consultants are sandburs

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Alexandra House to suffer as Republicans appear poised in the legislature to cut battered-women shelter funding by 11%.

Image from Alexandra House homepage, here.

Budig of ABC Newspapers reports, here. This excerpt:

Commissioner Robyn West came before the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee speaking of the valuable services Alexandra House, a shelter in Blaine, provides the area.

Hundreds of women and children have found shelter there when “fleeing for their lives,” said West.

Committee Chairman Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, asked West how much the county provides in funding to the shelter.

West indicated that the county funded Alexandra House from three sources amounting to $70,000.

Cornish styled that a “paltry amount,” and wondered why the county didn’t contribute more.

The Anoka County Board of Commissioners adopted a 2011 county budget of $269 million.

West spoke of tight budgeting and the success Alexandra House has in raising funding.

A number of domestic abuse shelter advocates spoke to the committee, a representative from a Minneapolis group playing a disturbing recording of a 911 message made by a child reporting domestic abuse being committed against his mother.

Cornish eventually told the advocate to turn the recording off.

I am with the Republican committee chair 100% on that shut down of the heartstrings and violins, and child in distress marketing scheme.

The appeal to emotion rather than reason always is offensive, and we all already know the problems for battered spouses and children in battering household living situations.

Taking a wrong presentation approach, however, does not change the fact of a true need existing and a true and productive community service having been established and funded over time to meet the need. With the rug now being pulled out from under that service, by Republicans on a misguided mission.

It is a truly serious ongoing need. If funding is needed locally, I would rather see City of Ramsey pay Landform less in order to pay a greater share for this service that, while in Blaine and not Ramsey, serves the needs of the entire county, as just about anyone from the County Attorney's or Sheriff's office can tell you.

Also, clearly, the aims and services of Alexandra House trump by far the question of putting another Northstar stop in Ramsey.

Priorities that do not acknowledge this are simply illegitimate morally, regardless of whether the politics are that those sitting in decision-making seats hold the power to make spending priority decisions. Power and moral authority are separate, and protecting people from abusive behavior of other people is above the proposed capital expenditures associated with the belief of some that the moribund Ramsey Town Center will turn around and prosper if only the crystal palace train stop is built.

Also, have you driven down Ramsey Blvd lately?

Patching potholes has more to recommend itself, as more a need, than train stop wants that some in the GOP favor.

Finally, if there is a prize for legislative disingenuousness, this hummer is in the running:

Under the [Republican] legislation, state grants to domestic abuse shelters cannot be reduced more than eleven percent from the base funding.

That is saying we are going to chop eleven percent off the battered women and children of Minnesota, it fits our mission, [some would call it "power-trip" instead of "mission"], and we are going to do it with smarmy wording, such as "cannot be reduced more than eleven percent" when it should, in all honesty, say "will be chopped below regular funding by a full eleven percent" instead.

That is one of the most absolutely shameful of things to come from the St. Paul hilltop, so far this session.

This old folks home makes sense, in Anoka, where Northstar stops, a short distance from a real downtown, one evolved over time according to community needs, not wants, and this might be another step to revitalize an existing county asset area.

I hope it's not on land that Abeler owns. I know he owns around there, but this "north of the Northstar stop" looks as if it might not be his dog in this hunt.

Froemming of ABC Newspapers reporting, March 23, 2011, online here.

I hope First District Commissioner Look is on-board, and not impeding things because Landform is promoting a different old folks home at Ramsey Town Center. It would be small to do something like that.

Johnny Northside's defamation and tortious interference litigation. Moore v. Hoff. This is likely the last post at Crabgrass until the trial judge reaches a final judgment at the district court level.

Here, Kristen Rasmussen has published one of the clearest online explanations of the effort of a professional journalist society to explain a basis for overturning a verdict against Hoff, in favor of Moore, when that jury expressly found via a special verdict form that the challenged online publication of Hoff was true, not false.

There are two comments to the Rasmussen post, one saying the jury has spoken, end of story; and one I posted, saying that is not necessarily so. The comments supplement but largely neither add nor detract from the excellent explanation Rasmussen published.

Rasmussen also linked to the entire amicus brief filed at this point; including attachments and an unpublished case. The attachements are not precedent, but are helpful nonetheless as guidance in the trial judge's final reasoning before entry of judgment [where the professional journalists and other First Amendment advocates all favor entry of a judgment of dismissal as a matter of law, notwithstanding the verdict].

While making the argument that trying to evade the high standards imposed upon a plaintiff who is a limited public figure in a defamation claim by reverting to additional counts claiming other tort basis for recovery is not  foreclosed, the argument is that the First Amendment cannot be cheapened and discarded in that process. That it is of preemptive importance, most certainly when as in our case the "harm" to plaintiff is claimed to have resulted from an online publication of a truthful statement, in a context where there was no untruthful dimension found by the jury.

It is as if you can enter a building by the front door or the back door, and entry should be guarded; then the safeguarding at the back door cannot be less vigilant than at the front; otherwise all entry will ultimately drift to the less guarded entry way. If the First Amendment stands to protect the direct front door, a defamation claim, it cannot be removed aside from protecting the back door claim of "tortious interference."

The brief John Borger submitted complete with all attachments is online here.

It is very tightly written, and the parade of citations at its footnote 2 appear to show a general and consistent thread of decision based as argued within the main part of the brief.

Against it is a Court of Appeals case where pretrial, before there could have been any definitive finding that only a truthful publishing act was at issue, other factors existed so that a defamation claim was held properly dismissed on motion but that a tortious interference claim should go to trial; Metge v. Central Neighborhood Improvement Assn., 649 NW 2d 488 (Minn. App. 2002)(pretrial dismissal of defamation claim upheld, remand for trial of tortious interference; no indication Minn. Sup. Ct. review was sought or denied). The argument that the First Amendment is and must be entirely preemptive when publications are true, and that state tort law cannot undo that, either requires that Metge be disregarded as bad law, or be read to apply only to pretrial motions practice where a jury has not already decided a publication was true and not false.

I favor Metge being stricken entirely as bad law; that argued harm arising from reputation assertions which are true and not false, or are otherwise on some different basis not actionable as defamatory, should not be actionable - a belief which includes the case where statements are not defamatory because truth is an absolute defense. I believe there should be no "back door" way to unwind things and turn the First Amendment upside down and irrelevant, in whole or in part. If that is allowed much mischief will follow.

But the Borger amicus brief does not argue that far, simply looking at the present Moore v. Hoff case as one where a jury has determined that challenged publishing was true. Reading Metge as irrelevant in that context, and limiting it to a pretrial reach when questions of truth or falseness are fact questions yet to be resolved, is the more conservative approach Borger argues. My guess is if he had argued Metge on behalf of defendant Sabri, he would have advanced the complete bar belief to avoid a partial remand. That is a digression to hypotheticals.

I argue that motive is irrelevant, Hoff may have had any motive whatsoever toward Moore, even the most vile, but that because he published only truthful things what he did was lawful and privileged, so as to not entitle Moore to damages (no matter what Moore argued or how many counts he put into his complaint).

I base the rationale on language the Supreme Court used (which arguably went beyond more restrained language which could have been used as sufficient to underpin a decision) in the Falwall-Hustler magazine case, which the Borger brief cites as pivotal.

Respondent argues, however, that a different standard should apply in this case because here the State seeks to prevent not reputational damage, but the severe emotional distress suffered by the person who is the subject of an offensive publication. Cf. Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co., 433 U. S. 562 (1977) (ruling that the "actual malice" standard does not apply to the tort of appropriation of a right of publicity). In respondent's view, and in the view of the  Court of Appeals, so long as the utterance was intended to inflict emotional distress, was outrageous, and did in fact inflict serious emotional distress, it is of no constitutional import whether the statement was a fact or an opinion, or whether it was true or false. It is the intent to cause injury that is the gravamen of the tort, and the State's interest in preventing emotional harm simply outweighs whatever interest a speaker may have in speech of this type.

Generally speaking the law does not regard the intent to inflict emotional distress as one which should receive much solicitude, and it is quite understandable that most if not all jurisdictions have chosen to make it civilly culpable where the conduct in question is sufficiently "outrageous." But in the world of debate about public affairs, many things done with motives that are less than admirable are protected by the First Amendment. In Garrison v. Louisiana, 379 U. S. 64 (1964), we held that even when a speaker or writer is motivated by hatred or ill will his expression was protected by the First Amendment:
"Debate on public issues will not be uninhibited if the speaker must run the risk that it will be proved in court that he spoke out of hatred; even if he did speak out of hatred, utterances honestly believed contribute to the free interchange of ideas and the ascertainment of truth." Id., at 73.
Thus while such a bad motive may be deemed controlling for purposes of tort liability in other areas of the law, we think the First Amendment prohibits such a result in the area of public debate about public figures.

Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 US 46, 52-53 (1988). At p.4 of the Borger brief, it aptly cites a case that recognizes substance over form, relative to "creative pleading." It appears Jill Clark, Moore's attorney, was creative in inflaming passions of the jurors; and the trial judge paid out enough rope; but now that the jury's returned a special verdict indicating challenged publishing was truthful; it is time for the trial judge to take back the case and properly apply the discretionary power she holds to set aside the jury's award of damages where the truth, regardless of motive, is an absolute defense. Allowing a verdict to slide through making truth less than an absolute defense is offensive to the ends of justice and protecting the right to have meaningful public political debate and expression of fact and opinion in ways the writers of the Constuition's Bill of Rights well understood, in deciding to write the larger document of federalism to contain a strong, meaningful, Bill of Rights as its very first amendments; (which in turn have long been held as binding upon state court actions via the Fourteenth Amendment).

Let's try an analogy. Here is a picture of a Boeing 747:

Okay, you've got that. Big. Powerful. Intact. Complete. Worthwhile.

Now, consider tools called sheet metal nibblers, e.g., here and here.

You can nibble away at a 747 until you've only a pile of nibbles, useless, powerless, of little value, except SCRAP.

Now, consider the First Amendment as the 747. That is why in the quote above "outrageousness" is mentioned, but when the Snyder v. Phelps "God hates fags" military funeral protest case was decided by the Supreme Court weeks ago, they declined to see the nibbler tools at play.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

There is transit as a generic thing, and there is transit as someone's hobbyhorse. Don't equate the two.

Republicans are cutting transit, ostensibly to save costs and not as urban-DFL hating. Ostensibly.

But all transit is not equal; compare here and here.

Put another way, many have had the quote attributed to them that consistency is the hob-goblin of petty minds. We in Anoka County are fortunate to have conservatives not troubled by consistency, nor by socializing land speculation. That's a real plus for us, in Anoka County. No petty mind consistency troubling us.

An easy answer on the Ramsey Northstar stop.

Don't build a thing after much money's been spent, call it a "success" on Facebook, and move on.

It's been done.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Two thoughts on a GOP ticket for 2012.

My favorite:

A second option:

The second one is scarier since given the current state of electorate wisdom, it could happen.

If either ticket ends up successful, that outrageous Stillwater multi-lane bridge may yet be funded, even built.

Will Duluth area legislators this session be attuned to spending state money on a Northstar stop in Ramsey?

Train plans have a derailment. Minn Post reports, here.

As hopes for state money for rail projects seem to be dimming amid the state budget crisis, three Duluth City Council members think it's time to bail on plans for resuming passenger trains between the Twin Ports and the Twin Cities.

The three — Todd Fedora, Jay Fosle and Jim Stauber — want the city to pull out of the Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance. And they want the city's $40,000 contribution to the alliance back, reports the Duluth News Tribune.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that state rail projects are dead,” said Stauber said [sic]. He cited a House committee's vote to eliminate funding for for [sic] the proposed Duluth-Minneapolis line. And without state matching dollars, he said, Minnesota could lose millions in federal rail funding.

Still, a majority of the Duluth council is expected to vote to stay in the association, with hopes that the situation will improve and the passenger rail route will return.

[...] The paper notes that Bob Manzoline, coordinator of the Northern Lights Express, said the proposed 155-mile rail line would require an estimated $575 million to construct, and with a 30 percent contingency built in at the request of the Federal Rail Administration and other costs, the total budget would climb to $820 million. If selected, the project could be eligible for federal funding that would cover about 80 percent of that tab.

[...] Concerns in Duluth aren't the only cracks in the alliance, the paper said:

The Anoka County Board voted 5-2 on Jan. 25 to remove bonding for the Northern Lights Express from the county’s list of legislative priorities this session.

Commissioners Matt Look, who also chairs the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority, said his main focus has been increasing ridership on the existing Northstar commuter line rather than pushing for a Minneapolis-to-Duluth line.

Matt Look seems to thinly say indirectly how much he wants a Northstar stop in Ramsey, even now when representing county-wide interests and not sitting at the Ramsey council table.

So, did county bonding for that Ramsey stop survive the 5-2 cutting vote on the other-guys' rail, with Matt's rail okay? It's not in the Minn Post report. Readers with knowledge are invited to send an email or post a comment.

One expects that the Duluth and casino people may tell Look, your town's Northstar stop, fund it, sure, out of Ramsey taxes. Danny might even feel that way, possibly depending in part on how Jim Deal feels. I doubt Deal would say, "Fund it out of Deal taxes."

If in fact there is bipartisan support for the Ramsey stop, with Deal and GOP factions both wanting it, this legislature, deficit and all, might fund the thing with little fanfare. Of course it cuts against the general grain of cut this, cut that, which Republicans are keen to trumpet these days. It would not be the first time actions and words fail to be congruent. I recall the cigarette "fee" assessment, which some characterized as a Timmy-tax, pledges and such notwithstanding.

That Ramsey stop is even wanted by the Flannelry and Cotton folks, the Indiana promoters wanting to take over multiple ramp parking stalls in the course of favoring the City of Ramsey with a multi=level rental building. Or is that Flattery and Cullings? I never can get that name right. In Indiana it's probably a household word. Two of 'em.

Reportedly, Matt said his main focus has been increasing ridership on the existing Northstar commuter line. Matt is of course correct beyond reasonable doubt. Were there to be this:

Northstar ridership would increase dramatically:

Matt probably holds bus ridership numbers as proof.

Strib reports, Johnny Northside has a friend --- Coverage of the amicus petition filed by a professional journalist chapter to participate in the post-trial motions phase of Moore v. Hoff.

Much has been written on Crabgrass concerning the litigation. This Google gives two links.

Strib, here, reports the latest, per this extended excerpt:

Professional journalists back north Minneapolis blogger -- Society of Professional Journalists says a judgment against John Hoff, aka "Johnny Northside," could affect all reporters.

By ABBY SIMONS, Star Tribune - Last update: March 25, 2011 - 8:03 PM

The Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists asked this week to have its "friend of the court" brief considered when Hennepin County District Judge Denise Reilly considers whether to throw out the jury's March 11 verdict in favor of Jerry Moore.

SPJ-MN attorneys argue that the 100-year-old organization representing print and broadcast journalists has a public interest in the case because the jury's verdict suggests that journalists or anyone else could be held liable for truthful statements they post online. Such a standard "could impair the free flow of information and vigorous debate on public issues," the organization argued.

The organization has a "significant continuing interest in ensuring that Minnesota courts at every level do not apply such a rule," the brief said.

The jury's verdict noted that although Hoff truthfully blogged that Moore was linked to a fraudulent mortgage in the city's North Side, the blog post interfered with Moore's employment at the University of Minnesota.

The U fired Moore the day after the post went online. [...]

Hoff's blog, "The Adventures of Johnny Northside," focuses on north Minneapolis and has hundreds of readers daily.

[...] Hoff said Friday that he is "honored and humbled" that SPJ stood to defend him, even before his own attorney filed a brief contesting the verdict.

"I think they realize bloggers and mainstream journalists are all part of the same media ecosystem, and an injury to one is an injury to all," he wrote in an e-mail. "If we can't tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may, how do we even HAVE a First Amendment in this country?"

Moore's attorney, Jill Clark, did not respond to a request for comment.

SPJ-MN President Sarah Bauer said the organization's board agreed that Hoff's case "was an important issue to support."

Community attention to this important free speech situation is essential; with that attention expanding online as far away as California, and a law professors' blog; this link.

The basic legal issue is, if you report something truthful to another person, how can that give rise to a tort level of "interference" in the fiscal affairs and expectancies of others about whom you are reporting? And, how can that be a basis for a damages award for unjustified emotional distress.

Beyond, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," anyone distressed by publishing of the truth about himself or herself can certainly be uncomfortable if the truth hurts, but that should not be cause to recover thousands of dollars.

Who you are is based on what you've done, and if a true past historical situation is published, and in particular if you are a public person, the best answer for having reasonable levels of free speech in the nation might not be to reward the filing of a lawsuit with a five figure damages award given just because someone complains that the truth hurts.

"You made your own bed now sleep in it," is the old saying fitting that kind of complaint.

Public policy favoring First Amendment speech and publishing might, (I believe should), cut against such litigation as having a chilling effect upon others who might want to speak out, when believing it wholly proper, and thinking that telling the truth is a defense against being jumped with a threatening lawsuit.

Avoiding chilling effects on socially proper (indeed helpful) speech is proper policy, regardless of what a jury might have said and done, particularly if inflamed by prejudice and passion winning out over deliberate and wise juror reasoning.

