Monday, February 19, 2018

Money in professional sports - a question of priorities

Below is a copy of a letter that was sent to the Star Tribune but not published. The central issue of shining the light on the enormous sums of money we pour into professional sports and the wealthy owners is vital because it drains public monies from more essential services. We truly need some leadership on the issue of priorities.

To the Editor:

Nancy Jost’s column on the high costs of daycare (Star Tribune, February 2) at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere raises valid questions and warrants full public attention. As background, I authored the state’s first daycare law and am familiar with the costs involved. However, it is more about priorities than money.

For instance, the University of Minnesota pours millions of dollars into revenue sports coaches’ salaries and other excesses but yet pleads poverty when it comes to funding $500,000 for day care. Likewise we cut school budgets while subsidizing wealthy pro sports team owners with millions each year. How about full disclosure of all these costs and truly engage the public?

Arne H. Carlson
Governor Minnesota (1991-1999)
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Another Minnesota Treasure…Sally Pillsbury

For decades we celebrated the delightful energy of “Holly Dolly” not always recognizing that we had one here in Minnesota:  Sally Pillsbury. With enthusiasm and dogged determination she pushed aside the impossible and made it a reality. To her “No” was simply a longer path to “yes”. She even led the Women’s Movement before there was one.

With her position and financial well being she could easily have cloaked herself in respectable silence and enjoyed her status.

But Sally came out of the Theodore Roosevelt school of involvement and decided to build a better Minnesota for all. With her husband, George, and her brother, Wheelock Whitney, they evolved into what may likely be the most influential trio in Minnesota history. From the 1950’s on, there was rarely a positive development that did not have their fingerprints on it. The University of Minnesota, the Symphony Orchestra, the attraction of professional sports, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, funding of the arts, and on and on all are testaments to the involvement of this extraordinary partnership.

Barely 30 years old, Sally immersed herself in the Eisenhower movement and from there on helped shape and develop the moderate wing of the Republican Party. Elmer L. Andersen, Doug Head, Bill Frenzel, Dave Durenberger, Al Quie and a multitude of other Republican leaders all were benefactors of Sally’s involvement.

I can say without hesitation that there never would have been a Carlson administration without the constant and committed leadership of Wheelock, Sally, George, Lars (my brother) and my wife Susan.

So potent was this force of moderate Republicanism that it produced majority control of the Minneapolis City Council. But they also remained active on the national scene starting with Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 all the way through President George H.W. Bush, who was also a personal friend of the Pillsbury’s and Wheelock Whitney.

But this is not about past accomplishments. Rather it represents hope: a very strong hope that all of us will get into the arena, take on controversy and do all we can to preserve and enhance democracy. If we admire Sally, George and Wheelock there is no greater tribute than to continue their willingness to always be involved for the greater good.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

True Grit…the Gophers have it.

As fans, we celebrate the big wins and moan the losses. But this season we are learning the vital importance of resilience and the simple refusal to quit. Maybe we should call it grit.

Saturday’s Gopher men’s basketball game at Michigan was a study in true grit. Without a center and lacking reserve strength, the Gophers took the home team into over time with the game only settled in the final three seconds. Rest assured, not one Michigan fan walked out not thanking their lucky stars.

What I saw was excellent coaching featuring a variety of different rotations and styles that kept Michigan off guard and the defense was excellent.

But I also saw an offense that moved the ball swiftly, found the relatively open man and committed few turnovers.

If I were a recruit or looking for a great place to play next fall, it would be with the Gophers and my favorite arena – the Barn. Pitino has superbly brought his young talent around and they are emerging as solid big time players. Washington, from my childhood area of the Bronx, Harris, Hurt, and Fitzgerald are proving their potential but also showing that they have the character to win. And Mason, the departing senior, is not only the top player but also as good a floor leader as there is in basketball.

As one who was skeptical of the selection of Richard Pitino as coach, I am now a full convert. When the going got tough, he showed me he is ready to take on the big boys and win.

No, this team is my kind of team – playing unselfishly, playing smart and refusing to give up.

That is true grit – thanks guys.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Moment to Decide has Come…

“Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide” goes an old favorite hymn of mine. Of course, the choice is between truth and falsehood. It is one that challenges us almost daily.

Not only is that the principle component of our entire system of justice, but it is also at the core of democracy itself.

Today that very basic tenet is under relentless attack from none other than the person who is assigned the task of serving as the ultimate protector of democracy:  Donald Trump, the President of the United States.

