Friday, July 30, 2010

No show Saturday...

Going down to Nebraska for a family function. I look forward to getting back at it next week. Expect to talk about the Minneapolis taxi industry, unless something major breaks.

Have a great weekend...

At least he didn't know who Snookie was...

I've come to the conclusion that if president Obama would have rescued a baby from a burning building, he'd be criticized for not putting out the fire first. The president made an appearance on the ABC daytime show, The View, which aired Thursday. an appearance which drew criticism from the usual sources.

I did not set aside any time to watch the show, but I've heard reports that the president was not pressed on many of tough issues facing the country. Rather, he spent most of the time fielding questions on his knowledge of pop culture.

Critics say that an appearance like this diminishes the integrity of the presidency. I say that while I had no interest in seeing him in type of interview, we have to understand that in the year 2010, the American public is more concerned with Mel Gibson's tirade than they are with the war in Afghanistan, sad as that may be. This president understands that and did use at least some of the time to explain where we are as a nation, going forward.

This was not intended to be an impromptu State of the Union address. Obama understands the celebrity factor in being our first black president, as well as being one of our youngest presidents since JFK. I don't think, for one minute, that he's lost sight of our nation's "bigger problems."

I will become a little concerned, however, if Obama agrees to replace Simon or Ellen as a judge on American Idol.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Minneapolis taxi drama much deeper than reported.

I took the time to read the July 27th article in the Star-Tribune, about the 75 or so Minneapolis cab drivers that met with city officials to air grievances about citations and other issues. Anytime someone outside the taxi industry writes a piece about cab drivers, I have a tendency to feel the reporter is a little biased against the industry or just fails to ask the right questions.

I will attempt to give a little more in depth analysis of some of the problems addressed by these drivers.

I will preface this by saying that I was not a part of this group of drivers. I have not operated in Minneapolis (other than medical contract runs) since about 1997. Only because I refuse to attend this new driver class that costs $75 to attend. I've taken this same class on 3 separate occasions for permits to operate in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the airport. But because I let the permit lapse during my stints in Las Vegas and Texas, the ordinance says I must re-take the course. Bullshit!

However, I am still in touch with the Minneapolis taxi industry through my connections with Airport Taxi, the company I currently am affiated with.

The drivers do have a legitimate gripe about the lack of taxi stand space in downtown Minneapolis. Considering the fact that the number of licenced taxis had nearly doubled in the 13 years since I last worked the city, the sad little 6 stands they've added is hardly enough to accomidate the extra vehicles.

That said, the city did not grant all these extra licences just so the drivers can congragate downtown. The intention was to get more taxis out into the neighborhoods. Problem is, Minneapolis is not New York City or any other east coast city where taxis are a way of life. And unlike other large cities, parking in Minneapolis is still cheap and abundant. It is just not good business sense for a cabbie to sit around certain neighborhoods to wait for a call and flaggers (people waving down cabs) in these areas are almost non existent. The 2011 plan to take the cap off the number of licences will cetainly exasservate the situation.

Minneapolis drivers are not allowed to park their cabs on any any city street, that is not a cab stand, in an area in and around downtown. Yet, some drivers live in these areas and are still being tagged for parking, even when they are off duty. Also, many drivers are being harrased by parking enforcement officers for parking in the vicinity of 24th and Chicago (outside of the restricted parking area), the location of a Somali marketplace. Unlike the days of old, many of these taxis are single shift vehicles, where the cab is also that driver's personal vehicle. The intent of the ordinance is to prevent taxis from clogging up metered parking spaces downtown, but many times, enforcement officers are tagging taxis that are parked in obvious residential areas.

This all said, the notion that enforcement officers are targeting "dark" drivers is absolute bullshit. Fact is, I have seen maybe a handful of white cab drivers operating in the city since I returned to the area in 2008. If over 90% of the cab drivers in the city are of east African decent, chances are pretty good that the majority of the citations issued will be to drivers of that ethnicity.

And if the city's objective for flooding the streets with taxis was to improve service, the experiment has failed miserably. If anything, this huge influx of east African drivers has had negative effect on the industry, metro wide. Little of any of this has anything to do with the color of the driver's skin. Even with recent rate increases and my experience in the industry, I make less money now than I did 10 years ago. People are less inclined to take a taxi these days out of fear that their driver will not speak or understand English, have any clue on how to get to their destination or hang on their cell phone, speaking in their native tongue, for the entire ride.

Some service companies, most notably Airport and Yellow, have gone to great lengths to enforce the rules of good customer service, including barring drivers from cell phone use while the taxi is in motion. But they can only do so much to enforce these rules.

Also, I don't know when the city stopped attaching the driver's photo to the permit that is to be posted in plain view of the passenger. A huge and somewhat undiscussed problem is when an unlicensed driver operates the cab under a friend or relative's permit. This would be far less of an issue if the driver's photo was still a part of the permit.

As the city completely opens the floodgates on the number of taxi licences, the above mentioned problems will only increase, unless they employ a handful of enforcement officers dedicated to the industry.

I have invited Lyn L.F. Lynner, a member of the executive board of the recently formed Minneapolis Taxi Cab Drivers and Owners Association and Ricardo Cervantes, deputy director of licensing and consumer services for the city to come on the Shannon Files blogcast to discuss these issues. I will post a follow up if either or both of them agree to come on the show.

An outright ban on pit bulls?

A mailman was attacked by a couple of pit bulls in north Minneapolis, Tuesday. Police officers, responding to the call, had to shoot and kill the dogs when they approached them.

Whenever a news story like this comes out, a debate about banning pit bulls returns to the mainstream.

As a dog owner, I can tell you that any dog is not 100% predictable. However, pit bulls require a special degree of training. I can tell you, without mincing words, that thugs and wannabe gangsters own these dogs in order to obtain "street cred." On many occasions, these dogs are poorly trained or worse yet, trained to be aggressive.

While I don't agree with the outright ban pit bulls, I do believe there should be a special license to own these type of dogs. A potential licensee would have to purchase insurance, to protect against losses in situations like what happened on Tuesday. Furthermore, I would make it a felony for possessing a dog like this without the special license.

While the number of pit bull attacks is rising at an alarming rate, very few of these attacks come from dogs that belong to a responsible owner. We should not penalize responsible dog owners by banning a special breed of dog simply because of a few irresponsible individuals. Rather, let's make the laws provide for harsh penalties for those irresponsible people.

The drugs weren't for me...

I suppose I should clarify that posting from last night, about having good drugs. That picture is of my dog, Jack. He got loose, yesterday afternoon and wound up getting hit by a car. He's a little bruised up, but he'll be okay. The doc gave him some antibiotics and some pain medication so he won't be having too many problems for the next few days.

