St. Cloud Times, Aug. 19
Emmer's changed approach benefits district
Seven months into his term as Minnesota's 6th District U.S. House representative, Tom Emmer is off to a strong start in showing voters he is a good pick to replace Michele Bachmann.
While Emmer's voting record is mostly (and as expected) party line, the Delano Republican is making impressive strides in his campaign theme of "building relationships."
As political veterans know, Emmer had a reputation in state politics as being brash, demanding and even a bully. However, in an hourlong conversation Wednesday with him, this board came away with the clear impression he's more about listening and serving than dictating and demanding.
Those are the traits needed to serve a rapidly changing, diverse district. Plus, they are a welcome change from the uncompromising, divisive and at times embarrassing representation from Bachmann.
When it comes to building relationships, Emmer deserves serious praise for partnering with fellow U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison in June to form the Congressional Somalia Caucus.
Emmer cited the caucus as one way his office wants to help places like the St. Cloud area overcome cultural tensions arising from an influx of Somali immigrants in recent years.
"We formed the caucus with three purposes in mind," he said. Its primary goal is to stabilize Somalia so citizens don't have to flee and immigrants already here can, if desired, choose to return to their home country. Another key purpose is to stop the radicalization of Somali youth by Islamic extremists.
The third is to raise awareness about all the issues involved with not just Somali culture, but immigration policies in general. He cited efforts underway to bring together community members and Lutheran Social Service, an organization whose critics blame it for the immigration influx.
When asked what area of expertise he's pursuing, Emmer quickly answered trade. Indeed, although in office only this calendar year, he's already visited Ethiopia, Kenya, Saigon, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Cuba and Mexico.
In fact, Emmer had just returned from Mexico as part of a state-federal delegation that traveled there to help expand Minnesota business and educational opportunities.
Emmer said his goal is to increase global access to Minnesota products. He stressed that while America's overall trade imbalance is a challenge, Minnesota has trade surpluses with virtually all nations covered by trade agreements.
And, of course, such deals don't happen without building relationships.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, Aug. 17
Trump's appeal to Minnesota voters
Images of a helicopter emblazoned with one large name — TRUMP — descending on the Iowa State Fair last week reminded us of another political showman at another summer extravaganza, Jesse Ventura at the 1998 Minnesota State Fair. The big crowds Ventura attracted then provided discerning State Fair watchers with an early inkling that the pro wrester/talk radio host would go on to win the governorship two months later.
We're far from the first to note a parallel between Ventura and Donald Trump. And we're confident we won't be the last if the business mogul/reality TV star persists in leading GOP presidential polls in first-to-caucus Iowa and around the country. Minnesotans who remember 1998 and Ventura's single term as a third-party governor may soon qualify as expert commentators on the appeal of an outspoken entertainer-cum-candidate and the consequences of electing one.
Ventura himself invited the comparison last week when he revealed that he's rooting for Trump to win the GOP nomination and stands willing to join a Trump-led ticket as a vice presidential candidate.
That professed interest in Trump's campaign may have seemed odd coming from someone who had previously announced support for left-leaning Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and had criticized Trump for speaking ill of Mexican immigrants. But we suspect both Ventura and Trump would counter that only losers hew to a consistent political course.
In flirting with both Sanders and Trump — both anti-establishment candidates — Ventura illustrates something about today's American electorate that ought not be dismissed. Disillusionment with both the Republican and Democratic establishment is running strong. It's fueling both the Sanders and the Trump candidacies.
In 2015 — as in 1998 — the nation's economy has rebounded from a nasty recession but the incomes and living standards of a majority of working people have not. The result is anger and a willingness to take a flier on an unconventional candidate who touts a simplistic slogan (in 1998, Ventura's was "give it all back") and promises to jolt the status quo.
Political rookie Trump is no Sanders, who has spent more than three decades in elective office and offers a detailed array of policy prescriptions for what ails America's working class. By comparison, Trump's website touts only one policy position, an immigration plan rolled out last weekend that panders to America's xenophobic tendencies. Yet the difference between Sanders and Trump may be lost on fed-up voters seeking a candidate they deem most forceful — and entertaining — in demanding change.
The message from Minnesota circa 1998 and from the latest opinion polls is that unhappy voters are also unafraid to take risks. Loyalty to party establishments does not run deep in today's citizenry. Increasingly, what does is a sense that the nation is headed in the wrong direction for working people, and that must change.
The Free Press of Mankato, Aug. 16
Sex offenders: Legislative inaction increases risk
A federal judge has now told Minnesota legislators, the governor and his administration that public safety will be at risk if they do nothing or delay action on correcting constitutional violations in the state's sex offender program.
U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank issued an order Wednesday requiring both sides in the federal lawsuit to propose solutions to fixing the state's sex offender law which he ruled to be unconstitutional.
"Recognizing the history of the state's failure to meet minimum constitutional requirements, as well as the continuing injury and harm resulting from these serious violations, the Court notes that, at some point, if the state proves unwilling or incapable of remedying the constitutional violations, to which insufficient funding is not a defense, that failure may demand a more forceful solution," Frank wrote in his order.
The judge could not be more clear. He is going to force the state into a solution that requires the release some of these patients, who are in reality inmates imprisoned unlawfully at the sex offender facilities in St. Peter and Moose Lake. The judge makes clear he believes these are serious and egregious violations of the inmates' civil rights.
Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL-controlled Senate appear to be take the judge seriously. Minnesota GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt appears to continue to think the law is constitutional and the Legislature should wait for the judge to impose his own remedy. That is an ill-advised risk.
Dayton has proposed the remedies Judge Donovan Frank said are needed. They were the nearly same reasonable and legal remedies proposed by Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, in 2013. That proposal passed with bipartisan support in committee, but later died after political gamesmanship. Sheran has had the political courage to fix a serious problem, while others in both parties have hidden behind the explosive politics of the issue. She was joined by a small number of Republicans in the Senate on these proposals.
Daudt reacted to the judge's order with the same worrisome laissez faire attitude, saying in a statement: "As we work through this process, our number one priority has been and will continue to be protecting the public."
One wonders if Daudt read the judge's order, which addressed the public safety issue.
Any delay on the part of the Legislature to fix the problem "would only increase the risk to public safety," Frank wrote. Daudt also seems to believe it's a good idea to let the judge provide the remedy. But Frank's order suggests that will be increasing the risk to public safety.
Many legislators seem to be playing a game of chicken with the judge. They seem to think he would not take the very serious step of outright ordering some of the most unlawfully detained sex offenders released. Those legislators should recalculate.
Releasing prisoners through a court order is not unprecedented. In California, where a court ruled the prison system was too crowded, a judge ordered the release of thousands of prisoners. The odds of that happening here seem to be rising.
Those in the Legislature who would wait seem to think the blame would fall on a federal judge. They're not considering the reality. Federal judges don't stand for re-election the way legislators do.
Dayton's plan calls for about $15 million in additional spending to implement more regular evaluations of sex offenders and establish less restrictive settings for those progressing through treatment.
The Legislature could reduce the risk to public safety the judge is speaking of by coming up with a solution first. The Dayton and Sheran proposals are reasonable and have already garnered some support.
If legislators wait for the judge to act, they will find themselves rightly blamed for increasing the risk to public safety if sex offenders are released.