It is not necessary to review all of his bizarre and reckless attacks during the campaign ranging from the CIA and the Pope to virtually every minority group. That falls into the right of free speech that we accord to our candidates. However, when elected they assume the more elevated and responsible role of guarding the truth and protecting the nations’ democratic institutions. That is their mission.

Our founding Fathers understood that the threat to democracy comes not only from afar but also from within. Today, we are living that threat.

We, the public, accept the truth that the Russians interfered with our 2016 election just as they have routinely involved themselves in other democratic elections. They are at war with democracies the world over and that is our war.

However, that has not been Donald Trump’s war. No matter how high the pile of evidence, he declares it “fake news.”

What is not fake is that when given the choice between making money and protecting his wealth which has been largely funded by Putin and the Russians and protecting the United States of America, Donald Trump has clearly and consistently chosen personal wealth. His war is against the revelation of the truth and, toward that end, he is out to destroy the very agencies that are charged with revealing the truth. Even when directed by Congress to impose sanctions on the Russians, he refuses.

No, his mission is to attack all people and institutions that pose a threat to his personal betrayal. His actions are clear. Very clear.

Now, the challenge is with us. What side do we come down on?

We do know this, our three Republican representatives in Congress who bill themselves as leaders have offered us only silence. Our nation is under attack and they have come forward with nothing more than “let the process continue.” Well, I have news for them: the President is doing everything possible to destroy that process and our representatives know that and yet only offer a turned head. The personal fear of being challenged in a GOP primary has clearly overtaken their commitment to protect our democracy.

Their silence and inaction encourages their House colleagues to continue dismantling the credibility of the FBI and the Department of Justice. This makes them enablers and partners with Trump and his new brand of lawlessness.

And way too many of our Democrats have been willing to remain in the shadows while others carry the burden of leadership. I applaud Congresswoman Betty McCollum for her outspokenness. Now, it is time all candidates and public officials provide some real leadership. Come forth and show yourself. Our country’s future is in jeopardy.

From our founding as a democratic nation, we have been served by men and women who have put their personal lives aside and sacrificed for the wellbeing of our country. It was not just the heroism of the George Washington’s or Audie Murphy’s (World War II’s most decorated soldier) but also the courage of millions of regular Americans who donned the uniform of our nation’s military so you and I may live in a democratic society.

Our mission must be to make certain that patriots who put nation first also serve us in public office. We need more protest, more outrage, more public meetings, more challenging editorials, more commitment.  Why?  Our nation is under siege and this challenge requires our involvement and unyielding determination.

The moment to decide is upon us…

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Real Leadership --- Women’s March --- Richard Painter

As I look back at 2017 and try to determine who gave us courageous and impartial leadership at a time when so many of us were in a state of high anxiety, I would say without hesitation it was the Women’s March. They not only galvanized protestors from all over the nation but they gave the rest of us the most vital ingredient of life – hope.

On a personal level, I felt it in our household. Like millions of others, we were in a funk following the election. But when the March was announced, my wife, Susan, instantly declared her determination to go to Washington, ordered her pink headwear, and made plans with our youngest daughter, Jessica. It was clearly a March built out of unwavering fortitude and was organized not by people with titles of leadership but rather by those who had the natural talent and courage. It reminded me of the early stages of the American Revolution when ordinary citizens were so outraged they took to arms without any thought of their personal wellbeing.

And just as the result of 1776 led to our independence, the Women’s March was the force behind the Alabama and Virginia upsets and may well be the power that topples Trumpism in 2018.

Locally, my choice for leader of the year is an old fashioned straight shooter, Richard Painter. Like the organizers of the Women’s March, he has no assigned title of leadership but rather leads and inspires by personal example. As a constitutional scholar, chief ethics attorney during the administration of President George W. Bush, and current Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota, he comes equipped with knowledge but, more importantly, a healthy sense of outrage. And his principle weapon is our Constitution. While all too many Republican leaders hide in the shadows to protect their incumbency, Richard Painter, a Republican moderate, stands forcefully and aggressively against the continuing assaults made on our law by Trump and his allies. Time and again he is the one Republican who through lawsuits, television appearances and social media has risen above the politics of self-interest and reminds us that the majesty of law is what holds our nation together.

In a sense, it is refreshing that those we regard as ordinary citizens are the ones who define leadership for us. It is simply the determination to do right. I applaud, truly applaud, all those who marched in the Women’s March and Richard Painter. It is their intelligent and patriotic resolve that lights our path back to true democratic leadership.

Money in professional sports - a question of priorities

Below is a copy of a letter that was sent to the Star Tribune but not published. The central issue of shining the light on the enormous sum...