TruthToTell Oct 8: FELON VOTING: Deserved or Disenfranchised?; TruthToTell Oct 1: EDUCATION FUNDING: Grasping for Elusive Adequacy


Tune in this coming Monday from 9:00 am to 10:00 am on KFAI, (90.3 FM in Minneapolis, and 106.7 FM in St. Paul) to catch our upcoming program:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Remember – call and join the conversation – 612-341-0980 – or Tweet us @TTTAndyDriscoll or post on TruthToTell’s Facebook page.



Important Reminder: 

If you were convicted of a felony in Minnesota or any other state and as of Election Day you are NOT incarcerated, on probation, on parole, or supervised release, YOU CAN VOTE! In fact, the minute you have completed your felony sentence and are "off paper," you can register to vote OR you can register at your polling place on Election Day.

If you were convicted of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor you NEVER lose your right to vote. If you are in jail on Election Day and are not serving a felony conviction sentence, you have the right to vote by absentee ballot.

From time to time, we find it imperative to talk about incarceration rates in Minnesota and elsewhere in the United States – and the toll such imprisonment – behind bars and out front of them – takes on a huge slice of our humanity and that of those incarcerated.

The lifetime branding of anyone jailed for anything in the US is devastating to them, but also to the community and families from which they come and to which most will one day return.

We’ve taken on an ethos about imprisonment and punishment that is uniquely American in its cruelty and disproportionate impact on offenders from poverty and, more often than not – of color.

In an excellent New Yorker Magazine piece, “The Caging of America,” Adam Gopnik quite eloquently relates the following on this subject earlier this year:

“…no one who has been inside a prison, if only for a day, can ever forget the feeling. Time stops. A note of attenuated panic, of watchful paranoia—anxiety and boredom and fear mixed into a kind of enveloping fog, covering the guards as much as the guarded.

“For most privileged, professional people, the experience of confinement is a mere brush, encountered after a kid’s arrest, say. For a great many poor people in America, particularly poor black men, prison is a destination that braids through an ordinary life, much as high school and college do for rich white ones. More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under ‘correctional supervision’ in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.

“The accelerating rate of incarceration over the past few decades is just as startling as the number of people jailed: in 1980, there were about two hundred and twenty people incarcerated for every hundred thousand Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to seven hundred and thirty-one. No other country even approaches that.”

Burning up the wires now, among other issues, is the proposed Minnesota constitutionalamendment requiring a state-issued photo ID to vote or even register at the polls in future state elections. The ballot question is seen by many as a remedy for fraud that is very hard to prove and harder to be concerned about at the rate of illegal voting supporters keep citing as the reason why Minnesota should back away from its very liberal methods for ensuring higher turnouts than in any other state in the union.

Not so liberal are the various rights accorded those exiting jails and prisons after convictions have imprisoned them either physically or with paper – paroles and probation – at least inMinnesota, among them the right to vote. ((Other states have varying rules about the extent of such limitations.) The restriction is limited to felons (vs. the less severe misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors) and others adjudged incompetent or under guardianship (this is under major challenge as well). But it is the felons who voted in the last election that Voter ID proponents believe justifies this much broader restriction on voting – as if by voting, all of these offenders and ex-offenders are committing fraud by casting ballots, and purposely distorting the popular vote in this state.

The question for us is: Why? Why do we deny the voting franchise to convicted offenders at all? And, if we must deny the franchise to these men and women – most of whom are citizens of color – why should they not be allowed to vote after leaving prison, parole or not, probation or not? What are the percentages in essentially removing the citizenship of men and women who have done time or remain incarcerated? Just how much punishment is required of people who have already had their freedom to move freely outside of prison taken away?

Eventually these rights must be restored, but is it really all that important to deny the voting rights of anyone considered a citizen of the US, the state, the city in which they live?

TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI talk with post-incarceration advocates and at least one political animal who supports the law as it stands.


