Monthly Archives: October 2009

Unallotment Suit Raises Constitutional Questions

Was Governor Pawlenty acting to solve an “unanticipated” problem… or did he create a financial crisis and overstep his powers as granted by Minnesota’s constitution? The answer to that question may be decided in Ramsey County court where five people have filed a suit that could undo several billion dollars of “unallotments” the Governor made at the end of this year’s legislative session. Governor Pawlenty took the action after he vetoed a balanced budget passed by the legislature and then removed funding to bring the budget back into balance. Former US Attorney David Lillehaug has counseled organizations that were contemplating similar suits. Continue Reading →

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Denver School Board Forum

On October 21st, in spite of the snow, candidates for Denver School Board attended a forum to answer questions, both prepared in advance by the community, and posed by the public at the event.  
Mary Seawell and Christopher Scott, who are running for the at large seat on the school board, both had to leave early, as did Andrea E. Merida, running to represent District 2.  Ismael Garcia, also running to represent District 2, arrived late.  Our footage of the event is presented in chapters, with each candidate’s introduction, closing statement, and answers to each question, where that candidate was available.  
Andrea G. Mosby, Jacqui Shumway, Dr. Nate Easley, and Alton Clark, all running to represent District 4, were present for the full forum.  
The event was sponsored by the Latina Initiative, Jovenes Unidos, and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR).  Continue Reading →

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Economy: Numbers Moving In The Right Direction

Each week, I’ve spoken with you about the challenges we face as a nation and the path we must take to meet them. And the truth is, over the past ten months, I’ve often had to report distressing news during what has been a difficult time for our country. But today, I am pleased to offer some better news that – while not cause for celebration – is certainly reason to believe that we are moving in the right direction.  
On Thursday, we received a report on our Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. This is an important measure of our economy as a whole, one that tells us how much we are producing and how much businesses and families are earning. Continue Reading →

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Fighting AIDS At Home

 THE PRESIDENT:  We often speak about AIDS as if it’s going on somewhere else.  And for good reason — this is a virus that has touched lives and decimated communities around the world, particularly in Africa.  But often overlooked is the fact that we face a serious HIV/AIDS epidemic of our own — right here in Washington, D.C., and right here in the United States of America.  And today, we are taking two important steps forward in the fight that we face here at home.  
     It has been nearly three decades since this virus first became known.  But for years, we refused to recognize it for what it was.  It was coined a “gay disease.”  Those who had it were viewed with suspicion.  There was a sense among some that people afflicted by AIDS somehow deserved their fate and that it was acceptable for our nation to look the other way.  
     A number of events and advances over the years have broadened our understanding of this cruel illness.  One of them came in 1984, when a 13-year-old boy from central Indiana contracted HIV/AIDS from a transfusion.  Doctors assured people that Ryan White posed no risk to his classmates or his community.  But ignorance was still widespread.  People didn’t yet understand or believe that the virus couldn’t be spread by casual contact.  Parents protested Ryan’s attendance in class.  Some even pulled their kids out of school.  Things got so bad that the White family had to ultimately move to another town.  
     It would have been easy for Ryan and his family to stay quiet and to fight the illness in private.  But what Ryan showed was the same courage and strength that so many HIV-positive activists have shown over the years and shown around — show around the world today.  And because he did, we didn’t just become more informed about HIV/AIDS, we began to take action to fight it.  
     In 1990, the year Ryan passed away, two great friends and unlikely political allies, Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch, came together and introduced the Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act — the CARE Act — which was later named after Ryan. Continue Reading →

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Metro Gang Strike Task Force Warrantless Searches/Seizures

At a legislative hearing on Thursday, Terrance Frelix testified he was detained by officers from the Metro Gang Strike Force. His vehicle and the equipment in it he used to run his property management business was seized by the police officers. Frelix was later released and no charges against him or his companions were filed. However, Frelix has yet to get his vehicle and equipment back.  
Adrian Ramirez was stopped by officers from the Metro Gang Strike Force after Ramirez visited his brother who lived in a house that was “known for gang activity”. Continue Reading →

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Honoring First Elected Black US Senator

THE PRESIDENT:  It is an extraordinary privilege to be here today.  And let me begin by acknowledging this distinguished group gathered on the platform:  our extraordinary Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi; Majority Leader Harry Reid; Republican leader Mitch McConnell; majority leader Steny Hoyer; Republican leader John Boehner; Senator John Kerry; Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton; Representative Patrick Kennedy; my dear friend, Vicki Kennedy; to our honoree, Senator Edward Brooke, his wife, Anne, and family.  
It is a great privilege to be here today as we confer the Congressional Gold Medal on a man who’s spent his life breaking barriers and bridging divides across this country — Senator Edward Brooke. 
 
