Monday, June 11, 2018

Letter to the Editor - Star Tribune - On the US Bank Stadium

Some two weeks ago, I sent the below letter to the Editor to Star Tribune.  Since it was not published, I am putting it into the public realm for discussion.

To the Editor,
The Star Tribune (May 30) carried a front-page feature on the financial success of the Super Bowl and the US Bank Stadium. Since the inception of the stadium project, the paper has failed to adequately disclose the enormous financial costs imposed on an overtaxed public and the stunning lack of funding from Zygi Wilf, the wealthy owner of the Vikings. Instead of knowing the details of the finances, the public has been treated to misinformation, secrecy, and the promotion of self-interests. But the bottom line is that the public is paying the bill and it is well over $1 billion.
 Since the Star Tribune is directly involved in the ownership of three professional sports teams that depend on public subsidies and since the stadium project commenced with the purchase of  Star Tribune land, it is incumbent upon the paper to hold itself to the same standards of disclosure that it publicly imposes on others.  Further, it is the responsibility of our elected officials to pass “Sunshine Laws” that guarantee the public’s right to know.

Respectfully submitted,
Arne H. Carlson
Governor of Minnesota 1991 -1999

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

An Open Letter to Democrats

This year’s national election may well be the most important in our history. Never before has our Republic been so threatened from within. There can be little doubt that Donald Trump is not only using the Presidency for personal gain but he has continuously attacked all institutions that provide stability and confidence in our democracy. In addition, he has a vast built-in support system in the media from Fox News to right-wing radio.

This is not to be underrated. What most political observers thought would be a democratic landslide in 2018 has evolved into a situation where public opinion is evenly split between the two parties and Trump’s numbers continue to rise.

If the Democratic Party continues on the old path and fails to reform, another 2016 election will occur. That our nation cannot afford. This is what brings the two of us together in this mission to do all we can to bring moderate Republicans and independents into the Democratic Party fold. But you, as Democrats, hold our national fate in your hands.

Although we are strong supporters of Richard Painter for the United States Senate, we are not writing for that purpose. No our concern is that Tina Smith’s candidacy may well fall short of victory in November thereby keeping Trump Republicans in control of the Senate. We say this because red flags are waving making it imperative that all delegates and all those involved in the nominating process make certain that the relevant concerns are publicly resolved before any support is offered.

Rest assured that if these issues are not dealt with now they will be aired very publicly in the months ahead by her Republican opponent and their media system. Secrecy and surprise are not options.

Tina Smith has refused to debate. We have been around politics long enough to know that debates can involve gamesmanship. That is not the case here. Senator Tina Smith has supported and voted for suspending the tax on the medical device industry. Many Democrats would agree with that vote since so much of the industry is located in Minnesota. But what is wholly unacceptable here is that she also holds millions of dollars of stock in these companies and directly benefits from the suspension of that tax. Further, Senator Tina Smith has fully participated in an industry fundraiser promoting her candidacy.

Using the powers of government to enhance one’s wealth is precisely what Donald Trump has been doing. How can a Democrat Senator criticize Trump for behavior she herself practices?

In addition, Senator Smith has not supported Medicare for all. This is a single payer system – Medicare for all - strongly advanced by many Democrats including Senator Bernie Sanders and Richard Painter. But it is also opposed by many healthcare companies that profit from the current system including the medical device industry.

Another major concern that warrants public debate is copper-nickel mining in the Boundary Waters area. How can we risk permanent damage to our state’s most valuable natural asset and allow foreign financial interests to simply exploit it? All for 300 jobs.  Certainly with metro overcrowding, moving 300 jobs to Northern Minnesota cannot be all that challenging. Growing employment in rural Minnesota should be the priority not destroying our environment.

Now, we accept the reality that this letter will create pushback. No matter how flawed critics may think we are, the fact remains that we are not the candidate and we are not the ones blocking the emergence of the truth. The unwillingness of Senator Smith to debate and disclose is the real concern.

Again, it is the unique importance of this election that cries out for the highest level of scrutiny so Democrats can stand tall in the fall election and declare to the voter without hesitation that “we do not accept Trump, we do not accept his dishonesty, we do not accept his beliefs.” As John F. Kennedy challenged us: “We can do better.”

We very much respect your service.


Janet Entzel                                                                             Arne Helge Carlson
Minnesota House (DFL -1972 – 1984 )                                  Governor of Minnesota  (1991-1999)
MN Deputy Commissioner of Corrections                            Republican – now Independent

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Minnesota…A Battleground

Putting aside personal feelings, the battle for the Senate seat currently occupied by Tina Smith is going to emerge as one of the most hotly contested races in the nation. Klobuchar will have an easy ride thus allowing both parties to focus on the Housley, Painter, and Smith competition.

Overall, Democrats may feel comfortable with a seven point lead in the generic ballot when respondents are asked which party they would prefer to control Congress. Unfortunately, that number does not factor in the effects of gerrymandering which heavily favors the GOP and will have an effect on control of the House.

