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Date

April 13th, 2014

Nursing home rates

Thanks to my Uncle Dale for pointing out this article from Rochester. What Mr. Noble does not say is that the rate increases are only for wages (which are needed, to be sure) but include nothing for the operating expenses. The annual rate of loss in northwestern Minnesota is at least the same or worse. The rate equalization of 1976 was a good idea, and probably still is a good idea, but only if the funding levels are adequate. 

Learning curve

This political campaign will be a learning experience more than anything. I have already learned a lot from visiting with people with a stake in what state government does. In particular, I have had two chances to visit people involved with group homes for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill. The source of the funding difficulties group homes face can be debated, but there is no debating that their employees are over-worked and underpaid enough so they are moving on to other jobs, which leaves the group homes understaffed, and which simply perpetuates the cycle of overwork. 

Some are non-profit, others are for-profit.

So, the question arises in my mind: Is it ethical to farm out the care of vulnerable people to for-profit organizations, however regulated they might be, when the customers themselves--the residents of the group homes--often lack the ability to choose their situation? Is this really free enterprise? Is the care of our most vulnerable an area which is best addressed by free enterprise? 

When I studied nursing homes, I found a study which concluded that a mix of non-profit and for-profit nursing homes was best, as (so went the argument) they spurred each other to improve. The study figured the ideal mix was 75% non-profit, or public, and 25% for-profit. That is roughly the mix we have in Minnesota, while most Sunbelt states have the exact opposite mix. 

Non-profits are not angelic. Some become so large they lose sight of their mission and behave more like for-profit corporations. Nor are for-profits always skimping. The answers aren't that simple. 

However, things come into focus a little more when you keep the interests of the vulnerable--be they the developmentally disabled, or the dependent elderly--first in mind and work backwards from there to figure out how best to provide compassionate care.

 

 

April 11th

Secret Agenda

I'll be honest: I have a secret agenda if I get elected to the legislature. I want the Voice of Minneapolis to speak again. As long as we have the Legacy Amendment (which I voted against as a regressive tax, incidentally) dollars available, they should go towards preserving our heritage. The 1928 Kimball, one of the world's great instruments, sits in storage. My revered organ instructor, Dr. Edward Berryman, attempted to save it. He is gone. In his memory, I would like to hear the Kimball speak again!

 

Force field

Baseball great Mike Schmidt suggests calling balls and strikes using a force field. His unfortunate choice of terms allows the writers to mock him, but he is absolutely right. Umpires have squeezed the strike zone down to nothing. Hitters should be forced to swing more often. Computers can all balls and strikes more accurately. 

I have already seen a difference in baseball due to the new replay rules. First base coaches don't argue on close plays for they know the truth will come out on the video and be upheld. Big arguments were always fun to watch, but sort of adolescent. Eliminating them and letting the players play knowing that the calls will be corrected is the way to go. I have been watching MLB's collection of stellar defensive plays. The athleticism on display is enough. We don't need inaccurate umpire calls for entertainment. 

April 10th

Annelee

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Pardon the blurry picture. Phones don't always do the best. Above is my friend Annelee Woodstrom from Ada, MN. She invited me to hear her present to a couple of hundred history students in West Fargo High School today. Annelee has written two books about her childhood in Nazi Germany. 

Annelee's presentation was well-organized, well-delivered, and well received by very attentive students. Her family was persecuted due to her father's refusal to join the Nazi party. Annelee longed to attend the Nazi parades and be in the Nazi youth organization, but her father would not let her. 

After the war began, things got very grim. Due to her family's lack of party membership, Annelee was shipped away to work 60 hours per week far from home as a 16-year-old. We forget: The aftermath of the war was grim for the German people. They were treated horrifically by the Russian occupiers. Annelee was near the border between the American and Russian zones. The American soldier who became her husband supervised the distribution of provisions in her home town. 

That is the short-hand version of Annelee's first book, War Child. 