Now, with his lifetime of achievement, Ed is no stranger to a good awards ceremony.  He’s been through a few of these.  (Laughter.)  He’s won the Bronze Star, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, honorary degrees from 34 colleges and universities, and more.  So he’s a pro when it comes to getting awards.  But I think today’s honor bears a unique significance:  bestowed by this body of which he was an esteemed member; presented in this place where he moved the arc of history; surrounded by so many — myself included — who have followed the trail that he blazed. 
 
Ed’s journey to this day was, by any measure, an unlikely one.  Raised nearby in a neighborhood so fiercely segregated that black residents needed a note from a white person to pass through — at a time when so many doors of opportunity were closed to African Americans, others might have become angry or disillusioned.  They might have concluded that no matter how hard they worked, their horizons would always be limited, so why bother?  But not Ed Brooke. 
 
Serving in a segregated army, barred from facilities at the base where he trained, he fought heroically in Europe, leading a daring daylight attack against a heavily armed enemy.  Rejected from Boston’s old-line firms despite his success in law school, he established his own practice, handling everything from wills and divorces to real estate and criminal cases.  
 
And when he ran for statewide office in Massachusetts, and one reporter pointed out that he was black, Republican, and Protestant, seeking office in a white, Democratic, and Catholic state — and also, quote, “…a carpetbagger from the South and…poor” — Ed was unfazed.  It was, to say the least, an improbable profile for the man who would become the first African American state attorney general, and the first popularly elected African American senator. 
 
But that was Ed Brooke’s way — to ignore the naysayers, reject the conventional wisdom, and trust that ultimately, people would judge him on his character, his commitment, his record and his ideas.  He ran for office, as he put it, “…to bring people together who had never been together before.”  And that he did.  
I don’t know anyone else whose fan base includes Gloria Steinem, Barney Frank, and Ted Kennedy — as well as Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, and George W. Bush.  (Laughter.)  That’s a coalition-builder.  (Laughter and applause.)  And few have matched his reach across the aisle — from working with Birch Bayh to protect Title IX so girls can compete on a level playing field, to sponsoring the Fair Housing Act with Walter Mondale and small business legislation with Ted Kennedy — one of the many bills he would sponsor with the senior senator from Massachusetts.  
He didn’t care whether a bill was popular or politically expedient, Democratic or Republican — he cared about whether it helped people, whether it made a difference in their daily lives. That’s why he fought so hard for Medicare, for mass transit and the minimum wage, for civil rights and women’s rights.  It’s why he became a lifelong advocate for affordable housing, establishing protections that are the standard to this day. 
 
So it’s a record that defies the labels and categories for which he had little use and even less patience.  When pressed to define himself, he’d offer phrases like “creative moderate,” or “a liberal with a conservative bent.”  But in truth, Ed Brooke’s career was animated not by a faith in any particular party or ideology, but rather, by a faith in the people he served. 
 
Ed always got to see the best in people — because that was the effect he had.  Maybe it was his old-fashioned manners — his unfailing courtesy and warmth.  Maybe it was his charm and charisma — known to melt even the staunchest adversary.  Or maybe it was his genuine interest in people’s stories — the way he listened to their concerns and worked to ease their struggles. Continue Reading →

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The Trigger Of The Asian Economic Miracle

  PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Hello, everybody.  I just want to welcome the Minister Mentor of Singapore.  This is one of the legendary figures of Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries.  He is somebody who helped to trigger the Asian economic miracle.  Singapore has been an outstanding friend and ally of the United States for many, many years, and so I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to hearing from the Minister Mentor his views on the evolving situation in Asia, as I prepare for my upcoming trip both to Singapore and to other key nations in the region.  
     And so I’m very grateful that he took the time.  Welcome.  And on behalf of the American people, we want to say thank you to the people of Singapore for being such outstanding friends.  
     MINISTER MENTOR LEE:  Thank you, Mr. President, for those very warm words.  I’m especially privileged to see you at a time of renewal and change in America, and during a period of transition where the world order is changing.  And I look forward to hear your views on how you see the world evolving in a manner — (inaudible) — which is crucial to the stability and prosperity of East Asia. 
 
     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much.  
     All right, everybody.  
     Q    Sir, can we ask about your visit to Dover Air Force Base last night?  Will it influence your decision on Afghanistan? Continue Reading →

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Protection Against Religious And Racial Hate Crimes

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much, everybody.  Thank you so much, and welcome to the White House. 
 
