Sunday, December 10, 2017

And Justice for All.

Recent events have brought to mind some terrifying days I experienced growing up in the Bronx. As a 6th grader, I was painfully shy with a pronounced stammer.

One day, two uniformed policemen came into the classroom, looked around, and pointed to me while declaring, “We want that boy.” 

I was escorted to the principal’s office, planted in a chair, and asked if I knew why I was there. I stammered “no” and was told to stare at the wall clock until my memory improved.

When it became clear that clock watching was not going to produce a confession, I was grilled on my whereabouts for a series of Saturdays. Fortunately, my father had formed a boys club at our church and he would take us to various points of interest in New York City. My Saturdays were covered.

This only produced frustration from the officers so I was directed back to clock watching.

That evening, I shared the horror with my parents who were Swedish immigrants and certainly not acquainted with the finer points of law. So my father wrote down the places and times of the boys club Saturday trips. Certainly, that would clear me they reasoned.

However, the next day I was back again facing the clock. My father’s list meant nothing because the police officers had been informed by a reliable witness that two boys crawled over the school fence, broke into the school, and caused minor damage. One was identified as an Italian and the other had blond hair.

Since there were few blonds in our Italian, Jewish and Irish community then it was clear that it had to be me. Of this the police were certain.

On the afternoon of the second day, Mrs. McCauley, my 6th grade teacher who bore a striking resemblance to Aunt Bee of Mayberry fame, burst into the principal’s office, grabbed me by the hand and boldly declared, “I want my boy back.”

Some time later, the mystery was solved and yes there was more than one blond in the Bronx.

However, the pain of that memory still makes me well up. My presumption of innocence was trampled by the authorities who had certainty of their side and by a principal who was all too willing to vacate her office and her responsibility to protect her students. My parents were poor and all too trusting in authority.

It was my teacher, Mrs. McCauley, who saved me from entering the juvenile system. To her courage, I owe my life.

Being a victim can be painful but the answer to an injustice cannot be to create another injustice.

I am deeply troubled by the resignation of Al Franken and the complete absence of anything resembling due process.

Now reports are surfacing that Leeann Tweeden, Franken’s prime accuser, may have been coached by Roger Stone, a major Trump operator. Since there was no vetting, we only heard her story. But there has been no explanation as to why she attended a USO event in 2009 honoring Franken and was captured on tape joking around with him. This is three years after she claimed to be traumatized by Franken.

She continued in 2011 with a tweet containing a photo of her and Franken together.

This is all very troubling. A rush to judgment is, unfortunately, all too human. But a rush to punishment is totally unacceptable.

Perhaps this is a time for reconsideration. We now know that the right wing attempted to plant a false accusation with the Washington Post.  On the other side, we also know that an accuser against Roy Moore of Alabama fudged the truth in her allegations.

Further, we know that Senate Democrats who asked for Franken’s resignation may have been motivated more by the politics of the Alabama Senate race than the seriousness of the allegations.

And now we have the supreme insult of New York Senator Schumer “advising” Governor Dayton on how to pick a successor. That is a certainty for GOP advertising in 2018.

It is time for all of us to sober up. Our nation is in peril with Donald Trump in the White House and Republicans yielding to his demands. We are increasingly moving towards authoritarianism and continued GOP subservience could possibly lead to the dissolution of the Mueller investigation.

While I am not always in agreement with Senator Al Franken, I firmly believe in due process which is a cornerstone of our democratic way of living. Whenever in history we abandoned it, we severely damaged ourselves. Just think about the lynching of Blacks in the South, the internment of people of Japanese descent in World War II, or the era of McCarthyism when lives were destroyed based solely on allegations.

The simple fact is that Al Franken has been the Senate’s most effective challenge to Trump and his subordinates. The possibility of any rigging by Roger Stone and his associates should cause all of us to call for a rescinding of the Franken resignation and a prompt and thorough review of all allegations by the Senate Ethics Committee.


He was elected by we, the people, and he should continue to serve until a legal determination has been made.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Warren Spannaus: A Profile in Courage

 In this day of incumbent protection, it is proper for us to remember those who served us with courage.  Warren Spannaus, a former Attorney General of Minnesota, literally put his political life on the line when he repeatedly fought for sensible gun safety laws.

I so well remember Tom Berg carrying the Spannaus bill in the House of Representatives. Somehow this piece of legislation turned into a highly charged public war and it ended the ambitions of two of our finest public servants: Warren Spannaus and Tom Berg. And, we the public were losers because both would have been superb Governors.

This nation was founded on the notion of competing ideas but somewhere we got derailed into an environment of absolutes. In that world, compromise and the exchange of views is unacceptable.


To his credit, Warren Spannaus always stood by our fundamental values of decency, kindness, and respect for the views of others. He was a first rate of politician and a revered public servant.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Joint Statement by Former Vice President Walter Mondale and Former Governor Arne H. Carlson

As former public officials, we are increasingly concerned about the role of money in influencing public policy. The U.S. House of Representatives is on its way to passing out major tax legislation without any public hearings. In addition, they leak out information daily about the possibility of major changes thereby preventing analysis and commentary.

This is repugnant in a democratic society. There are two certainties in the tax bill: large financial rewards to the Republican donor base and a massive increase in our national debt.

With this in mind, we issue the following challenge to House members who vote for this bill:

Publicly pledge to run for re-election.

This is the only way the public can express its voice on policies that are harmful to the general good and practices that are clearly undemocratic.

