18 May 2007

But Wait; There's More!

Here's the background on all this:

Republicans have conducted a "coup" and gotten seven people elected to the Highland District Council. That's still not a majority of the 17-member board, but apparently it's shocking that any Republicans should hold office in St. Paul.

St. Paul's district councils are quasi-governmental bodies. The volunteers on their boards coordinate neighborhood activities, and try to bring a neighborhood voice to city planning and development issues. My perception and experience indicates that they are dominated not just by Democrats (After all, this is St. Paul, what else would we expect?), but by particularly liberal, activist, "progressive" Democrats. The district councils have often been sort of their own little playgrounds, in my perception.

This is also my perception.

That's why it's a hoot to see them reacting with such shock that some Republicans managed to get themselves elected. The news story says that "incumbents were shocked that partisan politics entered the fray..." I guess maybe no one had ever bothered to run as a Democrat. They had just assumed everyone was a Democrat, just like them. So much for being open-minded and valuing diversity.
Okay, so there's shock and "awwww . . ." about the new make-up of the board. I guess they all think that Karl Rove will be calling the shots, parks will be paved over, all pollution-control equipment will be removed from cars . . . you know, all those Republican platforms. So then this story comes out about a week ago:

Gayle Summers e-mailed members of the Highland District Council's board to tell them she was leaving the organization immediately. Her resignation follows last month's takeover of the board by Republican activists in Highland Park, where she has been the community organizer for more than 16 years. In an interview Wednesday, she conceded she considered herself a Democrat but said she was troubled by what she felt was an overtly partisan direction the council was taking.
Even thought the council has been de facto partisan Democrat since its inception.
"She is a huge asset to the community," (Shawn) Bartsh said. "She can't be replaced." City Council Member Pat Harris said he hoped Summers will remain involved in the neighborhood in some capacity. "I'll still look to her for all kinds of advice on the neighborhood," Harris said.
Wow. Sounds like the new atmosphere is so poisonous that a long-time neighborhood activist can't tolerate being part of the newly-diseased process. What a bad light this sheds on the heathen Republicans. Okay - today there is this:

Newly elected officers at the Highland District Council in St. Paul say the neighborhood group owes thousands of dollars in back taxes and penalties and that its finances are in serious disarray. President Bill Poulos sent a letter to the group's board members Thursday saying the Minnesota Department of Revenue recently seized $1,568 in unpaid payroll taxes and that a conversation with IRS officials this week revealed the group owes more than $33,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties dating back to 1998.

Gayle Summers, the council's lone full-time staffer and one of the city's longest-serving community organizers, resigned last week. As one of the city's 19 district councils, the group is funded in part by taxpayer dollars. In addition to the taxes and penalties, Poulos said IRS officials have no record of tax returns for the nonprofit organization from 2001 to 2005. Summers could not be reached for comment.

No surprise. We live in an era where communication has never been more difficult(!)

Poulos said newly elected officers began examining the group's finances once they were able to gain access to the office's computers. They found unopened mail stuffed in drawers and learned of the Department of Revenue seizure after asking the council's bank for updated statements.
Wow - who the hell was running that office?
Under the group's bylaws, an elected, unpaid treasurer - a position that usually rotates from year to year - is responsible for overseeing the group's books. In reality, said immediate past president Peter Armstrong, that job was delegated to (Gayle) Summers.
So if one allows oneself to read into the story, one might have concluded that the terrible new environment in the Highland District Council is what drove out this noble citizen-treasure Summers. Now it looks an awful lot like Summers ran for the door when it became apparent that the mess she's been overseeing would no longer be overlooked.

Kudos to the legacy-media Pioneer Press for actually reporting actual news in the paper. I know it's tough with Shrek 3 opening today to find any space in the paper for relevant local news, but they got it in there.

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