Five at 8 – 1/12/10: The Legacy amendment reconsidered

1) A Star Tribune look at the way a sales tax increase is being divvied up by arts groups proves an old saw usually applied to journalism: It doesn’t take a conflict of interest to undermine credibility; it only takes an appearance of a conflict of interest. The paper reports that half the groups who sit on a panel recommending appropriations to the Legislature — the panel includes a representative from Minnesota Public Radio — get money from the panel.

The sales tax increase was authorized by voters via a change in the state Constitution dedicating the revenue to outdoors and arts projects. The outdoors group completed its recommendations last week.

Judging by the comments section of the newspaper article, some voters feel they were duped into voting for a bill they thought was only about the outdoors. Here’s a WCCO pre-election story on the amendment. Here’s an op-ed debate in the Star Tribune. And here’s the actual ballot question:

Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater by increasing the sales and use tax beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?

Did the question play down the “arts” component in favor of the imagery of the outdoors?

2) In Washington state, Democratic State Sen. Rosa Franklin wants to rewrite the state’s laws to get rid of “negative” descriptions. She says negative labels are hurting kids’ chances for success. On her list for removal: “at risk” and “disadvantaged.” Instead of “children at risk,” for example, the senator suggests “children at hope.”

3) Big bottoms, hips, and thighs are healthy. And you just forked over the dough for the health club membership.

4) The recent cold snap in this hemisphere has some people claiming it disproves global warming.

And now the weather: In Melbourne overnight, the low temperature dropped to 93. It’s the worst heat wave in Australia since 1902. Farmers are predicting 70 percent of their crops have or will be destroyed.

5) The Star Tribune has posted its story based on its request for gubernatorial candidates to reveal their substance abuse and mental health issues. Twelve candidates complied with the Star Tribune request. DFLers Steve Kelley and Republicans Leslie Davis, David Hann, Bill Haas, and Tom Emmer were the only candidates to decline the survey. A political scientist claimed the survey is no big deal because mental health doesn’t have the stigma it once had, especially for politicians. It’s a claim that’s been made several times since candidate Mark Dayton acknowledged his alcoholism and battles with depression. Name one non-incumbent candidate who’s gotten elected after acknowledging getting mental health treatment. There may well be a few, but none of the claims have been accompanied by proof.

The BBC considered this a few years ago and found relative ambivalence among the UK pols:

But a lead has to come from the top. For all the supportive words we hear from politicians, endorsing such anti-stigma work and criticising prejudice when called upon to do so, there remains a sense of ambivalence about their being too closely identified with this agenda.

The article mentions an unidentified MP who decided not to go public with his illness because of “a thread of real cruelty that runs through the modern media”.

Tangent time: China has moved ahead of Germany as the #1 exporter in the world. America? We export our brand of mental illness, Essayist Ethan Watters says in the New York Times. He’s a guest today on Talk of the Nation.

This unnerving possibility springs from recent research by a loose group of anthropologists and cross-cultural psychiatrists. Swimming against the biomedical currents of the time, they have argued that mental illnesses are not discrete entities like the polio virus with their own natural histories. These researchers have amassed an impressive body of evidence suggesting that mental illnesses have never been the same the world over (either in prevalence or in form) but are inevitably sparked and shaped by the ethos of particular times and places. In some Southeast Asian cultures, men have been known to experience what is called amok, an episode of murderous rage followed by amnesia; men in the region also suffer from koro, which is characterized by the debilitating certainty that their genitals are retracting into their bodies. Across the fertile crescent of the Middle East there is zar, a condition related to spirit-possession beliefs that brings forth dissociative episodes of laughing, shouting and singing.

Bonus: The Dallas media is pretty cocky about the Cowboys facing the Vikings this weekend.


Should candidates for public office disclose their mental health history?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Two war journalists talk about the war in Afghanistan.

Second hour: As genomic science expands, and more rare diseases are discovered and understood, it has been brought to the forefront of preventive care, even for reproductive genetic screening.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour:Former U.S. ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine discusses the politics, economy and culture of Yemen.

Second hour: TBA

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: New York Times’ labor

correspondent Steven Greenhouse.

Second hour: Journalist Ethan Watters says we’re exporting American mental illness.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Prosecutors have until this afternoon to charge the two juveniles they’ve arrested with the shooting deaths of three people at the Seward Market in Minneapolis last Wednesday. Officials have said they’ll wait to disclose a motive in the shootings until the pair is charged. We’re following the story, of course.

MPR’s Euan Kerr lights the candles for the Ordway’s 25th birthday. and looks at how it helped put Minnesota performers on a national stage without having to leave St Paul.

  • John O.

    One can certainly argue that the structure of the ballot question attempted to minimize the arts portion; however, it is still the responsibility of the individual voter to read the ballot question in its entirety and vote accordingly.

    The Strib, MinnPost and other places certainly had plenty of comments both pro and con prior to Election Day.

  • Brian F

    1) It doesn’t seem right when some (but not all) potential recipeints of money are involved in deciding who gets money and how much. Whose idea was that? Are there more details we’re missing?

    2) Sen. Franklin needs to answer that phone. It’s the early ’90s calling, and it wants its silliness back. There are so many implied assumptions in her statement that it’s hard to know where to start.

    4) The term “global warming”, while it may appropriately express the projected overall increase in average global temperature, should be replaced with “climate change”, because the ride to warmer global averages is going to be a bumpy one, and not all of the bumps will be up.

  • Charlie Quimby

    3) [The researcher] said in an ideal world, the more fat around the thighs the better – as long as the tummy stays slim.

    “Unfortunately, you tend not to get one without the other,” he said.

  • Tyler

    That constitutional amendment was pure foolishness. Tax now, figure out the recipients later? Yuck. I read the whole thing at the ballot and voted no.

  • Brian F

    Tyler – I see what your saying, but at the same time, we (the voters) had (or should have had) some idea what groups would be funded based on the items listed in the proposal.

    I also voted against it, not because I object to funding those things, but because amending the constitution is an asinine way to handle the state budget.

  • Tom

    While I certainly don’t like that funding for the outdoors and art & culture needs to come to a constitutional amendment, I think you would be hard pressed to say that voters were duped.

    Arts & culture organizations were working for yes votes just as hard as outdoors organizations so even if you didn’t bother to thoroughly read the one sentence that you were voting on you must have heard the arts groups pleas for support…

    And having fund recipients sit on the panel to decide where the money goes doesn’t pass my smell test.

  • Gary

    Minnesotans were not duped into voting for the Legacy Amendment. This article is a poor piece of journalism by the Star Tribune because it fails to mention that it was the legislature’s statute – signed by the governor – that mandated the makeup of the particular panel in question. Potential conflicts of interest, or their appearance, was codified in law. That being the case, the panel members should have entered their deliberations with wide open eyes and actively avoided conflicts, and not just wondered about them. And perhaps they did so, but one cannot tell from the Star Tribune’s report what steps actually were taken in that regard. It used to be that newspapers could be counted on to answer the questions that inquiring minds might want to know. As it is, this article has the feel of deliberate misleading to feed the ire of those who will view online advertising while posting their negative reactions to what they have read.

  • Anonymous

    While arts organizations of course worked hard for the passage of this amendment, I know that many of them purposely downplayed the arts component of it as it was felt that many people who might vote yes for money for the outdoors might vote no for money for the arts. (I work for an arts organization that benefits from the amendment, hence why I am posting anonymously on this one.)

    Brian F, I voted no for much the same reason – not because I don’t like funding for the arts and outdoors, but because this wasn’t the way to do it.