Monday, November 2, 2009

Support for Barb Johnson, Carol Becker, David Wheeler, and Vote No on 168

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Image from

Since it's in the wee hours when I can do my political statements, I haven't had a chance to check with John about the statement, "This blog endorses..." But there's still more on a NoMi ballot to be filled out.

I support Barb Johnson in the 4th Ward, Carol Becker and David Wheeler for the Board of Estimates and Taxation, and a "No" vote on 168. Here's why...

In a previous post, I shared a story about CM Johnson being right about certain housing issues in NoMi. I don't think I can stress how impressed I, as a mortgage geek, get when someone else demonstrates a deeper understanding of those issues.

CM Johnson has recently taken some heat on the Minneapolis Issues List for her support of the lurking ordinance. That ordinance essentially gives police the ability to take action when someone who has no business at a certain property is acting in a suspicious manner. (There may be a more legalistic way to explain it, but look, it's 1:30 a.m. so this is what you get from me.) Certain rights groups have railed against it as it could be rife for abuse. But the ordinance is a key piece of the puzzle in making our neighborhoods safer.

While we suffer from a dearth of vacant homes, we'll sometimes see a guy (or gal, but mostly guys) with a baby stroller and no baby, hovering around a boarded house. They definitely have no business there, so citizens acting on the city's "adopt vacant houses" directive, call the police. This ordinance gives Minneapolis' finest a tool to protect that house from squatters, arsonists, scrappers, and copper thieves. Thank you Barb Johnson for understanding that and not bowing to external pressure.

As I've said before, I have nothing negative to say about Troy Parker or Marcus Harcus. But there just isn't a demonstrable reason to me why either of them are more qualified than CM Johnson, so she gets my support.

Now we get into the minor arcana of Minneapolis politics in 2009. First up, vote "No" on Charter amendment 168. That is a proposed amendment to merge the Board of Estimates and Taxation (BET) into the city of Minneapolis. It would no longer be a separate entity. (Click here for an explanation of what the BET does.)

Once again, check out the Minneapolis Issues List for some VERY LONG emails pro and con about this issue, if you're so inclined. Chances are that if you ARE so inclined, you're already there and WRITING those long posts, but I should still point folks in that direction. There are plenty of good reasons to keep the BET around, but the main one for me is that we just don't need to give the city of Minneapolis that kind of unchecked power.

The two best BET candidates that support keeping the BET separate are Carol Becker and David Wheeler. The best way we can ensure that the BET remains so is to get both of these candidates elected. Carol Becker has been endorsed by the DFL, so chances are that she'll get the most first-choice votes. That's why I recommend voting for Wheeler first and Becker second. It should help both of them lock up their fair share of 1st and 2nd place votes.

There are also at-large park board seats on the ballot, but I haven't done enough research on those candidates to make a public recommendation.

And now the JNS ballot recommendations are complete.


Anonymous said...

NO on 168???? No way-- VOTE YES on Charter Amendment 168!

The unchecked power argument is ridiculous. Hello! Are you there JNS? Think about this... A yes vote on 168 will put the authority in the hands of the City Council reps whom we know, we see, we talk to, we email, we trust, and for whom WE VOTE.

Then BET is an outdated anomaly.
Let it go! Let this be the first step in an effort to streamline and modernize the structure of the city government!

The unchecked power argument is total BS, dude. What? Do you have a Carol Becker with her hand up your shirt manipulating the levers? The next thing you know you'll be telling everyone how this charter amendment will destroy the parks! The only thing it may actually destroy is CAROL BECKER's JOB.

LAME argument JNS- major disappointment.

Give the City Council the power everyone thinks it already has and HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE! VOTE YES ON Charter Amendment 168.

Anonymous said...

I think I have read somewhere that very few city government structures still have a BET type entity. Can anyone provide more info for that?

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

@ anon 9:30 -

I'm publishing your comment since I checked the blog to see if there were any neighborhood issue comments to post. But...

1. This is Jeff Skrenes' opinion, posted on JNS, not John Hoff's opinion. John and I haven't even TALKED about this, and I'm not sure if John even HAS an opinion on the matter.

2. Your arguments don't sway me; I've examined the issue as objectively as I can (heck, before the charter amendment was brought up, I was quite unfamiliar with this issue). After consideration of the pros and cons, I've made up my mind. Given the whole politics/workplace concern, I'm not going to expand on that, though.

(although really, this is not about a politician as much as an issue, and therefore affords more leeway; still, best not to wade too far into those waters)

If folks want to chime in throughout the day though, I'll publish comments when I check for updates. And if you want the very detailed arguments, remember, there's plenty of that over on the issues list as well.

