Just before 6 a.m. Saturday morning pirates invaded my house. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was staging a flashy fishing opener just hours after vetoing a nuts and bolts state budget. I offered my White Bear Lake dock and pontoon for the protest. Before I finished making coffee, Ross and Greg had hung banners on the gunwales. Roger stowed his kites while fifth-grader Eric waved around a plastic hook hand and practiced saying “arrrgghh.” Bjoin’s pirate get-up inspired me to don a top hat. By 6:10 a.m. we shoved off.
Anyone lucky enough to own lakeshore property knows what a crock the Governor’s “no new taxes” pledge is. As state aid is cut to cities and schools, our property tax rates have sky-rocketed. Counties, desperate to close the Pawlenty created deficits, are ratcheting up our supposed “market values” even as sales prices are falling. Taxed-out average earners are forced to sell the lakeshore homes they’ve owned for 20, 30 or 40 years. These modest converted cabins are torn down and replaced with McMansions, yet another example of Pawlenty’s strategy of squeezing the middle to feed the fat cats. So, I got sort of steamed out on the lake when a beer bellied bozo in Pawlenty’s entourage shouted at us to “go home.”
Pawlenty’s cuts to bridge maintenance, preventive medical care and higher education, have left us dumber, sicker and with bridges falling down. He spared no expense however for the Republican Convention. Seems the fishing opener is the best excuse he can come up with to reuse all the militaristic paraphernalia. Boats and boats of sheriffs, helicopters buzzing the lake, the Mobile Incident Unit Command Center, it would have been comical if I didn’t know I was paying for it. I’m happy they didn’t dip into their million dollar stockpile of tear gas. It was a display worthy of a vice presidential want-to-be not a self-described fiscally conservative governor of a cash strapped state.
Out on the pirate boat we complied with all the rules, kept it fun and stayed courteous. I even felt a little sorry the guy didn’t catch a big one. Anyone who swallowed the hook like Pawlenty did for the McCain ticket this year deserves to land a nice one once in a while.
I’ve lived on White Bear Lake for over a quarter century. I have worked hard for my community. The fishing opener was our big moment. My friends staffed the volunteer ranks that put on Pawlenty’s shindig. It was great to see White Bear’s sweet spirit. My neighbors are remarkably forbearing. They were more than gracious when the Missile Dick Chicks took over my house during the Republican Convention. Yet, activist though I am, I’m still Minnesotan enough to not want to offend. I needn’t have worried. I ran into a key player while out to dinner in a White Bear restaurant on Saturday night. “I was so happy you guys were out there,” he said.
“It didn’t bother you after all the trouble you went to?” I asked.
“Na,” he said. “We spent more than a year organizing this thing, then Pawlenty tells us he’d be heading to Forest Lake if he didn’t catch a fish by noon.”
Every one in town did get a free dinner Friday night. As we stood in line waiting to be handed our plates of beans, it felt a little like a middle class soup kitchen. Given Pawlenty’s short sighted, sleight of hand, silly security spendthrift ways, middle class folks like us may find ourselves standing in line for real soon enough. It’s time our governor stood on solid ground and worked with the Minnesota Legislature to make smart, forward thinking decisions about our state spending and revenue. That happens away from the photo op.