Thursday, March 18, 2010


First the pictures. Then scroll down for the text of my take on tonight's forum.

North High School Students
(They helped at the Gubernatorial Forum)

My new friend Mildred Caldwell
(She needed a hat for the picture so I loaned her mine. Doesn't she look great?)

Zak and Juan

Zak and Mildred

Paul Thissen, Mark Ritchie and Margaret Anderson Kelliher

Dayton Staffers Becky and Dana

Cody and Dave
(The video guys who work at North High School)

Donna Watson (the one in the blue sweater sitting down)
Donna is going to Louisiana to college for premed. She likes
Paul Thissen for governor and thinks he has a nice personality.
She loves R. T. Rybak because he's such a great mayor. He
has been to North High School many times.

Ben Entenza with Volunteer

Kelliher Staffer

Zak and (Oh no, I forgot his name. Somebody please tell
me who this nice man in the red shirt is. I swore that I
would remember his name.)

Tonight I attended the DFL Gubernatorial Candidate Forum at North High School in Minneapolis. I arrived an hour and a half early. That was okay, for I had time to get acquainted with all the new people I met.  The first person I talked to was Mildred Caldwell. She's the security person at the school. She's undecided as to who she will vote for. She's not into politics but she does read a lot. I told her about all the great DFL candidates. She smiled at my description of Rukavina and was duly impressed when I told her about Dayton and Thissen. She already knew who Rybak is. This is his territory.

I then met some of the North High School students. What great kids! Donna Watson agreed to have her picture taken and to give a brief interview. She's going to college in Lousisiana when she graduates from North High. She's going into premed. She wants to be a pediatrician.  She thinks Paul Thissen has a very nice personality. She loves R. T. Rybak and thinks he's a great mayor.

The next person I met was Zak, who is with Descendants of Africa. I hit it off with him right away. He's Mr. Cool. He's got a tv show. When he found out that I'm a political blogger, he said he would like to interview me on the show. I agreed to do it.

I also met Cody and Dan. They were running the video cameras in the back of the auditorium. We had an interesting conversation. I told them about my volunteer work at CTV. They talked about their jobs in the video room at North High School.

The candidates finally arrived. Special thanks to Paul Thissen for asking me extensively about my health and how the HCV is going. Kudos to Mark Ritchie for his interest in Toastmasters. It was fun talking to John Marty's volunteer (darn, I'm really bad at names tonight. Brain fog is another symptom of HCV.)

It was nice seeing Becky Jergenson from Mark Dayton's campaign again. She sure is nice. I also had a chance to talk to Ben Entenza, Matt's son. What a credible young man. I liked him.

Orrie Salper was there with Tom Rukavina, one of my favorite candidates. Tom has a very engaging personality. Margaret Anderson Kelliher was there, too. I'm starting to warm up to her quite a bit.

I didn't get a chance to talk to John Marty tonight. He was there, although he had to leave early because the Senate was convening at 8:00 tonight. He was able to answer some of the questions at the forum before he left. He just keeps getting better and better in his presentations. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a good percentage of the uncommitted delegates.

Mark Dayton arrived when I wasn't looking. He was busy talking to students and others. He had a brief conversation with my new friend Zak. He had time to come over and talk to me. (He must have read my Facebook wall.) He liked my purple shirt and hat. He looked very dapper in his attire. Sigh.

Dayton was wearing his strong, powerful political personna tonight. (How's that for alliteration?) I like his personal personna better, but this wasn't about me. This was about him getting elected as our next governor. If he keeps giving speeches like he did tonight, he'll win for sure. His experience in politics was strongly evident. His answers to the questions as well as his anecdotes were right on target. He definitely knew exactly what he was talking about. 

I kept waiting for Katie to come over and say hi. Katie's a great gal. Oh well.

It was time for the forum to begin. The principal of North High, Ellen Stewart, gave some opening remarks. Next up was Troy Parker. He thanked the candidates for coming to engage with the audience.

Booker Hodges spoke. He's a very good speaker. He thanked both the candidates and the students who worked so hard to put this event together. He told us that fifty percent of the kids in North Minneapolis would not graduate. He said that the adults have failed the kids. I liked Hodges' manner and his obvious concern and caring for the students. I think he makes an excellent role model for these kids.