Anonymous said...

Hawkman: this is Anon 9:30.
I'm sorry (to both you and JNS). I didn't realize it was you writing. I was so floored by your position on 168, I couldn't read straight. Now I see clearly that it was you and not JNS writing.

C'mon man! Minneapolis is the only city with a structure like this. Although many things about Mpls are the envy of cities around the country, this ain't one of those things! No other city of this size/stature functions with this dysfunction. It fulfills no purpose. The political (yes political) reality is that the BET does not get the job done- assuming one of the jobs is as Carol Becker says it is--- to provide a forum for the City and the Park Board to meet and arrive at a consensus as to the max tax rate. The representation on the BET is stale, lacks transparency, and is simply unrepresentative.
A vote to amend the Charter (a YES vote) will seat all 13 CMs on the BET and put the power where the people already believe it rests--- with the City Council. Passage of the Charter Amendment will increase transparency, open the debate to the whole city (by virtue of the increased ward representation on the BET), and thereby INCREASE REPRESENTATION.

For a blog that is soooooooo progressive when it comes to moving NOMI in the right direction to take a position against this charter amendment is just incongruous.

Readers: Let's begin streamlining the structure of our city's unwieldy, old, and inefficient city government. Put the council in charge of setting the max tax rate and then MAKE them represent you on this issue as you do with every other issue.

Vote YES on charter amendment 168.

Anonymous said...

Re the question about few cities have BET. Ms. Becker has cited Baltimore and St. Louis as have Boards of Estimate(See her comments in Southwest Journal).
However both of those cities Boards are made up of City Council Member and are NOT independent boards. Basically they are what the MPLS BET would be if we vote YES

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

And now I'll give a more detailed response to my "NO" vote.

Notice I said, "as objectively as I can." While I do try to remain objective about most if not all issues, I will admit that I started from a skeptical standpoint here. Earlier this year the city absolutely dismantled one of the most wildly successful and innovative programs we have in NRP. (Full disclosure, without NRP I probably wouldn't have a job, but still...)

It's not just how NCEC is structured that bothers me, although it truly is a blatant power grab by the city and I am highly skeptical of its implementation. But literally EVERY SINGLE PERSON who spoke at the public meetings at city hall -and they wer PACKED - spoke out against the proposed changes. The exceptions were the city staffers who explained how the new program would work. I feel so strongly about this move that I'd vote against RT if there were a viable pro-NRP candidate on the ballot.

So in the same year as this horrid decision tha flew in the face of the essence of grassroots politics, the city wants to roll the park board and BET into itself too? HELL NO. That will NOT get my support. Give NCEC some time. Prove me wrong, and show that despite evidence to the contrary, the city will take the voice of its citizens into account regarding the structure of its governance. THEN come back to me and we can talk.

Anonymous said...

Jeff - 168 is not about the park board at all - it's only about BET.

Anonymous said...

Say no to drugs.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

@ anon 10:28

I am absolutely aware of that, and I hope I did not misinform anyone by my comment. However, my point was that the city steamrolled a dismantled NRP in spite of the loud objections of every single person who testified.

This offense was so egregious to me that I had initially considered encouraging a protest vote against each and every single public official who was complicit in these actions. Ultimately though, I felt that 1) there were not viable contenders in those races, and 2) we are in too crucial of a time to allow the chance that an unqualified person may take office.

However, very shortly after this offense, the city came forward with proposals to eliminate an independent park board and BET. The BET proposal is the only one to have made it to the ballot. But my starting point was that in light of NRP, there would have to be a VERY COMPELLING reason for the elimination of either independednt entity. I do not believe there is.

Once again, if the city demonstrates that NCEC can give residents the same kind of voice and power as NRP has given, I may change my mind in four years. For now, though, I've made my decision. Vote NO on 168.

Anonymous said...

You may not agree with the NRP decision, but at least you know who did it, when they did it and under what rules they operated when it happened.

If you don't like the decision, you know who to call, or email.

Granted, if the BET, in its current form, makes a decision you don't like, you can figure out who to call, email, contact...
But, Jeffy-- YOU'RE the HAWKMAN. YOU make time for that type of research. The average Joe or Jane, who just popped the fish sticks in the microwave doesn't have that sort of time... They just complain to their council member, and then don't understand when their CM says "I didn't do it. Talk to the BET."

Microwaved fish sticks are soggy.
Better to bake.
But baking takes TIME.