≡ Menu

By Wes Mader Community Columnist

September 19, 2020

Political correctness has never been one of my stellar attributes, so apologies to those who I offend with my words. I’m writing this column on Sept. 11, the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in 2001, and I’m angry. Thousands died including hundreds of courageous and dedicated police officers, some when the World Trade Center collapsed and many later from 9/11 related illnesses. I don’t remember their names.

Here are names from more recent events; Tamarris Bohannon, Natalie Corona, Ronil Singh, Chateri Payne and Damon Gutzwiller. As their names suggest, they have diverse ethnic backgrounds, but they also have something in common. They were all good police officers who were recently gunned down in ambush-like killings, simply because they were police officers. They represent a small sampling of those recently killed in the line of duty.

Officer Tamarris Bohannon, 29 years old, left behind a wife to raise three children, all under the age of 10. Officer Natalie Corona was a 22-year-old rookie. Officer Ronil Singh, 33 years old, was allegedly killed by an illegal immigrant who was then handcuffed by Singh’s fellow officers, using the cuffs that Ronil Singh had carried. Officer Chateri Payne was a rookie cop and mother. Officer Damon Gutzwiller who at 38 years old was the most experienced of the group, was father to a young child, and husband of the expectant wife he left behind.

There are too many fallen officers to remember names. But I will remember George Floyd who was honored with a nationally televised funeral with a 500-person guest list that included prominent politicians, celebrities and political activists. His death while in police custody was inexcusable, but it’s grossly inexcusable when thousands of citizens nationwide use Floyd’s death as an excuse to riot and plunder. It’s inexcusable for national, state or local leaders to cite “systemic racism”, as if to excuse those who burn down businesses and destroy other peoples’ lives. And it’s disappointing when political opportunists and activists, with assistance from the national news media, turn a funeral into a four-hour political rally, featuring the ever-present Al Sharpton and a recorded message from a presidential candidate. I expect some of the fallen officers were denied public funerals because of COVID-19.

It has been reported that COVID-19 is the leading cause of death in 2020 for active police officers. Social distancing doesn’t work when your job requires dealing with unruly rioting mobs, or you’re spit upon because you’re an officer in blue. “Social Justice” and “Peace” make great slogans, but justice is not served when mobs are permitted to take over the streets and intimidate judges, jurists and politicians. Peace will not be achieved when political leaders hesitate to enforce the law, or when a city’s leader orders the police to stand down while rioters burn their precinct to the ground.

Our constitution guarantees the right of protest, but it’s not peaceful protest to shout hateful slogans directed at police officers. It’s an act of hate that incites others to turn their anger into destruction. Marching on a freeway while shouting “pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon” is not peaceful protest.

If/when our nation suffers another mass attack, it won’t be political opportunists or editorial writers rushing in to save others. It will be officers in blue, the same first responders who have become the punching bags for political activists and far too often, the national news media. If it’s ever my family in peril, I hope the first one on the scene is a Prior Lake officer, sheriff’s deputy or a member of the Minnesota highway patrol.

Please read more from the Prior Lake American: Check out this link:

www.swnewsmedia.com/tncms/asset/editorial/2d291cf2-ca78-57c3-a0dc-4c0a92a948d1http://www.swnewsmedia.com/tncms/asset/editorial/2d291cf2-ca78-57c3-a0dc-4c0a92a948d1

By Wes Mader Community      Columnist Aug 22, 2020

The term “private street” invites images of a gated community for exclusive multi-million-dollar homes. In Prior Lake it means nothing of the sort.

The approximately 1,500 homes in Prior Lake that are labeled by city hall as being on private streets are average Prior Lake homes. So what does the private-street label mean?

For decades, it has meant that the city assumes no obligation to provide street maintenance, even though the private street residents pay taxes that include dollars for street maintenance. I learned this the hard way when I purchased a home on Sycamore Trail. The street was in terrible condition, but I assured my concerned wife, that the city would take care of it within a couple of years. I was wrong. It took over 20 years before the city finally fixed the street and only then after a successful neighborhood effort to prove to city council that Sycamore was a public street. During those 20 plus years, neighbors contributed funds for a mediocre repaving job and bought bags of asphalt for filling pot holes.

The city has now introduced a new plan for residents living on private streets. It calls for private street residents to pay a surcharge on their sewer and water bill of $40 every other month. The rationale for collecting the $240 per year is to accumulate funds for the replacement of the street if/when the city has to tear it up to service underlying city water or sewer lines. So how did we get here?