Next the candidates came up to the stage one at a time. Each candidate was escorted by two students. I liked the way that worked out. As Mark Dayton took his seat at one of the tables on the stage, he said in reference to the two students, "They wished me luck. They must think I need it." Dayton felt comfortable enough tonight to engage in humor right away.

When R. T. was escorted to the stage, he got a rah rah cheer from the students. The kids love him. They know him. He's been to their school many times. They know he cares about them.

The Question and Answer period then began. I'll list each question and how each candidate answered it. Paraphrased, of course, as I can't take notes at mach 10.

Question #1: North Community High School lost a lot of extracurricular activities as well as activity buses. How will you bring them back?

R. T. Rybak - The State should put more money directly into the schools. He mentioned "The Power of You," which is a partnership between private and public organizations.

Paul Thissen - It's absolutely unacceptable to have some kids not have access to thinkgs other kids have access to. Art, science, theatre, etc., engage kids in learning and make learning fun. The State should fund all these things and not just math and reading.

Tom Rukavina - Too many schools have closed or consolidated. We're cheating students. Fair taxes are income taxes because everyone pays based on their ability to pay. He may not have a million bucks (insinuating that some candidates do...maybe he can talk Dayton and Entenza into giving it all away), but he has a good heart and knows that schools need funding.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher - She wants equal education for all. Our constitution provides for that. She likes The New Minnesota Miracle. She wants to fund education for all kids across the state. She kept getting applause from the audience. Kelliher was on a roll tonight.

Peter Idusogie - This is the first time I've ever heard him speak in a forum. I talked to him previously at a couple of senate district conventions. He said he hasn't been active in the forums and debates up to now because he's been all over the place. In answer to this first question, he emphasized how important education is for everyone. He said that we can't apply 20th century solutions to 21st century problems. We need to be entepreneurs in our view of today's world. Education is his top priority.

John Marty -  He agrees with Peter that education made MN great. It's important that we provide good education for everyone. He authored the bill for the New Minnesota Miracle. Kids who come to school hungry aren't ready to learn. We need to meet the needs of all our students.

Mark Dayton - His first job out of college was in an inner city school in New York City. He taught general science to ninth graders. This school had no sports and no extracurricular activities. Tim Pawlenty cut $1400/student in Minnesota. Dayton never thought that Minnesota schools could ever be like the one he taught at in NYC. Minnesota schools always had a lot of extracurricular activities. It's a disgrace that Minnesota's educational system is in this condition now. If he is governor he will tax the rich. Many members of the Dayton family will vote against him. That's okay; he's going with his conscience and with doing what's right for the people of Minnesota, just as he always does.

Ole Savior - He's the only candidate who won't raise our taxes. His plan is to bring more money into Minnesota from Canada and Europe. He'll sue the big oil companies in order to bring in even more money. Ok Ole.

Question #2 - New African communities in Minnesota, such as the Somali community, need to feel a part of the bigger, more established communities. What will you do as governor to help them integrate? 

Ole Savior - He'll bring lots of money into the state and then all Minnesota's problems will be solved. He didn't listen to or understand the question, for he made no attempt to answer it.

Mark Dayton - He told a story about a Somali student in Rochester MN who was beaten. Mark went down there and set something up for the family. He also told of a Somalian woman who was beat at the Mall of America by some men. He said that if he is governor, this kind of behavior will not be tolerated in Minnesota. "Not in our state." He got lots of applause for this statement.

John Marty - He knows the challenges the Somali community faces because a Somali woman married into his family. He got applause too. He believes that immigrants should have equal rights in Minnesota. As governor, he'll make that happen. He pointed out that we are all immigrants except for Native Americans. He then told the audience that he had to leave now because the Senate is convening at 8:00.

Peter Idusogie - He wants to work with immigrant kids. He's an excellent speaker. I hope he comes to visit us at Golden Rule Toastmasters. If elected governor, he will form a strategic partnership with the Somali community based on their needs.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher - She created Day on the Hill for Somalis. "Should not make decisions about us without us." Make sure that professional level credentials are recognized in Minnesota for those professionals who have immigrated from other countries. Everyone should get to share in economic opportunities.