Of course, the little ham will milk this for as long as he possibly can.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Don't worry about me... I got good drugs...

Murder is still murder, regardless of the age or circumstances...

I think that I've been pretty outspoken about getting people in the inner city as much help as possible to better their lives. This would include providing resources for youths. When I was growing up, there were many recreation centers throughout the city, with the sole purpose of keeping teenagers off the streets.

Now, thanks to all the massive budget cuts, many of those recreation centers are gone in the inner city. So it's easy to understand all of the youth gang violence that you see these days. However, that still does not make it right.

A few days ago, a young man was pulled out of a suburban Minneapolis pond. A senseless beating death perpetrated by three teenage males, aged 16 and 14. Reports state that this was a gang initiation.

Hennepin County prosecutors are determining whether or not they want to try the two 16-year-olds as adults, for this murder. I say by all means.

I don't pretend to know anything all about life in a gang. But I do know right from wrong. And I know that it's never right to take someone else's life, simply to fit in with a group of individuals. So while we all may shed a tear over wasted youth, these three individuals need to be put away, for a very long time.

Even the 14-year-old, who may have done nothing more than fetch the shovel that was used in this brutal killing, needs to be shown that there are dire consequences for this type of behavior.

Street gangs are nothing more than urban terrorists and need to be dealt with as such. The sooner that inner city communities can come to this realization, the sooner the problem can be solved.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Margaret Anderson Kelliher ad best I've seen so far...

Bush "Miss me yet" billboard vandalized

Big business influence won't influence my vote...

A controversial decision by the Supreme Court last winter, now makes it possible for large corporations and unions to funnel large amounts money in order to influence elections. The president has been a vocal critic of this ruling.

Personally, I don't think he's giving the American voting public enough credit, to make an uninfluenced decision.

You see, it doesn't matter to me how much Target Corperation or Hubbard Broadcasting props up Republican gubernatorial candidate, Tom Emmer. I am still going to going to vote for the DFL primary winner. That is my personal preference, uninfluenced by any corporate or union recommendation.

I think most American voters are pretty good about making a well-informed decision. As a matter of fact, I think too much corporate influence could backfire on some candidates. In the wake of all the bailouts of the automobile and financial industry, as well as the BP, Gulf oil disaster, I don't think the American public thinks of big business with too high of regard.

We'll have to see how this plays out through the midterms. But my money is on the fact that I don't think this will make much of a difference.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Signs are...

When I set out my Entenza/Robinson yard sign this morning, it dawned on me, I have not seen very mant yard signs for any of the gubernatorial candidates so far. For that matter, I haven't seen any yard signs in any district, for the congressional race.

I've seen plenty of signs for city council and county commissioner seats, but not very much for what could be considered the two most high-profile races of this election. Of course, I'm talking about the governor's race as well as the 6th District battle between Tarryl Clark and Michelle Bachmann.

I know that midterm elections don't draw a whole lot of excitement, but these are important races, with statewide and national implications. The lack of yard signs for any of these candidates tells me that there is a whole lot of but apathy going on when it comes to this election.

Political writers in Minnesota have stated that the winner of the DFL primary for governor may only need around 20,000 votes. This is a far cry from the actual number of registered Democrats in the state.

Experts say one of the main reasons for the expected low turnout is because the August 10 primary date is around the time when many people are still on summer vacation, away from their homes.

As I've said on many occasions, those people that did not participate in the election process by going to the polls have absolutely nothing to bitch about when the candidate that they like the least winds up winning the election.

Funny thing is, despite being behind in the polls, I've seen more Entenza signs than any others in the governor's race.

Could be a good sign...

Friday, July 23, 2010

This week, it's all about activism...

Click here to listen to the archive...

From raising the minimum wage to a living wage, empathy and politicians, it's all about helping the poor, this week...

Don't ignore the voice of the poor...

I often wonder why political candidates, especially on the national level, don't spend much time in poor neighborhoods campaigning. Is it because people in these neighborhoods cannot afford to spend the millions of dollars it seems to take to win a prominent election?

Even Democrats seem to have a disconnect with the poorest of the poor in the district that they represent.

Just today, it was reported that Massachusetts senator, John Kerry was able to save $500,000 by docking is massive yacht in another state. It's impossible for me to fathom how someone like this has any idea what it's like to try to make ends meet on less than $30,000 per year.

It may be hard to believe in Minnesota's sixth Congressional District that there are some poorer neighborhoods, but trust me I live in one. I've yet to see Michelle Bachmann or Tarryl Clark, for that matter, in my neighborhood. Both of them are in Las Vegas this week, pandering to a group of national bloggers. I understand that this particular race has national implications, but it would be wise for both of them to stick a little closer to home.

I really don't even think that second District Congressman Keith Ellison spends as much time in touch with his Minneapolis constituency as he possibly could. I may be wrong about that, but that's my perception. And you know they say, perception, sometimes stronger than reality.

In my opinion, real change will only occur when all voices, not just those that can afford to go to $500 per plate campaign functions, can be heard.

That time may come quicker than you think...

More changes on the show...

Well it looks like I'm on my own again. Dan's busy schedule will prevent him from being a part of the show on a regular basis.

For now, I will cut the blogcast to a half hour and focus on one or two of the subjects that I covered during the previous week on this blog.

I want to thank Dan for his time and talent and wish him luck on his future endeavors.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Police: MN girl, registered sex offender on the run

Police: MN girl, registered sex offender on the run Minneapolis and St. Paul

COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. -- Authorities have issued a nationwide alert for a missing 14-year-old girl from Minnesota who may be with a registered sex offender.

The Cottage Grove teenager has been missing for nearly three weeks.

Angi Tschida was supposed to start high school this fall. But she could be on the run with a man more than twice her age, who is considered dangerous.

Brigitte Tschida, Angi's mother, is praying for her daughter's safe return.

"It's a nightmare you can't wake up from," Brigitte says.

Brigitte woke up July 2 to find Angi missing from their Cottage Grove home. Her things were gone and computer accounts wiped clean.

"I discovered letters next to the computer, going, 'You knew this day was coming and I'm safe and you'll see me again someday,'" Brigitte says.

It turns out that Angi ran away with a man her mother once dated. Police say 36-year-old Alex McMullin had apparently been having a relationship with the young teenager. Authorities say Angi left with him, possibly going to the Southwest United States, where he has family and friends.

He's a registered sex offender, convicted of threatening a woman with a samurai sword, then trying to strangle her.

In the early 90s, he was arrested in Florida for armed robbery and kidnapping.

And now he's on the run with an underage girl.

"McMullin is experienced with computers. We went through forensics with computers, phones, all had been shut down," says Cottage Grove Police Chief Craig Woolery. "At this point it seems like they've kind of fallen off the grid."

