Monday I honked and waved at the NWA Mechanics, Krie and Ken barked and wagged in support, on my frantic run to the Airport Post Office to serve a Reply to Cedar Falls Utilities Motion to Strike (strike an exhibit, no, not picket!)

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Labor unions are a powerful force — no wonder the likes of Katherine Kersten are afraid — unions brought us some of the basic concepts that we take for granted, like earning a living wage, benefits including health care coverage, and unions contribute to the community not only by improving the lives of their members and families, but through direct contributions of volunteer labor on important community projects.

Check the STrib and Northfield News today. In the STrib, Northfield’s Rick Keiser got a well-earned reply to Katherin Kersten’s recent “Teachers should leave Wal-Mart alone,” a blast of the teacher union Wal-Mart boycott of conscience:


The real Wal-Mart

Blinded by her dislike of unions, Katherine Kersten has forgotten that one of the things that this country has long stood for is equality and justice for all.

The reason why people boycott Wal-Mart every day, without any prodding from organized labor, is that they exacerbate inequalities abroad and at home. Wal-Mart demands very low prices from its suppliers, and this forces those suppliers to cut labor costs.

A Honduran clothing factory whose main customer is Wal-Mart pays workers who sew sleeves onto 1,200 shirts per day only $35 a week. Wal-Mart has repeatedly been fined for violations of child labor laws, including working through meal breaks and operating dangerous equipment.

Many small businesses cannot provide affordable health care benefits to employees, but Wal-Mart has 600,000 employees and is the nation’s largest private employer. The company is in many states at the top of the list of employers whose workers rely on Medicaid. It has a terrible record of gender inequality and pays women almost 40 cents an hour less than men.

Is the company broke? No. It earned $10.3 billion in profits last year and paid its CEO, Lee Scott, $23 million in total compensation.

The individuals that Kersten interviewed may not know these facts, but Kersten does. Low prices are something we all can appreciate. But low prices at any cost? Do the ends justify any means?

I can think of no better message with which to send our children back to school than to take a stand for equality and justice for all.

Richard A. Keiser, Northfield, Minn.

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What are unions about? Here’s a local example from IBEW Local 110 from the Northfield News:

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Local electricians give time, talent to Habitat

8/30/2005 11:26:00 PM

By DEVLYN BROOKS
Managing Editor

NERSTRAND — More than a dozen electricians on Saturday morning buzzed around the Habitat for Humanity home going up in Nerstrand.

Some were wiring light switches and fixtures upstairs. Others were working in the basement, doing much the same thing. And still others were toting material and rolling up wire, trying to clean up behind the others as fast as they were making progress.

If everything went as planned, the crew was to wrap up the basic wiring of the entire house by noon. They started at 7 a.m.

“The best thing about these guys is you don’t have to tell them what to do. They just go and do it,” said Bill Sartor, project manager for the Habitat for Humanity. “Pretty soon they’re flying, stringing wires … in half a day they’re done.”

The electricians were members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 110, a union that stretches a large geographic territory from south of Faribault all the way north to Cambridge. On Saturday, guys came from all over to help — Lonsdale, Northfield, Nerstrand, Dennison, Cannon Falls, Faribault and even from the Twin Cities.

Bob Delisha, the president of Faribault’s IBEW chapter, said that when they can the union members like to give back to the community.

“We want to show the community that we’re there to help out,” he said. “I think sometimes unions get a bad (reputation). We want to let people know we care about them.”

The Nerstrand home is the fourth Habitat for Humanity home that the IBEW has help wire in recent years. Sartor said they’ve done two houses in Northfield, one in Faribault and now the one in Nerstrand.

“It’s a big benefit to us,” he said.

Sartor said the relationship between Habitat for Humanity of Rice County and the IBEW began in earnest a few years ago. And since, when asked, the union has been there ready to help.

Sartor added that the electricians’ flexibility is wonderful. Electricity was just run to the house on Tuesday and the call went out for volunteers to help string the house on Saturday. That morning about 15 electricians showed up.

“These guys on a short notice make things happen,” he said.