Tom Rukavina - He has an Iron Range background and an immigration background. He believes that a good education equals a good job. He spoke about the Dream Act - all new immigrants, citizens or not, should have equal educational rights. We cannot cheat our new immigrants out of getting a good education and a good job.

Paul Thissen - We need to be a destination state. Do this by making sure immigrans are taken care of. He cares about their struggles. The State should provide the foundation. Community members will build the community. We're all in this together.

R. T. Rybak - He thought that Pawlenty was politically obscene when he targeted immigrants in his campaign. He got lots of applause when he said that. The Minneapolis Promise is about getting new kids into the higher education system. He wants to get Somali people into leadership positions. Minneapolis now has three Somali cops on the police force.

Question #3 - No Child Left Behind. If elected governor, what will you do to change this?

Margaret Anderson Kelliher - As a mom she knows that these federally mandated tests have set up students, schools and teachers for failure. The Department of Education should not be a Department of Regulation.

Tom Rukavina - The federal government tells us what to do but doesn't give us much money to do it with. He gave a kudos to Mark Dayton for what he tried to do as Senator in regard to No Child Left Behind. Rukavina then asked, "How can kids learn when they are hungry?" Good question.

Paul Thissen - His parents and his sister are all public school teachers. He stated that schools should not be factories. We need to do more than just run kids through the system.

R. T. Rybak - Teachers don't raise kids. Parents raise kids. Kids shouldn't be having kids. Stopping teenage preganancy is so important.

Ole Savior - He doesn't blame the current governor or the legislators anymore. He spoke up about solving the problem of drug dealers. Ole tried to be profound. He was getting very serious.

Mark Dayton - He voted against No Child Left Behind when he was a U. S. Senator. This mandate has no value. He stated that it's idiotic. He further said that those he came up with the idea obviously didn't read Statistics for Dummies. He tried hard many times as Senator to fund special education, but it couldn't get past the mostly Republican Senate. Dayton was absolutely superb with his answer to this question.

Peter Idusogie - His mother was a school teacher who died when he was seven. What she taught him at home was very valuable. A generation that doesn't have boundaries is a lawless generation.

Question #4 - The Minnesota unemployment gap is igher than nationally. As governor, what would you do to hold MNDOT responsible for their contracts?

Tom Rukavina - Make sure women and minorities get listed in building trades and road construction. He's a very strong union person. This isn't a recession, it's a depression. We have to make sure that we give everyone a chance.

Paul Thissen - We need a governor who is actually going to enforce those laws. The audience applauded at this statement. We must create jobs in Minnesota that people can actually live on. Racism is going on in our society. We need to address this issue. Keep kids out of the system. Thissen then gave a plug for Second Chance. Thissen gave an excellent speech in answer to this question. Well done!

R. T. Rybak - This state has the biggest gap between haves and have nots and it goes along racial lines. This is intolerable. He gave examples of what has been done in Minnapolis as far as jobs and the closing of racial disparities. He wants contracts broken down into smaller parts. He is focused on the Minneapolis Promise. He wants people to have their needs met from cradle to grave. He wants to close this unacceptable gap.

Ole Savior - He expounded on racism all over the world. He wants us to all come together. Then he segued into white collar crime.

Mark Dayton - He got lots of applause for his remarks about Tim Pawlenty. We have his promise that minorities will get jobs if he is governor. He was the Commissioner of Economic Security under Governor Rudy Perpich. Dayton learned from Perpich how to go anywhere to bring jobs to Minnesota. He then talked about the responsibility of government. We were told that the current administration is shameful and disgraceful. Everyone seems to agree with that. Applause and more applause from the audience.

Peter Idusogie - He said that this is not just about hiring minorities; it's also about minority businesses getting state contracts. We need passion and vision (at which point he put passion into his voice). We must have an export economy to be successful.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher - The current law is not being enforced. We need to make the law better. We need meaningful measurement so we know how to do better with the resources we have. We need an updated DBE law. Kelliher got lots of applause at this point.

Question #5: Only 150 police officers are black. Would you set aside funding for racial job studies? Would you propose legislation that would address this issue?