Law enforcement agencies around the country are now looking for the pair. Angi's friends have created a Facebook page they want her to see. And her mother hopes someone can help bring her daughter home.

"She has the most beautiful big blue eyes and they catch people's attention and I just hope that they see those eyes and go, 'I've seen that picture,' and they call somebody and they find them," Brigitte says.

Authorities are also working on this case with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

At this point, investigators say no one has heard from either Angi or Alex McMullin.

Anyone with information should call Washington County Communications at 651-439-9381, Detective Tom Ueland at 651-458-6012 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.

Why the lack of empathy?

I put a feeler out earlier, looking for something to blog about today. Kevin, one of my more politically active Facebook friends gave me a laundry list, including boycotting Target, the flap over the Sherrod firing, even the 7 inning gem pitched by Francisco Liriano, yesterday. Sorry Kev, none of that really hit my radar.

On the other hand, another close friend suggested that I talk about the lack of empathy in today's society. Now that hit a nerve.

I'm a firm believer that most of today's heartless types are in one way or another, products of the "me generation" of the 80's.

It was in that period of time when folks began plugging in their Walkmans and tuning out the world around them. If it wasn't in their suburban backyard, it just didn't matter to them.

It became en vouge to shun those people less fortunate. They were called lazy welfare bums. People that grew up in this environ make up a great number of of those who identify themselves as Conservatives.

It's no surprise the the father of the modern Conservative movement, Ronald Reagan was president through most of that decade. The cuts in social programs during the Reagan years can be directly linked to increases in crime and homelessness.

The Reagan message is now echoed throughout the airwaves through the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck and Fox News. The message is the same as it was back then, screw the poor, build some more bombs.

And now the problem has exploded to a point where no amount of money will solve the problem. If I gave a buck to every homeless guy I saw in my daily travels, it would take almost a third of my pay.

There is a true sense of hopelessness on our city streets these days. And none of our government leaders either knows what to do about it or cares to try.

And as long as our i-phones don't drop calls, most of us could care less too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time to make minimum wage a living wage...

A question was posed on MPR today, how much income would it take to be considered wealthy?

Having never made more than $30,000 per year, in my entire life, personally, I think that anything over 50 grand would be pretty damn good However, I know that that's not realistic.

For the purpose this posting, I would like to focus on how much income is too little..

Let's do a little math here...

According to the government, a single person would have to make just less than $11,000 per year, to be considered at the poverty level. That's the measuring stick most state agencies use when determining if someone qualifies for any help with food, medical or housing assistance.

The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. At 40 hours per week, a person at that wage would earn just over $15,000 per year.

Let's look at one of a person's basic needs, shelter. In an average sized city, a modest one bedroom apartment goes for about $500 per month. The income standard for most rental agencies is a monthly income 4 times of what a unit would rent for. That would mean someone would have to make $2,000 per month, or $24,000 per year, to qualify for that cracker box apartment. One full time job would have to pay just over $11.50 per hour to meet that standard.

Some minimum wage earners are able to get by, by working 2 jobs or living with someone else, but not everyone has that "luxury."

These people are the true working poor. Those who lack enough income to meet their basic needs, yet make too much money to qualify for any assistance for the taxpayer. These are the people who go to the emergency room for basic health care. The ones who take jobs in the underground economy in order to avoid taxes. Or they become disenchanted with the system all together and live entirely off the government tit.

It is for this reason that I have concluded the the single biggest problem with our economy is the sub standard minimum wage. If every wage earner in this country were paid, a minimum of $11.50 per hour, they could afford that modest apartment, utilities, food and transportation. They may even be able to purchase basic health insurance, if they aren't in a risk category. This would give more people the incentive to get off public aid and get work. It would also put more money in to the economy, creating more jobs.

I'm aware that there may be a mild inflationary effect with such a drastic upswing in wages at the low end of the pay scale. But if that means I pay 50 cents more for my Big Mac, it's a small price to pay.

We all loathe the folks that work the system by squeezing out 2 or 3 puppies, just so they can collect the welfare money to afford to live. With entry level wages so low, there is no incentive to break that cycle.

It is time for American businesses to step up and pay a living wage to those people that help earn them millions in profit every year.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Entenza shines on MPR debate...

I listened to DFL candidates Mark Dayton, Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Matt Entenza debate on MPR today. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but while Entenza was calm, Dayton and Kelliher were continuously interrupting each other and trading barbs.

Matt Entenza did his best through all this to lay out his agenda. Surprisingly the other two candidates said little to dispute Matt's points. They were too busy going at each other. Are they really in that much denial of Matt Entenza's presence in the campaign?

I know that I've been pretty biased when it came to Matt Entenza's campaign, but I tell you, he truly sounded like a leader in this debate, while his opponents, at times squabbled like children. Don't take my word for it. Go to MPR's news website (link) and listen to the archive.

Despite the current poll numbers, I feel that if the Dayton and Kelliher camps dismiss Matt Entenza, they do so at their own peril.

It's about time...

So it looks like the Senate is finally going to get off its ass and pass the unemployment extension bill. I still don't understand why it's taken so long to get this done. Filibustering Republicans say that they don't have a problem with helping the unemployed, they just are afraid of more deficit spending.


Senate Republicans were just as eager to spend like wild men over their pet projects, when they were in charge. And don't even get me started about the billions of dollars spent on the war in Iraq.

Whether or not you want to admit it, the unemployment situation is just as big of an emergency as any natural disaster.

I'm not going to deny that there are people out there that are abusing the system. I believe that steps should be taken to ensure that people who are receiving unemployment benefits are actually making a good-faith effort to find work.

But keep in mind, many people that are on unemployment have been working at one particular job for upwards of 20 years. For these people, finding a new career path is not easy. Specialized training is often necessary.

And quite frankly, if you had a desk job for the last 20 years, your body is not conditioned to go out and wait tables, as noble of an idea as that sounds.

It's like I've always said, it's easy for those who make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to dictate the needs of those who are barely scraping by.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Random thoughts for Monday...

That was quite the storm that ripped through the north end of the Twin Cities, Saturday night. Straight line winds and small tornadoes pummeled areas from Rogers, all the way southeast to Hudson, Wisconsin. Other parts of the metro received torrential rain. I was taking a fare from Roseville to St. Louis Park as the brunt of the storm was baring down the Anoka area. There must of been some wind damage in St. Louis Park though, as there were scattered power outages in that area.

Luckily, the Twins-White Sox game at Target Field was a pitchers duel, that lasted less than 2 hours. The heavy rain that flooded a couple of streets in the downtown area hit minutes after the final out was recorded.