There are several people here that I want to just make mention of because they helped to make today possible.  We’ve got Attorney General Eric Holder.  (Applause.)  A champion of this legislation, and a great Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  (Applause.)  My dear friend, senior Senator from the great state of Illinois, Dick Durbin.  (Applause.)  The outstanding Chairman of Armed Services, Carl Levin.  (Applause.)  Senator Arlen Specter.  (Applause.)  Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the House, Representative John Conyers.  (Applause.)  Representative Barney Frank.  (Applause.)  Representative Tammy Baldwin.  (Applause.)  Representative Jerry Nadler.  (Applause.)  Representative Jared Polis.  (Applause.)  All the members of Congress who are here today, we thank you. 
 
Mr. David Bohnett and Mr. Tom Gregory and the David Bohnett Foundation — they are partners for this reception.  Thank you so much, guys, for helping to host this.  (Applause.) 
 
And finally, and most importantly, because these were really the spearheads of this effort  — Denis, Judy, and Logan Shepard. (Applause.)  As well as Betty Byrd Boatner and Louvon Harris  — sisters of James Byrd, Jr.  (Applause.)
 
To all the activists, all the organizers, all the people who helped make this day happen, thank you for your years of advocacy and activism, pushing and protesting that made this victory possible.      
 
You know, as a nation we’ve come far on the journey towards a more perfect union.  And today, we’ve taken another step forward.  This afternoon, I signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  (Applause.) 
 
This is the culmination of a struggle that has lasted more than a decade.  Time and again, we faced opposition.  Time and again, the measure was defeated or delayed.  Time and again we’ve been reminded of the difficulty of building a nation in which we’re all free to live and love as we see fit.  But the cause endured and the struggle continued, waged by the family of Matthew Shepard, by the family of James Byrd, by folks who held vigils and led marches, by those who rallied and organized and refused to give up, by the late Senator Ted Kennedy who fought so hard for this legislation — (applause) — and all who toiled for years to reach this day.  
You understood that we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits — not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear.  You understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights — both from unjust laws and violent acts.  And you understand how necessary this law continues to be. 
 
In the most recent year for which we have data, the FBI reported roughly 7,600 hate crimes in this country.  Over the past 10 years, there were more than 12,000 reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation alone.  And we will never know how many incidents were never reported at all.  
And that’s why, through this law, we will strengthen the protections against crimes based on the color of your skin, the faith in your heart, or the place of your birth.  We will finally add federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.  (Applause.) And prosecutors will have new tools to work with states in order to prosecute to the fullest those who would perpetrate such crimes.  Because no one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love.  No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability.  
At root, this isn’t just about our laws; this is about who we are as a people.  This is about whether we value one another – whether we embrace our differences, rather than allowing them to become a source of animus.  It’s hard for any of us to imagine the mind-set of someone who would kidnap a young man and beat him to within an inch of his life, tie him to a fence, and leave him for dead.  It’s hard for any of us to imagine the twisted mentality of those who’d offer a neighbor a ride home, attack him, chain him to the back of a truck, and drag him for miles until he finally died. Continue Reading →

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Bostrom To Try To Unseat Ramsey Co. Sheriff Fletcher

Next fall, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher will face voters for the first time since he presided over the arrests of journalists and other bystanders during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Fletcher now has an opponent.  
St. Paul Assistant Police Chief Matt Bostrom announced this week he will run against Fletcher in 2010. Continue Reading →

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Obama’s New Intelligence Team

 THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  Today I am proud to announce the newest members of my national security team.  I just met with them in the Oval Office, and I’m very pleased to have two extraordinary Americans — Senators Chuck Hagel and David Boren have agreed to serve as co-chairmen of my Intelligence Advisory Board — Intelligence Advisory Board, otherwise known as PIAB.  
     Now, since Dwight Eisenhower, Presidents have relied on the advisory board for advice on intelligence matters, and under Chuck and Dave’s leadership, I will be looking for the board to provide me with objective, independent, and non-partisan counsel as we work to strengthen our intelligence community and our national security.  
     And that’s why we’re joined today by my DNI, Director of National Intelligence, Denny Blair, and leaders from all 16 of our agencies involved with intelligence gathering.  They represent countless men and women, uniformed and civilian, who work, often in obscurity, to keep our country safe.  
     Now, in recent months we’ve seen some of their successes, in partnership with law enforcement and homeland security — real progress against al Qaeda and its extremist allies.  And we thank those behind these successes, and we pledge to continue to provide the utmost support to them.  Having Chuck Hagel and Dave Boren next to me I think is going to help us do an even better job.  
     Chuck understands that accurate and timely intelligence is essential for effective foreign policy.  He served for many years as — on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and six years on the Senate Elect Committee on Intelligence.  And I came to appreciate his sound judgments in our travels together overseas, including to Iraq and Afghanistan. 
 
