Monday, March 11, 2013

Supervisor Larkin Penny-Wise and Dollar Foolish?

Rising to the level of documenting in the Fish Lake Township January meeting minutes, Supervisor Diane Larkin made the “stellar” motion to “purchase ten rolls of stamps before the [price] increase.” On January 27, 2013, the U.S. Postal Service raised its First Class Mail rates by one cent, from $0.45 to $0.46 to mail a one ounce letter. With 100 stamps per roll, and a cost savings of $1.00 per roll, Supervisor Larkin’s timely motion saved Fish Lake Township a whopping $10.00!!

So what was thrifty Supervisor Larkin thinking when the township finally completed paying off the 2001 140H Caterpillar road grader and could begin to save $20,000 per year in equipment payment costs? She voted to get rid of the paid off equipment and purchase a brand new Caterpillar 140M road grader to the tune of $246,025!

Why doesn’t Supervisor Diane Larkin care more about the taxpayers than to be penny-wise and dollar foolish with their money?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fish Lake Township A Day Late and a Dollar Short?

On Monday night, March 4th, Fish Lake Township experienced the second largest snowfall of the winter with 10-12 inches blanketing the countryside. On Tuesday morning, the deep snowfall all but obliterated rural country roads, but no township plow truck or road grader was in sight. Never-the-less, some had to brave the dangerous, unplowed roads for critical business. One such unfortunate vehicle was a large passenger van for transporting disabled adults to and from local residential treatment facilities. Around 8:30 a.m. the van attempted to travel down North Pine Lake Road, but quickly became stuck in the deep, unplowed snow. With no township plow truck or road grader in sight, the passenger van was helplessly stranded for more than 3 hours, a sorrowful sight to behold. Finally, around 11:30 a.m., a large private tow truck arrived to winch out the van, twice, before both vehicles could proceed back through the deep ruts they had previously left in the snow. Still no township plow truck or road grader in sight.

Supervisor Diane Larkin once declared that North Pine Lake Road was the “most highly traveled road in the township,” but no one showed up to plow the road until around 4:00 p.m. that afternoon. At that time, the old, war-torn township plow truck arrived to battle the deep drifts alone. What an incredible sight to witness an old faded relic from the past conquer the monstrous piles of snow!

So what happened to Fish Lake Township’s new $246,025 must-have Caterpillar 140M road grader and “Grader Gary?” What will it take for Fish Lake Township to provide timely public service? Why don’t Supervisors Carter, Larkin and Johnson care more about public safety than to publish and communicate Fish Lake Township’s “Snow Plowing Policy” in their spring newsletter!

Friday, February 15, 2013

FLT Supervisor Candidates a Mystery?

Fish Lake Township annual elections for 2013 will be held on Tuesday, March 12, at the town hall. Once again the township’s website, “created as a public service for the residents of Fish Lake Township,” contains no candidate or sample ballot information to communicate who (if anyone) will be running for township supervisor.

Why the secrecy about informing the public prior to an election who will be appearing on the ballot? Why the secrecy that Supervisor Bob Carter’s three-year term has expired? Perhaps Fish Lake Township should instead proclaim their website was “created as a filtered public service for the residents of Fish Lake Township.”

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Obituary: Ex-editor John Finnegan fought for open records

Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune Updated: October 2, 2012 - 7:57 PM

John Finnegan, a retired longtime editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and a tireless champion of the public's right to information, died early Tuesday, his family said.

A force behind Minnesota's first open-meetings law in 1957 and an advocate for the state's first open-records legislation in the mid-1970s, Finnegan died in hospice at his St. Paul home from intestinal cancer. He was 87.

"Even when John Finnegan thought he had retired as a journalist [in 1989], he remained incredibly active as an advocate for First Amendment rights and for open access to public meetings and government data," said Kate Parry, who filled various editor positions at the Pioneer Press. Parry is now an assistant managing editor at the Star Tribune and was the newspaper's ombudsman.

"Reporters all over Minnesota -- as well as the public -- benefit every day from the foundation of openness he fought for in Minnesota's laws," Parry added.

John Finnegan Jr. said that thanks to his father and others, "Minnesota really became known for holding [public officials] accountable for what they do ... and that business is conducted in the public sunshine."

Soon after Finnegan retired in 1989, the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information established the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award for those "who demonstrate through expression and action commitment to the idea that a popular and democratic government can never realize the aspirations of the founding fathers without the participation of an informed electorate."

The senior Finnegan's honors for his pursuit of public accountability include membership in the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame and the State Open Government Hall of Fame award for 2011 from the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Finnegan was born in Walker, Minn., in 1924, and graduated from the University of Minnesota after majoring in journalism and political science. He and wife Norma moved to Rochester, Minn., where he was a reporter for the Post-Bulletin.

In 1951, he joined the Pioneer Press as a night general assignment reporter. Ten years later, he became associate editor of the editorial page, then executive editor in 1967. He was senior vice president and assistant publisher until he retired in 1989.