 MARK HAASE – Vice President, Projects and Operations, Council on Crime & Justice; Officer,Second Chance Coalition

 SARAH WALKER – Chief Administrative Officer, 180 Degrees, Founder, Second Chance Coalition



 MICHAEL BRODKORB – blogger; Communications, social media, public affairs & research consultant; former Communications Director, Minnesota Senate Republican Majority Caucus

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Monday, October 1, 2012

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As we enter the last few weeks of the election season, we’ll be bombarded with so many messages our heads will spin, probably causing most of us to scream “Enough!!.”

Even those of us proud to claim political junkie-hood – call us policy wonks or whichever monkey is on our back at the moment – will want the spin to stop spinning our heads. Never will so many channels be switched and switched away from the inundating and vapid commercials touting the candidate of the moment or denouncing and distorting his or her opponents as they will be starting about now. None of them is immune and is off the hook for their crimes of lying to the public or bloviating over the records of their candidate or their opposition.

But, we can be sure of one thing: the issues themselves don’t change and neither do the candidates’ position on them.

One of the most important, needless to say, is education, the way we pay for it and how much we’re willing to lay out for our children and grandchildren to become the citizens, business owners, civic leaders and educators of tomorrow.

Year after fiscal, never-take-a-riskal year*, Minnesotans have allowed their education systems to slide into reverse both in terms of the amount allocated to the Constitutional mandate of adequate and quality education for all children, but from where those funds come. Before 1972, it was all about local property taxes. Soon, the so-called Minnesota Miracle was passed by a huge wave of DFL majorities putting the burden of state education equalization – or distribution of the funding burden – more heavily on the income tax on the theory that our kids’ education shouldn’t rest on the artificial fluctuations in property values.

That seemed to make sense, but subsequent state legislatures allowed the funding base to slip back on to the property tax and the excess levy referendum was born, allowing some districts to seek approval from voters for additional dollars to enrich their academic and extracurricular activities. Of course, that was a lot easier for family-rich suburbs where education investment was a no-brainer. But in the core cities where the poorest of the poor live and aging populations represented DIS-investment in schools – sometime understandably, sometimes selfishly – excess levy referenda became tougher to pass. (St. Paul is venturing back into this marketing arena with a referendum this November. Watch and listen for our October 15th TruthToTell on this.)

Add to this the frustrations of recession, the resulting rise of conservative governance – say, election of Tea Partiers – a few years of tearing down the very soul of educational achievement – good teachers, and the yawning achievement gaps in a re-segregating education system of many Metro Areas, especially the Twin Cities – and you have a formula for persistent crisis management of the schools and the failure of too many Pre-K-12 students by poverty level.

Governor Mark Dayton’s failure to convince a newly emboldened GOP legislative majority in 2010 and 2011to add a dime’s worth of new revenues to the state budget and you have the makings of a kamikaze legislative leadership style that would rather watch its own children starve for knowledge – and maybe food as well – rather than back down from Grover Norquist’s imposed and intimidating no-new-taxes pledge.

Back in June, a  27-member Education Finance Working Group, established as part of Governor Dayton's Seven-Point Plan to establish better school funding, the goals of the reform proposals crafted by the working group are to:

·      Improve the adequacy, equity and stability of pre-K-12 education funding

·      Simplify education funding

·      Preserve local control

·      Close the achievement gap

·      Promote high achievement for all students

·      Direct resources closest to students, teachers and the classroom

What to do about education funding or investment? Despite legislative entrenchment, almost all surveys show that sizeable majority of taxpayers willing to cough up several hundreds of dollars more taxes per year to meet the fiscal demands of a successful schools climate. And, because this is true, it’s up to voters to show their elected officials and candidates just how much they believe schools and students – our children and grandchildren, to be sure, have taken it in the neck for too long and for all the wrong reasons: political expediency, among the leading causes.

TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI spend this Pledge Week’s conversation talking with two leading members of that Education Finance Working Group and try to get a handle on what to expect with respect to future public education financing and investment – election or no election?


 MARY CECCONI – Executive Director, Parents United for Public Schools

 DANE SMITH – President, Growth&Justice – progressive think tank


*See “How to Succeed in Business…”