     He also understands, from personal experience, the need to protect our troops and provide them with the best possible intelligence.  During Vietnam, Sergeant Hagel served as an infantry squad leader, along with his brother, where they both were wounded twice.  I thank Chuck for his lifetime of service and his willingness to serve once again. Continue Reading →

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Eliminating Some Defense Waste

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please, everybody be seated. Good afternoon. I have often said that meeting our greatest challenges would require not only changing policies in Washington but changing the way business is done in Washington; that it would require a government that’s more efficient and effective and less influenced by lobbyists and parochial politics. And I’m pleased to say that when it comes to the defense bill I’m about to sign into law, we’ve taken some important steps towards that goal. Continue Reading →

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A Thank You To The Armed Services

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you, everybody.  How’s it going, Jacksonville?  (Applause.)
Let me begin by thanking Secretary Mabus for the introduction, for your service, Ray.  I know we’ve got a lot of naval aviators here, and Ray is a former surface warfare officer.  But don’t hold that against him.  Don’t hold that against him, now.  (Laughter.)  Because Ray Mabus is doing an outstanding job as Secretary of the Navy. 
I also want to thank all your outstanding local leaders for welcoming me here today:  Admiral Tim Alexander; your CO, Captain Jack Scorby; and your Command Master Chief, Jeff Hudson.  To Chris Scorby and all the spouses who are with us — you hold our military families together.  We honor you and we are grateful to you.  (Applause.)
     Now, it is great to be here at one of America’s finest naval air stations.  But we also have folks from Mayport and Kings Bay.  (Applause.)  And we have every service represented — Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and United States Marines from Blount Island.  (Applause.)
     Now, military communities like this one take care of their own — your people, your families.  But keeping you strong also takes the civilian community beyond the gate.  (Applause.)  So we want to thank Mayor John Peyton and all your great neighbors, the people of Jacksonville, for their incredible support.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)
     Keeping you strong also takes leaders in Congress, like those here today:  two great friends of yours, Representatives Ander Crenshaw and Corrine Brown, who are here.  Give them a big round of applause right here.  (Applause.)  And a leader who fights for you as a member of the Armed Services Committee, Senator — and Army veteran — Bill Nelson is in the house.  (Applause.)
     Keeping you strong takes something else — a country that never forgets this simple truth.  It’s not the remarkable platforms that give the United States our military superiority — although you’ve got some pretty impressive aircraft here, I got to admit.  It’s not the sophisticated technologies that make us the most advanced in the world — although you do represent the future of naval aviation. 
     No, we have the finest Navy and the finest military in the history of the world because we have the finest personnel in the world.  (Applause.)  You are the best trained, the best prepared, the best led force in history.  Our people are our most precious resource.      We’re reminded of this again with today’s helicopter crashes in Afghanistan.  Fourteen Americans gave their lives.  And our prayers are with these service members, their civilian colleagues, and the families who loved them.      And while no words can ease the ache in their hearts today, may they find some comfort in knowing this:  Like all those who give their lives in service to America, they were doing their duty and they were doing this nation proud.      They were willing to risk their lives, in this case, to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda and its extremist allies.  And today, they gave their lives, that last full measure of devotion, to protect ours.      Now, it is our duty as a nation to keep their memory alive in our hearts and to carry on their work.  To take care of their families.  To keep our country safe.  To stand up for the values we hold dear and the freedom they defended.  That’s what they dedicated their lives to.  And that is what we must do as well. Continue Reading →

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Pawlenty Directs State To Improve Roads For UnitedHealth

UnitedHealth isn’t apparently hurting for money these days, but Governor Pawlenty is willing to invest state and city money into road improvements aimed at helping out the health insurance industry giant in Minnetonka.  
The Governor is redirecting about $8 million in state money and $5 million of the city of Minnetonka’s money to improving an interchange on highway 169 near UnitedHealth campus. UnitedHealth will contribute $7 million to the project.  
UnitedHealth saw profits shoot up a record 155% in the second quarter of this year, making $859 million. Governor Pawlenty insists that this does not mean that anyone with deep pockets can get the state to change its road building priorities. Continue Reading →

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“It’s For My Kids” – Vigil For Health Care