BOTTOM LINE ON THE INTERVENTION PETITION: The journalism society's board deserves credit for making a decision in their own best intersts, but WELL beyond that, in the best interests of civil society and citizens' right (and need) to know true facts and news. Social and political decisions cannot be wisely made by an ill-informed or misled public. We can each find things in news reporting to carp about, but without it, how can a voting process be at all sound, and how, as in this Moore v. Hoff situation, can a government agency be made by the public to function wisely if citizens are denied truthful reporting of things the agency has been doing?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Latest news regarding the SLAPP suit Jerry Moore filed against John Hoff (aka Johnny Northside).

Mainstream media at this point has entered a petition to intervene [or motion, choose your terminology, but as a non-party I'd guess it a petition].

Obviously, MSM argues on behalf of free speech and the party protected by the First Amendment, defendant Hoff.

The effort is aimed to be allowed by the trial judge to participate at the post-verdict, pre-judgment phase of pre-appeal proceeding, as a friend of the court (aka, a non-party amicus); the intent being to maximize the likelihood that the trial judge avoids and has every opportunity to avoid reversible error by having all matters fully presented at the trial forum prior to appeal, if any.

Here's a filed page that tells the gist of the amicus motivation to intervene:

John Borger of the Fagre firm is litigating the amicus interest.

Borger litigated for Strib [for its writer Sid Hartman], in the Hunter v. Hartman case; see, e.g., earlier Crabgrassing, here.

Borger is a good choice because blogging is its own special world with its own rules and understandings; much as sports talk radio commentary is a separate forum and kind of speech; per my favorite opinion on defamation as an issue; the Hunter v. Hartman opinion of the court stating in part:

The trial court, although chiefly engaged in considering the sufficiency of appellant's evidence of malice, also observed that the context of a sports radio show was an important consideration, emphasizing the spontaneity of exchanges in that format. Respondent further stresses the relevance of context, describing live sports talk shows as "full of heartfelt but opposing opinions and the dynamic rhetoric of sports commentary." Other authorities have characterized the contextual surroundings of sports commentary less politely. [citation omitted] ("Sports columnists frequently offer intemperate denunciations of coaches' play-calling or strategy, and readers know this and presumably take such railings with a grain of salt * * *.").

545 NW 2d 699, 705-06 (Minn. App. 1996).

How much evidence was put on record by Hoff at trial about the special give-and-take in the blogging world is unclear to me, but it is common knowledge, so universally known that it is something the trial judge could and should recognize, entirely as a matter of common judicial notice. ER 201; Lange v. Nelson-Ryan Flight Service, Inc., 108 NW 2d 428, 466-67 (Minn. 1961).

Reporting about the Hoff trial was unclear at times. I found nothing online indicating whether plaintiff's key witness Don Allen was impeached as to veracity, by his history of having pled guilty to a crime of moral terpitude, (theft by trickery), with the victim reported to have been a bed-ridden veteran Allen "befriended" while the victim was a VA patient.

Allen reportedly accepted a plea change entered consciously and willingly in the course of his attaining alternate diversion.

One might think to do that since the stigma at issue against Moore in the events was connection with mortgage fraude, another crime of moral terpitude; i.e., moral terpitude touching both plaintiff and his witness, as if a thread tying persons together on the plaintiff's side of the litigation, and implying cause for a jury to weigh witness veracity carefully.

Jury Instructions from the trial (online, here) include this page 10:

Underlining indicates the jury was given a preponderance of evidence instruction, not one that clear and convincing evidence was required. The trial judge had to know black letter law on defamation required clear and convincing evidence, after having ruled pretrial that Moore was a limited public figure; see, Hunter v. Hartman, 545 NW 2d 699 at 703; however the jury found for Hoff on the laxer preponderance standard so that Hoff was not prejudiced by the instruction re defamation so no new trial is needed for that matter.

Re tortious interference, the prejudice to Hoff was manifest, in that Minn. Stat. Sect. 544.03 requires clear and convincing evidence when public participation is involved, that being speech or conduct genuinely aimed at procuring a favorable government [UROC, a state agency] action. The evidence was that Hoff was critical not only of Moore, but of the entire UROC personnel situation as making the agency less effective and credible than otherwise. Genuinely thinking his speech might make the agency better, a favorable government outcome, he published, and it was found by the jury on a preponderance of evidence to have been a true publication. The trial judge simply should have known a preponderance standard was improper after her limited public figure status determination for Moore; and to avoid final error, now is the time for amicus to insist that tortious interference should at least be retried with the jury properly told how to weigh the evidence, unless the judge realizes that the immunity of Minn. Stat. Sect. 544.03 wholly insulates Hoff's non-defamatory conduct - in accordance with case authority outside of the SLAPP statute that Borger has cited already in amicus papers.

BOTTOM LINE: Either a new trial on tortious interference is merited, or a judgment of dismissal as a matter of law, as the better and more final remedy fitting law and facts. However, it arguably is essential to protect the record that the motion for a new trial be made along as a motion for judgment as a matter of law; Krueger v. Knutson, 261 Minn. 144, 149-151, 111 NW 2d 526 (Minn. 1961).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Biology. A break in a thread. Something different from neighboring posts.

Here is an image explaining how a lamprey parasitizes a fish.

Here is a picture of the attachment mechanism, whereby the lamprey is nearly impossible to unattach.

Here are two images of an active parasitism, and the devastation of lamprey attachment.

RAMSEY - Remember the Landform Four. Remember it into the 2012 election. That is your next vote. Vote your conscience when you get that chance.

Darren had his way with things. He got his favorable contract. It is no surprise. Dave Jeffrey walked out at the start. He had the good sense, courage, and decency to do that.

Randy Backous stayed as the voice of reason. Each took a course that, without qualification, I applaud.

I stayed longer at that last HRA meeting than made sense. It stunk from the start of a done deal - strung out as if something different, as if more of a deliberation than it was.

I walked out of the thing when I could take it no longer.

I walked out before any vote, but expecting the likelihoods to be as they were, the Landform love-in to end as it did, (give or take a vote), and yet I waited until there was a reliable press report published before fully deploring the situation.

The writing was on the wall when I left.

Four votes, at least, were in the Landform pocket. My guess was five. They had their way with Ramsey.

All but one of the "Final Four" will be up for reelection in 2012.

What that means is that the three lame ducks, knowing the limit to their current terms in office, hamstrung the new post-2012 council with a year more of Darren and Mike and the Landform firm.

Voters will have no recourse to "vote out" the Landform dealings because they added that hanging-on extra year. For no good reason that I can see. They, in effect, disenfranchised 2012 voter volition. Volition to vote the entire package immediately out.

That is obligating things well beyond the reasonably foreseeable future, with the bad economy more likely than not to hang on past the 2012 elections, and it was simply an unparalleled giveaway of town dollars - the Landform situation is unparalleled in the entire history of City of Ramsey.

This is what I call "Landform's 2012-Threesome."


Next, the new guy who ran unopposed after John Dehen's sincere effort to rein in excesses. The new guy could have said wait a couple of months at least, and see if closings really happen, and even then, see how favorable or unfavorable terms are to the city.

We know what's favorable to the party sitting to take a commission from closed deals. But council members should first and foremost serve the interests of the city. The interests of the party set to seize a commission should be secondary. The new guy went with the flow. He was the swing vote. Absent his joining the 2012-Threesome, the deal would have been held in abeyance, for now while there's nothing yet closed to show except what Jim Deal's closed, on his own effort, not using Darren's "expertise."

The new guy was the hinge vote. This is the new guy who went with Landform's 2012-Threesome. As swing vote, as not as married to the prior decisions as the 2012 Threesome is, he had a discretionary chance to go either way. I blame him most for the result:

New guy.

If you want coverage beyond opinion, read Tammy Sakry's ABC Newspaper coverage.

It is well written.

This link.

This brief excerpt from the ABC reporting, mid-article [read the entire thing because I only excerpt the part that, to me, represented sound don't-give-away-the-store city government]:

If Landform’s services are terminated before March 2013, the HRA will be required to pay a termination fee of $60,000.

“I disagree with the whole (contract negotiation) process,” said Backous.

The HRA should have discussed the contract and the changes it wanted without Landform being present and then it should have been taken to Lazan for negotiation, he said.

Backous was not in favor of having a two-year contract.

This world is changing quickly and it is irresponsible to agree to a two-year contract, he said.

Backous also wanted the administration compensation of $15,000 reduced.

He would rather see the administrative compensation at $5,000 and the incentive compensation at $20,000, Backous said.

“I think it’s reasonable. There will be a big payday at the end of this for Landform,” he said.

Elvig said he would rather go out for requests for proposals to sell the remaining 118 acres as a large block and the contract length is a deal breaker for him.

