'It costs nothing to knock on a door'

Julie Risser, Green Party candidate in District 41
Green Party candidate in state Senate District 41, Julie Risser, pictured here with her daughters.
MPR Photo/ Laura McCallum

As a third-party candidate with few financial resources and unwillingness to accept political action contributions, I am focusing my efforts on direct contact with constituents. It costs nothing to knock on a door.

This race with three candidates -- myself, Julie Risser (GP endorsed), the incumbent Sen. Geoff Michel (GOP endorsed), and Andrew Borene (DFL endorsed) is a targeted race. That means the DFL believes it can win this seat. It also means huge amounts of resources are being channeled into the campaign.

The fundraising is now in its second year. In addition to glossy literature, Borene t-shirts, bumper stickers, pins, balloons, and lawn signs have been created. For his part, the incumbent has mailed out a glossy brochure/questionnaire.

Both candidates are being as mysterious with party affiliation as possible. Michel uses the brilliant green associated with the Edina schools and rarely notes that he is GOP. Borene uses both red and blue, and also rarely notes party affiliation.

I am running a counter campaign. Perhaps I will have the money for one mailing, however, I am limiting contributions to $100 or less. During door-knocking, the primary campaign activity, I am asking people what they would like to see the state do or refrain from doing. I am taking notes. The names of individuals are not revealed -- people ought to be able to speak their minds. At the end of the campaign I will have a document of what people in SD41 want to see happen at the Capitol -- my campaign will serve the people.

While surveys have value, conversations are much more informative. Elected officials need to have more of them with constituents in order to serve well. Obviously, we all don't agree with each other all of the time, but hearing what people think is important.

April 20, 2006

Conversation 1:

This conversation lasted approximately 20 minutes. The constituent, in her 60s with some health issues, is concerned about transit. Specifically, she would like more transit options -- she no longer feels comfortable driving at night. She would also like to be able to walk more places. She would like sidewalks so she could walk to the community center. She is thinking about purchasing a recumbent bicycle so that she can get to the store and bring home purchases in side packs -- however there are really no places to lock up bicycles like that.

Global warming is also a major concern. She worries about what the future is going to be like for next generations. She believes we need to cut back on consumption.

May 16, 2006

Conversation 1:

This retired individual felt the state needed to do more for education. He is angry about the people in St. Paul balancing the budget on the back of schools.

He is also tired of stadiums -- he does not want to hear the word spoken ever again at the Capitol -- we have wasted enough time on that. He is opposed to the religious right and its positions on abortion and homosexuality.

He is tired of transportation being ignored. We need to improve our roads and we need to deal with transit.

If taxes need to be raised then let's raise them. We need adequate taxation for needs. It's that simple -- it's not a big issue.

Conversation 2:

Health care is a big issue. This individual who is in her mid-50s does not have coverage. She had coverage when she was married. She also had coverage when she worked at Home Depot. But now the coverage available is extremely expensive, comes with a high deductible, and wouldn't do anything for preventative care.

There is too much government and it does too little.

She has no problems with stadiums. Public funding seems to be the only way to get them built.

May 24, 2006

Conversation 1:

This retired individual wants legislators to stop sponsoring stadiums. She noted we are promoting football over education.

Stay out of religion. This is a free country, I am in favor of the Ten Commandments -- they are core religious values for many cultures. We need to stop all of this nonsense.

We also need to limit abortion.

Conversation 2:

This parent said the state needs to concentrate on education, early family childhood education. Class size is really critical. She stated that lawmakers need to realize it is OK to say that they are wrong -- if we need to raise taxes we need to raise taxes. Kids are coming in with open enrollment and our class-sizes are rising. We are holding fundraisers but we still need money.

Conversation 3:

This person is upset with Edina lawmakers because they did not vote for the Twins stadium. He is not against taxes per se, and he has not made up his mind about a gas tax; it might be a good idea -- it might not be a good idea. He does think that there ought to be more tax relief for people who buy hybrids, and that people should be encourage people to buy more fuel-efficient cars.

Conversation 4:

This resident said her biggest concern was that the state was not doing what it should be doing in order to protect wetlands.

May 26, 2006

Conversation 1:

This retired individual spent nearly half an hour talking with me. I appreciate his time. He believes that one of the top priorities of the state is to do something about highways. We have too much congestion and disrepair.

He believes that the state also needs to address the issue of homelessness and provide funding for women's shelters. It is important to invest in things that help the community.

As for the stadium funding, he does not support that. He noted that in 1921 Memorial Stadium was built by donations from the students -- they bought the bricks. It was a voluntary action. Old bench seats were what people sat on and it was wonderful. Sometimes Boy Scout troops would usher. It was a community project.

He opposes the $25 semester fee, and argues that basically we have two parties -- neither of which have any ideology; the stadium politics at the Capitol reveal this reality. He believes the two major parties don't reflect both sides of the question -- it is always important to want to find the middle. The two major parties don't do that now.

Traditionally he noted that the residents of Edina have called their senator "Senator Zero" because people who have held this office are bland. They vote the ticket -- go with the governor -- don't really think. Historically he notes that Edina has been a Republican bastion -- but over the past 10 years the influx of people has changed that. Politicians don't always understand that communities do indeed change.

His parents were born in 1892 and 1893. His father fought in WWI and he remembers the 1918 pandemic. People were poor, but they didn't know they were poor. There was a strong community. Kids were taught not to spit, to cover their mouths and always wash their hands -- influenza attacked the lungs -- you needed to take care.