Video by Amy Cooper
 
You might think the people out pushing for a public option health care plan are uninsured people who want a hand out. Not so in Eden Prairie where people stood out in the cold and held a vigil outside Congressman Erik Paulsen’s office (R-MN). Paulsen is opposed to a public option. The people standing out in the cold support it because they are concerned about health care for their children and grandchildren.  
“We as Americans should be hanging our heads in shame that we don’t take care of these people” said one senior who said she was lucky enough to have enough money to pay $24,000 out of her own pocket for medical crisis. Continue Reading →

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“I don’t like it” Gov Pawlenty on Public Option Health Care

Governor Tim Pawlenty: “I think I made it clear Tom, that I think the public option as it relates to the Federal health care reform is a bad idea. I think it sends the health care market in a direction that will not be helpful in the intermediate and long term. And so I don’t like it.”  
He was then asked about “Opting out” of the public option as proposed in a bill in the US Senate.  
“Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but if it is up to me, and it’s presented as they’ve been debating it in Washington, DC, I think it is a bad idea and I don’t think we should participate.” Continue Reading →

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Playful Orangutan Activists Visit Cargill, Call For Action

Video by Craig Stellmacher
 
Strangely, the day orangutan dressed activists visited the corporate offices of Cargill, all of its employees had disappeared.  The reason for Cargill’s vanishing act may have been the orangutan vanishing act the activists say Cargill is responsible for in the forests of southeast Asia.  The Rainforest Action Network says Cargill is wiping out the orangutan’s habitat as it searches for palm oil, a common ingredient in many of the processed foods Cargill makes.  
On Monday, orangutan dressed activists, Hillary Lehr and Ashley Schaeffer, peacefully visited the offices of Cargill in the Grain Exchange Building.  The met a security guard who told them there is no one in the Cargill office, but agreed to deliver the information they have brought along. Continue Reading →

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Sen Franken Smacks Down Conservative Health Care Arguments

Senator Al Franken (DFL- Minnesota) questions Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the conservative think tank Hudson Institute about bankruptcies caused by medical crises. Franken points out there are no such bankruptcies in Switzerland, France or Germany. Furchgott-Roth tries to bring up a flawed study about cancer survivor rates in those countries. Franken cuts her off, noting that the study she is talking about cherry-picked information and included easily survivable cancers in the US.  
This is from the October 13, 2009 Senate Finance Committee hearing on medical bankruptcies. Continue Reading →

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350 Miles Of Changing Climate – Still A Good Idea

Never confuse weather with climate. But weather provided quite a challenge to Reed Aronow this week as he biked to stop climate change. Aronow is the MN UN Youth Delegate to the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. He’s biking 350 miles across Minnesota in two weeks. He arrived at the State Capitol on October 24 to mark the International Observance of Climate Change for 350.org.  
Four days before that, Craig Stellmacher caught up with him just outside the Dodge Center Minnesota Wind Farm. Continue Reading →

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Breast Cancer Patients Pay High Insurance Premiums

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome. I am so thrilled you could join us today as we mark National Breast Cancer Awareness Month right here at the White House.  
And I want to thank Jill so much for that kind introduction, as well as her phenomenal work that she’s done to educate young women about this disease.  
I think Jill is one of those examples of how one passionate advocate can really make a difference, and we are grateful to you for your leadership and the successes that you’ve had in your work. Continue Reading →

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Getting Credit Where Businesses Need It

All across America, even today, on a Saturday, millions of Americans are hard at work. They’re running the mom and pop stores and neighborhood restaurants we know and love. They’re building tiny startups with big ideas that could revolutionize an industry, maybe even transform our economy. They are the more than half of all Americans who work at a small business, or own a small business. And they embody the spirit of possibility, the relentless work ethic, and the hope for something better that is at the heart of the American Dream. Continue Reading →

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MN Capitol Report: Seeking A Solid Budget, Headed For A Political Crisis?

A newly formed committee tasked with long range budget planning held its first meeting, and Senate leaders offer their perspective on ways the state can regain solid, financial footing. Plus, Dr. Larry Jacobs, Director of the Institute of Policy and Governance at the Humphrey Institute, considers whether state governance is on the verge of a political crisis.  
Video from Minnesota House and Senate Media Services Continue Reading →

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Michelle Obama: Why Health Insurance Reform Matters To Women

First Lady Michelle Obama talks about why Health Insurance Reform is so important to Women. She says in some states, maternity care is not covered because pregnancy can be seen as a pre-existing condition.  
Its even legal in some states to deny a woman coverage because shes been a victim of domestic violence.  
First Lady Michelle Obama looks at where health care policy and people’s lives intersect. Two-time cancer survivor Roxi Griffin and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius join her to discuss how the current system doesn’t work for women and their families and why health insurance reform is so needed. Continue Reading →

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