In a short period of time, Annelee brought home the stark realities of war to the students present. Her father left for forced work in 1943. They never saw him again. Annelee does not know if he was shipped to Siberia after the war or not. His whereabouts remain a mystery. I think that story sunk in more than any other. 

Annelee is 87 years old and still writing and speaking. Friends James and Shirley Hanson of Ada have made it a mission to drive Annelee to her speaking engagements as they believe it is important that her message get out. So do I. 

Doing the speeches comes with a price for Annelee: She said after every presentation, she has nightmares about the bombings from the American planes and the long nights spent in shaking bomb shelters, only to come up in the morning to work a full day surrounded by the smell of burning flesh. 

We are so lucky. 

 

 

April 9th

Muret

I want to add more about my friend Muret, age 93, who I saw at the Pioneer Home for the first time in several years today. His wife Dotty was our elementary school librarian, and she was a gem. Only after she died did I find out, from Muret, that she was a personal aide to Eleanor Roosevelt during the war. "I walked in and out of the White House like it was my own place!" Muret said today. 

Muret's memory is fading a bit. But his eyes sparkle. Eventually, he said, "I don't know how long this all is going to last." Then he paused and looked me in the eye. "That feeling is new," he said, pensively, implying that his days are likely short. 

We talked about regrets. He came home from World War II, which he spent in the Navy in Washington D. C. making waves on Chesapeake Bay with a boat so it would be easier for the float planes to break the surface tension and get off the water--and he farmed. "Do you ever wonder about other choices?" he said, looking at me over his glasses. "What do you wish you did?"

He misses Dottie. "She was sharp," he said, with admiration. She must have passed away at least thirty years ago. Pictures of her surrounded his bed and living area. An oil painting of Muret himself, done by a grandson, dominated the wall. 

"I just don't know how long this will all last," he said again. 

We talked about a mutual acquaintance who got divorced because the husband expected to be served hand and foot. 

"Funny how that stuff hangs on!" Muret said, speaking of male entitlement. "It should be even steven." 

I suspect Muret and Dottie were in love until the day she died. 

Any wonder why I love old people? 

 

 

Campaign practice

Had a good day of visiting people, including Aunt Olive at the Hilton. Then I drove around distributing nursery catalogs. I ended up in Erskine, and dropped some catalogs off at the Pioneer Home. As I walked in the door, I looked at the registry and noticed I knew about eight of the residents. So I decided--I don't have to get back to anywhere to work, visiting with people is now my job! So I found everybody I knew and spent the time watching the Twins on different televisions throughout the home. I particularly enjoyed visiting with Muret, a former Fertile resident. I hadn't seen him since he moved away from town four years ago. 

"I was wondering when you'd stop by!" he said. 

 

April 8th

Spring!

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Sister Tracie and niece Champoo paddle where only days ago were huge snowbanks. Spring has sprung! Champoo has an eight-year-old's energy and is exploring everywhere.  

April 7th

A new start

The Crookston Times publishes an article about my decision to run for office. 

I went over my allotted time of five minutes as described in the article. There is no way to deny it. The video Lance took of my speech is 7 minutes and 22 seconds long. 

I emphasized nursing homes, transportation, rural schools and agriculture. The crowd of delegates was very kind. I had a good time visiting with them before they got down to their business after the speeches. Party affiliation aside, people who get into local politics do it because they care, and care enough to get off their duff to be a delegate to conventions–-which can be boring. They are to be admired.

So, I enjoyed the day very much. 

Today, I filed paperwork in order to make it legal to accept contributions. I faxed the paperwork in Thursday but I discovered this morning it didn't go through. That can result in a fine if you wait too long! Glad I checked. Got it in by this afternoon. 

I am getting lots of advice, some conflicting, from political veterans––all of which is the result of decades of experience. In the end, of course, you have to form your own campaign, but I am open to any and all suggestions at this early stage. 

