I grew up reading comic books wanting to be a superhero. Comics taught me that those who speak the truth are heroes, all the rest are liars.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sometimes Politics of Hope has to FIGHT

Dear Senator Obama,

Sometimes the politics of hope has to roll up its sleeves and go after the “establishment”. I have been supporting John Edwards, and as of late I have been looking more into your campaign. I want to vote for the candidate that has the most courage to get things done, to stand up and speak truth to power and bring power to truth.

It’s time that politics of hope takes the fight to the politics of the Washington insider. It’s time that you become the aggressor and go after the endorsement. It’s time to prove everyone wrong about the front-runner being “the chosen one”. For politics of hope and change to have a chance, you must fight harder and stronger starting NOW.

It would be a tragic shame if you loose due to not putting all of your heart and soul into this campaign. It would be sad to see that when all it would have taken was courage to stand up and fight for hope and change and all of those that support it, not to have happened.

NOW is the time for TRUE leaders to show their courage and fight with all of their hearts and souls.
Have no regrets when the dust settles.

We need a TRUE, HOPE filled, and COURAGEOUS Leader.
Now is the time. Please do not waist a minute!

Sometimes the politics of hope has to fight!

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Too Little and Way Too Late

So after 6 years of war....US clampdown on private security in Iraq...
How reassuring that must be to the countless of relatives who have lost family and love ones to private American thugs.

Wellstone Quote of the Day

“The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines. The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” (Frequently used quote)

- Paul Wellstone

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why Bridges Fall Down In Minnesota

Last week, the House Commerce & Labor Committee examined the overdue, over-budget Wakota Bridge project. Below is the detailed summary of the findings from that hearing, based upon the documents and testimony presented. The committee's objective is to determine what went wrong with an eye toward preventing further delays and cost overruns.

Seems pretty clear to me that MnDOT has ceased to function in the best interest of Minnesotan commuters and tax payers. They don't even coorporate with our duly elected officials in turning over requested paperwork and reports? MnDOT's Commissioner Carol Molnau must go or does the blame stop at her boss- Governor Tim Pawlenty?

Twice the Time, Twice the Money: What Went Wrong with the Wakota Bridge?

Issue. Why is the Wakota Bridge reconstruction project taking twice as long and costing twice as much as originally anticipated?

Overview. Begun by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) on February 10, 2003, the $58 million reconstruction of the Wakota Bridge on I-494 was to have been completed by November 17, 2007.[1] At this time, less than half the project is finished, and the eastbound span has not been started. According to MnDOT, final completion of the project will not occur until at least 2011 and is expected to cost twice as much as anticipated.[2]

The cost to commuters and businesses for the failure to complete the Wakota Bridge project is $36,500 per day, or $13.3 million annually, according to MnDOT’s calculations.[3] If the project is not completed until 2011, MnDOT projects the cost to Minnesotans and Minnesota businesses of the delay to be $53.3 million.[4] In addition, MnDOT’s internal estimates anticipate increased construction costs of $52.0 to $57.7 million,[5] which will be paid by Minnesota taxpayers.

On June 21, 2007, the House Commerce & Labor Committee sought documents regarding the Wakota Bridge project in an effort to determine why the project is taking twice as long and costing twice as much, with an eye toward preventing similar problems in the future.[6] As a result of MnDOT’s admittedly deliberate refusal to fully cooperate with the Committee’s document request,[7] a hearing was held on October 4, 2007. The results of the Committee’s document review and hearing are set forth below.

Twice the Time, Twice the Money: What Went Wrong? Based upon the documents and testimony of MnDOT's own employees and contractors, there are several reasons for the doubling of the project’s schedule and budget:

MnDOT required use of a suspect bridge design that has failed half the time. Of the thousands of bridges built across the country, a three-web design has been used only six times, according to the Wakota Bridge designer, HNTB.[8] Three have failed, resulting in cracking, requiring costly and time-consuming repairs and retrofitting.[9] Though MnDOT knew this in 2003, the agency nonetheless required use of the three-web design for the Wakota Bridge.[10] Cracking resulted[11] Significant repairs, retrofitting, and re-design have been required.[12]

