Election 2012: Soil & Water, Minneapolis
Let me note that information on the Soil & Water people was even harder to come by this year than it usually is. In prior years there was a questionnaire that at least a handful of candidates would respond to; I searched this year and found absolutely nothing. Moreover, I attempted to contact several candidates and got no response at all. In fact, there's one that's an incumbent. You would think he'd have an e-mail address associated with his office, but you'd be wrong.
If you google "Hennepin County bicycle advisory committee," you find this page, which lists names and has an e-mail address and phone number to contact. You'll also find their meeting minutes. This isn't an elected board; the county has a bunch of citizen advisory boards and you can volunteer to serve on them. One of them is the Bicycle Advisory Committee. There's also
If you google "Hennepin County soil and water supervisors" you find a bunch of sites that promise election info (but don't actually have anything beyond a list of filings) and the Fraters Libertas endorsements from two years ago. If you go to page two? You find MY endorsements from two years ago.
So here is a note to whomever wins: look, step up. If you hold elected office, people should be able to contact you. When I googled for Haefs, who's an incumbent, I at least found the web page that should have popped up for my prior search but there's no way to contact any of you. You are elected officials, for crying out loud. I do not expect you to carry a cell phone around the clock like that legislative candidate in St. Paul promised to do; all I want is an e-mail address. That's really not asking for much. (Also, there's no excuse for the fact that searching for "soil and water supervisor" doesn't bring me to your page.)
ON TO THE CANDIDATES.
There are three contested races.
SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT SUPERVISOR DISTRICT 3
Brian T. Peterson
I know nothing about Brian Peterson, but Marjorie Holsten is a Tea Partier. So I'll take my chances on Brian.
SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT SUPERVISOR DISTRICT 1
I am endorsing Eleonore Wesserle.
Haefs is endorsed by Republicans (who apparently were able to find more information about him than I was) (SEE UPDATE BELOW about the Republican thing.) Eleonore works for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, which sounds like relevant experience, and she volunteers for the Heart of the Beast Theater Mayday Parade, which automatically makes her cool.
She did not respond to the e-mail I sent her through the contact link on the website I linked to. However, I'm not 100% sure that the form actually worked.
I was not able to find any information on contacting Haefs anywhere at all, other than his street address and phone number, which was included in the filing. He's mentioned in the meeting minutes starting with his appointment in June, but the minutes are filled with untranslated acronyms and I was unable to get any sense from these minutes what sorts of positions he holds on anything.
Elected official with no way to contact by e-mail,
AND he's endorsed by the Republicans. That's two strikes one definite strike against him, so I'm going to vote for Eleonore unless someone gives me information I didn't have before.
UPDATE 10/22. I got an e-mail today from a Republican who had spotted this post and wanted to correct my impression that (a) they had endorsed Haefs, and (b) they had more information on Haefs than I did.
The SD-48 Sample Ballot (which I'd found googling) is divided into two sections (and I totally failed to notice this) -- there are endorsements (Mitt Romney and on down) but also a section of "recommendations," which were the result of researching information on the candidates and picking the one that seemed like the best fit for their constituency. Haefs was a recommendation, not an endorsement.
You know how I said, "I know nothing about Brian Peterson, but Marjorie Holsten is a Tea Partier. So I'll take my chances on Brian"? Apparently they had exercised pretty much the exact same thought process in reverse regarding Wesserle vs Haefs. They knew nothing about Haefs, but Wesserle was clearly not their cup of (organic fair trade) tea, so they recommended Haefs.
And fair enough! So that leaves me with two candidates, one of whom is the incumbent but has no contact information anywhere, and one of whom is running for office and does have contact information but doesn't respond to her e-mail messages.
I'm probably still going to vote for Wesserle, but frankly, I'm really not happy voting for either.
SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT SUPERVISOR DISTRICT 4
Andrew K. Moller
Richard B. Strong
Strong is a sustainability professor at the University of Minnesota and replied promptly to my e-mail, the only candidate to do so. I found an Andrew K. Moller on Twitter, and registered for Twitter so that I could Tweet at him and attempt to get in touch with him that way, but he didn't reply.
So I am going to vote for Strong.
Although I will note something else, which is that apparently the legislature has several times considered legislation to just dissolve the board entirely and hand its duties over to the County Board. (Here's a PDF of the Conservation District board's statement arguing against this.) They say that a citizen board, especially an elected citizen board, provides transparency. Except guys, you're incredibly difficult to find on the web and there's no way to e-mail you. Moreover, let's revisit my endorsements in 2008 and 2010 and then look again at that list of board members.
District 1 is currently represented by Jeremy Haefs. He was appointed in June or July of this year.
District 2 is represented by Erik Cedarleaf Dahl, who is the Chair. He was appointed to the board in 2012 (and apparently his term ends in 2014; I'm not sure why he's not up for election this cycle).
District 3 is vacant. I'm not sure how long this has been true. It appears that Amber Collette was on the board and then at some point in the summer stopped being on the board, but I'm not sure if that was her seat. She actually ran for District 2, lost, but wound up appointed and on the board anyway at some point.
District 4 is represented by Richard Strong, who was appointed to the board in 2012.
District 5 is represented by Jeffrey Beck, who alone of all the board members was elected, in 2008. His term ends this year and he is not running for re-election (the guy in that district is running unopposed.)
I don't know why this is an elected board, but in any case, the elective nature of this board is entirely theoretical. I'm not convinced that they need to exist at all and this can't be handled by the Hennepin County Commissioners. Given that, I should probably go ahead and vote for the Tea Partier, because she's probably running for it to try to get rid of it (they DO cost money -- everyone gets a $50 stipend per meeting). But I loathe the Tea Party movement so thoroughly that I'm unwilling to give a Tea Party politician even the tiny shred of credibility offered by holding this particular elected office.
If she really wants to do the job, though, she can stick around, and within two months there'll be a vacant seat and she'll be able to get appointed, because that just seems to be how it works.
UPDATE 11/2/12: This race was covered in the Star Tribune voter's guide! Also, Wesserle e-mailed me back. You can get the scoop in a separate post, here.