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Monday, December 14, 2009

Bourn Accused of Campaign Violations

This is republished from a story written by Cristof Traudes for the Southwest Journal

He won’t be seated until Jan. 4, but a newly elected Southwest representative to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is already finding himself in hot water.

A complaint filed last month against Brad Bourn alleges that his campaign wrongly claimed to have received endorsements from two Southwest legislators, Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL–60B) and Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-60). The case is expected to soon go before a three-judge panel, after an administrative law judge determined the complaint "sets forth a prima facie violation."

The complaint came from Meg Forney, who lost the Nov. 3 election by a 794-vote margin. Bourn is set to succeed Bob Fine as the Park Board’s District 6 commissioner.

The centerpiece of Forney’s concerns was a flyer Bourn’s campaign sent out in the days leading up to the election. It listed Dibble and Hornstein among Bourn’s supporters, even though the legislators said they wanted to stay neutral in the race.

Bourn hasn’t denied that the flyer wrongly contained the pair’s endorsements. On Nov. 1, he addressed the issue head-on on his campaign website, saying his campaign knew about the mistake but not in time to stop the printer.

“I accept responsibility for the error in the mailer and apologize for any confusion this may have caused,” he wrote. “Our campaign noticed this error and brought it to the immediate attention of Sen. Dibble, Rep. Hornstein and my opponent.”

Bourn’s note, however, didn’t say which of his three opponents — Forney, Steve Jecha or Geneva Hanvik — he was referring to as “my opponent.” Later in the post, he wrote that “my opponent” made “a similar mistake” while screening for an endorsement with the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Neither Bourn nor Forney could be immediately reached for comment.

If Bourn’s campaign were found to have been at fault, a penalty would be based on how willful the campaign was in making the error and how much of an impact it had on the election’s outcome. Fines could range from $0 to $5,000, and the case could be passed onto the Hennepin County Attorney.

Jecha has been blogging about the issue since mid-November and said Bourn’s campaign should get a big fine. The flyers had an impact on the election outcome, he wrote Dec. 1, and therefore, “in my opinion, the only action that the three judge panel can take on this case is to proceed with a $1200–$2400 fine and to forward this to the County Attorney.”

“While some may be upset that a campaign complaint was filed,” Jecha wrote Nov. 18, “… if a law has been broken we all owe it to the system to make sure we police it and make sure it doesn’t happen — with any candidates in any election.”

Two other accusations in Forney’s complaint were dismissed. Forney said Bourn falsely claimed endorsement from Ted Wirth, the late grandson of former Superintendent Theodore Wirth, who died in September but whose endorsements were shared through a friend before the election. Forney’s complaint said Wirth, who had been sick for months, had been of “questionable capacity.”

She also said Bourn’s campaign used confusing and misleading statements when referring to “my opponent” because there was more than one, but Judge Barbara Neilson said a statement Forney called misleading actually was clearly cited.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It’s not easy being green. (but it could be)

It's not easy being green.

I am a grandfather of two beautiful and exuberant grand daughters who are not aware of our global climate crisis, nor of our generation’s in hand worsening it. Living between a coal plant and a nuclear plant cause me to be mindful, every day, of how much farther we have to go to ensure a safe planet for theirs and future generations.The picture you see above is where the park system currently gets most of it power from.

This past Tuesday December 8th, President Obama made a speech to the Brookings Institution stressing the need for immediate job creation through infrastructure and clean energy. You can see his speech here:

This week there is a United Nations Climate Change Conference going on in Copenhagen, Denmark. You can track it here:

Earlier this year, the Minneapolis Park Board adopted a goal of eliminating its carbon footprint, and on August 19th, 2009, the board asked staff to study the feasibility of public ownership of a hydro plant and report back to the board.

On December 2, 2009, General Manager Don Sigglekow made very startling presentation to the commissioners entitled, “Comparative Analysis of Renewable Energy Options.” You can see Mr. Sigglekow’s presentation here:

The presentation included several key facts.

- The park system currently uses about 13,800,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity each year.
- This produces some 10,350 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
- Conservation alone cannot meet the goal of eliminating their carbon footprint.
- In order to achieve production to completely offset the park system’s electricity consumption:
- Wind would cost more than $100 million over the next 50 years and require at least 300 acres of open space.
- Solar would cost about $200 million over the next 50 years and take about 80 acres of open space.
- Hydro would cost about $25 million over the next 50 years, and take less than 1 acre.
It concluded that wind and solar were simply not feasible, but that a small hydro project could actually pay for itself.

To review, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has a stated goal of eliminating its carbon footprint. It is not possible to achieve this goal with energy efficiency, wind energy or solar energy. It has an opportunity to achieve this goal with small hydro, and it can generate income as well.

You can probably imagine how the Commissioners responded, with exclamations of gratitude and excitement.

“Mr. Sigglekow, thank you for this incredibly informative presentation!” *
“This is great news! In tough economic times, this means millions of dollars of much-needed revenues for the parks!” *
“This is stunning. We can actually eliminate our carbon footprint.” *
“Oh, Mr. Sigglekow, you have really outdone yourself this time – this is the enterprise project of the century!” *
* Nobody said any of these things.

