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Equality – Citizen by Citizen

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Equality – Citizen by Citizen

Equality among citizens is the root of the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution.

Of course is started out being land owning males but eventually we expanded that limitation. Monumental was the Emancipation Declaration. And there came a time when women too achieved a legal position allowing them to vote. Again the boundary of who enjoyed rights was moved to embrace more and more citizenry.

From those clusters of religiously persecuted people arriving on these shores in order to throw off the oppression of their countries of origin it was a chance to throw off the millennia old rule of blue blooded kings and queens.

It is a little known or appreciated fact that among the sources of inspiration to the founding fathers were the First Nation tribes of the northeast. The egalitarian society of the misnamed Indians abetted the notion of equality and stood in contrast to the gentrified land holders already present seeking a leg up in the governance of the colonies.

And so from a rather quiet life here in the suburbs upon the death of a soldier son I took great offense at the attempt by the sitting MN legislature to move an amendment that would in effect deny a group of citizens’ access to the courts. My cause is explicitly to see to it that all citizens are allowed a chance to contest before the courts our laws formed in statute.

Just a few days after notification of our son’s death the Supreme Court ruled that Westboro Church had the right to free speech. Had our son lived to see it, he and I both would have embraced that position by the court. Like them or not, Westboro is comprised of fellow citizens and they have equal protection to speak. The Supreme Court went on to rule in the case known as Citizens United. While I may not like the outcome as a citizen I respect the court’s ruling. For it is law that binds us. It is not creed, not opinion nor personal bias that places us on equal footing. We have courts for a reason.

To the question of equality I wonder why the Equal Rights Amendment fell short of the required number of states to ratify the amendment to our national constitution. How can it be that over fifty per-cent of the population identifying as female still has no guarantee to this fundamental equality written into our MN state constitution let alone the national constitution? Recently women were denied by congressional vote the simple assurance of equal pay for equal work.

Equality is both our past and the trajectory forward as we seek that more perfect union.

Paid in Full

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Paid in Full

We didn’t die for you; we died for an oath we took.

We didn’t die for Republicans or Democrats or any political persuasion.
We didn’t die for a creed or an economy or tax rates.
We didn’t die for job creators or their employees.

We died for a document called the constitution about rights and privileges.
We died for the women and men who served along side us in these places far from home.
We died young by the votes cast in congress by our elders.
We died for liberty itself and the society that grows from that fertile soil.

Honor us this one way, give our sacrifice meaning, define that path of government which is wide enough for all Americans to walk abreast on from left to right. Try as you may not to walk single file or narrowly.

And please, make sure our bill is marked paid in full.

“Stay between the ditches!”

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“Stay between the ditches!”

“Stay between the ditches” was an admonishment given when leaving the bars of my home town many years ago. Like many ethnic groups the German heritage of New Ulm was rife with adages meant to sum up the road to follow. New Ulm is touted as being one of two pre-planned American cities, the other being New York. In my youth one was never more than three turns from home, at least if you lived in town. Germans like to keep things orderly and methodical that way.

Given the current national and local political climate the old admonition seems appropriate today. On the left side of the road is the ditch called public debt. The right side is the ditch called austerity.

Veer too far right and the ride will end with high unemployment and a plutocratic (rule by the wealthy) society. Conversely if veering too far left the ditch of public debt will mire the society without traction.

The job of government is to keep us between the ditches. To the common citizen as a rider in the vehicle of society there are constant shouts of “turn left” or “turn right” being shouted by the front seat occupants. From the back seat where most of us ride we are whipsawed to and fro. Our necks snapping and heads swaying to the erratic ride we are on.

A new driver is taught to look down road and not attempt to steer over the hood. That advice is meant to teach one how to stay between those ditches. Take the long view of things. Don’t try and make steering decisions foot by foot or yard by yard. The goal after all is to get to the destination safely.

So what is the goal of society? Each rider must of course answer this to their own satisfaction. And at the risk of using too broad a brush it seems there are three fundamentals worth considering; economy, education and equality.

“Food, clothing and shelter” is what old Ray Domeier used to tell me. Those three fundamentals are the economic drive. That means livable wage jobs. Ray’s first job was fire tending a moonshine still in a ravine in Cottonwood Township. He ended his work life with the railroad.
As we enter what Alvin Toffler described as the super industrial age in his book “Future Shock”, the workforce will require advanced education. A high performance education in this dawning age of global economics is the key to a vibrant economy. Our future is tied to the brilliance of our children.

In its foundation this country was formed out of religious persecution in the old world. In order to preserve the personal right of religious expression a bright line was drawn between religion and government. This is the fundamental of protection of rights and ergo equality of all minority stances. Whether we subscribe to a particular belief or not we are intended to defend the right of position for the other minority.
Considering the fall opportunity to select the next driver, remember the admonition, “Stay between the ditches.”

