Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Controversial Black Panther Commemorating School District has 18 Filing for 5 Open Board Seats

Who says that the American people aren't invested in their government? In South Washington County School District 833 (Cottage Grove, Woodbury, Saint Paul Paul and Newport, MN), home to East Ridge High School and the controversial Black Panther Schoolwide Commemoration, an unprecedented EIGHTEEN (18) candidates are running for five open school board seats this year.  Of the eighteen, four are incumbents: Laurie Johnson, David Kemper, Katy McElwee-Stevens and Tracy Burnette.  Laurie Johnson is running for the only open two-year seat; the others are going for the open four year seat terms.  Marsha Adou is the only incumbent who declined to run again.

From Left-Right: Superintendent Dr. Keith Jacobus, Board Members Katy McElwee-Stevens, Jim Gelbmann, Tracy Brunette, David Kemper, Laurie Johnson, Chairman Ron Kath, and Marsha Adou
The four-year term challengers are: Frederick E. Hess (Woodbury), Katie Schwartz (St. Paul Park), John P. Griffin II (Woodbury), Molly Lutz (Woodbury), Leilani Holmstadt (Cottage Grove), Sharon H. Van Leer (Woodbury), Raj Gandhi (Woodbury), Mike Thissen (Woodbury), Wayne A Johnson (Cottage Grove), Michael P. Edman (Cottage Grove), and Safiyyah Cummings (Plymouth).

Three others have filed to challenge Laurie Johnson for the two-year term seat: Girma Dinssa (Woodbury), Susan Richardson (Woodbury) and David W. Firkus (Woodbury).

With a field this large, it will be hard for the challengers to overcome the name recognition advantage of the incumbents, but one can only hope that some of them do, since it is time for new faces on the school board. However, given that there is also a levy renewal and increase along with a new bond request going on this year's ballot, the voter turn-out should be higher than usual for off-year elections, which should play into the favor of the challengers.

Ironically, this spring the district released survey results that painted the general public's view of the job the school board and administration were doing as largely positive.  Somehow, it would seem that those results may have been misinterpreted when fourteen people file for school board; it is hard to believe that everyone sees the current board and administration as all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns.

Let the campaign season begin! It will be a very interesting ride between now and November.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Justice for Ray Widstrand

Ray Widstrand (borrowed from his Facebook photos)

Last Sunday night (August 4, 2013), 26 year old Ray Widstrand was attacked when he attempted to walk through a large group (reports of 30-50 people) of kids and adults involved in what appears to have been a gang fight on St. Paul, Minnesota's Eastside.  According to reports, Ray was knocked down, stomped on, kicked; his pants were ripped off so the participants could go through his pockets and steal his possessions and money.  He was then left on the street when the thugs heard sirens and dispersed.  According to The Pioneer Press:

Police found Widstrand lying on the ground, bleeding from his nose and mouth, his pants removed and shirt torn, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Ramsey County attorney's office.
A witness said someone struck Widstrand in the head and knocked him to the ground; she said she saw blood coming from his head.
The witness said a second man then hit and stomped on Widstrand. A third man removed his pants.
The witness said the man was hit and beaten for no reason.
A second witness said Widstrand was assaulted when he walked into the area. When Widstrand went down, a "whole bunch of little East Side Boys" began to kick him, the complaint said.
When his pants were removed, they went through his pockets.
The second witness said the first person to hit Widstrand did it with a can in a sock. She tried to protect the man from people kicking and stomping him, while another witness said someone at the scene tried to use Mace to stop the attack, the complaint said.
A third witness identified Maiden as a man who stomped on Widstrand, based on a photo taken at the scene, the complaint said.

Three juvenile males and an adult male have been arrested in relation to this brutal assault and robbery.  The adult male is a 19 year old named Isaac Maiden.

According to the criminal complaint, Isaac Maiden has been charged with four felony counts, including aggravated assault and crime committed for the benefit of a gang.  

While Isaac Maiden was in court yesterday (Friday, August 9, 2013), Ray Widstrand was fighting for his life at Regions Hospital in St. Paul: 
"He's in the most difficult time right now, as far as swelling and cranial pressure. We're in that critical time," his father, Peter Widstrand, said. (Pioneer Press)
Ray Widstrand is a 26 year old producer for Suburban Community Channels and a graduate of Irondale High School.  A quick search revealed more than just those two items - Ray Widstrand is obviously a lover of comics, has a great sense of humor and is well-loved by his friends.  He also is an aspiring producer of films, as shown by the videos uploaded to his YouTube channel.