Several thousand customers are still without power, as of this morning.
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed my interview with IP candidate for governor, Rob Hahn. It's refreshing to talk to someone who lays out his agenda and says, here's who I am, if you like what you see, vote for me. Personally, I like some of his ideas, but I think he may be a bit too pro big business for my liking.
Again, I found myself having to play dodge-dummy on the roads, last Saturday. This time it was a semi, hauling for Ashley Furniture. I was trying to get over to the Little Canada Road exit from west bound 694 / southbound 35E. I signaled for the lane change and the truck sped up to block me from making a safe lane change. I slowed to let him go by me, but he slowed up as well. I had to floor it to finally end the cat and mouse game and make my exit. For my troubles, I got the single finger salute from this "professional" driver. I only wish others took their road responsibilities as serious as I do.
That's all I have for now. Have a great day.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tea Party damage control?

Tea Party Federation kicks out Williams over blog post

(CNN) - The National Tea Party Federation, an organization that represents the Tea Party political movement around the country, has expelled conservative commentator Mark Williams and his Tea Party Express because of an inflammatory blog post he wrote, federation spokesman David Webb said Sunday.

Appearing on the CBS program "Face the Nation," Webb said that Williams and the Tea Party Express - which has held a series of events across the country to generate support for the movement - no longer were part of the National Tea Party Federation.

"We, in the last 24 hours, have expelled Tea Party Express and Mark Williams from the National Tea Party Federation because of the letter that he wrote," Webb said of the blog post by Williams that satirized a fictional letter from what he called "Colored People" to President Abraham Lincoln.

Webb called the blog post "clearly offensive."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rob Hahn interview lasts for nearly 50 minutes...

Click here to listen to the archive...

Fascinating interview with IP gubernatorial candidate, Rob Hahn. The segment took a little longer than I had expected, but I think it was well worth it.

Rob Hahn's Issues Checklist

Prior to the interview with IP candidate for Minnesota governor, Rob Hahn, this is an "Issues Checklist," as found on his website.

Fiscal Responsibility

We need to get the state’s fiscal house in order by cutting spending, reforming taxes and finding new sources of revenue.

Tax Reform

Provide tax incentives to businesses that hire new employees, reduce the capital gains tax to encourage more investment in start-up companies at a time banks aren’t lending much money and consider raising income tax on the “├╝ber rich.”

Riverboat Gambling

Iowa, Illinois and Indiana all profit from riverboat gambling, and we should do the same. Up and down the Mississippi River and elsewhere, this could generate new revenue ($400-600 million a year), create jobs and promote tourism.

Fat Tax

Added tax on fast food restaurants to create a new stream of revenue to help pay additional health costs associated with obesity and overweight (a projected $1 billion in 2010) and contribute to general fund.

K-12 Education

More performance pay, phase out tenure and use successful Charter Schools as models for expansion.

Higher Education

Create P.I.E., Partners In Education, a governor-led, not government-sponsored, partnerships between higher ed institutions and businesses that would allow students to get on-the-job preparation, earn credits and help pay for tuition costs while in school.

Family Law Reform

Joint Physical Custody – shared parenting time defined as greater than 45% for both parents - should be the legal presumption. Children have the right to have shared time with BOTH parents.

Health Care and Health Care Coverage

Allow Minnesotans to purchase health care insurance from out-of-state providers to create more competition and look at creating a state-run hospital and clinic system as a low-cost alternative to our privatized system.


Yes. Great source of new revenue and should be expanded to include auto racing tracks throughout the state.

Tax on Clothing and Essential Groceries

No. Would hurt everyone in many ways, and we would lose a competitive advantage with neighboring states and visitors to the Mall of America.

New Vikings Stadium

Yes. Use of public money makes sense only if the state can share in stadium-generated revenue and get use of the stadium in non-football months.

Increase “Sin Tax”

No. Alcohol and tobacco are already taxed multiple times and have been an easy target for too long.

Legalize Marijuana

For medicinal purposes, absolutely. Maybe for other forms of use. Loads of potential tax revenue from legalizing all marijuana, and some would argue the war on marijuana has been lost.

Lower the legal drinking age

Maybe. Many college presidents have said it would reduce binge drinking.

Same Sex Marriages

Yes. This is a human and civil rights issue, not a religious issue. Legalize them or get out of the marriage business and just issue union licenses to everyone.


Renewable sources like wind and solar are good only if the investment and benefit to end-user make sense. The moratorium on new nuclear power plants should be lifted to allow serious consideration be given to building new nuclear facilities.

Friday, July 16, 2010

If I have a problem with Obama...

It would have nothing to do with his agenda (health care, stimulus, financial reform...).

My problem may be with his lack of leadership. Candidate Obama was very articulate about this vision for this country. President Obama seems to have lost that ability to make the country understand how these policies will eventually get this country back on the right track. Leaving the door open for the right to control the conversation.

Understanding that there was only so much he could have done about the BP oil disaster, I think he could have been a little more visible throughout the crisis.

I still think the president can turn things around. I for one, have not lost faith in him. A lot will depend on how he can rally the troops in the mid-term elections.

Another gubernatorial candidate on the show...

Listen live, Saturday @ 4pm...

IP candidate for Minnesota governor, Rob Hahn will join us. Also, more talk about the rising murder rate in Minneapolis.

Same blog site, different name...

I finally broke down and registered a domain name for this site.

You can go to

Friday morning jottings...

So what really happens that first Wednesday of the month, when we hear all those sirens, at 1pm? As I understand it, the reason they do this is to test the sirens. So why is it that now when some Minnesota communities need those sirens to alert them of a dangerous approaching storm, some of them are failing? What really goes into the testing process? Is someone posted at each siren location. I think communities better take a look at this issue.
Tom Petters is the latest white collar criminal that can expect to spend the rest of his life in jail. While I agree with the 50 year sentence, I think it should be noted that there are some murderers that aren't doing that much time.
Remember, Rob Hahn, IP candidate for governor will join us on the blogcast this Saturday. I have a feeling he'll have some very interesting things to say.
Have a great day...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Penny dropper at 'Server Summit' accepts Emmer's offer to talk, but GOP candidate's camp now says no meeting

Originally on

By Joe Kimball

Minnpost photo by Terry Gydesen

Nick Espinoza shown speaking to reporters following the Server Summit.

The man who dropped thousands of pennies on the table Wednesday during Tom Emmer's Server Summit — and then gave an alias to reporters — says he wants to take the Republican-endorsed gubernatorial candidate up on his offer to talk.

But Emmer's campaign says they won't reward such prankster activity with a meeting.

The penny-dropper was Nick Espinosa, who gave the name Robert Erickson when pulling his stunt. He says he was trying to draw attention to Emmer's stance on immigration.