Lassitude in 2012 – the real problem.

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Lassitude in 2012

It’s another presidential election year. In Minnesota all 201 Senate and House seats stand for election. I’m one of those, standing for House election here in the newly defined MN Senate District 57B.

As I consider the campaign and the inevitable obstacles I come to the question of what is the greatest hurdle. It seems to me it is lassitude.

A state of physical or mental weariness; lack of energy.
weariness – fatigue – languor – tiredness – exhaustion

In the case of this election cycle lassitude on behalf of the electorate will be the greatest danger. We are weary. It shows in the 2010 election results. We have lost our faith in our common government.

We have been brow beaten to believe government is the enemy. The refrain is repeated in the “smaller government” mantra. If only we de-regulate everything the economy will flourish. Foisted above government is the notion of free and open markets. Only the markets can save us, or so it is said.

It was open markets that brought us DDT and the decline of our American symbol the bald eagle. It is open markets that allowed Halliburton to require our military to leave equipment at home because they would provide housing and infrastructure in places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Eisenhower had it right in his famous remarks about the military industrial complex. The Citizens United case bears further testimony to what is tantamount to open season on the marginalization of government.

The economy is in trouble. We have acquired debt to cover two unfunded conflicts. We continue to spend somewhere around two billion dollars a week shoring up a nation not ready for democracy in Afghanistan, the graveyard of Empires. We retired the WWII debt in the mid-nineties. It will take our children at least fifty years to retire our debts for these conflicts.

We fight over citizen equality to this day. Fear of our fellow citizen breeds distrust and legislation to deny rights and castle doctrines. The word trust has been reduced to a logo on a bank. Children die randomly of gunshots in North Minneapolis and we fail to act. Their safety and right to live in peace is marginalized by inattentiveness by the state government.

Education has been sidelined. Somehow intellectualism has become a pejorative term. What built this nation, the public school system, and the product thereof, critical thinkers, has become a derided enterprise. The teachers who work these classrooms have been declared inept and failing. The fault lies somewhere other than our sense of common commitment to the success of our schools. We take false solace in home schooling and charter schools and vouchers. We turn our backs on the future of this country coming from our public education system. We “shift” monies, increase school district debts to the private sector (there’s that open market again) and otherwise undermine our greatest common asset, education.

They’ve been termed Generation X, Generation Y and Millennials. And I ask myself since they’ve entered society as voters when have they seen effective government. The messaging has been that government is the problem. They have been bombarded by the notion that government and the laws it produces inhibit and restrain them. Corporations and PAC money leave them without faith that the so called common individual is powerful in the voting booth. We have bred lassitude in the generations soon to take political power in this country. We have undermined their belief in government.

Perhaps it is foolish of me to continue to believe in Minnesota, to believe that Governor Dayton has the best interest of the state and its citizens at heart when he repeatedly compromised last year. Maybe it is foolish to believe we can invigorate our belief in education, the economy and equality. We were here once before. It was about ninety years ago. Then as now the problem is one of distribution. Then as now the solution will be government. But we are weary, and lassitude is our common enemy, not the other political party.

Take it upon yourself to believe again. Believe in government, believe in the intent of the constitution, and believe in Minnesota. Vote this fall like you mean it.

A Veteran’s issue – cheaper by the dozen

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Minnesota has given up nearly one hundred of it’s own in the two most recent unfunded conflicts. The death benefit for combat death is $100,000. In Canada it is reportedly $250,000.

In the U.S. we get ten lost personnel for a million bucks. Yet we found billions to bail out Wall Street. No blood but lots of money.

For a lost service member we should ask ourselves if that $100k will pay off a mortgage, put children through college and generally stabilize those left behind. And more importantly is the question of whether the cost to Congress when they embrace these police actions is sufficient to give them pause on their votes.

This of course is an issue at the Federal level. But it is a Veterans issue that should be debated.

Military personnel should not be cheaper by the dozen than cost of a dozen money handlers miscues.

Education – District 196 Achievement Gap

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From the outset, I want to state that our three children received what I perceive to be an excellent education here in District 196.

A few months back, my wife and I were made aware of an increasing concern about an achievement gap here in our own District 196.   Since then, that contention has been supported by every person I’ve spoken with who’s associated with the district.

I don’t speak from facts and figures on the severity of the issue. I speak from the point of view of questioning how this problem can persist here.

Here’s the data on median household incomes for communities in District 196:

City Median Household Income 2006-2010
Eagan $77,604
Rosemount $82,395
Apple Valley $78,571
Burnsville $64,292
Inver Grove Heights $67,661
Farmington $80,494

Average $75,170

(For the record, the median income statewide is just over $57,000/household)

Minnesota has acquired a waiver from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. This waiver was protested by Congressman Klein who wanted to persist with NCLB and attempted to remedy it with altered language. Ten years too late by my estimation.