I find it disgusting, what was done, how it was done. Despite two people at the front table saying what was right. What was a conservative approach. Truly so, without posturing as if conservative.

Backous clearly explained the way it would have been done if a well-reasoned public interest motivation were underlying council action - caucus, form a position, and do not let the other side sit with a friendly staff person and write and hand down little beyond a complete wish list.

To not do that gives an appearance of abdication of the council function. Why it was done as it was can be a dark question, many things can be imagined, with motivations being always open to question. "Judgment" can always be open to being touched in ways we might only imagine.

On the surface it looks as if spooked and impatient amateurs were tempted to be unwilling to wait out a down market, and to fly willy-nilly into the face of a trend that other governments have decided to wait out.

I go with the majority judgment. Of the other governments. Sit tight. Curb unjustified waste.

These "contrarian" full-speed-ahead-into-the-quagmire decision makers could suceed. Anything's possible. For now we can only guess at the greatest probabilities - and I foresee disaster. Big time disaster, and big time waste.

MY PERSONAL BOTTOM LINE: The store's been given away so further questioning of decisions - beyond possibilities at the next ballot box - are moot.






Do not misunderstand. I hope, even under present circumstances, for the best build-out feasible. Something nice and worthwhile besides Coborns. My expectation, however, is it will be just another crowded mediocre suburban blight-scape, purchased at its enhanced price, rushed to market during bad market times, being long lasting as it will on our landscape, and with possible unanticipated luck yielding a tiny handful of at least okay-to-mediocre-chain restaurants, if any, beyond the Mexican food branch in Ramsey and the Wells effort, which we can look forward to with positive anticipation.

It is good that Jim Deal and the Wells people brought that about. Once open, Ramsey citizens should look to make it a successful and lasting dining place, as the expected quality is something we should aim to keep. Hopefully it will not be as disturbingly loud a place as the other restaurant down by the Caribou Coffee shop.

Sakry's reporting, again here, ends:

Elvig said he would rather go out for requests for proposals to sell the remaining 118 acres as a large block and the contract length is a deal breaker for him.

Hats off to Landform for getting project to this point and the excitement it created, but there may be interest from a developer in it now, he said.

Landform has met with numerous developers and there is not an interest in buying the whole thing yet because the rail station is not in place and the Armstrong/Highway 10 overpass is not done, Lazan said.

It was an interesting thing for Elvig to have proposed, not something I'd have necessarily have thought of myself because of the way the marketing has been on a consistent piecemeal basis. Lazan's explanation likely was reassuring to the council, (as an HRA whole), that such a possibly was not being ignored by Ramsey's exclusive negotiating agent. I recall from day one, back when the distressed property had just been purchased out of foreclosure, meeting with Matt Look, the mayor, and Lazan at the Hwy. 47 Caribou Coffee where Lazan, then at the start, had extensive drawings and explained the direction he intended to take was piecemeal, being able to offer prospective buyers of a part a "site ready buildable slab" is how I recall it phrased, and to pursue that direction until no vacant site space remained. That appears to have been the ongoing direction taken in the exclusive negotiations Lazan has pursued, as he indicated back then it would be. The public, of course, is not now privy to any listing of entities contacted and offers and discussions, based on a "competitive disadvantage" view expressed repeatedly during discussion at the two recent meetings I attended; that view being the view stated by Ramsey's agent as attaching, purportedly to Ramsey's detriment, to disclosure. I recall this thread was not a new concern, but consistent with earlier minutes, with part of an earlier Crabgrass post noting:

In a Sept. 14, 2009 HRA meeting, p.5 of the minutes has this curious exchange [emphasis added]:

Commissioner McGlone stated we are trying to sell Ramsey as a unique opportunity. Because we are only 10 percent built out - that's a unique opportunity not found anywhere else. [sic] We can talk about what we are trying to do but they may have a specific thing in mind let them know we are open to whatever.

Commissioner Look asked where Senator Jungbauer is on the water recirculation grant.

Mr Lazan stated he is nervous about being too public on that.

Commissioner Look stated maybe we leave out the grant partbut say we are interested in expanding on that.

[emphasis added.] This makes you say, "Huh?" Jungbauer and some kind of grant at issue? "Water recirculation grant?" It is out of the blue. It is limited discussion. It is irregular in many ways.

And "nervous." Nervous "about being too public on that"? There are many things in irregular situations, but being nervous about "going public" in an open meeting about city business, what does that mean? In that context, why, exactly, would "nervous" apply. 

That was written July of 2010. My thinking then. Yet, I do recall, however, how that "competitive disadvantage" thing fits into what was told to me at the outset, back at the Caribou Coffee shop right after Ramsey's purchase of things, that if word of possible grant funds for a water project got out prematurely, other towns might "eat our lunch," is how I recall Matt Look phrasing it then. It seems that such a repeated assurance of disclosure needing to be constrained and controlled was given, in what now appears to be an ongoing pattern from purchasing the site, to now.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

ABC Newspapers publishes a thorough report of recent Ramsey HRA meeting events. HRA is televising now, probably meaning a tooling up for propaganda mode with stealth mode largely finished. There will be video documenting the Darren contract, newest mode, for changing public dollars to Darren dollars. A video record of the seven council member voting as HRA.

STARK NUMBERS EVERY RAMSEY CITIZEN SHOULD NOTE: Sakry of ABC Newspapers wrote on March 23, the day after the televised Tuesday, March 22 HRA meeting, but the facts and discussion she reports appears to have been from the one-week-earlier session. Or that's my recollection. In any event, whether it covers both meetings or only one, Sakry explained:

Ramsey HRA considers the money spent on The COR

As the seven members of the Ramsey Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) consider what they want changed before agreeing to a new contract with Landform Professional Services, they wanted to know what the HRA has spent on The COR project.

Since it purchased 150 acres of the 322-acre defunct Ramsey Town Center (RTC) project from Minnwest Bank Central in 2009, the HRA has spent a total of $13,712,471.47 on the project, which includes the $6.76 million land purchase and special assessments for infrastructure improvement projects.

Without the special assessments, the HRA has spent $7,861,274.99

In 2009, the HRA spent $341,817.17 on rebranding the project and travel to market the newly named The COR project.

According to City Finance Officer Diana Lund, the city also received $240,000 from delinquent property taxes in the project area and $83,184.55 from the RTC letter of credit to offset some of the expense.

In 2010 and 2011, the HRA has spent $194,519.50 on marketing, legal costs, professional services to patent The COR name, travel and membership registrations at four International Council of Shopping Centers trade shows, including the Chicago conference in 2009.

In addition, the HRA spent $469,761.59 for work done by Landform between August 2009 to March 7, 2011, including work Landform did on the city’s proposal for a Veterans Administration Clinic, the 2009 water resources bonding effort and work in The COR prior to the April 21, 2010 contract.

Fifteen Landform people have put in roughly 3,300 hours on The COR project since March 2010, according to Landform President Darren Lazan.

[...] The city has been drawing on its tax increment financing (TIF) districts to pay for work in The COR, said HRA member David Elvig.

“We are borrowing from TIF to support the investments in The COR, like paying for Landform’s contract, project subsidies and parking ramp expansion,” he said in a follow-up interview.

Funds in those districts are running out and “I want to slow the spending and get more cash out of this,” Elvig said.

“We have to slow the rate of spending until we have a rate of return.”

TIF is not reimbursed until there are land sales and it takes about 18-24 months to come online, Elvig said.

“My feeling is we have polished the penny enough that we can easily slow down the planning process and the spending on planning,” he said.

Before the Landform contract comes back for approval March 29, Elvig would like to see the monthly administrative fee of $15,000 for planning reduced and suggested the monthly advance of $10,000 in incentive compensation be replaced with incentives dependent on land sales.

Even though Landform has done a great job, there has to be an option to reduce the amount the city is spending on the consulting, Elvig said at the meeting.

“I am interested in slowing the cash burn and somehow raise the incentive,” he said.

Although one suggested option was to reduce the administrative portion of Landform’s contact, HRA member Jeff Wise does not think the city should reduce it.

There are still a lot of issues that need to be cleaned up from the previous RTC project, including title problems, he said.

The only way not to spend money on The COR is to do nothing, said Wise.

Bravo, Jeff. You have figured out what for now is a sound course, the market being as it is. A gold star for that insight.

Sakry continued:

“And the residents of Ramsey did not want to be on Channel 5 anymore. They wanted the train. They wanted all of theses things,” McGlone said.

“We had to reposition the project for success.”

The cost of projects like this are always higher in the beginning, McGlone said.

The cost will go down as dirt starts to fly, he said.

The city can’t get out of the project now and the HRA needs to figure out how to get there from here and it’s not by slowing spending and not providing an incentive for sales, McGlone said.