While some streets like Sycamore Trail were designated private by city hall without a rational legal basis, others were created by negotiation between developers and city hall. For decades, city hall has permitted the designation of private streets, often based upon feel-good short-term considerations, without considering long-term consequences. Some developers have been adept at getting what they want from city hall in terms of deviations from land development ordinances.

In return the city was promised that residents on private streets would provide their own street maintenance, thereby eliminating city maintenance costs.

This has sort of a free lunch ring to it. Developers bottom-line profit goes up and city maintenance costs go down — until of course the street goes bad or has to be torn up to fix water or sewer line problems. That’s when the free lunch has to be paid for, by those who live on the designated private streets or by all taxpayers. By then the developer is long-gone from the scene, the residents may or may not have been accumulating funds for such an occurrence, and most assuredly some will object to spending their own funds to repair a perfectly usable street that was torn up because the city-owned a water line below that failed.

I applaud our new city manager for exposing this financial liability and I understand and respect the dilemma the council is facing. However, it seems clear that the fiscal problem was created by council decisions from the past. Given that fact, should the fiscal liability for past faulty decisions be levied against only those who live on streets designated as private? The residents who are now expected to pay the surcharge had no role in negotiations that created the current liability.

I have no doubt that each private street situation has its own unique history as I learned when I tried to unravel the mystery of how Sycamore became a private street. Consequently, a single-amount standard surcharge to all residents on streets designated as private, is in itself problematical. Let me make a glaring example.

Residents living on 160th Street (County Road 44) whose back yards face Westwood Grade School are being told they will be billed the surcharge because the city utilities to their homes are buried under Westwood Drive. They’re being told that Westwood Drive (whose purpose seems to be to service the grade school) is their private street even though they don’t use it.

While I haven’t and won’t examine the titles of these property owners to find out who owns what, I can’t think of any common sense reason why these folks should be paying a surcharge. While a city attorney might find a legal rationale, I think fairness should be the standard to go by.

A more general question: Should city hall be the collector of revenue for the purpose of maintaining privately owned property (if in fact the streets are privately owned by the residents)? This will be a debate worth watching.

Please read more at the Prior Lake American:

https://www.swnewsmedia.com/prior_lake_american/news/opinion/columnists/commentary-private-street-utility-surcharge-fair-or-unfair/article_ed5d63e6-8ec9-5176-becc-381b18fc6d08.html

Wes Mader

There seems to be a misconception about President Trumps 🇺🇸 voting by mail. Even the news media is misinformed and touting President Trump is voting by mail, part truth, part false.

It’s unfortunate, the media is conveying to voters, it’s safe for President Trump to mail in his ballot, but unsafe for the every day citizen.

Recently, TV news reported that President Trump voted by mail dropping his ballot in at the mail box! It’s unfortunate they aren’t explaining the ballot is an “absentee ballot” President Trump requested. He can track his ballot to confirm it’s been received and counted on Election Day.

On April 1, 2020 BIPARTISAN POLICY CENTER wrote the article below, which offers clarification on “The Difference between Absentee Voting and Voting-by-Mail”

Voting in the Time of Corona: The Difference between Absentee Voting and Voting-by-Mail

Absentee Voting refers to when a voter requests a ballot and, if eligible, is subsequently sent one via mail or email. Traditionally, voters are required to provide an “excuse” to qualify for absentee voting. Traditionally, voters are required to provide an “excuse” to qualify for absentee voting, usually pertaining to why they cannot be in a polling place in-person on Election Day. All states allow for some form of absentee voting, 17 of which still require an excuse. However, recent reforms have expanded the availability of absentee voting as a convenience option. By the end of 2019, 33 states and the District of Columbia have “no-excuse absentee voting,” in which any voter may apply for an absentee ballot without providing a justification.

However, even no-excuse absentee voting differs from strict vote-by-mail.

Vote-by-Mail (VBM) is the process of sending every registered voter a ballot without a request. While by-mail voting is the default practice in Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Utah, VBM states generally keep some polling places or vote centers open for those who either cannot or prefer not to vote by mail. In addition to the five VBM states, 21 additional states use vote-by-mail for a selection of smaller races.

Take a look at the below graphic for a full picture of which states allow vote-by-mail, absentee, and no-excuse absentee voting:

Vote-by-Mail and Absentee Voting in the U.S.

See link below for map.