Paul Thissen - He told a story of how the Maplewood police are posing as homeless people in order to see if people are wearing seatbelts. (I live on the edge of Maplewood. I was wondering why there are so many homeless people on White Bear Avenue by Maplewood Mall who keep peering into the windows of cars that drive up.) Thissen admitted that he doesn't know everything and that he is willing to learn more and to work with people in communities. I definitely believe him, as I've had firsthand experience in seeing him reach out to learn more about various issues.

Tom Rukavina - He voted against 22 criminal justice omnibus bills. These laws are against our kids. We have forgotten what it's like to be kids. Kids screw up. Anyone who never screwed up as a kid, raise your hand, and he'll call you a liar. He gave a Second Chance plug. Lots of applause here. He said that people should be thirty years old with some experience before they can become police officers. You can't keep throwing people in jail and you can't keep putting people on probation for petty crimes and misdemeanors.

R. T. Rybak - We have to address racial profiling. Divisity in the police forces is essential.

Ole Savior - Our main problem is the outsourcing of jobs and money to China. On crime: if you can't do the time, don't do the crime. Ole felt that someone in the audience was laughing at him and/or making fun of him so he called them on it.

Mark Dayton - There is a disproportionate representation of minorities in the criminal justice system. He told the story of a child he saw getting out of a police car and being brought into a holding facility. The child, a minority youth, was in leg irons and chains. He was appalled. This was just a child. I heard the outrage in his voice and knew that this was something that would not happen if he were governor. He concluded that cultural competency is something that we are all responsible for.

Peter Idusogie - We need vision. Vision is a function of the heart. The prison industry is the largest industry in Minnesota. We didn't outsource it to China. We need to plan how many jobs we need for the future.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher - Think about what the best way is to solve these problems. She is open to working with this audience. She is good on Second Chance ideals.

Question #6 - There is a possibility that North Community High School will have to close because of all the funding cuts. As governor, what will you do to ensure that this doesn't happen?

Mark Dayton - He promises to increase state funding for k - 12 education every year that he is governor. No excuses, no exceptions. He's appalled that some Minnesota schools are going to a 4-day school week because that's all they can afford because of a lack of funding. He will raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for education. His Dayton relatives won't vote for him, but he'll raise their taxes anyway. (He's definitely not in this for the money; he's in it because he cares deeply about what happens to Minnesota and Minnesotans.)

Peter Idusogie - We have to decide what our priorities are. We should not cut education funding. Parents need to instill a sense of responsibility in their kids.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher - A good educational system starts with money and having stable educational funding. We need to make the school system attractive to potential students by having a varied curriculum.

Paul Thissen - Schools are not just about kids, but also about being centers of the community. People should be vested in the schools. This was make the schools successful. As a center of the community, schools should also have health care.

R. T. Rybak - North Community High is an institution that we have to fight for. He's worked with these kids. He helped them move Dunwoody into this school. He will take the personal stories of North Community High School to the governor's office.

Ole Savior - He won't raise taxes. If he did something naughty when he was a kid, his mother would wait til he was asleep and then take the broom to him. (I can't remember where that came from. Out of the blue? I don't think it was in answer to any question. One of the manual speeches in the first Toastmasters' manual is "Get to the Point.")

It was getting late. The forum had gone longer than expected. It was over. The candidates then had their pictures taken with the students. I took a couple but they didn't turn out. If I'm not up close, the pictures end up very dark. I'm sure I can find some good ones on the internet in a day or two, though.

Many stayed to mingle and chat. Some of the candidates left right away. It was time for me to go home. Driving home in the dark with only one headlight was not fun, but at least the roads had the white and yellow lines.

Here's the award winners for the evening:

Best speakers:  Mark Dayton, John Marty and Paul Thissen
Best tie:  Mark Dayton (great color; Thissen might have won but his was wrinkled; I have a story about Dayton's tie, but that's for another blog at another time)
Most applause:  Mark Dayton and Tom Rukavina
Most humorous:  Tom Rukavina
Most revelent anecdotes:  Mark Dayton
Most impressive:  Peter Idusogie
Name most mentioned before and after the forum:  Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Mark Dayton, Paul Thissen and R. T. Rybak
Freshest personna:  Paul Thissen
Most powerful personna:  Mark Dayton

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