FFM Bulletin 2/2/11

Minneapolis School District Fails Again

Freedom Foundation Vice President Jonathan Blake wrote a commentary piece for the Star Tribune on the Minneapolis School District’s $3.7 million “clerical error” that left taxpayers on the hook. The error raises serious questions about the transparency and competence of the administration, especially given the district’s casual handling of the multi-million dollar debacle.
Said Blake, “a mistake of this magnitude, in which the cost of a contract is misstated by public officials by more than 30 percent, is not a "clerical error." It's an inexcusable embarrassment. Minneapolis taxpayers deserve full accountability for how their tax dollars are spent. Members of the school board, particularly the five newly elected ones, have an opportunity to introduce transparency and accountability into a district that lacks both.”

Minneapolis Public School leaders responded on Monday to the questions raised by the Freedom Foundation, calling it “regrettable and embarrassing” while ensuring that they will “work to ensure that all future financial information is reported in a timely and accurate fashion.” A good first step would be for the school board to demand a thorough investigation until the questions surrounding the error are publicly and adequately answered.

Accountability Alerts

The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota released several of our Accountability Alerts last week. These hard-hitting investigative reports help provide greater transparency and accountability in government across the state. Here is a rundown of the latest news from the Freedom Foundation:
  • The Institute for Truth in Accounting released the Minnesota edition of the “Financial State of the State” report and found that the state does not have funds available to pay for future commitments as they come due.
  • leaked internal memo from Education Minnesota president Tom Dooher to local union leaders announces an upcoming statewide strategy session for Republican teachers, a group whose opinions the union has previously shunned or ignored. 
  • On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released their updated list of waivers granted from the health care reform bill. The list includes 24 prominent Minnesota unions and businesses, totaling nearly 14,000 enrollees.

Short Takes

The Southeast Minnesota Rail Alliance unveiled its new name for the proposed rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities: ZIP Rail. Proponents envision a high-speed rail line that will connect the Twin Cities to Chicago. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has, however, put the brakes on any future rail projects through Wisconsin. Unfortunately for taxpayers, ‘ZIP’ is not an acronym for Zero Investment from the Public, as the proposed rail line will require massive operating subsidies
Fox 9-TV ran a story on the St. Cloud Regional Airport.  The airport has been sitting empty after millions of tax dollars have been spent, paying for massive improvements to the facility.  FFM has reported on the airport’s woes in the past. The Fox 9 video can be viewed here.
Last month, the City of Rushford closed the doors of its municipal bar after years of losses, subsidized by local taxpayers. Now the city is trying to figure out what to do with the space. One idea they’re considering:reopening the municipal bar. In recent years, more and more local governments have voted to get out of the liquor business to avoid subjecting taxpayers from picking up the tab on muni-liquor losses. Hopefully the citizens of Rushford are done subsidizing this government-run business for good.

Government Watchdog Training - March 19th

The Freedom Foundation is planning another local Watchdog Training session for Saturday, March 19th in downtown Minneapolis. Our sessions train concerned citizens across the state to become local taxpayer watchdogs and keep a watchful eye on governments (city, county, and school boards) in their communities.
Past sessions have featured panel discussions on:

  • Legal issues involving the Freedom of Information Act
  • Minnesota Data Practices Act, and Minnesota Open Meeting Law
  • How to work with traditional and new media
  • How to analyze local government documents and financial data
The training will be held at a convenient Twin Cities location. Speakers and other details will be sent to registered participants.
We hope you'll join us for the March 19 session and help bring greater transparency to all levels of government in Minnesota. Space is limited, so if you're interested in attending this free half-day training or would like more information, please contactinfo@freedomfoundationofminnesota.com.


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