One Commissioner, Jon Olson, had a logical response and offered a resolution with the following statements:

“Whereas the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is committed to eliminating its carbon footprint and transitioning to renewable energy;
Whereas the park system uses 14,000,000 kWh in electricity, and a small run-of-river hydro project could generate approximately 19,000,000 kWh in clean, renewable energy;
Whereas the State of Minnesota is facing massive cuts to balance its long term budget, with a $1.2 billion projected deficit in 2010-2011 that could grow past $5 billion in 2012-2013, the Park Board is forced to look for alternative revenue sources;
Whereas the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has the opportunity to completely eliminate its carbon footprint and become the first carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative large park system in the world;
Whereas the current board elected in 2005 and serving from 2006 to 2010 has been considering this project for four (4) years, as well as three other boards for the previous twelve (12) years, and we have come to the conclusion that the only way forward for an energy project on park land is if it is publicly-owned;
Whereas four (4) new commissioners will serve on the MPRB beginning January 2010;
Now therefore be it resolved that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board supports public ownership of a hydro facility in Mill Ruins Park, and encourages the next board to acquire the rights of water use, and authorization and resources needed to complete construction.
Be it further resolved that this board instructs staff to provide the new board with comprehensive information about this project, with complete development, finance and construction options by end of February 2010.”

Then Commissioner Vreeland said, “This is terrific! With everyone in the world talking about clean energy and job creation, we actually have the opportunity to take action and make an enormous difference!” *
* Just kidding, he didn’t say that.

Actually, Commissioner “I’m an environmentalist” Vreeland, on red-alert and whose face throughout the presentation turned from cherry to ruby to scarlet to about-to-have-a-stroke crimson, interrupted Commissioner Olson to exclaim, “I find this totally, totally inappropriate to have this be put kind of under the rug of… this should have gone to planning… I feel ambushed. This is an issue that should go to committee.” *
* Not kidding, he actually said this.

Hmmmm, I thought the whole boards voted, unanimously, on August 19th to have staff present the feasibility of a hydro project to THE WHOLE BOARD.

Commissioner Olson then responded, “This simply is moving it forward to the next board. We’re not committing to build the project but we are asking staff to bring all the information forward to the next board.”

So Commissioner Vreeland said, “You know, you’re right Commissioner Olson. I don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. It is important for our environment. It makes our park system more sustainable. So if this is supposed to be discussed by the whole board in the committee as a whole or by the whole board in the planning committee is just a trivial difference. Not only that, I was endorsed by the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades as well as the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, and this is an opportunity to create dozens of union construction jobs and get some of our brothers and sisters in labor back to work.” *
* He didn’t say ANY of these things.

Instead, Commissioner “Carbon Sasquatch-Print” Vreeland says, “It’s not always what you do, it’s how you do it.” Then he accuses Commissioner Olson of sneaking it in on a night when he knew Commissioner Young and President Nordyke would not be there. Sheesh. Does Commissioner Vreeland know he’s on television? Didn’t his mother ever teach him the concepts of trust and respect? He goes on to say, brilliantly, “This may be a great idea but we have processes, we have committees, we have ways of doing things.”

I think we see the difference between a leader and a bureaucrat. The motion failed.

P.S. Park Watch also missed the forest for the trees. You can read their analysis here: From this, we can safely conclude that Park Watch didn’t get the green jobs memo.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A good read.

With the MPRB considering going off the grid and become self sustaining using clean green energy I thought this article would be of interest to our readers. Reducing greenhouse gassing will require all of us pitching in and working together.

EPA: Greenhouse Gases Are Danger To Human Health
by The Associated Press
December 7, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded greenhouse gases are endangering people's health and must be regulated, signaling that the Obama administration is prepared to contain global warming without congressional action if necessary.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson scheduled a news conference for later Monday to announce the so-called endangerment finding, officials told The Associated Press, speaking privately because the announcement had not been made.

The finding is timed to boost the administration's arguments at an international climate conference beginning this week that the United States is aggressively taking actions to combat global warming, even though Congress has yet to act on climate legislation.

Under a Supreme Court ruling, the so-called endangerment finding is needed before the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases released from power plants, factories and automobiles under the federal Clean Air Act.

The EPA signaled last April that it was inclined to view heat-trapping pollution as a threat to public health and welfare and began to take public comments under a formal rulemaking. The action marked a reversal from the Bush administration, which had declined to aggressively pursue the issue.

Business groups have strongly argued against tackling global warming through the regulatory process of the Clean Air Act. Any such regulations are likely to spawn lawsuits and lengthy legal fights.

The EPA and the White House have said regulations on greenhouse gases will not be imminent even after an endangerment finding, saying that the administration would prefer that Congress act to limit such pollution through an economy-wide cap on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Nevertheless, the EPA has begun the early stages of developing permit requirements on carbon dioxide pollution from large emitters such as power plants. The administration also has said it will require automobile fuel economy to increase to a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2016, another push to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The EPA's readiness to tackle climate change is expected to give a boost to U.S. arguments at the climate conference opening in Copenhagen this week that the United States is making broad commitments to reduce greenhouse gases.
While the House has approved climate legislation that would cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and about 80 percent by mid-century, the Senate has yet to take up the measure amid strong Republican opposition and reluctance by some centrist Democrats.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), lead author of the Senate bill, has argued that if Congress doesn't act, the EPA will require greenhouse gas emissions. He has called EPA regulation a "blunt instrument" that would pose a bigger problem for industry than legislation crafted to mitigate some of the costs of shifting away from carbon emitting fossil fuels.

The way was opened for the EPA to use the Clean Air Act to cut climate-changing emissions by the Supreme Court in 2007, when the court declared that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Act. But the court said the EPA must determine if these pollutants pose a danger to public health and welfare before it can regulate them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Check this out.

Here is the superintendents 2010 proposed Budget for the Minneapolis park system.
Right click on "Check this out" to go to the link.