Slinger Electric of Faribault is the electricity contractor for the house, Sartor said, and in addition to Slinger, other local electrical contractors have donated material and assistance to make the Nerstrand house happen.

Overall, Sartor said the house is on schedule to be completed in November. The home’s heating system is installed, most of the plumbing is in, much of the exterior siding is on, and thanks to the guys on Saturday, the wiring should be completed except for the finishing touches that have to wait.

At this pace, Sartor said that Khara Huffstutter, and her children, Erick and Laura, should be able to move in during November, just as planned.

Huffstutter was chosen to receive the home by going through Habitat for Humanity’s annual applicant process. During the building process she also has had to put “sweat equity” into the home, meaning she had to physically work on building the home with the Habitat for Humanity volunteers.

Huffstutter had been living with her parents in Faribault because she could not afford to buy a home on her income.

Habitat for Humanity will sell the new home to Huffstutter for about $75,000.

Sartor said that when the home is completed, about 110 volunteers will have worked on the house.

The lot for the home in Nerstrand was donated by Opal Wolf.

– Devlyn Brooks can be reached at dbrooks@northfieldnews.com or 645-1116

Xcel really gets around — it we knew how far those tentacles reached…

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Candidate questions Kelly link to Xcel exec

Jackie Crosby, Star Tribune
August 30, 2005

St. Paul mayoral candidate Elizabeth Dickinson questioned Monday whether Mayor Randy Kelly could legally allow a top Xcel Energy executive to raise money for his campaign while at the same time the city is negotiating a new franchise agreement with the energy company. Kelly’s office and campaign strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Dickinson, the Green Party candidate, stopped short of accusing the mayor of breaking any laws, but said: “I think that a lot of people looking at this would say it may not pass the smell test.”

Dickinson, who has a combative history with Xcel Energy over its coal-producing High Bridge plant in St. Paul, held a news conference in front of City Hall to question whether Kelly violated the city’s “ex parte contacts” ordinance after Steve Schmidt, Xcel’s manager of local government relations, was among the hosts of a fundraiser for Kelly on Aug. 17. “Ex parte” is a legal term that refers to one-sided communication in a contested matter.

The franchise fee agreement with Xcel grants the company rights to provide natural gas and electricity using city streets and other rights of way. It is renegotiated every 10 years and will expire in mid-2006. The city is in the early stages of the process, with formal negotiations expected to begin in October.

St. Paul City Attorney Manuel Cervantes said “ex parte” laws apply to conversations, not social functions, fundraisers or relationships.

“As long as you’re not in communication about the issues that are on the franchise negotiation table, the prohibition is not in place,” he said.

Nancy Haas, Kelly’s chief of staff, said Dickinson’s claims were unfounded.

“The mayor understands the law and the sensitivities involved in contract negotiations,” Haas said. “He has never had a conversation with Steve Schmidt regarding a material issue in this case.”

A spokeswoman at Xcel Energy also said no “ex parte” conversations have occurred regarding the franchise renegotiation. Mary Sandok said in a statement that Xcel encourages employees to be politically active, “recognizing that such involvement is strictly voluntary and shall take place on the employee’s own time.”

Schmidt has been the liaison between the city and Xcel Energy during this pre-negotiation stage, said Matt Smith, St. Paul’s finance director and chair of the negotiating committee.

Schmidt is a civic booster who was crowned King Boreas of the St. Paul Winter Carnival in January. He was one of about 35 people putting on the fundraiser, Kelly’s campaign said.

“Steve Schmidt is an active citizen of St. Paul and has the same freedoms as every other American to be active in the political process,” said Vince Musik, a spokesman for Kelly’s campaign.

Dickinson has made renegotiating the franchise agreement a campaign issue. This year, fees from Xcel Energy will bring about $17 million to the city, the third-largest revenue source behind property taxes and the state’s local government aid.

Dickinson has proposed increasing the franchise fees paid by residents to raise $1 million to $2 million, which she would use to pay for public safety.

Dickinson said she is not planning to make a formal complaint against Kelly or his campaign at this time.

Jackie Crosby is at jcrosby@startribune.com



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Thanks to St. Paul Mayoral Candidate Elizabeth Dickinson for shining the light on this connection.

