J. Patrick Coolican | Editor-in-Chief

Good morning. 

Trying a new table of contents to help you. 

  1. Firing commissioners
  2. Today’s Reformer
  3. Ilhan on Frey
  4. GOP on Walz reelect
  5. Unvaccinated are not who you think
  6. Pop culture

1. Fire them now, fire them later 

Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller said on KNSI’s “Ox in the Afternoon” Tuesday that Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm could get sacked during a special legislative session, the original intent of which was to get essential worker bonus pay out the door. 

“A lot of it goes back to these mandates. Mandates create division — mask mandates, the vaccine mandates further divided the people of the state of Minnesota, and Commissioner  Malcolm and her agency have been a major decisionmaker in that process, so yeah, there are a lot of concerns,” Miller said. 

There are no vaccine mandates in Minnesota. State workers have to get vaccinated or show a negative test, but there’s no vaccine mandate, so I’m not sure what he’s talking about. Nor is there a statewide mask mandate. It was lifted in May. Which perhaps should have proven that Gov. Tim Walz was actually trying to stop the spread of COVID-19 and not bent on becoming our Mask Mandating Overlord. 

If you’ve seen Malcolm, who is serving her third governor as health commissioner, you know what she’s been through the past 18 months. 

Miller, who also speaks — without specificity — about sacking other unconfirmed commissioners, said it would pain him to have to do it: “It’s not a fun thing to do, Ox, to come in and take a vote not to confirm a commissioner.”

(I guess Republicans have come a long way since Mitt Romney said, “I like being able to fire people.”) 

And if there’s no special session, expect more terminations when the Legislature returns next year. 

Ox: “You could fire these commissioners in January?”

Miller: “We could.”  

I’ve spoken in this space about the strange quirk of Minnesota governance in which commissioners can serve for years without being confirmed, and then the Senate can vote not to confirm, and they are essentially sacked. It strikes me as no way to run a railroad.

But the last time I mentioned this, a reader wrote to tell me it’s a fine system because it requires accountability to the most representative branch of government. He also compares it to Washington: 

President Biden is having to wait weeks, months, even years for the administration to be staffed, and that’s with his own party in power let alone if they were in the Senate minority. The MN confirmation process ensures that the administration is more accountable and responsive to the most representative branch of our government. If you believe in legislative supremacy, as I do, MN is the ideal confirmation process, especially compared with DC where only POTUS has any say once someone is in the job.

2. This morning’s Reformer

Intern Anna Koenning reports on the growing list of elected officials weighing in on Minneapolis Question 2, which would dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and establish a new department of public safety. U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, who knows Minneapolis city government because she was R.T. Rybak’s chief of staff, says she's a “no,” due to the already confused lines of authority in city government. 

Max Nesterak reports on the eye-popping sum raised by opponents of rent control — $3.9 million. There are congressional candidates who don’t raise that much. How important is defeating these measures, especially in St. Paul? 

The National Association of Realtors also chipped in $750,000, with the Minnesota Association of Realtors and Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors each contributing $125,000.

Great photo alert — see below. I grabbed that shot of the Aurora Borealis at Voyageurs National Park from the National Park Service for our D.C. story on a confirmation hearing for Charles F. Sams III, of Oregon, who would be the first enrolled tribal member to lead the National Park Service. The Park Service has a lot of deferred maintenance and a shortage of workers. 

Legendary local rabble rouser Monte Bute, a retired Metro State professor, was dismissed from teaching a class as an adjunct and had his Metro State email address taken. He writes in a guest commentary it’s because he fought back against discussions to change the school’s name. 

Rude, crude and savagely confrontational: These discourses are time-tested measures of any organization’s commitment to free speech. 

3. Ilhan no on Frey

I missed this yesterday: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar is for anyone-but-Frey: “Mayor Jacob Frey has failed our city. We are less safe, less united and less prosperous than we were four years ago.”


4. GOPers on Walz

Gov. Tim Walz announced his reelection campaign early Tuesday. What did his opposition say? Edited for length. 

Former state Sen. Michelle Benson: “When Rep. Walz first ran for governor, he promised a One Minnesota vision where Minnesotans across the state would be valued and have a voice. It is clear his message was nothing but an empty promise. Instead, he has brought to St. Paul a divisive, Washington D.C. style attitude from his days in Congress. In my travels across the state, I continuously hear from Minnesotans that feel unheard and ignored by their governor.”

Subtext: One Minnesota is a great campaign theme and I will make it my own because I have a general election strategy. 

Former Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka: Gov. Walz has pursued policies disastrous for our state. He has consistently shown weakness and hesitation in the face of lawlessness and rising crime. With COVID, he failed early on to protect the elderly while seriously damaging our economy and society with his overreach. And, except for Republican legislators’ principled opposition (which I led for the past three years), Walz’s tax increases, irresponsible spending, and wild policy proposals would have ruined our state.

Subtext: Please clap. 

Former Sen. Scott Jensen: His launch video compared his governorship to a “goal line stand” for Minnesota. If that’s the case, he should put a Detroit Lions helmet on. Rarely have we seen a more stark failure in leadership: He locked down small businesses and locked our lederly in with the sick during the pandemic (the Cuomo playbook); he was asleep at the wheel during the riots of 2020 while labeling our National Guard as ‘19-year old cooks”; even now — as Tim Walz’s party activists push for a dismantling of the Minneapolis police department, he is failing to be the independent voice Minnesota needs during one of our most violent years. 

Subtext, to Republican convention delegates and primary voters: I will give you the raw, red meat you crave! I will shove football and the National Guard back in his face! I will reference Andrew Cuomo! I will falsely insinuate he’s a defund/abolish police advocate! 

As Michael Brodkorb reports, the state GOP took more than 10 hours to release a statement. “This isn’t rapid response,” Brodkorb notes, dryly. 

5. Unvaccinated are not who you think

Zeynep Tufekci has been one of the most clear-headed writers throughout the pandemic. Here she notes that despite all the noise out of the Trumpy anti-vaxxers, they are not representative of the actual vaccine hesitant population. 

The unvaccinated, overall, don’t have much trust in institutions and authorities, and even those they trust, they trust less: 71 percent of the vaccinated trust hospitals and doctors “a lot,” for example, while only 39 percent of the unvaccinated do….Research on the unvaccinated by KFF from this September showed the most powerful predictor of who remained unvaccinated was not age, politics, race, income or location, but the lack of health insurance.

Because we have a crummy health care system, a lot of people don’t have regular contact with doctors, and they’re the ones who remain unvaccinated. Go figure. 

This does not absolve anti-vaxxers — especially in our political system — of responsibility, but it’s an important perspective and you should read it

6. Dopesick for Dopesick 

Michael Keaton, who I saw play “Batman” in the theater, plays a West Virginia country doctor sucked into the maw of Purdue Pharmaceuticals’ ruthless, avaricious Oxycontin marketing campaign, in the dramatization of the opioid crisis that’s playing on Hulu. New episode tonight and I’m here for it. Longtime readers of this and my previous newsletter know my interest in the corporate crime that helped spur the opioid crisis. I also wrote about the industry’s tsunami of lobbying at the Capitol in 2018. It’s both maddening and thrilling watching this series. When we pick up this week, a small backwater office of a U.S. Attorney is gathering evidence, and Sackler family greed has absolutely no upper limit. 

Correspond: patrick@minnesotareformer.com 

Have a great day all! JPC

Is it not?


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