At exactly the same time HNTB was preparing the three-web design for the Wakota Bridge in 2003, another HNTB three-web bridge in Florida was found to be failing. This did not trigger rejection or greater scrutiny of the Wakota Bridge plans. In July 2003, cracks were found in the HNTB-designed Grantham bridge in Florida, which also used a three-web design and required repairs and retrofitting.[13] MnDOT knew this at the time the Wakota Bridge project was being designed, yet ordered HNTB to continue with the three-web design for the Wakota project, asking only that HNTB review its design plans itself.[14] A MnDOT official testified the agency did not have the expertise to review the HNTB plans for correctness, nor did it opt to have the HNTB plans peer-reviewed.[15] It trusted HNTB.[16]

HNTB admits its three-web design for the Wakota Bridge failed. HNTB officials have openly admitted to the shortcomings of the design and pledged to take responsibility for it.[17]

In addition to design issues, the independent Dispute Review Board (DRB) found MnDOT responsible for seven months of project delays related to other issues. MnDOT insisted that a three-member DRB be a part of the contract with the general contractor, Lunda Construction, with both parties appointing members. In previously undisclosed documents, it was learned that the DRB unanimously held MnDOT responsible for 219 days of project delays.[18] This was primarily due to MnDOT’s failure to appropriately account for a wastewater force main located underneath one of the bridge piers, which needed to be re-located.[19]

Following re-design of the eastbound span of the bridge, MnDOT sought, then rejected re-bids from the general contractor to perform the newly designed, more costly eastbound span, even though the bids were within MnDOT estimates of what they thought the project would cost. Internal estimates at MnDOT showed the agency expected to spend $52.0 – 57.7 million to have the eastbound span constructed.[20] Lunda, the general contractor, submitted a bid within that range of $56.8 million.[21] It was rejected. Another bid of $59 million was similarly rejected.[22] MnDOT made no further counteroffers and nothing exists within MnDOT’s records to fully explain the rejection. MnDOT then terminated Lunda with respect to the eastbound span of the contract on December 27, 2006.[23]

The independent Dispute Review Board found MnDOT wrongfully terminated the contract with Lunda. In a decision dated August 6, 2007, the DRB held MnDOT wrongfully terminated the contract with Lunda for the eastbound span and held that MnDOT was in breach of contract.[24]

MnDOT has inexplicably delayed re-bidding of the eastbound span of the Wakota Bridge for 14 months. MnDOT ordered the contractor to stop working on October 2, 2006. MnDOT finally removed the eastbound span from the contract in December 2006.[25] Since this breach of contract with Lunda in December 2006, re-bidding of the eastbound span has been repeatedly delayed and
now is projected to occur on January 25, 2008.[26] Internal MnDOT documents show the agency has considered delaying the re-bidding of the eastbound span for up to four years, but provides no basis for considering that.[27]

Deliberate and admitted refusal by MnDOT officials to disclose documents related to the Wakota Bridge project leaves open that other possible reasons for the delays and budget overruns may exist. At the 10/4/07 hearing, MnDOT officials admitted they had openly defied the Committee’s request for documents, dating back to June 21, 2007.[28] They repeatedly apologized for this at the hearing. One official stated the agency had, in fact, just found another box-and-a-half of documents for the Committee’s review.[29] Prior to the hearing, MnDOT had claimed some documents were privileged but had refused to even identify those documents or provide the basis for asserting they were privileged. Under threat of a possible legislative subpoena, MnDOT has agreed to provide the balance of the documents related to the project no later than November 5, 2007.[30] This includes key financial documents to determine whether MnDOT does, in fact, even possess the funds necessary to continue the project.

Similar requests for documents, also under the threat of a legislative subpoena if the entities are not forthcoming, have been made to the design firm, the general contractor, and Tom Warne, a MnDOT-contracted mediator for disputes over both the east and westbound bridge portions.[31]

The Next Step. The balance of documents from MnDOT and other entities involved in the Wakota Bridge project will be reviewed, with an aim toward preventing further delays and cost overruns on this as well as other MnDOT construction projects. In the event any of the parties fail to cooperate with document requests, the Chair intends to pursue issuance of legislative subpoenas.