Emmer met Wednesday night with waiters and bartenders to discuss his comments about servers' wages that caused a campaign flap that hasn't died. During the already-contentious meeting, Erickson/Espinosa dumped a bag with 2,000 pennies on Emmer's table, startling the candidate.

Erickson/Espinosa says he was rushed out of the room by Emmer supporters before he could say more. The meeting broke up a little later.

In an interview afterwards, Emmer urged the young protester to stick around and discuss the issues.

"Have a little courage, man. Come on back, come up and shake my hand," Emmer said.

So Erickson/Espinosa responded that he wants to do just that, and issued an invitation on his website.

"I invite you to join that debate with me and others at Mercado Central in South Minneapolis. You told the media that you’d welcome an exchange. I’d like to talk to you, and so would many members of the Latino community. Let’s set a date in August."

Emmer Communications Director Bill Walsh said today that they will not reward Erickson/Espinosa's antics by meeting with him.

"We can't wait to discuss immigration issues with the endorsed Democratic candidate after the Aug. 10 primary, and whoever that is will probably have similar viewpoints as this person," Walsh said. "But you don't pull a stunt like that and expect us to provide a public forum."

Walsh joked that the next step would be to send College Republicans to DFL events and pull similar stunts, and then demand press attention afterward in the parking lot to talk about tax cuts. He emphasized: "That's a joke."

On the website invitation, Erickson/Espinosa explains why he cares about immigration policy: "My father came here from Ecuador as a student when he was 18. When I was fifteen, agents came to our home while we were working in the yard, arrested him, and deported him."

Our community would like to talk with you about the root causes of immigration, especially trade policies like NAFTA which make it impossible for farmers in Mexico to sustain their families and forces them to leave their communities to come north.

Our community would like to talk to you about your past legislative proposals directed toward Minnesota’s immigrants. You proposed taking prenatal care away from immigrant women. You co-sponsored an English only bill. You opposed the DREAM Act and favored 287g programs. Most recently, you called SB1070 a “wonderful first step” and your closest allies introduced a copycat bill in the Minnesota legislature.

We would like to talk to you about fixing a broken system, about ending fear in our communities, about ways that we might work together to create a pathway to citizenship.

You say you won’t run from a chance for a good discussion about controversial issues; we won’t either.

Tasteless joke, but I got a chuckle out of it...

A Russian arrives in New York City as a new immigrant to the United States . He stops the the person he sees walking down the street and says, "Thank you Mr. American for letting me into this country, giving me housing, food stamps, free medical care, and a free education!"

The passerby says, "You are mistaken, I am a Mexican."

The man goes on and encounters another passerby.

"Thank you for having such a beautiful country here in America ."

The person says, "I not American, I Vietnamese."

The new arrival walks farther, and the next person he sees he stops, shakes his hand, and says, "Thank you for wonderful America!

That person puts up his hand and says, "I am from Middle East . I am not American."

He finally sees a nice lady and asks, "Are you an American?"

She says, "No, I am from Africa ."

Puzzled, he asks her, "Where are all the Americans?"

The African lady checks her watch and says, "Probably at work."

Thursday morning jottings...

I feel bad that I'm really unable to help Matt Entenza's campaign for Minnesota governor any more than I have. There are just not enough hours in my day, this time of year. Plus, for the sake of the show. I don't want to close the door on other candidates. As I posted a couple of days ago, IP candidate, Rob Hahn will join us this Saturday. My support for Entenza has not wained any, but I am fascinated by a couple of Hahn's ideas.
Someone I know that's receiving unemployment benefits is now being queried about his attempt to find work. I've been saying for a while now that help should be given to those who need it, for as long as they need it. But a little accountability would go a long way in insuring that folks aint milking the system.
On a personal note; If you see a maroon taxicab slowing down in your lane, it may be that that driver is looking for an address. Please refrain from your primal instinct to lay on the horn and flip us off. Many of us log more safe miles in a year than you will in ten. Try to exercise a little patience. Or as I like to say; Relax... You'll live longer. Take that any way you choose.
Have a nice, peaceful day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Waiter Gives Emmer Heat On Minimum Wage

Wednesday morning jottings...

I'm interested to see how Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate, Tom Emmer attempts to put out the fire storm created over his comments on tip credts for service employees. Emmer holds a town hall meeting with servers, later today. Of all the businesses that were hurt by the latest recession, for the most part, Minnesota restaurants seem to be doing pretty well.
Again, heads up, this afternoon. Twin Cities' weather forecasters are calling for heavy thunderstorms and possible tornadoes. Expect weather conditions to be similar to that of a couple of weekends ago.
Congratulations go out to Minneapolis police officers, who were able to get a cache of drugs, weapons and cash off the streets, in that city's south side. Reportedly, several arrests were made.
That's all for now. Have a great day.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rob Hahn to join us this Saturday

Independence Party candidate for Minnesota governor, Rob Hahn joins us this week on the blogcast. Hahn is the second gubernatorial candidate to appear on The Shannon Files. DFL hopeful, Matt Entenza was on the show back in May.

We cordially invite any candidate, from any political party, running for any statewide office to join us.

If Twitter followers are any sign...

Of all the Minnesota gubernatorial candidates, Mark Dayton holds a slim lead over Margaret Anderson Kelliher, when it comes to Twitter followers.

Here is the breakdown...

Mark Dayton (DFL) 2,260
Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL) 2,027
Tom Emmer (GOP) 1,478
Matt Entenza (DFL) 1,258
Tom Horner (IP) 594
Rob Hahn (IP) 466

In the hotly contested congressional race in Minnesota's 6th district, Michele Bachmann holds a 2 to 1 lead in Twitter followers over Tarryl Clark, 7,070 to 3,427. This may be misleading, as Bachmann is much better known on a national level.

Draw your own conclusion.

Tuesday morning jottings....

Yesterday afternoon, I reported on Twitter and Facebook, that the blown out oil well in the Gulf had been successfully capped. It seems that it might not be the case, just yet. I got that bogus information from a late morning talk show on WTKS-FM, out of Orlando. I was listening through "I Heart Radio."
It's nice to see the outpouring of support for Koua Fong Lee, the man who is jailed for a fatal accident a few years ago. Lee was driving a Toyota and claims he did everything possible to stop the car. He was recently granted a hearing that could lead to a new trial.
It's a shame that Justin Morneau won't be able to play in tonight's All Star Game. The Twins' first baseman was putting up potential MVP numbers, but has had to sit out the last few games because of a mild concussion he suffered while trying to break up a double play in Tampa.
It may be understandable why Democrat senator from Nebraska, Ben Nelson has joined Republicans in filibustering legislation providing extended emergency unemployment benefits. Nelson's home state enjoys a jobless rate well below the national average. I just wonder how deficit spending to help the unemployed survive is any less important than it is to help those recovering from natural disasters.
I just learned that one of the most colorful figures in baseball history, George Steinbrenner has passed away at the of age 80. I wasn't a big fan of how Yankee owner conducted business, but no one can dispute the impact he had on the game.
That's all I have for now... Have a great day.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday morning jottings...