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Here’s her website. I know her from her work on the Clean Water Action Alliance Board, and appreciate her courage in testifying against the Mesaba project, when environmental groups supposedly concerned about coal and central station power were utterly absent, and she was one of us few who testified.

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This example of the influence of Xcel is all too familiar. I remember when Todd Rapp, former House Speaker Phil Carruthers’ top guy, went over to the dark side… there was a rash of this back then, haven’t looked at that file in years, let’s see, there was Mary Krinkie, Jill Sletten, Tony Kliwas (?), who else… I’ll dig up the file and fill in the blanks soon.

DIM BULB

TODD RAPP, FORMER aide to House Speaker Phil Carruthers (DFL-Brooklyn Park), this week starts work at Northern States Power managing state-government relations. Recently, Rapp stirred controversy at the Legislature when it was rumored that he would be taking the NSP position shortly after attending a legislative junket to California to study energy deregulation. At the time, Rapp said he was planning to take a month off before deciding where he would land. He stayed home after Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) and Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) pointed out the conflict posed by Rapp’s taking both the trip and the NSP job.

“It must have been a wonderfully lucky guess,” Marty quips of his prediction, adding that it’d be disappointing if Rapp took the job at NSP last month but didn’t announce it because it would look bad. “If the goal was to take a month’s break, then say I’m going to take a long break and then go work for NSP,” Marty says. “If this was an attempt to minimize criticism for the revolving door, they have consequently shown that it is a concern.”

Todd Rapp went to NSP not long after his boss, then Speaker Phil Carruthers, did a deal that left me wondering — Carruthers wanted NSP to have the option of putting nuclear waste in Florence Township, and he wanted it bad. At the time I represented Florence Township, and we were trying for a repeal of the “Alternate Site Mandate.” Carruthers did a deal with Steve Sviggum that showed up in Rep. Phyllis Kahn’s Gov Ops committee, and in this deal he would give up the DFL’s minimum wage increase to KEEP Florence Township stuck with nuclear waste under the “Alternate Site Mandate” (Can you think of a positive rationale for this?). Kahn and Rep. Tommy Rukavina were brilliant, they separated the two sections out, and first outed Carruthers on the minimum wage, and he gave it up and that amendment passed, and then had the committee vote on repealing the alternate site mandate, and that passed too, and Carrthers was furious! The repeal went forward (but ultimately failed). It was one of the most informative moments in politics I’ve ever experienced!

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Power line capacity at center of debate in western Minnesota


The Big Stone project includes two separate power line corridors. The southern transmission line runs about 90 miles to Granite Falls. The northern route is about 60 miles long and will end at either Morris or Willmar.

Big Stone spokesman Steve Schultz says talks are taking place concerning the size of the lines. Schultz says the utilities may change the planned 230,000 volt southern route.

“They’re looking at that as a possibility, building that at 345,000 volts,” says Schultz. “Which would allow more outlet capability for wind projects.”

Wind supporters say if that happens it’s a step forward, but they also want the northern route upgraded to a larger carrying capacity. Wind advocate Brent Olson says only the larger size will guarantee room on the transmission lines for renewable energy.

Let’s think about this a bit — all they’ve talked about is voltage. VOLTAGE SAYS NOTHING ABOUT CAPACITY! EARTH TO MARS, TALK MVA TO ME!

Let’s take another look at “Transmission for Wind” in case any of you have missed it. Here’s a link for the conductor chart from Xcel’s approved and permitted Application the SW Minnesota Transmission Proceedings that shows that your basic 230kV line with ACSS conductor, which Xcel claims is now standard, already handles just a touch more than the 600MW of Big Stone. Ex. 35, App. 7. Download file If it’s a bundled line, and I can’t see why they wouldn’t bundle anything they’re building towers for, it’s twice that. The 115/161kV line for Chisago is 848MVA or so. The yellow highlighting is for the SW MN 345kV conductor specs, 2085MVA.