But that seven point lead does clearly help the Democrats on the Senate side. One element that could be key is the level of enthusiasm. Karin Housley, a strong Trump supporter, will benefit because the election could well be seen as a referendum on the impeachment of Trump thereby exciting the Trump base. Richard Painter, if he is the DFL primary winner, will also have it because he has long been a key anti-Trump figure on the national level and that will turn out the Democrat base.

The real question mark is Tina Smith who scores poorly in the enthusiasm contest. Worse still is the fact that she currently trails Housley in at least one credible internal poll. That has created considerable nervousness among national Democratic leaders who very much want control of the Senate. Their interest in Richard Painter is increasing.

All three candidates are relatively unknown to the voters and all these current impressions could easily change. However, for the incumbent to be in this position bodes poorly for her.

Elections tend to be about the incumbent’s record and, in this case, that is largely unknown. Richard Painter, a highly skilled attorney, is already raising questions about the role of foreign interests in the proposed copper mining controversy in northern Minnesota. Governor Dayton has publicly wondered aloud about the conflict of interests involved. What precisely is he referring to? Regardless, Smith, as the incumbent, is going to have to play a more public role in this budding controversy. The environmental vote could be pivotal. 

And the public monies that have been poured into the U.S. Bank stadium while shortchanging education is certainly a rising concern. This will become more visible as Tina Smith’s negotiating role on behalf of the Governor is examined.

Further complicating her mission is that there still is some bitterness over the departure of Al Franken and the lack of due process. Many Minnesotans feel that the Governor should have appointed a placeholder and thereby allow an open and competitive process to take place. And the role of New York Senator Schumer in “advising” the Governor remains a concern. In this instance, being an insider and a benefactor may not be an asset.

How quickly she gets out in front of these issues may well be key to her survival. But the bottom line is simple:  That Senate seat is up for grabs. All candidates would be well advised to bring all their concerns out early and deal with them in robust public debates. Good public policy requires openness and full disclosure so we, the public, can be properly informed.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Scribes…. we can do better.

Leadership that moves man towards betterment is always aspirational. It is not only the foundation of religion but of all human endeavors.

Those of us who lived through World War II so well remember the inspiration of our leaders, Roosevelt and Churchill. Students of American history can recite the Gettysburg Address. And we all recognize that our human struggle for equal acceptance and opportunity is based on the words of Martin Luther King.

The Women’s March of January 2017 raised expectations of a younger generation and brought to all of us a new sense of duty in the world of Trump.

But much of last night’s Correspondence Dinner featuring comedian Michelle Wolf was a step backward. We, the public, had a right to expect the best in humor and satire reflecting appropriate standards. Instead, a divided nation received mean-spirited digs and unadulterated filth masquerading as humor.

There can be no doubt that there is anger towards President Trump and that is totally understandable. However, the answer cannot be to replicate the unacceptable but rather to reach upward as Michelle Obama has advised and take the high road. Let’s showcase the best in America.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Barbara Bush – the First Lady of America

Today we said goodbye to Barbara Bush. In this age of the scripted message, her candor and humor was refreshing.

How well I remember the Presidential campaign of 1992 when Barbara Bush came to Minnesota to promote her husband’s candidacy. After several appearances marked by a high level of candor and wit, we found ourselves in an unoccupied room and enjoyed in a memorable conversation. Almost before we started, she blurted, “Oh, sometimes I wish George would lose.” We both laughed. She was simply expressing an honest thought felt by every political spouse.

Looking back, I was struck by two elements of her being. The first was her remarkable ability to make people feel at ease. She was so comfortable in her own skin that it radiated a comfort to others. There was no pretense. You got what you saw and that was truly wonderful.

The second aspect was her interest in you. She never boasted about herself or her family. Rather, the conversation was about you and your thoughts. The older I become, the more I realize the rarity of that quality.

During our chat, I shared with her my thoughts on historical transitions. She was clearly interested. That evening, I received a call from the President wanting to know more about these transitions. Clearly, they were a sharing and caring couple.

Barbara Bush set a standard for us regarding truth and our obligation to the future. The best way for us to demonstrate our affection for this splendid lady is to put the truth and the wellbeing of others before self.

Thank you, Barbara….

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Richard Painter – A Quick Draw

Part of growing up is learning to be very selective when engaging in combat. Hugh Hewitt, a national conservative talk show host, learned his lesson. Monday night (April 2), Hewitt, not only defended the rather limited ethics of EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, but also went on to suggest that Richard Painter, his adversary on the show, was in Minnesota because he could not cut it in Washington. Painter, who served President George W. Bush as chief counsel in charge of ethics and is currently a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, quickly shot back with “Excuse me! I am fed up with people being attacked in Minnesota, in my state! We are sick and tired of K Street Lobbyists who look down on us!”

Wow! There are very few hamlets in America who look to Washington for advice on how to govern.

And who better to voice that message than our own Richard Painter. His independent and articulate voice will be a highlight in the Senate contest to fill Al Franken’s seat. Anyone who takes Painter lightly may suffer the same fate as Hugh Hewitt.

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

Letter to the Editor - Star Tribune - On the US Bank Stadium

Some two weeks ago, I sent the below letter to the Editor to Star Tribune.  Since it was not published, I am putting it into the public rea...