"Most journalistic careers don't stay in one place for a long time," said Finnegan's son, "but he was one of those people who made a go of it from the beginning to the end in his home state."

The younger Finnegan said that newspaper work was "a calling for him. ... He's just one of those people, as they say, he found the color of his parachute very early."

Along with his wife and son John Jr., Finnegan is survived by son James; daughters Roberta Deeney, Mary Maruska and Cara Finnegan; 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

He was preceded in death by his son Joseph.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

Monday, August 20, 2012

Appeals Court reverses $60,000 award against blogger "Johnny Northside"

• Article by: ABBY SIMONS
• Star Tribune
• August 20, 2012 - 11:14 AM

The Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned a $60,000 award a local blogger was ordered to pay for a post that got a man fired, claiming that the blogger cannot be found liable for interfering if the information is true and protected under the First Amendment.

The decision issued Monday in a case that garnered attention from free-speech advocates came a year and a half after a Hennepin County jury said that Minneapolis blogger John "Johnny Northside" Hoff owed Jerry Moore $60,000 in damages for a scathing post on his well-read blog, "The Adventures of Johnny Northside." The post resulted in Moore's firing from the University of Minnesota.

The jury decided that Hoff told the truth in his post when he accused Moore of being involved in a "high-profile fraudulent mortgage," but found that his actions amounted to actively interfering with Moore's employment contract. Hoff challenged the verdict and moved for a judgment or a new trial.

The Appeals Court sided with Hoff, reasoning that he cannot be held liable for interfering with Moore's contract with the U if the information is true, regardless of his motivation for doing so, and ordered the case sent back to district court for judgment in Hoff's favor.
"When a person conveys unflattering and possibly damaging information to another person's employer, it is unlikely that the motivation for conveying that information is borne out of affection," Judge Jill Flaskamp Halbrooks wrote. "It is much more likely that the intent is for the employer to take responsive action -- up to and including termination -- based on the content of that information. Regardless of the motivation of the messenger, if the information conveyed is true, it is not appropriate for liability to attach."

The lawsuit stemmed from a feud between Moore, former director of the Jordan Area Community Council (JACC) in north Minneapolis, and Hoff, a neighborhood activist. After Moore's firing from the Jordan Area Community Council, he was hired in 2009 at the U's Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center to study mortgage foreclosures.
When Hoff found out, he wrote a post accusing Moore of being involved in a "high-profile fraudulent mortgage," one of several that resulted in a 16-year prison sentence for former real estate agent Larry Maxwell. Moore was not criminally charged in the Maxwell case, although he is currently named as one of several defendants in a lawsuit related to the fraud.
"The collective judgment of decent people in the Jordan neighborhood -- 'decent' being defined as 'not actively involved in mortgage fraud' -- is that Jerry Moore is the last person who should be working on this kind of task, and WHAT THE HELL was the U of M thinking by hiring him," Hoff wrote in the June 21, 2009, post. Among the comments was a copy of an e-mail sent by another North Side resident and blogger, Don Allen, to the university urging Moore's termination and suggesting that he would publicize Moore's background if his suggestion wasn't met. Moore was fired the next day. Moore sued Hoff and Allen in 2009. Allen settled before trial and testified against Hoff.

In the opinion, Flaskamp Halbrooks wrote that Hoff's blog post, which is protected under the First Amendment, was too intertwined with his other actions to find him liable for Moore's firing without violating his constitutional rights.
"Hoff's blog post is the kind of speech that the First Amendment is designed to protect," she wrote. "He was publishing information about a public figure that he believed was true (and that the jury determined was not false) and that involved an issue of public concern." Abby Simons • 612-673-4921
© 2011 Star Tribune

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Voting a ‘Primary’ Concern?

Primary election results from 8/14/12 for Chisago County Commissioner Districts 1 and 5 were as follows;

District 1: Darrel Trulson 416, Lora Walker 385, Lyle Johnson 164.
District 5: Mike Robinson 656, Rick Smisson 180, Jonathan Glassel 116, Tim O’Keefe 82.

The following two candidates who received the most primary election votes for each district will face off in the November 6th general election;

District 1: Darrel Trulson and Lora Walker
District 5: Mike Robinson and Rick Smisson

As general elections which coincide with presidential elections typically produce huge voter turnouts, could 2013 spell unprecedented changes for the Chisago County board of commissioners?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Can You Imagine?


What if the incumbents were replaced on the Chisago County Board of Commissioners? No more Mike Robinson, George McMahon or Lora Walker. All three commissioners will face tough competition in their bids for re-election to Districts 5, 3 and 1 respectively. Commissioners Robinson and Walker will face a first round of impressive challengers on Tuesday, August 14th, in a primary election intended to narrow the number of candidates to two per district in the November general election. If Commissioners Robinson and/or Walker fail to garner enough votes in Tuesday’s primary election, two new candidates will be listed on the November ballots for their districts. Because only two candidates signed up for District 3, Commissioner McMahon will face his challenger in the November general election.

Can you imagine the Chisago county board room filled with three new faces? The possibilities of a new era of functional county government are limitless.