Looks like Roman Polanski won't be coming to the U.S. to face charges of inappropriate sexual contact with a minor. A Swiss court has refused to extradite him. I said, when this story first broke, that this would probably be for the best. Polanski's victim has expressed a desire not to have to relive the horrors she experienced back in the mid 70s.
Two more murders over the weekend bring the total in the city of Minneapolis to 28. This is compared to 7 at this time last year. I think we get a little lost in statistics when it comes to talking about murder or other violent crimes. We have to remember that this is human life that is brought to a senseless and tragic end. While the murder rate in Minneapolis may wind up only to around average for any given year, one senseless murder is too many.
Despite my Scottish heritage, I have to say that I'm happy all this World Cup hoopla is over with. I've never been a big fan of soccer, even though my sport of choice, baseball, can be just as much of a yawner at times.
I can't begin to tell you how much I missed having Dan on the show, last Saturday. Unfortunately, most of the hour was not much more than a babblefest.
Lastly, it may be a good idea to keep an eye to the sky, this Wednesday. It's rare that weathermen specifically mention the possibility of tornadoes that far in advance. But that was the case this morning. Be safe.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday morning jottings...

Reports are that Canada's unemployment rate has dipped below 8%. It was also mentioned that our neighbor to the north, with all those taxes and other fees, as well as single payer health care weathered this latest economic downturn better than most of the world's other industrialized countries.
I'm so happy that LeBron-mania is over. As I knew there wasn't chance King James would come to Minnesota, it didn't take long for me to become bored with all this hoopla.
This weekend will be a major pain in the ass, if you drive I-94, through the heart of the metro. The freeway will be closed in sections of both Minneapolis and St. Paul from later tonight through early Monday morning.
Lastly, I want to take a moment to thank my buddy, Chris Murphy. I have wanted to pick his brain for weeks on how to improve on our show. Murph and I talked for a good 20 minutes, earlier this week, offering up some much needed constructive criticism. Chris is a good guy and a real pro.
That's all for today. I hope you join me tomorrow at 4pm.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The old fat man flies solo, this Saturday...

Listen to the archive...

Dan has this weekend off, so listeners to the blogcast will have to put up with me and me alone.

Some of the things I'm looking at...

Tom Emmer's desire to cut the minimum wage for service employees.

Charges dropped against the New Black Panther movement, after members intimidated voters during the 2008 election.

More on the unemployment extension debate.

My thoughts on the alarming increase of murders in Minneapolis.

St. Paul meter maids on a mission.

Feel free to call in and keep me company...

Thursday morning jottings...

WCCO Radio is reporting that the organizers form the Taste of Minnesota say that attendance was down by 20% from last year. Speculation is that the $30 admission price drove potential visitors away. Do ya think?
Back in December, I speculated that the laying off of 18 cops in Minneapolis would have little effect on that city's crime rate. I couldn't have been more wrong. Minneapolis is on a pace to top 50 murders in 2010, compared to 19 for all of 2009. And now, reports are that people who are mourning the shooting death of a 16 year old North Minneapolis teen, are themselves being shot at. I have a few ideas on the reason for the uptick in violent crime in that city. I'll talk more about it, this Saturday on the blogcast.
Speaking of the show, Dan will have the week off, so I will be going it alone. Feel free to call in to join in on the conversation.
On of the things I will cover is the increasing aggressive parking enforcement in the city of St. Paul. I was dropping 2 women and 3 toddlers at a clinic in Highland Park, Tuesday. I had to pull into a handicap spot to make the drop. I was there for less than 2 minutes, when I was tagged by a parking enforcement officer. I never even got out of the car.
That's all for now... Have a great Thursday....

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Shots fired at mourners of Minneapolis' latest homicide victim

Mayor Rybak, you need to get more cops patrolling these neighborhoods. To hell with the unmarked speed traps and officers that are peering into cars, checking for seat belt compliance. - JS

Original story form the Star-Tribune

Since 16-year-old Anthony Titus was shot and killed Sunday night, a seemingly endless parade of grieving friends and family members have sought solace at the north Minneapolis home where Titus lived with his mother and siblings.

Their grief was interrupted with screams and terror just before 5 p.m. Tuesday when someone fired shots at the home, causing parents to usher their children into back rooms while other mourners hit the floor to take cover.

Titus was shot and killed Sunday night in the 2900 block of Fremont Avenue N. He had been with a group of people on his way to a party when someone shot him in the head just after 8:30 p.m.

His mother, Princess Titus, said earlier this week that her son was not involved in gangs. Others said the shooting may have been a case of mistaken identity. Police have not said whether they believe that is the case. His death marked the city's 26th homicide this year.

On Tuesday, mourners had gathered inside the home of Princess Titus in the 2500 block of Thomas Avenue N. when multiple shots were fired at the home. Witnesses told police the shots came from a maroon Ford Expedition. Witnesses reported seeing men get out of the vehicle to fire; however no cartridge casings were found at the scene.

One witness said people inside the house had hidden children in one room. Princess Titus, who was not home at the time, was setting up funeral arrangements and shopping for clothes in which to bury her son.

Witnesses reported seeing the vehicle taking off with a woman driving, accompanied by two or three male passengers.

The bystanders gave police a license plate number, but the vehicle had not been located Wednesday, and no one had been arrested.

Investigators did not return telephone calls.

Police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia confirmed the shooting occurred. He said he did not know a motive or whether it was gang-related. It's likely that Tuesday's shooting was connected to the killing, he said.

"I can't say why, but it is coincidentally related in the sense that he was a victim, and, yes, his house was being shot at," Garcia said.

A few hours after the shooting, a 62-year-old woman who lives down the block reported to police that she arrived home to discover that a bullet had entered her house. The bullet passed through her porch and house windows and a wooden cabinet before lodging in a VHS tape. Police believe it may be related to the shooting at Titus' home.

Garcia said police responded just after 10 p.m. to the same area on a report of a suspicious vehicle, but no vehicle was discovered.

Princess Titus was not at the house Wednesday afternoon, where well-wishers continued to stop by, to drop off cards or food. Most of them were aware of what had happened, said they were frustrated and called for an increase in police presence in the neighborhood.

Garcia said that although patrols are always stepped up after cases of violence, deterring crime is easier said than done.

