Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Year of Angry White Man

Emily's List surveyed the Democratic women who voted two years previous but stayed home. "They were the wives of the angry white, men, and they just bailed out. They felt the Democratic Congress hadn't done anything. They think politicians get elected and come to Washington to play with the lobbyists and further their own careers, that Congress could do something to improve their lives and chooses not to. There is tremendous cynicism and anger. They're working two jobs. They can't get home to be with their kids, and they're scared about that. They're right on the edge of complete crisis. One respondent in a focus group said, 'If the car broke down, I don't have the money to fix it, and it's the only way I can get to work.'"

Sound familiar. Coincidentally, the survey took place in 1994, NOT 2010! The information comes from an article written in USA Today in 1994. Some things never change. end

Monday, November 22, 2010


At a recent board of commissioners meeting a payment of $2500 or thereabouts was made to the Mayo Clinic. A question surfaced as to the reason Nicollet County was paying a bill of that amount to Mayo Clinic. The answer was simple, but tells volumes as to why our county expenditures keep increasing and thus property taxes keep increasing.

The payment funded the testimony of a Mayo Clinic doctor who was needed to testify concerning the injuries of an inmate in our jail. One inmate physically assaulted another and needed to be taken to the hospital for emergency room services. (Oh, yes, the county also picked up the tab for the hospital and doctor fees.) However, this bill was simply to pay for the doctor's expert testimony when the incident came to trial. According to our County Attorney, it is typical to charge up to $500 an hour for such testimony. This seems to be specific to the Mayo Clinic. Others are more civic minded and more reasonable in their fees.

Our attorney also shared that some medical witnesses have been subpoenaed and refused to show up because they were dissatisfied with the reimbursement they would be receiving. end

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I was a member of the canvassing board for Nicollet County. We met a week ago to certify election results. The process is VERY prescriptive and our group (two from the Auditor/Treasurer's office, one representing Court Administration, one representing cities, and two county commissioners) were thorough in our judgments and completely satisfied that there were no fraudulent attempts to manipulate votes.

There have been questions concerning the accuracy of the machines that are used at each precinct. These machines read each ballot that is placed in them and then keep a tabulation of the ballots. The question posed is, "have the machines been tampered with so the count is weighted one way or another?" This scenario is highly unlikely. The machines are tested before the election. This is an open, transparent process with public invited to watch and question. Machines are kept under lock and key in county facilities. On election day when machines are at the precincts, they are again tested. Part of the process is to run a test tape before voting begins. The tape is checked to make sure all offices and questions that apply to that precinct are listed on the tape. Each voting possibility must register zero. This "zero test tape" is then turned in at the end of the day. The machines start out at zero and record only the votes from the ballots placed in the machine that day.

Do the machines read accurately? Part of the canvassing process is an audit of two randomly chosen precincts in the county. In 2010, the hand counted precincts chosen were North Mankato 5-A and Granby township. After hand counting all of the ballots for all of the positions and questions in these two precincts, NO ERROR was found. The numbers corresponded perfectly with the numbers shown on the tapes run at the end of voting on November 2. Observers of this process were representing: Democrats, Republicans, and Minnesota Citizens for Election Integrity. end


It was Veteran's Day and Fred and I felt the need to make the day special. We wanted to break the routine of "just another Thursday" in November and allow our bodies and minds to refresh and contemplate other ideas and other people. We decided to visit the Terry Redlin Art Gallery in Watertown, S.D. As we drove through the many small towns, we were able to observe the presentation of our glorious flag in many different venues.

At the Terry Redlin Gallery, veterans were being honored. They all received a complementary Redlin print. All they had to do was present their veteran's identification card to the clerk in the gift shop. As we visited the shop and observed the products that now make up the "Terry Redlin Industry" we heard folks coming in--asking for their gift. Leaving the area, we met a young man wearing shorts and walking with a bit of an altered gait. He was walking on two prosthetic legs. I am sure that no I.D. was required for this young man. His badge of honor, his veteran's I.D. will be known by everyone he meets for the rest of his life. end

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Commissioner Kolar's Address To Citizens

GUEST COLUMN - by Commissioner Jack Kolars, Chair of Nicollet County Board of Commissioners.

With permission of my fellow commissioners I would like to make a few statements about the November 2, 2010 elections held in Minnesota and across the nation.

First, allow me to thank all of the county residents who cast their ballots last week. i know each and every voter cast their ballots with faith that their votes were being tabulated correctly. Let me assure you that here in Nicollet County, and I believe in every county in Minnesota, those votes were counted correctly and accurately.

Those votes elected republicans and democrats alike...a real flavor of what Minnesota is...a melting pot of ideas where candidates who become elected representatives have the opportunity to become reasonable people who can work together to accomplish the common good for our townships, our cities, our counties, our state, and our people.

