corner of the state, voted against the transportation bill and explained his reasons in an email update and on his official House website. It is standard GOP talking points.

Rep. Rod Hamilton (R), 22B, who represents the other half of our Senate district, voted for the transportation bill. In Hamilton’s email update to constituents he explains why he voted for the bill and also mentions that it may cost him politically. Here are a few excerpts:

I supported the proposal because I am tired of rural Minnesota being
left behind, particularly on transportation, so I decided to do
something about it.  By working with all interests and all parties on
this issue, my constituents will actually see the results if this
transportation bill becomes law… an improved Highway 60.

and this:

Here’s the deal, I am here to work for my constituents.  I’m not
here to carry the Governor’s water or toe the party line.
Politically, I’m getting beat up by members of my party over this.
But one of the top concerns I hear constantly from folks in District 22B
is that our roads and bridges are in need of repair, and we have done
nothing on this issue for years.

and this:

I will likely pay a political price over this decision.  But that’s
OK, because by holding the Highway 60 project over the heads of our
Democratic leadership, we are finally moving that project closer to
completion.  Doing nothing once again for transportation did not seem
like a reasonable option.

Read the entire email here rodhamiltontransportationltr22feb.doc 

The conservative Republican base has threatened to withhold endorsing candidates who voted for the bill and have already carried that threat out in one case. Rep. Kathy Tinglestad (R), 49B has become the first victim as the 49B endorsing convention decided to table the endorsement. The vote to override is expected as soon as Monday so we will see what effect this has on Rep. Hamilton’s vote. Completion of highway 60 has been a priority for as long as I can remember and it is about time to get something done. That will not happen until we decide to get serious about investing in our transportation infrastructure. Apparently Rep. Hamilton feels the same way and believes he should serve the people who elected him. I often disagree with the positions that Rep. Hamilton takes but believe he has made the right choice in this case. I expect that Rep. Magnus will vote to sustain the veto and be standing cheek to cheek with Rep. Marty Seifert.

Dave Mindeman over at mnpACT has a suggestion for the Republicans: Minnesota GOP House: You Represent People NOT Ideology

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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