We need community organization. There is the new Block Captains organization, but its aim doesn't appear to be one address crisis situations. There isn't the sense of urgency.

Technology has advanced profoundly, but it will always be the front-line people who suffer the most. During the 1914, 1915, 1916 American public health was behind Europe. During pandemics there will be shortages of professionals, we have to stress individual responsibility.

The infrastructure is not there. We rely on the Minnesota Department of Health -- we aren't ready. We need a better way to get information out to the public in ways that will resonate-- we need to educate the children. We need to identify devices that can be used without electricity. People used to have root cellars where they could store perishable food during the hot seasons. They used to have crystal radios.

We need to simplify the process of educating people to be prepared. People need to be able to get their I.D. material easily. Putting people together in one place during an emergency is not a good plan. It certainly didn't work in New Orleans. Individuals need to be prepared -- have bottled water on hand, canned food that will last for a few days -- basic supplies. Five times last year he went without electricity. The range for being without electricity went from five hours to 80 hours.

But back to the question of what the state should do. We need to break community action down to manageable sizes -- by city and then by blocks.

But basically lawmakers need to know both sides of questions -- there are so many subjects, so many bills. Minnesota has some of the most rigid lobbying rules in the nation. Lobbyists are always looking for people who they can confide in. They want access and credibility. The aristocracy runs the show and the educated participate as well.

As for the environment -- we need to reorganize the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) completely. We need to put in limited time for people to serve. We need people who are true scientists. Look at all of the innovative things that California is putting in place that will help the environment -- things that the EPA is not able to do.

We need more of a grassroots system. More personal responsibility -- then there is more immediacy.

It takes time to do things right. He learned his work ethic by picking strawberries in Hopkins; if you look down the whole row you will never be able to do it. You have to just start picking -- and you can only pick the berries in front of you anyway -- before you know it you are at the end of the row.

Note: I shall keep the point about the strawberries in mind as I try to door-knock the district.

Conversation 2:

This individual wants to see the state drop taxes on gasoline.

He doesn't think taxing only Hennepin County for the stadiums is fair. He noted that in Pittsburgh, citizens got to vote on whether to fund stadiums or not. The voters voted against taxpayer money for stadiums -- but the government built them any way.

June 1, 2006

Conversation 1:

This person clarified right away that they are Republicans. She likes our governor.

She does think we need to address the energy issue. The cost of gas is high. She would like to see light rail expanded.

She believes that we need to conserve energy and produce new forms of energy. She also thinks that because this is such a large country it would make sense to subsidize transportation. This would be difficult because there is always corruption -- but if it was done in a way that minimized corruption that would be good -- everyone would gain. You can't get rid of corruption but you need to try.

Conversation 2:

This parent and grandmother said no -- absolutely no -- as far as public funding for stadiums are concerned.

She is paying more for her property taxes than she is for her mortgage. She and her family are conservative. She argues that there are fewer people paying taxes now.

She believes that abortion is wrong -- she believes that the reason why there is a smaller middle class is because of abortion. It should only be used rarely when the woman's life is at risk. She believes that people make too many exceptions. She believes that people should take what the Lord gives. She and her family volunteer at the Crisis Pregnancy Center.

She believes that environmentalists have gotten this country so hung up that we can't get at our oil, and that animal rights activists go to extremes.

She doesn't like the smoking bans -- she is not in favor of smoking but people should be able to smoke if they want to.

She believes that most people are hard workers, but she doesn't like that Edina people have to share with Minneapolis people (note: she did acknowledge that this could be a rumor).

She doesn't think that society can support poor people. She believes that you can't equalize wealth -- if you don't work then you don't eat. She thinks that there is too much leniency in the Social Security system -- there is aid for every Tom, Dick and Harry. The elderly people she notes are making donations but the young people are not.

Women should be at home -- the Edina schools are better than many other schools, but in her opinion they teach subversive anti-American ideal -- she points that her son was supposed to read "Malcolm X."

Conversation 3:

This person did not agree with all of the cuts to the poor. She noted that so many clinics have been closed.

She and her husband consider themselves to be more on the liberal side of everything.

For them, war is especially troubling because they have both lived through wars -- she grew up in Spain and her husband in Hungary. The justification for the war was wrong.

We have many problems in this country. Global warming deserves more attention. She is very much interested in wind turbines and noted how much Spain is doing with them.

Conversation 4:

This man is frustrated with the problem confronting people on fixed incomes -- he noted that for senior citizens with health care costs, half of one's income goes away in 10 years.

He thinks too much money goes to schools and noted that they keep asking for money.

June 12, 2006

Conversation 1:

This couple offered a lot of thoughtful information. He has mixed feelings about what the governor is doing.

He doesn't like how the education burden has been shifted from the state to the local governments -- however, he notes that Pawlenty did manage to dig the state out without raising income taxes. However education funding now really needs to be addressed.

He is against public funding for all stadiums. We should put money into education, not into sports. If public money for sports stadiums was something that the public benefited from, then he would be all right with it -- but there is no money that is going to come back to the public. He pointed to Best Buy and how, unlike the stadiums, it benefits the community.

He also remembers the old Met Stadium and sitting out watching the Vikings and the Kicks play. He and his friend were so happy to learn about the dome. He does like going to games at the dome -- but notes he doesn't do that much because he doesn't have the money.

She doesn't like the fact that there is no roof -- if they are going to build a structure it should be functional year round. And what about on game day when it rains. Both are frustrated that professional sports teams get tax support for buildings and no other businesses do.

They are also frustrated with Minnesotas 529 education savings program -- not tax deductible. What the heck is up with that?