Tuesday, November 06, 2007 By Aaron Brown
In my section of Itasca County all we had to vote on today was the District 318 school referendum. In Hibbing, where I work, residents are voting on their own school referendum. There are dozens of these referendums going on all over Minnesota and it's because the state still isn't living up to its funding obligations for school districts. That's the conservative plan, Gov. Pawlenty's in particular, to shift the financial obligation from the state income tax to property taxes which are more regressive. This is essentially a reversal of the tax reforms of Wendell Anderson and Rudy Perpich of the 1970s that made Minnesota the pride of the nation for education, community strength and service delivery. So what's better? Vote "Yes" to authorize this shift or vote "No" to harm school districts in the short term? No one wins until we fix the state tax trends.
Meantime, here's a roundup of the other elections that seem worthy of following:
There's a humdinger of a mayor's race and several competitive council races in Duluth today. In the main event, city councilor Don Ness is battling businessman Charlie Bell for the mayor's office. Ness is a longtime DFL activist and former Congressman Jim Oberstar campaign manager. He's also the city council's youngest member and even with eight years in office is still in his early '30s. Bell is a community activist of sorts and is making his second run for this office. Both have been well financed and I really think this one could break either way. We'll see tonight.
In the Iron Range town of Virginia, longtime incumbent mayor Carolyn Gentilini is on the ropes against city councilor Steve Peterson. These two have been squabbling for years. Peterson crushed Gentilini in the primary (if this were Louisiana we wouldn't even need a general election) and she has a lot of ground to make up if she's going to prevail. There will also be some turnover in the Virginia council but even if all the incumbents are swapped out I get the feeling that not much is going to change in Virginia.
Lots and lots of referendums. Like I said above, if they pass Pawlenty gets to justify not funding eduction as well as he should and middle class property owners are burdened with an unfair portion of the bill. If they fail, the next two years will be hard for districts all over the state. It's hard to celebrate a victory for either Yes or No in my mind.
Not much to report. Governor's races in Mississippi and Kentucky. In Mississippi a portly ex-lobbyist Gov. Haley Barbour will cruise to re-election and the short list of GOP V.P. candidates. In Kentucky, a scandal-laden incumbent Republican will probably fall to a Democrat in an election that won't prove much about Kentucky's electorate. Meantime, the state of Virginia has legislative elections that might be an interesting bellweather for the state's recent Democratic swing. If you hear the Dems took the Virginia legislature, they might have a shot at that Republican stronghold in 2008.
Meantime, my friend and former news director Cindy Kohlmann is running for city council in Dubuque, Iowa. Do the right thing, Dubuque's 4th Ward. She'll treat you right.
You know, everything up until this part is irrelevant. If Pakistan falls to extremists in their January elections we'll all be farming potatoes with grow-lights in our bomb shelters within the decade. Our solution so far? Give Pakistanis only two choices: President Musharaff or General Musharaff. Uffda! Democracy is hard.