We are fearful that some members will vote “yes”, then announce their retirement to spend more time with their family, and accept lucrative employment from those who reap the benefits.

Respectfully,

Walter F. Mondale                                                     Arne H. Carlson
Former Vice President of the United States              Former Governor of Minnesota
Democrat                                                                   Republican

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Roger Erickson – Another Minnesota Giant

In April 1945, the train carrying the body of President Franklin Roosevelt moved slowly down the tracks from Warm Springs, Georgia on its way to the Nation’s Capitol. Thousands of mourners lined the pathway to wave goodbye to their beloved leader. A reporter went up to one of the men waving softly while tears moved slowly down his checks. “Did you know the President?” the reporter inquired. “No” responded the man. “But he knew me.”

What a remarkable tribute.

Today, we celebrate the life of another great who truly knew us.

For some thirty-eight years, Roger Erickson with his partner, Charlie Boone, dominated the airwaves with America’s most humorous and delightful morning show on WCCO radio. It was always fresh and tasteful. There was no place for vulgarity or self-promotion. No, it was about the character of Minnesota: hard work, honesty, respect for others, and community. We were all neighbors in the Minnesota of Boone & Erickson; farmers, doctors, teachers, plumbers – even politicians – were just neighbors and no one more important than another. Nor was anyone immune to being the subject of wholesome humor.

Susan and I were blessed to share in Roger’s life on numerous occasions. On one, we invited the show to be aired from the Governor’s Residence. At 4 a.m. we stumbled down the stairs in our robes only to be greeted by the banter and laughter of Roger and Charlie. And this was before we had our coffee.

But that is the way it was for nearly four decades. Morning became a time for joy commencing with the Good Morning song. We all enjoyed our breakfast while Boone and Erickson took us through their adventures at Minnesota Hospital or the Lutefisk Lament. And who could turn the announcement of school closings into a major source of humor and delight. That was sheer artistry. 

When we received word that Swedish King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia would be visiting Minnesota, Susan and her staff went about planning the reception. The goal was to balance the formality and protocol of a royal visit with the warm hospitality of Minnesota.

This included the University of Minnesota Marching Band to greet the royal couple outside the Residence and a garden covered with a white tent and tables with formal settings to accommodate over 300 guests. It was an absolutely beautiful setting.

But the key was to set the tone and who better to serve as Master of Ceremonies than Roger Erickson. He was perfect with his light and warm humor and his remarkable ability to make everyone feel comfortable.

So comfortable, in fact, that the King leaned over to Susan and asked if he should speak. Susan’s response was enthusiastically positive. Than the rather shy King inquired about what he should say. Her response was simple. “Anything you say, they will love.”

What is of special note here is that we were informed by the Swedish advance team that the King would not speak and they were quite emphatic about that.

My personal belief is that Roger was so successful in creating a welcoming and warm environment that the King was moved to verbally participate.

But that was Roger Erickson. Maybe not all Minnesotans personally knew him but it is certain that he knew us and we are all richer for it.



Thursday, October 26, 2017

It’s Time to Decide

As you can tell from the accompanying ad prepared by the campaign, I am supporting John Hayden for the Minneapolis City Council. I do this for a very simple reason: he believes in the public’s right to know how their money is being spent and he has the courage and intelligence to make this a reality.

Now that may seem a bit absurd. After all, of course, the public has a right to know when their money is involved. But tragically, that is increasingly not true.

Just ask yourself a few basic questions:

·       Do you know what is in the package involving the NFL and the Super Bowl committee? Is the taxpayer on the hook? And for how much?

·       Do you know how, when or why the state legislature overrode the Minneapolis City Charter which limited taxpayer contributions to professional sport teams owners to $10 million? The new law now opens the door for unlimited taxpayer monies to the billionaires owning the teams. Why did our elected city officials support this?

·       Do you know how or why the Vikings got use of the downtown Common parks free of charge?  We, the taxpayers, bought the park for some $20 million and we pay millions for its upkeep. Where is Zygi’s money? (Answer: In his pocket.)

·       Did you know that the city property taxpayers are on the hook for the parking ramps used by the Vikings on game and other days for free?  Property taxpayers likely will spend some $30 million to subsidize these ramps.


If you did poorly on this test, it is understandable. There has been very little transparency on the transfer of public monies to wealthy team owners. The issue here is openness in government and the right of the public to participate in decisions that take their money. We can debate the wisdom of government/ sports teams’ partnerships later. But, for now, we should agree on full and open disclosure.

This is particularly essential when we realize that we are cutting back on education for our children, reducing our commitment to public safety, and ignoring the thousands of youngsters and war veterans looking for a place to sleep.

Let’s have a full public discourse on our priorities and it all starts with supporting candidates who will lead the fight for openness.

John Hayden fits the bill. He and his wife, Jackie, are currently raising a three-year old son in the Waite Park neighborhood and, like all parents; they want the doors of opportunity open and the streets safe.

This coupled with a background of service to disadvantaged children as a teacher and mentor speaks to his commitment. Currently, as a manager with Genesys Works, he creates opportunities for young people by helping them develop useful job skills and employment internships. This also involves working with schools and businesses to form partnerships for employment.

Frankly, we need that kind of dedication to the public good in City Hall. I know that he will fight for us.  If you can, please send a modest contribution or a note of support to John at his website:  www.myneighborjohn.com.

Thanks,

Arne