Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pawlenty Driving Minnesota in the wrong direction

When the political campaign season is in full swing, there will be a lot of shouting about :
Unfunded mandates,
Wasteful government spending,
Incompetence by government agencies,
And government bureaucratic intervention.

But there is no sense in waiting until Election Day as the culprit is not on November’s ballot.

Tim “Big Ideas” Pawlenty and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) are making headlines … and for all the wrong reasons.

Pawlenty has directed the Department of Public Safety to use a biometric system to determine if multiple licenses have been applied for by individuals whose facial characteristics appear similar and merit further investigation in his battle to confront illegal immigration. The Minnesota driver’s license database contains more than 11 million photos as part of individual license records.

They obviously have time on their hands, as DPS is investigating unauthorized use of the state driver’s license database by DPS employees in July and December. KARE-11 reported that a number of recognizable names were on the list of people who had been targeted … Sven Sundgaard’s name was mentioned … but I don’t know if that was serious reporting or jest … but it’s good to know that the scope includes people of Scandinavian descent.

OK, so since Pawlenty is the boss, the DPS somehow finds the resources to perform biometric analysis. What if, lo and behold, Sven Sundgaard has a Doppelganger ? DPS must send someone out to investigate. Talk about proving a false positive ! The investigator will have to go to Sven’s home and lo and behold, Sven can prove who he is … but if there is somebody that has factitiously used Sven’s image on their driver’s license, the investigator will never find him.

Is this a good use of the public’s resources ? Not according to other government officials who are concerned about the lack of resources required by Pawlenty’s executive orders.

And if state funding was tight already, Minnesota could lose $20 to $42 million in federal highway money because the DPS system of licensing commercial truck drivers violates federal regulations. Turns out that the commercial driver's license program failed to screen out drivers convicted of drunken driving and other criminal offenses. But DPS has been busy on the roads, as 3,354 impaired drivers were arrested in December alone. Each year, alcohol-related crashes account for around 200 deaths, thousands of injuries, and damages to property.

Why is Pawlenty creating more work for a Department that seems to be having plenty of challenges already ?
Judging by the photographs of the Republicans standing as Pawlenty made his announcement, it can only be for political reasons.
This is sad.
Pawlenty should be driving efforts for bi-partisan solutions … not driving wedge issues.
In 2006, the Governor proposed a number of ideas that representatives from the Sheriff's Association, the Police and Peace Officers Association, labor, business, immigrant groups, faith-based organizations, human rights advocates, and community organizations all testified against it.
What is different today ?

Dividing the state’s citizens through fear mongering, intimidation and racial profiling may excite a voting block, but based on the number of members of the US House Immigration Reform Caucus (including amongst others : J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), John Hostettler (R-IN — the chair in the 109th Congress of the House Immigration Subcommittee), Chris Chocola (R-IN), Anne Northup (R-KY), Melissa Hart (R-PA), Charles Taylor (R-NC), Richard Pombo (R-CA) and of course, former First District Congressman Gil Gutknecht) who all lost, this would be an unwise political course.

The hope here is that like so many of Pawlenty’s other “Big Ideas”, this one quickly dies before we waste too many resources.
DPS and other state agencies have more productive tasks that need to be done. (Hint ==> Get Federal $)
The first order of business when the new legislative session starts should be to review and terminate this wasteful government directive.
Please contact your representative … sadly, mine was photographed standing behind Pawlenty, so I won’t be able to voice my opinion until November 4th.

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