“We need to continue building on the success,” he said.

That's what I call "The Big Muddy Mentality," which, of course, is no mentality at all. It relates to the Pete Seegar song, this excerpt:

The Sergeant said, "Sir, are you sure,
This is the way back to the base?"
"Sergeant, I once crossed this river
Not a mile above this place.
It'll be a little soggy but we'll keep slogging.
We'll soon be on dry ground."
We were waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fool kept yelling to push on.

"Captain, sir, with all this gear
No man'll be able to swim."
"Sergeant, don't be a Nervous Nellie,"
The Captain said to him.
"All we need is a little determination;
Follow me, I'll lead on."
We were neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the damn fool kept yelling to push on.

All of a sudden, the moon clouded over,
All we heard was a gurgling cry.
A second later, the captain's helmet
Was all that floated by.
The Sergeant said, "Turn around men!
I'm in charge from now on."

It looks as if the Ramsey city council, (aka the HRA with a different set of hats on but the same magnificant seven), has too many of those captains and too few pragmatic Sergeants.

Sakry continued:

If the city would not have purchased the 150 acres, then Allina Clinic would not exist and the VA Clinic would not be here and the rail station would not be coming, Mayor Ramsey said during the meeting.

Sakry also had a photo captioned, "Although construction on property owned by the city of Ramsey has not started, the Allina Medical Clinic is nearing completion in Ramsey’s The COR." Meaning, to me, that the mayor is taking credit for Jim Deal being a smart man.

The only thing built recently at Ramsey Town Center has been because Jim Deal is a smart man.

The VA clinic. Deal's deal. The morgue, Deal's deal. Allina, from that caption, Deal's deal. Allina I am unsure of. The others, nailed down certain, not Darren's deal. No way. Darren's dirt being moved? Foundation work for a few signs. Sakry concluded her report:

Flaherty & Collins is expected to close in late April on the 3.03 acres, west of the existing parking ramp for The Residence project.

The Indianapolis company is planning to build a 221-unit luxury apartment complex with nine, two-story rental townhomes.

Suite Living is expected to close in April or May on a 1.85-acre site also west of the existing parking ramp on Sunwood Drive.

The White Bear Lake company plans on building a three-story facility and will have 84 of living/memory care units.

There are also nine to 10 other businesses that he is actively working on deals with, said Lazan.

Lazan said he is also actively talking to 20 entities that are interested in The COR.

[italics emphasis added]. I will not dispute, Darren has been actively talking. I'm sick of it. Two HRA meetings, the most recent I've seen, Darren actively talking.

Darren, what of that stuff Sakry mentioned can be taken to the bank?

Returned to reserves?

My short synopsis of Darren's wonderful magic contract that turns public city dollars into Darren dollars; where the city is, and what got the city there; via this image:

Of everything I heard, the thing that made the most sense, was Randy Backous saying that if Landform with far enough time and spending for planning already in the past, should, if it is allowed to take out $10,000 per month from now on, that it be a draw against commission, so that the performance incentive (bounty) given the firm on deals that close is reduced when earned, by the amounts drawn in advance of earning the commission. Unless I misheard, nobody said hold the commission until the deal closes, yet they talked of hard escrow and soft escrow.

What I know, if there's a dispute over what's to be done with earnest money, and the holder does not want to be sued for bad faith, the thing to do is to pop the cash into an interpleader action in district court to let the claimants and the courts resolve things, with the earnest money holder exiting things that way. So if a deal flips, and there's an interpleader, why allow a possible premature release of big amounts of money.

Why, I wonder, would a contract not anticipate a deal flipping; and given history, a counter-party bankruptcy is not like a "Wow" event, particularly on unsecured promises of a thinly capitalized project-specific LLC, as Lazan is likely talking to in most instances.

History is that Nedegaard went belly up, about mid-decade, and it seems the town savants have no learning curve about counterparty risk.

If the deal flips, if there's a counterparty problem, whatever, don't dole out city dollars as Darren dollars prematurely. Yogi Berra had a saying that deserves attention. Wait for Brunhilde's final aria, the one ending the last act of the fifth and last of the Ring operas, because it ain't over until it is.

Hockey in Minnesota.

Not knowing for certain, I have always imagined Pawlenty as the sneaky weaselly player who spent a lot of time in the penalty box, but only for a fraction of the cheap shots he delivered, those he got caught on; while I imagine Emmer as a team's lead goon. Any reader with knowledge is invited to offer a comment for or against the viewpoint.

Folly, thy name is GOP.

Here is the stem cell research-haters' bill.

Here is the lead-idiot luddite:

Here is a long-time supporting cast idiot, who did testifyin'. In tongues, would not be surprising.

Here and here are news reporting. Birky highlights what's hidden under the hood. Science haters, preferring mythology over progress. Feudalism was not all that bad? Go back to living in caves? Without demon electricity? It's unnatural, if it wasn't in Eden.

Limmer a co-sponsor. A badge of quality.

And on HF 210, this should twist their drawers in a knot:

Jesus never carried a photo-ID

The Apostles never carried Photo ID's.

____________FURTHER UPDATE____________
On the Fischbach stem cell research-hater bill, the house companion bill is sponsored by this bevy of progress-hating science-haters; Dettmer; Hosch; Holberg; Dean; Smith; Torkelson; Cornish; O'Driscoll; Swedzinski; Bills; Gottwalt; Kiffmeyer; Abeler; Anderson, B.; Franson; Fabian ; Hamilton; Murray; Murdock; Crawford; Anderson, D.; Gunther Erickson ; Mack; Beard; McDonald; Peppin; McElfatrick; Drazkowski; Vogel; Ward; Shimanski; Koenen; Barrett; LeMieur.

Banker Mary Kiffmeyer - another badge of quality, excellence, intellect and discernment.

My rep, Abeler. Right there on the list after Kiffmeyer.

Who votes for these turkeys?

Get your brain pickled in Koolaid and vote Republican once your brain's been shrunken to the size of a walnut. Is that their secret?

(A grudging hat tip to Jungbauer and Hackbarth for not signing their names onto this science-hater parade of fools express.)

At the last HRA-Landform love-in at Ramsey council chambers, the word "momentum" was beaten at the front table, like a piƱata.

They're savants, at the front table, with momentum being a word meaning a million different things, I guess, to savants.

Being less a savant, I measure momentum one restaurant at a time.

A very literal minded person asked what's the picture about, well it relates to the headline, and to the near-endless stream of council member after council member prefacing vacuous remarks, "It has been rebranded, now it is the COR and there is so much momentum, and [________fill in the blank__________ ]."

That, and the emperor's new threads are something special.

Anyway, for the literal minded - this was inside the pinata - really? Or actually, I guess, since my tolerance level got overwhelmed and I did not stay until meeting's end to see for certain (yet I think it's a fairly good guess):

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Legislative Republicans rail against transit.

Strib reports, here.

To indulge in such rhetoric and then to lavish money on aspects of the built and operating Northstar would be duplicitous. But that is part of what being a Republican is all about.

GOP moves to cut light-rail money
The plan would change the focus of transit from light rail and bus rapid transit to regular bus operations.

By PAT DOYLE, Star Tribune Update: March 22, 2011 - 6:18 AM

The bill would prohibit spending $69 million in a special transit fund on light rail, commuter rail and bus rapid transit, which uses dedicated lanes. The money comes from a quarter-cent sales tax imposed on five metro counties for rail and bus rapid transit.

The initiative, which passed the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee on a mostly partisan vote and was sent to the Ways and Means Committee, underscores the division between some GOP legislators, long critical of rail transit, and DFLers who support such services in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Instead of the $69 million being used over the next two years on rail or bus rapid transit, it would replace $51 million cut from general fund money for regular bus operations.

[...] "We know this will require fare increases and service reductions," said Wes Kooistra, chief financial officer at the Met Council.

Presumably a more realistic fare would be set for Northstar. Right now it's eating taxpayer cash on a daily basis because ridership cash is subsidized. If the Republicans actually do push Met Council to normalize Northstar fares, they can't be all bad.

RAMSEY - There was a great amount of snow last night. A thousand word post, with the snow not showing. Trust me. It was there. Record levels. Deep, thick and pervasive.

"Sooooooo very deep, it gagged my smile."

It was so pervasively deep during the late night HRA-Landform love-in that you needed hip waders to navigate council chambers. At the eye of the storm, the front table, it was heaviest, soggiest, and so deep that decency and good sense ended up snowed under. So thick that only money could move with apparent, unrestrained ease.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

RAMSEY - The answer, fix the charter by scrapping the wards, go back to five seats, mayor and council elected at large; the pack of them standing for reelection every two years.

