Complete email sent by Mayor Don Ness

From: [] Sent: Friday, October 22, 2010 2:31 PM To: Frederick, Chuck; Browall, Ken Subject: Congressional Endorsement Ken & Chuck, The rumor at the Chamber dinner last night is that the DNT was cons...

From: []

Sent: Friday, October 22, 2010 2:31 PM

To: Frederick, Chuck; Browall, Ken

Subject: Congressional Endorsement

Ken & Chuck,


The rumor at the Chamber dinner last night is that the DNT was considering endorsing Chip Cravaak. I was hoping to talk directly to one or both of you about this prior to publication, but that request was denied. Let me first acknowledge the obvious, you can endorse whomever you would like to, and it is not my place to insist that you change it.

However, I feel it both necessary and important to express my concern if the rumor that I heard was indeed true. Given the refusal to meet today and the message that my option is to provide a written rebuttal to the endorsement, I will assume that the rumor is correct and the remainder of this message is written under that assumption. I do so with the full hope that it was nothing more than an ugly rumor.

I will also acknowledge that I am far from an unbiased observer. I worked for Jim for many years and I know, first hand, the quality of his character, the importance of his service to our area, and how deeply and profoundly he loves our area. Jim Oberstar has dedicated a lifetime to fighting for the people of our area, he gives every ounce of his person and his energy to public service - not only to the people of Minnesota, but for the betterment of our nation.

What do people want from their elected officials? Knowledge, empathy, strong advocacy, effectiveness, and integrity are the qualities that come to mind for me. In each and everyone one of these qualities, not only does Jim excel, but I would submit that he is the very model for elected officials in strength of these attributes. What if every representative was an expert in their field of influence the way that Jim is the expert on transportation issues? What is every official dedicated themselves completely to address the very real problems of their constituents, the way that Jim fights when there are layoffs at the mines? What if every politician ran positive, forward-looking, and results-oriented campaigns, rather than the mud-slinging, simple rhetoric, and base partisanship that is giving our election season a circus-type atmosphere? If we did, our federal government would be much more effective at actually creating and implementing solutions to our most dire problems.

As Mayor, I know how important Jim's leadership is to the people of Duluth and to the future progress of our city. Jim is a partner in our economic development efforts, he was a leading advocate for the 148th receiving the new block 50s, he delivers for needed and important public improvements for sanitary sewer systems, airport improvements, port improvements, and so much more. We have so much more to do, and Jim Oberstar's assistance and leadership is nothing short of essential if we are to succeed in those efforts. Is the News Tribune willing to sacrifice the success of critical projects in the city of Duluth by advocating that Jim Oberstar be kicked to the curb?

There is a very strong sentiment of the community that this endorsement is not a product of the editorial staff, but rather has been dictated from the corporate offices in Fargo. Because of my respect for you both, I can only assume that this is the case. Whether or not, that is true, it will certainly be the assumption that people make of this endorsement. The paper has come a long way in the past 12-18 months to distance yourself from the impression that Fargo makes the big decisions, I have sensed that there has been growing loyalty to the paper, that people feel that the DNT once again has the community's best interests at heart. I fear how this endorsement would affect the perception of the DNT by your readers.

I also understand that the debate served as the endorsement screening of the candidates. If this is true, then it is even more concerning and confusing why you would not endorse Jim Oberstar. While Cravaak delivered the quips and talking points, Jim gave detailed answers that conveyed his understanding of the issues (or at least tried to before being shouted down).

More importantly, I would like you to consider the role that each candidate played at Tuesday's debate as the leader of their campaign.


There is no question in my mind, the Cravaak campaign had a very well-coordinated effort to disrupt the debate. There is no possible way that Chip Craavaak was not aware of these efforts and I can only assume that he endorsed those efforts. I know very little about Chip Cravaak, but I have seen how he has conducted this campaign and how his campaign coordinated the disruptions. To me, that speaks volumes about his approach to public process.

The playbook they used at the debate was the very same playbook that the tea-party has used to disrupt town hall meetings. The crowd responses have become an art form to dismiss, discount, and to undermine the attempt to explain an issue. The catcalls, the groans, the mock disgust, and the coordinated displays of emotion or disruption have become ever more prevalent and it is being proven as an effective (if grossly crude) way to disrupt an event and gain media coverage. As you recall, the three men wearing 'dump Oberstar' hard hats, stood up just as Jim began speaking, walked to the front of the stage, mugged for the camera, raised their hands to get a cheer from their supporters, and purposefully acted to disrupt Jim when he was speaking.

During the debate, the Congressman attempted to settle his supporters, with a calming motion with his hands. Cravaak, made no such attempt.

More over, Cravaak's sound-byte answers seemed to be designed to do just the opposite - to incite the crowd into rally type responses.

If the two of you can look me in the eye and with all honesty and integrity tell me that you believe that Chip Cravaak is the better person, the better man, the best person to represent the people of the 8th district for the next two years when Duluth has so much at stake, then I will be astonished, but I will simply respectfully disagree.

But, if there is something else going on, if there is some sort of effort to use this endorsement to meet some outside agenda or objective, then I believe the people of Duluth and your readership deserve to know what that agenda is and who is actually making these endorsement and explain their criteria for making these decisions.

Cravaak seems like an intelligent person, he is impressively polished, and he is well-practiced at tea-party and Karl Rove sound-bytes. But there is no conceivable way that an independent, unbiased assessment of these candidates could possibly bring you to the conclusion that Chip Cravaak would be better for the residents in your readership area than Jim Oberstar would be. If I am mistaken on this point, then everything that I know about public service, about the importance of national leadership, and about the issues and challenges facing our region must be wrong.

Please, it is not too late. Please reconsider, please do what is in the best interests of the residents of our area. Please base your endorsement upon the qualities of the candidates and the effectiveness of their service to our area. I like and respect you both, I would be shocked if this is your idea. But this is YOUR editorial page - YOUR names are at the top of that list - no matter what the reasons are, the two of you will be the ones judged upon the endorsement what will be


given. Please give this full consideration.

Without scandal, without a hint of wrong-doing, with continued honorable service to our area, Jim Oberstar has earned the endorsement of any independent assessment. When you consider that during the next two years it would be Jim Oberstar who would oversee the creation of the next surface transportation re-authorization bill, throwing an honorable man out of office at the very moment that he will author the defining legislation of his life would be nothing short of a cruel travesty - both to the man himself, but more so to the state of Minnesota and the people of northern Minnesota.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. If I did not feel so passionately about the rumor that I heard, I would not even think of presenting my thoughts on your endorsement. But this is beyond any mere endorsement, this will define the paper, this could shape the future of our city and region, this could very well help determine our success in building a better future.

It is not too late! Please do the right thing.


I would greatly appreciate confirmation that you have received this message and that you have at least considered my perspective on this vitally important matter.

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