As the article states, former Rep. Bernie Lieder is my hero. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Several weeks of combat, much of which he doesn't remember at all. Then he came home to be a highway engineer. He became the Minnesota House's expert on highways, which he said "should remain a non-partisan issue."

When I visit the state capitol, all I have to say is that I am a friend of Bernie Lieder and the doors open wide, wide, wide. I saw the current chair of Capital Investment (bonding) in the hall. I yelled, a little disrespectfully, "Alice!" She turned around, a little perturbed. "I am a friend of Bernie's," I said. An immediate hug. And fifteen minutes of conversation on one of the busiest days of the session. 

It seems everybody I talked to was the benficiary of Widman's chocolate covered potato chips, courtesy of Bernie. Even the majority leader said she missed the chips. 

Next time I saw Bernie, I accused him of using Widman's candies for political gain. "Well, Eric, it works!" he said, and then confessed that his Widman's budget (which is, of course, a personal expense) got way out of hand in his later years in the legislature. 

So far: Good, interesting, caring people and good fun.

 

 

April 4th

Big day

Tomorrow will be one of those life-changing days that only happen every so often.

First, I speak to about 400 gardeners in Grand Forks at their Garden Saturday, which is always a big event. I was also going to do an afternoon class on "Is this safe to eat?" about wild foods, but a conflict arose so I am turning the class over to my sister, who knows about 10 times what I do about foods from the wild.

The conflict: I then drive to Thief River Falls where I will attend a regional DFL gathering. I have been granted five minutes time to address the group, which I will use to ask the support of delegates from Minnesota House District 1-B to be their nominee this November. I will state my motives, foremost of which is my belief that small town nursing homes are under dire threat from funding shortfalls which have been created through deliberate, malevolent policy in St. Paul. In short, nursing homes are being starved to death. Two have closed in Northwest Minnesota already. Funding formulas are tilted towards the urban and suburban nursing homes. This trend needs to be reversed. Only last week, despite a budget surplus, nursing homes were informed that neither the House, the Senate, nor the governor propose to reinstate any of the general reimbursement rates which were cut during tight budget years. The nursing homes took the cuts, but now that the coffers have filled, they aren't getting anything back. 

It drives me even more to know that most of the people affected by these cuts have no voice. Not just the residents, but the employees, particularly the under-paid CNAs who do the hands-on work. 

The plight of area nursing homes, and in general the need to take care of our old people, spurred me to run, but I am also intent upon focusing on transportation and agriculture. We have good representation in rural Northwestern Minnesota on education in Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, Rep. Paul Marquart and Sen. Kent Eken, but I would like to continue former Rep. Bernie Lieder's work on roads. I lack his expertise (he is a highway engineer) but I plan to study the issue. 

Of course, I won't be doing anything if I don't get elected. I am facing a two-term incumbent, so it will be an uphill battle. 

To qualify for the seat, I have to move to Fertile. My present house, which I will, of course, keep, sits one mile south of the district line. So today I rented a place in Fertile, and only a few hours later, found a good renter for the house on the swamp. 

Long before I sold the nursery to brother Joe and his wife Kae the first of this year, I was determined to do something with the rest of my life to help people. My thought was: I will write and speak about eldercare issues. However, the more I delved into those issues, with the generous help of a Bush Fellowship, the more I saw that it is policy-making where the action happens--and you can't sway policy as much by writing books as by getting in there and influencing the funding bills. So, despite an aversion to the mess that can be politics, and at the urging of some good friends, I am going to take the plunge into public life. 

My weekly column will necessarily be suspended until the political matters are settled. It is clumsy for editors, even outside the district, to be asked to run a column by somebody running for office, even if that column is about swans or the Twins. 

This weblog will probably be less political than usual as I plan to make it a campaign journal. If I get the nomination (the convention is in late May) and enter the contest for the general election, I will be knocking on doors. "You will find out all you need to learn from knocking on doors," a veteran politician told me last week. "Just shut your mouth and listen." 

So far, the general advice has been, "keep your mouth shut."

They must know me.