Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ok people, let's get some stuff straight

It has been reported by Eric Black and Joe Bodell at Minnesota Campaign Report that Mayor Jim Hovland of Edina may enter the the 3rd District race as a DFLer. Here's a bit from Eric yesterday (Friday):

James  B. Hovland, the Republican mayor of Edina, will be switching to the DFL and is seriously contemplating entering the race for the Dem nomination for the open Third District congressional seat.

Hovland will be meeting with representatives of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shortly (possibly tomorrow) to get acquainted and talk about the race.

Spot says this is really, really good news. Hovland is a stand-up guy who would fit and represent the 3rd District very well. He is well liked by his constituents (including Spot) and a leader among area mayors. He is the kind of candidate who could turn the 3rd blue. Hovland is a public-spirited and pragmatic mayor of a community of nearly 50,000.

As part of the Edina City Council, Mayor Hovland opposed the adoption of "conceal and carry" handgun legislation. He is, Spot believes, pro-choice. He has been a persistent critic of the governor—and the governor's claque, including Geoff Michel—on transportation and the gas tax. Here is an op-ed in the Strib by Jim Hovland a couple of weeks ago:

James B. Hovland: A conflict at the helm of MnDOT?

The head of a state agency must have priorities that may not mesh with one's more-political alter ego as lieutenant governor.

James B. Hovland

Published: September 14, 2007

In the aftermath of the Interstate Hwy. 35W bridge tragedy, Minnesotans remain grief-stricken and bewildered. We have little choice but to wait patiently for forensic experts to determine the exact cause of an event that has shaken our confidence in state government. Minnesota was once highly regarded for its diligence in protecting the public health, safety and welfare; restoring lost confidence should be our state's highest priority. But how?

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has made a good start by ordering inspections of all bridges of the same type as the failed bridge and taking inventory of all the state's bridges, perhaps with an eye toward raising standards for bridge evaluation. But two broader questions are as relevant and cannot be swept aside:

• Do we Minnesota voters have the collective financial fortitude to demand that all of our state elected leaders finally make the transportation commitments needed to keep us safe and competitive in the future? After two decades of falling behind, let's hope the vivid memory of a fallen bridge prompts our governor and Legislature to build a financial strategy that actually achieves the sound and wise transportation system that we and future generations need.

• Is it wise to have a statewide elected official, in this case the lieutenant governor, also in charge of running a state agency, in this case the transportation department? Should Carol Molnau be running MnDOT?

Under state law, the commissioners of departments operate within the executive branch as direct hires of the governor. While the governor is a commissioner's boss, commissioners are also charged with advocating for the best interests of citizens, as those interests relate to a particular agency. State law requires our transportation commissioner, for example, to develop, adopt, revise and monitor a statewide transportation plan in order to "provide safe transportation for users throughout the state" and "to provide funding for transportation that, at a minimum, preserves the transportation infrastructure."

But when a governor and lieutenant governor are politically aligned, and that lieutenant governor also runs MnDOT, such political kinship runs the risk of diminishing the commissioner's sworn role as a transportation advocate. Bluntly, does Tim Pawlenty have in his Cabinet a commissioner who will speak expertly and frankly about the transportation needs of the state? Does he have someone who will offer advice he may not want to hear about the sufficiency of revenues to effectively repair and expand our system of roads, bridges and transit?

The image etched in my mind is from last spring: the governor, flanked at a news conference by his hybrid lieutenant governor/MnDOT commissioner, with a flourish of his pen, vetoing a transportation bill that would have set Minnesota on a course to repair and expand its infrastructure. Only a minimal "lights on" budget was left. And the lieutenant governor just stood there, smiling.

James B. Hovland, mayor of Edina, is cochairman of the Regional Council of Mayors and is a member of the Transportation Advisory Board to the Metropolitan Council.

Spotty knows that the mayor has been one of the initiators of efforts to make Edina a more transit-friendly, pedestrian-friendly, and bike-friendly community. And a greener place, too.

Somebody who calls himself MNMark left this comment on the MNCR post about Hovland's party switch and possible candidacy:

Gee, just what we need, another phony 'Democrat'.  At least this one has the excuse of having actually been a Republican unlike all those that have pretended to be Dems.

And if he should actually win the seat will be all be surprised when he votes just like Ramstad?  And this will be an improvement because he is 'Ramstad(D) instead of Ramstad(R)?

Thanks, I'll pass.

Spot says to give the mayor another look, MNMark. Spot says that the 3rd will elect a moderate, and Jim Hovland is a good one. He matches up very well against, say, Erik Paulsen.

Spot, for one, hopes that Jim Hovland enters the race.

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