Education is so vital to the future and well being of our state that I am bewildered why in communities with incomes higher than the statewide median we have not been a leader in finding solutions to the achievement gap. It is certainly not for lack of focus and effort. And, I remind the reader, the NCLB bill has never been properly funded from the Federal level. It remains a mandate lacking funds.

This waiver presents the communities comprising District 196 with the opportunity to attack the issue in new and novel ways. There will be missteps along the route, but I have every confidence in the staff and administration of District 196 . I believe these professionals can and will close this gap. But our local effort to be a leader in finding a solution has to have the funding and support of the community.

Support our schools. Stand behind the Legislative Funding Issue Priorities designated by the District 196 board on March 7, 2012.  Put the district back on track to retain money currently used to finance debt we’ve been forced to incur because of legislative funding shifts.

Our district can close the achievement gap. It can be a leader at the state and national level. We are fortunate to live in an area with median household incomes above the state average.

Legislative solutions have to be found to stabilize the state budget. The current palette of legislation related to education is tantamount to indictments that our schools are failing our communities. I would argue that our communities are failing our schools.

If we want to produce the critical thinkers that will leadMinnesotain the future, if we want to lead the way and close the achievement gap, we cannot persist is criticizing the very professionals who know how to accomplish these goals by implying they are less than dedicated to their profession and need constant review. We need to stop inhibiting them and, support them financially..

We’ve now lived for a decade under the mantra of “no new taxes”. It has left our state in budget trouble, and in turn, our schools in budget trouble.  And most problematic of all, it has left us with an achievement gap that collectively we may have been able to prevent..

Let’s own up to our responsibility to the future. The schools can’t fix it, the students can’t fix it and obviously NCLB hasn’t fixed it.

Things are a mess.  Now let’s get to work and clean it up. And yes, it will take money.

Jeff Wilfahrt – candidate for MN House SD57B


Hearing Aids for the GOP

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Health care is a financial problem to us all. And as we watch the GOP pare down public access to health care they might do well to include an amendment for hearing aids for all GOP Senators and Representatives.

I don’t think they need glasses since they have a lot of polls they cite, but the cacophony of literal Minnesota voices outside the chambers both last year and this year seem to fall on deaf ears. Even in the floor debates eloquent speeches and argument are lost on them. It has to be some sort of aural problem.

But they can read. They read the Lawrence Utah poll on ‘Let the people vote’ on marriage definition. They read the Star and Tribune poll on Photo ID. They read the Survey USA poll on ‘Right To Work’ [for less]. That should help us save state health care money on glasses.

But the voices outside the chambers, be they Labor, be they LGBT, be they common citizens are not heard. It just has to be an aural problem. Even committee testimonies seem to fall on deaf ears. We could probably save some state money on all the microphones the testifiers are encouraged to pull forward and speak directly in to. Having been there myself a time or two testifying I saw them shuffle papers so I know they are reading, just not hearing. One solution they’ve adopted is to limit testimonies from the public; after all if testimony won’t be heard why waste the time feigning the act of listening. They do seem to react to the sound of the gavel though, that gets used a lot to shut things down. Maybe it is only percussive sounds they hear?

Oh well, maybe one of their own can propose an amendment in writing to some unrelated bill for hearing aids. But that’s just me thinking out loud. But they’d have to read it first.

DFL SD57 Convention outcome

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St. Patrick’s day started with the SD57 DFL convention. The net outcome is that Greg Clausen will stand for the MN Senate seat, Roberta Gibbons will stand for MN House seat 57A and I will stand for 57B.

No news yet on who the GOP will place in two of the races.

Sen. Franken, DFL Party Leader Ken Martin and others rose in speeches to encourage the SD57 precincts to organize and promote the DFL local slate. Each in turn spoke to the need for financial commitment from the electorate and the need to drive out the vote.

If SD57 is to go blue, what we ultimately need is something more valuable than gold, we need your time. Please consider giving that most precious of personal items and be involved.

GOP Challenger announced

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Anna Wills of Apple Valley has announced her intent to pursue the GOP endorsement for MN House Seat 57B.

I’ve got a new opponent.

Comment on the open GOP seat

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My opponent Republican Rep. Kurt Bills today announced his run for the Senate seat held by Sen. Amy Klobuchar. According to the RosemountTownPages web site statement “He said he will abide by the Republican party’s endorsement, but he does not plan to seek reelection to his House seat.” So this is not a direct quote from Bills but appears to be based on something he stated or inferred strongly to the reporter. The SD57 Republican Convention takes place on March 17th. It remains to be seen who and if anyone rises over the course of the next 9 days to stand for the GOP in SD57.

Jeff is endorsed by