[1] MnDOT contract with Lunda sent 9/12/02 and internal document titled “Settlement Options,” dated 12/10/06
[2] Settlement Options document, 12/10/06
[3] MnDOT Office of Investment Management document, 3/8/06
[4] Id.
[5] Settlement Options document, 12/10/06
[6] Correspondence from Chair J. Atkins to Commissioner C. Molnau, 6/21/07
[7] Testimony of Betsy Parker, MnDOT Government and Community Relations Director, 10/4/07. See also correspondence from Chair Atkins to MnDOT officials, 9/5/07
[8] Testimony of Ken Price, HNTB, 10/4/07
[9] In addition to the Wakota Bridge, Florida’s Grantham Bridge and Texas’s Houston Chronicle Bridge have also required repairs and retrofitting.
[10] Testimony of Ken Price, HNTB, 10/4/07
[11] Id.
[12] Id.
[13] Id.
[14] Id.
[15] Testimony of Dan Dorgan, MnDOT, 10/4/07
[16] Id.
[17] HNTB correspondence, dated 5/17/05.
[18] Recommendation of Disputes Review Board #1, 5/9/05.
[19] Id.
[20] Settlement Option document, 12/10/06.
[21] Correspondence from D. Behnke to Commissioner C. Molnau, 11/20/06.
[22] Id.
[23] Correspondence from Commissioner C. Molnau to D. Behnke, 12/27/06.
[24] Recommendation #2 of Disputes Review Board, 9/27/07.
[25] Correspondence from Liz Benjamin to Dennis Behnke, 10/2/06.
[26] Testimony of Khani Sahebjam, MnDOT, 10/4/07.
[27] Internal MnDOT document titled "Wakota Bridge Situation," 12/13/05.
[28] Testimony of Betsy Parker, 10/4/07; Testimony of Commissioner C. Molnau, 10/4/07.
[29] Testimony of Betsy Parker, 10/4/07.
[30] Testimony of Bob McFarlin, MnDOT, 10/4/07.
[31] Correspondence from Chair J. Atkins to HNTB Corporation Lunda Construction and Tom Warne, 10/9/07.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sarvi Files for Second District Congressional Race

News release from the campaign...looks like our reclusive republican congressional puppetman John Kline might have some competition...In the immortal words of Kline's puppet master "Bring it on"

Pledging to Fight for a Change of Course at Home and Abroad, Sarvi Files with FEC to Challenge Representative John Kline

Watertown, MN (October 4, 2007) Iraq war veteran and former Watertown mayor Steve Sarvi filed his campaign committee today with the Federal Election Commission, paving the way for a challenge to three-term Republican United States Representative John Kline. Sarvi said that Minnesotans are ready for a change in course both at home and abroad.

“As a veteran of the Iraq war, I’ve seen first-hand that we need to change strategy in Iraq and change strategy here at home,” said Sarvi, a married father of three school-age children.

“Minnesotans want a representative in Washington who listens to their concerns, knows how to bring people together to solve the many challenges we face at home and abroad, and will fight every day to get things done for our state. I have fought for our nation on many battlefields, and now I’m ready to fight for our district, our state and our nation in Congress,” Sarvi said.

Sarvi, who is the city administrator of the City of Victoria, returned in July after serving 16 months in Iraq, the longest any state’s unit has served in the war. Sarvi stepped aside as mayor in order to volunteer to go to Iraq with the National Guardsmen he trained for deployment. While in Iraq, he worked on civil reconstruction in the war-torn country. Sarvi also previously served a peace-keeping tour of duty in Kosovo in 2004.

“We in the Second District deserve a representative that isn’t afraid to to talk to their constituents, and has real-world experience bringing people together to get things done," said Charlie Thomas, a resident of Burnsville and supporter of Sarvi. “I’m supporting Steve Sarvi for Congress because we need change, plain and simple, and he’s the person who knows how to make change work.”

Sarvi said his direct war experience influenced his decision to run for Congress, but he added that America needs a new course at home as well, particularly when it comes to ensuring the health and security of our families with good jobs, access to affordable health care and a safe transportation infrastructure.

“The future of our communities, our state and our country directly depend on the choices we make in Washington,” said Sarvi. “Whether I’ve been on the job in Iraq or on the job in our local government, I’ve always put Minnesota values first. In Congress, I will fight for the good jobs, affordable health care and quality transportation we must have in order to change the direction of our state and our country.”

Sarvi noted that given his service in Iraq, his perspective is unique — his strong support for American troops is matched with equally strong dissatisfaction with the president’s failed policies.

“I am very proud to have served my country in Iraq,” said Sarvi. “Our district deserves a representative in Congress who will put the safety of our troops and the well-being of our families ahead of blind party loyalty. I want to provide the new leadership and courage that we need in Congress to change course in Iraq and make our sure our district becomes a safer and fairer place for our families at home..

Franken Outside the Wallet

Thinking outside the wallet!