Has the Ward system worked? Do I have a vote to remove Colin McGlone from Ramsey's council? Short answer, no I have to put up with his intransigent attitude toward perpetuating the awful Landform consultancy situation.

That's democracy? No, it's short of the entire community having its say. And the Clown Center, the money sink hole, it is not even in McClone's Ward, but his presence is decisionally there big time. For instance, voting against a second restaurant situation, as proposed in a recently broadcast regular council meeting. Second, in the last HRA meeting, (the ones they keep off camera while spending bundles of public cash), there was McGlone wanting to torpedo the requirement that the Indiana rental housing people (the ones "bargained" to be getting hundreds of free citizen-owned-and-tax/grant-funded ramp parking stalls - if they ever close and purchase), must have 3000 sq ft of retail in their building, right there, conveniently by the site of the bus stop where foot traffic to the ramp favors citizens having a shopping opportunity. McGlone was twice against ameneties! Against what it is all about.

Ameneties is what citizens want. Where's McClone's head these days, to not be attuned to that simple truth?

Jeff Wise, with an impacted business bordering the Clown Center, is, at least, a representative at large so that every citizen in Ramsey has a vote next cycle on Jeff. He at the last HRA meeting expressed a concern twice, about moves on the property west of Armstrong; while owning property west of Armstrong. I find that interesting. He could end up if Armstrong is rerouted with a comfortable settlement price for his location and then there will be retail opportunity in the west end of Clown Center - or it might be there if enough public money is dumped there and enough subsidy is doled out to reach who-knows-what in terms of "shops and restaurants."

I think Jeff is above any such conflicted interest situation where he'd vote personally on Clown Center West end growth with an intent to relocate there. I am certain he'd consult Bill Goodrich as City Attorney, for Goodrich to advise him of the City's interest in Jeff's public duty and personal ambition, and how to balance both. Jeff, if you recall, along with Dave Jeffrey and John Dehen had the decency in the past to decline Las Vegas junketing where Lazan of Landform was the suggestive force for the pack of Ramsey elected and appointed officials to go there on a massive land promotion gamble, the socializing of Clown Center out of the private sector's responsibility to city ownership, with a "Now What?" I am staggered by the host of closings that have since resulted from that junket. As in ZERO. Nada. Zippo. None. Darren at the last HRA meeting did a lot of talking, and hand waving, but, zippo to show for about a half million take-out, give or take a few thousand dollars. Wise, Dehen, and Jeffrey stayed home. Others went to that neon oasis, and have naught to show for the cost of the escapade.

So not junketing, great, cause to want to reelect Wise. However, if he indeed harbors any thoughts about relocating his store into the west end of Clown Center if Landform can finagle retail into there, and especially if he's talked of that to Darren and Heidi, he should be recusing himself from any vote on the Landform contract question because of conflicted interests. Clearly, I am not able to read Jeff's mind, and have not sat in at any conversation he may have had with Landform people but circumstances are: drawings for rerouting Armstrong would impact the Wise liquor store location with a condemnation possible if not probable. Then he either goes out of business or relocates. If his contemplation is to get as great a condemnation award as feasible and to relocate into west-end RTC retail if Landform finagles any, then he should not be voting on Armstrong changes or on Town Center matters. He may disagree. Others may disagree, and have a more lax view of proprieties, but ask yourself - would you feel right with personal pecuniary interests at stake in voting in ways others might challenge on things very close to impacting those personal pecuniary interests? Each reader may have a different answer, but ask yourself, "Would I do that, or would I recuse?"

But back to Colin, I cannot put my vote against who he's been. The mayor, who I supported last time he ran, and Wise, for each of them I have a vote because there is no "ward boundary" in my way - and based upon my views of fiscal responsibility and control of run-away spending - I will vote as makes sense to me between alternatives. I'd hate to again consider a candidacy, since the job is super boring and pays poorly.

Why, however, at this point in time raise the question of the wisdom of the past change to a ward approach, and the expansion of the council from a sensible five seats to seven?


Short answer, it's timely. Somebody or some group is doing head-hunting after Dave Jeffrey. And, of course the online work session agenda page per the emailed agenda link does not have the memo the online work session agenda page references. That must be because citizens are mushrooms after all, or can be regarded and treated as such.

Public data is, well, privileged.

I suppose.

Aside from a likelihood of someone's headhunting motivation, is there some other more cogent explanation for the circumstantial situation shown here:

That thing begs so many questions, it stinks.

Aside from grammar, you "ensure due process" not "insure due process" unless you find a carrier for such coverage. But hey, who says what city procedures are? What is the history that a claim of precedent and establiched procedure is based upon?

Next, who in the world are "the parties?" As best as I see it, that would be "the headhunteer" and "the head" (aka Dave Jeffrey for the latter status). But most certainly Amy Dietl is not the headhunteer behind this. Yet, curiously, someone bade her to put her name on the memo.

Dietl reports to Heidi Nelson.

Heidi Nelson gives every appearance of working hand in glove with consultant Lazan.

So, again, who's the headhunteer?


Now, somebody is bitching that Jeffrey is inside or outside of Ward 4 boundaries? A preliminary fact is we've had a census, Baker v. Carr is still good law, and Dave Jeffrey, to "ensure due process" is entitled to object that one-person-one-vote entails a balancing of Ward lines, if the Ward system is kept at all, and that due process would require that prior to any witch hunt ensuing.

Then, who does the line placement, besides the council? And how would that be fairly done if a cabal of some but not all council members are "the headhunteer" each at his own grindstone, sharpening away?

Fraught with complexities? With undue vagaries?

Just chop, and let the citizens worry if they care at all? THAT is suggested to Ramsey citizens as sound US of A government practice? Not in my lifetime, not as "supposed to be" vs "as is."

Then besides who-da-parties, there is that "I" being used in one of the lower paragraphs (at least the regal "we" was abandoned). Amy Deitl, again reports to Heidi Nelson, in looking for an "I" who-dat.

Or that's one reading. Heidi, not Deitl, shows up at the HRA meetings, as to the mystery of "I."

Moreover, Heidi did cut her administrative teeth under James Norman. Some of us may recall that.

"Witnesses presenting testimony" is a term begging its own thousand questions. Who decides who is a witness? Is there a "witness list" already circulating in some rump meeting at Spectators or such? Who wrote it? In concert with others? What others? Was there a quorem of council members privy to some kind of prospective witness list while it was never put to public sunshine? To an open meeting, until it's already a rump group decided done deal?

I wonder if one of "the parties" told the memo writer to write that memo, or to sign-off on it. Which if "the parties?" Not the head, it must have been the headhunteer? Or just from the ozone, an angel descending, some magic token, suggested "Let's hunt us a Jeffrey?"

It seems Jeffrey's representing citizen intersts as soundly as he has is bothering someone. Why would that be? And who would that be? And what objectives underlie an effort to chop Jeffrey?

We can all guess. And it appears not just ugly, but super ugly. Humongo ugly. It stinks.

I think the best part of that entire memo page is, "If the City determines to proceed ...".

Soooooooooooo -- Back off, Jack. Put away the long knives.

Show sense for a change. Be decent. Being decent IS the path of least resistance. So, why not?

Or that's my extended opinion and question list. The simple truth is that if the people behind this Stalinist tactic do proceed, it likely will tear the City of Ramsey apart. They should know better. Whoever they are. Right now it is speculation. They are in the shadows. They cause memos to be written. Were the anti-Jeffrey witch hunt to proceed, the perpatrators of this purge-and-putsch would have to step out of the darkness and reveal themselves. I wonder if they've the courage.

Coincidently, another topic, not on the work session agenda, but for the other untelevised meeting, after the nothing-burger televised meeting, is throwing fresh meat to Landform, aka renegotiating its contract with City of Ramsey. After half a million's already gone from Ramsey, out, based on the Landform situation. Dave Jeffrey at the one last untelevised HRA meeting I attended was impressive in chairing the thing. That certainly could not be a factor within somebody wanting Dave's head? Folks are civilized and not savages, here in Ramsey-River City.

Am I wrong?

BOTTOM LINE: It offends every fiber of decency I have in me to see this, without cause apparant for anyone to want Dave Jeffrey purged beyond his appearing to some to be the best remaining true fiscal conservative on that council, after John Dehen became a judge.

Jeffrey walks the fiscal conservative walk, while others mouth the lip-service platitudes and spend public dollars profligately. Read that work session page again, and weep.

BACK TO THE HEADLINE: The answer, fix the charter by scrapping the wards, go back to five seats, mayor and council elected at large; the pack of them standing for reelection every two years.

