A while back your editor commented on a letter about the demolition derbies. I found his reply to be offensive. I am a driver and a promoter of these events. It takes a lot of skill to take an unwanted car and turn it into a car that is capable of crashing for 15 to 20 minutes. Have you ever driven a car for more than a mile on a blown radiator? Have you changed tires, struts, axles, third members or transmissions in 15 minutes or less? For a lot of people and children, this is a fun and competitive sport. If you think it's just point and shoot, you come and document a full car build. I'll donate the car. I'll do the work. You come drive it. If you think you can get in the seat.
The fantasy of drilling
America needs to drill here drill now to lower the pain at the pump. Or so the story goes according to John McCain and George Bush and the oil companies who control them.
Drilling more sounds good. It sounds reasonable. It's also fantasy.
Offering more leases to Big Oil will accomplish one thing; guaranteed future record profits for Big Oil. They know that once they lose control of the White House and Congress they have lost their last chance to guarantee more record profits.
There are more than 70 million acres currently leased that aren't being drilled. Why not? Are they waiting for the price to go higher? The Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act HR 6251 would have required oil companies to use it or lose it but the Republicans and some Democrats were able to stop the bill. Why?
If Congress truly believed that more drilling is the answer they could attach two simple conditions to all future leases.
One, require that all gas produced be sold in the US. Two, put a price cap on the gas.
They won't because that won't guarantee record profits for Big Oil.
Drill here drill now is a cheap political diversion plain and simple. Even if America does produce more domestic oil OPEC will just reduce production and keep the price high. They are meeting today to talk about doing just that. Focusing our energy on drilling means we remain addicted to oil and they save theirs until we run out.
Meanwhile it diverts our focus away from clean American-produced renewable energy.
That's a failed policy and we can no longer afford to fail.
LeMieur's judgment in question
An ethical storm is brewing in Little Falls regarding the city council's preferential treatment of a church school.
At the storm's center is City Council President Mike LeMieur, who also hopes to be state representative for District 12B. His pastor came to the city council asking them to waive the building permit fee for an addition to his church s school. The city's planning commission had already denied the request. The city's zoning official said the move would be unprecedented. But the city council, led by LeMieur, overturned their own commission and staff, agreeing to the waiver by a vote of 6-1. Only the mayor, Cathy VanRisseghem, had the good judgment to vote "no." Prior to her vote, she also did the right thing by offering a personal, not tax-payer, donation.
The vote was clearly a conflict of interest for LeMieur (and perhaps others). It might also have been illegal or unconstitutional.
How did LeMieur fail? I m not a legal or constitutional expert, but the rules on conflict of interest are straight-forward. The League of Minnesota Cities publication on Conflict of Interest, in its "Highlights" comes right to the point: "A conflict of interest occurs when an individual has a personal interest in a decision about which he or she has the power to make... This type of interest is sometimes of a financial nature, but not always. These non-contractual matters may include such things as council decisions on zoning, local improvements, and the issuance of licenses. An interested councilmember should generally abstain from discussing and voting on these matters."
This storm is definitely not a "tempest in a teapot." LeMieur is young and likeable enough; but his inexperience led to very poor judgment regarding an important ethical principle.
The rest of the story
A recent contributor to Open Forum questioned the wisdom/voting record of Rep. John Ward. It's obvious this person doesn't know John at all. It can even be argued that this person is sharing misinformation because he/she only shares part of the story to make a political point.
First, salaries and per diem expense accounts were put in place in our national and state legislatures years ago. Our system of government was founded on the principal of a "citizen legislature." However, early in our history, politicians were people of relative affluence and/or those who lived in/near urban centers. These were the only people who could afford to leave jobs/homes to take an active role in government. Per diems allow for representation from all financial backgrounds and rural areas. I would think citizens of the Brainerd lakes area would appreciate this fact. I'm sure it was in support of this ideal that John cast his vote. Also note, it's each legislator's choice whether to claim a per diem expense or not (and to what extent), and Rep. Ward claims fewer per diem expenses than many other legislators.
Second, to blame John for the drastic increases in gas prices we've been experiencing is ridiculous. In fact, the five-cent per gallon gas tax increase was supported by a bipartisan legislative block that had the courage to over-ride the governor's veto on the transportation bill. Safe roads and bridges on which our children travel are well worth this added expense. (I operate a small business heavily affected by gas prices). I believe our frustration is better directed toward the oil companies making billion dollar profits while raising gas prices $1-$2 per gallon, instead of attacking a man who is looking out for our collective safety.
Stick to the facts
In her response to my announcement as a candidate, Mrs. Nesheim made statements that are not accurate. Her statement that the 2006 court case involving my property cost the city five times more than the Mayor's Sweden trip is not true. The city was told by the court to clearly mark the area that it wanted trimmed, if the city had done that before the matter entered the court system it would have been resolved much sooner. The city's fees were covered by its insurance carrier, the League of Minnesota Cities in St. Paul. The city asked the League to send an attorney up from St. Paul even though Brainerd pays a local attorney, Thomas Fitzpatrick a flat rate of over $90,000 per year to handle its civil legal work. The city did not have to bring an attorney from St. Paul to handle routine work that its own attorney should be capable of.
Mrs. Nesheim is also wrong regarding gasoline purchases. The city would not be charged any capital reimbursement fee for gasoline purchases from the county, and would save, according to city administrator Dan Vogt, between $5,000 and $10,000 per year. A major beneficiary of paying more to purchase gasoline from private stations was fellow council member Kelly Bevans. I do not mean to criticize Mr. Bevans, but I am concerned when a member of the city council personally benefits from council decisions.
Campaigns often involve strong disagreements, but I would hope that Mrs. Nesheim can stick to the issues and be honest. So far, she has not.
ED SHAW is a candidate for the Brainerd City Council seat currently held by Lucy Nesheim.
No yard signs for Koep
I have been asked about yard signs for the at-large Brainerd election.
This year, I will not use yard signs. There is a proliferation already with state and national candidates. Yard signs can be difficult to maintain and a real mess if not maintained.
I appreciate the offers. I will use other forms of communication. Perhaps others would consider alternatives to yard signs too.
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