I speak from some experience having served the people of Nicollet County with great pride since 1998. This is a position that I am humbled to serve in and to try to do my utmost to represent the best interests of those people who cast their votes to elect us. I know in serving with all elected officials in Nicollet County that each of us feels great humility to be chosen to serve. To the people of Nicollet County, I thank you.

I want to congratulate Commissioner Bruce Beatty on his re-election and Commissioner-elect Marie Dranttel in her successful run to replace our fellow Commissioner Judy Hanson in January. Congratulations also to our elected county officials including Attorney Mike Riley, Sheriff Dave Lange, and Recorder Kathy Conlon. congratulations to all city officials who were supported by residents through their votes last week.

As I am sure my fellow Commissioners have done, I have visited with many of our County residents since last week's elections. As Minnesota faces a $6 billion budget deficit, voters have cast their ballots for a dramatic change in government with Republicans taking control of the Minnesota House and Senate, and with Democrat Mark Dayton holding a 9,000 vote lead to become Minnesota's next Governor. (Here in Nicollet County, Mark Dayton won by 43 to 40 percent, a close race, but a race that has been determined ...by the voters.)

Of course in a race that close, Minnesota law automatically requires a recount. It will happen in an orderly fashion. That is the law in Minnesota. You might remember a recount happened two years ago in the Senate race where Senator Al Franken defeated the incumbent Norm Coleman by less than 1,000 votes. Remember what happened two years ago? It took eight months to seat Mr. Franken. This, thanks to political attorneys for the losing side, who dragged their feet. Why? Could it have been to prevent a 60 vote majority in the U.S. Senate for democrats in 2009? Would come call that a delay of justice...a delay of voter wishes? Do we think this type of political behavior encourages people to vote?

And now we are dealing with another recount. One with a much larger 9,000 vote advantage. Mark Dayton, a democrat, was elected last Tuesday, along with a whole group of republicans. With that wider 9,000 vote margin, this second Minnesota recount in two years should be much quicker to allow for all new elected state officials to take office in January. But there is some reason to believe that may not happen.

Early on Wednesday, November 3, the Nicollet County Auditor's office, along with election offices in counties across the state, received a letter from the Republican Party of Minnesota which asked, on behalf of the Tom Emmer campaign, that each county begin to seal, secure, and guard all ballots relative to the governor's election. The letter requested that each county "maintain a constant visual guard over the ballots." Now this little nugget about "guarding ballots" was passed into state statute in 1959, ostensibly to protect the integrity of elections. While it stands in state law, being updated in 1961, and again in 1986, the statute known as 209.05, in no way mentions anything about having "armed guards" watching over the votes you made.

But that's what Republican party spokesman Tony Sutton was telling media outlets last week. He said "armed guards" should watch over your votes. Armed guards! The same thing they said two years ago. He also talked about "fraud and incompetence". This is not Bolivia, Mr. Sutton. No sir, this is America, and no sir, this is Minnesota, where we trust our election judges like Bernie Bastian and Bob Wegscheid in North Mankato and thousands of other election judges who spend long hours assisting their neighbors in their important civic duty...VOTING. This is Minnesota where we trust our election offices to count every vote fairly..without regard to politics..or in this case, dare I say, greed. And by the way to be fair, the comment by Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie who was quoted as saying "we in our office are going to try to have fun with this recount" was inappropriate.

The constituents I have been talking to, democrats, independents, and republicans, who have called to say having armed guards watching over their cast ballots, and hearing words like fraud and incompetence "is an insult to voters and to Minnesota's election officials." I agree. It is an insult. I am asking Mr. Sutton and Mr. Ritchie to lower the political rhetoric. I implore both political parties to bring this recount to an end by Christmas 2010 and give the new representatives, the new senators and the new governor time to begin the tough job of trying to answer Minnesota's huge $6 billion budget deficit. And to do so while serving the needs of the people who voted last Tuesday. And the needs of those people who didn't, couldn't, or wouldn't vote.

Minnesota deserves that much. Please recount quickly and give residents faith in their voting system. That is something the Minnesota voting system had earned and deserves. FAITH by voters. Not more politics. Thank you.
Jack Kolars
Nicollet County Commissioner.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Luther Youngdahl was one of Minnesota's most outstanding governors. He cleaned up government and made some positive changes. He encouraged citizens to get involved.

Youngdahl's definition of politics. "Politics is the machinery by which society makes its moral decisions." He said, "we get just as good government as we will work for and just as bad government as we will allow." He urged people to renounce their contempt for politics and government, an attitude that - more than anything else was encouraging corruption in government.

A good way to get involved is to GO AND VOTE! end