One final thought, somebody instigated obtaining a League of Minnesota Cities legal memorandum (the one citizens are mushroomed on), so, who? Where is the paper trail in city records on that hummer? Instigating getting a legal opinion, under what circumstances? Under what authority? With what motivations? After discussions between what people? Name names. Citizens deserve knowing all the truth. How can they cogently vote in election cycles, when stuff is done this way?

Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

There is a term bandied about in law schools: the slippery slope. It basically means something started small (camel's nose under the tent) can snowball into a habitual and encompassing thing.

Exceptions swallowing the rule, etc. All the cliches, but how does that relate to Jeffry and his head at risk?

Just that once you start holding official hearings, hearings with sworn testimony can become a habit, and a new council majority might want hearings on what an old council majority did, with consultants, Mike Jungbauer under oath, the who nine yards. Things can start where you think holding hearings are your friend. Times and moods change, but hearings can become a habit. Your perceived tiny friend now can whack you hard, down the road.

Ugly things often ensue when someone's bright idea is to get ugly, officially, with others. Goes around, comes around, that's another cliche.

Keynes had one, in the long run we're all dead. So short run, hunt heads, long run, goes around comes around, we all stare ultimately at the grave, and - are you ready - you can't take it with you. Yeah. That one had to come up, talking about fiscal things and contracts.

It seems some things are built into the human machine, call it original sin if that's your terminology, ghost in the machine is Koestler's wording, but one wrong sound at a wrong time can cause an avalanche.

_______________FURTHER UPDATE_________________
Bill Goodrich, not Amy Deitl authored the meeting memorandum page published above. Goodrich told me he had no idea how it got posted on the city website under Dietl's name, not his. The "I" in the thing was Goodrich. He explained that to me. At the work session, after Goodrich clarified that the session was not intended to be a due process hearing nor should it be viewed by anyone present as such, Dave Jeffrey, mentioning advice of counsel, gave a limited statement. Health considerations prevent his present and future living in a multi-story home. Such health considerations necessitated temporary housing arrangements close to but outside of Ward 4, at a single floor dwelling, while arrangements are being pursued for permanent single floor housing in the ward, with a particular site in mind, pending resolution of needed conditions precedent to leaving the temporary situation. Should anticipated events fail to be achieved as promptly as feasible, the matter apparently will be revisited. Time frame on that was not definitely stated, but it appeared that a council consensus was that within months the situation may be reviewed by council. It was wholly unclear to me what sequence of events precipitated the present inquiry and Goodrich effort. Specifically someone must have spoken to Goodrich and/or Ulrich, prior to the question being placed on the work session agenda. I spoke by phone with Mayor Ramsey who phoned to say a meeting involving Ulrich, Goodrich, and Jeffrey happened on or about Monday, 14 March 2011, in which mid-meeting, he was requested by Jeffrey to join, which he said he did. That would place it a day before the last HRA meeting, (the one held a week before last nights session as I recall), with that earlier meeting concerned mainly with how much money, (and under what terms and conditions), Landform would be contracted to be gaining from City of Ramsey general tax-revenue funds, and/or special accounts, into the future for a term of a year or more. What precipited the Monday meeting the mayor mentioned is unclear to me, as to how Jeffrey's medically-necessitated temporary residency situation came to Goodrich's attention and/or to Ulrich's attention, and what if any general or specific requests concerning it were made by unidentified third persons to either of those two gentlemen. Any reader caring to post a comment under his/her name explaining that gap news, i.e., who precipitated questions about Dave Jeffrey's residency, is invited to do so, as it might be informative to people concerned about how this situation was instigated and how it will end up resolved. In particular, the instigator in the first instance is information I would really like to know - who started the inquest. Without knowing that reaching circumstantial conclusions from a range of possibilities is a matter of personal opinion; and I have the opinion that the inquest is not motivated independent of the question of Landform and its getting city money into the future. I base that circumstantial inference on a perception from the two most recent HRA meetings that Jeffrey is skeptical of the entire morass, having left the council chambers last night after the regular council meeting with Bob Ramsey chairing the subsequent HRA session in Jeffrey's absence. I applaud that move by Dave Jeffrey. One thing I am fairly certain of in my own mind, neither Bill Goodrich nor Kurt Ulrich bear any personal malice toward Dave Jeffrey, each having duties and such, upon third party notice and request. I have not spoken with Dave Jeffrey at all about these things, nor do I presently intend to.

_____________FURTHER UPDATE_____________
The man can always run next cycle at large. Whatever housing arrangements follow, if he continues to reside in Ramsey, at large is a sound option. Indeed, if ending up in Ward 2 next time candidate filings occur, running in that ward would be a fine civic-minded thing to see from Jeffrey, were events to so unfold. At this point, as a hypothetical with many unstated contingencies possible, I would support and vote for Dave Jeffrey if he were to choose to run for mayor next cycle.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Johnny Northside - more about the special verdict form. And causation.

Previously reported by Crabgrass, here, local Twin City attorneys published speculation over whether Hoff may have been prejudiced or the jury confused by the special verdict form.

[UPDATE: Things in the world evolve and we evolve with them. The links in the next paragraph have been updated per a website change to reflect change we can believe in (and wishing them well for the future):

That's the new main site homepage link. Both following links are updated. The prior Crabgrass post is unchanged, so leave the links alone there, if accessing it. END UPDATE]

The original attorneys' post has been amended to include a pdf of the verdict form, as returned by the jury to the judge. Below, in two images, you can have a look.

page 1

page 2

Another follow-up link on that speculation, here.

Depending upon the record, and jury instructions, it likely will be argued that any uncertainty or incompleteness in the form was harmless error because of completeness of instructions the judge gave the jury before they retired to deliberate.

Moore, via Jill Clark, will make that argument.

Being unaware of jury instruction details, and whether they were complete and appropriate under the evidence, I leave that question for the two sides to argue.


My speculation, is the jury erred and Hoff should have been granted a judgment of dismissal at the close of Moore's proof on tortious interference because Moore failed to prove the element of causation.

Hoff wrote initially June 21, Moore's employment was terminated the next day - June 22, Hoff wrote the day after that - June 23 - about some total hearsay that he was told things and believed them true that he had a pivotal role in the termination (and he appeared proud of it - something which might not have sat well with the jury).

But all that is speculative, and far, far short of clear and convincing evidence in the record that Hoff did in fact cause the termination. It was Moore's burdent to show causation, by best evidence, and yet as a tactic Jill Clark and Moore declined to present best evidence, though it was available by subpoena. They affirmatively declined to call any witness at all from the UROC or the university saying anything about whether Hoff's publishing caused Moore's job to be terminated, or played any role whatsoever in the employment ending.

There is no proof Hoff spoke to any university person; or that he had any actual personal knowledge of what might have been discussed by university people, beyond what he wrote he was told. Likewise, Moore only had his opinions, knowing what UROC or other University people might have told or emailed to him; and I am unaware of whether he testified in any sense, "So-and-so said such-and-such." It seems from trial-observer reporting that Clark instead relied, primarily if not only, upon what Hoff had written and published.

Best evidence is you get UROC people there on the stand and under oath, and they say what happened and why. Neither side did that. However, Moore, not Hoff, had the burden to prove causation by clear and convincing evidence. Minn. Stat. Sect. 554.03.

Let's work it out: Sheila Regan within her Daily Planet reporting wrote:

As for the claim of interference with contract, Godfread said in his closing statement that the prosecution was relying on accusations without evidence.  Further, he stated that Hoff's justification for writing his blog post was that it was in the public's interest, as public funds went toward the program that Moore worked for. 
Moore's attorney Jill Clark said in her closing statement that much of the discussion of the First Amendment and freedom of the press as it relates to blogs "is really not relevant."  She also said, "There need to be some limits on blogs."  Clark pointed to Hoff's lack of objective reporting.  "The reporter loses objectivity when he enters the story," she said.
To support Moore's second two claims, Clark pointed to Hoff's blog post written on June 23, 2009 , which included the statement:
It was reportedly coverage on this blog which "blew open" the issue of Moore's hiring and forced the hand of U of M decision-makers after the issue had been quietly, respectfully brought to their attention over a week ago. I am told pages were printed from my previous blog post about Moore's hiring by UROC, including the extensive comment stream, and these pages got "waved around" a bit in a discussion at U of M.
 Clark argued that Hoff's wording "forced the hand" is Hoff bragging about getting Jerry Moore fired.  "That's not about speech," she said.  "That's about conduct." 

Sheila Regan's picture
Sheila Regan

Sheila Regan ( is a Minneapolis theater artist and freelance writer.

As noted before, Regan's reporting was probably the best ongoing reporting of trial events.

She wrote nothing in a three part series of whether anyone on the witness stand said, "I know Hoff was instrumental, the key cause, of Moore's situation ending with UROC, and I know this because, [______fill in the blank______]." Presuming she'd have been sensitive to that, but only wrote of part of the second [June 23] post, I infer the record is devoid of any such proof.

