I finally got a simple letter to the editor printed in the EP News this week. I can get a book published, but can't get a letter to the editor printed in a suburban newspaper without extreme effort.
I think it's been about two years since I've submitted anything. I had an experience back in the fall of '04, during the election, where they questioned me on my opinion and wouldn't print a letter I had submitted without editing major content. I made the case that Planned Parenthood was associated with Moveon.org, the editor debated me on the phone about it arguing that there was no connection. At the time Planned Parenthood's logo was on Moveon.org's home page, now they just share info via a PAC. Yeah, no connection. Anyway, I wouldn't let them take out the information, which would have weakened the argument I was making in the letter, so they didn't print it.
I know from several local Republican campaigns that the EP News purposely holds back letters, "fact checks" opinions and has even called the DFL caucus to tell them about letters to the editor from GOP candidates.
The letter I submitted on June 1st was about what I had heard Rep Maria Ruud (42A) say at a town hall meeting on May 30th. I blogged a bit about how she likes to use stories to make political points...My original letter read:
Ruud also claimed in the Star Tribune that the cuts to GAMC would result in 8,000 jobs lost. I can't come up with any facts to substantiate that claim, but did discover one job that may be lost- hers. At the same Town hall meeting, she explained that because of the cuts to the program, her department at Park Nicollet Hospital would be eliminated.
The fact-checking should have been calling Rep Ruud and asking her to explain what she meant. Perhaps the EP News could attend events and fact check her....oh, that would be called reporting, sorry.
It only took a week or so of waiting for the editor to "fact check" me...I was first called by the editor on June 2nd and told my letter would be in that week. I specifically asked "no edits?" and was told, "nope, just spelling out the word percentage, that type of thing," "Great!" I let them know that I'd keep it off my blog since they were going to print it that same week. Too easy, I thought though, after hanging up the phone.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 3rd, I get a voicemail that my letter would appear in the following week's edition and that the editor now had some questions for me. I called back the next morning (Thursday), and left a message back and I never got a returned call. I got an email at 5:08 pm Friday afternoon.
Here's the email:
I got your voicemail, thanks for calling back.I called Park Nicollet to confirm your point about the program being eliminated because of GAMC cuts and received the following response from a spokesperson:
"In regards to your question about cuts to GAMC, Park Nicollet is notrestructuring OB/GYN programs at our Brookdale and Minneapolis clinics dueto cuts in General Assistance Medical Care. These changes were already underconsideration and are not about budget cuts. They are about designing carethat can be delivered in a sustainable way in each community we serve."
"Our OB/GYN services vary greatly from community to community. And, in somecommunities, OB/GYN services are not provided at all. Park Nicollet currently provides OB/GYN services at 9 of its 17 primary care clinics. Inthe Minneapolis and Brookdale Clinic locations, Midwifery services have beenoffered for some time and will be expanded in the future. All of the OB/GYNdoctors and nurse practitioners from these two clinics will be relocated toother clinics over the coming months."
So, I'd like to give you the opportunity to rewrite that portion of your letter. If you have any questions, feel free to call me at the number below or 612-616-6701. I would need the changes by the end of the day Tuesday.
So- the EP News called Park Nicollet to disprove what I was saying that Ruud said?
I also believe they sent my letter to Maria Ruud- or her campaign. I can't prove it, and the EP News wouldn't answer any questions about it, but the way this all played out certainly leads me to that conclusion. Ruud had a commentary the week that my letter was supposed to be in which mentioned Methodist Hopsital in St. Louis Park being affected by the cuts, but not Park Nicollet. Then this week there was a letter right next to mine with a defense of Ruud on the same exact topic. All coincidence?
A friend of mine pointed out that I should use the EP News email from Park Nicollet to further strengthen the argument against Ruud- either she has a conflict of interest, or she purposely exaggerates to make political points. So, I took their advice and resubmitted the letter.
The effort to get a letter printed in a local paper is pretty ridiculous. I mean incredibly ridiculous, which is why I rarely send them in and exactly what they seem to want.
So, finally, two weeks after the town hall meeting that I attended, here is a letter to the editor of the local paper. It isn't online- only last week's edition. But here is the content.
Rep. Maria Ruud makes many claims regarding the DFL’s failure to craft a budget that could gain bipartisan support and prevent Gov. Pawlenty from single-handedly balancing the budget.
Her commentary in the May 28 Star Tribune laments that we are losing the “soul of Minnesota” because of cuts to the state’s General Assistance Medical Care. GAMC is a welfare program that provides payments to hospitals for poor patients who – for whatever reason – haven’t registered for existing government programs that they may qualify for.
Ruud said in the Eden Prairie News on May 28, “We voted against the poorest of the poor and then we voted to protect the richest of the rich.” Originally, Ruud voted against the DFL effort to create the fourth highest income tax rate in the nation, so she apparently supported “protection” of “the rich.” Then she changed her vote in the final minutes of the legislative session, claiming at the EP town hall meeting on May 30 that her constituents started saying “everyone needed to share the pain.”
The “soul” of Minnesota isn’t found in the halls of the legislature or in government programs, but if legislators truly wanted to fund this and other welfare, which encompasses 30% of the state budget, they would’ve worked on ways to fix programs months earlier when the governor proposed his budget. The GAMC program was growing 35% per biennium and in obvious need of reform, but the DFL’s only answer was “more money.”
Ruud also claims that the cuts to GAMC will cost 8,000 jobs. I can’t come up with any facts to substantiate that, but did discover one job that may be lost – hers. At the same town hall meeting, she explained that her department at Park Nicollet Hospital would be eliminated because of cuts to the program.
I’m sorry that Rep. Ruud could lose her job, but using her position as a state legislator to protect programs which directly contribute to her household income undermines her argument about responsible insurance programs for the poor. Oddly enough, while fact-checking this letter, the Eden Prairie News contacted a Park Nicollet representative who stated that “Park Nicollet is not restructuring OB/GYN programs at our Brookdale and Minneapolis clinics due to cuts in [GAMC]. These changes were already under consideration and are not about budget cuts.”
If it is true that the restructuring isn’t about budget cuts or GAMC, why is Ruud saying that her job may be lost because of GAMC reductions? If the restructuring is due to GAMC cuts, as she says, then she has a conflict of interest by supporting GAMC. If the restructuring isn’t related to GAMC, as Park Nicollet says, then Rep. Ruud is embellishing details at town hall meetings for some perceived sympathy and potential political gain while unintentionally giving the impression of a conflict of interest. Assuming Park Nicollet is correct, one begins to wonder what other flawed antecdotes and unverified “facts” Rep. Ruud is using to justify continued support of this unsustainable spending.