Why does the difference matter?

As election policy has grown more complex over time, the terminology surrounding absentee and vote-by-mail has begun to blur. Some states refer to absentee voting by its categorical designation as “vote-by-mail,” while others abide by a stricter delineation between absentee and by-mail voting. These policy differences were relevant before COVID-19, but are even more important to consider now.

Nuanced language aside, the essential takeaway here is not grammatical, but substantive: states with only absentee voting in place will face additional hurdles to the implementation of vote-by-mail that traditionally VBM states will not.

States without extensive vote-by-mail infrastructure already in place are not well-equipped for an immediate transition to all vote-by-mail due to the coronavirus. According to a BPC review of federal data on voting by mail and absentee voting, 34 states had fewer than 15% of their ballots cast by mail during the 2018 federal election.

Facilitating a well-orchestrated vote-by-mail election is the equivalent of a logistical nightmare. And with a global pandemic sweeping the country, this logistical nightmare can only get worse.

States should keep in mind the following concerns when switching to an all-mail election:

1. Confusion to Voters. A pandemic may not be the easiest time to teach voters a new voting method. When changing policies, states should continue to monitor public perception and ensure that any changes to elections are communicated quickly, clearly, and concisely. Specific areas of confusion may include: whether voters have to request a mailed ballot and pay for postage, whether voters can trust the postal service to deliver their ballots in a timely manner, and, if not, whether drop boxes are available as an alternative to mail. Additionally, with black voters’ absentee ballots rejected at a far higher rate than white voters, administrators should take additional safeguards to protect the votes of black Americans, or risk undermining the election’s legitimacy.

2. Challenges to Election Administration. Not only will election administrators have to account for all the above points of confusion to voters, they will have to run an election, too. A successful transition to vote-by-mail would require major technology and staff upgrades, managing resources split between in-person and mail voting, adjusted ballot return deadlines, pre-paid postage, and realistic ballot processing expectations.

3. Challenges to VBM as COVID-19 Worsens. Vote-by-mail’s Achilles’ heel is the postal service. The Washington Post reports that the long-understaffed U.S. Postal Service is beginning to reach a breaking point as the coronavirus continues to spread. To be fully prepared for a vote-by-mail election, states must develop a backup plan, such as ballot drop-boxes, in case the Postal Service is interrupted or unreliable.

These things take time and money. While the additional $400 million in emergency elections grants Congress passed as part of the CARES Act will help states’ temporary transition to vote-by-mail, it’s not enough. Running this year’s elections will be challenging, but not as challenging as they could be without considering the whole package of reforms needed for vote-by-mail to succeed.

The move towards vote-by-mail in the face of COVID-19 is a necessary one, especially for primary elections being conducted over the next few months. However, we must remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to election administration. Policy changes which fail to reflect states’ existing election statutory infrastructure (namely, vote-by-mail versus absentee) will fall short of their intended results.

With new and pressing challenges arriving constantly, it is easy to forget how much influence the past still has on the present. Coronavirus-related election reform will not succeed if it does not account for the existing state of policy and resource allocation.

https://bipartisanpolicy.org/blog/voting-in-the-time-of-corona-the-difference-between-absentee-voting-and-voting-by-mail

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Tuesday’s critical primaries:

It’s not too late to register to vote!

REGISTER TO VOTE

https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/register-to-vote/?utm_source=iterable&utm_campaign=1422140&utm_medium=direct&utm_term=primary&utm_content=hf&iterable_campaign=1422140&iterable_template=1972828

Minnesota Secretary Of State – Register To Vote

Polls will be open from 7am to 8pm

LOCATE YOUR POLLING PLACE

https://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/?utm_source=iterable&utm_campaign=1422140&utm_medium=direct&utm_term=primary&utm_content=hf&iterable_campaign=1422140&iterable_template=1972828

Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday

LOCATE YOUR COUNTY ELECTION OFFICE

Minnesota Secretary Of State – Find County Election Office

https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/find-county-election-office/?utm_source=iterable&utm_campaign=1422140&utm_medium=direct&utm_term=primary&utm_content=hf&iterable_campaign=1422140&iterable_template=1972828

Need to confirm that your submitted ballot was counted?