Here’s a link for the MAPP Form 1 showing the same 2085MVA for those who refuse to believe. Download file

And while I’m at it, attached also are the powerflows showing 213-302MVA of that 2085 MVA capacity of that line is from Buff Ridge. So maybe, MAYBE, just a hair over 10% of the capacity of this line is for wind. Download file 213MVA is the 50/50 option where generation is split between north and south as it is, 302 is the 100/0 best case scenario with all generation development in the south and more going into that 345kV line.

I found that SW Incremental Study that shows that the Buff Ridge wind energy is taking the scenic route through Dorsey, Manitoba, then over to Forbes (near the Arrowhead Sub) and then down to Chisago County sub, but it’s way too big to upload.

What the wind gives, line loss taketh away. …sigh… and here we go again, transmission “for wind.”

St. Lawrence Band Reunion

August 28th, 2005

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WOW! Dave Lucking (the band related links work if you’re on the list and signed in to the site) and Cookie Ostrom did an amazing job! Saturday was the St. Lawrence Band Reunion. Great turnout, standing room only in the church basement. Tim and Paul McGovern had put together CD’s and videos of collections of photos and Super 8 movies which were running non-stop in two classrooms, there were scrapbooks and photos from several generations. Tim made awards for all the Directors, I had a great shot of him presenting to Doug Jarosh and deleted it — oops — and same with the one where he introduced his mother, Pat McGovern. SORRY!

Talk about long strange trips… it was so weird hearing over and over “Oh, I joined the band in 1948″ or “1952″ and here they are:

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No one could really claim any generation gap when the photos of the first New York trip look just like the photos of the 1972 New York trip, same antics, same poses, and what a hoot to learn that my in-laws first got together on one of those trips!

Here’s Hap Corbett telling of his St. Lawrence adventures, and Clete McGovern, Director for many years (and my father-in-law!), sitting on the left.

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Clete was a big influence on me. He taught me some of the finer points of argument, which has served me well. He had to chortle, and said he’d heard I was a lawyer and asked me what I was up to. When I told him, he said, “I hope you’re not saving the screeching owl!” I explained my economic approach to utility regulation issues, and that he’d probably get a kick out of it, and he said, “Well, we probably wouldn’t agree on much, I am conservative, you know.”

As Tim McGovern said, it was an organization that welcomed everyone as family, and he’d not found anything like it since. But for him it WAS family — he needed more than just two hands as he listed off just his immediate family members in the band! It was a family reunion for me, too. I recognized them all except for “baby Tommy” who was maybe a year and a half when we met, and now has kids of his own. Here’s moi and my mother-in-law Pat McGovern, and favorite sister-in-law Peggy Roethke (McGovern).

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Oh, my, some of those old photos, as someone said, “That’s back from the days when you were hot!” His brother almost smacked him upside the head… should have… I don’t remember those days well, seems my floppy crashed somewhere along the parade route… we all know that sax player… and who’s that with the red hair in front?

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And guess who this is, photo compliments of Jan Fennell (Shupien)? Isn’t that the same guy on bass drum above?

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And also from Jan Fennell, this one’s for David, back when he had hair and wasn’t pregnant! That’ll teach you not to show up!

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Yes, it was well worth the price of admission.

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And for Randy, here’s from Kathy Pulkka’s scrapbook:

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And today:

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Rice County — once again they’ve got me asking “WHATEVER ARE THEY THINKING?!?!?!” This week, I received their “answers” to the Discovery Requests of Rice County Land Use Accountability in our suit against the County for repeated violation of environmental law. Their responses were the legal Discovery equivalent of a G.W. response:

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(thanks to Matt Johnson for finding this and putting it on the office wall)

Here are the scanned Rice County responses to our very specific questions — see for yourself! Download file

Over and over, the Rice County mantra:

Answer: Objection, overly broad and burdensome, irrelevant and not calculated to lead to discoverable information.

Not one word of substance, and no documents produced whatsoever, no invitation to show up, dig through files, and do some copying.

OK, fine, “Bring it on!!!!” …now where did I put those weapons of mass destruction??? Guess I’ll have to try a Motion to Compel instead.

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(“some people” were tiring of the horses’ asses, so this one’s for you!)