Next, below is a screenshot of the entire June 23 post as Hoff wrote it.

Let's consider the entire post, and the "gist" or "sting" in what it said. First, Hoff opened by identifying that some things in the post were based upon his belief in hearsay upon hearsay, without his having any direct personal knowledge of how accurately reporting to him of things, were, in fact, sifted through two unidentified intermediaries he believed credible:

A known, creditable [sic] source at U of M gave information to a known, creditable [sic] source in the Hawthorne Neighborhood, who conveyed it to me earlier today:

Jerry Moore, the former Executive Director of JACC, who is currently involved in a lawsuit against JACC, was "let go" from his job at the University of Minnesota UROC program. According to the U of M source....

It was reportedly coverage on this blog which "blew open" the issue of Moore's hiring and forced the hand of U of M decision-makers after the issue had been quietly, respectfully brought to their attention over a week ago. I am told pages were printed from my previous blog post about Moore's hiring by UROC, including the extensive comment stream, and these pages got "waved around" a bit in a discussion at U of M.

That gives the pelude as context to the paragraph Regan published. Then there was subsequent commentary, the gist of which was Hoff believed Moore's case was indicative of a situation viewed as bad for the community, the U, and the UROC program, with the opinion being that the UROC program, beyond Moore's situation, was blowing the chance to be as effective as UROC might be because an operation is only as good as the people in it (where Hoff's doubts went beyond Jerry Moore):

It continues to be my position that if Jerry Moore wants to discuss his point of view in detail, and cite such facts on his behalf as he wishes to cite, I will air his point of view. The comment threads are also open, subject only to relatively brief delays before I hit the APPROVE button.

The issue of other (reported but unconfirmed) controversial hires by U of M UROC continues to be a concern. The question keeps getting asked by neighborhood leaders: WHAT THE HECK IS THE DEAL WITH UROC? Are hiring decisions being made on the basis of tawdry political favors?

I say that merely "letting go" of Moore isn't good enough. The matter of how and why he was hired--and by whom--should be formally investigated by U of M.


* Moore doesn't have a college degree.

* Moore is currently suing his former neighborhood association, (JACC) one of the neighborhood groups essential to UROC's North Minneapolis mission.

* Moore admitted being involved in a physical altercation with members of the JACC board in January of this year and was denied employment benefits on the basis of that misconduct. (Unknown if his appeal has been resolved, however) Moore was FIRED for that misconduct.

* The involvement of Jerry Moore's consulting firm with Larry "Maximum" Maxwell is a matter of public record in the Hennepin County court system. Maxwell just went down for more than a dozen felonies involving mortgage fraud. The LAST THING ON EARTH Jerry Moore should be doing is "research" involving mortgages, particularly research supported by a public entity funded by taxpayer dollars.

Based on any ONE of these factors, Moore shouldn't have been hired by U of M. But here you have all four factors. So what explains his hiring? This wasn't just a bone-headed move, to me this looks like somebody trying to throw patronage in the direction of Jerry Moore after his oh-so-justified termination from JACC, so Moore can be saved, inflated, propped up, and still around to fight battles on behalf of whoever-the-hell Moore fights for. (Would that be the right of poor North Minneapolis folks to get just as rich from mortgage fraud as well-to-do suburbanites?)

The more pressing question becomes: who else was hired by UROC who shouldn't have been hired? All hiring decisions made by whoever hired Jerry Moore need to be reviewed and investigated, IMMEDIATELY.

[italic emphasis added] (The ending paragraph of the post (following the quote) stands as wholly gratuitous opinion, perhaps better left off since it weakens the rest.)

The gist or sting of the post is that there were four specific things about Jerry Moore that argued against his being hired in the first place, and that of multiple possible explanations for how Moore was hired in the first place, Hoff said he believed one and was dissatisfied with that possibility. He also said the entire program seemed less effective than it might be if decisions were better and personnel different - the two things being linked, in his opinion. That can be viewed as constructive criticism, based upon opinion, with the hope being to improve the effectiveness of a government program intended to benefit the community in which Moore and Hoff both resided.

Where does any of that clearly and convincingly say Hoff caused Jerry Moore's employment termination.

It says nothing of the kind, beyond Hoff's identified hearsay upon hearsay, and his belief and hope that his writing played a part. Circumstantially, the June 21, 22 and 23 sequence suggests Hoff was a factor, and he references "the issue had been quietly, respectfully brought to their attention over a week ago" but was ignored. The sought after government attention and action had not happened. He published. There is that timing. I am uncertain about witness subpoenas but neither side compelled testimony from University personnel. The burden of proof was Moore's. He had to prove causation by clear and convincing evidence.

That post is not clear uniquivocal evidence.

It is hearsay upon hearsay.

It is not convincing that Hoff caused UROC to do a thing.

There is not a shred of direct evidence that anyone in a decision-making capacity even knew Hoff had written a blog post. There is hearsay upon hearsay that Hoff's writing was known by U. officials, and influential, before notice on June 22 by the U. to Moore that his employment had ended.

I am familiar with a few defamation cases, my favorite being Sid Hartman's case, where the district court judge threw the case out, and where I think it is shown beyond doubt that John Borger of the Fagre firm is an outstanding appellate litigator. Read the case, it is entertaining and educational, Hunter v. Hartman, 545 NW 2d 699 (Minn. App. 1995). Briefly: A Dr. Hunter criticized Lou Holtz as Gopher football coach implying he pressured injured players to play. Sid took offense and noted a dozen operations Dr. Hunter preformed, and that none of the players returned to play at prior performance levels. The doctor saw Sid's commentary that way, on sports talk radio, as suggesting Hunter was insufficiently skilled, so he sued. Pretrial dismissal was affirmed on appeal.

A good review of the law of defamation in Minnesota as of 1998 is in Stokes v. CBS, 25 F. Supp. 2d 992, 997-99 (D. Minn 1998).

There is the unpublished case of the "good Samaritan" tipping off police via 911 of erratic driving, and later suggesting to a news outlet that 911 callers should be protected by a statutory immunity when making good faith reports. A TV segment was aired and the driver sued the broadcaster, not the good Samaritan, with the trial judge throwing the case out; Iverson v. Hubbard Broadcasting, No. A05-2437 (Minn. App. 2006) (affirming dismissal).

Is Hoff in the role of "good Samaritan," giving warning to official attention, of a troublesome situation?

You decide.

There is the unpublished case of the pedophile claiming libel and invasion of privacy; Danforth v. Star Tribune, No. A10-128 (Minn. App. 2010); (again Borger arguing for Strib). The district court determined that appellant's claims were frivolous, denied his application to proceed in forma pauperis, and dismissed his complaint pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 563.02, subd. 3. In determining that appellant's libel claim was frivolous, the district court implicitly took judicial notice of appellant's criminal-case record. See Minn. R. Evid. 201 (allowing district court to take judicial notice of adjudicative facts "not subject to reasonable dispute"). Regarding a claimed invasion of privacy, the appellate court noted, "The statements of which appellant complains did not concern his private life: every fact mentioned in the article is already in the public record of appellant's criminal trial and the subsequent appellate decisions."Affirmed.

Hoff has published challenges of sex offender residence and presence in his neighborhood, and published of at least one instance. He may face comparable issues as Strib faced, in Danforth.

That's only a sampling. Unpublished cases strictly are not "precedent," but are unpublished because they are wholly congruent with current law, i.e., without any innovation deemed precedent setting. Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3.

Links to the cases online are given above. Read them and think things over.

I do not know of any contrary tortious interference cases against good Samaritans and situations where the gist of a statement is permissible, basically true, and not defamatory; but where the secondary tort claim beyond defamation carried the day while a judge or jury found no false statement of fact was at issue. It's an unfortunate trial error, a jury doing a strange thing, and it should be overturned. It's wrong.

Tuesday, 22Mar2011: Now Johnny Northside tells MPR he wants to enlist moral support from Courtney Love, another tort suit victim.

She could give a benefit concert or some such. I think he should enlist my law school criminal procedure prof., Michael Tigar, who is one of the three or so most impressive profs I've studied under during my academic meandering. This link. It appears from that report that Hoff is getting attention and amicus interest from near and afar.


That Courtney Love angle is a part of MPR's extended coverage, see, also here and here. The latter post asks about possible chilling effect the Moore v. Hoff verdict may generate. It got a short string of comments, most ignoring the chilling effect question entirely.

One thing I learned from Michael Tigar, by example, do your discovery very diligently, with a passionate diligence, because if you are not on top of every fact you can compel from litigation aversaries, (who have to testify under oath), you are only hurting yourself - and any public interest dimension your case may entail.