"There's always extra patrols, and we stay aware, but we just don't have the resources to sit around the house and be there," he said.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

No Gulf Seafood? Sign at Taste of Chicago in Bad Taste

Original story from The Huffington Post

When it comes to misinformed signage, bad news travels fast. A news producer in Chicago sent this booth sign to a New Orleans friend writing, "Sorry to say, I snapped this picture at the Taste of Chicago yesterday afternoon." It was then forwarded to New Orleans food writer Lorin Gaudin who posted it on Twitter. That's three degrees of separation, since Gaudin is originally from Chicago.

"I was at the very first Taste of Chicago when Jane Byrne was Mayor. I am sick, just sick about that photo. Disgraceful," she says of the "Our Lobster & Shrimp Are Not From the Gulf Coast" sign.

Top Chef Judge Tom Colicchio talked about the perception problem at a Friends of the Fishermen event in Grand Isle last month. He told me he's heard stories from fellow restauranteurs about customers saying, "I can't believe you still serve seafood." As if every fish in the ocean is tainted by the BP oil spill. To push back on some urban legends, seafood vendors do not generally order lobster from the Gulf Coast; there is no Gulf Coast walrus crossing; and Gulf Coast seafood is now being tested for safety more than any other source in the country.

So Dear Chicago: We gave you Louis Armstrong. We gave you the playoffs of 2007. We gave you Gulf Coast seafood. Please investigate for yourself whether our seafood is safe and tested.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Emmer: Count Tips Toward Minimum Wages

The tip credit method is a horrible law that hits tipped employees, especially servers, incredibly hard. Waiters and watresses are expected to stay busy doing side work, including cleaning, while still waiting on tables. I might be able to support a buck or so per hour difference, but the $2.13 per hour tip credit wage is just short of slave labor. - JS


Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer says Minnesota should factor tips into the hourly pay for minimum wage workers in restaurants and other gratuity-based jobs.

After visiting a St. Paul restaurant Monday on a listening tour, Emmer advocated for a so-called "tip credit" to the state minimum wage.

Minnesota is among seven states that currently prohibits employers paying workers less than the minimum wage if they earn tips, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Minnesota has a state minimum wage of $5.25 for small employers and $6.15 for large employers, based on annual sales.

Emmer says tying base pay to tips will "level playing field so the employers can continue to exist, survive and thrive."

Federal law permits states to drop the minimum wage to tipped employees to $2.13 per hour.

Opponents argue tips are too volatile to count on, especially for workers at the bottom of the pay ladder.

Admission charge chases many visitors away from Taste of MN...

I was working the festival on Saturday. I think the numbers are worse than their admitting to.


Smaller crowds at this year's Taste of Minnesota is getting mixed reactions.

With entry costing $30, attendance is noticeably down and fewer people are purchasing food and drink. Frank McLellan, who runs a shrimp shack, estimates his business is down by 50 percent.

Meanwhile, attendees say less congestion is a good thing.

Festival organizers hope to find a balance between the two positions. Taste of Minnesota's owner, Andy Faris, says the event is constantly evolving. He plans to make changes to next year's festival based on feedback from the public.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Old KQ bit still funny after all these years...

Yo Mammy... Arrest audio from Minneapolis

Link will open an MP3 file on your default player. While the file is clean, the content isn't... Enjoy...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Not perfect, but much better...

Click here to listen to the archive...

Dan and I talked about the highlights of last week's Gay Pride festivities, the Supreme Court's reaffirmation of the right to own a firearm and the allegations that former VP Gore made inappropriate sexual advances to a masseuse.

We didn't get to the unemployment issue, but maybe we can cover that, next week.

Thank you for listening.

A little on the changes to our show...

Last week's show was a complete abomination. In simple terms, it sucked ass. But something good came of it. I found in Dan Lundin, the type of reliable and educated co-host I was looking for since I decided to bring on a partner over 6 months ago.

I harbor no ill will toward Shannon Marie. But her inability to stay focused on the topic at hand and her tendency to interrupt the rest of us in mid sentence, made the show hard to do at times.

While I enjoy Mark Shulte's insight, he has had some personal issues to deal with that has made him unavailable more times than not. Thus I have removed him from the "active roster." He is still welcome to join us as he sees fit.

So moving forward, the show will be hosted by Dan and myself. I don't have any illusions that we are at the level of professional radio hosts that are on the celestial airwaves. But if we expect to be taken seriously by potential listeners and guests, I feel we need take that next step and improve our game, so to speak.

I hope you take the time to listen live or to the archived podcast.

Thank you...

John Shannon

Forget grade levels, districts like Kansas City want students to master skills to advance

I think this is a great idea and should be implemented in public schools, nationwide. - JS

AP story published by the Star-Tribune

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Forget about students spending one year in each grade, with the entire class learning the same skills at the same time. Districts from Alaska to Maine are taking a different route.

Instead of simply moving kids from one grade to the next as they get older, schools are grouping students by ability. Once they master a subject, they move up a level. This practice has been around for decades, but was generally used on a smaller scale, in individual grades, subjects or schools.

Now, in the latest effort to transform the bedraggled Kansas City, Mo. schools, the district is about to become what reform experts say is the largest one to try the approach. Starting this fall officials will begin switching 17,000 students to the new system to turnaround trailing schools and increase abysmal tests scores.

"The current system of public education in this country is not working" said Superintendent John Covington. "It's an outdated, industrial, agrarian kind of model that lends itself to still allowing students to progress through school based on the amount of time they sit in a chair rather than whether or not they have truly mastered the competencies and skills."

Here's how the reform works:

Students — often of varying ages — work at their own pace, meeting with teachers to decide what part of the curriculum to tackle. Teachers still instruct students as a group if it's needed, but often students are working individually or in small groups on projects that are tailored to their skill level.

For instance, in a classroom learning about currency, one group could draw pictures of pennies and nickels. A student who has mastered that skill might use pretend money to practice making change.

Students who progress quickly can finish high school material early and move forward with college coursework. Alternatively, in some districts, high-schoolers who need extra time can stick around for another year.

Advocates say the approach cuts down on discipline problems because advanced students aren't bored and struggling students aren't frustrated.

But backers acknowledge implementation is tricky, and the change is so drastic it can take time to explain to parents, teachers and students. If the community isn't sold on the effort, it will bomb, said Richard DeLorenzo, co-founder of the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, which coaches schools on implementing the reform.

Kansas City officials hope the new system will help the district that's been beset with failure. A $2 billion desegregation case failed to boost test scores or stem the exodus of students to the suburbs and private and charter schools. The district has lost half its students and will close about 40 percent of its schools by the fall to avoid bankruptcy.

Covington wants to start the system in five elementary schools in hopes of spreading it through the upper grades once the bugs are worked out.

"This system precludes us from labeling children failures," Covington said. "It's not that you've failed, it's just that at this point you haven't mastered the competencies yet and when you do, you will move to the next level."