A few photos from his Facebook page: 

And finally, this photo captioned with: "It takes a certain kind of man to rock a poncho. Ask Clint Eastwood.
It takes a certain kind of man to rock a poncho with a giant stuffed banana with dreadlocks. Ask me."

Will there be justice for Ray Widstrand? Where are the people out yelling about this being a "hate crime"? This young man was out for a walk in his neighborhood - a place, according to his father, in which he was excited to be living.  Unfortunately, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time - or that is how it will be portrayed by the media - and was attacked.  But why should he have had to worry about being attacked? He wasn't part of the gangs and their fight.  He was brutally attacked, his pants ripped off so his attackers could ROB HIM and then left bleeding in the street.  A few good people tried to stop his beating by Macing his attackers but being MACED didn't make them quit.  Blood thirsty and angry, they beat him until he passed out.  Now his brain is swelling and chances are high that he will die. 

Some people say that Trayvon Martin was in the wrong place at the wrong time, walking home with Skittles and an iced tea when he decided to confront George Zimmerman by punching him in the nose.  Some people accuse George Zimmerman of profiling Trayvon Martin and "wanting" to kill him because Zimmerman was a racist.  The outrage over the Zimmerman acquittal bled into riots and protests across the country.  

In this case, Ray Widstrand was truly minding his own business.  By all reports, he did not confront his attackers by breaking their noses: he was out for a walk and was brutally attacked. Where is the outrage? Where are the protests? Or will we see no outrage because the man in the coma is part of the most hated of all American groups: a young, employed, white male?  If this man dies from his injuries, will there be protests and cries of justice for his attackers?  Or will the incident pass all but his family by as just another moment of violence in our increasingly violent world?

Please pray for Ray Widstrand and his family.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

First Ever Hockey-themed Gubernatorial Race Ad?

A hockey-themed gubernatorial-race ad caught the eye of this Hockeymama - how could it not?  Made by the campaign for Jeff Johnson for Governor, it features some good stick-handling and nice shots on goal, and the message it conveys isn't so bad, either.

Jeff Johnson's website:, describes the candidate as focusing on three issues: "Jobs, Education and Making Government Work."  These are nice goals, but what specifically is Jeff Johnson promising to do for Minnesota if elected?

According to his website:

My goal will be to make Minnesota the best place to start or expand a business – small or large – in the Upper Midwest. We will not roll over for South Dakota or Wisconsin any more.
Whether that means reducing the burden of government regulations on job creators, setting competitive tax levels, discouraging lawsuit abuse or avoiding corporate welfare that picks winners and losers, Minnesota needs to be a place where small businessmen and women and entrepreneurs actually choose to do business because it makes economic sense for them to be here.
We have a proud history in Minnesota of providing a great education to most of our kids. It’s time we provided that great education to all of our kids.
There’s been enough handwringing over the years about the shameful achievement gap in Minnesota between white students and students of color; we must have the guts to take whatever actions are necessary to give every parent the chance to send their kids to a great school.
Minnesotans are very generous people and most of us are absolutely willing to pay taxes to help the less fortunate among us get on their feet. The problem is, many of the programs we fund don’t produce that result.
On my first day as Governor I will start the process of a top to bottom audit of every program funded by Minnesota taxpayers – starting with our human service programs. The ones that can show they change people’s lives for the better, we will celebrate and bolster. The ones that cannot, we will end.
Let’s make government work in Minnesota.

Looks like a pretty good plan, especially the idea to audit every taxpayer-funded program.  Hopefully that also includes all the school districts that accept millions of taxpayer dollars every year.

There are others running for governor as well, including Scott Honour, Kurt Zellers and Dave Thompson. More research on each of the candidates will be necessary before MNHockeyMama decides which one seems like the best choice for Minnesota.

A great place to check out all the candidates will be at tonight's MN Republican Gubernatorial Candidates' Forum held at The Mermaid Event Center from 7-9pm.

Former Senate candidate Kurt Bills has just endorsed businessman Scott Honour as his pick for Minnesota Governor; it seems a bit premature to be endorsing any of the candidates, but apparently Kurt Bills likes what he sees in Scott Honour's potential as a candidate against Governor Dayton.  The rest of us would be advised to attend tonight's Candidates' Forum and do a little more research before settling on one candidate as Bills already has; though so far for this HockeyMama, Jeff Johnson is leading the pack.