CHECK ON YOUR MAIL-IN BALLOT

https://mnvotes.sos.state.mn.us/AbsenteeBallotStatus.aspx?utm_source=iterable&utm_campaign=1422140&utm_medium=direct&utm_term=primary&utm_content=hf&iterable_campaign=1422140&iterable_template=1972828

Thank you,

By Wes Mader

My generation grew up when academic institutions primarily taught subjects like reading, writing and arithmetic, with history, geography and biology thrown in for good measure. The subject of political correctness wasn’t being taught, which was fortunate for me since I most likely would have failed.

This became apparent to me when a column that I submitted to the Prior Lake American (Remembering the Space Race and Bubbles) in July of last year, was summarily rejected as not meeting the newspaper’s standard.  Recollections in the column about a friendship with a Black American whose nickname was Bubbles, are what caused the editor to reject it.

It ought to be evident to every thinking American that the non-stop inflammatory news coverage of race in America, is tearing our nation apart. I personally miss the days of 50 years ago that I spoke of in my column, a time before the editor who rejected my column was born. The story in the column is back on my mind because of current events, so I have decided to release it for the CAG website, with apologies to anyone who may be offended.  

Wes Mader

REMEMBERING THE SPACE RACE AND BUBBLES

Recent news coverage of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s landing on the moon 50 years ago was nostalgic for me. Fifty years ago, I served as Director of Engineering for a Division of Litton Industries that designed and built precision electro-mechanical components for the space program. The devices were used in space flight navigation systems, in satellites, in the astronaut flight training simulator and related applications. Because of the devices’ critical functions, I had the opportunity to meet with NASA engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, at the Johnson Center in Houston and with system engineers at numerous aerospace companies.  Although our Division was a small player in the space exploration program, these were heady days for us. America was on a mission and it felt good to be part of it.

A related news article catching my attention was the death of Chris Kraft who launched NASA’s Mission Control function in Houston. His name became legendary and synonymous with the space program. I met Mr. Kraft just once, when he visited our company shortly after NASA’s successful but almost tragic Apollo 13 mission. Older readers will remember being glued to the TV, hoping and praying our astronauts would make it home safely. Younger folks will recall the movie version of Apollo 13, with Tom Hanks playing the role of Astronaut Jim Lovell.  

I felt privileged to guide Kraft on a tour of our company’s engineering/manufacturing areas and to introduce him to an assembly of employees. Kraft spoke proudly about the Apollo 13 mission, with pride in the NASA team and contractors who brought our astronauts home safely. We all left the meeting with our heads held high.

Memories of Kraft also stirred memories of possibly the most memorable employee I worked with at that time. He was a night-shift janitor who helped prepare for Kraft’s visit. His last name was Jones and because he was a deacon at his small rural church, some reverently called him Deacon Jones. His nickname at work was Bubbles, probably because of his friendly bubbly personality. Our 4 small kids, raised in the southern tradition of “respecting their elders”, affectionately called him Mr. Bubbles. He came to work each day with an attitude of joy that was infectious.

When Bubbles heard about the planned-visit by Chris Kraft, he asked what areas in the company Mr. Kraft would see.  He wanted to make those areas were spotless. It was typical Bubbles to regularly check to see if we had customer visits scheduled, so he could make sure labs, conference rooms or offices, would be impressive.  On evenings when I worked late, Bubbles often showed up with a pot of coffee, and we would exchange comments about our families and our faith. No one ever asked Bubbles to do these things, but it was a matter of pride for him to be the best employee he could be.

Bubbles was a happy man with a sense of humor. When I commented one evening about his coffee being so good, he said it was because he soaked his socks in the pot. Another evening he walked in while I was pounding out reams of data on a mechanical desk calculator, showing obvious frustration. With a grin on his face, Bubbles said he would pound the keys for me if I would take over his broom. If I would comment about an employee in the cafeteria, Bubbles might have asked if I was talking about the tall skinny white guy or the black guy. Neither Bubbles nor I had been introduced to the subject of political correctness so we said what we believed.

Fifty years later it’s hard for me to adjust to the idea that any thought, word, or deed might be labeled as sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic or something worse, if someone might be offended. Time spent with Bubbles was always good time that generated good memories even 50 years later. And yes, Bubbles was black and one of the best guys I ever worked with.  His job was not complicated nor did it pay high wages, but he did it to the best of his ability, earning the respect and admiration of fellow employees. He’s now gone, and I expect he left this world with faith and confidence that he was heading for an even better place. His life was a demonstration of how to live life fully and joyfully, without regard to the color of skin we’re born into or the cards we’re dealt. Bubbles will be remembered by me, until my last day.