As it plans for the change, Kansas City teachers and administrators have visited and sought advice from a Denver area school district that uses the reform.

Adams County School District 50 has about 10,000 students this past school year its elementary and middle students made the shift. The reform will be phased into the high schools starting in the fall.

Count 11-year-old Alex Rodriguez as a convert to the new approach. He used to get bored after plowing through his assignments. He had to bring books from home or the library if he wanted a challenge because the ones at his old school were one or two grade levels too easy.

"I liked school," he said. "But it was hard sitting there and doing nothing."

His parents transferred the high achiever and his three younger siblings to the Denver area district after learning it was trying something new. His father, Richard Rodriguez, has been thrilled with the turnaround.

"I wish school was like this when I was growing up," he said.

There also is growing interest in Maine, where six districts, with a combined 11,248 students, are transitioning to the reform, starting with staff training and community meetings and gradually changing what happens in classrooms.

"It is incredible what is happening in the classrooms in Maine that are trying it," said Diana Doiron, who is overseeing the effort for the state's education department.

Education officials in Kansas City, Maine and elsewhere said part of the allure is the success other districts have after making the switch.

Marzano Research Laboratory, an educational research and professional development firm, evaluated 2009 state test data for over 3,500 students from 15 school districts in Alaska, Colorado, and Florida. Researchers found that students who learned through the different approach were 2.5 times more likely to score at a level that shows they have a good grasp of the material on exams for reading, writing, and mathematics.

Greg Johnson, director of curriculum and instruction for the Bering Strait School District in Alaska, recalled that before the switch there were students who had been on honor roll throughout high school then failed a test the state requires for graduation.

Now, he said if students are on pace to pass a class like Algebra I, the likelihood of them passing the state exam covering that material is more than 90 percent. He's proud of that accomplishment and said teachers love it.

"The most die-hard advocates for our system are our teachers because, especially the ones who were back with us before the change, they saw where things were then," he said. "They see where things are now and they don't want to go back."

Friday, July 2, 2010

Eagan officer pops out of closet to arrest alleged abuser

Good police work... - JS

From Star-Tribune

An Eagan police officer hid in an entryway closet to catch a suspected pedophile as he offered a young girl money for sex, according to charges filed Friday in Dakota County District Court.

Emmanuel Osei, 39, of Eagan, was charged with four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a child multiple times over the past four years. He is accused of acts with a girl who was 8 years old when the first offenses occurred and now is under age 13, according to a criminal complaint.

On Tuesday, the girl called Osei at the behest of police and said she wanted money for oral sex performed on her two weeks earlier.

Osei went to her home, made sure nobody was there, and then offered her $100, the complaint said. A police officer stepped out of an entryway closet and arrested Osei.


Tomorrow's show...

Listen live, Saturday at 4pm CDT

John and Dan talk about the Supreme Court's reaffirmation of the right to own a firearm, the allegations that former VP Gore made inappropriate sexual advances to a masseuse, Senate Republicans blocking a further extension of unemployment benefits and maybe without interruption, the highlights of last week's Gay Pride festivities.

Social services obstacle course...

From Nina Slupphaug, MN2020

While severely compromised due to recent budget slashes, Minnesota does offer a wide array of vital programs for families in need of child care assistance, health care coverage, energy assistance and help with basic food needs. However, certain administrative requirements and a general user-unfriendliness complicate access and create barriers to participation, leaving many eligible and needy families without the support.

Children’s Defense Fund -  Minnesota has looked at selected federally funded programs run at the state level: Child Care Assistance, Medicaid (Medical Assistance in MN), State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Key barriers to participation are co-payments and premiums for program participation. The report suggests that an increase in premiums of $10 can lead to a 3% decline in health coverage for children whose families have income below 400% of Federal Poverty Guidelines. A sobering thought for our state’s own Minnesota Care, a program where premiums range from $4 per month to $362 for a family of four.  Another big hurdle is the asset limits, which forces some families to spend-down savings in order to qualify, effectively exhausting what little safety net they have.

When it comes to childcare, there could be costly co-pays and gap payments. CCAP states the provider can charge parents the difference between the program subsidy and the cost of care.  In Hennepin County, weekly reimbursement rates for toddler care is $167.17.  For accredited care providers it’s $192.95. The average cost of toddler care is $265/week. In addition to paying the difference, parents also have a co-pay for participation in the program.  The co-pay is calculated based on income and family size, but for a family of three with an income of $27,365 (150% of FPG) the co-pay would be $71/month (2008). Of course, this is all moot unless you’re lucky enough to find a provider participating in the program and with availability for your child.

By the way, at the time of the survey (December 2009), the CDF found Minnesota was the only state with a waiting list for child care. The number: 6,623 eligible families.

Public health care programs in Minnesota, require a period of un-insurance, even for children. With an average pediatric hospital visit topping out at $11,000, it is irresponsible to expect families to keep their children uninsured for months in order to qualify for public health care.

Many program participants and caseworkers cited logistical issues as a big hurdle for families to enroll in programs. Some programs are run out of different locations, and often caseworkers are too overwhelmed to provide assistance with forms and help identifying other programs for which families might qualify. This is a problem identified by a previous MN2020 health care video illustrating troubles a southeastern MN family went through trying to decipher program requirements.

There is good news for Minnesota. It’s been identified as a leader in some aspects of easing accessibility to social safety nets, offering one form for multiple programs, home visits in areas with high transportation barriers, as well as phone interviews for SNAP interviews.

Solid public programs to help families and children in need are invaluable, but only if the people in need are able to access them and utilize them to their fullest extent. Minnesota has made great strides in ensuring this, but there are still improvements to be made. With more and more families struggling, we need to keep our children safe, healthy, and invest in early childhood development. All the above programs strive to do so, now we need to make sure they are accessible.

Lawyer challenging seat belt citation...


If you were pulled over for not wearing your seat belt, and issued a ticket, one attorney says you were not breaking the law.

Last year, the State Legislature made not wearing your seat belt a primary offense. Now, a Dakota County Judge is deciding if an officer can pull you over just for not wearing your seat belt.

Erick Kaardal represents a driver who was pulled over and cited for not wearing her seat belt. According to legislative recordings, she was breaking the law. But Kaardal found, citations point you to a statue that says a peace officer may not issue a citation unless the driver was stopped for a moving violation. That's in the official publication of the State of Minnesota.

The issue is in the dates. The statute was signed that made not wearing a seat belt a primary offense beginning June of 2009. Another law was already on the books that said it is not a primary offense. The second law went into effect in July of 2009. Kaardal says the second law is the one that should still be followed now.

The Dakota County Judge has until the end of August to make a decision.