Saturday, October 23, 2010

From the DNT Friday October 22, 2010

Reader's view: Fink’s actions make Jewell the better candidate

I applaud the News Tribune for its endorsement of Frank Jewell for County Board (Our View/Endorsement: “Fire Fink for Jewell of a county commissioner,” Oct. 15). But should we even be having this discussion?

In September, incumbent Commissioner Dennis Fink chose not to screen with the Duluth Central Labor Body, an organization that represents thousands of his constituents. More recently, he snubbed the League of Women Voters, an organization committed to our democratic process. He then told reporters he refused to disclose what “county business” he was conducting.

I find this very troubling. Just as disturbing is his travel to the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance on the county’s dime. This organization is notorious for being anti-Native American. No commissioner should be attending such conferences, especially not at the cost of taxpayers. Fink seems fine with cutting services for the disabled and elderly but then asks taxpayers to fund his travels to these types of events. It simply adds insult to injury that he is then unwilling to show up for community forums.

If Fink’s catchy slogan of “Think Fink” caught your eye the last election, I’d ask you to “think again” and cast a ballot for Frank Jewell.

Dan O’Neill


The writer is president of the Duluth Central Labor Body.

We Are Watching's Website


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fink Reminds Us He Voted Against the Adoption of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness

At their regularly scheduled Board meeting on Tuesday, July 6, 2010 Commissioner Fink reminded us that he voted against the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness and continues to have "concerns" related to the costs of implementation of the plan. This was within the context of an item on the agenda related to authorizing an amendment to the current contract with the State to serve as a fiscal agent for the NE Minnesota Project to End Long-Term Homelessness.

Commissioners O'Neil and Sweeney pointed out that it costs more to provide services to people that experience homelessness than to does to provide long term solutions.

Commissioners Dahlberg and Fink indicated concern regarding the salary of the Executive Director of the Hearth Connection. Commissioner Nelson says "let the market" determine salaries. He is concerned about the amount of resources dedicated to serve a relatively small number of people.

After nearly an hour of debate/discussion the Board voted to approve amending the State contract. The contract will bring $736,009 into St Louis County.

WAW Asks Board to Address Comissioner Fink on Fish Lake Issue

Kathy Heltzer, WAW Spokesperson, spoke to the SLC Board on July 6th regarding Commissioner Dennis Fink's recent attempt to influence legislation regarding a "slot limit" for walleye fishing on Fish Lake. It should be noted that Commissioner Fink owns property on the lake.

Commissioner Fink provided information to Senator Chaundhary of Fridley, MN asking for him to "influence timelines" related to the DNR's position on these slot limits. The subsequent request to insert this slot limit language into the Natural Resources Omnibus Bill during the last legislative session resulted in an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.

In their investigation into the conduct of Senator Chaudhary the Senate Ethics Committee found that his behavior was “threatening public confidence in the legislature”. Heltzer asked, " Does this Board not have the same concern with respect to “public confidence” in the St Louis County Board?"

She concluded by asking the Board to consider addressing Commissioner Fink on this matter.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

We are Watching Speaks to County Board on Fond du Lac Land Sale

The following was presented to the St. Louis County Board at their meeting on March 2, 2010 by Kevin Skwira-Brown, WAW Spokesperson:

Chair Rauker, Commissioners, My name is Kevin Skwira-Brown and I live in Duluth.

I speak today as a spokesperson for the We Are Watching Campaign which works to bring transparency and accountability to the St. Louis County Board.

We Are Watching is pleased that this Board appears posed to approve the long requested
land sales to the FDL Band. While the final outcome today is likely to reflect recognition of the Rights of the FDL Band to buy back land which was in many cases unethically taken from them by whites over the years, there is still a matter of transparency and accountability.

Full recognition of the FDL Band’s rights includes not only the option to exercise the right of first refusal for Tax-Forfeiture lands sold within the reservation boundaries, but also the federally supported transfer of eligible land by the FDL Band into Federal Trust status. This is something Commissioner Fink has opposed. Further it is important to note that these land sales were delayed during the entirety of Commissioner Fink’s tenure as the Board Chair. And, on February 9th at the Committee of the Whole meeting when these land sales came before you under the committee that Commissioner Fink chairs, he refused to bring the items to the floor for discussion or move them for approval.

It would appear that Commissioner Fink either believes his constituents support the continued oppression of Indigenous peoples by denying them their full rights or perhaps that Commissioner Fink is acting out the agenda of those well beyond the borders of SLC that aim to limit the recognition and self-determination of Indigenous people. He can now rightly claim that this land sale didn’t go forward during his tenure as Chair, and that he never forwarded a motion that recognized the rights of Tribes to own Reservation land. It should be noted that with this being an election year for the seat which Commissioner Fink holds, Commissioner, or perhaps candidate Fink, chose not vote against these land sales in the Committee of the Whole.

To those of you whose vote for these land sales reflects genuine recognition of the FDL Band’s right to self-determination and preservation of their people’s way of life as guaranteed through multiple treaties, thank you for acting with justice, an approach which is in the best interest of all of the people of SLC.
Thank you,

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

St. Louis County Board Reconsiders Fond du Lac Land Sale

At their Committee of the Whole meeting held in Duluth on Tuesday, February 9th, the SLC Board again considered selling tax forfeit land back to the Fond du Lac Band.
Many of you may be aware, back in January of 2009 the Board discussed this issue at a “Board Workshop”. At that time a number of Commissioners indicated they would not support the sale. Additionally, comments were made suggesting lack of respect and understanding regarding American Indian people and tribal governments. Subsequent to this, the American Indian community joined with “We are Watching” folks to demonstrate their concern on the steps of the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth at a rally.

Commissioner Nelson indicated that this was not the case of the county “reversing its position” because the Board had not previously made any decision on this land sale. They had simply discussed the issue at Board workshop.

Emily Johnson, Bois Forte band member, addressed the Board indicated that she was glad they were considering the land sale. As a former staff member of the Congress of American Indians, she was concerned that St. Louis County was moving in the direction of the “Citizen Equal Rights Alliance”, (CERA) a nationwide group that historically has opposed any initiatives supported by Tribes.

Commissioner Fink indicated his concern about the loss of tax base in St. Louis County.

Commissioner Dahlberg indicated that he thinks this issue was “blown out of proportion” following the Board workshop. He is concerned about this “unique issue of the loss of the tax base”. He went on to say this issue is not unique to Tribes.
He stated that there was “no indication at that Board workshop that anyone was against this” land sale. A review of the audiotape from that workshop may indicate differently.

The resolution passed unanimously to sell the Brevator Township parcel to the FDL band and also the Stoney Brook Township parcel. This will now go to the SLC Board at their meeting on March 2, 2010.

Commissioner O'Neill indicated that this had taken over a year to resolve and he hopes in the future the Board would be able to resolve an issue such as this more quickly.